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Christian Parenting

This tag is associated with 6 posts

“Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child”- A biblical view of disciplining children?

Photograph by Feliciano Guimarães acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Accessible here.

Photograph by Feliciano Guimarães acquired through Wikimedia Commons.
Accessible here.

Spare the rod, spoil the child

I was spanked and no harm came of it

The Bible teaches spanking

Recently, I was involved in a discussion about Christian parenting. An article was shared that showed findings from 5 decades of research (!) that demonstrate spanking causes harm. Some of the first responses immediately appealed to a biblical view of disciplining children, including one comment that said if we accepted this study as Christians we’d have to cut the verse that says “Spare the rod, spoil the child” out of the Bible. What follows is my response, with some expanded comments.

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child?

There is no such verse, so I guess that’s not a problem.

When people use this phrase and claim it is biblical, they are probably referring to what that common saying alludes to, Proverbs 13:24. Therein we see that the word for “rod” is the same word in Hebrew used for the shepherd’s staff in Psalm 23:4, there bringing comfort. Indeed, the shepherd’s crook/staff/rod is probably what is being referenced in Proverbs as well, there showing that correcting children is proper–just as we correct the path of the wandering sheep. But we don’t beat the sheep with the staff, it is used to turn the sheep back to the right path. Thus, the meaning is, I think, more aligned with saying that we ought to correct our children when they stray, just as a shepherd corrects the straying sheep.

We can’t rely on the English translation to make a point over against the Hebrew. The same word used for a shepherd’s staff is the one used in Proverbs. It’s the same word, shebet, in Proverbs 23:13, another text often referenced to support the notion of spanking or “spare the rod, spoil the child.” It reads:

 Do not withhold discipline from a child;
    if you punish them with the rod, they will not die. (NIV)

Further, if you compare Exodus 21:20, which speaks of beating with a rod causing death, to Proverbs 23:13, which assures the reader that the child will not die, there is a difficulty in taking the latter literally, because otherwise death is a distinct possibility which is even legislated against in the former. Indeed, Proverbs 23:14 makes the context clear- correction is saving the child from Sheol. But if that’s the case, then how could it be read as striking in a way that could cause death (Exodus parallel) while also explicitly being intended to save from death Proverbs 23:14: “Punish them with the rod and save them from death” (NIV, ESV reads “save him from Sheol”)? It doesn’t make much sense to save someone from death in a way that causes death.

The Hebrew of Proverbs 23:14 for “strike” is nakah in Hiphil, thus meaning it is causative and, again, seems to point to the same metaphorical meaning I drew out above for 13:24. Strong’s notes the common figurative use of “nakah” in the OT.  That is reinforced in Brown Driver Briggs which shows both intensification of the word (slaughter/etc.) as well as less strong meanings (clapping hands, hail).

Are other readings possible? Sure they are. But corporal punishment is not the only possible translation, and it seems to yield a contradiction. We can’t rely on the English translation to be the end-all-be-all of how we read the Bible. It comes with the assumptions of the translators. I’m not saying they’re wrong–just that it is simplistic to appeal to the English as the final say.

Clarifications

I was asked to explain what alleged metaphor is being employed, as well as the reference to Exodus 21:20. I was also countered by saying the words for rod and staff are being used together in Psalm 23 so why did I draw the conclusion I did.

The metaphor that is employed is fairly straightforward: just as you use a rod to correct the sheep–guiding them with strikes–so we should correct the wrong paths our children take. The metaphor is not that we should strike children–that is the literal reading, and one that I think I’ve shown is not even necessary–but rather that like shepherd we guide children on the right path.

The appeal to Exodus 21:20 is to show that beating with a rod was known to kill people and that was punished. Yet in Proverbs the use of a rod for the child has no implication of death and indeed a direct denial that death is even possible. If we read them both literally there is a contradiction: striking with rod causes death; striking with a rod will not cause death. Use of the words metaphorically, as outlined in the preceding paragraph, clears up this apparent contradiction.

