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Parenting

In defence of Biblical spanking

Why would anyone want to write an article defending spanking? This is one of those topics which the modern world considers a fundamental sign of whether you are a civilized person or a barbarian, and I probably don’t need to tell you which side of the line advocates of spanking are thought to fall on. There is some justification in this. We’ve probably all seen or heard examples of “spanking” which have been quite simply dreadful: the drunken father who whacks his children with a strap; the frustrated mother who lashes out in anger in the supermarket. Let me make it clear at the outset that I am not defending any of those types of spanking. In fact, I am as much against them as anyone from the anti-spanking lobby. What I am defending, however, is Biblical spanking, which I believe is as far from the types mentioned above as East is from West. The right theological framework Any defense of Biblical spanking ought to start not with spanking itself, but with the whole issue being put in the right theological framework. John Calvin famously started his Institutes with the following statement: “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” So where do we go to get this knowledge? The answer is that we go back to the book of origins, the book of Genesis. What do we find there? Firstly, we find a good God who creates all things well, and crowns his world by making Man, who is His very image, and placing him in a garden. As for Man, he is Very Good, holy and righteous. But what about their relationship? Is it only servant to master? Or something else as well? I mention this because I think that some Christians go askew at this point, and it affects their whole reading of the rest of the Bible. Because God puts a prohibition on Adam, many treat the relationship as if God was a judge and Adam on trial. Now whilst it is true that Adam was subject to a prohibition, this is not the primary relationship that was going on there. Luke tells us specifically in his genealogy that Adam was the son of God – not THE son of God, but a son of God nonetheless – and so the prohibition is far more akin to a father telling his child not to touch the electric socket than it is to a judge standing over a man on trial. Of course, what then happens is that Adam disobeys and loses his holiness and his righteousness. He has erred, he is a rebel, and he has gone astray. So God punishes him, right? Well yes, but I don’t think we should see the curses as exclusively “punishment.” Pure punishment would have seen both Adam and Eve in Sheol there and then, but is this what happens? Actually, quite the opposite. In the very next verses after the curses are announced (Chapter 3 verses 20-21), both Adam and Eve are restored. Adam calls his wife Eve – mother of the living – which is odd since they have both just been told that they are dead, but the reason he can do this is that God has just promised a saviour, and He has then clothed them to cover their nakedness. So they were saved directly after the curses were announced. In other words, except for God’s eternal punishment – which is punishment or retribution in its purest form – God places curses and, with them, pain not because he wants simply to punish, but because he also wants to see restoration. C.S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain, describes pain as “God’s megaphone to a deaf world” and indeed it is. In a fallen world, the curses are there not simply as a means of punishing, but also as a means of grace in bringing people back to God (or to put it another way, nobody ever turned to God after winning the lottery). We need to see clearly Why is it important to establish all this in a defense of spanking? It is because spanking is under attack from a worldview that is incapable of seeing spanking as anything other than punishment. In the eyes of the humanist, who sees no ultimate authority over humanity, adults have no right to spank their children – who are in any case fundamentally good – and so spanking can only be seen by such people in terms of abuse of authority and as pure punishment. Sadly, I think a lot of Christians buy this. However, this