Now there’s a title sure to get everyone’s attention!
Why do so many Christians abuse their children?
The reason is primarily a theological one (though they might not even realize it is).
Most Christian sects believe in some form of original sin (depravity).
The theology goes something like this:
A person does not become a sinner each is a sinner, from birth until death.
A person has a sinful nature inherited from the daddy for the human race — Adam.
A person has no choice in this matter. Each is a sinner.
So, from birth, children are sinners. They have no choice in the matter. They are what every human being is — a sinner.
The implications of this teaching are huge.
The Bible says:
A baby is born speaking liesThe wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Psalm 58:3
A baby is conceived in iniquity and sinBehold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalm 51:5
A baby is the enemy of GodYe adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. James 4:4
A baby is alienated from God The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Psalm 58:3
A baby is born into the world under the wrath of God For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Romans 1:18
I am sure someone will object to some of the verses I just quoted. “Those verses apply to ADULT sinners.”
Really? Have you thought out the implications of your theology.? Is there any difference in God’s eyes between a baby sinner and an adult sinner? Does God have a sin chart he uses to keep score and rate the quality of the sins committed?
I thought in the eyes of God that every sin is the same. Sure, the consequences are different from sin to sin, but God sees every sin as an affront to his Holy nature. Every sin is an act of rebellion against God. In the eyes of God there is no difference between when a baby “lies” about being hungry, wet, etc. just so he can get his mother’s attention, and a serial killer who kills five people. Sin is sin. Sinners sin. That’s what they do.
Ugly isn’t it? When you shine the clear, bright, light of reason on the doctrine of original sin it reveals its ugliness for all to see.
Some sects realize there is a big problem with the whole notion of original sin, so they invent doctrines to address it.
Catholics and many Protestants baptize infants, washing away their original sin. They are then safe until they reach a place of accountability for their sin.
Some Baptists and Evangelicals teach that while a baby is indeed born a sinner, the baby is not accountable for its sin until it reaches the age of accountability. Some Churches say accountability begins at age twelve. Others say it is an indefinite age, and once children can understand the difference between right and wrong and understand the penalty for sin, they are then accountable for their sin.
Some Calvinists, especially Reformed five-pointers, baptize their babies as a sign of the covenant between the parents and God. The children are raised as if they are children of God until they prove they are not.
In Baptist and many Evangelical churches an emphasis is placed on evangelizing children. The theory is that if you don’t win them when they are young you risk losing them. Most children raised in churches like this make a profession of faith at a very young age. My wife was five and I was six when we made our FIRST (certainly not our last) professions of faith. It is not uncommon to hear testimonies about little Johnny coming to his mother asking her about being saved. And right there by the bed they knelt and Johnny prayed out loud and asked Jesus into his heart.
The programs of child-evangelizing churches reflect the importance of making sure children become Christians. Sunday school, junior church, and youth group are geared towards children becoming Christians, and most importantly, staying in the church. Without children in the church pipeline, attendance and offerings dwindle, as is the case in many Evangelical sects today.
Why do children need to be saved? For the same reason adults do. They are sinners. They are in rebellion against God. They are the enemy of God. They deserve judgment and hell, or so says the Evangelical zealot.
One of the tools that God gave to parents to use with their children, or so Christians are told, is the rod of correction. Spanking, whipping, beating, and hitting a child are all used to teach a child that sin has consequences. In a very warped and perverse way, children are told their moms or dads hit them because they love them.
After all, the Bible clearly teaches that God whips his children because he loves them. Who wouldn’t want to follow in the steps of Jesus?
If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? Hebrews 12:7-9
My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. Proverbs 3:11,12
This is aptly illustrated in the death of Jesus on the cross. Jesus bore the wrath of his father. Why? Because he was bearing our sin. Our sin deserved the wrath of God and Jesus took that wrath upon himself. In other words, God beat his son Jesus for what we did.
Is it any wonder that the average Christian parents think it is quite normal, even quite spiritual, to spank, whip, beat, slap, or hit their children?
The Bible teaches it is a parent’s duty to beat his or her children.
Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge. 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 23:12-14
Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Proverbs 22:15
There are two major cultural influences that encourage the abuse of children.
First, while we are not a Christian nation we ARE a Christian nation. The teachings I have mentioned in this post are believed and practiced by a large portion of American families. Every day, the newspaper has another story of parents who abused their child. I wonder if the abusers are ever questioned about what religious training they received?
The Christian ethos runs deep in our culture. Being whipped for transgressions is thought to be as American as baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet. Paddling school children for misbehaving is finally becoming a thing of the past in America, but many of us can remember a day when someone getting paddled was a common, everyday occurrence (as I experienced first-hand). We call it corporeal punishment, but its real name is child abuse.
Listen to older Americans as they complain about how unruly kids are today and how disrespectful they are. “Why when I was a kid my momma got a peach switch and beat me when I misbehaved.“ “When daddy got home we knew we were gonna get it with his belt. We learned to behave because Daddy beat us.” “A little beating never hurt anybody.”
What’s the message that the Bible, God, the church, and older Americans are sending? That violence is a good and necessary tool to use when children disobey (sin). I should note, in passing, that this thinking permeates our culture. Our government leaders do this every day when they say, in their justification of war, that violence will bring peace. Through violence we whip the country that sinned against us until they stop sinning against us. In short, violence begets violence. Violence never begets peace, At best, it brings a cessation of hostilities. If we want true, lasting peace, we must be peacemakers, and our peacemaking must begin at home with our children and family.
Second, preachers have a huge influence over families. Their sermons on the family, parenting, marriage, and children have a deep and abiding influence.
How often have church children heard from their pastor::
Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Colossians 3:20
Of course verse 21 is NOT heard as often:
Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
While preachers will say they are just repeating what God said, their interpretation and application of verses that advocate beating children often provide a blueprint for child abuse. For those of us raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, books written by men like John R Rice and Jack Hyles provided us with the Biblical justification for violence against our children.
In many instances it was generational abuse. Our great-grandfather beat our grandfather, who beat our father, who beat us, and we, like those before us, beat our children. It’s an ugly chain of violence, one that must be broken.
As I scoured the internet for source material from the God wants you to beast your children perspective, I was humored by how nuanced they have become. This is the right way, this is the wrong way. This is “biblical” discipline, this is child abuse. I see their justifications and explanations as an admission that the Evangelical church has a huge problem with God-sanctioned, Bible-approved, pastor-encouraged child abuse. Countless Evangelical how-to books have been written, yet parents continue to violently abuse their children, sometimes even putting them in the hospital or killing them. Thanks to the internet, we now know that abuse in the name of God happens far more often than Evangelical church leaders would dare to admit.
This is an extremely practical method that will save you a lot of second-guessing. Remember the point of a spanking: It’s to sting, to provide a painful deterrent to misbehavior, not to injure.
