A wonderful woman and great supporter of Grace-Based Discipline has encouraged me to put together all of the information I have related specifically to spanking. While all of the stuff “to do” is helpful, she has found with the women she talks to that getting over the deeply ingrained belief that the Bible says we HAVE TO spank is the greatest hurdle people have.
And, I know she’s right. Books, volumes even, have been written on why you have to spank, HOW to spank (despite the fact that this is one element completely missing from any Biblical text), when to spank, etc. I’ve avoided this topic because it’s the hot button. I’ve dealt with it as it’s come up in specific conversations or online threads. And she’s gone around and collected all those posts to show me how serious she is that I need to do this!
So, here they are: the spanking files. I hope that your questions or objections will be answered here. If they aren’t, email me and I’ll update these pages as needed.
I want to start with the first question I’m typically asked-how many times does something have to be in the Bible before we’re expected to do it? The answer, as far as I’m concerned, is once.
There’s a catch, though, and this is one of the things that has caused me to take so long to get around to doing this. . . . according to God’s Law no one may be the only witness to something-there must be two or more witnesses. We are also told by Paul to test the Spirit and see that it is from God. For these reasons I have never found any teaching in Scripture that can be supported by only one verse. And, if it appears to be supported by only one verse, I have found that it’s not the verse that is in error, but my understanding of it.
Another issue that must be addressed with this topic specifically, is that of proof-texting. Put simply, proof-texting is what occurs when you pull a handful of verses from the Bible and use them to support a doctrine. What is happening, though, is that you are approaching Scripture with a position already in your mind about a topic, and you believe it is supported in Scripture when you find some verses to back you up. In other words, “The proof is in the text.”
The main problem with this is that anyone with any ideas can go to Scripture and find verses taken out of context to support their theory. Even Hitler was able to justify much of his extermination of the Jews using the Bible-the same Book that made clear they are God’s chosen people!
Because of this danger it is very important to not look for proof in the text, but to let the text speak for itself. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. We need to come humbly to the Bible and hear what God wants to tell us, not with arrogance and finding support for our already cemented beliefs.
Words have very specific meanings and they are put together to make sentences that convey specific instructions in the context of paragraphs that teach us complete thoughts. When we pull a word or a verse out of context we lose the richness of its meaning. We risk misunderstanding it. Unfortunately, this is done quite often with Scripture. This is why it’s important that we let the text interpret itself AND why we must know the genre of the Book being studied.
Many people today hear “genre” in relation to Scripture and fly into a frenzy thinking that this is one more way of making Scripture relative. That is not the case. Some people might do that, but that is not the thrust behind the study of the genre of the books of the Bible. Instead, this is a very important, and all too often, missing key to understanding Scripture. Some people argue that everything in Scripture must be taken literally. I believe that everything in Scripture must be taken for what it is! Sometimes that requires a literal reading and sometimes symbolic.
Unfortunately, many people who agree that some things are symbolic have gone to Scripture and argued for the symbolic interpretation of anything that was bothersome to them or the doctrine they were trying to advance. I assure you this is not what I am doing. How do you know what is to be taken literally and what is symbolic? The answer is in the genre. The Bible contains poetry, musings, prophecy and apocryphal writings. It is reasonable, even desirable, to understand much of what appears in them to be symbolic.
The Song of Solomon is both a picture of the fleshly love between a man and a woman AND a prophetic picture of the intimacy, the Echad, that God desires with each of us. Yet, even when studying the fleshly love between a man and a woman in the Song of Solomon one is confronted with much symbolism. There is simile and metaphor, pictures painted with the words. Clearly much of the physical description of Solomons bride is not to be taken literally!
I also hear a lot of people arguing that they should be able to go to the Bible, just as they are, and understand it. That we don’t need degrees or study helps to understand Scripture. The Holy Spirit will fill in where we lack understanding and everyone can find the truth in the Bible. To some extent this is true, but, again, there are dangers in this approach alone.
The Bible speaks to us today, but it was written to people who lived thousands of years ago. Our language has changed in all of that time. On top of that, the Bible wasn’t written in our language! It was written in Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic. It was written in other cultures to people who would understand the messages that were being conveyed by the authors. The messages speak to us across the centuries, but sometimes the meanings of the messages can be beyond our grasp without a little effort and energy put into studying what they really mean.
One example I often use to illustrate this idea is a phrase coming from modern French to modern English. “Ma petite pomme de terre” is literally translated “my little apple of the earth.” It is more accurately translated “my little potato.” But it is best translated “my darling” as it is a term of affection. The Bible, written in the ancient languages, presents us with these types of translation challenges in many places.
That doesn’t mean that the translations we have can’t be trusted. It does mean that these translations are a help to understanding the original text and should not be confused with the original text. Modern study into the ancient languages is revealing nuances that were previously missed and altering the meanings of some verses slightly. For example, when Paul tells Timothy that elders and deacons are to be the “husband of one wife”, we now understand that this is best read “a one woman kind of man.” It is intended to be a character quality and not a marital status. I find this exciting and see that it adds new depth to what Paul is saying, but it is problematic for the denominations that have created strict requirements for leaders regarding their marital status.
So, as I dig into the Word I want to let you all know where I’m coming from. Yes, the Bible is God’s Word to us-instruction for our lives. But I want to make sure I’m following the actual instruction God is giving us in His Word.