Monday, July 27, 2009

Discipline and Culture

Tim Challies writes a pretty good Christian blog. I understand he's near the top. The other day he wrote one from a comment from a book by Arnold Dallimore. Dallimore was writing about George Whitefield who came to America from England as a missionary. On his way across, he had this entry in his journal:
Had a good instance of the benefit of breaking children’s wills betimes. Last night, going between decks (as I do every night) to visit the sick and to examine my people, I asked one of the women to bid her little boy say his prayers. She answered his elder sister would, but she could not make him. Upon this I bid the child kneel down before me, but he would not till I took hold of his two feet and forced him down. I then bid him say the Lord’s prayer (being informed by his mother he could say it if he would), but he obstinately refused, till at last, after I had given him several blows, he said his prayer as well as could be expected and I gave him some figs for a reward.
Of this Dallimore says (and Challies agrees) "this action seems both foolish and cruel by today’s standards and it is not in any attempt to excuse it that we notice that it was in keeping with the customs of those times. ... We must deplore both the custom [of attempting to conquer a child’s will] and Whitefield’s action on the basis of it."

I was a little surprised at the quote from Whitefield, but I had to remember that in his day all adults helped to raise all children. You knew, if you were a kid, that even if your parents didn't see you do something wrong, another adult might and would just as likely box your ears as your parents would. But the real surprise was the response. It is, apparently, a given to Dallimore, to Challies, to a large part of Christendom, that it's wrong to hit a kid. While Whitefield's contemporaries assumed corporal punishment was good and wise, today's world is pretty sure that it's wrong. It's today's world that thinks that it's deplorable "to conquer a child’s will". The problem, of course, is that the argument runs afoul not of psychology or culture, but of the Bible.

It wasn't Whitefield who wrote "A rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding" (Prov 10:13). It wasn't an 18th century misanthrope who wrote, "He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently" (Prov 13:24). It wasn't a confused pastor of yesteryear that suggested "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him" (Prov 22:15) or "Apply your heart to discipline And your ears to words of knowledge. Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod And rescue his soul from Sheol" (Prov 23:12-14).

Today's "wise" folk will assure us that spanking a child will only lead to a violent child. Jeremiah spoke of "the rod of His wrath" (Lam 3:1), referencing God. While only 18 of the 50 states allow corporal punishment in school, it was the author of Hebrews that assured us, "Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives" (Heb 12:6). In other words, if disciplining children is evil, then we serve an evil God who commands such evil.

The wisdom of the day and the certainty of even a Dallimore or a Challies notwithstanding, it appears that God favors corporal punishment. Some argue that it is assault. The Bible argues that it is love. I personally think that many, many of the problems we face today in arenas like politics, education, economics, and elsewhere are direct products of our failure to agree with God on this topic, and we're paying the price. It's just a shame that someone who is generally so well written as Tim Challies has fallen prey to this error.

44 comments:

Dan Trabue said...

Today's "wise" folk will assure us that spanking a child will only lead to a violent child.

Yes, studies support this conclusion.

Studies about spanking reported here (``We are now able to show that when parents attempt to correct their child's behavior by spanking, it backfires,'' he continued. ``In the study, the more they spanked, the worse a child behaved two years and four years later.'') and here ("Spanking makes it more likely, not less, that children will be defiant and aggressive. And physical punishment puts kids at risk for increased mental health problems, anti-social behavior and serious injuries, a new U-M report shows."), and here ("The more children are spanked, the more aggressive they are and the more likely they are to engage in delinquent or at-risk behaviors." Sexual behavior is just one example of that behavior, she says.), among other places.

Do you dispute the studies? Based on what research or reasoning? Is there some reason people would heed your opinion rather than research-based opinions?

Steve Martin said...

All I know is that in my day, most children were spanked as punishment. It seems to have worked.

Today, no spanking. Indeed, most parents are more concerned about being friends to their children first, rather than being parents.

Who's in charge? The kids that's who.

We are in big trouble.

Stan said...

First, apparently the studies dispute the studies. For instance, in the first article it says "he [Robert Larzelere, research director at Boys Town] said Straus overlooks at least eight other studies that show some spanking of children, ages 18 months to 3 years, has improved behavior."

Second, I offered my "reasons". The Bible says otherwise. Now, "Should people listen to 'research' (which apparently contradicts itself) or to the Bible?" is certainly a valid question, but I don't think I suggested anywhere that people should heed my opinion.

(I need to point out that the studies that demonstrate how corporal punishment destroys children are all focused on abuse, not the discipline of a loving parent carefully administered. That's just from a rational perspective. From a biblical perspective, if it is indeed true that corporal punishment is evil, you're going to have to figure out how to account for a God who does it.)

Dan Trabue said...

Stan said...

Second, I offered my "reasons". The Bible says otherwise. Now, "Should people listen to 'research' (which apparently contradicts itself) or to the Bible?"

Well, then we disagree on what the Bible teaches ("a God who does it?" I've never been spanked by God - certainly nothing like in your story in your post). The studies stand on their own. If you have research to support opposing them, you can try to make your case. In the meantime, I suspect more and more reasonable people would write you off as not being reality-based (and perhaps write off your religion, too, fyi).

For what it's worth, my 18 year old Christian boy starts college in a few weeks. He has been a joy and delight to raise and never once did I spank him. Did I discipline him? To be sure. But I never had to hit him to have him grow up to be a great young man.

My personal experience validates what most studies I've read report.

Also for what it's worth, I'm not one that calls spanking itself "abuse," it tends to be along a continuum. Some truly do it in a measured fashion to try to get a desired result. Others beat their children mercilessly to "force" them to behave. On the one end, I would merely call it bad discipline and the other end, I would call it abuse.