The Bible never implies that the rod of discipline should be violent. It offers no specifics about how hard a spanking should be, and there’s no reason to assume that it’s talking about a brutal form of punishment. Just the opposite, in fact. A parent who reaches back and swings hard is acting out of anger and frustration, not out of love and desire for the child’s welfare. That’s unbiblical by anyone’s definition.
When you spank, use a wooden spoon or some other appropriately sized paddle and flick your wrist. That’s all the force you need. It ought to hurt — an especially difficult goal for mothers to accept — and it’s okay if it produces a few tears and sniffles. If it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t really discipline, and ultimately it isn’t very loving because it will not be effective in modifying the child’s behavior.
Have the child lean over his bed and make sure you apply the discipline with a quick flick of the wrist to the fatty tissue of the buttocks, where a sting can occur without doing any damage to the body. You want to be calm, in control, and focused as you firmly spank your child, being very careful to respect his body.
“One mother, while reading an early manuscript of this book, was being pulled on by her whining twelve-month-old daughter. When the mother came to the part (above) about not allowing a child to whine (“If they are tired put them to bed.”), she decided to apply what she was reading. She put her daughter down and told her to go to sleep. The sleepy child responded by crying in protest. Following the book’s instructions, she spanked the child and told her to stop crying and go to sleep. The child had previously been trained to spend an hour intermittently crying and getting up, only to be fussed at and laid back down. Nevertheless, the spanking subdued the crying and caused her to lie still. The mother continued her reading, and after a while she looked up to see that the child had very quietly slipped to the floor to browse through a book. The mother smiled at how sweet and quiet the child was. Without interruption, she continued her reading.
Reading further, she contemplated the fact that the child had not obeyed. “But she is being so good and is not bothering me,” the mother thought. She then realized the issue was not whether the child was bothering her, but whether or not she was learning to obey. She rightly concluded that by allowing the child to quietly sit on the floor at the foot of her bed, where she would eventually go to sleep, she was effectively training the child to be in rebellion to the rule of law. Out of love for her child, the mother inconvenienced herself and shattered the quiet solitude by spanking the child and again telling her to stay in the bed and go to sleep. An hour later the waking child was cheerful.”
“Select your instrument according to the child’s size. For the under one year old, a little, ten- to twelve-inch long, willowy branch (striped of any knots that might break the skin) about one-eighth inch diameter is sufficient. Sometimes alternatives have to be sought. A one-foot ruler, or its equivalent in a paddle, is a sufficient alternative. For the larger child, a belt or larger tree branch is effective.”
Would Jesus spank a child? If so, where would you point someone biblically who can’t imagine him doing this?
If Jesus were married and had children, I think he would have spanked the children.
The place that I would go to help a person see that he would, when they can’t imagine that he would, is Matthew 5 where he said, “Not a jot nor a tittle will pass away from the Law until all is accomplished.” In other words, all the Law and the Prophets stand until they’re done. And the Law says, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” That’s a paraphrase. The book of Proverbs says, “If you withhold the rod, you hate your son.” Jesus believed the Bible, and he would have done it.
Now, that does not address the heart of the issue. The heart of the issue is: Why does this person feel this way? What worldview inclines a person to think that you shouldn’t spank a child? Where does that come from?
Well it comes straight out of this culture, I think. There’s a sign that used to be on the side of the 35W bridge, on the right as you go north. And the sign simply said this: “Never, never, never, never, never hurt a child.” That’s all it said! And spanking is equated with hurting children. It’s against the law in Sweden to spank a child. And it’s against the law, I think, in some states in America. I’m not sure.
Well, I will go to jail over that issue! Talitha is to the point where I don’t think in terms of spanking my 13-year-old daughter anymore. But I did when she was little.
I could give a whole theology of spanking here, but maybe I’ll just boil it down. Why does this person feel squeamish about spanking? My guess is that it is a wrong view of God.
Deep down, does this person believe that God brings pain into our lives? Because Hebrews 12:6 makes the direct connection: God disciplines every son whom he loves, and spanks everyone that he delights in (my paraphrase). And the point there is suffering. God brings sufferings into our lives, and the writer of the Hebrews connects it to the parenting of God of his children.
This is a wrong view of God! God uses suffering to discipline his children. So do we.
Now, you don’t damage a child. You don’t give him a black eye or break his arm. Children have little fat bottoms so that they can be whopped.
When my sons were three and four years old, at their worst stages, drawing with orange crayons on the wall, they knew what was going to happen. So one day, just to give you an illustration of how this works emotionally, I found an orange mark on the wall in the hall upstairs from a crayon. Just about Barnabas’ height. And he’s three or four.
So I get Barnabas. I say, “Come here Barnabas. Did you make that mark on the wall.”
“Yes.” At least he’s honest.
I said, “We have a rule against that. You know you cannot draw on the wall with your crayons. You’re old enough to know that.”
“So what should happen?”
I said, “That’s right.” So I take him in the room, and whop! And he cries easy, so he cries. And when he’s done crying, there’s a big hug. And I say, “Don’t do that again, OK? Daddy loves you and we don’t mark on the wall, OK?”
Three minutes later he is bouncing off the walls, happy happy happy.
Now if I had said to him, “You go into your room and you sit there and you stay there until you feel appropriately guilty, and then we’ll see if you come out and do the right thing,” what a wicked way to punish a child!
Spanking is so clean! It’s so quick! It’s so relieving! A kid feels like he has done atonement and he is out of there and happy.
To these modern ideas of timeout, or sitting in the corner, I say, “Bologna! Give me a spanking! I want to go play!”
I just think spanking is really healthy for children. It is a measured deliverance of a non-damaging act of mild pain that makes the child feel the seriousness of what he’s done. It is not beating. It is not abuse. There is a clear difference. The very word “spank” exists because there is such a thing as a loving way to whop a child on his behind or his chunky thigh.
According to Baptist Mom, Nicole Munoz:(link no longer active)
Spanking teaches a child to develop inner self-discipline.
Spanking is punishment for a crime, payment for a debt. In other words, once paid, they have a clean slate. Spanking takes away the guilt, because the crime has been paid for.
Spanking properly prevents abuse because the parent does not build up anger toward the child and then explode on the child.
Spanking is the most effective tool for child discipline.
Spanking insures a good parent-child relationship.
Spanking is Biblical, Christian behaviour.
Spanking teaches a lesson and decreases child violence.
The Bible teaches that a parent who loves their child will spank them. Proverbs 13:24, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Proverbs 29:15, “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” America’s prisons are filled with youth and adults whose parents didn’t agree with God. No parent is right with God who allows their children to run the streets, not knowing where they’re at all times and keeping tabs on them. It is every parent’s responsibility to protect their child, to keep away from bad influences. The Devil knows that children are very impressionable and he has a bid for your child!
