This blog is devoted to discussing the pursuit of eternal life.
Discussion and participation by readers is desired,
but contributions should correlate to the book,
The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology
of Perseverance & Assurance

Thomas R. Schreiner
& Ardel B. Caneday

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Perseverance and Child Rearing

Do you have dealings with adults who are cruel to others where they have power and sulky where they have none? Do you encounter men and women who are are overbearing, rude, manipulating, and untruthful? It is likely that you have encountered an adult whose parents exercised hate instead of love in their haphazard and unprincipled discipline of their children.

Many of the great difficulties that we run into with our adult peers are directly due to the fact that so many of these peers were reared by their parents to become brats in the workplace, in the home, on the highways, in fact, wherever they may be. Why? Their parents did not love them but hated them. What? What a shocking thing to say! Really? Do we believe God or do we not? Do we believe that God's Word is truthful or not? Do we really believe God's Word when it says, "Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him" (Prov. 13:24)? 

Disciplining children is much more difficult than many parents would have others believe, given their hatred for their children which they mistake for love. Disciplining children is much easier than most parents believe or realize, if only they would embrace the wisdom of Scripture and consistently and lovingly apply it.

When my wife and I became parents for the first time we were determined not to discipline our son as we observed other parents doing, which entailed endless threats but never followed by punishment. Likewise, we were committed to rear our son without the tendency toward austerity which characterized how many parents disciplined when the two of us were children. We were entirely convinced that we were obligated, as Christian parents, to adhere to and to practice the principles of child rearing that Scripture teaches. So, of course, all of Scripture, but especially the Proverbs, regulated our parenting. We read Bruce Ray's Withhold Not Correction which was instructional for us, guiding us, correcting us, and encouraging us.

Because we wanted our children to be able to distinguish and to recognize the difference between punishment and affection, from the beginning, we decided that we would never directly use our hands to inflict punishment. We did not want our children to be terrorized by the sight of our hands. We wanted the direct touch of our hands to be reserved for show of affection that should be welcomed. Therefore, I crafted a paddle from a select piece of pine that I deemed sturdy enough to sustain spanking buttocks but soft enough to receive wood burning of a couple of verses from the Proverbs, one on each side.

On one side, as a visual exhortation for my wife and for me, I burned Proverbs 23:13-14--"Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol."

On the other side, as a visual reminder for our children, I burned Proverbs 13:24--"Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him."

Thus, each time we would use the paddle to spank for disobedience, whether by way of sinful deed or demeanor, we would use the verses on the paddle to explain why we spanked. In other words, in our home, spanking our sons was evangelistic, administered to save them from God's coming wrath. We expressly told them that we spanked them because we loved them enough to inflict minor temporal pain upon their posteriors in order that we might spare them from the eternal infliction of God's wrath upon them forever. Spankings were devoted to administering the call of the gospel upon our two sons.

Unfortunately, my estimation of the durability of the select pine for the paddle proved greatly disproportionate to the impact strength of its fibers. It did not take many spankings before the paddle sustained a fatal crack. I repaired the paddle with reinforcing dowels secured in holes drilled cross-grain. This proved both aesthetically displeasing and structurally inadequate. So we retired that paddle and I produced another from walnut which finally cracked years after no more corporal punishment needed to be administered but only from insufficient humidity control. Actually, I produced many paddles, mostly from cherry and oak, and sold them. Our sons each have a couple of those paddles that they use on their children's back sides today.

