Archive for March, 2011

Matt 18:15, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

Despite common teachings on this verse, pagans and tax collectors were not cast out of the church. They were treated as outcasts by Pharisees, yes. But, by Christians, they were viewed differently. Jesus ate with pagans and tax collectors, to better convey to them the message of the gospel. This verse  is not talking about an act of disassociation. It’s referring to a change of mindset: viewing these brothers and sisters as people to be won over! People to love, even more fervently! It implies a call to forgive them, and begin to view them differently, approaching them with the same patience, love, and carefulness you’d approach a nonbeliever. Almost as if we are to “start over” in our relationships with them.

Luke 23:34, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.”   Jesus said this, even though they continued to humiliate Him.

The letter from my concerned reader (mentioned in “Addendum”) has inspired me! I’ve approached FOF as directly as possible. According to Scripture, my next step would be to approach them with the testimony of two or three others. If you know of a good, lovingly explained testimony of how Dobson’s teachings have negatively affected a family, please post the link(s) below in comments. I will choose two or three of them to include in a new letter to FOF.


[In an upcoming post, I do wish to explore how we can apply the above Biblical principles to our duty as parents.]


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It was brought to my attention recently by one of my readers that my comments about Solomon in the post, “Grace”, may seem to discredit the Bible as God’s Word, or may indicate that I don’t believe the Bible is entirely true. The same reader was also concerned that my letters to Dobson were disrespectful to him, and posting them here was slander, not in keeping with the Biblical mandate to approach our brothers and sisters directly to resolve conflicts.

I appreciate her thoughts on the matter, and understand her concerns. It is never my intention to cause anyone to be stumbled by my writings. I do believe the Bible is entirely God’s Word, and I tried to approach Dr. Dobson in a loving, Biblical manner.

My goal with this blog is to present a more Biblically accurate approach to child discipline than what has traditionally been taught in our culture, by Dobson and others. I don’t believe any if them have meant any harm to children. But, unclear interpretation of Scripture, combined with the natural sinfulness of man, can become Satan’s playground.

Following are excerpts from my reply to her.  I hope it may clear up any confusion I may have caused for others:

On reading 1 Kings chapters 11 and 12, we find the accounts of Solomon’s rebellion against God, and Solomon’s son, Rehoboam’s, slander against his father. While I DO believe that the whole Bible is God’s inspired Word, I am thankful God sees fit to tell us the whole story. Solomon, in all his glory and God-given wisdom, in the end, did not make wise choices.

If the proverbs literally mean we’re suppose to beat our (adult) offspring, then these fall under grace, as do the commands to stone, as Jesus illustrated with his parable of the prodigal son, and also with his treatment of the woman caught in adultery.

While I do hold Solomon’s wisdom in high regard, because he was inspired by God to write them, I still hold the direct teachings of Jesus above all.

There is no record anywhere in the Bible of someone actually beating a child with a rod. Solomon is the closest example we have, and it seems his sons didn’t hold him in high regard, neither did they seem very merciful. They seemed to be following in Solomon’s footsteps, to whip and scourge the people of Israel.

However, inspired by God’s wisdom through the Proverbs, I take seriously the wisdom to be a constant source of authority for my children.

Although I did not write directly to Dr. James Dobson, I got about as close as possible. My real hope was that the letters would make their way into his hands. Since there’s no way to call him up on the phone, writing to his organization is the closest I can get to confronting him directly.

I am writing on behalf of all families who’ve been negatively affected by his teachings on child discipline. I felt, then, that it was appropriate and helpful to also allow families like ours, access to the responses I received. Affected families, as they so choose to seek websites like mine, may choose to also share the letters on their own blogs.

I do not feel that I have slandered Dr. Dobson in any way. I mentioned more than once the positive influence he’s had on my marriage. I simply reiterated the facts as they unfolded for my family.

It could be argued that the practice is in direct disobedience to everything Christ teaches. I can conclude since He spared stones, He would also likely spare the rod. It is dangerous for Christian organizations to create a whole system of “Biblical” spanking, based on unclear interpretations of a few Proverbs taken out of context.

It’s important to note, sparing the literal rod does not mean we spare the figurative rod. Children need discipline. It is has been through loving, Christian approaches, such as those described on gentlechristianmothers and goybparenting, that we’ve found ways to truly disciple (the root of the word, discipline) our children.

By openly talking about these difficult experiences in our lives, we pray to influence Christians to turn way from these damaging practices, so others can avoid the same mistakes. We are aware that many people were spanked and turned out just fine. I’m one of those. However, for every person whom God’s grace allowed a good outcome, there are countless other families at their wits end because of spanking. Marathon spankings are not uncommon, even among loving families. It is especially the spirited, lively, intense kids who suffer. I’m certain FOF does not intend these outcomes, but it’s important they’re aware it’s happening.

I appreciate the time anyone takes to write me, and pray my answers have been satisfactory.

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2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

I’ve been there. Your child does something so defiant, you honestly don’t know what to do. You try everything you can think of, then find yourself reaching out for tactics you don’t want to use. You think, “I am doing this in love. It is for their own good. After all, doesn’t the Bible say to do this? Why does it feel so awful?! I wish there was another way.”