God put that padded area in the back for a reason. A child should only be spanked on the buttocks, which is why God made that area well upholstered. Child abuse is a sin. No parent should ever knee-jerk their child in anger. A good ole belt across the rear-end hurts like heck, but won’t break a bone. Sticks or boards are hard and should not be used. Hard objects should not be used, which may cause injury. In the old days, parents would make a flexible switch from a small tree branch. Perhaps you think that whipping your child is abuse, but not disciplining a child (so that they grow up to spend their life rotting behind bars in prison as a criminal) is a thousand times worse!…
The Bible is clear that little children are born in sin. Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 58:3, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” Because of this God has given parents to children to discipline then, to spank them, and to teach them the awful results of wrong. The plain teaching of the Scripture is that the parent who disciplines his child does the child and parent a great favor. Let us notice these favors.
The parent who spanks the child teaches him to have wisdom. Proverbs 29:15, “The rod and reproof have wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” The child is taught the wisdom that sin does not pay and that it brings displeasure, discomfort, and heartache. He will learn to associate wrong with punishment and thereby flee from it.
The parent who spanks his child provides himself with a happy future. Proverbs 29:15b, “. . . .but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” Oh, the heartbreak endured by parents who have failed to discipline their children. Many such are decaying old folks’ homes across the nation and around the world. They sit by silent telephones and search through empty mail boxes made so by the ungrateful child whose life is bringing shame and reproach to Mother and Dad. While these lovely souls pine their hearts away in remorse, their old-fashioned counterparts enjoy security, protection, provision, and love from those whom they spanked and disciplined as children.
The parent who spanks his child guarantees him a clean life. Proverbs 20:30, “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil; so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.” In other words, the parent who disciplines cleanses the child from evil character and inward sin. The child has been taught that sin brings trouble. He learns to fear and hate it. Someday he will rise and call his parents blessed.
The parent who spanks his child offers for himself more opportunities for service to God. In writing to Timothy in I Timothy 3:4,5 Paul says that a pastor should be one who “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?)” He also disqualifies from the office of deacon one who does not control his children properly. I Timothy 3:12, “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” Hence, one who does not follow God’s plain teaching about discipline is not qualified to hold either of the offices in the New Testament church. God will not use men who disobey Him in this vital matter. One reason God blessed Abraham so mightily is the fact that he could trust him to “command his children and his household after him,” according to Genesis 18:17-19…
The disciplining parent adds years to the life of his child. Exodus 20:12, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” What a favor the parent has done to the child when he disciplines and spanks him. He literally adds years to his life.
The parent who corrects his child will probably save the life of the child. Proverbs 23:13 says, “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.” Now at first reading we might be led to believe that the teaching of this verse is that the rod itself will not kill the child and certainly this is true if administered properly, but there is another teaching here: The child who has been spanked and taught that doing wrong brings bad results, tragedy, and punishment will less likely brawl or be killed in a car wreck because of drinking while driving. He is not as likely to die of some terrible disease caused by sin. In other words, he will be taught to live a safer life than he would have lived had he not been disciplined. Ah, how fortunate is such a one.
The parent who spanks the child keeps him from going to hell. Proverbs 23:14, “Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” A child who is spanked will be taught that there is a holy God Who punishes sin and wrong. Hence, he will learn to heed authority and obey the laws and rules. When he then hears the Word of God he will obey what he hears and will accept the Gospel as it is preached. The parent has kept his child from hell by teaching him truths that can be learned only by discipline and the use of the rod.
The spanking parent teaches his child how to equip himself better for the future, for he will obtain a better education. When the child has been taught to respect authority, obey the rules, and keep the laws before he starts to school he then transfers this obedience and respect to his school teacher. Because of this he receives a better education, better equips himself for life, and will be of more value to society and reap a larger financial reward. Hence, the parent who disciplines his child Scripturally is putting money in his pocket and success in his future.
Let the child realize that you are simply representing God in the execution of the punishment. Explain to him that parents represent God before their children and that they are ministers to execute His judgment. Psalm 103:13 says, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” So God is like a father and He chooses fathers and mothers to represent Him in the punishing of little children. Let the child realize that if you as a parent do not punish him properly, you are being disobedient to God and committing the same sin the child is committing. Explain to him that you are a child of God and if you refuse to obey God in the execution of His judgment upon your children, God will pour out His wrath upon you. For you to be a good child of God requires that you be a good parent to the child. Let him understand this. He will get the idea that God is a holy and just God, One Who loves and yet One Who wants us to become out best. For this to be so He must punish us when we are deserving.
Sometimes spanking should leave stripes on the child. Proverbs 20:30 says, “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil; so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.” Our natural man rebels a such punishment, but we are reminded in I Corinthians 2:14 that the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit. Hence, we have to trust the God Who knows more than we and obey Him.
I can recall when I was a boy we had a peach tree in the back yard. I do not ever recall seeing a peach grow on that tree. When I think of the old peach tree I think of Mother walking back from it with a branch in her hand, peeling the leaves off as she came. I then recall her using that switch to spank my little bare legs. I can still see the stripes often left by that switch, and I thank God for every one of them. Today I call her “blessed” because of her faithfulness to the teaching of God and her willingness to obey Him. Placing stripes on me as a child kept me from bearing more painful ones as an adult. Ephesians 6:4 says, “And, ye fathers. . . bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The word “nurture” means “chastening.” It is the same word that is used concerning the scourging of Christ as He was beaten with the cat-o’-nine-tails. The wise and spiritual parent obeys God and follows His commandments, not his own reason.
Begin early in spanking the child. Susannah Wesley said she spanked John and Charles before they were a year old. Certainly the wise parent will start by at least this age. Proverbs 19:18 says, “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” This means there is a time in a child’s life when no hope is left. During the formative years, yea, the infant years, the child should be spanked. As soon as his is old enough to walk away from his parents he should be spanked if he does not walk where they say he should walk. As soon as he is old enough to understand what they say he should be spanked if he disobeys what they say. This Scripture admonishes us that even when a child is so young that his crying reaches our sympathy, and though it is hard for us as compassionate parents to spank one who seems so innocent, we should nevertheless discipline him. Parents should not have to remove vases and delicate glass ornaments from living room tables. A house need not become disorderly and full of riots because a baby has come. Start early in disciplining the child.
The parent should build such a close relationship that the worst part of the spanking is the broken fellowship between the child and the parent. I can still recall how disappointed my mother’s face looked when she spanked me and I can recall how I dreaded displeasing her even more than I dreaded the spanking, (and believe me, I DID dread the spanking). When the love and affection is close between the child and parent and the relationship is what it ought to be, the worst part of a whipping is the broken fellowship. In other words, when the parent is not disciplining, the relationship should be so wonderful, the fellowship so sweet, and life so happy that the severance of that in itself is terrible punishment for the child to endure.
The spanking should be a ritual. No mother or father should jerk the child up and in a fit of temper administer a spanking. In fact, no punishment should ever be given in a fit of temper. The ritual should be deliberate and last at least ten or fifteen minutes. (In the long run time will be saved using this method.) It should be a ritual dreaded by the child. He should not only dread the pain but the time consumed in the ordeal.
The punishment should always be far in excess of the pleasure enjoyed by doing wrong. The child should realize he will always be the loser by far and that the discomfort will be so multiplied that soon he will have forgotten the pleasure derived from the wrong.