What prompted this blog entry today is my happening upon a quotation from a book that recalled how reassuring it was when I was a young father who was called upon more frequently than desired to spank. A local Christian radio station broadcast a program early in the morning, to which I would listen during my drive to work. This radio program entailed readings from classic Christian books, particularly recent reprints. In the year that our first son was born, Kregel Publication published Studies in Proverbs: Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth by William Arnot. It was one of the classics from which the radio host would read excepts. One of the portions read is the following, expounding the significance of Proverbs 13:24.
You indulge your child and do not correct him; you permit selfishness, and envy, and anger to encrust themselves, by successive layers, thicker and thicker on his character: you beseech him not to be naughty, but never enforce your injunction by a firm application of the rod; and you think the fault, if it be a fault, is a very trivial one: perhaps you appropriate to yourself a measure of blame for loving your child too much. Nay brother; be not deceived; call things by their right names. Beware of the woe denounced against those who call evil good. You do not love, you hate your child.
Sparing the rod is the specific act, or habit, which is charged against the parent, as being equivalent to hating his son. The child begins to act the tyrant: he is cruel where he has power and sulky where he has not: he is rude, overbearing, untruthful. These and kindred vices are distinctly forming on his life, and growing with his growth. The matter is reported to the father, and the same things are done in his presence. He tells the child to do better, and dismisses him with caresses. This process is frequently repeated. The child discovers that he can transgress with impunity. The father threatens sometimes, but punishes never. The child grows rapidly worse. By the certainty of escaping, acting in concert with a corrupt nature, the habit of intentional evil-doing is formed and confirmed. All the while the father takes and gets the credit of being, if not a very wise, at least a very loving parent. No; it is mere prostitution of that hallowed name to apply it to such ignoble selfishness. Love, though very soft, is also very strong. It will not give way before slight obstacles. To sacrifice self is of its very essence. If it be in you, it will quickly make your own ease give way for the good of its object. When a father gives the child all his own way, yielding more the more he frets, until the child finds out that he can get anything by imperiously demanding it, he yields not from love to his child, but from loathsome love of ease to himself. It is a low animal laziness that will not allow its own oily surface to be ruffled even to save a son. If there were real love, it would be strong enough to endure the pain of refusing to comply with improper demands, and chastening for intentional or persistent wrong-doing. Parents who are in the habit of giving their children what they ask, and permitting them to disobey without chastisement, may read their own character in this verse of Scripture. Such a father “hateth his son” that is the word. To call it love is one of Satan’s lies. It is unmingled selfishness. The man who gravely tells his child what is wrong, and, if the wrong is repeated, sternly chastens him,--that man really loves his child, and sacrifices his own ease for the child's highest good. It is enough to break one's heart to think how many young people are thrown off the rails at some unexpected turn of life by the momentum of their own impetuousness, for want of a father's firm hand to apply in time the necessary break. We need a manful, hardy love--a love that will bear and do to the uttermost for all the interests of its objects. 
Continue reading here.

Of course, parents, but especially fathers, need to give close attention to how they discipline lest they provoke their children to anger (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21). Few things are so disturbing to me as a parent, especially a father, who beats his children out of anger and rage, landing blows upon the body not designed by our Creator to receive striking and pounding. With paddle in my hand, it had one and only one proper portion of the body for its blunt and restrained application. In keeping with this, Arnot administers the following proper admonition.

Let it be remembered here, however, that every blow dealt by a father's hand is not parental chastening. To strike right and left against children, merely because you are angry and they are weak, is brutish in its character and mischievous in its effect. A big dog bites a little one who offends him: what do ye more than they? Never once should a hand be laid upon a child in the hasty impulse of anger.
Discipline your children for eternity. Spank now lest they be spanked eternally. Do you love your children? I could not hold back; I had to add the following from Arnot.

When a father puts forth his strength to hold the struggling victim, and applies the rod, although every stroke thrills [quivers] through his own heart, this is love such as God commands and approves. Our Father in heaven chastens the children whom He loves, and does not spare for their crying. Genuine parental love on earth is an imitation of His own.


Pilgrim said...

Very, very good.

Would you agree that if someone does not understand, or agree with, what you've said here, that he is missing a significant piece of the knowledge of God? I'm thinking mainly of Hebrews 12. If a man (or woman) refuses to correct his children with the rod, I think it's likely he doesn't understand the Heavenly Father's ways with His children.

I am consistently befuddled and chagrined when I meet Christians who recite the culture's mantras about disciplining children: "hitting is always wrong," or "I don't want to teach my children to hit people," or "my father abused me, so I'll never hit a child."

I'm beginning to think that this is an issue most pastors put in the "grey area" category, when in fact the Word is clear as a bell.

A. B. Caneday said...

I agree, Joe. Playing the father to our own children is, perhaps, filling the most basic of all earthly analogical roles males have to fill as we bear God's image and likeness.

As we who believe in Christ Jesus are God's children, whom he disciplines, so we fathers are "as god" to our children, displaying both his pleasure and sorrow to our children as we seek to discipline them to look to God alone as the one who is able to save them from his own wrath.

For anyone who was ever physically abused by one's earthly father, the corrective is not to swing to the opposite extreme, as though a proper spanking is morally equivalent to abusive striking. They measures I took to employ a paddle and not my own hand function well as a corrective against physical abuse. Of course, never spanking out of rage is crucial to avoid physical abuse.

Actually, I am persuaded that our entire nation is suffering severely because parents have failed to discipline an entire generation of children. We live in a nation full of spoiled brats whose parents elevated them to the places of kings and queens in their homes while they were yet children. Hence, they are entitled to everything.