Psalm 23- I’m not so sure about the confusion here. Sure, both words are used inclusively, but that doesn’t change the Hebrew word being translated as rod is also translated as shepherd’s staff and is the word used in each verse presented so far. Nothing in this relies on the word being separated out from context in Psalm 23. Instead, I am appealing to the Hebrew to show that the word is the same as the one used in Psalm 23:4.

Spanking and Anecdotes

One final point I’d like to bring forward is that anecdotes are not arguments. Very often in this discussion (and others), one cites a study or makes a comment, and then someone else responds saying something along the lines of “Well was spanked [had this happen to me, etc.], and I turned out okay” as if this is a counter-argument. It isn’t. Having incidents that don’t cohere with the general trend is to be expected, and appealing to an anecdote doesn’t invalidate such general trends or rules. The study linked above is in no way discredited by the, I’m sure, many thousands of people who were spanked but turned out “okay.” That doesn’t undermine the mounting evidence that spanking is not the best option.

Conclusion

I have shown in this post that texts or sayings commonly cited in support of spanking do not necessitate or even condone the act. The Bible does not necessitate spanking as a way to discipline children. It does, however, teach that parents are to correct wrong behavior, and, like the shepherd, turn their children back to the right path. Given the increasing evidence that spanking is a poor option, Christian parents ought not feel they must use it to discipline their children. Those who choose not to spank may do so with a clean conscience.

Links

For more reading on the psychological studies behind spanking, see Psychology Today as well as the summary article linked above (or here).

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for posts on Star Trek, science fiction, fantasy, books, sports, food, and more!

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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Really Recommended Posts 3/25/16- conditional hell, creationism, parenting, and more!

snowl-owl-post-arpingstoneI have more reading for you, dear readers, gathered from around the internet. This week’s topics are the doctrine of annihilationism (conditional immortality), Christian parenting, creationism,  complementarian women, and the question of rape and abortion. Let me know what you think of the posts, and be sure to let the authors know as well. This is a snowy owl edition because it snowed here yesterday.

Death After Death– The concept of annihilationism, or, as its proponents prefer to call it: conditional immortality, is gaining more traction. It ought not be dismissed simply because it feels new or different. Here is a thoughtful post engaging with conditional immortality from a perspective of disagreement. What do you think about this issue?

Can We Tolerate Creationists?–  Is it permissible to give a creationist a job anywhere? This might sound hyperbolic, but this post investigates a controversy that has surrounded the hiring of a young earth creationist for a BBC television spot. It ends with an insightful comment from the National Secular Society.

10 Ways to Get Your Kids More Interested in Their Faith– Developing faith is an important aspect of Christian parenting. Here’s a post that discusses how we might get kids interested in their faith.

Remember the Complementarian Woman– A call to egalitarians to not portray complementarian women in a way that isn’t true to their experiences and beliefs.

Responding to the Question of Rape with Wisdom and Compassion– “we should clearly express the genuine compassion we have for survivors of rape” [emphasis in the article]. These are words that pro-life people need to read and understand. Turning to an argument immediately is not always the best choice. If we don’t genuinely show compassion and care for those involved in making these horrific choices, then how can we truly call ourselves “pro-life”?

Really Recommended Posts 6/26/15- Genetic engineering, parenting, evolution, and more!

postI hope you will enjoy the latest round of the Really Recommended Posts, dear readers! I have taken some time out of a super busy schedule this week–preparing to move to a different state!–to scour the net for great reads to pass on to you. The topics we have include evolution, genetic engineering, parenting, historical apologetics, and racism. Let me know what you think, and, as always, be sure to let the authors know you enjoyed their posts as well!

Learning to Co-Parent– What does it mean to believe in the equality of the genders when it comes to parenting? How do we submit to each other out of love for the Lord through parenting? Here’s a great post on the topic with some practical insights.

Tears, Change, and Trust– A sermon on the Charleston shootings from a friend, Timothy Siburg. There are some good challenges against racism brought up in this post, and I urge you to check it out.

