Friday, November 9, 2012

Arguing About Spanking

When my husband and I first decided we were never going to spank, we heard many arguments on both sides of the spanking fence.

Arguments against spanking included, "It's the same as hitting; you wouldn't hit your spouse, would you?", "Jesus would never have hit a child", "Spanking causes an increase in aggressive behavior", "Spanking really does not teach a child anything except to avoid being hit". If you spend any time online, reading blogs and discussions against spanking, you will find that there are some bloggers who are angry, who accuse spankers of abusing their children and being heartless. Interestingly, these ungracious responses are generally from those who do not follow Christ. I have not come across a Christian blogger or anti-spanker who ungraciously uses his or her penned words to yell, demean, and accuse parents who spank (though certainly there may be someone like this out there). Instead, among Christian anti-spankers there is a call towards parents who spank to simply reexamine their methods, and especially to take a clear-headed look at what Scripture says.

For some reason, this puts people who spank on the defensive. Many people who spank query, "Are you calling me a bad, abusive parent? How dare you!" This defensiveness saddens me, because it prevents Christians from having a clear dialogue about the issue. This is certainly not always the case. My sister-in-law is an excellent example of a sister in Christ who disagrees with me regarding spanking, yet has never become defensive or accusatory. However, in many online forums and in the comment sections to many blogs, this defensive attitude presents itself.

And, without fail, along with the defensiveness, these Christians who feel attacked for their choices, point out the following: "We are interpreting the Bible literally", "Our parents spanked us, and we turned out great", "You are buying into modern psychology, and using it to interpret the Bible", "We know of neighbors, students, etc., who aren't spanked, and they are little hellions", "Just look at society today. Many people don't spank, and all children are brats because of it". After they present these arguments, the put a sky-high wall around themselves, and refuse to listen to the other side (because, after all, they feel they are right and therefore everyone else has to be wrong).

I would like to point out, first of all, that some of the arguments used by some of those who believe spanking is necessary are 100% experiential. If I were to use experiential examples to back up my belief that spanking children is not necessary, I am quite certain that pro-spankers would call me to task on my arguments.

If we are debating whether spanking is or is not a good tool with those who have not put their faith in Christ, then I think, by all means, we ought to use psychology, use studies, use experiences (though experiential arguments are week, in my opinion). As an aside: for Christians, after examining scripture, there is a lot to be gleaned from psychology-the study of the mind-so long as we measure all theories and conclusions against scripture.

However, when conversing with fellow believers, our "debating" should be conducted humbly, without name-calling and pointing fingers. Clearly, most Christian parents love their children more than themselves, and want what is best for them. Secondly, our conversation should begin and end with an earnest and hard look at what the Bible itself says. We should be willing to delve into the original Hebrew or Greek meanings of various terms; we should be careful to use context and genre as a guide to interpretation. Lastly, we should allow that all believers are capable of being led by the Spirit of God, and should make their own decisions. We should respect one another, and pray for one another. Perhaps if we follow these guidelines, we will be able to better engage in an honest conversation about what God has in mind for children and parents, without ridiculing, putting down, and accusing others of being wrong.

When I speak out, sharing my views about spanking, it is not to shame or put down moms who use spanking as a tool for discipline. Instead, it is my prayer, my heartfelt desire, to challenge fellow moms to parent with freedom and grace. I hope that we moms and dads, brothers and sisters in Christ, can begin to work together, instead of against each other, to look into the heart of Scripture, without preconceived notions of what is true, to find out what God really commands and urges parents to do as they disciple their little ones. It would be beautiful to unite with others in earnest prayer for our children, and to bounce ideas and knowledge and tips off of each other, to spur one another on towards love and kindness, compassion and humility, and to challenge one another when something is not right.

So, mommas, let's not shrink away in fear, or grow haughty and defensive, claiming that "our way is best". Instead, let us have speech amongst each other that is full of grace, seasoned with salt. After all, it is for the children that we speak.