The parent should state very clearly to the child the wrongs and the punishment for each one. As near as possible these wrongs should be listed with the punishment that is to be inflicted for each one. If the punishment does not seem to correct it, then perhaps it should be increased. Some parents have made lists of possible wrongs and have carefully gone over this list with the child explaining exactly what each punishment would be. The punishment is inflicted without exception so that the child will know exactly what to expect.
Before punishing the child tell him clearly what wrong he has committed. Talk sternly and deliberately without a display of temper. Let him know exactly what he has done wrong. Then require that he state to you exactly what the wrong was so that what he did is very clear to you and to the child. Then, ask him what the punishment is. By this time he will know. Let him know that to be just and righteous you must inflict the punishment reminding him that you are doing it in the place if God against Whom he has really sinned.
Never give a child that for which he cries. The baby who cries for attention and gets it will become a child who cries for a toy and gets it, then a teenager who whines and complains for every whim and gets it, and then a young adult who will demonstrate and riot in order to get his wishes. Riots are not started in the streets but in the crib.
The spanking should be administered firmly. It should be painful and it should last until the child’s will is broken. It should last until the child is crying not tears of anger but tears of a broken will. As long as he is stiff, grits his teeth, holds on to his own will, the spanking should continue.
After the spanking tell him why you did it. While he is still crying have him sit down. Explain to him again what the crime was and that you had no alternative but to obey God and punish him for the crime. Ask him again to repeat to you what he did that was wrong. Allow the impression of the association between the wrong and the penalty to be cut deep in his mind.
Then the wise parent should assure the child of his love and explain the reason he spanked him was because of that love. He should then have the child remain in the room alone. (All spankings should be administered in privacy and with a closed door.) The parent should have a brief prayer with the child. Lead him to realize his sin was against God. Ask the child to pray asking God to forgive him. He should then have time to be alone in the room to think over his wrong for a few minutes. After two to five minutes the parent may open the door and allow normal activity to resume.
…But I also knew people whose children were absolutely delightful to be around. They did not interrupt; they did what their parents asked immediately and politely – even cheerfully; they happily played independently of their parents; and between parents and children, pride, adoration and love were mutual and obvious.
These were the kind of children I wanted and I knew I could be a great mom to children like these. But how do you get a well-behaved child? You can’t just put in an order for one and expect to receive it.
I had already observed many times which discipline methods did not work to bring about polite and obedient children. So I sought to find out what parents of well-behaved children did differently. Whenever I met someone whose children were well behaved (and whose family was close and loving), I would ask, “How do you discipline your children?” Invariably, the answer was some sort of controlled spanking for disobedience and then some sort of loving explanation as to why the child received a spanking. Also, invariably, that method was started early in childhood (about age one), and tapered off by age nine with a rare spanking after that – because by then spankings were rarely needed.
Most of the people I interviewed were Christians following the Biblical directive of discipline with the “rod.” I looked up all the Bible verses concerning child discipline. There were several, but some were particularly pertinent. “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15) How true! And we have all seen it! “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” (Proverbs 29:17) Also true. All the children I had observed who had been disciplined according to those Biblical directives were the type who would delight any parent’s heart.
For me, the method of discipline seemed obvious. I wanted polite, affectionate and obedient children. I would do what worked and what I had seen proven over and over again. When my twins were born I was doubly glad that I had researched so thoroughly because caring for twins is so exhausting and stressful in the early years. I know I could not have coped with one ill-behaved child, much less two! I started disciplining my girls when they were about a year old, and I’ve never regretted using this method. At age 13 my daughters are polite, well-behaved at all times, and we are very close. Every stage of their lives has been a delight – even through the “twos” and now into early adolescence.
Sadly, sadly, I see in the newspaper and on television these days: “Don’t ever strike your child!” or “Spanking is child abuse.” And I wonder where these people are coming from! By my definition (and millions of other parents) a “spanking” or using the “rod” as some people term it, entails a couple of swift whacks on the child’s clothed behind with a ruler, wooden spoon, or paddle. And that’s all. No ranting or raving. No screaming or raging. No harsh or hurtful words. No sarcastic or cutting remarks. Just a quick spanking and then a few minutes lovingly telling the child why he was spanked, how much he is loved, and how to keep from being spanked in the future…
…All discipline systems are not alike. There are some discipline methods that sound great and are “politically correct”. But do they work? Do they produce polite, obedient and cheerful children? Unfortunately, most do not. The method that I’ve described – spanking under control, followed by a loving talk, does work. (From Mark and Sallie Benedict’s Christian Parenting Network)
The Bible speaks, you decide. And please, no revisionists; a rod is actually a shepherd’s crook used to gently guide the sheep (children) along. The Bible says:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. Ephesians 6:1-3
Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Colossians 3:20
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
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
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back. Proverbs 26:3
The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. Proverbs 29:15
My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth, Proverbs 3:11,12
If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? Hebrews 12:7-9
Man spanking his son
These verses are often used to justify the brutal, violent beating of children and teenagers. God demands obedience and those who refuse to obey should be beaten into submission. Through the centuries, countless Christian parents have used paddles, whips, hair brushes, books, belts, or anything else that was handy, to beat their children. Better to beat them than lose them to the devil, right?
Most of us who were once Bible-believing, sin-hating, devil-chasing Evangelical literalists now see that our disciplinary methods were abusive, cruel, and ineffective. It’s hard to look back at how we “disciplined our children as unto the Lord” and not feel regret and shame. I know that’s how it is for me.
I was a stern taskmaster. I believed the Bible laid out the pattern I had to follow IF there was to be any hope of my children turning out well. I can now say that my children turned out well DESPITE the whippings I gave them. Their love and respect for me and their forgiveness of me overwhelms me. I don’t deserve it.
They know I was just doing what I thought God commanded me to do, but knowing that I inflicted unnecessary pain on my children is heartbreaking. I am often asked if I think all spanking is child abuse. In general, yes I do. I think there are better ways to discipline children than by hitting them. While I make some allowance for slapping a toddler’s hand, I do not think hitting, punching, or slapping a child is the best way to get them to obey.
Yes, the Bible says ___________________and we who desire to live in a less violent world must be willing to say that the Bible is w-r-o-n-g. The authors of the Bible likely reflected the way children were disciplined during their time, but we have come to the place where we now know that beating children, for whatever reason, is not only unproductive, but it is also abuse.
If you are a parent with young children, how do you discipline your children? I am an old man, the product of an era gone by, an era when violence against children was the rule and not the exception. If we truly want to live a nonviolent way of life, it must begin with our treatment of those who are innocent, weak, and vulnerable. If you had to give discipline advice to a young father or mother, what would you tell them? Please share your advice in the comment section.
If you are a Christian, I mean a card-carrying member of the Jesus band, you should find my views abhorrent, loathsome, and damnable.
I know you say you are my friend.
I know you have become adept at separating the man from his message.
I appreciate the fact that you make an attempt to love me where I am and how I am.
