“General William Tecumseh Sherman got it wrong. Peace is hell. In war people think about the country. In peace all they think about is themselves,” said war veteran and wartime president of the United States, Harry S. Truman. From 1979-2000 the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) fought a battle for the heart and soul of the world’s largest protestant denomination, which is commonly referred to as the conservative resurgence (or fundamentalist takeover from the liberal side of the conflict).
The battle for the Bible extended well beyond the borders of the SBC, but the fiercest battles raged within the denomination. I fear Truman’s observation is proving correct in the SBC. The denominational struggle in the SBC produced unity among a broad and diverse group of SBC theological conservatives. The conservative resurgence SBC leaders put biblical gospel fidelity and the future of the SBC ahead of personal preferences and differences. But over a decade after the symbolic final victory of the resurgence at the 2000 SBC annual meeting, the harmony among SBC conservatives seems to have lessened. At least from my vantage point, we conservatives seem far more willing to fight and nitpick each other.
In 1979, the SBC annual meeting took place in Houston, Texas and Adrian Rogers, a theological conservative biblical inerrantist, and the greatest SBC preacher of this era, was elected president of the world’s largest protestant denomination. I was an eleven-year-old child at the time whose biggest concern was playing Dixie Youth baseball for Blue-Gray Civitan Club in Montgomery, AL. I was oblivious to the seismic shift that was taking place in Houston as Southern Baptists returned to their conservative biblical roots. Ten years later, by God’s grace, I became a Christian and identified myself with the people called Southern Baptists.
Adrian Rogers’ election in 1979 marked the symbolic beginning of the conservative resurgence in the SBC (1979-2000). Rogers election was followed by an unbroken succession of conservative presidents who have unapologetically championed the inerrancy of the Bible. The SBC president has the power to appoint those who serve on committees, who nominate the trustees of Southern Baptist entities, who are then voted on by the elected messengers of the SBC. Thus, in two decades, the denomination was transformed and returned to its biblical roots. Paige Patterson, one of the heroic architects of the conservative resurgence, explains that the victory was made possible by the grassroots polity of the SBC, eloquent pulpiteers who led the cause, unity around the reliability of the Bible, fervent prayer, and abandonment to the task (Paige Patterson).
Soon after becoming a Christian in 1989, I began sense a call to preach the gospel. My sense of the call was confirmed when I was licensed to preach at Green Valley Baptist Church in Hoover, AL in April 1994 and then ordained to preach at Morningview Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL in October 1997. I provide this biographical information because I am what I call a conservative resurgence tweener. I have one foot in the conservative resurgence generation and one foot in the post-resurgence generation.
I went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to pursue a M.Div. in 1994. I arrived shortly after the trustees fired theologically moderate president Russell Dilday. The first SBC annual meeting I attended was in Atlanta in 1995. I heard R. Albert Mohler deliver the convention sermon, “What Mean These Stones?” (Joshua 4). Mohler articulated a clear, uncompromising theological vision for Southern Baptists with which I thoroughly resonated. It was then I decided if I pursued doctoral work I would attend The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary under Mohler’s leadership. I completed a Ph.D. from Southern Seminary in December 2011. In 2000, I was appointed by SBC president Paige Patterson to serve on the credential’s committee for the annual meeting in Orlando, which revised the Baptist Faith and Message. Appropriately, the Baptist Faith and Message revision committee was chaired by Adrian Rogers and marked the symbolic closure of the resurgence movement.
Those of us in the SBC tweener resurgence category tend to have good friends and ministry associates in the older conservative resurgence generation and in the younger post-resurgence generation of Southern Baptists. I claim no unique wisdom on SBC life, but perhaps providence has afforded those in my group at least the benefit of a unique perspective. The older generation conservatives identify with the words of great SBC preacher RG Lee who was reported to have said, “I was Baptist born. I was Baptist bred. And when I die, I will be a Baptist dead.” The younger millennial generation (born between early 1980’s and 2000) of Southern Baptists are generally theologically conservative, but along with their generational peers, they are inherently suspicious of formal institutions (Pew Research). It is the difference between a generation who paid their bills by check via the US mail and a generation who has never written a check.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not trapped in any particular generation. In every generational culture there are things that are in line with the gospel and things that are out of line with the gospel. Christians ought to have a healthy respect for the past but also an eagerness about the newness of the present and future. I recently saw a Christian leader who posted a tweet about good old days in 1964 when The Beverly Hillbillies was the top rated TV show and then asserted that we need revival. I wonder if it ever occurred to him that for African-Americans, 1964 was not the American good old days, and that we needed revival then to face down the wicked codified institutional racism—a racism all too evident in our SBC churches of the 1960’s.