I’m going to present to you some Biblical evidence that perhaps it doesn’t have to be this way…that perhaps there IS another Biblical way to discipline. You may think you’ve heard it all before. But, don’t you owe it to yourself to closely reexamine what the Bible really says? Don’t you owe it to your child to find out if there is, in fact, a better way? And, don’t you owe it your Creator, the Creator of your child, to make sure you’re “rightly dividing” His Word? I am so thankful someone pointed this out to me! I can’t help but share it with others!

You’ve heard that the Bible says, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Can you find that chapter & verse? No. It’s simply not in the Bible. This quote comes from a 17th century poem (see footnote A), not the Bible. The Bible verses refering to a rod of discipline are as follows:

Pr 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Pr 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Pr 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

Pr 23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Pr 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

The first thing we need to examine is, are we literally obeying the Bible when we spank? No, because the Bible speaks of “beating” a “child” with a “rod”. I’m not suggesting anyone beat their child with a rod to properly obey the Bible! I’m just pointing out that if we really thought these verses should be taken literally, we’d in fact be beating our young children with something like a shepherd’s staff. In which case, they certainly could die, even though Proverbs 23:13 (above) says they would not. Scripture is Truth, and does not lie! Further proof that these beatings are figurative, not literal.

Do we stone adulterers anymore? Do we any longer stone our rebellious adult offspring? No, because we live in the age of GRACE!  Praise Jesus, for He made it quite clear how we are to react in these situations! (John 8:3-11, Luke 15:11-32- The Woman Caught in Adultery, and The Prodigal Son.) So, even if we could conclude that the rod verses should be taken exactly literal, we can clearly see they are no longer valid in this age of grace Jesus has made possible!

If these verses aren’t literal, or in line with grace, what do they mean? How are we to apply them?

The word “rod” is used figuratively many times in the Old Testement as a representation of God’s authority over a nation, or of one nation’s authority over another. A literal rod was usually a shepherd’s staff, (used to beat off the enemy- wolves, bears, lions-, not in hitting the sheep), or a septre (staff) carried by a king or head of household to REPRESENT their authority and guidance.

Try replacing the word “rod” in these verses with it’s figurative meaning, the words “authority”, or even “guidance”. To encompass both meanings, we’ll use, “authoritative guidance”.

Next, do these verses certainly apply to a literal child, who is typically the recipient of spankings? Most likely not. The meaning of the word “child” here is simply “offspring”, or sometimes, “young man”. An elderly lady can say she has five children, but we wouldn’t think she means actual young children. We’d know she means “adult children” or “adult offspring”.

The word “beat” here is the same word used in the account of Jonah when the sun “beat” down upon him. (Jonah 4:8) Did the sun reach down & hit Jonah? No! We understand that “beat” here means, “a constant source”. Therefore, we can also replace the word “beat” in the “rod” verses with “a constant source”.

And, so we have:

Pr 13:24 He that spareth his “authoritative guidance” hateth his [adult] son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Pr 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a “young man”; but the “authoritative guidance” of correction shall drive it far from him.

Pr 23:13 Withhold not correction from the “young man”; for if thou “apply a constant source” with “authoritative guidance” he shall not die.

Pr 23:14 Thou shalt “apply a constant source” with “authoritative guidance” and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Pr 29:15 “Authoritative guidance”and reproof give wisdom: but a “young man” left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

And, this is exactly how Jews in Old Testement times took these verses
(see footnotes B). They were commands to guide their adult children. And, isn’t that what Proverbs is all about!

Proverbs 1:8-9, “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.”

It is clear, then, that parents are called to be a constant source of authoritative guidance for their offspring, all throughout their lives!  I am not convinced, however, that God has commanded me to discipline my children by hitting.

Since the Bible does not mean we are to discipline children by hitting, how does the Bible say we, as parents, should discipline?

We can find the answer through further examination of these verses. Some other words used in these verses have become synonymous with punishment over the years, when in fact, their simplest definitions are as follows. They are chastening, correction, and reproof.

Chasten: to restrain or subdue. Restrain: to hold back, or keep in check. Subdue: to hold within limits; to quieten (calm).

Correction: something that is substituted or proposed for what is wrong or inaccurate.

Reproof: the act of expressing disapproval.

In it’s simplest form, discipline means that I express my disapproval, calm my child and help him keep within limits, and teach him to substitute a right
for a wrong.

2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”

The word, “discipline” comes from the word, “disciple”. Therefore, discipline of children shouldn’t be much different from discipleship of believers! The New Testament is chock full of instruction for disciples! (And, none of these instructions includes hitting disciples.) This should make our search for Biblical answers much easier! Praise God!


A- “Hudibras”, by Samuel Butler, 17th century

Wikepedia: [In his poem, Butler originated the phrase “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” and although the phrase is often taken to be a Biblical injunction about child-rearing, (probably as a corruption of Book of Proverbs 13:24), ….

“Love is a boy by poets stil’d
Then spare the rod and spoil the child” (Part II, Canto I, ll. 839-44).]

B- “The Rod or Shebet: An Indepth Examination”, by Joan Renae, http://www.gentlechristianmothers.com/articles/rodstudy.php :

“She had the Hebrew checked by three rabbis who confirmed this interpretation of ‘shebet’.”

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