4 Key Points Christian Kids Need to Understand About Evolution– How should we be critical thinkers when it comes to evolution? Here’s a pretty even-keeled post on teaching kids about evolution. The post doesn’t fall into the pitfalls of assuming the absolute validity of any specific viewpoint or oversimplifying the topic. I enjoyed it.

Why You Should Genetically Engineer Your Children– Here’s an interesting argument from a Christian perspective for genetic engineering. I have reflected on the topic in the past and come down on a somewhat more negative perspective, though this post has challenged some of my positions. Check out my own post on genetic therapy and engineering, which I recently revised and updated.

Conrad Emil Lindberg on God and Revelation– Doug Geivett shares some insights on apologetics from the Lutheran theologian Conrad Emil Lindberg in his continuing series on historical apologetics. Be sure to read teh whole series, because it is excellent.

Really Recommended Posts 3/6/15- Graphic Novels, going to church, and more!

snowl-owl-post-arpingstoneHello, dear readers! I hope you’ll enjoy the lineup I have for you from the frozen North. I realized the other day I must truly have acclimated because I walked outside in 5 degree (Fahrenheit, AKA -15 Celsius) weather and had to remove my hat because I was warm. Wow. Anyway, some diverse reading for you, which includes posts on a graphic novel reviewed from a Christian perspective, some analysis of Flood Geology, reasons to go to church, an upcoming book I’m super excited for, and how to be a Christian on Facebook.

A Sneak Peek at What’s Inside My New Book– Natasha Crain at “Christian Mom Thoughts” is one of my favorite bloggers. She constantly has great advice for Christian parents and how to integrate apologetics into young lives. This is something extremely valuable. She’s also writing a book! I cannot wait for it. Check out this sneak peek at the book and be sure to follow her site.

Review: Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang– I love graphic novels but it is hard to find those which I’m willing to invest time into. After reading this review and commentary on worldview, I think I may have to pick these two up from Gene Luen Yang.

To Church (COMIC)- Why even bother going to church? Here’s a pretty interesting look at some reasons why it is a good thing for Christians to go!To Church (COMIC)- Why even bother going to church? Here’s a pretty interesting look at some reasons why it is a good thing for Christians to go!

Jesus Christ and Mr. Spock– Was Jesus a myth, like Spock? Some mythicists have been running with  this absurdity since the death of Leonard Nimoy. Check out this post which acts as a piece of tribute to Spock while also refuting the ludicrous claims of Jesus mythers.

How to be a Christian Presence on Facebook– Some good advice on interacting on Facebook.

Forams and Diatoms: Testing Young Earth Flood Geology Hypotheses– Does Flood Geology–the Young Earth Creationist’s scientific answer to most questions–succeed when tested? Check out this post for just one test it fails.

Book Review: “Give Them Grace” by Jessica Thompson and Elyse Fitzpatrick

gtg-tfGive Them Grace by Jessica Thompson and Elyse Fitzpatrick is a book about Christian parenting. I emphasize the word “Christian” here because one of their primary theses is that Christian parenting should look distinctive when it is looked at alongside non-Christian parenting. Specifically, this should be reflected in the notion that parenting centers around grace rather than enforcing a works-based system.

The way this plays out throughout the book is through an emphasis not just on getting obedience but rather on raising children who are faithful and understand that Christianity is not about our works but about what God has done for us. The authors use several concrete examples of misbehavior or situations in which parental intervention might be required. These examples are then put through a filter of “giving grace,” often with lengthy example dialogues and advice on how to interact. How well does this seem to work out in the examples given? Well, it’s a bit uneven.

On the one hand, the example dialogues are solid ways to apply the notion that we should give our children “grace” rather than a constant stream of Law (and thus create little Pharisees). When one child says they hate another child, rather than shutting them down purely through application of discipline, the authors commend an approach which speaks to the love of Christ in the lives of children. Some may fear this means no discipline is given, but this is far from the case. The authors put forward a good balanced approach between correction and application of grace and thus also provide an example of how to avoid pure works-righteousness in the hearts and minds of our children. The system that is put forward is one in which management, nourishing, training, correction, and rehearsing of Gospel promises are all integrated into parenting.