Every generation has unique strengths and unique challenges. No one should expect a newer generation to sound, look, and approach issues exactly like the older generation. Rather, the hope should be that the newer generation would be faithful to and rooted in the same bedrock truth. Older Southern Baptist resurgence conservatives who look with skepticism at zealous but slightly different younger Southern Baptist conservatives are despising the fruit of their own labors. There is an amazing energy to preach the gospel, plant churches, and reach the nations with the gospel among the post-resurgence generation, and it is matched with robust conservative theological commitments.
With the condition of our seminaries before the resurgence and the current precipitous cultural decline into moral anarchy, this present army of young gospel warriors is a miraculous blessing of God on the sacrifices of the resurgence generation. Not only are our seminaries strong and vibrant, but now with NAMB led by Kevin Ezell, ERLC led by Russell Moore, and IMB led by David Platt, these entities are all energizing and exciting younger post-resurgence conservatives. The differences in style and theology that separate older resurgence conservatives and the younger post-resurgence conservatives are no greater than the differences that existed among conservatives who unified to fight for the heart and soul of the SBC and are all within the pale of historic Baptist orthodoxy. No father should have the unreasonable expectation that his son will be an exact duplicate of himself; however, every father should be overjoyed if his son embodies his core values and convictions.
Young, post-resurgence Southern Baptists who look at older Southern Baptist conservatives with little respect are spending an inheritance bequeathed to them and acting as though they earned it for themselves. Post-resurgence conservatives tend to take for granted the SBC they presently enjoy. It is tragic ecclesial narcissism when someone benefits from the post-resurgence conservative SBC reality and is nourished by our entities and institutions with no sense of indebtedness and loyalty. I would urge younger conservatives in the SBC to take a few moments and read, “‘Once There Was a Camelot’: Women Doctoral Graduates of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1982-1992, Talk about the Seminary, the Fundamentalist Takeover, and Their Lives Since SBTS,” which documents in the words of students who attended just what the culture at Southern Seminary was like prior to the conservative resurgence in the SBC.
If it were not for the sacrifices made by the conservative resurgence generation, the post-resurgence younger conservatives would not be walking the halls of our seminaries and discussing diverse conservative understandings of salvation, ecclesiology, and culture. If the battle for the Bible had not been won in our denomination by the resurgence generation, we would not hear discussions of neo-Calvinism and the SBC traditionalist statement among the post-resurgence students in the halls of our SBC seminaries; we would overhear discussions of the importance of Deutero-Isaiah in teaching us about our Mother-God and how hopeful she is about future. That fact ought to shape how we think about differences we have with other SBC conservatives, genuine and important differences, but ones that do not compromise our shared gospel mission.
Chronological snobbery is prideful self-righteousness whether it comes with skinny jeans and an ESV or with a suit and a Scofield Reference Bible. Post-resurgence conservatives should not live every day as if there was no yesterday. Resurgence conservatives should not live as if yesterday is all that matters today. The gospel liberates us from gaining our identity by denigrating others and liberates us to “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom 12:10). The way forward is for all of us to remember that this in not a time of peace. As I have heard Russell D. Moore say, “The Great Commission is not a public relations campaign but a call to spiritual war.” Let’s not think of ourselves as we face spiritual battle. Let’s think of the kingdom of Christ and the outpost of the kingdom—the church of Jesus Christ.
The Most Misinterpreted OT Passages: 2 Chronicles 7:14
“We need revival!”
I have grown up in the SBC, so one sermon that I have heard loud and clear for three decades is the need for revival in our nation. Pastors at conferences and in churches have analyzed the decay of our culture and then they have given the solution: “What we need is revival – another Great Awakening!” Many of these sermons have inspired me a great deal. I certainly do want a Great Awakening in our nation – and in all nations!