  1. Your post seems reasonable and balanced in tone. You seem to be willing to look at both sides of an emotional issue.

    For my own background, I have seen spanking, done rightly, work extremely well, and I have seen wrong spanking, or no spanking, work very badly. This doesn't prove that a child cannot be well raised and trained without spanking, just that I have never seen it and have no idea what it would look like. But likewise, if someone against spanking has never seen right spanking, they also do not know what it looks like and would tend to judge all spanking by the bad examples they have seen.

    Right spanking should be fair, no more harsh than is needed to teach the lesson, not done in anger, and consistant. It should be done in love, always for the good of the child.

    The Bible teaches that God forgives Christians. We have grace. Yet the Bible also teaches that God disciplines us with punishments, sometimes hard punishments, to teach us lessons for our good, and even Christians are punished by God for our good, even after we are forgiven.

  2. Dear author,

    Thank you for your reply. I appreciate your willingness to read my post.

    I was actually raised in a Christian home where spanking was done correctly. My parents never yelled at me. They never demonstrated anger when they spanked me. They were extremely consistent. And they were always very clear that they were spanking me out of love. And they were spanking me out of love. My parents were trying to do right by me. Their motives were good and loving. I never questioned their love and pure motives.

    I am one of those people who could say, "I was spanked, and I turned out fine!" I am happily married and I have two children that I dearly love. I never rebelled in any extreme way. I am a Christian just like my parents.

    Yet, I choose not to spank. This is mostly because the message I got from spankings was a very confusing one. Basically, I learned that it was not ok to mess up. I learned to hide any sin or wrong I committed. Furthermore, choosing "right" for me was often more about avoiding a spanking then it was about just plain doing the right thing. I became very good at being good and harshly judged all those "bad" kids whose parents hadn't ever taught them the "right" way to behave. My focus was always on outward behavior, and I judged people as acceptable or unacceptable based on whether or not they reached my standards. The saddest thing is that I just became so very good at hiding who I really was that I eventually forgot who I really was.

    Mostly, though, I have decided not to spank because after extensive delving into Scripture, I have discovered that spanking is not commanded by God, and therefore I have chosen to adopt other methods, ones that I feel are more in line with God's character.

    I do not see a scriptural basis for the notion that God punishes us. He poured out all of His wrath against sin on His son. I love what 1 John 4:18 says: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear [e]involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." If God were out punishing us as believers, we would always be fearful, as this verse says: fear involves punishment. Any time we were faced with a trial, we would reexamine our lives, trying to figure out what we had done to merit the suffering we are going through. But the Bible makes it clear that we should embrace trials, because they are God's way of training (not punishing) us. We are not to try to avoid trials, which is what we would do if we saw them as God's way of punishing us for wrongs committed. Even in the Old Testament, when people were living under the law, Job's friends were harshly reprimanded by God for telling him that he was experiencing suffering because he had done something wrong. The conclusion? "Don't try to figure out why you are going through hard times. God is God, and only He knows why He does things. Trust Him." All that to say, we as Christians, are disciplined, yes, to train us and bring us towards maturity. This is a lot different than punishment, which uses fear of pain or suffering to stop or eradicate a behavior.

    Thank you, author, for stopping by my site and taking the time to read my post, demonstrating that we as Christians can actually dialogue about this issue. Hopefully my response will give you some food for thought.

  3. Thank you for your reply. It is indeed food for thought.

    I plan to write a post in my blog about spanking, maybe in the next few hours, so feel free to stop by.

    Here are some scriptures that show that God's way is to punish us to teach us right ways, even Christians in the Church, even after we have believed the gospel, repented of our sins, been baptized, and received God's Holy Spirit.

    The word, sometimes used in the Bible, chasten, means to punish. Here are some synonyms from

    Main Entry: chasten
    Part of Speech: verb
    Definition: correct, humiliate
    Synonyms: abase, admonish, afflict, berate, call down, castigate, chastise, chide, cow, curb, discipline, exprobate, fulminate against, have on the carpet, humble, objurgate, penalize, punish, rake over the coals, rebuke, reprehend, repress, reprimand, reproach, reprove, restrain, scold, scourge, soften, subdue, take to task, tame, tongue-lash, try, upbraid
    Notes: chasten means to correct by punishment, to take to task - to restrain or subdue; chastise means to punish, as by beating or to criticize severely

    Please notice, it includes the meaning, punish.