If this fella in your post were trying to get me to pray using his methods, that would drive me further away from God. Who in the world would respond positively to that sort of ugly abuse??

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "'a God who does it?' I've never been spanked by God"

Well, don't let Von hear you say that. "For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives. ... If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons" (Heb 12:6, 8). (FYI, the term "chastise" in the Greek, lest you get confused, is literally "to scourge, to whip", not "to discipline" as in "to train".)

According to the author of Hebrews as well as multiple references in the Old Testament to God and His use of the rod as a disciplinary measure (read "whooping tool"), God uses pain as a means of discipline. You suggest that would be "bad discipline". I would suggest you take that up with God. You argue from questionable studies. (You didn't even address the fact that the first article you offered argues with itself that there are other studies that disagree.) You suggest that the studies are right. It is incontrovertible that the Bible argues otherwise. So if the best authority to whom you are going to appeal is current studies that are countered by current studies, I think you can see that I won't be impressed. If, on the other hand, you can demonstrate that the Bible doesn't say what it appears to quite clearly say (and I included multiple references for you), then we have something to talk about.

Dan Trabue said...

You understand metaphor in all the wrong places, brother.

Dan Trabue said...

God uses pain as a means of discipline. You suggest that would be "bad discipline". I would suggest you take that up with God.

I've taken it up with God. God says you're wrong. You have taken all the places where imagery is used in the Bible and taken it literally and all the places where literal commands are uttered and made them allegorical or otherwise irrelevant.

God told me to let you know...

Stan said...

Thanks for the humor. That's not an answer. The Bible still says what it says (in all those places), and they aren't metaphorical.

Dan Trabue said...

?? Says who? Just because you say it isn't metaphorical, I should bow down to your opinion?

I say that Jesus was not being metaphorical when he said "Blessed are the poor and woe to you who are rich." You deny it. I say that Paul was being literal when he commanded women not to wear gold, you write it off as metaphorical.

If you don't mind, I'll read the Bible for myself and prayerfully seek the wisdom of God apart from your opinions. Sometimes, I may well come to a different conclusion than you, but that's the way the Bible bounces...

Stan said...

Dan, just to let you know that phrases like "bow down to your opinion" sound a lot like hostility. We're supposed to "keep it friendly", remember?

I never said Jesus was being metaphorical when He said what He said in Luke 6. I did say that you don't believe it is literal and I still maintain that is true. I didn't say that the command not to wear gold was metaphorical. I said there was no such command. More to the point, I gave reasons, exegesis of the passages in question, as to why I believed what I believe.

Now, you have told me repeatedly that I don't understand the Bible, but you haven't given me any reason to understand it any differently except for your internal sense of justice or your modern studies. You have told me it's all metaphorical (the passages on corporal punishment), I suppose, but there are a lot of passages there that I cited and you haven't suggested a single way to read them any differently than what they seem to say.

Look, I've asked you to come to me on my terms. Tell me how the Bible doesn't say what I'm seeing it say. I'll go one more step. Here's the question (corporal punishment) on your terms. Here's an entire page of articles and references explaining from scientific studies that corporal punishment isn't the evil that its detractors say it is.

Dan Trabue said...

I apologize if I sounded overly harsh. It was not my intent.

What Proverbs says (KJV)...

* Prov 13:24: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (diligently)."
* Prov 19:18: "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying."
* Prov 22:15: "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."
* Prov 23:13: "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die."
* Prov 23:14: "Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell."
* Prov 29:15: "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame."


1. Most of your "proof" from the Bible comes from Proverbs.

2. These ARE proverbs, but not all the proverbs reflect Godly ideals. For instance, Prov. 19 says, "Wealth brings many friends, but a poor man’s friends desert him." but we don't take that to mean that it is God's IDEAL that we abandon poor people. Prov. 20 says, "Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being," but that does not mean we ought to engage in masochism.

Just because something is written in Proverbs does not indicate Godly endorsement of the action. Sometimes they reflect human - not Godly - wisdom. Right?

3. Assuming Solomon beat (and BEAT WITH RODS is the term being used here - not gently spanking) his child (Rehoboam), we can see in the Bible that Rehoboam grew up to be an awful king, cruel with no regard for human rights (1 Kings 12:13-14) and was hated by the people (1 Kings 12:18). Sounds like to me an endorsement of current studies, not a repudiation of them. Perhaps those with wisdom could learn from Solomon's mistakes rather than hold them up as ideals.

4. Your other passages are Lam. 3 and Heb 12. Heb 12 speaks of God disciplining, which I approve of. Discipline is a good thing. The passage then goes on to say "God scourges every son whom God receives." You take that to be an endorsement of literal scourging, I assume? I'm not sure why, though. God clearly does not "scourge" anyone. Not literally. It is a metaphor for God's discipline. God disciplines by burdening our hearts, by words of correction from our brothers and sisters, by the Spirit's whisper in our hearts. God does not beat. God does not thrash or scourge. Those are metaphors.

Have you never been scourged by the pricking of your conscience over some wrong deed? The Godly words of a beloved friend correcting you for some misdeed?

5. Similarly, with Lam 3, it is speaking of God's "rod of wrath," which is clearly metaphorical, too. You don't believe God literally beat people with rods, do you?

Regarding your proverbs passages, the people at Arms of Love Family Fellowship have looked into the meaning of the words, "rod," "beat" and the context of these proverbs. They go into a great deal of detail and exegesis, but they conclude:

I believe it is clear, based on the understanding of the different ideas represented in the words of this passage, that “beat” is intended figuratively rather than literally.

