Corporal Discipline (aka corporal punishment and spanking) is strongly supported by God in the Bible

Secular "experts" and misguided Christians who dispense advice
 to the contrary are responsible for many of the discipline problems
experienced by parents and schools

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Introduction
What God tells us to do

What about "Christians" who abuse their children?

Guidance from other God-fearing successful parents

Misinterpretations of the corporal discipline Bible verses

Related links

Resources

References

Changes in some of our positions on this topic in March 2008
 


For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
1 Corinthians 3:19

Introduction

Many secular "experts", including most pediatricians, psychiatrists and psychologists have come out strongly against the use of corporal discipline in homes and in schools.  Unfortunately, many well-meaning parents have been deceived by the foolish advice of the "don't spank" crowd.  One only needs to go to a local grocery store or mall, or visit a typical public school to see the negative fruits of this misguided advice.  We are not suggesting that spanking is the only option that parents should have to deal with willful disobedience in their children.  Neither are we suggesting that it's acceptable to take it to abusive extremes.  What we are saying is that it is a God ordained method of discipline, that there are situations where it's the best option, and that completely ruling it out as a discipline option as the "don't spank" advocates would have us to do is in direct conflict with God's advice to us on how we should be dealing with defiance in our children. 

It has been my personal experience that people who consider all forms of corporal discipline to be "abuse" or "hitting" or "violence" mislead others in the following ways:

  1. They often quote studies where actual abuse is occurring, not ones where biblical corporal discipline was administered out of love for the child. In fact, I have never seen a study of the latter.

  2. They always ignore what their Creator has to say on the matter, or are ignorant of it.  If they claim to be Christians, they approach their bible study on this matter doing  eisegesis instead of exegesis.  As a result they end up engaging in all kinds of flawed bible interpretation in an attempt to try to force the Bible to support what they believe.

  3. They place a higher value on secular studies and fallible doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists instead of obeying the advice of the infallible God who created all of them, and who demands of us that we do things His way.

  4. They misrepresent what the Bible says on the topic, often because they don't really know what it actually says. When they do quote Christians in an effort to prove the Bible supports them, they will often quote misguided liberal Christians instead of quoting orthodox Christians who don't agree with them.

If you're interested in learning how to raise your children using training and discipline methods that work well, then ignore the secular "experts".  Instead, seek out conservative Christian materials and experts on the topic.  As the father of six children, I know from first-hand experience that these methods work very well, and that they have virtually none of the alleged negative side-affects the don't spank advocates claim they do.

 

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14

What God tells us to do

 

1.  Spanking is a valid form of discipline

God tells us that for willful disobedience and defiance, that corporal discipline is an appropriate form of discipline. He also says that parents who refuse to ever use this form of discipline "hate" their children.  

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

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

Withhold not correction from the child: for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.  Proverbs 23:13-14

 

2.  Use of a rod is the only biblical way to administer it

dowelrod.JPG (32205 bytes)

Dowel Rod
(click on thumbnail to see larger image)

It is our opinion that the use of paddles, hands, belts, whips or anything other than a rod falls outside of what God says we are supposed to do in terms of administering corporal discipline.  We believe that Dr. Davis did his homework in his video titled "What the Bible has to say about spanking" on this matter.  He concluded that a thin dowel rod most closely matches the 'rod' of discipline being referred to in the Bible for children.  He built a pretty strong biblical case for its use.  We encourage you to watch his video to gain a better understanding of why God chose this particular implement above all others.  A dowel rod can be purchased at any home improvement store. We prefer the 1/4" diameter for our medium aged children and a slightly thinner one for the younger ones.  You'll need to use your best judgment as to what's best for you, but it's probably a good idea to stay away from ones that are too thick and rigid (use common sense). 

In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod [is] for the back of him that is void of understanding.  Proverbs 10:14

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

Withhold not correction from the child: for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.  Proverbs 23:13-14

 

3.  The only place corporal discipline is allowed is on the buttocks

The word "buttocks" doesn't appear anywhere in the King James Bible in reference to discipline methods.  However, we can conclude from exegesis that the word "back" in the verses below are most likely referring to the buttocks.  

