In the wake of the Adrian Peterson abuse allegations, people across the country are discussing spanking. A generation ago, spanking was commonplace, but people claim we have evolved as a society, become more enlightened, and now we understand based on sociological studies you just can’t do some of the things your parents used to do.
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.
B21 is pumped about the release of The Song, both the movie and accompanying resources. If you’re not familiar with the project, clink on the link and check it out, or read the letter below from Kyle Idleman about it’s usefulness in your life and ministry.
Dear Fellow Pastor,
If you’re like me, you’ve given a lot of relationship advice over the years. Whether it’s someone who’s interested in dating but doesn’t know how to do that in a way that honors God, or an engaged couple who want to build their marriage on a firm foundation but haven’t had a good example of what that looks like, or a newly married couple struggling with conflict, or someone ready to quit and throw in the towel on their marriage. We’ve all sat across from someone struggling with these areas of their lives, and we’ve tried to teach them what God’s word says about these things, because we know that God knows best. He is the author and designer of love, sex and marriage. But sometimes it’s hard to connect people’s current issues with the ancient stories of Scripture.
That’s why I partnered with City on a Hill Studio to produce The Song– a modern-day adaptation of the life of Solomon that helps couples connect their story to God’s word. The Song is a feature film releasing nationwide in theatres September 26 and a full like on church resources — including a Small Group Study, Pastor’s Kit and Couple’s Devotional — that deal honestly with real-world relationship issues like dating, romance, intimacy, conflict, restoration and cultivating true commitment. You and I know these areas belong to God and our culture is desperate to rediscover what He had in mind when He created marriage and love between a man and a woman.
So I’m writing to you to ask you to view the movie and review the study resources. Pass them along to your leaders. Consider how you could use them to minister to and encourage both the couples and singles in your church and community and bring grace and hope to their relationships. Many pastors are buying out showtimes and are preaching sermon series around the topics. Others are encouraging their church members and small groups to use the movie and study to engage their neighbors and friends, not only on the subject of marriage but, more importantly, on the subject of their faith.
As ministers, it’s our desire to see couples thriving, to see love awakened and to see Christ glorified. It is my prayer that The Song materials will help accomplish these ends.
Teaching Pastor, Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY
As we all wrestle with how we view our job as a Christian, undoubtedly important questions arise. In this post Benjamin Quinn both asks some of those questions and offers helpful resources for pastors and laypeople alike. Let’s continue the discussion and all seek to redeem our understanding of work in light of the gospel.
What is work? Does it matter to God? How do these forty or more hours each week relate to our faith?
Our pews are filled with workers who ask these kinds of questions. Pastors, even the most attuned and sympathetic, often struggle to provide answers beyond “work hard, tell the truth, and share the Gospel when possible.” Hard work, truth telling, and evangelism are indeed critical for Christian workers, but could there be more to our work and its relationship to our faith?
What if God created us to be workers whose purpose and personhood somehow come together when we rightly engage with creation? How was work different before Genesis 3, and where do we see sin’s effects today? How might we redirect sin’s effects on our work toward proper ends? Further, how does our work today relate to the new heavens and earth?
The purpose of this post is simply to raise these questions, and offer a handful of resources I’ve found helpful on the topic. Below are books, lectures, videos, and websites worth perusing. An asterisk is placed beside those I recommend to start with.
As we continue in our work, may we, as our Lord said, “work for the food that endures to eternal life.” (Jn 6:27)
*Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work. Boston: Dutton Adult, 2012.
Gene Veith, God at Work. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2011.
*Lester Dekoster, Work; The Meaning of Your Life. Grand Rapids: Christian’s Library Press, 2010.
Amy Sherman, Kingdom Calling. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2011.
Hugh Whelchel, How Then Should We Work? Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2012.
*Dorothy Sayers, Why Work? (an essay) http://www.faith-at-work.net/Docs/WhyWork.pdf
Tom Nelson, Work Matters. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2011.
Steven Garber, Visions of Vocation. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014.
J.D. Greear, “Work as Worship,” www.rightnow.org
Tim Keller, “Humanizing Work,” http://www.faithandwork.com/conference-audio/
Lois Kehlenbrink, “How the Gospel Prepares Your Heart for Work,” http://www.faithandwork.com/how-the-gospel-prepares-your-heart-for-work/
Tim Lubinus is the new Executive Director of the Baptist Convention of Iowa. His vision is to get the state convention to a 50/50 split of CP dollars even if that means sacrifice at the local level. We are grateful for Tim’s leadership in this area and pray that this mindset takes root across our conventions. Tim was kind enough to give us this interview.
When I was with the IMB and on furlough in the States, I sometimes felt like people in churches were given the impression that most Cooperative Program funds went to the IMB. At that time in our state of Iowa, only about ten percent of Cooperative Program funds made it to the IMB. I later learned the percentage was only slightly better in other states. I’d like the Baptist Convention of Iowa to change from sending twenty percent to fifty percent to the Executive Committee as quickly as possible.
I’d answer this question like I would counsel someone who was learning to tithe. At times sacrifice is required for the greater good of the kingdom of God. I’d talk about ways to increase income and decrease expenses. Then I’d encourage him to give ten percent as quickly as possible, even if it means he has to decrease his own spending.