misses the fundamental point of why spanking (Biblical spanking that is) is necessary. God’s curse on Man was in part a Judge’s ruling meting out punishment, but it was also a Father seeking to lead His children to restoration. So too we, as fathers, should use spanking to lead our child to repentance and restoration. If we start from the position set out in Genesis, we come to a very different conclusion than the humanist one. We realize that our children have sinful, not pure hearts, that they do wrong and need correction. But we also come to see that if we are to spank, we do so not out of anger or a need for retribution, but from a position of love and with the purpose of bringing our children to repentance and restoration. Using the rod But why the use of the rod? Well, the short answer is that the book of Proverbs tells us that in many places. Yet we must approach this book with the same fundamental starting point as we have discussed above. If we just dive into the “spanking verses,” the temptation will be to just see “use the rod” “use the rod” “use the rod”, which is likely to lead us to a very harsh type of spanking, where our purpose is simply punishment and retribution. But what is the book of Proverbs? It is a father talking to his son, imparting wisdom for life. And how does he do this? Go and read the first few chapters. He is not harsh. He is not judgemental. Rather he is full of love for his son and desperate to see his son do right. And so by the time we come to the “spanking verses” it is clear that what is in the father’s mind is not using the rod to punish, but rather as a means of discipleship, a means of correction, and above all a means of restoring the child. Get this wrong, and we end up with a harsh, cold view of spanking, and I agree 100% with the humanists that this has no place in a civilized society. But get these basics right – those seen in Genesis, and those seen in Proverbs – and we suddenly see that spanking is actually a means of grace to our children – yes it may also be a punishment for wrongdoing, but more than that it is loving correction to steer them away from harmful, destructive and unrighteous ways of living. Conclusion I want to finish up this piece just setting down ten principles, which I think are really practical applications flowing out of what has been discussed above: We should only ever spank for offenses where the child has been told clearly that this type of behavior is wrong We should never administer it in anger, but always in a calm and loving way. A helpful way of achieving this is to always go into a different room than the one the offense took place in. This gives both parent and child a chance to calm down, and it also ensures that the child is not humiliated in front of others (James 1:19, Prov. 15:18, Prov. 29:11). We should always begin by explaining to the child what they’ve done wrong and why it was wrong. The child should be given the right to reply to these charges, and if there are real doubts as to whether they have done the wrong they are accused of, we should refrain from smacking. “Better that the guilty go free than that the innocent are condemned,” as the saying goes (Num. 35:30, Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19; Heb. 10:28). Spanking should be done on the bottom only and must be done swiftly. It should always be followed by a prayer of confession in which the child seeks God’s forgiveness, and this should be followed by the parent assuring the child that if their repentance is sincere, God’s forgiveness is free, full, and unconditional. If we lost our tempers in any of this, we should confess both to God and to the child as well, seeking their forgiveness. We should assure the child of our unconditional forgiveness and love, and further assure them that they are restored to fellowship with the rest of the family. If their sin involved others, we should get them to go and seek their forgiveness. The whole thing should be carried out in a spirit and atmosphere of love for the child, with the aim of bringing them to repentance and restoration of fellowship with their family (Eph. 6:4, Col. 3:21). This article first appeared in the Sept. 2015 issue where you can find other resources on the topic....