In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod [is] for the back of him that is void of understanding.  Proverbs 10:13

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.  Proverbs 26:3

 

4. We should not feel guilty about spanking our child

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.  Proverbs 19:18

 

5. A child who's throwing a temper tantrum should be promptly disciplined

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

 

6. No disrespect of the parents should be tolerated

If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having children not accused of riot or unruly. Titus 1:6

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) Ephesians 6:1-2

Children, obey [your] parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.  Colossians 3:20

 

7. Reasons God gives for having well disciplined, God-fearing, respectful children: 

Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work [be] pure, and whether [it be] right.  Proverbs 20:11

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

Withhold not correction from the child: for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.  Proverbs 23:13-14

The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise [child] shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice. Proverbs 23:24-25

Better [is] a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished. Ecclesiastes 4:13

One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) I Timothy 3:4-5

Rebuke not an elder, but intreat [him] as a father; [and] the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. I Timothy 5:1-4

 

7.  Parents should not use corporal discipline when angry

It is important that parents "cool off" first if they are angry before disciplining their children.  The reasons for doing this go beyond the obvious one of not abusing them.  The discipline and training is also much more effective when the child can plainly see that you're doing it out of love and not anger.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: James 1:19

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: Ephesians 4:31

But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Colossians 3:8

8. Parents shouldn't abuse their children either mentally or physically: 

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, provoke not your children [to anger], lest they be discouraged.  Colossians 3:21

 

What about "Christians" who abuse their children?

Most people have seen at least one news media report where some person or group that claims to be "Christian" was being investigated for what appears to be genuine child abuse.  I have on several occasions seen some of the "don't spank" advocates point to those stories as examples of why they are right, and we are wrong.  The problem is that they're comparing apples and oranges, often in more ways than one.  

When considering the whole counsel of God on this matter, it is clear that He in no way sanctioned the physical or mental abuse of their children.  The people who engage in this kind of abuse are acting outside of what God says they should be doing.  Pointing to them as examples of what the Bible teaches and what Christians in general are doing is highly misleading.  The overwhelming majority of Christian parents do not engage in abuse of their children.  When real abuse does occur, it occurs with people of all religions, including those who are counterfeit Christians.  

When trying to determine what "Christians" believe on this issue, the challenge for many non-Christians is to discern who is a real Christian and who isn't.  Since most of them don't have any real idea how to go about doing that, they tend to classify anyone who claims to be a Christian in their definition of what a "Christian" is.  That includes cults who clearly engage in child abuse practices under the banner of Christianity. There are also real Christians who engage in very liberal theology and those who engage in orthodox theology.  Again, the average non-Christian doesn't normally have a good enough understanding of scriptures to properly discern one from the other.  This matters because there are varying degrees of truth within the various denominations.  

All true Christian denominations or churches will have the core basic doctrines right.  Here's what to look for when trying to determine whether or not someone is a real Christian.

  1. At a minimum, they should agree with all of the doctrines in these biblical tests How to Test the Spirits. If they are an organized group, you can often find their core beliefs on their "Statement of Faith" page on their web sites.
  2. Those who profess to be Christians should also have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior
  3. They will not be members of a cult.  See Cults and Modern-Day False Prophets.  Many of the worse child abuse cases I've seen involved alleged "Christian" cults where the leader claimed to be the Messiah, or the reincarnated Jesus Christ.  This should be an obvious red flag to even non-Christians that these are counterfeit Christians, and that their abusive behavior should not be lumped in with the beliefs and practices of true Christians.  To knowingly lump them together is unethical and deceitful.

If they sincerely meet all of those qualifications, then they are probably real Christians.  However, that doesn't mean that they're going to get every other doctrine in the Bible correct, including the ones concerning corporal discipline.  How much additional truth (beyond the core doctrines) they have is heavily determined by:

It is on one or more of these three points where many true Christians go astray on their theology.  That's why you will find some real Christians who believe that corporal discipline is not supported in the Bible.  They may be sincere in those beliefs, but they are sincerely wrong.  And they can't justify their positions biblically without engaging in hermeneutical back flips.  Keep in mind that the problem isn't with God or the Bible itself.  When any misinterpretation of scriptures occurs, it's due to the fact that someone didn't take the proper steps to interpret correctly. Most people are going to get some doctrine wrong at some point in their life. It will be due either to a) not taking the proper steps to interpret because of inexperience or a deliberate unwillingness to do so, or b) because even with a strong knowledge of hermeneutics, the verses are hard ones to interpret no matter who you are (those are rare).  

