Spanking and the Inspiration of Scripture
ome time back I watched a program on television that
focused on the question of how parents should raise their children. The
program began by looking at the fact that throughout history parents have held
corporal punishment (spanking, whipping, etc.) to be an acceptable form of
discipline for children. The program then pointed out that the Bible itself
teaches physical punishment of children as a part of training children. The
question was then asked—“Can the Bible, history and tradition all be wrong?”
The remainder of the program featured the claims of “experts” that answered in
no uncertain terms—“Yes, spanking children is wrong!”
This may seem like a rather tame statement at first,
but I’m afraid that as Christians we may not realize what we are conceding if
we: 1) Accept this view to be true, or, 2) Allow it to go unchallenged.
What we say is that …
God is wrong!
He does not understand human nature and childhood development!
His instructions must not be heeded on this subject!
This may sound rather strong but I believe it is the logical
consequence of accepting the view that corporal punishment is wrong.
We must first understand what Scripture claims about
itself. It is not man’s commentary on God’s will, but the mind of God revealed
directly to man. 2 Peter 1:20-21 declares, “...No prophecy of Scripture is
of any private interpretation for prophecy never came by the will of man, but
holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (NKJV). 2
Timothy 3:16-17 asserts, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for
teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the
man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (NIV). This
makes it clear that Scripture is God’s word. One can either accept this or
not, but we must acknowledge what the Bible claims about itself!
What are the claims of Scripture on the subject of
1.) It is commanded by
God—“Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat
him with a rod, he will not die” (Proverbs 23:13).
2.) It is constructive
to a child—“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a
child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him”
3.) It can be a
demonstration of love—“He who spares his rod hates his son,
but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Prov. 13:24).
4.) It can lead to
5.) It is shameful to
neglect it—“ The
rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his
mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
6.) It must not be
destructive to the child—“Chasten
your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction”
7.) It can benefit a
shall beat him with a rod and deliver his soul; from hell [i.e. sheol]”
8.) It can increase
the joy of being a parent—“Correct
your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul”
9.) It is a characteristic
of God’s dealings with man—“For
whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews
10.) Those without it
are treated as illegitimate children—“But if you are without chastening, of which all have
become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons” (Hebrews 12:8).
11.) Children who have
received it owe their parents respect—“Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected
us, and we paid them respect...” (Hebrews 12:9).
12.) Although intended
to be unpleasant it can produce righteous behavior—“Now no chastening seems to be joyful
for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable
fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews
All of this makes it abundantly clear that the
Scripture teaches there is a place for the physical discipline of children in
proper parenting. That is not to sanction all that is done in the name of
discipline. Nor does it teach that abuse is to be treated lightly. But simply
that if we claim to accept the Bible as God’s word we must accept with it what
it teaches us about how to raise our children. This calls on us to place great
confidence in the authority of Scripture, and sometimes to reject the notions
of the so-called “experts.”
But What About Abuse?
Our generation has seen examples of some of the most
horrifying treatment of children imaginable. Sometimes in the name of
discipline and sometimes out of some perverse pleasure in inflicting pain, children
have been brutalized. As Christians we must stand against this! There is a
difference between the moderate application of discomfort by loving parents and
the enduring scars of brutality inflicted by disturbed and ungodly souls!
To keep this distinction clear, the following
questions would be beneficial for us to ask ourselves the next time we
discipline our children:
Why are we spanking them? (Is it simply out of anger or in
an attempt to shape their behavior?)
What do we want them to learn from this? (Do we have a
Have we given them plenty of positive reinforcement to balance
things? (Do they see our love for them?)
Do they understand our expectations of them? (Have we
talked with them enough?)
Are we dealing with them in a Christ-like manner? (Are we
helping them go to heaven?)
I pray that godly mothers and fathers who love the
Lord will boldly and courageously stand up for the unfailing truth of God’s
word. At stake is not simply our belief in the inspiration of the Scriptures,
but our children themselves.