Parenting

On the difference between punishment and discipline

Both punishment and discipline are painful, but that pain is put to very different purposes by God. God disciplines his children in love, as a means of correcting us (Heb. 12:11, Prov. 3:11-12, Rev. 3:19, etc. etc.). His punishment, however, is a matter of justice, meted out on those He hates – this is sinners getting their due. This distinction between discipline and punishment is an important one to understand when it comes to spanking. Spanking should be discipline and never punishment. And to be discipline it must be administered in love. So when your oldest boy belts his little sister, he has a spanking coming to him, but not to return blow for blow – this isn’t about justice. Instead this about teaching him to recognize the seriousness of his sin, and teaching him to stay away from it. That’s why a parent must never spank in anger. To do so is to confuse (in our own hearts, and in the our children’s perception) the purpose of this spanking. Was it intended as loving correction? It will hardly seem so when administered by a shouting parent – a child doesn’t need to be all that perceptive to spot the difference between angry vengeance and loving discipline. So let us spank, but to the right end. A version of this article first appeared in the September 2015 issue....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - September 2018

What parent wouldn’t love this present? One of the biggest, most expensive presents we will ever give our children is Christian schooling. But do our children understand the real value of this gift they’ve been given? Some do. A friend, Sharon Bratcher, recently rediscovered this 30-year-old certificate that she and her sibling gave her parents way back when. Reading it, I couldn’t help getting a bit misty-eyed; this is a present every parent would treasure. It said: Whereas Marvin C. and Helen A. Osborne have unselfishly deprived themselves of some of the material goods and financial security which could have been theirs, in order to provide a high quality Christian education for each of their four children during the past 18 years, We do now, on the date of the final graduation ceremony, this 6th day of June in the year of our Lord 1985, join together to express to them our deepest love, and gratitude for the sacrifices which they have made and the love which they have expressed this way. Thank-you Dad and Mom. May God bless and reward you. Knock, knock A good one, from Andy Simmons in the Sept 2014 Reader's Digest: “Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “To.” “To who?” “No, to whom.” And speaking of grammar nazis.... Nazi: "Sir, we're mining too many useless pyrite nuggets." Hitler: "Then mine less of them." Grammar Nazi: "Mine FEWER!" Hitler: "Yes?" SOURCE: slightly modified from a joke making its way around the Internet Succinct, on spanking “The child is regarded, indeed is described in law, as ‘a dependent.’ Because children are deemed unable to realistically foresee the consequences of what they’re doing…they are denied the rights to such things as tobacco, drugs, sex, credit cards, automobiles and freedom from education. Therefore the child is seen to be dependent’ on its parents. Should the parents shirk this responsibility the law holds them culpable. But another ancient principle of justice applies here. Society must not confer a responsibility without conferring sufficient authority to carry it out. You cannot expect a man or woman to do something unless they have the power to do it. That’s why the Criminal Code recognizes this right of parents, teachers and legal guardians to physically discipline children.” – Ted Byfield, as quoted in Michael Wagner’s True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada Lurking on the public library shelves When I noticed A Tale of Two Daddies among the books we’d picked up from the library, I was hoping my first grader hadn’t read it yet. No such luck. But she reassured me, “Don’t worry dad, it’s a good book – it’s about a girl with a daddy and a poppa.” “A poppa?” “Yup.” No harm done – our neighbor’s girls call their grandpa “poppa” and my little one, in her blessed naiveté thought this book was about a girl, her daddy, and her grandpa. But it was another reminder of what lurks on the library shelves, even in the picture book section. C.S. Lewis on democracy “I am a democrat because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. And whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure… The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.” Gossip vs. Flattery Blogger Annie Kate Aarnouste recently passed along the difference between gossip and flattery. The quote is from Disciplines of a Godly Woman. "Gossip is saying behind a person's back what you would never say to her face.  Flattery is saying to a person's face what you would never say behind her back."...

Parenting

Discipline or punishment: do your children know the difference?

There is a huge difference between punishment and discipline. Since children are born wanting to go their own way, every parent engages in some form of correction. That correction will either take the form of punishment or discipline. Punishment is about retribution, payment for wrong doing. Punishment produces insecurity and fear. Biblical discipline on the other hand produces security and peace. The reason for the difference is that biblical discipline is motivated and controlled by love, the love of Christ. Only the love of Christ can remove punishment. As I John 4:18 says, the perfect love of Christ drives out fear, and replaces it with the blessing of the gospel. Thus, if your correction is not directly connected to the restorative power of the gospel it will resemble punishment more than discipline. This will produce a response of fear and anger in your children. Listen intently to how your children talk about the impact of your correction. Here are some examples of children who are experiencing punishment instead of loving discipline: “Mommy, I’m sorry I make you angry.” “Daddy, I won’t do it again.” “Why is everybody mad at me?” “Do you think God is mad at me?” “He hurt me, so I hit him back.” “I am sorry that I am not good enough to make you happy.” “I’ll be good, I promise. Please don’t be mad at me.” “I try and try and try but I just can’t do what you want me to.” “I guess I am just not good enough.” “Mommy, I just can’t do it. I try but I just can’t.” Have you heard words like these from your children? These statements indicate what your child thinks about the gospel. These kinds of statements show that performance (and not grace) is forming the basis of how your children think about the correction they receive. They know about punishment, but not much about loving, healing, restorative discipline. Notice the fear and apprehension in the statements above. The loving discipline of the gospel is needed to give hope. The complete, perfect love of Christ given in discipline will drive out the fear of punishment. The gospel must be part of your daily discipline. Here is one picture of what a gospel centered response would look like: Sarah, I know you can’t obey by yourself. I know that. But that is why Jesus died on the cross, because we can’t do it ourselves. Remember the Bible says that Jesus died so that we would have new life. You can’t obey in your own strength, but you can obey in Jesus’ strength. Let’s pray right now and ask Jesus to help. This is the tender nourishment of the gospel that Ephesians 6:4 compels parents to give to their children. Punishment or discipline: the difference is life changing. Jay Younts is the author of “Everyday Talk: Talking freely and Naturally about God with Your Children” and “Everyday Talk about Sex & Marriage.” He blogs at ShepherdPress.com, where this article (reprinted with permission) first appeared....

Parenting

When you’re asked, “Do you spank your child?”

