I am striving to be a Berean and right now I am finding myself truly amazed as I study and research.
The Pearls and their teachings seem to have brought to light many more questions about appropriate and inappropriate spanking, the various teachers who are advocating one thing or another, and the admonition to parents that if they choose to not spank their children, they are sinning by prescribing spanking as the only Biblical method of discipline. I guess I hadn’t seen all of this before when I only read these books one at a time over many years. But now, looking at all the chapters on physical discipline lined up, I am feeling overwhelmed.
I am still trying to work my way through not only the particulars of various “child discipline” methods but at the theology behind them. That is what is of the most concern to me right now. What is the motivation behind the teachings? Do we really believe, for example, that spanking a child with a rod will keep him from Hell? Taken literally, it teaches a works salvation. Does the Scripture mean to use a rod on a child’s back in the phrase “the rod for the back?” And if these are commands that MUST be followed, where is the admonition in the New Testament? Since the book of Proverbs is quoted so often in the NT, why aren’t the rod verses quoted? If it is a sin not to spank, why is this not a central or crucial part of the epistles? And to what age does the word “child” refer? Both Samuel Martin in Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me and Clay Clarkson in Heartfelt Discipline say that the Hebrew word for child in the Proverbs passages does not talk about babies or even small children, but rather, older, rebellious children. And then I wonder if fools are to be beaten, wouldn’t we need to be beating lots of adults we know?
I ask myself where the Gospel is in the midst of all of this? After all, if sinless perfection or even perfection manifested in first time obedience is the requirement and parents are able to exact that from their children, who needs Jesus? I don’t have answers, only more and more questions. If these words in the Hebrew do not mean what many parents, especially homeschooling parents, are being told that they mean, then there is a paradigm that is being pushed and promoted that is, as we know paradigms do, causing tremendous damage to some families. I think, for instance, of adopted children who have attachment issues or children with autism, ADHD,
Down’s syndrome, or other special needs. Some of these teachers believe that spanking is commanded for all children; none of the above would be exempt. It is heartbreaking for me to know that homeschooling moms are being told they aren’t godly or obedient moms unless they prescribe to these teachings rather than being students of their own children and trusting the Lord for His guidance in raising each child individually.
I have been looking at these books that are being pushed in homeschooling circles: To Train Up A Child, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Withhold Not Correction, and What the Bible Says About Child Training and I am overwhelmed. And I just came across a review of Geoff Botkin’s family CD’s where he states that “to obey God’s law you must spank your children.” The common key teaching is that parents who are obedient to the Lord must spank their children (at the very least) and according to most of these teachers, discipline them to repentance and beginning while they are babies.
I am also rereading Clarkson’s book, which is refreshing and encouraging and stresses relationship building and recognizing the very real God-given needs of children entrusted to our care.
Finally, a new read that just arrived in the mail is Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me by Samuel Martin, a Hebrew scholar and an American who lives in Jerusalem. His work is scholarly and has many footnotes and resources. The word studies on the word “child” and the rich imagery associated with nursing babies and mothers took my breath away. You can order the book for about $10.00 at his website. By the way, one of the interesting facts he tells is that Dwight L. Moody didn’t believe in spanking his own children!
I am in process…