Does 2 Chronicles 7:14 map out a plan for revival in America?
One of the key passages pointed to for this revival call is 2 Chronicles 7:14 where the Lord says, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” There it is, a word from God that if America will repent then God will bring revival to our land, it is said.
2 Chronicles 7:14 is not about revival from the moral decline of America
This is an incorrect interpretation of this verse. Let’s walk through the passage in its proper context.
The context of 2 Chronicles 7:14 shows that this verse is about Israel
One big rule for interpretation is “context is king.” We must look at the context of the verse to see what it actually means. You’ll notice in my citation of 2 Chronicles 7:14 above that it starts with a lower case “i” rather than an upper case because it’s not an isolated verse but rather part of a larger sentence that starts in verse 13. And these two verses (2 Chron 7:13-14) are part of the even larger section of chapters 6 and 7. What is that larger context? Solomon has just completed the building of the Temple in Jerusalem and prays a grand prayer of dedication in chapter 6. Then in chapter 7 Yahweh appears to Solomon at night and begins to speak to him, referencing Solomon’s prayer that acknowledged the Temple is a place for repentance, forgiveness and restoration.
Solomon’s prayer indicates that when Israel sins against God and God judges Israel as a result with drought, or famine, or exile, then Israel will pray toward the temple in repentance and receive restoration. We know that Solomon’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 6 and Yahweh’s words to Solomon here in 2 Chronicles 7 are connected because Yahweh uses the same language of the heavens being shut up (2 Chron 6:26; 2 Chron 7:13). Here in 2 Chronicles 7, God reemphasizes Solomon’s prayer that foretold Israel will sin and be judged, but that forgiveness is available if they will repent (2 Chronicles 7:12-16) and all of this is linked to atonement (7:12).
Who is Israel? It’s not America
So, 2 Chronicles is not a promise to the United States of America; it’s a promise to God’s people – Israel. Now, that raises a question for New Testament believers who interpret this passage: “Who is Israel?” Theologically, there are about 3 key positions that people take in answering this question: 1) National Israel: the promises to Israel in the OT will be fulfilled in the future with national Israel. 2) The Church: the promises to Israel are fulfilled spiritually in the church. 3) Christ: the promises to Israel are fulfilled in Christ who is the True Israel and those who are united to Him by faith also receive the promises. I don’t want to get into all the particulars of these theological positions, but suffice to say that none of these options includes the United States of America.
Let’s rejoice in the promise of restoration through repentance
As a NT Christian interpreting this passage, 2 Chron. 7:14 seems more akin to 1 John 1:9 than as a promise for a new Great Awakening. Instead of being a promise about national revival in America, this is a promise to the church that when she is in sin and repents, through Christ’s atonement God will restore the church (see the letters to the Seven Churches in Revelation).
For some people this reality may be upsetting and troubling. For those who equate Christianity with American patriotism, this will no doubt create animosity. But, for redeemed Christians in the New Covenant community, this truth should bring comfort that despite our sin we have a merciful God who forgives and restores.
Do I want revival in America? Absolutely! Do I pray for revival in my city? Yes! But, I want revival in all nations through the Great Commission. I just don’t think 2 Chronicles 7 gets you there. And, more than that, my primary identity isn’t as an American – as much as I love my nation. My primary identity is in Christ and His Church. We would do well to ask ourselves the question, “If God chose to bring revival to Iran, India, and Pakistan rather than the United States of America, would we rejoice or get frustrated?” Wherever God chooses to restore and revive among our brothers and sisters globally let us rejoice!
Stay tuned for the next installment!]]>
Real love and compassion doesn’t stop with sentimentality but sees the holistic needs of a person. This will take a ministry, Moore reminded us, that does not relate to LGBT people as freaks to either be raged against or dismissed, but as people to be loved (that includes trying to understand why they believe the way they do) and ministered to.