Stan said...

Okay, now we're discussing Scripture. (Well, at least for the moment.) So, yes, much of it comes from proverbs, and proverbs are statements of wisdom. It is true, for instance, that wealth brings friends and being poor doesn't so much. True statement, without being "God's ideal." Does that mean, then, that we conclude that "no proverb is a statement about God's ideal"? Let's look. Assuming an agreement that proverbs are statements of wisdom, we read, "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (diligently)" (Prov 13:24). (I left it in the version of your choice.) What do we conclude, assuming that the statement is true? Sparing the rod is equivalent to hating your child. God wants us to love our children. God's ideal would be to not spare the rod. Instead, God's ideal would be to love our kids by chastening him at times ... diligently.

Now, we could go through more of these, but it's not hard to see where this is going, is it? In the Prov 19 verse you chasten your son while there is hope. The Prov 22 passage says the rod of correction drives out foolishness. Is that a good thing? The Prov 13 reference says that the rod "shalt deliver his soul from hell". I'm thinking that's a good thing. The Prov 29 verse says that a child who has not been given the rod will bring his mother shame. I'm thinking that's surely not a good thing. So, using your criterion, it would seem that these passages all say wisely (as proverbs do) that it is a good thing to discipline your child with a rod. In these cases, then, it would seem that both human and godly wisdom would require the wise and loving use of corporal punishment.

I'm going to leave your third point alone. You're presenting an argument without validation. Solomon had wisdom, but it is clear from his life that he didn't always practice what he preached, so I cannot assume that Rehoboam was spanked. Interestingly, if I were to go on that sort of evidence, every kid I grew up with was spanked and none of them turned out to be problems. But I'm not going with that because that's anecdotal, not biblical.

I am frankly quite stunned at your understanding of God's "scourging". Yes, the rod mentioned used by God is a metaphor. You see it as a metaphor for "burdening our hearts, by words of correction from our brothers and sisters, by the Spirit's whisper in our hearts." You think of it as "the pricking of your conscience over some wrong deed". My goodness, man, did you look at what was really being referenced? When Jeremiah speaks of "rod of his wrath" in Lam 3:1. What was that rod? It was the destruction of Judah. No "burdening" of their hearts there. When Nathan tells David about his offspring, he says this: "I will be to [your offspring] a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men" (2 Sam 7:14). Man, if all I had to worry about from God's rod was the Spirit's whisper, I'd never think of "chastising" as painful or frightening. But when I read about God's chastening, it sure doesn't sound so tame as you're describing. Your version sounds almost pleasant. Did God beat Israel with a stick? No, of course not. But I'll tell you what, no one questions whether or not the beating that Israel took was real or metaphorical. It was very real. And God claims that beating came from Him.

Dan Trabue said...

So, using your criterion, it would seem that these passages all say wisely (as proverbs do) that it is a good thing to discipline your child with a rod. In these cases, then, it would seem that both human and godly wisdom would require the wise and loving use of corporal punishment.

And here's where you make your leap of logic. There are a handful of verses in proverbs that we agree are likely talking about Godly/good discipline and those verses use the terms "rod" and "beat." I say clearly, it's not a good thing to beat a child with a rod (is that how YOU discipline your children??) and just as clearly, it is metaphor for discipline, not an actual suggestion we ought to beat children with rods.

You make the leap that "both human and goldy wisdom requires corporal punishment." Well, no. Human and Godly wisdom endorse discipline (the Truth and the point of these passages), but it remains in question: Are we talking literal beatings or is that merely a metaphor for discipline in general?

I would suggest that it is clearly not literal beatings.

1. Beat a child with a rod?? Really? What does that look like? Are we talking blood? Stripes? Bruises? Does that depend upon the severity of the sin (like not praying = just a few punches, but stealing something = 29 stripes?)?

2. Research suggests that such "discipline" is counter productive, creating worse behavior, not better.

3. Intuitive reasoning backs this up. If I claim to be concerned about your immortal soul and I come to your house as a brother in Christ and beat you (lovingly) with a rod or with my hands until you start giving to the poor, I CAN GUARANTEE IT WILL NOT BE EFFECTIVE! At least, it wouldn't be effective for me. I can't imagine anyone for whom it WOULD be effective. Can you? Seriously, would that work for you? For you when you were a child? For your children? Did you beat your children when they did not want to pray?

4. The reason research and our own God-given logic tells us this is wrong is because you don't change from beatings. You comply perhaps with the wish of the Master, but you don't change. Rather, you resent it. It's dehumanizing and belittling. The human nature bristles under oppression of that sort. Worst case scenario, you become brainwashed into thinking "you deserved it," (and this DOES happen sometimes, but it's God-awful for one's mental health to be thusly brainwashed) but generally speaking, I would guess that most people under such oppression would just be waiting for the chance to overthrow the tyrant. Again, I would. Wouldn't you? Even if you truly believed someone thought they were doing the right thing, I couldn't wait to overthrow such a tyrant. Beating into submission does not work in any real and lasting sense.

Given these reasonings, I would suggest your leap from "the Bible uses the term "beat with rod" in reference to discipline" to "therefore, beating with rods is good" makes no more sense - less! - that saying "the Bible suggests we ought to pluck out our eyes if they offend us" means "therefore, plucking out your eye is good!"

You're making a leap of logic the text does not support.

Stan said...

If I had to guess, "it's not a good thing to beat a child with a rod" comes logically in your mind before "it is metaphor for discipline". That is, you first conclude that corporal punishment is bad and then decide that the Bible is surely not saying that at all.

