Sunday, April 24, 2011

Abusive Parenting

The mainstream media cranks out another expose of a particular parental perversion of Christianity. Is what the Bible says now wrong, because somebody in a church abused what Scripture said? Some brakes failed so now we shuck the automobile? We feel turbulence, so we start strapping on the parachute? Living by faith requires not bailing on what God said when the world says it has some evidence against it. Victims of bad parenting hold no unique authority for good parenting. Being a victim doesn't make someone an expert on how something should be done. It doesn't qualify you as a spokesman for anything.

Many bewail the multiplication and spread of abusive parenting. They mean corporal punishment of children. I join the outcry against abusive parenting, but not against corporal punishment. Who is right? Who is wrong?

Cultural and political correctness oppose spanking as a form of child discipline. Now churches have boarded this bus for easy applause from and strategic attraction of the world, becoming the new quote machines for secular social intervention. Here's a recent example:

[S]adly, the “rod proverbs” are the main so-called biblical grounds that countless parents use to justify the unwarranted and ungodly harming of their children. . . . There is a lot of abuse that is happening and it is time that the opposition to it move from the shrill voices on the sidelines that are sometimes righteously, sometimes bitterly, calling attention to the scandal to center stage.

I believe that spanking is indeed allowed and, therefore, optional. But that is a long-shot from saying it is commanded and, therefore, freely at the disposition of parents to use whenever, however, and for whatever reason they may desire.

I read the wiggle room with ease of deniability, but do Proverbs really provide the basis for abusive parenting? Is the major issue in abuse today a skewing of the "rod proverbs"? Or could it be that we don't have enough close attention to what the Bible says about parenting? In other words, we have too many people operating by the seat of their pants, no pun intended. They are ad libbing, making it up as they go along, or even doing what ever feels right at the time. Who really is abusing children today? Is it the "rod" propagators? Or should we look somewhere else for what is the true blame for bad child development?

What God says also works. Even if it wasn't designed "to work," we should go ahead and do it, because it is what God said. When what God says then does work, God gets the glory for it. And that's why we're here---for His glory. Following our own plan glorifies us.

A theological view buttresses the rejection of corporal child discipline. Churches don't necessarily take the view, but they borrow it with their own new positions against physical punishment. Sin is bad. God hates it. Sin deserves punishment. God punishes sin. We don't understand salvation if we don't understand that sin deserves punishment.

The world's view is that kids have got problems and they need some kind of therapy or psychology to change. People are animals and there is not absolute right or wrong. If we want different behavior, we can use various means to motivate it with the view of adapting and evolving. You don't want the children to feel judged or rejected. You can reason with them to see progress and growth.

Punishment of sin says that the child has done wrong. Punishment of sin shows hatred for sin. Punishment of sin says God does not approve and rejects that behavior. The punishment is right. The sin is wrong. We deserve punishment for sin. Escape of punishment does not mean that no one gets punished. God's justice requires punishment. The understanding of substitutionary death says that Jesus is punished in our place. We deserved the punishment, but Jesus took that punishment for us. To understand substitution, children need to see they deserve punishment. Who needs salvation is there is no punishment? No one does.

Punishment shows that sin is serious. It is God's designed way to see it as serious. Today's church leaders very often see the punishment as what is serious, not the sin. If punishment was not serious, then why would God the Father expose His own Son to the punishment for our sins?God the Father takes our sin and its punishment very seriously. We are not more loving than God the Father, just because we will not punish. God is love.

Sin needs to be punished. The "rod" in Proverbs is about punishment of sin. It reveals the righteousness and holiness of God. It reproves and corrects. Sin is of greater harm than punishment. Sin is to be hated, not the punishment. We are not better for our lighter view of punishment. We can show mercy, but not a lesser view of punishment, if we want our children to understand God's hatred of sin and the seriousness of that sin.

God is going to punish sin. God is True. God Is Wise. God Is All in All.

