Monday, 14 November 2011

The Rod Verses: Taking the rod verses literally

This is the first in a three-part series on the "rod verses" included in Proverbs. Part 1 (Taking the rod verses literally) will be followed by Part 2 (Taking other Proverbs literally) and Part 3 (What are they really saying?).

Introduction

Many Christians and Christian authors point to the "rod verses" as evidence of God-sanctioned corporal punishment of children. These five verses, all found in Proverbs, include the following:

He who spares his rod hates his son,
but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
(Proverbs 13:24)

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
the rod of correction will drive it far from him.
(Proverbs 22:15)

Do not withhold correction from a child,
for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.
(Proverbs 23:13)

You shall beat him with a rod,
and deliver his soul from hell.
(Proverbs 23:14)

The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
(Proverbs 29:15)

There is also a sixth "verse" frequently referenced: "Spare the rod, spoil the child." This saying, however, is found nowhere in Proverbs nor anywhere else in the Bible. It actually comes from a section of the satirical poem Hudibras written by Samuel Bulter in the 17th century, where he describes a widow suggesting that her suitor could prove his love by whipping himself or letting her whip him.

"Now if you'll venture, for my sake,
To try the toughness of your back,
And suffer (as the rest have done)
The laying of a whipping on,
(And may you prosper in your suit,
As you with equal vigour do't,)
I here engage myself to loose ye,
And free your heels from Caperdewsie.
But since our sex's modesty
Will not allow I should be by,
Bring me, on oath, a fair account,
And honour too, when you have done't,
And I'll admit you to the place
You claim as due in my good grace.
If matrimony and hanging go
By dest'ny, why not whipping too?
What med'cine else can cure the fits
Of lovers when they lose their wits?
Love is a boy by poets stil'd;
Then spare the rod and spoil the child."

Clearly, this bawdy line is in no way intended to be applied to children. (For further context, the entire text can be read here.)

The "Biblical Model" of Corporal Punishment

Returning to the verses which are found in Proverbs, we will now consider the practical application commonly derived from their literal interpretation.

Popular Christian culture uses these verses to support corporal punishment of children. Numerous Christian parenting authors declare this practice to be not only acceptable, but biblically mandated. There is much hedging about only carrying out this corporal punishment in a "biblical manner". Typically, this "biblical method" of corporal punishment includes the following:
  1. Spankings should only be administered on children between the ages of two and twelve.
  2. Let the child knows that a spanking will be the consequence for disobedience. When said disobedience occurs, tell the child that you must now spank him in order to help him do better in the future. Be sure he knows why he is going to be spanked.
  3. Never spank in anger. The spanking should be carried out in a calm and controlled manner.
  4. Administer the spanking promptly. The spanking should be applied to the child's bottom. Use only an open hand so that you can be sure you are not spanking too hard or too soft (according to some); use only an implement so that the child will not fear your hand (according to others).
  5. The child should be repentant and grateful after the spanking. If the child remains recalcitrant or cries for too long afterwards, another spanking should be administered.
  6. After the spanking is over, reconcile with the child. Pray with him and reconnect through a hug.

With only minor variations, those Christian parenting authors who promote corporal punishment follow this general model, including Michael and Debi Pearl, Gary Ezzo, Tedd Tripp, James Dobson, Chip Ingram, Roy Lessin, Bill Gothard, and more.

Interestingly enough, this "biblical model" is nearly identical to the Spencer Spanking Plan. At first read, one would assume this was yet another set of instructions on child discipline...until reaching the part about wives and husbands. Yes, the Spencer Spanking Plan is in fact instructions for domestic discipline. It was drawn up by Mrs. Dorothy Spencer in the early 1900's and was never intended in any way to be used on children, and yet much of the "biblical model" is drawn directly from it.

The "Biblical Model" and the Rod Verses: Comparing and contrasting

Returning to the proverbs themselves, what would it look like to take them literally, at face-value, and how does that line up with this "biblical model" of physical chastisement? We will go through the "biblical model" step-by-step and examine these questions.

What the model says: 1. Spankings should only be administered on children between the ages of two and twelve.

What the rod verses say: Only strike young men.

The word "child" in these verses refer to a role ("offspring") rather than a particular age. The Hebrew word used in these verses is "na'ar" and is most frequently translated as "young man" throughout the Bible. While the "biblical model" typically recommends that parents stop spanking their children somewhere around 12 years old, the rod verses, if taken literally, would instruct a parent to begin physical chastisement at that age, likely as a last resort to bring a wayward son back in line for his soul's sake.

There is in the Law descriptions of grown men being beaten with a literal rod ("shebet"). Boundaries are given regarding the use of a rod on slaves. There is no such example anywhere in Scripture of a young child being likewise struck with a rod, nor are any instructions or boundaries given to ensure its judicious use.

What the model says: 2. Let the child knows that a spanking will be the consequence for disobedience. When said disobedience occurs, tell the child that you must now spank him in order to help him do better in the future. Be sure he knows why he is going to be spanked.

What the rod verses say: Nothing.

There is no reference to this step in any of the verses in question, nor can the "biblical model" be found anywhere in the Bible. Common sense would instruct a parent to be sure a child is aware of any consequences that will be applied as a result of their actions, but the verses themselves have nothing to say on the subject.

What the model says: 3. Never spank in anger. The spanking should be carried out in a calm and controlled manner.

What the rod verses say: Discipline promptly. If you beat him, he will not die.

There is no caveat in the "rod verses" for not spanking in anger. Proverbs 13:24 says only to discipline "promptly". Parenting can be challenging and frustrating; our natural human reaction towards a disobedient child is often at least some measure of anger. And yet no allowance is given for taking time to calm down before administering the rod; it is to be done "promptly".

Proverbs 23:13 assures the parent that the child will not die from the beating. In contrast, Exodus 21:12-27 is clear that a man can indeed die from being struck with a rod. Taking this proverb literally results in a clear contradiction in Scripture.

What the model says: 4. Administer the spanking promptly. The spanking should be applied to the child's bottom. Use only an open hand so that you can be sure you are not spanking too hard or too soft (according to some); use only an implement so that the child will not fear your hand (according to others).

What the rod verses say: Strike the back. Use a rod.

The buttocks is never mentioned in Proverbs. Other verses that refer to striking a grown person with a rod refer only to striking the back (Proverbs 10:13, Proverbs 26:3). There is no biblical backing for striking a child on the buttocks (and for very good reason).

Furthermore, if a rod is what the verses specify, then a rod is what must be used. There is no permission given to substitute the rod with a wooden spoon, paint stirrer, paddle, dowel, belt, strap, switch, plumbing line, glue stick, or hand. A rod ("shebet") is a long, thick stick; this word is used throughout Scripture to refer to a shepherd's staff, a king's scepter, or a tribe. Other Hebrew words, including matteh and choter, are used elsewhere to describe smaller or thinner rods, such as branches or twigs, but the word used in the rod verses is "shebet". This is what must be used if these verses are to be taken literally. (Incidentally, the use of any implement whatsoever when spanking a child is illegal in Canada.)

What the model says: 5. The child should be repentant and grateful after the spanking. If the child remains recalcitrant or cries for too long afterwards, another spanking should be administered.

What the rod verses say: Nothing.

Again, the rod verses are silent on this aspect of the "biblical model". Scripture, however, validates the presence of many emotions; Psalms is particularly rich in a variety of emotions.

The "biblical model", on the other hand, recognizes happiness as the only acceptable emotion in a child. In his book "Shepherding a Child’s Heart", Christian author Tedd Tripp instructs parents on how to respond if their child remains angry or distant after being spanked (emphasis added): "If your child is still angry, it’s time for another round. ‘Daddy has spanked you, but you are not sweet enough yet. We are going to have to go back upstairs for another spanking.’" Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21, however, quite apart from recommending that a child have his anger spanked out of him, would suggest that a father not provoke his child to such anger in the first place.

What the model says: 6. After the spanking is over, reconcile with the child. Pray with him and reconnect through a hug.

What the rod verses say: Nothing.

Once again, there is no support for this aspect of the "biblical model" in the rod verses. Logic would suggest that the ideas of "spanking in love" and "reconciling afterwards" would set a child up for a very unhealthy dynamic in future relationships, but the rod verses have nothing to say on the matter.

What the model suggests: Corporal punishment is God-sanctioned and God-mandated.

What the a literal interpretation of the rod verses says: Ignore the Gospel.

Just rip the whole New Testament right out of your Bible. Proverbs 23:14 clearly states that striking the child with a rod will save his soul from hell. There is no need for a Savior. God's grace through Jesus Christ is not required for salvation. You and your rod can take care of that yourself.