So, we're at an impasse. I can't see any other way to read these. Even if they're metaphorical -- "Please, not a literal rod!" -- I can't bend them to mean "no use of force". I can't seem to make "use the rod" to mean anything that doesn't approach something that appears violent and painful. You, on the other hand, have decided that such a concept is barbaric and evil, so the Bible can't be saying that. So I guess you'll go your way and I'll go mine.

I do have one little question, though, only partly related. I offered you an entire page of studies that dispute your research, and I showed how even the papers on the research you offered include those who question the research. So, why is it that you fully and wholly ignore that and still affirm without question that "research tells us this is wrong"?

Oh, by the way, you suggested that "this is wrong is because you don't change from beatings." The only possible outcome you surmised would be "waiting for the chance to overthrow the tyrant." I was raised under this form of training. I didn't bristle. I wasn't dehumanized or belittled. I raised my kids under this form of training. (By "this form of training" I mean some corporal punishment incorporated in a whole toolkit of training.) They will tell you that they didn't feel dehumanized or belittled. My step-daughter was not raised under this process and she told me recently (she's the mother of young children now) that she was very sorry she wasn't. It is my suspicion that the evil to which you're responding so negatively is an evil to which I would respond negatively as well ... but not the loving discipline that for the moment seems painful but later yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:11).

Dan Trabue said...

That page was based on one study, as I recall. There are other studies that support my position. Which study should I take as the best info? Should I dismiss the others because one questions their results? Or should I dismiss the one that questions the results? How do I - not a scientist - know which studies are the best ones?

Lacking any better measure, I will go with the ones that seem most reasonable. Fair enough?

Re: your spanking story, as I noted earlier, there is a range of corporal punishment. Some more severe and traumatizing, some less so.

I'm speaking specifically of YOUR example in your post. And I ask you again: IF someone beat you to get you to pray, how effective would that be? If someone "took hold of your two feet and forced you down" and, when that failed to produce a prayer, they "gave you several blows," would that make you MORE or LESS inclined to follow that man's religion?

It's a straightforward question about your story you've brought up.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan said...

If I had to guess, "it's not a good thing to beat a child with a rod" comes logically in your mind before "it is metaphor for discipline". That is, you first conclude that corporal punishment is bad and then decide that the Bible is surely not saying that at all.

If you had to guess, you'd guess wrong. Remember, I was a conservative. I believed in most of what you believed in. I believed in corporal punishment.

It was only AFTER prayer and Bible study and seeking God's will that I came to my positions. And that is the case because I am a Christian and I seek to follow in Christ's steps.

Maybe you oughtn't make guesses...?

Stan said...

That page was based on a whole bunch of studies.

An honest person would say, "I've seen some studies that suggest" rather than "research tells us this is wrong". One allows that other research disagrees and the one I am using may be wrong; the other leaves no room for question. Your choice is the one that you like best. "More reasonable" to you (to most people) is "what best coincides with my view".

The question in my post was not in regards to his methods or his aim. What was specifically addressed in the post I was referencing was "We must deplore both the custom [of attempting to conquer a child’s will]."

But I've also seen this suggestion before. Prayer (or any, I suppose, Christian behavior) must come from a warm and willing heart. If it's not, it's invalid. And I say, "Bunk!" We are commanded to love God will our whole heart. If we waited for that to occur before we did what He asked of us, we'd be waiting a long time. Look, I treat my wife the best I can at all times. Sometimes it's because I adore her so much that it just tickles me to do so, and sometimes it's because it's my duty to do so. In either case, I ought to be doing just that, and she and I both benefit. I read my Bible every day. Sometimes it's because I am so eager to see what God is going to say to me and sometimes it's because it's what I'm supposed to do. In both cases I come away blessed, regardless of my level of enthusiasm. There are things that are good to do (like prayer, etc.) and it is a mistake to suggest that praying "because I have to" is a bad thing and only praying "because I love to" is a good thing.

(Oh, and in a more or less straightforward answer to your "straightforward" question ... because it's not ... I do not believe that either forcing a child to pray or letting them choose determines if a person will follow Christ. Remember? I believe God does that.)

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "Maybe you oughtn't make guesses...?"

Or maybe you're just mistaken? (Your reason for holding that corporal punishment is bad is not based on the Bible. Your understanding of what the Bible says is based on your view on corporal punishment. Nothing in the Bible itself suggests anything at all like what you're saying. What you're saying about the Bible comes from a prior commitment against corporal punishment.)

Dan Trabue said...

Your reason for holding that corporal punishment is bad is not based on the Bible.

I thought I was quite clear it IS - my opinion, as always is based on striving to discern God's will, using the Bible and logic and good ol' real world experience.

That I don't agree with YOU ought not be mistaken to mean that I don't agree with the Bible and certainly ought not be mistaken as not agreeing with God.

You are mistaken, sir.

You're free to have a different opinion than I do on what the Bible does and doesn't say on the topic. However, you're not free to tell me what my reasoning is. I'll reserve that right for myself.

Of the two of us, I suspect I have a better idea of what my reasoning is on the topic.

Stan said...

What about the context of the passages I've listed suggests "discipline as a metaphor"? What about "rod" suggests simple training? In what way would "Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die" lead to conclude "Although you train him properly he will not die" makes better sense? And in what possible world does the enslavement of Israel and Judah seem like something less than "rod" in a harsh, violent, "scourging" sense?

You don't see them that way, but you do so with something besides the texts and contexts pushing you there.

von said...

Stan, permission to post some of what you write here over on my blog?

von said...

