Spanking and the Inspiration of the Scriptures

By Kyle Pope

A recent program I watched on television focused its attention 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. The program then pointed out that the Bible itself teaches physical punishment of children as a part of training them. The question was then asked (to the effect) “Can the Bible, history and tradition all be wrong?” The remainder of the program looked at the views of “experts” that answered this question 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 either: (I) 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! He has instructed what is actually destructive to such development! And thus his admonitions must not be heeded on this subject, That may sound rather strong but I believe that is exactly what such a concession must confess.

What we must understand first are the claims of scripture. It does not purport to be man’s commentary on God’s will but rather the mind of God revealed to man directly. Thus 2 Peter 1:20,21 claims … 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). Further, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 claims “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). So it is clear that the claim is that Scripture is God’s word. One can either accept that or not, but to be true to scripture one must admit at least what the Bible claims about itself!

So then, what are the claims of scripture about the concept of corporal punishment? (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” (Prov. 23:13, NKJV). (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” (Prov. 22:15).

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). It can lead to wisdom and (5) It is shameful to neglect it “The rod and reproof giveth wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Prov. 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” (Prov. 19:18). (7) It can benefit a child spiritually “You shall beat him with a rod and deliver his soul from hell [that is Sheol]” (Prov. 29:17). (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” (Heb. 12:6).(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” (Heb. 12:9). (11) Though 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” (Heb. 12:11).

All of this makes it abundantly clear that 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 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 perhaps the most horrifying treatment of children imaginable. Sometimes in the name of discipline and sometimes out of some perverse pleasure in the inflicting of 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!

Perhaps the following questions would be good to ask ourselves the next time we discipline our children:

Why are we spanking them? (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 conscious objective?)

Have we given 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?)

I pray that godly mothers and fathers who love the Lord will boldly and courageously stand up for the unfailing truth of Gods word. At stake is not only our belief in the inspiration of scripture but our children themselves!

 Guardian of Truth XXXVII, No. 23, p.1
December 2, 1993