The bible verses dealing with corporal discipline are not among the difficult verses to interpret.  The controversy exists over them solely because of eisegesis. We will not be capable of being 100% perfect as Christians until the next life in Heaven.  Until then, it would do all Christians well to remember these words from page 10 Roy Zuck's book Basic Bible interpretation:

"Interpretation is perhaps the most difficult and time-consuming of these three steps.  And yet cutting Bible study short in this area can lead to serious errors and faulty results.  Some people knowingly "distort the Word of God" (2 Cor. 4:2).  Some even "distort" the Scriptures "to their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16).  Others unknowingly come away from the Bible with faulty interpretations.  Why?  Because of inadequate attention to the principles involved in understanding the Scriptures."

It would also do all non-Christians well to take into consideration the points made in this section when trying to determine what "Christians" believe and practice concerning corporal discipline.

 

Guidance from other God-fearing successful parents

For those who are looking for guidance from experienced parents who use these God mandated teaching, training and discipline methods, seek guidance from the ones who have well-behaved, respectful, God-fearing children.  Get opinions from several Christian parents who obey God on these matters if you can.  Children's personalities can vary considerably, so a variety of opinions can be helpful.  Some of our six children were very compliant children from the get-go.  Others had (and still do have) very strong wills and are much more of a challenge to parent.  Try to find parents who have children who's personalities are similar to your own children.  

In addition to talking with experienced parents, approach your parenting like you would a earning college degree.  Educate yourself, and keep up-to-date as your children grow older and their personalities, training and discipline needs change.  We recommend the materials in the "Resources" section below to get you started.


Misinterpretations of the corporal discipline Bible verses

We have seen other well meaning, but misguided web sites come to different conclusions about the Bible verses previously quoted.  In every case so far, it appears they have engaged in eisegesis instead of exegesis in their bible interpretation.  They most often violate one or more of these principles of hermeneutics which appear in Roy Zuck's book titled Basic Bible Interpretation:

"A complex, ingenious, or devious interpretation should not be given preference over a simple and or natural explanation." - page 111

"We should assume one meaning unless there is strong reason in the context to suggest otherwise." - page 112

"If there are two equally possible interpretations of a passage (and in a number of passages this is the case since we do not know with certainty how to interpret every verse), a general rule of thumb is, accept the clear and sensible meaning".  - page 72

One example 1 of eisegesis occurred on a web site that claimed that many of the verses that support corporal disciple were written by Solomon, and that Solomon's use of this method of discipline resulted in his son Rehoboam turning out to be an unpopular, hated leader of Israel.  It quoted these Bible verses to support their position:

"And the king [Rehoboam] answered the people roughly, and forsook the counsel of the old men which they had given him, and spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions." (ASV)
1 Kings 12:13-14

There are a few obvious indications that the author of that web page was engaging in eisegesis.  

First, like all the other books of the Bible, the book of Proverbs was God inspired scriptures. If Solomon said to use corporal discipline, he was doing so at God's directive. This wasn't some personal discipline style he decided on his own to use and to include in Proverbs. Given that assumption, there are no statements in Proverbs or anywhere else in the bible that say that the reason his son Rehoboam made the bad decisions that he did as king was because Solomon used corporal discipline with him.  If God had intended for us to conclude that he did not want us using this method of discipline, he would clearly have said so.  He did not. In fact what we actually see is just the opposite.  The plain reading of these verses clearly suggest that it was God's intention that corporal discipline should be used.  

Second, the reference to "my father chastised you with whips" was not referring to parents disciplining children.  It was most likely referring to adults who had committed criminal offenses.  There is no indication in scriptures that Rehoboam himself intended to link the corporal discipline he received as a child with the whippings of adult criminals.  He's comparing apples and oranges and again, engaging in eisegesis.  

Third, on this link 1 and another one 3, the author attempts to portray Solomon as such a bad example of what a father and a human should be, that we should start reinterpreting these verses on corporal discipline to be examples of what not to do.  That argument has major flaws. The apostle Paul authored more books of the new testament than any other apostle.  Before he became an apostle, he was called Saul.  Saul's persecution of Christians was legendary (Acts 8:1-3).  Like Solomon, he too had committed great sins against God.  The fact that they were both bad actors at some point in their lives doesn't mean they were not ultimately saved, or that they lacked wisdom. One can have great wisdom and still make bad decisions when confronted with temptation.  