Now that Jesus is no longer part of the picture, we must return to a life under Law rather than under Grace. As the Law states, rebellious sons are to be stoned (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). This may be difficult for you as a parent to carry through with; however, the Bible demands it and we must be willing to do as God instructs.

Summary

After examining the "biblical model" of corporal punishment, we find no biblical support for any of the steps. The "rod verses" which are used to support this model are silent on most of the steps while contradicting others.

The "biblical model" instructs parents to promptly spank young disobedient children on the buttocks in love (not anger), using either the hand or another instrument, after which the child should be sorrowful and repentant (but not overly dramatic), at which point the parent and child should pray and reconnect with a loving hug.

The rod verses, conversely, if taken literally, instruct parents to strike a disobedient young man on the back with a long, thick rod, which will not kill him and which will bring about his salvation.

The "biblical model", while claiming to be a literal interpretation of the rod verses, neither teaches nor carries out these verses in a literal manner. Considering the vast difference between the "biblical model" and the rod verses, it may be wise to reconsider the meaning behind the rod imagery used in these verses. This will be explored in Part 3 of the series. The proverbs are full of wisdom and truth, and to insist upon a strictly literal interpretation (and pseudo-literal application) is to lose the rich meaning they hold.

81 comments:

  1. You've done a good job on this! You've covered a lot of important information and done so in a way that is insightful and thought-provoking. Thank you!

    I've meant to write a series on what various Christian pro-spanking authors teach regarding the proper, "Biblical" way to spank, but have never gotten around to writing any more besides one about the guidelines Tedd Tripp shares in his book. Here is a link to that one, though, in case it might be helpful! http://www.gentlechristianmothers.com/weblog/archives/2011/02/index.html

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  2. That is very helpful, flowermama; thank you!

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  3. Excellent. What a perfect break down of the "model". You have succintly and clearly explored this in logical manner. I am going to post this and save it for future reference.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this! This is the first time I have read about the rod verses along side the teachings of pro-spanking Christian authors. I found this very educational! I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

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  5. I think you have done a great job of dissecting this issue. The rod can often be used to describe the shepherd's rod. The shepherd's rod was used to bring sheep back and to protect them from farm. The shepherd's rod was used to guide sheep and separate them.

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  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Very well said and biblically grounded.

    Would you give me permission to translate this into Spanish (giving you full credit of course)?

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  7. Bookmarking this, and looking forward to the subsequent posts.

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  8. Yes, Lisa, the shepherd's rod is such a comforting picture of guidance and protection, isn't it? I will be exploring that idea further in Part 3 of the series.

    Suyai, yes, you absolutely have my permission to translate it into Spanish. I am so glad you found it useful.

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  9. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou! I am so glad to see an article by someone who has the time to research these verses. I hope all my siblings read it.

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  10. The Spencer spanking book laid ground rules for respectfully spanking a grown woman... ick..
    http://satiateddesires.wordpress.com/2008/07/27/the-spencer-spanking-plan-by-dorothy-spencer/

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  11. It's frightening to see it applied to a child under the guise of being "biblical", isn't it? Thank you for linking to the text in its entirety.

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  12. Thank you so much ! This is well thought , well presented and easy to read. I greatly appreciate it. I also like the built in links. Keep up the good work.

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  13. Thank you for this thorough analysis. It's always bothered me that so many of my Christian friends think spanking is "the Christian way." So my choice NOT to spank must be "unChristian," right? But whenever my husband and I looked into the Bible, we never saw a Biblical call to spank children. It's really messed up, if you ask me. It's taking a few little verses and blowing them way out of context to fit a traditional "Christian" model.

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  14. Your last sentence hit home with me. I got into a debate on this issue with someone I used to read (raisingolives.com) who started out by saying "We don't follow any person's plan, we simply use the clear rules laid out in Scripture" and ended by quoting Ted Tripp at me. What really ended the debate was my pointing out that there's more to the Bible than the book of Proverbs, and that I'm not convinced that we are to make every line of Proverbs equivalent to the Gospel. She said that ALL Scripture is inspired by God, and therefore equal, and that any sentence out of the Bible was equivalent to any other sentence.

    SO frustrating, and I had no idea how to answer that. Of course I tried, by asking if she believes in stoning adulterers and whether she literally binds the commandments on her children's foreheads, but I didn't really get anywhere with that. I have always understood that each book of the Bible is to be understood differently, some as moral teaching, some as good advice, and some as parable. But most fundamentalist Christians would never accept that argument.

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  15. I'm so very happy there is an ever growing voice in the Christian community against this too-long-held misinterpretation of God's perfect Word! This piece is right on the mark, covering the literal translations very well and drawing logical parallels to the supposed 'Biblical method' of God 'mandated' child rearing. I wrote 'Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter' addressing the New Covenant Jesus brought and how that figures into the spanking debate, and so I loved your line, "Just rip the whole New Testament right out of your Bible. Proverbs 23:14 clearly states that striking the child with a rod will save his soul from hell. There is no need for a Savior. God's grace through Jesus Christ is not required for salvation. You and your rod can take care of that yourself." Excellent!

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  16. I love this. I'm going to share on my page. Looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

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  17. This is a wonderfully logical and well-researched post. I enjoyed it.

    I wish that more Christians would apply such diligence to other important matters this way, such as homosexuality (for an example of a well-reasoned argument on that, try http://www.visionsofdaniel.net/book3WBRS.htm ).

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  18. I find your logic hard to follow. You're trying to have your cake and eat it, too. First you caricature the scriptures in question (to make it so that you don't have to adhere to it) and then expect the reader to applaud you for your "sound" exegesis.
    First, I want to point out that you're confusing the concepts of "prescriptive" and "descriptive" as applied to scripture. The Wisdom literature, including Proverbs is prescriptive. In other words, you don't "take things literally" in there. For instance, Proverbs 21:9: "It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife." Now, will a husband really live on the corner of a housetop in that situation? Not necessarily. Or the verses that describe that good comes to good hard-working people and evil to those who do evil (e.g. Proverbs 14:22, 17:20).

    Hippie Housewife #1 (in conjunction with the points you address, and my responses to each one):

    How do you jump to that conclusion? You seem completely confident that it can't mean younger child when in fact the word Na'ar has been described to mean that several times in the Bible. You state that no judicious use of the rod is mentioned in the Bible when all the Proverbs verses you "dissect" actually do. It's for the sake of discipline. Also, you note that there aren't specified boundaries. Would it have been helpful if Solomon stated, "Five pats should do it, then your child will understand that they were in the wrong." It's not about externals, it's about the heart and teaching it wisdom, which corporal punishment can be used as a tool for. Romans 3:31: "Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law" because it leads us to the wisdom of knowing our guilt. And only when we're in that inescapable place that we start to see the good news of Jesus.

    Hippie Housewife #2:

    There is no reference to this step in any of the verses in question, nor can the "biblical model" be found anywhere in the Bible. Common sense would instruct a parent to be sure a child is aware of any consequences that will be applied as a result of their actions, but the verses themselves have nothing to say on the subject."
    That's a sweeping statement. "'The Biblical model' can't be found anywhere in the Bible."? Within the Proverb passages themselves as well as the unity of scripture would confirm that God is a God of order who communicates himself to us especially in the areas of human behavior and the ensuing disciplining that

    Hippie Housewife # 3:

    It is wisdom to show the connection between a child's behavior and the consequence. "Promptly" doesn't have to mean "right that second" but as soon as you are able to "be angry but do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26) and as appropriate.

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  19. Hippie Housewife #4:

    Why do the buttocks have to be mentioned in order for it to be an appropriate place for parents to spank their children? The back could definitely imply the whole back side. In the verses applying to one's children again, there's no specific prescription in this area to allow for the parent's wisdom. Because the Biblical model method prescribes the buttocks doesn't make them unbiblical but in the spirit of the wisdom of the Bible. And again, these verses aren't to be taken "literally" because it's a prescriptive text in a wisdom approach to discipline.

    Hippie Housewife #5:

    A parent attempting the wisdom approach will know when their child is wailing for attention as opposed to wailing in pain, especially if that child is wailing for an inappropriate amount of time. I think you reference Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 out of context. The anger arose in the child's sin, not in the father's discipline.

    Hippie housewife #6:

    There is biblical wisdom in reconciling with the child after the discipline. Far from creating "a very unhealthy dynamic," it teaches the child the value of the discipline. "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he loves."

    Hippie housewife #7:

    What the a literal interpretation of the rod verses says: Ignore the Gospel."

    Again, you jump to conclusions. The Bible is supportive of wisdom discipline as I've shown in each point I've addresses. And since Proverbs is meant to be prescriptive, discipline can help deliver a a child's soul from hell because he or she comes to see his or her need for a savior through the law, as I mentioned above. I haven't read through the writings of the people you mentioned but you stuff them into a literal approach to only five verses and no other part of the Bible.