Many Christian leaders today are more concerned about punishment of sin than they are about sin itself. They are more fine with sinning than punishment for sinning. Sin offends God. Punishment offends them. They are more willing to allow sin than to allow punishment.

The conscience is guided by the law written in our hearts. The conscience is less trained when we will not punish sin. Sin becomes acceptable. The law is diminished in the heart and the conscience is less effective. The person becomes more a candidate for shipwreck. Little to no warning will sound because the conscience has been salved into a non-working or inefficient state. Without that warning device at full operation a person is less prepared for moral catastrophe. Damaging the conscience as such is unloving. The lack of punishment of sin is unloving.

The Bible gives two parental responses to sin---rod and reproof. It is not rod or reproof. It is rod and reproof. Both are needed. Only reproof is not enough. Scripture does not offer to parents other treatment of sin than rod and reproof. It does not offer "time-out," for instance. God's Word is sufficient. It furnishes us to every good work, even every good parenting work. What is not in the Bible is not better. We are bound to failure when we follow our own way and not God's and God is not glorified by our way. Rod is required because rod is the only prescribed way in inclusion with reproof. Scripture does not teach another way.

Many church leaders have painted corporal punishment of children as some kind of wild-eyed, raging beating. The parents who do so are often out of control. They strike their children in a deranged way. That representation reflects poorly on the work of Proverbs in the life of these parents and even upon God Himself. God is the One who revealed that to mankind. No one knows better about parenting than God.

Take a moment to imagine my motive. You'll do that if you want an easy way, albeit lacking in integrity and moral scruples, to analyze this essay. You'll say that here we've got the arguments of someone who enjoys child beating. He wants to justify his child abuse. He wants to protect child abusers. Three words: judge righteous judgment. Also, stop your self-deluded excuses for parental delinquency. Cease from your madness. Read the Bible. Listen to what God says therein.

Not following biblical teaching on child discipline is abusive. When parents don't use the God-directed means, they rely on their own means. The children will be more disobedient and parents become more on edge. The parents often use non-scriptural means as yelling, threatening, badgering, comparisons, sarcasm, and other verbal techniques. Building anger in the parent could more likely result in sudden, impulsive violence to the child. Or they are just allowed to get away with sin, and so view sin in a more positive way. Sin is a light thing, only a trifle, like it was with King Ahab. And the child does more sinning and gets away with more. Or the child builds up damaging guilt from the lack of punishment. Punishment provides a type of cleansing of guilt. A child has paid for his wrong doing and can move on without the guilt. The guilt causes an internal pain worse than the pain of the physical punishment. That is abusive parenting.

And then because of a lack of corporal punishment, bad behaving children are all over. They don't take their sin seriously, so they keep sinning. They don't see sin to be wrong, even sins like stealing and murder. Someone may say they' re wrong, but the child hasn't been disciplined. So easily there is more thievery and murders. The out of control behavior often characteristic of young people leads to criminal activity, resulting many times in the death of a well-trained, disciplined child at the hands of the undisciplined one. Now the disciplined child and his parents are victims. Will the news media do a special on behalf of these victims? Will pastors of churches stand up for the victims of the crimes committed by men who did not receive corporal punishment for their childhood sins?

Children are abused by other children, bullies, who aren't stopped in their behavior by caring, corporal punishment. This kind of victimization is occurring every day all over. Men and women are robbed by these children who weren't disciplined. People are murdered by these criminals who were not spanked for their childhood transgressions. Will there be an outcry against this kind of abusive parenting?

Parents will be cowered into giving speeches instead using a thin tree branch on the bottom of their child. They will be afraid of being branded by anti-spanking advocates, who often view children as animals in need of psychological treatment. When they look for help, they'll also get the same from these preachers, who like the support they get from the world. Shame on them. Shame on their faithlessness.


jg said...

Thank you, Brother Brandenburg.

Child abuse comes when parents get frustrated because they haven't been faithfully disciplining according to Biblical principles. They get angry and then discipline in wrath rather than based on sound principles.