    Now notice these scriptures:

    Hebrews was written to the Church (Hebrews 3:1). Now notice Hebrews 12:5-11: "And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: 'My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:5-11).

    Notice that the writer of Hebrews says that if you are without chastening (punishment), you are not a son (or daughter) of God (verses 7-8). In other words, if God doesn't punish you, you are not really a Christian.

    "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent....He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 3:19-22).

    Furthermore, God teaches parents to include punishment as a teaching tool to teach their children the right way to live. "He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly" (Proverbs 13:24).

    Thus God teaches us both by instruction (Proverbs) and example (how He deals with us, His children in the Church), that we should include punishment as a tool to teach our children for their good.

    You have learned the right way to spank from you parents. In that way, you have been blessed, because many parents have not had that experience growing up themselves and do not know how to spank their children the right way. If you omit the punishments your children need, based on the idea that God does not punish His children, you are performing an experiment with your childrens' lives, contrary to God's instructions and example. Do you really want to do that?

  4. Thank you for your reply, author.

    I will start with the excellent question you posed to me at the end of your reply, asking me if I really wanted to perform an experiment on my children by not spanking them. I agree that it would be terrible to raise my children "experimentally". That would be incredibly selfish of me! And that is why, while my son was yet an infant, my husband and I strove to find out exactly what God requires of parents; we searched for child-rearing wisdom in the scriptures.

    With that in mind, I have a sort of challenge for you as well. Can you find references/verses in Scripture that delineate the "correct", Biblical spanking: consistency, in love not in anger, always for the good of the child?

    I am so happy that you cited Hebrews 12! What an excellent, encouraging passage! When I read Hebrews 12, I rejoice knowing that God is not just leaving me to some sort of helter-skelter, on-my-own way of maturing as a believer. I appreciate that you looked into the thesaurus to find some synonyms for "chasten". I actually prefer to look at the original greek or hebrew word used, knowing that translators are the ones responsible for using a certain English word, and sometimes they are not exactly on target. The Greek word in Hebrews 12 is paideia. In the Roman world, paideia referred to a rigorous method for training noble-born sons to eventually take their place as leaders in society. Here is a link to an article explaining what the term "paidiea" would have brought to mind to the readers of Hebrews, Ephesians and Colossians: Understanding that paideia was a rigorous training of noble-born children really sheds light on the Hebrews 12 passage. When believers undergo trials and persecution, they are not to faint or grow weary, realizing that God is training them! There are so many references in the Hebrews passage to endurance for character training(looking to Christ, and looking to the great ones of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11). Understanding paideia in this light also sheds a whole new depth to the fact that we as Christians are to nuture our children in the "paideia" OF THE LORD. In conclusion, the New Testament makes it clear that God disciplines us. I love using the blue letter Bible to understand more clearly the original language of the Bible. Here is a link to the definition of paideia, and also to all the places where that word is used in the New Testament, as well as how it was translated: I do not believe that any one scripture can contradict another: since 1 John 4:18 makes it quite clear that "living in love" and "fear of punishment" are mutually exclusive, and since one goal of the Christian is to learn to "live in His love", I know that God does not use punishment; He uses discipline: which is a much richer word that denotes training towards maturity. Certainly we as Christians can and do face consequences to our sin; certainly God allows this from time to time. The consequences are a chance for us to experience/remember the yuckiness of life apart from God and not a payment we must make to God in return for our sins, in order to get back into His good grace. Like the prodigal's father, God is always waiting for us to return, no strings attached, no payment required, no shame entreated.

  5. Proverbs is rich in wisdom, is it not? When I studied the 'rod' passages in Proverbs, I read through the book at least 20 times, before I even delved into individual word meanings. A couple of things I realized: Proverbs is a book of wisdom poetry; it is full of vivid imagery to help us understand important wisdom concepts (such as the reference in Proverbs 23:2, in which we are instructed to hold a knife to our throats to avoid overeating--obviously we should look deeper here for the wisdom truth contained in the Proverbs); Proverbs is a book that was written with young men in mind and it was written to people who were trying very hard to follow the law of Moses. Something we often overlook is that Proverbs also recommends that we beat fools to remove folly from them. I find rich, timeless wisdom in the idea behind the "rod" verses: parents should be authorities in their children's lives; parents should indeed discipline their children (raise them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord).