Finally, all of this must be done in community. One of themes that rose to the top was the necessity of being a real Christian community in the church as we minister to the LGBT community. There are several reasons this is so important. First, the question of reparative therapy for LGBT came up often, and over and again the answer seemed clear. It is not compassionate if we merely teach Jesus will take away all of these temptations from you. He might, but the promise of the Gospel is not that you will be temptation free, but rather that in the midst of temptation you will be given the Spirit to fight and flee. However, in order to fight and flee by the power of the Spirit we are given another grace gift – the Christian community to spur us on to love and good deeds. Moore pointed out in a press breakfast that some of our Christian testimonies that only teach complete victory can be very discouraging to others because for some this will be a struggle for the rest of their lives until they see the King face-to-face. Jackie Hill Perry reminded us we do not fight sin in isolation. In addition, many from the LGBT community that consider Christ fear that if they turn to Him they will lose all sense of community that they have. We must share with them what Jesus shared with His disciples after the Rich Young Ruler turned away in Mark 10:29-30, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” And it must be true. We must be those brothers and sisters. I am so thankful for the tone of this conference (modeled so well by Moore and seen powerfully in the testimony of Rosaria Butterfield) and the call for compassion, conviction, and community.
Stay tuned in for part 3 (see part 1), and if you missed all of the conference, check out all of sessions from the ERLC National Conference here.]]>
Stay tuned in for parts 2 and 3, and if you missed all of the conference, check out all of sessions from the ERLC National Conference here.]]>
The best education is education in the best things, wrote Charles Spurgeon. Fortunately, we are not left to our own devices to determine the definition of best things. Though some might argue or seek to raise themselves up as prophetic “Websters,” God Himself provides the dictionary and illustration for us of best things in His Word. They bring Him glory and further His mission.
No, the challenge might be found more in the education part. How do we best equip ourselves and train others in the best things? As an educator in the local church and the academy, this is a question that occupies a great deal of my day. For many years I have had the privilege of leading and serving with people in both arenas who have developed effective and creative educational methodology. Though we are still learning, I do believe right now more than ever before, we are getting closer to, doing better at, and growing in our understanding of…best. For us to take these last steps we had to overcome an unnecessary barrier and reject a false dichotomy that some have raised between the seminary and the local church.
At Southeastern Seminary we truly believe that theological education is best when done in partnership with the local church and not somehow in competition with it. Leadership and ministry skills development should be an intentional part of every local church ministry. They are necessary niches of discipleship.
We have therefore created an intentional bridge between the local church and seminary called the C.H. Spurgeon Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching. It exists to equip and encourage pastors to lead healthy, disciple-making churches for the glory of God around the world. We offer assistance, resources and training to our students, as well as to pastors and churches, to further equip them to serve well in the crucible of real life ministry. We recognize our responsibility to equip Great Commission-minded local church pastors who preach the Word and lead biblically.
There are vital questions that demand a response such as: What is the role of a pastor? What does a pastor need to know? What does a pastor need to do? We believe the best way to educate leaders with biblical solutions to these questions is in conjunction with local churches and networks of churches. The center supports this network of cooperative relationship by providing:
The field-based training arm of the center, the EQUIP Network, allows church leaders and interns to earn significant academic credit to be earned while serving on the field through mentoring relationships with pastors and by further training through distance learning. EQUIP also provides a network of mutually edifying relationships in which participants from the various churches and ministries communicate, encourage, teach, and challenge one another. This sense of community is at the heart of the EQUIP Network.
When I played football and lacrosse, I had to work out all week together with the rest of the team in order to get ready for the game on the weekend. They call that “practice” for a reason. I would never have learned all I needed to know in the locker room or through the play and rule books. We all need to get out on the field and work it out together. Some learn best by doing. The Spurgeon Center with its EQUIP Network allows you to continue your education in the best things out on the field in the practice of ministry. Check us out today by clicking here!
Dr. John Ewart
Associate Vice President for Global Theological Initiatives
Director, C.H. Spurgeon Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching]]>
When I first became a pastor, I thought the question I would be asked the most was, “Pastor, how should I think through this issue?”
I was wrong. I did have people asking me, quite often, about how to apply the gospel to current cultural questions. But more often than this was a deeper, more personal inquiry: “Pastor, I’m struggling with this. What should I do?”