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  20. Denise, I appreciate the time you put into your reply. You raise a lot of points that I intended to address in Part 3; often the first part of a three part series raises more questions than it answers. I will, however, very briefly address your points here; most of them will be greatly expanded on later.

    I wonder if you haven't missed the point a bit here. I am in complete agreement with you that, as Wisdom literature, Proverbs is prescriptive rather than descriptive, and is not to be taken literally. This idea is the focus of Part 2 of the series.

    Briefly, each point:

    #1. You recognize that Proverbs is Wisdom literature, and yet you bring up Romans 3:31, which is speaking about the Law (Torah, the Pentateuch, the first five books of our Bible). Proverbs are wise sayings, not part of the Law. If corporal punishment of children was indeed God-sanctioned and God-mandated, provisions would have been made for it in the Law, just as provisions were made regarding its use on slaves and criminals. You are speaking out of both sides of your mouth here, saying on the one hand that the rod verses themselves provide for judicious use of the rod on children while saying on the other hand that the verses are speaking about the wise use of discipline in general. I very much agree with the latter; I see no provision made for corporal punishment to be a part of that discipline. You are approaching the verses backwards, using them as support for the idea of corporal punishment rather than taking the idea of corporal punishment from them.

    #2. This comment appears incomplete so I am not entirely sure of what you are trying to say here; regardless, there is no reference to this concept either in Proverbs or elsewhere in the Bible. It is precisely through examining the unity of Scripture that I arrive at the conclusion that a punitive approach to discipline does not align with the gospel as a whole.

    #3. The definition of "promptly" is "without delay". Otherwise, I very much agree with you here.

    #4. It is important precisely because the biblical model claims to be taken from the Bible, and yet there is no support for the practice of spanking a child on the buttocks (and for good reason, as the link I provided in that section demonstrates). To claim a specific point as being biblical requires a biblical backing; that is missing here.

    #5. I completely agree on your first point here. As for the second, I am unclear as to how you arrived at that conclusion. Speaking both in terms of experience (mine and others') and basic logic, the violation that occurs through the use of the "biblical model" of spanking naturally leads to anger in a child.

    #6. Reconnecting after discipline is wise, yes. However, we are not talking about discipline in general here, but rather about one very specific unhealthy form of "discipline". Certainly the Lord disciplines us and we are to discipline our children; neither of those ideas are being questioned or disputed here.

    #7. You're writing the third part of the series for me here. ;) As for stuffing the "biblical model" into a literal approach limited to these five verses, yes, that is point. These are the five verses that are used to support the "biblical model" of spanking as a whole, and yet doing so is entirely without merit. Taking into account the rest of the Scripture, quite apart from providing additional support, only further detracts from the validity of this model.

    Thank you again for the time and thought you put into your reply, and I hope that both this response and the rest of the series further clarifies my conclusions for you.

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  21. I’m not saying that corporal punishment is mandated, but it is prescribed as a generally wise approach to parenting. I’ll wait to hear how you believe we should apply those passages. Even though they are not to be taken “literally” in the caricatured sense you made them out to be, I don’t think their can be glossed over to prove your point that corporal punishment is wrong.
    #1. While wisdom literature is not “the law” per se, all of the Old Testament is canon for the Jews, the Law, the Prophets and the Wisdom literature. I brought up that verse in the New Testament because you brought up the law. You state that a literal interpretation of the Proverbs negate the Gospel and returns us back to the law.
     
    #2. Writing comments on a smart phone are nearly impossible, I tell ya!
    Though the Bible does not refer to this concept does not mean it can’t be inferred. You only credit common sense for this step, but in God’s dealings with us, we can infer that we too are to communicate about what is right and wrong and the consequences of our actions.
     
    #3. Promptly does not absolutely have to mean right this second. It seems you don’t allow room for the definition of words. Without delay as appropriate would be how a common-sensical parent would take this direction.
     
    #4. I don’t know if the biblical model proponents specifically state that the Bible reveals that spanking the buttocks is the divine way to do it, and I’m guess not, but that doesn’t mean they can’t contribute from other contemporary fields that would affirm the butt as an appropriate target. Just because in that link you provide there are many who speak out against it sociologically does not condemn corporal punishment. I think they speak of where corporal punishment goes wrong, but that doesn’t mean corporal punishment is wrong per se. Plus, I don’t quite agree with the assertion that the butt is a sex organ.
     
    #5. Negative experiences of corporal punishment (where the parent was sinning in anger or where the punishment was excessive) could create anger in a child’s heart, but they do not negate the importance of corporal punishment, however it is very plausible the misuse of corporal punishment may have been one of the circumstances that led Paul to write those passages, among other things.
     
    #6. You are implying that since the rod verses don’t speak of reconciliation afterwards, this step is invalid, or something (what is your point exactly?).
     
    #7. I disagree with you here, but I won’t be able to respond until I hear your claims in the series.

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  22. Can I tell you how much I appreciate this? It is SO refreshing to find gentle Christian mothers who believe that spanking is NOT Biblical. I've been slowly doing research and putting together a blog post on the same topic, and I will most definitely be sending people to your posts. For more information on the proverbs and the history of spanking (very disturbing) this article is a good one too: http://gracethrufaith.com/selah/spare-the-rod-and-spoil-the-child/

    Thank you again.

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  23. Rosemary, thank you for sharing that excellent article. I look forward to reading your own post on this subject.

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  24. Denise (all of that on a smartphone! impressive!), it is the idea of spanking being biblically mandated that I am focusing on right now. The position that spanking is a generally-accepted part of good parenting, without attempting to back it up with Scripture, is a position I still disagree with but at least find to be more authentic.

    I hope that the rest of the series makes my position more clear, but in the meantime, just a couple of quick responses:

    #2. Excellent point, and one that I can assure you is well taken.

    #4. The article was not included as a point against corporal punishment, but against spanking on the buttocks in particular. I have not read of nor heard anyone from a respected field back up the idea of the bottom being an "appropriate target". Regardless, the idea right now is simply that the details of the "biblical model" are almost entirely man-made and not backed up by Scripture, whether in the rod verses or elsewhere.

    #5. I really do disagree with you here, whether looking at it from a biblical basis or a secular one. However, that is a very large topic all on its own and I won't attempt to delve into it here. I do understand what you are saying, but I disagree on the importance and wisdom of using corporal punishment as part of Christian parenting or discipline.

    #6. No, not invalid; my point was that reconciling after healthy discipline is wise, but spanking has no part in healthy discipline and therefore reconciling afterwards sets the child up for an unhealthy dynamic in future relationships (the classic abuse cycle: tensions building, abusive incident, reconciliation, calm, then back around to tensions building and through the cycle again).

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  25. I take issue with the article Rosemary links. The guy doesn't even follow his own advice on plain sense and common sense. And he uses emotional reasoning.

    Hippie Housewife, I'm glad we've found some common ground as far as God's mandate on the issue.

    #4. Like I said, I haven't read into the issue much or the authors you mentioned. I assumed that they have addressed the buttocks as an appropriate target is (for lack of a better word) because you speak out against it.
    #6. Would you rather their be no reconciliation in their system?
    I think we both agree that there is abuse in corporal punishment, but you think it is all abuse. It's hard for me to imagine that you don't believe there are parents out there who discipline their child in love when they use corporal punishment who can administer an appropriate number of spanks appropriate to the situation (and not all situations require corporal punishment).

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  26. Denise, I feel quite certain that if we sat down and talked about it together, we'd find we have a lot more common ground than might initially be apparent.

    You ask a very interesting and complex question. There's no easy answer; the ideal would be that parents not hit their child to begin with. If corporal punishment is indeed not biblically mandated, it seems no stretch to remove it from use altogether.

    Forgive me if I've made it sound as though I think parents are not disciplining in (what they sincerely feel is) love when using corporal punishment. Certainly there are those who take it to the undeniable extremes of abuse, but by and large I wholeheartedly believe that parents who use it are well-meaning and applying it in a controlled manner. But to me, the idea of "appropriate number of spanks" doesn't fit at all with my understanding of discipline; there is no "appropriate" when it comes to a practice which I believe to be unnecessary at best and damaging at worst.

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  27. There is no shortage of bizarre ideology from people who identify as "Christian".

    Earlier this week in Michigan, there was a piece of anti-bullying legislation introduced, which Republicans insisted on exempting bullies who were acting on “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” (http://swampland.time.com/2011/11/04/why-does-michigans-anti-bullying-bill-protect-religious-tormenters/). Unreal.

    And I still don't know what "Christian Domestic Discipline" (http://christiandomesticdiscipline.com/home.html)is all about. Is it for real, or is it supposed to be a fetishistic website?

