To Spank or Not to Spank? part 1

I have been reading many parenting sites since starting this website.  I never had any intention of writing about spanking even though that is a big topic with GCMers.  It is time though to start connecting all the dots because it leads into a much bigger problem at the GCM forum than is spanking right or wrong.  But before I get there (in a post to eventually follow at some point in time) we have to look at what the Bible says about discipline/punishment/spanking/judgment/condemnation. 

It is always good to be challenged in your thinking if it takes you to the word of God.  One thing that an AP parent (one who practices attachment parenting) said (and I don’t remember if this was on the GCM site or some other AP site) was it was bad to punish your child.  I never really thought of it like the poster was stating.  So into the Bible I went to find out what it said about punishment.  I learned a great deal – God’s word is tremendous!

The verse that stood out in my mind was Hebrews 12.   
“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
(Hebrews 12:6 ESV)
I use the ESV online, but I usually have an NIV when reading offline.  It says punishes instead of chastises.  So at this point in time, I did not understand why the person would say we should not “punish” our kids.  I spoke briefly with my pastor and he too did not believe in punishing his children.  I was missing something so to Strong’s Concordance I went. 

Strong’s Concordance describes the Greek and Hebrew words used in the Bible.  The word punishment is Strong’s number 3811. 
The definition: to train up a child, i.e. educate, or (by impl.) discipline (by punishment). 
This differs from judgment or condemnation; they are different words in the Greek, but they sound like synonyms.  
They mean: process of investigation, condemnation, verdict, to judge against-i.e. sentence, condemn, damn. 
The difference between discipline/chastisement/punishment and judgment/condemnation/punishment is the first is used to teach and the second is used as a final punishment (usually indicating death) with no teaching involved. 

Contrast Hebrews 12:6 (punishment #3811) with 1 John 4:18 (punishment #2851).  
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
(1 John 4:18 ESV) 
This is the type of punishment that is connected to judgment/condemnation.  Strong’s definition is: penal infliction; stresses the punishment aspect of judgment.

Some people, like me, use punishment in regards to discipline which is why I was confused for a while.  I would use that word because of the NIV.  Since talking to my pastor further, I realize he too thought the same way I did about discipline.  We were just calling it different things.  Since there is confusion out there about this and I don’t want to confuse people by thinking that I advocate punishing in the judgment/condemnation way, I have started to explain it further or not use the word at all.

Hebrews 12 goes on to say that no discipline (Strong’s #3809: tutorage, i.e. education or training; by impl. disciplinary correction) seems pleasant at the time but painful (or grievous).  Hebrews states that God considers us sons and so disciplines us.  Discipline is a good thing!  It doesn’t feel like it at the time, but it will yield the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” to those who have been trained by it!!  This is the purpose of discipline laid out in Scripture.

Now comes the difficult part.  Does this mean spanking?  Maybe, maybe not.  What we do know from this verse is that discipline is not pleasant, it causes pain for a period of time, it is a good thing and for our own good, and it is to produce righteousness and holiness in us.  Spanking will cause pain for a brief period of time and definitely is not pleasant!  If used correctly (i.e. to teach and not to condemn), it can be a good thing which will produce in us righteousness.  It does not appear from Scripture it has to be spanking and yet it does not appear it can’t be. 

If spanking is done out of anger with the parent wanting revenge on their child, this is not Biblical discipline.  This would be the other kind of punishment involving judgment and condemnation (this would be Strong’s #2581 and not #3811).  Biblical discipline is to be for our good in the end.  Unfortunately, many GCMers see all spanking as revenge.  They tend to allude to someone who is NOT anti-spanking as abusers.  They can not see past this to see that some parents do use spanking in a Biblical way.  They would probably argue this point by saying that it isn’t a Biblical way.  So let us look at other verses.

…to be continued.
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15 responses to “To Spank or Not to Spank? part 1

  1. It seems to me that “the kind of spanking that teaches” is basically only capable of teaching one thing: that some actions that “you” (the child) do will lead to people who love you choosing to intentionally hurt you by hitting your body.

    Sure, they also learn which actions those are, and would follow the ordinary impulse to avoid pain — but that’s not learning anything they didn’t already know. Everybody knows at an instinctive level to avoid pain. It’s a survival instinct, nothing more.

    If you want to teach, educate, tutor and disciple children well — you’ve got to get beyond “Don’t do that, because if you do, I’ll hit you.” As the basic lesson of parenting. Not only is it a pretty pointless lesson, it’s also very contradictory to the fruit of the Spirit and the heart of humble compassion that should characterize Christians. As Christan parents, our relationship to our children is a ministry. There really isn’t any role for pain as a control tactic in that ministry context.

