In the last couple weeks I have received a lot of response to my article on Adrian Peterson’s disciplinary controversy. Throughout the heated debates, I consistently asked for – and did not receive – answers to these two very direct questions:
1) On what moral, scriptural, or historical basis do you declare all marks to be abusive?
2) By what authority do you claim the right to govern how another raises their child before threat to life or limb is established?
That’s all I’m looking for. Just two simple answers. Since posting, I’ve had all the guns brought to bear on me and my wife, from a wide range of people. I wasn’t really surprised at the reaction of the unbelieving world – after all, if you don’t accept the authority of scripture, how could you accept its admonitions on something as intimately personal as the upbringing of your children? But I confess I wasn’t entirely prepared for the venom and vitriol unleashed on us by some of our fellow Christians. I’m still trying to figure out why.
It struck me that this might be an example of the Akin effect – rush to discredit the extremist in an attempt to distinguish your softer views from his radical ones. But if that is indeed the motive, then the tragic irony is that those who claim to support biblical discipline while calling AP’s actions criminal are signing their own cultural death warrant:
In a culture so hostile to faith that many already equate religious teaching with child abuse, how long can you realistically expect to be allowed to practice any discipline at all without government and society’s approval?
The other alternative motive is the “better to be the right hand of the devil, than in his path” mentality. People who adopt this approach often avoid picking unpopular fights because they’re looking to secure their own permissions and concessions from a system that they oppose as a whole. This is the mindset of honest business owners who start fishing for special treatment from government because their competition already has. It’s the attitude of pro-life activists who lead off with a compromise and end in defeat, rather than standing on principle and forcing a compromise. It’s the intentional walk with the bases loaded. In this situation, it’s characterized by folks who vocally condemn the switching of Adrian Peterson’s son and call all who defend his right to do so monsters, without stopping to take measure of the cultural repercussions of admitting that parents don’t have the right to switch their own children.
I suppose it could be a little bit of both. Or it could be that Christians have adapted our view of God and his commandments to the moral climate of our times, rather than challenging the moral climate with the truth of scripture. Whatever the reason, the irrefutably logical arguments I’ve received thus far in response are as follows:
“Nobody should have to tell you why you shouldn’t hit a kid, you should just know!”
“AP should never be allowed around children again until he has some serious therapy.”
“You are mentally disturbed!”
“A switch might as well be barbed wire!”
“It’s a living creature and therefore deserves respect on those grounds alone!”
“Jesus said don’t hit people!”
“This is bad and you are bad for writing it!”
“You and your wife need counseling, I’m scared for your child!”
“I’ll be waving at you from the right side of history!”
Okay, so maybe not irrefutably logical, but at least creative.
So, since those who take exception to my conclusions have not provided any objectively ethical basis for their claims, I’m going to lay my cards on the table, and let people decide for themselves.
I believe the Bible. I believe it start to finish, Genesis to Revelation, and because I believe it is the single highest moral authority to which we can appeal, I choose to pattern my life and choices to the dictates of scripture. If I did not accept the authority of scripture, I don’t think I would discipline my children at all – It’s far easier to merely be friends and avoid the difficulties of training, or to ignore discipline and just wait for them to move out. Many parents choose one or both of these routes.
But because I accept the Bible as truth, I believe that God created every child ever to grow into an adult and become a parent, and I believe that He knows better than we do what a child needs. And since I accept those truths, I do not have the luxury of settling for the easy path with my family.
My wife is carrying our first child, and that child will be brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, which will sometimes include the rod of correction. It will also include provision, protection, self-sacrifice, love, patience, disappointment, and joy. We will strive to always act in love and not anger, and to teach our child about character and integrity, action and consequence. When we make mistakes, we will ask forgiveness in humility and repent to God and to each other. And then we will get back up and keep following the path laid out for us by scripture.
And since we will require grace in our parenting, we will extend that same grace to other parents – even those we deem to be less than ideal. What we certainly won’t do, is call the police on our neighbors if we see a welt on their child’s leg. We might approach them and discuss our concerns – like friends and neighbors used to do – and we will be the first to intervene if we see children in danger (or anyone in danger, for that matter). But we also won’t appoint ourselves judge and jury and insert ourselves between parents and children not our own.
If you disagree with corporal punishment, or presume to set artificial limitations on people, that God never set in the Bible (and he REALLY dislikes that – Deut 12:32, Matt 15:3), you really aren’t disagreeing with me – I’m just the messenger.
Ultimately, you are calling into question the character and commandments of God. What you’re really saying is that God condones child abuse. You’re saying that the loving Christ who died for our sins, take pleasure in seeing little kids cry and therefore encourages parents to beat them. You’re saying that you know better than the Creator, and that the childrearing techniques of the last few decades (that have resulted in the most morally decadent period in our nation’s history) are not only acceptable, but constitute the only permissible standard of discipline.
This fight was never about me, my article, or my childrearing ideals.
It’s about a culture at war with absolutes, at war with truth; and Christians who have decided to hitch a ride with it rather than getting run over by it.
Meditate on these scriptures, and if you still think that corporal punishment is wrong, cruel, or abusive, then you may need to spend some time wrestling with the Word of God, not with an insignificant blogger from Iowa.
Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. – Proverbs 13:24
Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
If you strike him with the rod,
you will save his soul from Hell. – Proverbs 23:13-14
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. – Proverbs 22:15
The rod and reproof give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. – Proverbs 29:15
Blows that wound cleanse away evil;
strokes make clean the innermost parts. – Proverbs 20:30
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights. – Proverbs 3:11-12
Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. – Ecclesiastes 8:11
Discipline your son, for there is hope;
do not set your heart on putting him to death. – Proverbs 19:18*
*this verse refers to the urgency of correcting a rebellious child before Mosaic law required that they be put to death. If you find that appalling and cruel, you may want to re-evaluate your view of the character and nature of God.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:7-11
Although he (Jesus) was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. – Hebrews 5:8
I understand that scripture is so flexible these days that we’ve managed to bend it around every unpleasant truth and difficult command in the Bible, but it’s tough to sidestep the straightforward and precise admonitions to literal, physical discipline shown above. And lest you think this is something that God takes lightly, he made it clear in both testaments that he considers godly childrearing to be integral to a life of holiness: In the book of I Samuel, we’re told that Eli’s entire family line was cursed because he refused to restrain his sons (I Sam 2:29, 3:13); and in the New Testament, Paul wrote that a man without his children “in subjection with all gravity” (I Tim 3:4 KJV) was disqualified for church leadership. Conversely, you will not find a single rebuke anywhere in the Bible to anyone for being too harsh with their children – though undoubtedly there was abuse then as there is now.
The point is that God doesn’t waste space in the Bible telling us to do things we are already inclined toward. He commands us to do things that our nature hates – self-control, thanksgiving, generosity, chastity, and forgiveness. The reason he insists that parents physically discipline their children, is that it is not in our nature to do so. In fact, scripture clearly says that parent who refuses to use the rod of correction, hates their child.
I have no standing, no title, and no credentials, to make me worthy of opposition. You could probably find a thousand pastors, teachers, and experts to argue me into the ground. But I defer to the scriptures, and upon them I stand. Think what you want of me, but please, seek the Lord on these things. There could be a lot more at stake for you and your family than you know, both now and for eternity.