    Incidentally, when Proverbs talks about "child" the Hebrew word "na'ar" is used. The Hebrews had a variety of words delineating the various life stages of the child. "Na'ar," which meant "shaken off" referred to older children, usually those between 12-16 years old. In the Old Testament, there are two places in which "na'ar" refers to a small child: Samuel, who was "shaken off" by his mother at an early age in order to serve in the temple, and Moses, who was also "shaken off" at an early age and raised by an Egyptian princess. My source for this is biblical scholar Samuel Martin, who has studied this subject intensively and presents his work in a book entitled "Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me."

    Hope this gives you some food for thought in a respectful manner. Thanks again for your comments.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

    The principles I gave for the correct form of spanking come from my experience. What I have found in the Bible is the general principle that God punishes those He loves, and we should do so with our children.

    One of the problems with Mr. Martin's book is his over-reliance on the views of scholars and "experts" in how to interpret the Bible, scholars who do not demonstrate the fruits of spiritual conversion and are therefore not able to understand God's word. For example, he relies on Jewish authorities in interpreting passages in the Old Testament, yet the Jews do not understand the Old Testament - if they did, they would not have rejected Jesus Christ. Paul in his epistles makes clear that the Jews are blinded in their reading of scripture. To properly understand the Bible requires spiritual help from God, because it is the power of the Holy Spirit working in our minds that opens our minds to understand the things of God and the truths that God teaches in the Bible. Yet to receive that help from God, a person must repent and believe the gospel, which the Jewish authorities Samuel Martin quotes have never done.

    The passage I have quoted compares chastening from God with the chastening we receive from our human fathers, the same word "chasten" and the same meaning. The context is clear that it is talking about punishment.

    Even if someone says that passages in Proverbs advocating the "rod" to correct children refers only to children over 12 years old, those passages still establish the principle of punishing those we love for their own good.

    In proverbs and throughout the Bible, including God's dealings with Israel, God shows that His punishments are an expression of His love. That is a big and broad principle, and a starting point to understanding His views on the punishment of children. He punishes because He loves.

    Has God removed punishments from us when we accept Christ? If so, that would mean He has removed His love for us. That would not make sense. God loves everyone, the whole world in fact, even before we accept Christ. If God loves the whole world, even before the world accepts Christ, how much more will He love us after we become Christians.

    In Proverbs, a "rod" is a symbol of punishment. It wouldn't make sense any other way. And God represents sparing the rod, that is, withholding punishment, as a lack of love, in effect, "hating" our children (Proverbs 13:24). That the rod is a symbol of punishment, not verbal instructions or setting of examples, is made clear in several passages. Proverbs 10:13 says, "But a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding." Here a rod is spoken of as something applied to the back. If it represented words of instruction, it would be for the ear. If it meant setting an example, it would be for the eye. Something applied to the back is a punishment. Also, look at Proverbs 23:13: "Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die." This shows that a rod is something used to beat someone, but not to the point of death. You cannot say this refer to speaking of words of setting right examples.

    Even prophecy shows that God inflicts punishments to teach lessons and help people come to repentance. For example, God will soon punish the United States for its sins in the great tribulation with a punishment so severe that most people will die in it or go into slavery, as I explain in my article, the Secret Meaning of Pentecost. We will be punished for our abortions, our crimes, our violence, etc. But it is not just the atheists or secular who will be punished. Even religious people will be punished for breaking God's seventh-day Sabbath and annual holy days and substituting traditions borrowed from paganism like Christmas and Easter, which God forbids.

    So God punishes in love, and He sets the example for us to follow in dealing with our children.