On a December edition of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors Truth in Love podcast, Stuart Scott was asked how he would answer if someone who opposed spanking asked him “Do you spank your kids?” He encouraged listeners to give a “contextual answer” that presents spanking as the small part it is of all that’s involved in the raising of children – just one tool in the toolbox. “Those questions often come loaded. There’s a lot more behind that question and you would like to know what sort of experience have they had, have they been a part of, that totally turns them off to the whole idea of spanking. Especially ‘Do you hit your child?’ “A good friend…Dr. Bill Goode…. was counseling a guy who was going to appear in court and was going to be asked in court ‘Do you hit your child? Do you spank your child?’ to try and entrap him. “Dr. Goode counseled this young man not to say, ‘Yes I do’ or ‘No I don’t’ but instead to give a contextual answer. And this was the contextual answer. The man said: ‘When I raise my child, I encourage a lot, I play a lot, I pray a lot, I teach a lot, and I use cause and effect a lot, so that when I do spank I do it lovingly, slowly, prayerfully, and thoroughly so I don’t have to do it often.’ “I thought that a pretty wise answer.”...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Spanking resources to read, listen, or watch

God gave us children and gave us his Word to show us how best to raise them up to know and love Him. In addition, He gave us godly teachers to help us grow in knowledge and wisdom so we can better be able to take up this privileged and awesome responsibility. You can find three different teachers below, all espousing variations on the same theme. All are excellent, so whether you learn best via listening, watching, or reading, there is something here for you. Biblical Childrearing by Douglas Wilson Approx. 3 hours Format: Audio In this series of four sermons Pastor Douglas Wilson goes over the biblical principles, and explains the practical outworking of them. Of the three selections here I’d say this is the most clearly biblically grounded – Wilson spends more time than the others connecting what he is saying to what God has said. This is available as a $6 US audio download at CanonPress.com. Getting to the Heart of Parenting by Paul Tripp Approx. 4.5 hours Format: Video Paul Tripp is a favorite in our church circles and for good reason. In this video series, Tripp emphasizes how very important it is to keep our focus on nurturing our children’s hearts rather than on the externals of their behavior. It is available on DVD or as a $35 US video download at PaulTripp.com. Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard 150 pages Format: Paperback This might be the most practically-focused of the three, with Ginger Hubbard offering plenty of illustrative conversations to show how we might best talk to and teach our children discipline. The one caution I will add is that Hubbard doesn’t have a covenantal understanding of childrearing – she views our children as being pagans in need of conversion rather than as prince and princesses who have received promises. However, this is only a minor matter in the book, popping up in only a few places. And since Hubbard grounds what she says about discipline in what the Bible says, her advice is good and godly. Her book is available as a $9 ebook at Shepherdpress.com and also at most any online bookstore....

Parenting

If you want to spank your child, don't

Discipline is controlled, calm and loving...or it's sinful The photo website I use for most of the pictures for Reformed Perspective has more than 24 million stock pictures, so no matter what the topic, I usually have piles of options to choose from. But when I tried to find something to illustrate an article on parenting, and I punched in the search term "parents" along with "discipline" or "punishment" I got only one basic type of picture: glowering, shouting, finger-waving moms and dads. The variety from one picture to the next was only whether the parent had already lost it or was just about to. This seemed to be the world's idea of parents doing discipline, and no wonder then that they want to ban spanking. No one wants to allow enraged adults to vent their frustrations by hitting kids! But, of course, this is not what discipline should ever be. In Proverbs 13:24 we see that God both clearly encourages corporal punishment, and prescribes the boundaries under which it is to be administered: Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. It can be easier not to discipline our children, to let things slide, to pretend we don't see and don't know what they are up to, and to just hope that they will smarten up without us having to get up from the couch. But if we love our children more than the TV program we're watching, the book we're reading, or the friend we're talking to on the phone, then we will stop what we are doing and apply the corrective that is needed when it is needed... which is immediately. But this verse is about more than a willingness to discipline; we're told that this discipline is motivated by love. There was no love to be seen in any of the website's stock pictures. These screaming, reddening, out-of-control parents looked like they wanted to hit their kids. As Pastor Douglas Wilson explains: Discipline is corrective, and it is applied for the sake of the one receiving it. It is not punitive, and it is not rendered for the sake of the one giving it. When you are spanking a child, you are either being selfish or you are being selfless – one or the other. You are doing it because you are exasperated, frustrated, beside yourself, and frazzled, or you are doing it as a fragrant offering to the God of your fathers.... When you are highly motivated to discipline your kids, you are not qualified. When you are qualified, you don’t feel like it. Screaming and spanking simply don't go together. Or rather, they often do go together, but as parents we need to recognize this for the sin it is. Discipline must be an act of love.  ...