Cultural Issues Come to Church
I still remember the shock I felt when a faithful, older member of my congregation confided in me his lifelong struggle with same-sex attraction. This was a man who, by all accounts, had his life together. He was doing well in his career, he was a beloved father, and (by all appearances) happily married. But inside, he wrestled with these desires. As a pastor, what gospel hope could I give him that would equip him in the daily struggle? One one side, if his secret got out, he’d be condemned for even facing this temptation. On the other side, there was a ready and waiting chorus pushing him to accept a sexual ethic the Bible forbids.
Pastors must be ready to answer these questions, the deep questions, the people in their congregations will have. Perhaps no question is more vexing or real than the question of homosexuality. In my experience talking to pastors and church leaders, I find two responses.
Some wish this issue would just go away so they can “preach the gospel.”
Some want to treat this issue as a lower-tier issue like baptism or views on the end times.
Called to This Culture
These responses are lacking. Pastors and church leaders can’t pretend this issue will go away. We are not called to live in the culture we want but in the culture to which we are called. Pastors need to be courageous and compassionate, ready to answer and shepherd their people toward Christ-likeness. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Not Called to Compromise
The other response we are seeing, at least among a few evangelicals, is an attempt to reconcile the modern sexual ethic with the demands of the gospel. Some of this is fueled by a genuine desire to see unity in the church and break down barriers in order to see people experience grace. Yet, some are attempting to accommodate the church to the ambient culture. Church leaders need to be ready to answer these arguments and courageously speak to and lead their people to swim against the tide.
This is why the ERLC is hosting a conference on October 27-29th at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. The theme is: The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage. Our desire is to equip pastors and church leaders in addressing this issue in a gospel-centered, compassionate and clear way. We hope you will join us.]]>
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary served as a major sponsor for our luncheon and along with that sponsorship we give them the opportunity to share about what they do as they seek to equip students. Check out the letter from the Dean below, and take you a look at the College of Southeastern.
Southeastern has always had a great college. But recent changes and additions have positioned the college to do much more than ever before. As always, we continue to be an institution focused on the church, Great Commission, and training people to take the Gospel to the nations. Yet, we have given fresh attention to our curriculum and found ways to make it better.
What Has Changed?
The college continues to offer all the programs that make it distinctive. For example, we continue to read the Great Books of the Western tradition, study Christian theology, and offer a variety of exciting degree programs like Theology, History, English, Pastoral Ministries, and Humanities. Overall, this well-rounded curriculum enables students to articulate and defend the Christian faith wherever God may place them. Within the past year, however, we have made some significant changes to our curriculum. For example, while we have kept the History of Ideas program, we have rebuilt it to give it greater clarity and focus. We have also given a major overhaul to our undergraduate missions curriculum. We began by creating all new courses for this program to draw from intercultural & cross-cultural studies, theology, apologetics, language, and missiology. Next, like our graduate programs, we built into this program a significant portion of the degree that must be earned on the field. In most cases, students serving overseas for six months in places like Taiwan, Germany, or the Sudan fulfill this part of the program. Finally, to better reflect the well-rounded nature of this program, we changed the name of this program from “Missions” to “Global Studies.”
What Has Been Added?
Finally, we’ve recently added four new undergraduate degree programs that will help us place students in churches, the mission field, or in some other vocational setting for kingdom influence. Our new undergraduate Philosophy degree (BACS and Philosophy) is designed for those who want to do apologetics, Theology, or anything else that requires intellectual rigor. The new Biblical Studies degree (BACS and Biblical Studies) provides 18 hours of biblical languages and an additional 18 hours in biblical theology and book study. This degree is ideal for those that want to pastor or teach the Bible. Our new Worship Ministry degree (BACS and Worship Ministry) is for those that want lead worship in the local church, but want something beyond basic training in music. This program’s primary focus is on theology, the Bible and ministry preparation. Lastly, our new History/Pre-Law degree (BACS and History/Pre-Law) is for those that want to serve Christ in the public square or possible in the legal profession.
In short, the College at Southeastern continues be the wonderful place it has always been. But recent changes have given it a greater ability to train students for Gospel ministry and send them to strategic places. These changes and additions open new doors for our students and make the College at Southeastern an exciting place to prepare for ministry.