    And what's the deal with Michael and Debbi Pearl telling parents to carry around hardware supplies for whacking kids with? (http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/pastor-corporal-punishment-advice-scrutinized-child-deaths-160004793.html)

    There's no shortage of it.

    I really think Jesus would want his good name back!

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  28. Excellent, C. I look forward to the rest of it Thanks for undertaking this important work.

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  29. When you say it is no stretch to remove it from use altogether are you speaking legally? Or to argue that eventually it can be stated that God mandates against it? Either way, I think it is a stretch to "remove it from use altogether."As these proverbs verses show from a plain sense, common sense look, it is an option for parenting.
    Families are like little governments, they are more than that, because there is love and commitment, but basically the roles of authority are the same. While pacifism has reduced the popularity of the passage I'm about to quote, it nonetheless can apply to families, too.
    Romans 13:1-5:
    "1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience."

    While people may use emotional reasoning to state that it is cruel to think to apply this to families, I think it stands. You account for children learning from their mistakes in another blog post of yours you link, but I'm not sure you account for the rebelliousness of their hearts that just does not want to obey. In those circumstances, it is plausible for a parent to lovingly spank their child. Each child is different, and parents can apply wisdom on what it will take to teach them, and it may just be a conversation that is needed.

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  30. Also, God doesn't mandate people to be financially sound or more specifically debt-free, but those ideas are addressed as being wise to do so.

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  31. I made a mistake. I remembered Romans 13:8 in regards to debt.
    A few other examples, though, of wisdom issues that God has not mandated:
    -Wives as homemakers
    -Monogamy (although the Bible casts polygamy in a very negative light).

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  32. Denise, by "remove it from use altogether", I was not speaking legally; I was speaking of use by the individual parent.

    I fail to see how the verse in Romans supports corporal punishment of children. To apply it to families would affirm parental authority and discipline, both of which I heartily affirm as well. There are a great many ways a parent can disciple and discipline a child without resorting to physical punishment.

    I disagree that a plain sense, common sense reading of the rod verses supports spanking children. The verses are speaking to discipline as a whole (the rod of discipline, the rod of correction). Only an inappropriately literal reading of the rod verses gives the appearance of supporting corporal punishment of children.

    Certainly there are many things which are wise but not mandated. For that argument to hold up, there would first have to be the agreement that spanking itself is wise; again, the wisdom I see here is regarding discipline, not corporal punishment of children.

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  33. hi.. enjoyed this loads.

    Thanks

    Sam Martin
    www.biblechild.com

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  34. Denise, I enjoyed your dialogue with Hippie Housewife. Good questions. I wanted to point out a few things that (hopefully) she'll be addressing in the future. You brought up that Na'ar is also used for young children in the OT, but these are two isolated situations. "Na'ar" means "adolescent" and/or "one who has been cast off". It is used referencing Solomon being "cast off" from his mother and entering the temple. But this didn't happen until around 5 years old, as that was the normal weaning age. The other child is Moses, would was also literally cast off from his mother when placed in the basket of reeds. Two very isolated events.

    In Hebrew there are specific words for a time in a child's life. Children up to around 5 were considered infants still as they were typically still nursing. 5-8 or so is a "young child", 8-11 "child" and 12+ adolescent. They have different words for infant, weaned infant, child, young child and adolescent, just like we do. It is important to understand the Jewish tradition. I highly recommend reading "Thy Rod And Thy Staff: Christians and the Spanking Controversy" by Samuel Martin (incidentally, the commenter right above me). He's actually in Jerusalem and has been studying ancient Jewish documents and learning from Mohels and Rabbis the Jewish tradition and interpretations. It's a fantastic book.

    Hippie Housewife: Love this! Looking forward to the rest of the series. :)

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  35. Verse 4: "Rulers do not bear the sword for no reason."- Corporal punishment. And if you take my reasoning of families being little governments, it would follow that corporal punishment isn't excluded from family discipline either.

    Right, we have different views of what is wise, but when you state that it isn't a far jump to 'remove it from use altogether' because it isn't mandated, I proceeded to show that there are other wisdom issues that aren't mandated either.

    "Only an inappropriately literal reading of the rod verses gives the appearance of supporting corporal punishment of children."

    You contradict yourself. You yourself showed that an 'inappropriately literal' reading cannot support corporal punishment.

    Michelle, "na'ar" as cast off must be a fringe definition, because it was hard to find in a concordance search online. When I did find it, it wasn't linked with the passages you describe, but these:
    Psa 109:23, Isa 33:9, Neh 5:13, Exo 14:27, Psa 136:15, Jud 16:20, Neh 5:13, Isa 52:2, Job 38:13, Isa 33:15, Neh 5:13
    Whereas in two online concordances I found the same definition: "From na'ar; (concretely) a boy (as active), from the age of infancy to adolescence; by implication, a servant; also (by interch. Of sex), a girl (of similar latitude in age) -- babe, boy, child, damsel (from the margin), lad, servant, young (man)."
    http://concordances.org/hebrew/5288.htm
    http://www.htmlbible.com/sacrednamebiblecom/kjvstrongs/STRHEB52.htm#S5287

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  36. Anon, many of the things done in the name of God are truly deplorable. I hadn't heard about that anti-bullying legislation; what a horrifying response. And sadly, yes, your second link is for real.

    Samuel, I am honoured that you enjoyed it.

    Michelle, thank you for that valuable input.

    Denise, we appear to be speaking past each other at this point; I do hope that part 3 of the series will clear up your remaining questions, even if we do not ultimately come to agreement on this topic.

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  37. It doesn't seem that you are willing to consider my points, but I will wait and see what your further arguments will be.

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  38. As someone who both studies the Whole Bible and uses logic, I have to say this article is lacking in solid logic and support. You made many connections that were not connected with any proof. Your premise is that spanking in a "Christian" manner is not found in the scriptures. You neither show what those scripture mean, nor did you disprove them. Many times when people don't like what the "Peshat" (literal) text is saying they try and explain it away or allegorize it. The problem is that the text in it's simple form is literal. I don't think it is saying you should spank them with the third rider of the apocalypse. God made up with Israel all the time, the sacrificial system and Jesus are both examples of that. But what many Christians have a problem with is that there is a punishment. Christianity doesn't want there to be any accountability or punishment so they need to interpret the scriptures this way to support that thinking. The spanking is not so they would repent, it is the punishment for their actions. If they repent that is good, but it is not the only reason they are being punished. Once the kids who are not taught accountability or punishment get into the real world they will learn the hard way that a cop isn't going to put you on the naughty step if you kill someone, and robbing someone or drunk driving and killing someone's kids doesn't just get you a time out.

    Everything doesn't need spankings, I don't think that works, but as far as the scriptures you have poorly defined them, compared them to other things not directly related (strawman technique), and used invalid connections to dance around the issues and not address them. The article was dressed up like it was logical and researched, but that only works with people who are not logical and have done the research. I see this as a weak attempt at justifying your bias. The patterns in the Bible continually show both literally in simple verses, and in pattern in how God reacts to his people that physical punishment for your children is a normal pattern with God.

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    1. Just found this blog via FB. Spokane Realtor, it seems odd that you jump to the far-fetched conclusion that children who aren't spanked will often become criminals. Your right that a cop isn't going to place a criminal on a "naughty step" or put him in time-out. However, he will also not give him a Godly spanking and reconsile with him afterword. Alternative froms of punishment other than spanking is not avoiding accountability; it is teaching a child to settle conflict without aggression. Aggression begets aggression. Consider that your boss gave you a few Godly smacks when you make a mistake at work. Would you learn from that mistake, or be angry and want to retaliate?

      Karen K.

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    2. Well said KarenK, These people don't want spankings, or beatings to be used on themselves, only on their children. Doesn't that speak volumes? Why on the smallest members of society who are still so immature and learning, but not on those who darn well know better and still do wrong. No one goes to a man and says, you "disobeyed me, now bend over you are getting 5 licks), but yes for the dear young child because surely in his 2 yrs on earth he should darn well know better and he will after I beat it into him. Love and Grace for the win! (<----sarcasm)

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  39. Thank you for your succinct summary of the flaws in Hippie Housewife's approach, Spokane Realtor.

    I believe that she ignores any evidence that does not support her view, including an article I linked to her second post in this series: http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=7&article=1255

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  40. Denise, I have spent a great deal of time and energy dialoguing with you in what I hoped what a considerate and respectful manner. I conceded points where you made reasonable ones and refuted ones that I felt failed to hold up to examination.

    I have not yet had the opportunity to devote the proper amount of time needed to examine your comment and linked article on my second post in this series. Given the importance of this topic, I intended to give it the weight it deserved rather than dashing off a quick response. I am exceedingly disappointed that you have felt the need to resort to petty insults in the meantime.