But I wonder…
Do you really love me for being me or is your love a means to an end?
Perhaps you operate under the delusion that if you just love me as you think Jesus loves me that I will return to the Christian faith and the universe, your universe, will be in balance once again.
You hold on, hoping that the hounds of heaven chase me down and return me to Kingdom of God.
Sometimes I think you are like those people whose spouses have died. Night after night, they sit on the couch hoping that it is all a mistake and that their spouse is going to walk through the door.
I am not coming through the door.
It is time for you to embrace reality.
What Evangelicals Really Think
I am a non-believer.
I am an apostate.
I am a Christ-denier.
Outside of these things I am still a pretty good guy.
You don’t really love and respect my position.
How can you?
I stand in opposition to most of what you believe.
Besides, I voted for Obama
You believe the Bible is God’s truth.
You believe that all human beings are sinners in need of salvation.
You believe Jesus is the way, truth and life.
You think attending a church is the most important thing a person can do.
I don’t (but I do make exceptions for funerals and weddings).
What does the Bible say about someone like me?
I am a dog returned to his vomit (2 Peter 2:22).
I am a pig returned to the pig pen (2 Peter 2:22).
I have given heed to seducing spirits and the doctrines of devils (1 Timothy 4:1).
I am a scoffer walking in my own lusts (2 Peter 3:2-7).
I am willingly ignorant (2 Peter 3:2-7).
I am a false prophet, a false teacher out to deceive all who come in contact with me (Matthew 24:11,12).
Let me remind you of what the Bible says about someone like me:
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:
(For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.
But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;
Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.
These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (2 Peter 2)
What Evangelicals Really Think
The Bible is clear. God has spoken. It would have been better for me not to have ever known Jesus, never to have been saved.
I understand why some Evangelicals become so violent, so aggressive with me. I am a fly in their ointment, a stench that can not be removed. Their answer is to declare that I never was a Christian, that I never was saved, that I never believed the truth, that I am a publican and a heathen (Matthew 18).
But YOU know better.
You know what I believed.
You know how I lived.
I don’t ask you to love and respect my position.
Stand for what you believe, what you think is the truth.
All I would ask of you is that you truly have an answer for the hope that lies within you (1 Peter 3:15).
Don’t tell me what your denomination, pastor, or church believes.
Don’t tell me to read the latest, greatest book by a Christian guru.
What do YOU really believe?
If you know what you believe, shout it from the mountaintops.
But, if you are not so sure…
If you have questions…
If you have doubts…
Consider me an alternative viewpoint.
I am not a guru.
I am not a prophet.
I am just one man on a journey from eternity to here.
This blog is the written expression of my journey.
It is my “bible.”
I am nothing more than one man crying in the wilderness of his own life, seeking to know and understand not only his own life, but the lives of those he inhabits the earth with.
I used to preach that Jesus was hope for the hopeless and rest for weary. Unfortunately, for many people, Jesus, or I should say the Evangelical/fundamentalist church, made them weary and hopeless.
What should have been a source of hope and rest turned into something destructive – so destructive that some people have thoughts of ending their life.
It shouldn’t be this way. I am convinced that Jesus, real or not, is not the problem. I find nothing in the words of Jesus that would cause me to lose hope or have thoughts of suicide.
No, it is what the Church has done with Jesus over the past 2,000 years that is the problem. God, Jesus, and the Bible have become tools of manipulation, control, and destruction.
I wish I could share with you the emails I get from people who are former, or trying to be former, Evangelicals. I can’t share them because I respect the privacy of those who email me. For some, my email inbox has become their confessional. I can tell you this: there are a lot people who are hopeless and weary as a result of their immersion in the Evangelical Christian religion.
They often have no place to turn. In many instances, their families or spouses are still in the church. They desperately need someone to talk to, but they have no one to turn to. They can’t go to their pastor — he wouldn’t understand. If they live in a small town, they can’t even seek out a local counselor because everyone will be sure to know (you would have to live in a small town to understand this).
So they suffer silently. In the night they toss and turn and wonder what has gone wrong. Where is God? There is no God. Where is the God of hope? There is no hope. Where is the God who gives rest? There seems to be no rest.
Their thoughts turn to suicide. No, I can’t do that, I’ll go to hell. Wait, there is no God, who gives a shit?
I want you to know I give a shit. I have been where you are and some days I am still where you are. There are a lot of readers of this blog who know your story. They have lived it. They are still living it. They know the struggle you are going through — the struggle of a life of faith that has turned into faithlessness, a life of believing that has turned into unbelief. Maybe you are like the man in the Bible who cried “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.”
I am not out to convert you to my cause or change you. It does not matter whom you worship, where you worship, what you believe, or what label you give yourself.
My desire for you is hope and rest.
For many of us, the Evangelical Christian faith has damaged us mentally and emotionally. The wounds and scars run deep. All the attempts in the world to marginalize our feelings will come to naught. We know what we know…
I can hear the clock ticking.
Another night with no sleep.
I hear my lover snoring.
I think of our life together.
So much time wasted.
So much work invested in things that do not matter.
Years have passed us by.
God we served you.
God we loved you.
God we worshiped you.
God we left all to follow you.
Careers, ambitions, wealth, family…
All forsaken to follow you.
Only to find out it was all a dream, and a bad dream at that.
And so, in the still of the night, I reflect on the heap of my life.
What am I to make of all this?
Can I go on?
Will I go on?
I must go on.
God or not, there is a life to be lived.
God or not, I still must live as if I am dying.
Because I AM dying.
So much life yet to live.
So much life yet to experience and enjoy.
God is back on the shelf where he belongs.
Maybe I’ll dust him off again on my final day.
Until then, I will live morally and ethically.
Until then, I will love and hate.
Until then, I will walk the path called life the best I know how.
Without God, without the Bible, and most certainly without the church.
I still have hope.
My hope is no longer built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.
My hope is built on the love and goodness of humankind.
These days the only gods I see are my family, friends, and fellow humans.
Typical Evangelical/Baptist church. Go for a blessing and get barbecued.
I was an Independent, Fundamentalist, Sin-Hating, Devil-Chasing, Pulpit-Pounding, King-James-Waving, Baptist preacher. I prided myself on HARD preaching, just like old-time Baptist preachers.
If people were happy with my preaching it meant I wasn’t preaching hard enough.
Cecil Hodges, an old preacher from Georgia said one time:
We hit our people over the head with the sin stick so often that they duck when we begin to preach.
I was one of those kind of preachers.
Preach long. Preach loud.
No subject was spared.
Preaching the whole counsel of God required preaching about EVERY sin, even the unpopular ones (such as chewing gum during church, writing notes in church, and using the bathroom during the sermon).
One young preacher I heard about was upset over people getting up to use the bathroom during his sermon. He sternly told his flock:
I don’t want anyone using the bathroom while I am preaching. If you need to use the bathroom, pee in your shoes. You can wring out your socks after the service.
He was fired several weeks later.
In Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches the pastor is god. He’s the law. What he says goes. The Church CAN fire him, but it is often very hard to do. After all, in many cases, the pastor started the church. He often has a following no matter what he says or does.
When the pastor stands up and preaches, whatever he says is taken to be the gospel. A good IFB church member hates what the pastor hates and loves what the pastor loves. To go against the pastor usually meant you were looking for another church to attend.
Two incidents stand out for me that I think would be illustrative of how I preached.
There were two school teachers who attended the church I pastored. They were husband and wife — good people. They had joined our church after the church they attended had a split (a very common occurrence in IFB churches). I will call them The Smiths.
The Smiths taught high school. Mr. Smith was a girls’ high school basketball coach and taught English. Mrs. Smith taught business classes. Both of them were members of the Teacher’s Union.
One week, the Teacher’s Union took a policy position that was contrary to what I thought the Bible taught. I concluded that a Christian who was right with God could NOT be a member of the Teacher’s Union.
Sunday came and I entered the pulpit ready to do battle with the sin of being part of the Teacher’s Union. I preached long and hard. I exposed the sin of belonging to the Teacher’s Union. I called on all teachers in the church (all two of them) to leave the Teacher’s Union.
They left all right.
Early in my ministry I became convinced that the Masonic Lodge was a Satanic, evil organization. The local Masons had come to me and asked to use our church bus to attend a Masonic function in a nearby city. I told them absolutely not, and then proceeded to let them know how Satanic the Masonic Lodge was.
On the following Sunday I entered the pulpit ready to do battle with the sin of being a member of the Masonic Lodge. I made it very clear that a person could not be a Christian and a Mason, and no one who was a member of the Masonic Lodge could be a member of our church.
There were several members of the Masonic Lodge visiting our church.
They got the message.
We never saw them again.
I am sure some of my more liberal Christian readers are saying WOW about now. You should be.
I was taught in Bible college that God often builds a church by subtraction. Losing people could be a good thing. After all, fellowship is a bunch of fellows in a ship all rowing in the same direction.
When people left it was never my fault.
After all the Bible says:
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. 1 John 2:19
I saw leavers as carnal, soft, weak people who had no stomach for real, hard Bible preaching.
I was wrong.
I do not have enough life left to repent of all the foolishness I did in God’s name. I ran off a lot of good people — people who had the misfortune of thinking differently from me.
I was not an oddity within the Baptist church. In Independent and Southern Baptist churches I would have been considered typical, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. As many of the readers of this blog can testify, preachers such as I was are quite common. Legalism and cultic control of people (now called spiritual abuse) is far too common, not just in Baptist churches, but in every branch of the Evangelical church.
I should note that I did not remain the preacher described in this post. Over time, I came to realize how abusive it was. In the late 1980s I learned to preach expositionally and doing so helped to get me away from the type of preaching with which I started my ministry. Towards the end of my ministry, I was considered a liberal by many of my Baptist preacher friends. They thought I had gone soft (and from their perspective I had).
A survey of atheists and agnostics will certainly show that a large number of them were raised in legalistic, rigid Christian environments. Fundamentalism extracts a huge price from everyone it touches.
Were you raised in a church that prided itself on hard preaching? How did this kind of preaching affect you mentally and emotionally? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.
Most all Evangelical church members believe that the Bible that they carry to church on Sunday is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. If you ask them if the Bible has any errors, mistakes, or contradictions, they will likely says, absolutely not! While they know that their Bible is a translation of ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, they assume there is a perfect word line from God, to the writers of the manuscripts, to the translation they use.
Ask college/seminary-trained Evangelical pastors if the Bible has any errors, mistakes, or contradictions, and they will likely not say anything at first and then will say, well, you need to understand _________________________________ (insert long explanation). They will likely tell you that modern translations are faithful or reliable or that there are no errors, mistakes, or contradictions on any matter that is important to salvation. If you press them hard enough they will tell you that no translation is perfect. (Remember, inerrancy demands perfection.) At about this point in the discussion, the Evangelical pastor will say, I DO believe the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts are inerrant (perfect, without error, mistake, or contradiction).
The next obvious question is, so where are the original manuscripts?Well, uh, l-o-n-g pause, the original manuscripts don’t exist, the Evangelical pastor says. That’s right, the original manuscripts don’t exist. No one has ever seen or read the “original” manuscripts of the Bible. In fact, most of the extant manuscripts are dated hundreds and thousands of years after the events they record. According to Wikipedia, the oldest Old Testament manuscript (a fragment) dates back to the 2nd century BCE and the rest of the Old Testament manuscripts are dated from the 3rd century CE to the 11th century CE. Most of these manuscripts are NOT written in Hebrew.
But what about the Dead Sea Scrolls? Uneducated Evangelical church members erroneously think the Dead Sea Scrolls “prove” the Bible is the Word of God. Here is what Wikipedia says:
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts discovered between 1946 and 1956 at Khirbet Qumran in the West Bank. They were found in caves about a mile inland from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name. The texts are of great historical, religious, and linguistic significance because they include the earliest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible canon, along with extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism.
The texts are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabataean, mostly on parchment but with some written on papyrus and bronze. The manuscripts have been dated to various ranges between 408 BCE and 318 CE…
Due to the poor condition of some of the Scrolls, not all of them have been identified. Those that have been identified can be divided into three general groups: (1) some 40% of them are copies of texts from the Hebrew Bible, (2) approximately another 30% of them are texts from the Second Temple Period and which ultimately were not canonized in the Hebrew Bible, like the Book of Enoch, Jubilees, the Book of Tobit, the Wisdom of Sirach, Psalms 152–155, etc., and (3) the remaining roughly 30% of them are sectarian manuscripts of previously unknown documents that shed light on the rules and beliefs of a particular group or groups within greater Judaism, like the Community Rule, the War Scroll, the Pesher on Habakkuk and The Rule of the Blessing.
The oldest New Testament manuscripts date back to the 2nd century CE. Most of the extant manuscripts are dated from 9th century CE forward. Here is what Wikipedia says about the New Testament manuscripts:
Parts of the New Testament have been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work, having over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic and Armenian. The dates of these manuscripts range from 125 CE (the John Rylands manuscript, P52; oldest copy of John fragments) to the introduction of printing in Germany in the 15th century. The vast majority of these manuscripts date after the 10th century. Although there are more manuscripts that preserve the New Testament than there are for any other ancient writing, the exact form of the text preserved in these later, numerous manuscripts may not be identical to the form of the text as it existed in antiquity. Textual scholar Bart Ehrman writes: “It is true, of course, that the New Testament is abundantly attested in the manuscripts produced through the ages, but most of these manuscripts are many centuries removed from the originals, and none of them perfectly accurate. They all contain mistakes – altogether many thousands of mistakes. It is not an easy task to reconstruct the original words of the New Testament….”