Question:

Would 'as green as snow' be a good metaphor?

David said...

Dan, something that worries me is that you read secular studies and translate Scripture based off those studies. You keep referencing these studies done by people that have no regard for Scripture. Why, as a believer, would you take the word of a man ahead of the Word of God? Shouldn't Scripture be the basis, not secular studies? If physical discipline produced right thinking and living for the last 4000 years, why is it all of a sudden such an evil thing? No, beating a child senseless because they disobeyed you isn't right, but using physical discipline in a loving mode as a means of correction, not anger, is what God does when He scourges and chastises. The difference between affective spanking and counter productive spanking, is what is behind the punishment, anger or correction.

Dan Trabue said...

Once again, I use the text, my reasoning and the facts as I know them. JUST LIKE YOU.

After all, you can read, "Blessed are the poor, Woe to you who are rich" and think it does not actually mean "rich" or "poor." You can read "Don't wear gold," and not see it as a command. You have your reasons for thinking that and have explained them, even though I find your explanations wholly unreasonable.

I have given you my reasons and you apparently don't find them reasonable. And that's your right.

But once again, you CAN'T tell me that I don't have my biblical reasons. Like I pointed out: I was a conservative. I did not read "outside" material other than other conservative/traditional writings. I didn't trust "science" or "studies." I simply read the Bible and tried to make sense of it as carefully and prayerfully as I could. And ultimately, this is the conclusion I reached.

You may not agree with it, but yuo can't tell me it's not what my reasoning was/is.

It's that sort of arrogance and dismissive attitude that turns people away from the religious right, brother. Just because someone does not agree with your interpretation of the Bible does not mean that there is no other possible way of reading the Bible. You or the Religious Right are not the final arbiters of all that is good and right.

von said...

Dan writes:

But once again, you CAN'T tell me that I don't have my biblical reasons. Like I pointed out: I was a conservative. I did not read "outside" material other than other conservative/traditional writings. I didn't trust "science" or "studies." I simply read the Bible and tried to make sense of it as carefully and prayerfully as I could. And ultimately, this is the conclusion I reached.

Dan has some strange definitions.

The word 'can' has to do with physical possibility. Obviously Stan 'can' do it, Stand 'did' do it. Things which are done, by defintion, can be done.

But, more seriously, Dan has a very strange definition of 'conservative', especially as applied to Stan (and myself, but that's another blog).

Dan, in this context 'conservative' means someone who; when faced with a contradiction between their own reasoning and what Scripture teaches, believes what Scripture teaches.

Thus it is, by definition, impossible for a 'conservative' to decide, based on their own reasoning, that Scripture is false. They would have to *first* stop being conservative (a philosophical choice of the will) and then, as an inevitable byproduct of that choice, reject the authority of Scripture.

Dan Trabue said...

David asked some questions...

You keep referencing these studies done by people that have no regard for Scripture. Why, as a believer, would you take the word of a man ahead of the Word of God?

1. Do you have ANY EVIDENCE at all that these studies were done by people with no regards for scripture or did you just make up a fact?

2. You DO realize that it is wrong to bear false witness and that making up facts is a way of bearing false witness. I know nothing about these people or whether or not they have no regard for Scripture. I suspect that you do not know a single thing about these people and thus, you can't know that they have no regards for Scripture.

3. I am not intending for this to sound harsh, so I hope you take this in the right way. I'm just pointing out that way too often, too many of us Christians make illogical and erroneous presumptions. Presumptions such as, "If he disagrees with me on a topic, he must have no regard for Scripture." Such presumptions are wrong and we are told to avoid that sort of spreading of misinformation and gossip.

David also asked...

Shouldn't Scripture be the basis, not secular studies?

You may not have followed my comments as long as Stan so perhaps you don't know, so I will repeat myself. I come from a traditional conservative background (southern Baptist). I used to only read the Bible and other conservative writers (CS Lewis, Billy Graham, Jonathan Edwards, etc). My starting position was pretty similar to yours probably (if you are a conservative).

I came to my positions NOT by reading studies or liberal writers or ANYTHING other than the Word of God and prayer. Now, as I studied the Bible more and researched the context more and considered the words of the Bible (and changed from some of the more traditional teachings like Spanking), THEN I looked and saw that studies were backing up what I found to be reasonably concluded in the Bible.

Now, my bases for all my position are reached as I strive to discern God's will and I do this through studying the Bible, using my reason, using real world experience, considering what others have said and (now, but not so much in the past) what research has said. So, yes, God's will is our starting point, not studies.

But that does not mean we ought to ignore reasonable research, and I'm sure you can agree.

David asked...

If physical discipline produced right thinking and living for the last 4000 years, why is it all of a sudden such an evil thing?

You're begging the question. Do you have evidence that physical discipline produced right thinking and living for 4000 years or are you letting your traditions and upbringing influence your opinion and the what the Bible says?

I'd say that the sort of behavior (beating a child to get him to pray) described by Stan has not "just recently" become wrong, but that it was always wrong and just plain stupid. Do you disagree?

Stan did not want to answer for whatever reason, but perhaps you will: Would YOU be positively influenced about prayer if you were "trained" the way described by Stan?

Dan Trabue said...

Stan said...

Thus it is, by definition, impossible for a 'conservative' to decide, based on their own reasoning, that Scripture is false.

But you have done so yourself.

The Bible says, "Don't wear gold." you have determined that this direct command is not a true command. It is to you, therefore, a false command. Not to be taken literally. "Not a command at all," I believe is your take on it.

The thing is, YOU USED YOUR REASON to decide that. We can't read the Bible and discern anything without using our reason. What else will you use???