    Further insults, rather than your previous constructive criticism, will not be tolerated.

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  41. Excellent in all respects, and your patience with the replies is also admirable. It is uncomfortable to have our preconceptions challenged, but I deeply appreciate your thoroughness and accuracy, and the reverence that you show for God's Word. For far too long, the church has relied on traditions made of men when it comes to disciplining children. Much love to you!

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  42. I don't see how that was an insult. I was merely stating that it seemed that you were ignoring arguments and had a faulty approach. An insult would be attacking your character.

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  43. HHW- An excellent and clearly written explanation. I appreciate your stark language and thought provoking style. <3

    Denise- you did not find the accurate and exhaustive definitions of Na'ar in a Concordance because the word was frequently mistranslated into English in the Bible. For the correct definition you need to go back to the ancient Hebrew words themselves and study them. Since Hebrew was not spoken for so many generations- we have to be willing to learn and grow as our knowledge of the language increases.

    gg

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  44. Thank you Hippie Housewife for your gentle words, for your explanations of WHY hitting children is so wrong and NOT Biblical at all.

    Like you, I fail to see ANY directions to hit a child, and I follow CHRIST and he never ever directed us to hit children. He told us in so many words to respect them - hitting is NOT respectful. For anyone. If hitting children was 'so important' - and every single word in the Bible infallible - I would expect to see vast tracts on it by Jesus himself. In actual fact, he warned us - and I truly believe that a LOT of millstones are going to be used one day ....

    BTW: I am 57 and a grandmother - when I was small I was spanked aka hit. My parents expected me to 'hug and make up' in the post spanking 'we love you' nonsense. There was NEVER a single time that I did that. Why should I have? THEY just hit me - something even I knew as a small child was wrong. Spanking ruined my childhood, and my relationship with my parents forever. I never felt loved - you can tell someone till the cows come home that you love them - but if you treat them cruelly and I think and found spanking to be cruel and mean - then whether you THINK you are being 'loving' is redundant. After all, men thought for years that to hit their wives was right, helpful and indeed loving! Just try asking a woman or man who has been hit by their partner if they felt loved!!!!

    Never mind 'The Rod Verses: Taking the rod verses literally" .. what about taking Jesus' words to treat each other as we would like to be treated? Now... who feels like they want to be hit? I think that puts a new spin on things ...

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  45. Greenegem, I'd like to consider your argument but I can't take it on faith. The burden of proof is on you to show examples of how the word was mistranslated. If you are not a Hebrew scholar yourself, please cite a scholar that you learned this information from and the proven examples.

    TealRose, I'm sorry you had a bad experience of corporal punishment growing up, but that does not negate the fact that it can be done in a consistent and loving manner. If we reduced this debate down to personal experience, we could spend all day pitting negative experiences we know of with positive experiences.

    There are many wisdom issues that Jesus Himself did not address. That does not mean we can throw out their importance.

    You commit the logical fallacy known as a "red herring" where you direct the attention towards a different problem in order to win support for the problem at hand. Of course domestic violence is wrong, but that does not prove that corporal discipline of children is wrong.

    Nobody "feels like they want to get hit." However, God gives parents unique responsibility to help remediate the rebellion chidren often display. Proverbs helps shed light on some of the means God provides.

    "Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die." Proverbs 23:13

    Solomon mentions an extreme exaggerated perceived negative outcome to corporal punishment, though he is assuring us quite the opposite through this and the other rod verses, that there can be positive outcomes to corporal punishment.

    When you use the word "hit," it makes me think of an unexpected spiteful lashing that would make kids cower. But when used appropriately, corporal punishment is done in a controlled manner that explains to children beforehand what is being done and why.

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  46. TealRose - I would like to be hit, because being hit teaches me to change my behavior. God says when the wise man is corrected he will thank the person. It feels good a s a parent to refuse to spank because it isn't easy disciplining your kids and so many people would rather let kids do what they want, and be their friend instead.

    That of course is separate from the concept of spanking not being biblical. The verses in Proverbs are clear and I haven't heard a good argument as to why they don't mean what they clearly say. I have heard a lot of they can't mean this because (insert personal opinion and self justification). As far as using the concept that Christ would punish you for harming a child, in context Christ lived 100% by the law otherwise he would not be perfect and not be the messiah. There for he also lived by and taught the verses in Proverbs. Harming a child would be to not save their soul from hell by refusing to punish them and teach them right and wrong. People like to make god and Jesus into this nice do no harm person who would never hurt a fly. First they need to read the Old Testament (The Bible of Jesus and all of his followers while he lived), and see that when God dwelt with His people he punished, plagued, and killed His people for disobedience. The Bible says God changes not, it says, He will not alter the thing that comes out of His Mouth. Jesus said he is One with the father, not my will but thy will. He also says he would that his disciples would be one with him AS he is one with the father. How was he one with the Father? He kept his law perfectly. God doesn't change and punishment of His children (much of it physical) has been part of God's way of teaching His children since the beginning, to ignore that fact is to simply choose what you want to believe instead of what God has shown. I do study Hebrew and Ancient Hebrew so I will look at the words in question, I have to read the question posed above.

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  47. Denise you wrote,

    "Greenegem, I'd like to consider your argument but I can't take it on faith. The burden of proof is on you to show examples of how the word was mistranslated. If you are not a Hebrew scholar yourself, please cite a scholar that you learned this information from and the proven examples."

    I am in NO way asking you to have faith in me. I AM asking you to do the research yourself. HHW has already offered you the proof and you have rejected her explanation- I will not make a hash of her excellent words in an attempt to convince you.

    Spokane Realtor, you said-

    "in context Christ lived 100% by the law otherwise he would not be perfect and not be the messiah. There for he also lived by and taught the verses in Proverbs. Harming a child would be to not save their soul from hell by refusing to punish them and teach them right and wrong."

    In response to the first part- Jesus the Christ did in fact break all sorts of Hebrew laws. In addition, he preached that he had come to render the Law void, and to abolish it. Please reconcile the New Testament to your above statement.

    to the second part- "Harming a child would be to not save their soul from hell by refusing to punish them and teach them right and wrong"

    This is a patently false teaching. No parent carries the power to save his child's soul from Hell. Jesus has done that already.

    gg

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  48. HHW did not make the claim that the Old Testament mistranslated the word na'ar. She claimed that the most common usage of the word was "young man" and proceeded to ignore the other definitions of the word in the context. You are making the claim of mistranslation so you need to provide the basis.

    Also, you are misinformed about Jesus and the law. In Matthew 5:17, it is written: 1“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."

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  49. Denise,

    He did come to fulfill the law, and in the process, He regularly corrected/defied it. Don't believe me? Then compare Jesus' teaching in The Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32) with the law in Deuteronomy 21:18-21. The law states that a rebellious son shall be taken by his parents to the gate of his town where the elders/men of his town shall stone him to death (how's that for corporal punishment?). Jesus on the other hand tells of a prosperous and wise man who has a rebellious son. Instead of stoning the rebellious son, he gives him what he asks for and lets him see where his own actions take him. The son discovers his own mistakes through natural consequences, after which he returns to his father and asks forgiveness. At no time does the father take a rod or stone to his child (as the law commanded), but instead REJOICES in his return!

    Not only is this example an excellent one of Jesus blatantly disregarding the law, but it is also an example of how unnecessary corporal punishment is.
    Pro-spankers are often under the misconception that if you remove spanking, then you remove punishment. Not so. Natural consequences, correction, and guidance are *extremely* effective.

    And, for the record, I was spanked in the "controlled manner" that you describe. It didn't teach me the right thing to do...only to not get caught doing what others thought was wrong. See the flaw there?

    It is essential when reading Gods Word to have an open mind. It's amazing the things He will teach when His Word is studied, not used as a weapon.

    HHW - May God bless you and use your blog to plant the seeds of Love and Grace in the hearts and minds of all who read it.

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  50. Greenegem, with all due respect, you aren't familiar with the scriptures or words used in your examples. Jesus broke no laws of the Torah, please provide examples, If you think he broke even one law then he wasn't perfect and thus not the Messiah. Jesus himself said if someone breaks the least of the commandments and teaches other to so also they would be considered "THE LEAST" in the kingdom. Anyone who kept the commandments and taught others to do the same would be considered the greatest in the kingdom. Now I ask you is Jesus the least or the greatest in the kingdom?

    Second you said he came to abolish the law. Jesus says "THINK NOT, that I am come to do away with the law, I am not come to do away but to fulfil, til heaven and earth pass not one jot or one title (small makrs on the Hebrew letters) shall in anywise pass until heaven and earth pass. I don't know about you, but I haven't seen the earth pass away since he walked the earth... Also you already didn't listen to him because he said don't even think that and that is what you are thinking. Also the word for fulfill playroo in Greek means to fully preach and is used in the verse that says if you bear another man's burden so fulfill (playroo - fully preach) the law of Christ. The word that means end is the Greek word Ghinomahee and is not used there. This stuff is simple to find it is right there, but people refuse to read their Bible without making it say what it doesn't.