As you can see, there are no originals. Any talk of inerrant originals is just a smoke screen that hides the fact the extant manuscripts and EVERY Bible translation is errant. Any Evangelical who says that the Bible is inerrant in the originals is making a statement that cannot be proved. Every college/seminary trained-Evangelical pastor knows this, but few of them are willing to tell their congregation this. Why? They fear that their congregation will lose “faith” in the Bible and that the Bible will lose its authority if they tell them the truth. They would rather lie — and they ARE lying if they don’t tell their congregation the facts about the origin, translation, and text of the Bible — than have people doubt the Bible or God.
If there are no inerrant manuscripts, then there can be no inspiration. Most Evangelicals believe that God inspired (breathed out) the Bible. If you ask Evangelical church members exactly WHAT God inspired, they will likely point to their Bible. Ask an Evangelical pastor the same question and he will likely start praying for the rapture to happen immediately. Why? Because the Evangelical doctrine of inspiration is based on the notion that the Bible is inerrant in the original manuscripts. Since there are no original manuscripts and there are thousands of variations in the extant manuscripts and translations, then there is no such thing as an inspired Bible. At best, all that Evangelicals have is a flawed, errant translation of old, flawed, errant manuscripts. Inerrancy and inspiration, as defined by Evangelicals, are myths, lacking any proof whatsoever.
This does not mean that the Bible has no value, but understanding that the Bible is not an inspired, inerrant text keeps a person from giving the Bible supernatural, God-like power. It is a good book, a useful book, an inspirational book, but it is not a book that is straight from the mouth of God to our ears.
Our culture is awash with men and women who say they speak for the Christian God. What is the one belief that these speakers for God have in common? That the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Every Sunday, Evangelical Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest church in America, leads his congregation in:
The culture wars that continue to rage in the United States are based on the belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. When Evangelical culture warriors quote a proof-text from the Bible, they believe they are speaking the very words of God — in English of course. What they are really speaking are the words of an errant, fallible text that may or may not be the words of God. Since the original manuscripts no longer exist, it is impossible to know if the words of the Bible are God’s words. And even if the original manuscripts did exist, how could anyone prove that they were the words of God? Would there be an endorsement statement on the last page that said, This is God and I approve of these words? Of course not.
The Evangelical Christian says, the pastor says, the denomination says, the Bible says, but there is no way of knowing what God said. And this is why the foundation of Christianity is not the Bible but faith.
Let me close this post by illustrating how pervasive the belief that the Bible is inerrant/inspired is. The following Gallop Poll charts tell a depressing story about how Americans view the Bible:
The percentage of Americans taking a literal view of the Bible has declined over time, from an average of 38% from 1976-1984 to an average of 31% since. However, highly religious Americans — particularly those of Protestant faiths — still commonly believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible.
Perhaps it is time for Christian churches to stop studying the Bible for a year so they can focus on reading and studying a few of Bart Ehrman’s books. Of course, if pastors did this they might risk being fired because their congregations would know that they’ve been lying to the them about the Bible (and it IS a lie to omit facts about the origin, nature, and history of the Biblical text).
Until Evangelicals are disabused of their errant beliefs about the Bible, they will continue to arrogantly think that they have THE truth, that their God is the one, true, living God, and that the words of the Bible are God directly speaking to them. Until they understand that the Bible is not what they claim it is, there is no hope of a rational discussion. The Evangelical position can be summed up like this: God said it, end of discussion.
Some groups take inspiration and inerrancy a step farther and say that the King James Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. The followers of Peter Ruckman even believe the italicized words added by translators to improve the reading and understanding of the King James translation, are inerrant and inspired. Ruckmanites believe the italicized words are an advanced revelation given to the translators by God.
Some Evangelicals believe that God has preserved his Words down through history. These Evangelicals admit that the original manuscripts do not exist, but they believe God, down through the centuries, has preserved (kept perfect) his Word, and the King James Bible is the preserved Word of God for English-speaking people.
Evangelicals love the Bible. They rarely read it or practice its teachings, but they do love it. They call themselves people of the book. Baptist churches use the line The Blood, The Book, The Blessed Hope to describe their beliefs.
Evangelicals believe the Bible is an inerrant, infallible book inspired (and preserved) supernaturally by God. Many Evangelicals think the Bible is also a science, archeology, and history textbook. Other Evangelicals think it is a sex manual, the blueprint for life, the keys to successful living. In their mind, the Bible is the end all. It contains everything a person needs to know about life.
The Bible is a #1 bestseller that most everyone in America owns but hasn’t read. Countless Evangelical Bibles gather dust on the coffee table, only to be brushed off come Sunday. Some Evangelicals store their Bible in the back window of their car, in the trunk, or under the front seat. This way they will know where it is when they pull into the church parking lot on Sunday.
The Evangelical theme song is:
Yes, that’s the book for me
I stand alone on the Word of God
BIBLE (Shouted real loud so God hears them)
Evangelicals, with their devotion, love, and worship of the Bible, assume that everyone else has the same devotion, love, and worship of the Bible. They also assume that everyone accepts their presuppositions about the Bible; that the Bible is an inerrant, infallible book inspired supernaturally by God. They cannot fathom anyone viewing the Bible any other way. Sin, unbelief, liberalism, or apostasy are the causes for not believing as they do, or so say the Evangelicals.
One tactic Evangelicals use with non-believers, atheists and agnostics, is quoting the Bible. Since they believe the Bible has magical power, they think if they quote the Bible that it will have a powerful effect on the person they are quoting it to. A recent post by Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum, illustrates this kind of thinking:
A new atheist billboard now appears along the interstate in Riverside, California. These billboards feature a beautiful sunrise over a mountain scene and say, “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone,” and then give a web address. This board is just one version of many similar boards from other atheist organizations in different parts of the country. Rather than comment on these boards, I thought I would just let Scripture do the talking.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:18–23)
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)
This is the message that these atheists need to hear and believe!
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16–18)
Ham has a Bible message for people like me:
I am a fool
I am ungodly
I am unrighteous
I suppress the truth
I am unthankful
I have a darkened heart
Ham’s solution for such a debauched life is for me to believe these words are true and repent of my sins and trust Jesus as my Lord and Savior. He thinks if he writes or says the magic words that somehow, some way, they will transform my life.
Here’s what Ham doesn’t understand. I don’t accept his presuppositions about the Bible. It is just a book, no different from any other book sitting on my bookshelves. It has no magical power. In fact, when I hear or read Evangelicals quoting the Bible, my ears often go deaf and eyes go dark. If anything, it cause medical problems.
If Evangelicals want to challenge my worldview and beliefs, they are going to have to come up with something better than the Bible. Saying “God says,” “thus saith the Lord,” “in Genesis 1:1 the Bible says,” etc., have no power over me. Such quoting is little more than a parlor trick used to amaze the ignorant and I am too old for such childish tricks.
I am not saying the Bible has NO value. It does, and many people find the Bible to be a book of wisdom and spirituality. Such people are light years away from Evangelicals.