  8. The writers of the New Testament regularly used the Septuagint Greek translation - made by non-Christian Jews. They apparently believed that the speakers of the Hebrew language have a good enough idea of the meaning of the language to be able to translate it accurately. Really, we only have a right to impose our own understanding of the Scriptures where the ancient Jewish understanding conflicts with the Gospel - and even then, we should tread very warily in telling them they don't know their own Scriptures (which God entrusted to them) or their own language (and its idioms), and we even find that usually they are partly right. For example, Jews see Isaiah 53, the Suffering Servant, as being about Israel, which in the context of the whole book is true (see for example Is 44:21). Christians say that it is *also* about Jesus. In this case, (Proverbs verses) there is no conflict with the Gospel. On the contrary, Paul says we are not to 'exasperate' or 'embitter' our children - which, I'm told, was a common rabbinic argument against corporal punishment at the time. So Paul was using and therefore endorsing the common understanding of the time. More directly, everything Jesus said or did wrt children was gentle and holding them up as an example, so we can't re-cast the meaning of OT verses to make them harsher than the Jewish understanding by starting with anything in the NT or the example of Christ.

    1. btw, Samuel Martin has been asking spanking proponents to enter into discussion with him and point out to him the errors they see. If you haven't already contacted him, he would love to hear from you :)

    2. I have read Mr. Martin's book and responded to Mr. Martin's invitation for a dialog in his blog. I have asked several questions and also submitted my own views.

  9. Author,

    I apologize for taking so long to reply. It seems to me that we could go on debating and debating as to whether or not God punishes His children. My husband and I are having trouble understanding how the Hebrews 12 passage is referring to punishment, for the reasons I already stated: the context of Hebrews 12 is that of believers enduring persecution, and the actual Greek word "paideia" does not refer to punishment. It is easy to get hung up on some of the phrases used in this passage, such as "scourges every son whom he receives". An online friend of mine contacted the Hebrew and Aramaic society, who informed her that this phrase was actually added into the text when it was translated! When my husband and I are living in the United States again, I plan to contact them myself to find out if this is really true. Even if it is not, Jesus was scourged for our transgressions! The verses before this statement urge us to look to Christ as we endure hardship.

    It really takes away from the completeness of Christ's sacrifice as payment for our sin-debt if we say that we as believers have to go on paying for our sins! Punishment is just that-paying for your sins! Discipline, on the other hand, refers to a training towards maturity. This is a lot different than asking someone to pay for sins that have already been paid for. As the verse in 1 John so clearly states, punishment produces fear. Fear stifles us and keeps us from being able to learn. On the other hand, living in God's love, knowing that at times He uses hardship to train us (not to punish us for wrongs committed) is encouraging. It causes us to want to learn! When we go through hardships, as was made so clear in the book of Job, we do not have to ask ourselves "What did I do wrong?" "Why is God punishing me?" Instead, we let God take us through the hardship; we even let Him carry our burdens; we let Him disciple us and teach us. This is not what would happen if He was taking a divine whip to our backsides.

    Lastly, I am a bit surprised that you critique Samuel Martin for looking to outside sources as he interprets words or ideas in Scripture. Samuel did not use these outside sources to make doctrinal statements; he used them to try to understand what the original readers of Proverbs would have understood it to mean. If you criticize Samuel Martin for using outside sources, may I humbly point out that you used a dictionary definition to define the English word "chasten"? I am quite certain that the dictionary was not written by a Christian. Also, any good commentator looks at outside sources, especially historical sources, to help shed light on the meaning of any given Biblical text. This is a lot different than following an unsaved persons application of the text.

  10. Hopefully, my blog and others like it will challenge you, author, to really look at what Scripture says, with an open mind. If you still feel that the bible teaches parents to punish their children, and that God punishes us, that is certainly your choice. As with all things, what we believe about God influences every aspect of our Christian lives. I am just so happy to walk unafraid of God's wrath upon me, because I know that Christ bore the full brunt of that wrath for me. I often think of what Jesus said when He was on earth: "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:17) One day, Jesus will return and He will judge the world. But right now, He is delaying His judgment, extending His free gift of salvation to anyone who will receive it. God wants us believers to walk in grace, unmerited favor, without fear! It is because of this grace, this ability to walk without fear, that I write my blog and that I parent the way I do. As long as you are truly trying to understand my perspective with an open mind (and I yours), I think we can keep dialoging. However, if your only aim is to try to convince or convert me to parenting the "right" way, I do not think we have much more we can debate about.

    Your conversation has been very respectful, and I appreciate that!