    The laws he was being accused of breaking by the pharisees were the oral traditions of the Jews which were not in alignment with the TOrah. This is why he says you are teaching for commandments the traditions of men. If you really believe he broke the law then you disqualify him from being a sacrifice as he would be a sinner, The New Testament even defines sin and the transgression of the law. If he is a sinner he is not perfect and not a acceptable sacrifice. You can't have your cake and eat it too. Either he was perfect or not.

    To your last statement, no parent has the power to save his child's soul from hell. Well you are just disagreeing with the plain word of God that says they do. If you don't agree with the word of God, and you don't think Jesus is perfect, then I don't know what you believe but it isn't the Bible.

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  51. Little Red Hen, the same logic applies to your statement. The Torah says if you offer an offering to God it must be perfect. If you think Jesus broke His father's law then you don't have a sacrifice, and salvation... It is that simple. Also people who don't understand the Torah often misquote the rebellious son commandment. It was not for disobeying, otherwise every child would be put to death as they were growing up. There was a process and the prodigal son is not the same, he was simply wasting his inheritance which he had the right to do just like Esau who sold his. The fact that you did not learn from your parents parenting which included spanking has nothing to do with whether the Bible teaches or doesn't teach spanking is OK. It is called a proof surrogate and it is a form of fallacy where you use proof of something not directly connected to the thing in question. God had many disobedient children who didn't learn and many were killed by Him in the wilderness, some learned and were shown mercy, some obeyed in the first place and were rewarded.

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  52. Little Red Hen, it scares me to think that you are implying that i am using the Scriptures as a weapon and that I don't have an open mind when you blatantly ignore the logic presented here.
    Love and grace are not mutually exclusive to reason.

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  53. Spokane Realtor, my apologies for not having the opportunity to reply to your concerns earlier. As I had discussed with Denise, this is only one piece of the puzzle, an essential stepping stone on the way to Part 3. While no doubt you will disagree with my conclusions there as well, perhaps it will give you a better idea of where I am coming from. In the meantime, a few things:

    "Your premise is that spanking in a "Christian" manner is not found in the scriptures. You neither show what those scripture mean, nor did you disprove them."

    This is Part 1 of a three part series. Part 3 will discuss the bigger picture of what these verses mean and the wisdom they contain.

    "Many times when people don't like what the "Peshat" (literal) text is saying they try and explain it away or allegorize it. The problem is that the text in it's simple form is literal."

    While I fully agree with the first sentence - people often try to explain away what they do not like - I can assure you that is not the case here. I have often wished I could see in these verses an instruction to use corporal punishment on children, as it would certainly be the easier and more popular opinion to hold. I must, however, remain faithful to what a deeper analysis of the text reveals. You suggest that these verses are indeed literal, but I must disagree; figurative language is the hallmark of the Book of Proverbs.

    "Christianity doesn't want there to be any accountability or punishment so they need to interpret the scriptures this way to support that thinking. The spanking is not so they would repent, it is the punishment for their actions."

    Parents are called to discipline, not punish. Jesus has already bore all of our punishments on the cross. To further insist on adding our own punishments is to negate all that He has accomplished.

    "Once the kids who are not taught accountability or punishment get into the real world they will learn the hard way..."

    There is a common misconception that a lack of punishment means a lack of discipline. I have always and will always fervently affirm parental authority and discipline within the family unit. Discipline and punishment are not synonymous.

    "As far as using the concept that Christ would punish you for harming a child, in context Christ lived 100% by the law otherwise he would not be perfect and not be the messiah. There for he also lived by and taught the verses in Proverbs."

    Christ absolutely lived by Torah. Proverbs are not part of Torah. You seem to be suggesting otherwise?

    "...no parent has the power to save his child's soul from hell. Well you are just disagreeing with the plain word of God that says they do."

    This is a prime example of taking the figurative as being literal. Scripture tells us that only the Grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ can bring about our salvation. As parents, we have a weighty responsibility and much influence over our children. We must discipline them, instruct them, teach them, guide them, pray for them, and steep them in the knowledge and love of God. But their ultimate salvation will come from Christ alone - and indeed, can and has come to many in spite of their parents' failure to properly disciple them.

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  54. Little Red Hen, thank you for those gracious words. The parable of the lost son is such a beautiful picture of God's Grace.

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  55. This is not just one piece of the puzzle, it is the foundation--the premise that you start from, which Spokane Realtor successfully challenged. Your conclusion will not negate the arguments posed here against your premise.

    You assert your premise again that Proverbs is a "hallmark of figurative language" but you do not refute or even attempt to rebut the claims raised in our arguments in this regard as well as the article I linked. This blanket statement does not suffice, nor quoting other proverbs to prove your point.

    The anti-spanking view is the more popular view to hold. It is more socially acceptable and claims the moral high ground for "not being cruel."

    I think you draw an unnecessary distinction between discipline and punishment. If you got a speeding ticket, you would pay a fine to the city. Would that not rightly be understood as punishment?

    Martin Luther would help our conversation here. He draws a distinction between active righteouseness and passive righteouseness. A Christian receives Christ's righteousness through no merit of his own, what is called passive righteousness that cannot be touched by this world. You can also call it justification. Active righteousness is the various demands placed on us by the government, our family and society and we all will be inevitably "bruised by the law" in these areas where we fail to measure up. This is active righteousness, or sanctification. Since sanctification is progressive, it takes our entire lives to become more like Jesus (i.e. for our active righteousness to mirror our passive righteousness). Therefore parents can bruise their children with the law in order to show them their deficiency in active righteousness and point them to their need of passive righteousness. This is what it means then to be able to point of having the law point us to grace.

    Romans 3:20: "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin."

    The whole book of Romans entails of this theme, that the law is not sufficient, but it is to be upheld as I mentioned previously: "Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law." (3:31).

    "Christ absolutely lived by Torah. Proverbs are not part of Torah. You seem to be suggesting otherwise?"

    As I've mentioned before, Proverbs were part of the canon that all Jewish males studied and lived by.

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  56. Please post a link to the Spanish translation.

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  57. Denise,

    You should be scared that anyone would imply that you were using the Bible as a weapon. I, however, was not. I do realize that my post read that way, so I sincerely apologize! That was not my intent. My statement about open minded study was directed at *all* who read the Bible (including myself). I am very sorry that I did not clearly state that.

    I must disagree with you on the notion that I have ignored the logic presented here. I have not. Unfortunately you and I are seeing it on opposite sides of this debate. Up until a year ago, you and I would have seen eye to eye. I was very much pro spanking before I read deeper into the teachings of Christ.

    Again, I agree with you that Love and Grace should not be mutually exclusive to reason. We, as believers in Christ should always strive to include His Grace in all aspects of our life.
    Far too many theologians throughout history have failed to do this, and as a result have done more damage in the name of God than they have done good.

    Again, I apologize for any offense, as it was not made purposefully.

    God bless!

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  58. Denise
    “You are making the claim of mistranslation so you need to provide the basis.”

    I make the claim of mistranslation because it is rendered as child in the English translation when it means ‘youth’ in almost every other context (EXCEPT where the child has been prematurely separated from his parents, as in examples already stated) in which it appears.

    Furthermore- what you are doing is prooftexting- you draw out peices of scripture which, takne alne seem to proove your veiw. all of scripture must all be taken together. It in it WHOLE describes and educates us as to the nture of our Creator and his love for us, and the terrible price he paid to redeem us. HHW has attempted to display how ridiculous it is to veiw proverbs specifically as something that you may either take literally or not as it suits your already held beliefs.

    SPR
    I will be the first to say that I do not spend as much time as I would like in Scripture. I will NOT say that I am unfamiliar with it. Yes, I am reminded now that I was in error to use the word abolish. However, he did absolutely render the expanded Levirate law obsolete. This is dealt with extensively in Hebrews.

    “Jesus broke no laws of the Torah, please provide examples, If you think he broke even one law then he wasn't perfect and thus not the Messiah.”

    I am picking this statement, out of all you wrote, because it is the heart of the matter. Jesus broke the commandment to do no work on the Sabbath. Scripture also states that he did not sin. It is his lack of sin that makes him perfect, not his adherence to OT Law. He was sinless AND he broke the Sabbath Laws- whether it was the ‘hedge’ of oral tradition the leaders had created around the law or the Law itself- he still did not uphold what was accepted as law at that time in his own culture. He is Messiah because He IS GOD; not because he adhered to all of the Law. He was perfect- therefore he did not sin.