On the other hand, there are some theological background beliefs which are distracting and sometimes even disturbing in this work. There is a constant refrain of wondering whether one’s child is “regenerated” or not. This lack of surety about the salvation of children not only is a bit terrifying for myself as a parent, but also unfortunately undermines the points the authors make at several points. As a Lutheran, I believe in infant baptism and trust in God to fulfill the promises our Lord made through baptism. I’m not trying to start a debate on that topic, but instead I say this to point out that from my perspective, this means large parts of the book are simply untenable.

Moreover, there is a frankly disturbing lack of trust in the faith of children despite the fact that Jesus Christ said to let the little children come to Him. For example, when discussing the prayers of children about faith: “Because we don’t know the state of our children’s souls and because they might simply want to please us by praying to be saved, we must continue to give them the law and encourage them to ask God for faith to believe that he is as good as he says he is” (Kindle location 814-815). This suggestion that we must essentially doubt the faith of a child, always wary as to whether they are trying to please us rather than being genuine in their calls for salvation is, I think, theologically deeply problematic.

Another difficulty with the book is a seemingly constant refrain of what mothers do, which is particularly off-putting in the discussion of how moms must always be praying for their kids. What about me as a father? It seems clear from the (pretty good!) chapter on prayer that fathers should be praying too, but then why all the emphasis on mothers in this and other regards? It makes it seem like mothers are viewed as more important, despite disavowals of that same notion.

Overall, Give Them Grace is a good but not great parenting book with lots of concrete examples that help to put forward a vision of parenting that is distinctively Christian.

The Good

+Focus on Christian parenting as distinctive
+Practical advice in many situations
+Questions which lead to more concrete applications
+Easy-to-read style which still captivates
+Fairly neutral about physical discipline with advice both to those who would like to engage in it and to those who would not [“fairly” because the authors do favor the former]

The Bad

-Doesn’t give enough credit to fathers
-Theological background beliefs about children’s salvation distracting and even disturbing
-Some advice hampered by said theological beliefs

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the book through Crossway. I was not obligated by the publisher to give any specific type of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, Give Them Grace (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 1/23/15- Creationism, Gender Jokes, and more!

postHere’s a set of awesome posts for your to peruse, dear readers. We have topics that range from all over the board, including some new details on the fragment of Mark’s Gospel that was found a few years ago, a difficult challenge for young earth creationism, discussion of gender based jokes, and a parenting challenge. Let me know what you think in the comments here, and be sure to let the authors of the articles know your thoughts as well! Thanks for reading.

Earliest Fragment of Mark’s Gospel Apparently Found– Scholars who argue that the Gospels couldn’t be earlier than 200AD have already been shown to be wrong by discoveries of fragments from earlier dates. Now, a fragment of Mark’s Gospel has been found which apparently dates to pre-90AD. Frankly, this exposes the fraudulent argument about how the Gospels were apparently written so late no one could have known about the events. If this is but an early fragment, how many other copies were there, and how much earlier was the original? Wintery Knight also sums up some information from various sites about the find in his post on some new details.

The Lost World of South American Ungulates: A YEC Ungulate Problem– Can the YEC paradigm adequately account for the diversity of species? It may be easy to simply hypothesize God built in adaptability, but when it comes to examination of individual species, does it succeed?

5 Reasons Not to Use Gender-Based Jokes in the Pulpit– Here’s a fascinating post and it really applies to more than simply “from the pulpit.” I’d suggest this applies just in general to gender jokes. A follow up post shares some thoughts that the readers of this first post responded with.

How to Get your Christian Parenting Priorities Right– What do you think of when asked what you want for your kids? Here’s a challenging post to rethink our parenting priorities for our kids.

 

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