What follows is a brief excerpt of a story about Jonathan Nichols. Jonathan grew up in the Newark Baptist Temple, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church (IFB) pastored, until recently, by my wife’s uncle, James Dennis. The Pastor (Jamie) Overton in this story is married to my wife’s cousin. He and his family are now missionaries. Polly’s parents have attended this church since the late 1970s. The Christian school in this story is the Licking County Christian Academy in Heath, Ohio. It is owned and operated by the Newark Baptist Temple.
The following story is excerpted from Part One and Part Two of Jonathan’s story:
My story is going to be slightly different than the others featured on this blog because I actually never attended Bob Jones University. However, before you stop reading, you should know that I would be finishing up my freshman year at BJU had I not been outed in high school, expelled, and ultimately forced to leave home. My parents are both BJU alumni, and the principal of my Christian school in Ohio was a BJU-pusher. In fact, while I was growing up, BJU was presented as the only viable choice of college by my family and a few teachers. Because of that, my story isn’t too different from the others here, I just went through the same things earlier, before I actually went to college.
I grew up in Newark, Ohio and attended an independent fundamental Baptist church since I was born. That church was more conservative than Bob Jones, and my parents were more conservative than the church. My mom, the church pianist and school music teacher, was forever busy taking the “sensual” triplets out of songs like “Some Trust in Chariots” and campaigning against songs like “As The Deer” and “Bow the Knee.” As you can probably deduce from that, practically no modern music was allowed in our household either. I grew up on classical music and only classical music and quickly learned that there was no such thing as likes and dislikes when it came to music. There was just good and bad. You are to listen to good music and not to listen to bad music. What music you “like” has nothing to do with anything.
That mentality was carried into every area of life.
I suppose being the music teacher’s son allowed me to be a little gay boy without thinking anything of it or being called out about it. I was totally into music and art and pretty things, and nothing was weird. I would play with scarves without feeling odd. Well, without feeling too odd. I knew that none of the other guys my age were playing with scarves. Fortunately, I didn’t think about it too much.
Ok, so I can’t really credit my discretion for keeping me in the closet for eighteen years… Like I said, I played with scarves and wasn’t careful about making it known that I was a musician and not like those “other” guys. The atmosphere was so anti-gay that no one even bothered to think that there could be a gay kid growing up there, regardless of how obvious I made it. Besides, I was still a kid. I didn’t even know what it meant to be gay. Heck, I didn’t even know that it meant anything besides “happy.” So in the minds of the church and my parents, there was no way I could have chosen to be gay yet. And since being gay is a choice, that meant that I was a good, straight little boy. Just like God intended. Right? Totally….
….wanted so much to be able to be honest with someone that I was actually in contact with. I hinted to my closest friend that my friendship with Ryan wasn’t just a friendship. She was, naturally for someone in our atmosphere, worried for me. So, despite her promises that she would trust me to do what I felt was right, she went to my youth pastor for help. He promptly told the senior pastor, who is superintendent of the school. The next day, I was called into Pastor Dennis’s office for questioning. Pastor Overton was also in the room, sitting to my left with a legal pad and a pen, taking notes. Dennis tried to start off nice enough, but it was obvious that they found out. I decided that a clean breast of the issue would be best, and went into my research on the matter, hoping at least to get an opposing rebuttal and at best to convince them. How naive I was. . . I don’t remember much of that conversation, but one thing rings vividly in my mind. I mentioned that the Greek word malakoi in I Cor. 6:9 was never elsewhere, in the whole of Greek literary writings, translated “effeminate.” It carried a whole different connotation. His response? He turned around, pulled his Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance off the shelf, looked up the word, and pointed to the definition. He never for one second imagined that Dr. James Strong was not infallible and that his concordance was not holy writ. In those several hours, my pastor beat me down. Hard. I was totally conquered, save in one regard. I would not tell him who I was “dating.” I did not see that it was my place to get someone else, especially someone I loved, in trouble like this. Dennis found out anyways. He had me break up with Ryan. I cried all night…
You’ve been baptized and you are a member in good standing of a Christian church.
For years, everything was fine between you and God.
But now, suddenly, you have questions and doubts.
Maybe something happened in your life to cause you to question your faith.
Maybe you’re having trouble accepting some of the teachings of the Bible.
Maybe you’ve come to see that Christianity is not all it is cracked up to be.
Maybe you have read a book by an author such as Bart Ehrman and now you have questions.
So, now what?
Going to your pastor or a fellow church member won’t help you. They will tell you to pray, trust God, or resist the temptation of Satan. I suspect you have tried all these things and yet you still have doubts.
Christians are taught not to doubt. Just believe. Just have faith. Only in Evangelical Christianity is the natural human experience of doubt considered a bad thing.
Doubt means you have questions. Doubt means something doesn’t make sense to you. Doubt means that the answers of the past no longer answer the questions of the present.
First, it is OK to doubt. Anyone who tells you otherwise has something to hide or has an agenda. Your pastor wants to keep you as a church member and he knows that the exit door of the church swings out on the hinges of doubt. This is why he tells you to trust God, pray, read your Bible, attend church more, and confess any sin in your life. You know these “solutions” will do nothing to assuage your doubt. Why can’t your pastor see this?
Second, the only way to find answers for your doubts is to be willing to read and study. You must be willing to work hard. If you really want to know, the answers can be found.
Third, be honest. I mean completely honest. Don’t lie to yourself. Be willing to meet the truth in the middle of the road. Engage every bit of new information and weigh it carefully. Don’t move forward until you really understand the new information.
Fourth, you must be willing to follow the path wherever it leads. Are you willing to lose your faith if that is where the path leads? Are you willing to leave the church you are a part of if that is where the path leads?
Fifth, the only person you have to answer to is yourself. This journey of yours is singular. It is a lonely walk that you must take by yourself. No one can guide you, direct you, or tell you which way to go. You alone must chart your course. Remember, the journey is more important than the destination.
Sixth, don’t be in a hurry. Take your time. You have your whole life ahead of you.
Seventh, be careful whom you share your doubts with. Evangelical Christians are known to turn on those who don’t think like they do. They think their God demands conformity and obedience, and as a doubter they will have “doubts” about you.
It doesn’t matter where your journey takes you. Maybe you will stay right where you are, but I doubt it. It is likely that your doubts are telling you something about where you are now. Staying where you are is not an option IF you are really serious about finding answers to your doubts.
Not all people can embrace their doubts. They fear losing their faith. They fear the judgment of God. They fear hell. They fear disappointing their family and friends. Ask yourself: should fear be a motivator for doing anything?
Here is what I know from my own experience; you will always have doubts. Having questions is how we mature and grow. As we seek answers to the doubts we have, we develop a better understanding of self and the world we live in. Pity the person who never doubts, who never seeks answers to questions. Ignorance is not bliss, and understanding self and the world we live in is key to living a happy, productive life.
I am here to help you, no strings attached, I don’t want your money, life, or soul. I have no desire to convert you to atheism. In fact, I am quite certain that most people will not end up where I am. It is not about you being like anyone else. It is your life, your journey, and I hope you will walk on in openness and honesty.