    As for the rest- HHW has explained it far better than I and I shall stop here.

    gg

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  59. "As I've mentioned before, Proverbs were part of the canon that all Jewish males studied and lived by."

    Absolutely. I didn't say otherwise (that would be foolish, as Jesus himself quoted from Proverbs). I said it was not part of the Law. At this point you seem to be arguing against your own arguments.

    "I think you draw an unnecessary distinction between discipline and punishment. If you got a speeding ticket, you would pay a fine to the city. Would that not rightly be understood as punishment?"

    Yes, a speeding ticket would be punishment; that is irrelevant to the discussion at hand. The distinction between discipline and punishment is an essential one. It is not a matter of splitting hairs. While punishment can be used as a form of discipline, discipline is a much broader term encompassing a number of disciplinary techniques.

    "you do not refute or even attempt to rebut the claims raised in our arguments"

    Denise, I have responded. You have found my arguments lacking. At this point, it is time to say enough is enough. You have offered your perspective, said your piece, and listed your points. Discussion is proving to be unfruitful. I will now respectfully ask that you either take further discussion to email (through the "Contact Me" tab at the top of the page) or let it go. Your comments are here for future readers to make use of as they will. Thank you for your valuable input on this important topic.

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  60. Wow, this is quite a discussion to stumble across when I’ve never really given any serious thought to the topic before! I had no idea the debate surrounding whether or not using corporal punishment as a means to discipline was so polarized – although I shouldn’t be surprised. My loving, godly parents used spanking to teach me discipline as a child and I think I am better person because of their commitment to teaching me right from wrong.

    I don’t know if spanking is or isn’t biblical. However, I am very disturbed to see that this practice has been so misunderstood by some that children have been abused even to the point of death. I am even more disturbed to see God portrayed as one who punishes us for reasons other than to draw us back into relationship with Him.

    “The spanking is not so they would repent, it is the punishment for their actions. If they repent that is good, but it is not the only reason they are being punished.“ (Nov. 17th, 1:52pm)

    I don’t understand how the above statement lines up with what you’ve written below:

    “God doesn't change and punishment of His children (much of it physical) has been part of God's way of teaching His children since the beginning.” (Nov. 18th, 1:37pm)

    Do you see God as vengeful, punishing us out of anger? Why else would he choose to punish us other than to correct us? I hope I misunderstood, if you do get have the time to explain your point here to me again, SpokaneRealtor, I would appreciate you using speech that is grace seasoned with truth, as I assume we are brother and sister in Christ.

    10For they [our earthly fathers] disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

    Interestingly, this passage goes on to address Esau selling his inheritance, as you spoke of earlier SpokaneRealtor, where the author of Hebrews refers to him as immoral and godless for selling his birthright. This surprised me.

    I'm glad to see a discussion that is encouraging us all to look deeper at the Truth of God's Word, it certainly has for me. Thank you all for the time you've spent writing these comments,

    Sarah

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  61. HHW,
    I apologize for not being patient for your third installment, but I believe discussion will be worthwhile even though in the meantime we seem to be dancing around each other. Debating online proves to be an arduous medium and may take us a couple times of repetition to understand each other, but I believe it's worth it.

    To summarize my contention, you paint an inappropriately literal view of the rod verses and allow absolutely no room for them to be literal. You assert at one point that the literal view does not even support corporal punishment and then at another point you assert that it does. I guess what drives me is that I want to make sure you hold your views consistently because you are influencing a lot of people's views through this series.

    Regarding proverbs and the law being of the same canon that Jesus lived by, you state: "Absolutely. I didn't say otherwise...I said it was not part of the Law. At this point you seem to be arguing against your own arguments." That is not true, I'll re-quote what you originally said: "Christ absolutely lived by Torah. Proverbs are not part of Torah. You seem to be suggesting otherwise?" Thus implying that Jesus did not live by the Proverbs.

    I stress the point of the law because people keep challenging the rod verses taken literally as not being in accordance with the Gospel because punishment is law-based. So here I stand, the Gospel goes deeper than the law (though not in a wishy-washy figurative way), but it does not disregard the law.

    Through the speeding ticket analogy, I am arguing your view that Jesus' atoning sacrifice takes away the need for any punishment here on earth. Going back to Luther's insights, Jesus took on all the punishment to bring us into right standing with God, but that does not mean we are not punished here on earth for our lack of active righteousness--just as Solomon states that the foolish deserve a rod for their backside.

    Sarah, I would take Spokane Realtor's comments to mean that ultimately, we deserve punishment for our sinful actions and for God to choose to also use it to teach and correct us is a grace and not a given, not a right that we can demand.

    GG, I don't see how the word youth would exclude children. And all I'm asking is for you show me where you received this information that it is mistranslated? There were examples stated earlier, but not proven. Again, I cannot take it on faith and I will not do the "homework" when the burden of proof is on you.

    I am not proof texting. I am challenging the understanding of the verses in question and by quoting other verses in the Bible I am proving against the claim that "there's absolutely no support in the rest of the Bible" for the claim of corporal punishment.

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  62. I thought this was so great that I linked it from my blog. Wonderfully said. Thank you.

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  63. Denise, I understand and respect your desire for consistency both with Scripture and within the arguments themselves. My concern is that this back-and-forth is monopolizing the comment section and email may soon be the more appropriate forum for this continued discussion.

    "To summarize my contention, you paint an inappropriately literal view of the rod verses and allow absolutely no room for them to be literal."

    I believe that a merely literal view of these verses - whether that be the common literal view of "the rod is referring to a spanking" or the truly literal view of "it says to strike a young man with a thick rod" - causes parents to lose the rich wisdom and meaning they hold.

    "You assert at one point that the literal view does not even support corporal punishment and then at another point you assert that it does."

    The phrase I used was that the rod verses are the only verses that give "the appearance of" supporting corporal punishment; however, a more thorough look at these verses (both on their own and in conjunction with Scripture as a whole) shows otherwise. That would actually summarize my entire position and purpose of this series.

    "That is not true, I'll re-quote what you originally said: "Christ absolutely lived by Torah. Proverbs are not part of Torah. You seem to be suggesting otherwise?" Thus implying that Jesus did not live by the Proverbs."

    That wasn't the implication I intended. I had said that in response to SR's inclusion of Proverbs in the Law. They are two entirely different things and must be read in completely different ways. It is, in your words, the difference between "prescriptive" and "descriptive". What it ultimately comes down to, then, is an understanding of how Christ would have understood the Proverbs. SR was making the case that Christ would support us "harming our children". I fervently disagree.

    "Through the speeding ticket analogy, I am arguing your view that Jesus' atoning sacrifice takes away the need for any punishment here on earth. Going back to Luther's insights, Jesus took on all the punishment to bring us into right standing with God, but that does not mean we are not punished here on earth for our lack of active righteousness--just as Solomon states that the foolish deserve a rod for their backside."

    When I was delineating between discipline and punishment, I was referring specifically to parenting. Whether man-made punitive systems are in place on earth has no relation to how we should in turn raise our children. I understand that you correlate the ideas of the family as gov't and the sword as corporal punishment, but I disagree with that conclusion. (As Jesus said, all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.) I would correlate family more with the idea of a mini-church than a mini-gov't, with the idea that I as a parent raise my children in the knowledge and love of God.

    Luther's words are interesting; thank you for summarizing that. I wouldn't, however, take the idea of active righteousness (or bruising a child with the law) as requiring physical punishment. A parent can bring a pang to a child's moral conscience without the use of corporal punishment. Whether Solomon recommended a rod for the fool's (criminal's) back has no bearing on whether I apply one to a child.

    When the woman caught in adultery was brought to him, Christ did not say she did not deserve punishment, but he did say that he who was without sin himself can cast the first stone.

    I intend for Part 3 to be published tomorrow, which will expand on many of these ideas. I hope I have clarified my foundation in my first two points here, even if you still ultimately disagree with my conclusions.

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  64. HHW, This is really quite beautiful. I am not a religious person but was raised in a religious family and I still maintain a strong faith. One of the reasons that I feel away from the Church is that I could not reconcile things like this with what my heart tells me is right. I raised 3 of my own children and 2 others that I took in from families that were raising their children with the "rod" mentality and had lost control of their children. In both instances the parents asked me if I would help out but then never took the children back so I raised them through their teens. The kids both turned out beautifully and are now productive, loving members of society. All of my kids are doing well, none were raised with me as their "friend", they all had to deal with discipline when making poor choices but I could never have hit them. I remember all too well the scars of my youth, and the disdain I carried too long for the whoppings I got in the name of "love" when I was a child. I warn those that use it, don't kid yourself, you may raise great kids, my parents did, BUT I resent both of them (even though I was there at my mothers side til her dying breath) and the horrid memories are still fresh in my mind 40 years later. My parents followed very closely to the rod method explained in this blog (yet I didn't know at the time it was a "system") and I was not hit often but enough to carry a lot of resentment in my heart and eventually fall away from the Church. I still pray and read the bible everyday (well the bible part several times a week)but being with folks who condone this behavior is beyond what I could ever handle. The thoughtful discussion was very interesting and I look forward to the next addition tomorrow.