Parenting

Spanking does have a place in Canada

In an article late last year, “Spanking has no place in Canada, period” – Globe and Mail reporter André Picard argued that physical discipline is at best ineffective and at worst harmful. He concludes it is “well past time” that the government scrap Section 43 of the Criminal Code, making spanking illegal. The truth is that physical discipline, when administered in keeping with Canadian law, not only has better outcomes than other disciplinary techniques, but is preferred by children as less cruel than other techniques, such as privilege loss or isolation. We can learn from countries that have gone ahead with banning spanking, and have regretted it. How can Picard and many well-intentioned child advocates get this issue so wrong? Part of the problem is that they go only skin deep into the research. Picard notes: “there has been a significant body of research showing that the real harm from spanking and other forms of corporal punishment is not the immediate physical harm, but the lasting psychological harm.” That is about as deep as almost any mainstream media analysis goes. But if we dig deeper, we discover that the truth is far more nuanced and, in some respects, completely contradicts the mainstream spin replicated in Picard’s article. Digging into the data Picard cites a 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics study that correlates harsh physical punishment with higher rates of mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse. He correctly acknowledges that this is correlation, not proof that spanking causes these things. This is an important distinction that is lost on almost all the research that attracts mainstream attention. And the distinction matters. It could well be that aggressive children were spanked more often because they were aggressive. The heavy reliance on correlational evidence makes even the most effective disciplinary tactics appear harmful. Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff, a well-known researcher on the topic, concluded: ...if we found that people who have undergone radiation treatment have a higher likelihood of having cancer, we should not conclude that the treatment is the problem or that it doesn’t work. Will anti-spanking advocates follow their logic and also argue that all discipline tactics should be banned? We need to dig deeper into the research. Picard, along with other anti-spanking activists, constantly appeal to research that lumps together harsh physical punishments, such as slapping and pushing, with the kind of mild physical discipline that our Supreme Court studied and approved. In 2007, researchers conducted a scientific review of studies that compared physical discipline with alternative methods. Twenty-six studies from the past fifty years were examined. They also examined the “optimal” type of physical discipline – conditional spanking. As reflected in the parameters laid out by our Supreme Court, conditional spanking is non-abusive, and done sparingly and under control. The conclusion of the study: “Conditional spanking was more strongly associated with reductions in noncompliance or antisocial behavior than 10 of 13 alternate disciplinary tactics.” In other words, when physical discipline is administered in keeping with Canadian law, it came out as good as, or better than, all other forms of discipline studied. Not only can physical discipline be more beneficial than other commonly used methods, a 2006 study came to another surprising finding: non-physical punishment was most frequently regarded as the worst punishment ever received, with 50% of naming at least one non-physical punishment method such as privilege loss. As well-intentioned as Picard and others may be, before they proceed further with their anti-spanking crusade, they should talk to the children. Children who have experienced appropriate physical discipline will often prefer it because it resolves the matter in a timely way and makes it less likely to occur again. Contrast that with what so many parents revert to otherwise (yelling, forced isolation, long-term privilege loss and extended grumpiness) and we begin to understand why physical discipline is the preferred choice for many honest children. Lessons learned from Sweden Picard argues that 51 countries have outlawed spanking, and it is time for Canada to follow suit. But he fails to look at what has happened in those countries. Take Sweden. In 1979, Sweden was the first country to ban spanking. The statistics coming from Sweden since then are downright shocking. Following the ban there was a 519% increase in criminal assaults by children under the age of 15 (born after the ban) against children age 7-14. Even more troubling, 46-60% of the cases investigated under the law resulted in children being removed from homes. That totaled 22,000 children in 1981, compared with 163 in Norway and 552 in Finland. Picard cites the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as another reason to ban spanking. If the residential school legacy has taught us anything, it is that we better be certain we are doing the right thing when forcefully removing thousands of children from their parents’ homes. As a side note, New Zealand followed Sweden’s example and adopted anti-spanking legislation in 2007. Just two years later, a whopping 87% of voters in a public referendum asked that the law be rescinded. It is time to drop the rhetoric and take the time to study the issue before criminalizing a form of discipline used by half of Canadian parents. Mark Penninga is the executive director of ARPA Canada. He has a MA in political science from the University of Lethbridge and has authored a policy report and numerous articles on corporal discipline. ...