The more Biblical discipline is rejected, the more punishment for sin is excluded from discussions of parenting, the more people reject the need to be a model of the Heavenly Father to their children in the chastening that love dictates, the more child abuse there will be.

The more we model the Father's attitude toward sin (punishment, forgiveness, reconciliation), the better our children will come to understand Him, and understand that our sin had to be punished for there to be reconciliation. To discipline our children as God commanded is to help them learn the Gospel. It is no wonder the world hates Biblical discipline.

Robert said...

Even if someone explains away Proverbs as requiring physical discipline for the sake of correction of wrongdoing (all the attempts at which that I've seen so far I find less than convincing) what in the world are we to do with Hebrews 12? If God scourges all of His sons for our profit in partaking of His holiness, how do expect our children to profit without the same methodology?

d4v34x said...


Does the Father punish His children?

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks. I was thinking about 2 Tim 3, in the last days, men shall be...disobedient to parents. Why will disobedience to parents become rampant?


I agree with your Heb 12, something often missed. We're copying the Father's parenting.


I'll wait on JG.

jg said...


Every sin is punished by God. Either we bear the punishment ourselves or we are crucified with Christ. This is true of all of His offspring.

When earthly parents punish the sins of our children, we are giving them a picture of how the Heavenly Father views sin, and when we don't, we are giving them a false picture of Him.

Furthermore, Hebrews 12 makes it clear that the Father does indeed chasten His sons. I am not necessarily persuaded that chastening and punishment are one and the same, but notice II Samuel 7:14. When we juxtapose it with Hebrews 12, we see clear endorsement of corporal chastening. If there is a difference in emphasis between chastening and punishment, nevertheless they appear very similar externally.

Perhaps we could sum up by saying that God always punishes the sins of His children, and that He certainly chastens us. Furthermore, His description of His chastening provides an endorsement of corporal parental chastening.

No doubt Brother Brandenburg could answer at least as well as I have, but for some reason he left it to me. There is more that could be said, perhaps, but I have very limited time for Internet conversations -- there are lost people out there, and real work to do. I'll probably make this my last comment.

Brother Brandenburg, thank you for posting my thoughts, and may the Lord bless your service for Him. If I ever make it to your area, I'm going to come and see you, Lord willing.

Anonymous said...


I'm a nervy sort, and won't wait on JG.

Does God punish His children? Yes, He does. That's what chastisement is. Really, there's no need for a lengthy exposition, since the answer to your question is quite obvious. See Hebrews 12:5-17, Proverbs 3:11-12, I Corinthians 11:27-34, and pretty much the entire book of Judges, for starters.

Please note that Hebrews, in fact, tells us that those who profess to be Christians but who do NOT receive punishment from the Lord when they have sinned and are not getting it right with Him, are illegitimate, they have no right to claim to be His children.

Oh, and please don't make the basic mistake of trying to equate temporal chastisement with eternal damnation.

d4v34x said...

I don't equate the two. I also don't equate chastisement and punishment.

Kent Brandenburg said...


It's a fairly technical difference, especially as we bring in the concept of parenting. Someone will receive punishment for sin or his replacement. After we're saved, we're chastised. Children are both punished and chastised. What I've written in my piece, I believe, stands the test of this technical scrutiny.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Brandenblogger, D4 - Chastisement is a subset of punishment, I would think.

After all, we're told that no chastement seems joyous, but is instead grievous, at the time it is received - so it's obvious that there is an element of punishment involved, insofar as we understand that word to be referring to something painful, or at least unpleasant.

I think what may be at issue is that many people tend to equate the term "punishment" with its retributive sense only, when punishment has, or can have, both retributive AND rehabilitative senses.

To parse it logically, punishment is the set, chastisement is a subset of this set.

Further, we know God punishes His own because His Word says so (Lev. 26:18,24; Jer. 36:31, Hos: 4:9, etc.). In each of these cases, there is a very definite rehabilitative aim (however sternly applied) directed toward God's people, much as we're told about chastisement in the NT.