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  65. When considering "Biblical" punishment, an instructive passage is Jesus' response to the woman caught in adultery. According to the law, she deserved death for her sin. (I've always wondered what happened to her male partner -- who must've been present, since she was "caught in the very act of adultery" . . .)

    Instead of death, though, Jesus opts for mercy. After being convicted that none of them is without sin, the crowd departs. Jesus gently tells her to go and sin no more.

    I'm curious about how pro-spankers respond to this account in light of corporal punishment. Of course, using the "rod" isn't the same as the death penalty, but Jesus' actions and words raise questions about the role of mercy when physical punishment (stoning) is required by OT law.
    Nancy

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  66. This is so excellent. Cynthia I have to say that you are the first person that made me consider an alternative to spanking even before I had children.

    Also thank you for clarifying "spare the rod spoil the child" I always wondered where that came from since I never could find it in the bible!

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  67. Hi I just discovered your blog and have so far just read the first part of your series on spanking and the Bible. I've been one of those Christian parents struggling to decide what is the right choice between spanking or not. I wasn't spanked so you think it'd be an easy decision and just be natural for me not too, but unfortunately that hasn't been the case. I've also struggled with some examples of attachment parenting that were not positive. Anyway this was really well written and, as He's known to do, God brought this post to me at the perfect time. I'm looking forward to reading more and I'm very interested in alternative solutions for discipline (as opposed to punishment) with the different situations and age groups as well. Thank You very much for writing this series and God Bless!
    Sincerely,
    KB

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  68. I am so grateful for the time you spent on this subject. It has confirmed what I felt in my heart all along. Now I am a recovering spanker and my kids are so much happier (and better behaved) now! I am revisiting your article now to brush up on the info. after a very upsetting home church visit. A six year old was spanked after the service because he was talking some to my 2 year old. When I got home I told my children how proud I was of them for sitting there for an hour listening to the adults. In contrast, that poor 6 yr-old was spanked. I have been so upset since. I do not understand why he was spanked and why would you want to make church something dreaded and even feared. It is so sad!

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  69. I have mixed emotions, as my parents did spank me, and I never doubted their love and feel I have very healthy relational patterns. I do wonder if it depends on the child how it affects them later in life. My brother and sister who were much more rebellious and strong-willed were spanked much more and much older than I was. Chicken or egg, I wonder?

    I have used some ("biblical") spanking sparingly with my son (almost 3) but have backed off as of late. I still feel we have a healthy bond. My friend gave me some wisdom, we will be remembered for the things we are characterized by, not the occasional mess-ups. I am I look forward to reading some of your other posts and getting more perspective.

    I think looking at each child as an individual is important and seeing what type of discipline works best for each kid is key though. I am frustrated by those who spank for every wrong-doing, and who spank every child, even if that particular child would respond to something much gentler.

    I still don't have it all figured out for our family. I do know that I have gotten some pretty rotten feelings in the pit of my stomach after spanking. And I also know my mom says if she could go back and do it over again she would do much less corporal punishment.

    I have decided to take a step back and see what I can learn about other methods and pray for discernment (we already use a lot of natural consequences and occasional timeouts.) Example of a natural consequence: "If you do not get ready for bed well(fighting about teeth brushing, or refusing to try potty, etc.), we may not have time to read a story before sleep."

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  70. Thank you so much for this post - you wrote it a long time ago, but as a mama with two 18-month-old twins and now getting the "time to discipline" lectures, which includes swats and time outs, this is balm for my soul and affirmation that I am on the right path. Thank you thank you :)

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  71. All said,I have been babysitting for 30 years and my experience is that the children of the parents that believe spanking is a viable form of discipline are much more pleasant to be around,as a rule.

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    1. The efficacy of such techniques should not be our primary focus. The question is not, "does spanking work to modify a child's external behaviour?" but rather, "is this biblically mandated and/or right?" Anecdotal stories certainly go both ways, but the studies of the long-term effects of spanking are far more unified.

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    2. Great point, spanking is used a way to instruct a child without having to use the Bible. The Bible says that knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. The world sees that children who have been raised by this principle are obedient and those who aren't don't behave. So what do they do? Force them by using physical attacks in order to create a blind obedience, which doesn't last very long. You can ask any prison inmate if they have been beaten when they were children by their parents and they will say yes. It's the parents failure to not raise them in the fear and admonition of Lord that breeds disobedience rather than the use of physical beatings.

      "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6

      The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" -Proverbs 9:10

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    3. Hippe Housewife.....even if all the "worldly" studies in the universe pointed towards any given topic, would you take that over what the true and living Word of God commands and teaches? Regardless of it being spanking, homosexuality, feminism......the world has all sorts of studies to prove and approve their point of view. As Christians, we are taught that the Word of God is the final standard/authority and it shouldn't make one lick of difference what such and such a study has to say about the ill effects of spanking or conversely the fruit it does bear. All true believers must decide if they will take the side of Scripture and stand fast to what it teaches or be swayed by every wind of doctrine (from the world's point of view). I find your arguments to be emotionally based, without truly understanding the heart of God. God's heart is motived by love, but He is a God of justice. Justice means that there must always be a punishment for the "crime." Since God's very nature is love, what He does commands of spanking is to fully be sturated in love, meaning consistently, in a self-controlled manner and with the intent to lead to restoration. If I fully rely on my emotions I will ask the question, "How could a loving God allow His only Son to be beaten, spit on, mocked and crucified?" Does that honestly look like love? But.... as we know from Scripture, God's wrath fully poured out on Jesus Christ was actually the greatest measure of love. That is why using the rod in a consistent and controlled manner is a means to deliver a soul from hell, because it points our children to their great need for the Savior, Jesus Christ. A child who is never properly disciplined grows up with little understanding of the severity of sin in God's eyes, since the alternate method is always distracting them or making a little joke out of their disobedience. They will not see that their sin demands a just payment since mom and dad made light of it by "redirecting" or putting them in a time out spot. And since I fully believe in a God of love, grace and mercy, I could never (being Spirit-filled) allow the rod to become a tool of abuse. Obviously the hot debate about the rod being abuse is only for those who do not understand that the use of it must first be based on love. That is why Prov. 13:24 reads, "Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." Yikes, I would hate to be accused of hating my son!

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  72. It amazes me the length some ppl go to to justify physically hurting a young child

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  73. "Punish them with the rod and save them from death. (NIV)" - Proverbs 23:14

    If you do a study on this verse, the Hebrew for "punish" does not always mean to beat or hit, as we know the word. Numbers 14:12 uses the same word when it says, "I will smite them with the pestilence,". No one thinks that they will physically be beaten with something called "Pestilence". It simply means to inflict or affect someone with. People aren't only "affected" by physical punishment. If so, the Bible won't use the word to mean something non-physical like in Numbers 14:12.

    If the "rod" was what saved a soul from death, why was the Bible even written? Proverbs is all about wisdom and instruction, why then suddenly bring up hitting someone?

    You have touched on my biggest point, no where in the Bible does it say how, when and the extent of spanking. There are no instructions. There aren't even any examples.

    The Bible is silent on this issue everywhere else other than the few verses in Proverbs thats true meaning has been lost in translation and edited using archaic words that have changed meaning.

    Spanking is quite lazy, in my opinion, because it contrasts the Bible so drastically. We are to be raising the children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word (Romans 10:17). Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Teach my commands diligently to your children (Deut. 6:6-7).

    These are all mandates to verbally instruct. Simply hitting them does not produce any of this. This is why in Deuteronomy, the stoning mandate was after you've tried to instruct and discipline, it was the last and end resort for a child, it wasn't corporal punishment, it was death.

    Knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10). You do not get knowledge by hitting, otherwise prisoners would be the most educated people out there.

    Proverbs 19:18 "Discipline your son while there is hope, And do not desire his death." You can see the reference to the other Proverbs verse about saving a soul from death.

    "For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life," Proverbs 6:23

    "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." -Proverbs 12:1

    Discipline is only defined one way in Proverbs and that is teaching and instructing with knowledge.

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  74. I completely agree with Spokane Realator. Culture has dictated our thoughts on spanking instead of Scripture. Do you not hear all around everyone yelling that God is love, but no one wants to talk about God being a God of justice. I find Hippie Housewife's arguments based on emotions and the culture around us, rather than on the principles of Scripture.

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