James K. Dew, Jr., PhD
Dean of the College
Associate Professor of the History of Ideas and Philosophy]]>
B21 is excited for the release of The Song in theaters tonight!
Pastor and best-selling author Kyle Idleman is a producer on The Song and has helped to write curriculum and a devotional for couples that will generate great discussions in your next small group. Check out Kyle’s guest post below, the resources available, and go to see The Song in theaters tonight!
Over Mother’s Day weekend I read an article titled “Your Mom Lied to You.” The article exposed a number of things our moms told us growing up that may have been well intentioned, but were not necessarily true. For example, my mother used to tell me, “You need to put some Hydrogen Peroxide on that.” But as it turns out, those “healing bubbles” didn’t do anything to heal my wounds and was, in reality, the hydrogen peroxide attacking me.
Another lie my mother told was, “Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis.” In truth, according to the latest “knuckle cracking” research—and yes, there are medical professionals who study this—cracking my knuckles will not lead to arthritis.
And then there is the ever-popular lie all moms like to tell, “Don’t swallow your gum because it takes seven years to pass through your digestive system.” Yet, advances in colonoscopy-based research (gross, I know) refute this claim.
My point is that there are certain things we have just accepted over the years. They sound reasonable and are reinforced by others, so we spend our lives pouring hydrogen peroxide onto our wounds, abstaining from the pleasures of knuckle popping, and feeling unnecessarily worried about swallowing our gum.
When it comes to the areas of love, sex, and marriage, we have similarly been told things that sound reasonable and have been reinforced by numerous cultural influences. Instead of questioning these things, we often just accept them. After all, the movies we watch, the music we listen to, and the magazines we read all seem in agreement when it comes to how we should think about our love lives. And yet God is the one who created these things. He has made us to have feelings of love and passion. Sex was His idea. He owns the copyright on marriage. So the default question we should be asking is, “What does God have to say about it?”
Around ten years ago I started teaching through the Song of Solomon with different audiences and was amazed at the relevance of this Old Testament book of poetry. That is one of the reasons I produced a film about the Song of Solomon called The Song. The Song is a modern-day adaptation of Solomon’s life, inspired by the writings in both the Song of Solomon and the book of Ecclesiastes. It will be released nationwide on September 26th. My prayer is that this film—as well as the video curriculum and couples devotional that go along with it—would awaken love in our marriages and point to the truths of Scripture as the authority for our love lives.
Let me share a few truths from the Song of Solomon that challenge what many of us have been told and what has been culturally reinforced over the years:
Beauty is more than outward appearance.
Love is more than a feeling.
Sex is more than a physical act.
Marriage is more than a piece of paper.
These teaching principles are helpful, but there is nothing like a story to engage our hearts. That is why I’m excited for this film to engage people in a different way than simply teaching and applying text.
I was thinking about the time my wife and I were newly married. Heavily influenced by Hollywood, we had all kinds of ideas and expectations about what marriage should be and how we should feel. But very quickly we were given the opportunity to watch a story unfold that showed us just how important it was to have a Christ-centered marriage built on a spiritual foundation. We didn’t watch this story on the big screen, however. We saw it play out in real life.
I was preaching at small community church where we became friends with Jim and Mary, a couple in their fifties who had been married for a long time. They were going through a difficult time with Jim battling lung cancer. One night, when my wife and I stopped by their house to pray with them, we noticed that Jim had become very weak and feeble. The most aggressive chemotherapy was being used, along with radiation treatments, and it had taken its toll. It was obvious that the cancer was strong—but the faith of Jim and Mary was even stronger.
Mary led us into Jim’s room where I opened up my Bible to read a few Scriptures. That’s when the smell made it clear that Jim had lost bowel control. Mary said, “Excuse us for a minute,” and we waited outside while she cleaned up. My wife and I stood in silence, holding hands in the living room—I had never previously considered that kind of moment in marriage. When Mary came back to get us, there was a smile on her face that I’ll never forget. “In sickness and in health,” she said.
That was an education for my wife and me—young and healthy and in love. We were given a front row seat to the difference Jesus makes in a marriage.
As Christians we live in a time when many people are trying to agree on a definition of marriage—and even more people are trying to figure out how to be happily married. What an incredible opportunity we have to celebrate God’s way and to set an example of the intimate, passionate partnership that marriage can be.
“Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” -Song of Solomon 8:7(NIV)]]>
Interestingly, some Christians are arguing that the Bible (or Jesus Himself) is against spanking. But, these articles quote more from sociological studies than the words of Jesus or the Apostles. As Christians we need to ask the question, “Is the Bible against spanking?” While this question is not of interest to the wider culture, it should be of interest to Christians who seek to live under biblical authority. So, what does the Bible say?
Proverbs mentions the rod six times in reference to the discipline of children:
What do these verses mean? The rod was a tool used to discipline, and it was even used as a weapon by shepherds or warriors to strike their enemies (cf. Exo 21:20; Num 24:17; 2 Sam 7:14; 2 Sam 23:21; Psa 2:9; 23:4; Isa 10:15; 11:4; etc.). The rod can be used for literal, physical punishment or warfare, or it can be used figuratively to speak of physical punishment or warfare. For example, God wields the Assyrian empire to punish apostate Israel and refers to Assyria as “the rod of my anger” (Isa 10:5). While the rod is metaphorical here, the punishment inflicted is not.
Proverbs scholars divide into basically two camps on the rod verses in Proverbs. Some believe the rod is a metaphor for wise words that drive foolishness out of a child’s heart, but they are in the minority and their view is relatively recent. Even some of the scholars who argue for metaphor leave open the possibility that corporal punishment is in view.
For example, Goldsworthy in his commentary on Proverbs The Tree of Life writes, “It is not clear that this refers to corporal punishment, although the text could bear this meaning. The rod may be metaphorical…Discipline is the educational function of wisdom, thus, instruction in wisdom may be like a rod in driving out folly” (147).
Many Proverbs scholars like Murphy, Garrett, Longman, Waltke, Kidner, Bridges, Keil and Delitzsch, and more believe the rod refers to non-abusive corporal punishment such as spanking. Waltke argues that folly is bound up in the heart of a child and it will take more than just words to dislodge it (Waltke, Proverbs 1-15, 574).
Not only is the imagery of corporal punishment deeply rooted in the biblical canon, but it is also recommended in other Israelite wisdom literature like the Wisdom of Sirach (30:1-3). Other ANE wisdom texts that share a strong affinity with Proverbs argue for corporal punishment (cf. Ahiqar lines 81-81, ANET p. 428). Waltke cites several Egyptian wisdom texts that called for corporal punishment and make statements like “a boy’s ear is upon his back, he hearkens to his beater” (Waltke, Proverbs 1-15, 574) and “boys have ears on their back sides” (Waltke, Proverbs 15-31, 216).
The Bible is not only open to corporal punishment, but it sees it as necessary at times. Now, given that let’s make a few observations about biblical discipline:
There are two ways to really harm children. First, physical abuse is damaging to children. The pictures of what Adrian Peterson allegedly did to his son are sickening, and all of us should condemn that kind of behavior. Using a tool to bruise and cut your children is evil. If one cannot spank their children without losing their temper then they should not do it.
But, the second way to really harm children according to Proverbs is to fail to discipline them. That’s the society we unfortunately live in today. You are not doing right by your children if you don’t correct self-destructive behavior. We all know discipline is good, even discipline that is slightly painful in the moment (i.e. working out). Yes, it is abusive to hit your child with an object to the point that it brings blood, but it is also abusive to neglect discipline.
Yes, the teaching of Proverbs may seem foolish and out of step to contemporary culture, but we would do well to heed the words of renowned biblical scholar Bruce Waltke that spanking “should not be abandoned in the church as unfashionable or explained away as culturally conditioned…The failure of the apostate Western world to continue the biblical practice has left its civilization in moral chaos…” (Waltke, Proverbs 1-15, 574-575).
We want to employ gospel-centered discipline that teaches our children not only that they are sinners, but also there is a Savior! How do you accomplish this? You do it by having a calm conversation with your children in the midst of discipline. You ask your child to confess what they did wrong. You assure them that your love for them – and more importantly God’s love – is not dependent on their performance. You confess that you understand their sinful actions because you’ve done them before, and you tell them that you need to be forgiven by Jesus just as much as they do.]]>