God is willing to forgive our sins and still use us to further his purposes in spite of our flaws. No Christian will be perfect until the next life in Heaven. As bad as Saul and Solomon were at varying points in their lives, the books they wrote were still considered to be God-inspired scriptures that were worthy of being included in the bible itself. Solomon was considered the wisest king of his time, because God himself put that wisdom into him.  That includes the verses concerning corporal discipline:

So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom. And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart
1 Kings 10:23-24 (KJV)

The author then goes on to quote secular studies that were done over a 10 year period to support the idea that corporal discipline of any kind will likely result in an anti-social or violent adult.  I have never seen a secular study that examined how children turn out who are lovingly disciplined the way the Bible says they should be.  Virtually every one of these studies that I have seen over the past few decades always refer to real child abuse that is in DIRECT CONFLICT with the methods prescribed in the Bible. The authors of these studies never bother to state that fact or make the distinction between true abuse and loving corporal discipline. 

That shouldn't be a big surprise to anyone given the fact that atheism and agnosticism are present at much higher levels in the various psychology related professions than in the general population. 2  I doubt that most of them know the scriptures well enough to make a proper distinction.  I also suspect that many of them know full well that real Christians would not sanction the extreme examples of abuse that their studies examine. I suspect that many of them intentionally include all Christians into those extreme categories of abuse anyway because in their minds, the ends justify the means.  They don't seem to care much at all if they're being dishonest and misleading about what real Christians actually believe.  They appear to believe that guilt by association is appropriate because they lack the character and ethics that should prevent them from making such comparisons.  Anyone who claims that parents who are following God's advice regarding corporal discipline are child abusers, are violating the 9th commandment which says, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." - Exodus 20:16. They will pay a price for doing so on Judgment Day when they have to give a full account of their behavior standing face-to-face before God himself.  Sadly, for many of them, they will realize too late that the Christians they sought to persecute over this matter may have been some of the best friends they ever had. Those same Christians were the ones who were trying to warn them about how God will view their efforts. It would appear that he's going to take it very personally:

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it hated] you.  John 15:18

We have personally known many families who have used the God prescribed methods of discipline and none of their children have turned out the way these studies suggest they will.  Isn't it much more prudent to trust in the instructions of the infallible all-knowing God who created us for guidance on matters like this, than to trust the foolish advice of sinful humans who think they know more than God does, or who don't believe in him to begin with?


Related Links

Our response to an e-mail we received from someone who claims to be a Christian, and who considers all forms of spanking to be "child abuse" 


Resources

(As time permits, we'll add more resources to this list)

Books

What the Bible says about Child Training
Author: J. Richard Fugate
ISBN: 0-86717-000-X

The Strong-Willed Child
Author: Dr. James Dobson
ISBN: 0-8423-0664-1

Dare to Discipline
Dr. James Dobson
ISBN: 0-8423-0631-5

Christian books on creative discipline techniques, burnt out parents, dealing with divorce, stress on children, etc.:

www.family.org/resources/section.cfm?sid=292

 

Videos

How and How NOT to Spank a Child - DVD (our #1 pick)
Author: Dr. S. M. Davis

What the Bible has to say about spanking
Author: Dr. S. M. Davis

Christian Counselling

Focus on the Family Christian Counselor Referral Service
Or call them at (719) 531-3400 from 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM Mountain Time

You are also encouraged to talk with your own pastor.  Some of our pastors have been very valuable sources of biblical information and insight to us on a variety of matters related to the training, teaching and disciplining of our six children.


References

  1. www.religioustolerance.org/spankin8.htm
  2. http://books.google.com/books?id=h8F3OmblmH4C&pg=PA72&lpg=PA72&dq=most+psychologists+psychiatrists+are+atheists+or+agnostics&source=bl&ots=0kWMp2sa_-&sig=m4DTXgsborc4Fv3e8wFgVWOm6P0&hl=en&ei=22KoSbSEJJLQsAPV5ZTbDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result#PPA72,M1
  3. www.religioustolerance.org/spankin3.htm

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