Your definition of conservative is not a real definition, just one you have made up and one that does not seem to make any sense in the real world.

Once again, I would suggest if you have non-standard definitions of words, you probably ought to state so upfront, since most of us will rely on Standard English to communicate.

Stan said...

Oh, how quickly you jump to "bearing false witness" like this is the ultimate command while all those other petty commands aren't nearly as clear. But when you "bear false witness" (like misrepresenting my view repeatedly and attributing to me what I never said), it's perfectly acceptable.

(Note, Dan, I didn't say, "Thus it is, by definition, impossible for a 'conservative' to decide, based on their own reasoning, that Scripture is false.")

von said...

Dan has the most amazing ability to misquote. He writes: Stan said... Thus it is, by definition, impossible for a 'conservative' to decide, based on their own reasoning, that Scripture is false. But you have done so yourself. The Bible says, "Don't wear gold." you have determined that this direct command is not a true command. It is to you, therefore, a false command. Not to be taken literally. "Not a command at all," I believe is your take on it. The thing is, YOU USED YOUR REASON to decide that. We can't read the Bible and discern anything without using our reason. What else will you use???

Now, first of all, it was me who said that, not Stan. But that is trivial, an easy mistake to make.
But by leaving out the entire context of what he quoted (beginning his quote with ‘thus’, no less, which should have been a clue) he them proceeds to misapply the quote.
Let’s look at the whole quote:
Dan, in this context 'conservative' means someone who; when faced with a contradiction between their own reasoning and what Scripture teaches, believes what Scripture teaches.

Thus it is, by definition, impossible for a 'conservative' to decide, based on their own reasoning, that Scripture is false. They would have to *first* stop being conservative (a philosophical choice of the will) and then, as an inevitable byproduct of that choice, reject the authority of Scripture.

Now, Dan writes:
But you have done so yourself. The Bible says, "Don't wear gold." you have determined that this direct command is not a true command.
By his own admission Stan has not done what I say a conservative cannot do. He has not take a bit of Scripture and said, ‘That is false’. He has taken something which Dan (and some others, but by no means most commentators) has taken as a ‘command’, and decided it is not a ‘command’.
Now Dan may disagree with Stans interpretation. In a milder way I disagree with it myself. But Stan is, however fallibly, trying to discover what the Scripture says here. Having determined that, and having an apriori committement to treating Scripture is truth, he will then know what truth is.
Dan, on the other hand, along with Atheists, Agnostics, and other heathens, looks at Scripture and, using their own reason, tries to determine ‘if it is true’. Not ‘what does it mean’. But ‘if it is true’. Dan treats Scripture as the rest of us treat any human writing.
I look at Dans writings and try determine ‘if they are true’. I read Stans writings and try to determine ‘if they are true’. I even look at my own writings and, measuring them against the Word of God, try to determine ‘if they are true’. All too often, alas…

Dan Trabue said...

I apologize for making the mistake of saying Stan said, not Von said. Mistakes happen and I hope that you all might find grace in your heart for wrongly stating that it was Stan who said that, not Von.

Having said that, the POINT REMAINS TRUE: We all have to use our reason to sort out what the Bible says. We have to use our reason to sort out what the Bible says. Agreed?

If you think you can use something OTHER than your reason, by all means share that. But in the meantime, my point remains the same: We MUST use our reason to sort out what the Bible says and what God's will is and isn't.

To MY POINT, do you have any thoughts? Do you disagree that we don't use reason when we read and comprehend?

Dan Trabue said...

STAN said...

But when you "bear false witness" (like misrepresenting my view repeatedly and attributing to me what I never said), it's perfectly acceptable.

Please do not misrepresent me, Brother. No. It is most definitely NOT acceptable for me to misrepresent your view or to misstate your position or to wrongly attribute something to you. That is wrong.

Since it is wrong, you will note that I DON'T think it perfectly acceptable and for that reason, have apologized and asked for forgiveness.

Perhaps it's something we all ought to practice more often (or is it the case that you think it perfectly acceptable when you do it? Let's see... how many times have you apologized for wrongly representing my position? I have demonstrated that I don't think what you say I think by my actions. How about you? Now's your perfect opportunity. You can apologize for misrepresenting my view above... IF you think it is wrong for you to misrepresent. Will you let your actions speak for you?)

Stan said...

Dan, as I would expect, you missed my point. A "mistake" (referring to Von's words as mine) is not "false witness". Stating something as true (like "This is how you appear to approach Scripture") if you believe it to be true is not "false witness". False witness is when I know something to be false and express it as true (or vice versa). When, for instance, David asked about studies by people with no regard for Scripture, he was asking from what he believed to be the case. You accused him of lying (the definition of "bearing false witness").

Or take this example. You ask me (for the 3,728th time) (that's hyperbole, not "lying") whether I believe we use reason in understanding Scripture. The question begs the question. "Stan must not think we use reason." I have always affirmed that we use our brains to understand the Bible. So are you bearing false witness by asking me repeatedly what I've already affirmed? (Hint: See the first paragraph of this comment.)

Now, I don't know if you continue to misrepresent what I believe because you intend to or because you simply cannot understand. You accuse me of determining that Scripture is false. You accuse me of lying (of seeing a command and calling it not a command). You accuse me of not believing that "poor" means poor or "rich" means rich. It's not true. It's simply not true. But I don't call you to task for it. "You're bearing false witness!!!" That's your ploy, not mine. So you tell me. Why is it the common thing for you to misrepresent what I believe? Is it intentional, or is it a failure to comprehend?