    • Anti-spankers often see spanking in a different way than spankers. For example, a parent pulls their child back from a cliff because they see the danger of falling that their child does not see. The child’s arm might get hurt in the processs. The anti-spanker would say, “Why did you hurt your child’s arm? How could you do such a thing!” The spanking parent would say, “How could I not pull my child away from the danger I see but they do not? I would rather my child have a sore arm than have my child’s life be taken away.” The anti-spanker sees in the spanking that the parent is hurting their own child. The spanker sees that they are trying to keep their child from the danger of sin (Ezekiel 18:20, Romans 6:23). A sore bottom is nothing compared to a soul that dies. They know that if a child does not see how awful their sin is, they will continue to walk in it (closer to the edge of the cliff in my above example). The anti-spanker sees it as hate, vengence and abuse. The spanker sees it as a loving and caring responsibility to help their child see the seriousness of their sins.

      I agree that if your idea of spanking is, “Don’t do that, because if you do I will hit you,” then that is not a correct way of Biblical discipline and it isn’t good. These parents should lovingly be pointed to the purpose of discipline and correction from God’s Word.

      • There are really a lot of ways to clearly and consistantly teach children about right and wrong. It is not nessisary to hurt people in order to teach them well. Most people learn best when they are calm, not when they are hurt and frightened. That is when we communicate theology to children: when they are able to focus on it, understand it, and take it seriously. Pain is not a good communicator.

        Sin is serious, yet none of us will ever be spanked hard enough to avoid its clutches. Every child will sin, and every child will need to come to Jesus for the extravagant grace of His salvation. There is no sense in trying to avoid this Biblical through harsh parenting choices like hitting our children.

      • Spankers can look at some anti-spankers and think the way they discipline is harsh, depending on what is done or not done. It is all in the eyes of the beholder. Discipline according to Hebrews 12:11 brings grief (synonyms according to Strong’s: sorrow or sadness). Christian parents should be encouraging one another to make sure that whatever they do they are doing to teach their child(ren) that sin is bad but God through Christ is forgiving.

  2. Pingback: God’s Discipline | Quality of Life Ministries

  3. there is a fundamental flaw in your arguement- ‘discipline’ is a LATIN word, ‘discipuli’, meaning ‘student’. It may further interest you that the greeks NEVER hit their kids. they followed a method of teaching their sons called ‘paedeia’ which involved patient, careful instruction and mentoring. They did only teach sons- daughters were never educated. so there is, in fact NO connection linguistically or philosophically between the idea of punishment and the word from the latin meaning ‘student’. very simply ‘discipline’ does NOT mean ‘punish’. It never did. Whatever word strongs has translated from greek into the english word discipline, does NOT mean punish.

    • First of all the New Testament is written in Greek not Latin. Second, one of the Greek words I defined was paideia. It has to do with teaching a child by correcting and instructing. This is the word used in Hebrews 12 where it describes it as being grievous at the time. So the context of Hebrews is just that. You can argue all you want about what discipuli means in Latin and all that mumbo-jumbo talk about linguistics and philosophy, but my reasoning will be based on the Greek and Hebrew words from the Bible and the context from the Bible. There really is no point in discussing anything if your starting point is not the Bible.

  4. you have managed to miss the entire point of my post. the english word you are using to translate paedeia as discipline is not a greek root word. The new testament was first translated from greek into Latin and then into english. This is why paedeia is mistakenly translated into english as a latin root word. This is not mumbo-jumb, this is language. It is the vehicle by which we convey ideas. throw it out the window if you will, it still means what it means.

    • I think you too missed the point of my comment. The context helps define it. I am going to go with what the Bible says and not what the Greeks used to do or not do. The Bible says chastening is not pleasant. I am not even arguing that it needs to be spanking, but that it could be because of how the Bible uses the word. Will you agree that chastening is not a pleasant thing at the time based on Hebrews 12? If not, there really is no need to continue this discussion.

  5. Your definitions of ‘chasten’ differ from child to adult, however. which definition should I be using? In addition, you are using not the Bible itself- but the translators’ opinion of what that word meant. The context includes what the greeks did and did not believe and do. Is it embarrassing to find out I’ve been wrong, made a mistake, etc? yes, sometimes. Sometimes it’s just an honest error and I want to be shown the correct path. Just because it CAN be embarrassing to be corrected doesn’t mean it MUST be embarrassing or painful to be effective. At least that has been my experience as an adult. Do you always find it painful to find yourself in error?

  6. Pingback: To Spank or Not To Spank? part 2 | exposegcm

  7. Pingback: To Spank or Not To Spank? part 2 | exposegcm

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