I think that giving half is a good target for state conventions to adequately contribute to international and domestic missions, seminaries, and state convention ministries. I don’t have chapter and verse on this, but like the tithe, I think percentage giving is a good discipline for anyone. If conventions don’t have a fifty percent anchor, there will likely be a budget shortfall, special project, or other temptation to justify increasing the amount that stays in the state. I hope that when Iowa churches discover that more of their funds are going to national and international mission efforts, they will be excited about giving even more generously to the Cooperative Program. When state conventions give more generously to the executive committee this will also give less incentive for churches go around the state conventions to send funds directly to the Executive Committee or to designate extra funds to special missions offerings. If we believe that the Cooperative Program is the best system, let’s use it.
I don’t think we need a new structure, just a streamlined and focused one. I’d like to move from a “one-stop shop” for any church need and focus on fewer strategic ministries of higher intensity and quality. With the internet, state conventions have less need to be an information hub for churches than they did twenty years ago. Lifeway and NAMB are more user friendly and state conventions need fewer staff to accomplish their core missions. Also churches connect more relationally and less geographically than they used to; this is transforming the mission and structure of associations.
I can’t speak for other conventions, but in Iowa the convention is needed to provide identity and connection for churches in the state. We learn in the New Testament that churches felt the need to connect to one another relationally and also to pool resources for cooperative ministry. In our context there are several key ministries that can be done best at the state convention level rather than the church, association, regional, or national level. These include partnering with churches to place and support church planters in priority cities, community center ministry in difficult neighborhoods, disaster relief, supporting and encouraging pastors, some types of training, and more. We are too big geographically to be an association and too small to financially support enough directors of missions without defunding our national missions agencies. More here.
State conventions are uniquely positioned to connect churches with one another. State conventions also have distinctive opportunity to pool resources to identify, prioritize, and resource strategic needs and population segments in a state for evangelism and church planting.
As for critiques of state conventions, I think it is essential for state convention leadership to constantly evaluate staff to make sure they have the right staff person in the right ministry. Sometimes organizations compromise their mission to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. This compromise tends to lower morale of other staff members and hurt the convention’s reputation for effective leadership.
In light of the recent publication of his latest book Aspire: Developing and Deploying Disciples in the Church and for the Church, B21 has been running a series of posts from Matt Rogers, pastor of The Church at Cherrydale, on discipleship.
If you get a chance, check out his book as it is meant to provide a tool for people to take spiritual responsibility for others in the church. It also provides a one-year plan that is ideal for one-on-one disciple-making. You can order your copy of Aspire today at Seed Publishing Group.
Paul’s command to the church in Corinth causes many to cringe.
“I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” (1 Cor. 4:16)
He doesn’t just say it once, but his letters are laced throughout with this theme. In fact, he seemingly dares people to analyze his life and model their lives after the pattern that he sets.
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)
“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who talk according to the example you have in us.” (Phil. 3:17)
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:9)
“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord.” (1 Thess. 1:6)
The call to imitate the life of another Christian seems downright arrogant to modern readers. The replies are predictable:
The result is a culture increasingly dependent on fewer and fewer people to do the heavy-lifting of disciple-making. The church, by and large, is filled with passive consumers who are unwilling to take spiritual responsibility for the lives of others.
We need to be reminded that the command to “follow me as I follow Christ” is not a statement of arrogance but the natural outworking of the Spirit of God in the life of all of his church. Notice the progression in 1 Thess. 1:6-8:
“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word with much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not saying anything.”
Paul and his team set an example for the church. The church imitated that example and become a model for other believers. The exemplary church provided a model for the watching world.
The basis for imitation rests not on some mythical threshold of spiritual maturity but rather on four critical factors:
Union with Christ. The call to imitation is predicated on the fact that Paul’s life was “in Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). He was worthy of imitation to the extent that Paul’s life reflected the work of Christ in his heart. Imitation is a gift of God’s grace and not another task on a person’s religious to-do list.
Missionary Living. Imitation requires relational proximity with those far from God. Everywhere he went Paul declared and demonstrated the gospel to those far from God. This model set the basis for imitation – “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9). A cloistered spirituality, increasingly distant from those far from God, will not provide the relationships necessary for imitation.
A Transforming Heart. Paul avoided placing himself on a pedestal, but rather took on the form of a servant, claiming to be the chief of all sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Perfection was not the basis for his call to imitation. A frail instrument being transformed by the grace of God is perfectly positioned to be a model for others to follow. This person’s strengths and weaknesses, gifts and faults, successes and sins should set a model for a life transformed by the gospel.
A Loving Relationship. Finally, imitation thrives in the context of long-term, loving relationships. Paul’s letters are filled with fatherly emotion for his churches. He writes, “So, being anxiously desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8). As a spiritual father he longed for Christ to be formed in the people whom he loved (Gal. 4:19). In the context of loving relationships imitation feels less like authoritarian arrogance and more like loving parenting.
Our day needs more spiritual role models like Paul. I met with another college student this week who had been a believer for nearly a decade and said, “I have never had an older man help me learn how to walk with Jesus.” Sadly, his statement is the norm rather than the exception. The only way this will change is if more and more people follow Paul’s model and say to others “follow me as I follow Christ.”