I use my reason to figure things out. I can see no reason whatsoever in the texts in question to even ask "Are these referencing corporal punishment?" No one has yet offered a reason why we should. And no one, having examined it, can explain how the "rod" described so often in Scripture is not a painful result of doing the wrong thing.

von said...

Dan asks:

to MY POINT, do you have any thoughts? Do you disagree that we don't use reason when we read and comprehend?

If that were indeed your point, this converstation would be short indeed, as Stan, I, the Westminster confession, the LBC, and the statement I posted earlier on inerrancy all agree on that point.

Your point, in actuallity, is equivocating between using reason to determine what something says and means (what Stan and I try to do, however poorly) and using reason to deterimine if something is true or false (something Stan and I do in the case of all human writings, but not in the case of Scripture).

You elevate your own reason *above* that of Scripture, Stan and I place our own reason *below* that of Scripture.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan said...

A "mistake" (referring to Von's words as mine) is not "false witness". Stating something as true (like "This is how you appear to approach Scripture") if you believe it to be true is not "false witness". False witness is when I know something to be false and express it as true (or vice versa)

Is it okay if I have a different opinion? My opinion is that IF you don't know anything about someone AND THEN you state, "This person does respect the Bible," then you have borne false witness, because you have stated something as factual that you don't know.

Now, if David had said, "I don't see how anyone could do a study and come to Conclusion X and still respect the Bible," that would NOT be a false witness. It may not be wholly logical, but David is clearly stating an opinion for what it's worth. But he did not say that. He stated flatly "these studies done by people [whom I can reasonably presume David does not know] that have no regard for Scripture."

I'm not jumping on David with harsh criticism, honestly. We all make mistakes (just look at my long list of apologies to you to see that I clearly know that I can make mistakes). I'm just pointing out that it's not a fair statement to make. It is my opinion that making those sorts of flat declarations about people whom you don't even know, that doing that can be reasonably called "false witness," in the sense that it is not a true witness of facts that you know to be true.

Consider this: I don't know squat about your preacher. However, I DO know some conservative televangelists who have been adulterers and cheats. If I were to say "Your preacher must be an adulterer and cheat his flock," would that be bearing false witness? Absolutely! While I don't know that it's NOT true, I have absolutely NO REASON in the world to make such an accusation. The fact that some other preachers have misbehaved is no reason for me to make that sort of flat accusation about your preacher. If I did that, I WOULD be bearing false witness.

How is that different than what anyone making a statement like "these studies done by people that have no regard for Scripture." is doing?

In short, I absolutely agree with you that a mistake is not bearing false witness. But stating as fact something that you don't know as fact is not a mistake. Now, if David had merely made a typo in his writing, then he DID in fact made a mistake and he could correct it. I was taking him to mean what he said, though. If he meant what he said, he did not make a mistake, he made an accusation without knowing the facts.

Are we agreed?

Dan Trabue said...

Or take this example. You ask me whether I believe we use reason in understanding Scripture. The question begs the question. "Stan must not think we use reason."

I don't think that is a fair or reasonable conclusion. When I ask someone if they believe we use reason, that is not to suggest that they don't use reason. It is a question to see if we agree and are on common ground.

Stan said...

Now, I don't know if you continue to misrepresent what I believe because you intend to or because you simply cannot understand. You accuse me of determining that Scripture is false. You accuse me of lying (of seeing a command and calling it not a command). You accuse me of not believing that "poor" means poor or "rich" means rich. It's not true. It's simply not true. But I don't call you to task for it. "You're bearing false witness!!!" That's your ploy, not mine

It's not a ploy to point out a false witness. It is a scriptural duty and a logical one so that mistakes and misunderstandings can be corrected. I strive to be careful - but being human it's always possible that I make mistakes - and say "misrepresents my position" when I someone has stated my position wrongly. The point being that one can innocently in ignorance or lack of understanding misrepresent someone. As opposed to bearing false witness. I used "false witness" here specifically when someone stated as fact something they did not know to be fact. I think that is correctly called false witness. Do you disagree?

To the degree that I misrepresent your positions, I do so in ignorance, not with malice or intent. I am striving to understand your position and that is why I ask questions. When I don't get clear answers to what I think are clear questions, I strive to explain it the best I can.

It is the case that I still don't get your position on "do not wear gold" not being a command. I mean, I understand your explanation, your reasoning, it just does not seem to fit into communication or language as I think it is commonly understood.

Dan Trabue said...

Von misrepresented yet again, saying...

You elevate your own reason *above* that of Scripture, Stan and I place our own reason *below* that of Scripture.

No. As I have plainly stated, we ALL use our reason to sort out what the Scriptures have to say. I do not place my reason "above" scripture, nor do you place yours "below" scripture. We use our reason to sort it out. It is a hand in hand process.

We open the bible and read, for instance, "I [Paul]also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls " and then you and I and Stan and everyone who reads the Bible uses our reason to try to figure out what that means. Was it merely Paul's opinion? Was it a direct command from God? What is that command - to not wear gold literally? Or did it mean merely that we should dress modestly? Or was it not about outer dress at all, but about inner qualities?

These are the reasoning processes that we go through in trying to decipher what that passage might mean. Does it mean you place scripture BELOW your reason when you do so? Or does it mean that you are using your reason to sort it out? Period.

We all use our reason to sort out what scripture means. That I use my reason, just like you do, does not mean that I elevate my reason above the bible and certainly not above God. It just means that I am striving to interpret it, just like Von, just like Stan.

Stan said...

Look, Dan, let's review the bidding here, so to speak. Yesterday you made a stab at actually discussing the meaning of Scripture. When I questioned your conclusion, here's what you offered (in shorthand):
"I would suggest that it is clearly not literal beatings.
1. Beat a child with a rod?? Really? 2. Research suggests ...
3. Intuitive reasoning backs this up.
4. You don't change from beatings."

It's a really odd thing, that, because I don't see a single exegetical reference: "Well, the text suggests ..." or "The context requires ..." or any such thing. I asked more questions, like how do you correlate what God did to Judah (described as "the rod in God's hand") as simply discipline? You offered nothing. So ... why is it that David and Von (and more) think you put your reasoning before Scripture? Maybe you can begin to see an answer that question now.

Dan Trabue said...

In my comment on 7/27/2009 11:39 AM, you can see a whole list of biblical reasons why I disagree with your conclusions, including...

4. Your other passages are Lam. 3 and Heb 12. Heb 12 speaks of God disciplining, which I approve of. Discipline is a good thing. The passage then goes on to say "God scourges every son whom God receives." You take that to be an endorsement of literal scourging, I assume? I'm not sure why, though. God clearly does not "scourge" anyone. Not literally. It is a metaphor for God's discipline. God disciplines by burdening our hearts, by words of correction from our brothers and sisters, by the Spirit's whisper in our hearts. God does not beat. God does not thrash or scourge. Those are metaphors.

Have you never been scourged by the pricking of your conscience over some wrong deed? The Godly words of a beloved friend correcting you for some misdeed?

5. Similarly, with Lam 3, it is speaking of God's "rod of wrath," which is clearly metaphorical, too. You don't believe God literally beat people with rods, do you?


My point is that the text talks of discipline, with which I agree, using the symbolism of beating with a rod. That is what I GET from reading the text of the Bible and using my reasoning. Just like you get something different than I do using your reasoning in reading Paul's commands to women about wearing gold.

Stan said...

Wrong place to look, Dan. That was the stuff to which I was responding. I pointed out what was actually being referenced by the phrase "rod of His wrath". It was the destruction of Judah. You argue that I'm wrong ... because of your reasoning, not because of the text.

Dan Trabue said...

And you argue I'm mistaken about women wearing gold because your reasoning suggests that is not an actual command to be taken literally.

David said...

Dan, you said I misrepresented the people that ran those studies. No, I don't know them personally, but I know that humanity as a whole is hostile to God and His ways. I know that the better part of the human population does not think in regard to Scripture. It was a logical assumption on my part that the people running the studies were non-Christians. Also, if a study doesn't reference the Bible in any way, why would I think that the person running the study has any thought about what Scripture says? Stating something as fact based on a flow of logic is not bearing false witness. Bearing false witness has purposeful and hurtful implications. What I said was not meant as something to lead one from truth. Assuming something is not lieing, it may be foolish or ill-conceived, but not lieing. In your example, if I believed that preacher was an adulterous cheat based off what I know about other preachers I've seen (and knowing nothing else about what a preacher really is) it would not be lieing if I believed he was just that. Your example is quite an extreme, since knowing more about preachers than what we see from televangelists would show us that not all preachers are adulterous cheats. It would be logical to assume though, that televangelists are adulterous cheats, but not all preachers.

David said...

As for what we said about you using secular studies against Scripture (instead of visa-versa), that would seem true, since Stan presented Scripture as his source, while the first thing you did was present research studies. If your first response to Scripture is studies, (and I have been following your comments on Stan's blog and this isn't an isolated incident) it would be a logical conclusion for me to assume that you believe studies (which I would also assume are secular being that they have no reference to Scripture in them) hold a higher place than Scripture. Stan says, "Here's what the Bible says, and this is what I believe it means." You reply with what other people say outside of Scripture, instead of pointing toward the Bible first. You may disagree with Stan's interpretation of Scripture, that's your prerogative as a man, but don't pose man's thinking before what God wrote in Scripture, and then say, "God means 'A' because all these people (that probably don't believe in God) say that they found 'A' in a study they put on."
Finally, I grew up under a father that spanked me. I always knew I had done wrong, even before he spanked me, so I knew I deserved it. My wife grew up with a father that spanked. He sometimes did it out of anger, and sometimes she probably didn't deserve it. We both love the Lord and follow His Word. In the final analysis, God will bring those into His fold that He wants in His fold, no matter what anyone does to them. God is sovereign and cannot be thwarted. He doesn't sit in heaven making plans for me, but have to be concerned about what Stan will do to me in case it interferes with His plan.

Dan Trabue said...

For what it's worth, I don't tend to "argue" the Bible. I find the process of person 1 saying, "The Bible says THIS," and person 2 saying "the Bible says THAT," and on and on not to be especially productive.

I know what the Bible says, I assume the person I am talking with knows what the Bible says. That being the case, I tend to be more interested in your reasoning process than you telling me what the Bible says. I know what it says. If it appears that the person I'm speaking with is unfamiliar with the Bible (or with some part thereof), THEN I tend to quote the Bible.

Otherwise, as noted, we all use our reasoning to sort out what the Bible says. That's what I'm usually trying to get out of a person - what is their reasoning.

So, if you see that I don't tend to argue the Bible, that's why.

Stan said...

Dan Trabue: "I don't tend to 'argue' the Bible."

Just so you know (not for argument or debate or whatever), a rational discussion of what the Bible says and why you (whoever is commenting) thinks so is exactly what I'm looking for. Someone saying, "The Bible says this" and someone else saying, "No, it says that" is not productive. There should be explanation. "I believe it says this because of these factors" (and, of course, "these factors" ought to be text, context, etc.).

I suspect that this is the primary problem in our ability to communicate.