Can you imagine this discussion in the church office, elders meeting or deacon board discussion? â€śThe recent conference speaker came down pretty hard on monogamy and we have had a lot of complaints. I donâ€™t think we should have him back or use his literature in the church.â€ť Or perhaps, â€śThis Sunday school literature comes down dogmatically on heterosexual marriage. I think many of the younger couples we are trying to attract will be offended. I donâ€™t think we should use it.â€ť Or, â€śThe next denominational youth speaker takes a very hard stance on abstinence from pre-marital sex. I think many of the parents of the youth will be offended, I think we should pass on this event.â€ť Or, â€śWe have previewed the proposed video series for our mid-week home groups. The speaker has a real problem with extra-marital affairs. I think many in the groups will find this offensive. I think we should go with another series that is more flexible.â€ť Or â€śThe new couples pastor we are interviewing is pro-life. I think many of the women in the church will find this offensive. I think we should keep looking.â€ť It is inconceivable that these discussions would be carried out in a conservative, evangelical, Bible- believing church leadership meeting. The reason for this is that heterosexuality, sanctity of marriage, monogamy in marriage, purity in courtship, the sins of fornication and adultery, the sins of incest, bestiality, homosexuality and abortion are all supported by a strong theological foundation. Before we do a sermon series, book or study on any of these topics, we lay a doctrinal foundation of gender, sexuality, marriage, life, family and relationships from the written Word of God, which is seen to be transcendent in nature, in terms of both time and culture. We build practical applications upon these foundational doctrines, but the doctrines themselves are beyond question. This, however, is not true when it comes to teachings concerning the discipline of children with the rod. This is seen to be a purely methodical suggestion from Scripture. The argument is made: â€śDoor-to-door witnessing is in Scripture but we are not all required to do this. Mission work is in Scripture but we are not all required to go on mission trips. Spanking is in the Bible but, again, we are not all required to do this. We are required to witness, to be involved in missions and to raise our children but we are free in all these areas to be creative.â€ť Is this true? Is spanking to child raising as is mission trip to world vision? Is spanking to child raising as door-to-door evangelism is to being a witness for Christ? The answer we will find is â€śno.â€ť The use of the rod, or spanking, has a theological basis and is not an optional means of applying a doctrinal or theological command. The rod is to be included in the theological foundational doctrines of marriage and family. The list â€“ gender by creation, marriage by creation, monogamy by Godâ€™s design, heterosexual marriage by Godâ€™s command, life by Godâ€™s design, the heterosexual parent family by Godâ€™s command, children by Godâ€™s command, husband as head of the wife by Godâ€™s design and command, wife as the husbandâ€™s helpmate by Godâ€™s creation and command, obedient children by Godâ€™ command â€“ must include: the rod for discipline by Godâ€™s creation, design and command, if one is to be true to Holy Scripture. The use of the rod is inseparable from the doctrines of the fall of man, imputation, redemption and grace and should, by its right, be included in every doctrinal discussion of the family. It is my opinion that there are certain modern day topics that the pastor and church leadership would just as soon not deal with on a public level â€“ 7 Day Creation; fornication among teenagers in the church, divorce by members of the church, behavior of children in the church and to this we add the rod. A sermon was given in a large evangelical church, the week after I had presented the Family Discipleship Seminar. The rod is central in this seminar as it pertains to raising young children. The pastor began his sermon the very next week, â€śThere have been a lot of emails in my box and visits in my office concerning the recent seminar on child raising. The concern is spanking. I am going to address this from the pulpit. Now here on my right side are a stack of books which confirm spanking and on my left are books which oppose it. All are by Christian authors and, as you can see, there is plenty of literature on both sides. Now I will give you my opinion on thisâ€¦â€ť Now I know this pastor. He has never attended my seminar. He had offered it to conciliate and affirm the more conservative segment of his church â€“ this segment primarily being made up of homeschoolers. He does not feel there is a theological basis for spanking but that it is mentioned in Proverbs as a suggestion (as he views all of Proverbs) and he also recognizes spanking as a faint cultural memory in many dating back to a more secure and stable time in our society. Thus, his sermon. Now he would never insert â€śmonogamyâ€ť, â€śheterosexualityâ€ť. â€śadulteryâ€ť, â€śfornicationâ€ť, â€śabortionâ€ť or any of the other current issues of the family in that sentence. The reason for this is that he has a strong theological grounding in the great doctrines of the family from Genesis on through the epistles. If he were to preach on the subject of â€śThe Blessing of God on Heterosexual Marriagesâ€ť or â€śThe Destructive Nature of Homosexual Marriageâ€ť-- long before he began to give statistics, examples and scientific data, he would ground the sermon on the actual doctrine of marriage and exhort his congregation to submit to Godâ€™s Holy Word, which applies to all. The reason, then, for his sermon is that he has no theological or doctrinal convictions on this subject. This is because the theological basis of the rod has been long since set aside in Bible colleges, seminaries and publishing houses. In fact, the existence of a theological basis for the rod would not only not occur to him, or many in the evangelical church, but would, at first reaction, bring a smile to their faces. They would presuppose the same lack of academic integrity as goes with numerology and other pseudo- Biblical academic studies. The theological basis of the rod as a tool of grace is rooted in manâ€™s relationship with God. It is through sound theology that parents come to understand several key doctrines concerning manâ€™s relationship with God. Just to name a few â€“ 1. The difference between punishment and discipline; 2. That discipline, which often entails pain and denial, is good; 3. The role of the doctrines of the fall and imputation in the lives and behavior of children; 4. Lastly, the doctrine of the rod as a tool of grace. Without these key doctrines, we succumb to the narcissistic world view that it is Godâ€™s job/responsibility to keep us happy. This, then, trickles down to our parenting world view - â€śA good parent has a happy child / God wants us to keep our children happy, doesnâ€™t He?â€ť The rod, as a tool of grace, as faithfully exercised by their earthly father, prepares our children for a correct relationship with their heavenly Father. They learn that, just as an earthly father may say â€śnoâ€ť, which may result in pain and may bring about the denial of our earthly pleasures for our long-term good, so also will our heavenly Father do the same. When the adult Christian reads of his relationship with God in passages such asâ€¦ Hebrews 12:6 â€śFOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES" or Hebrews 12:10 â€śâ€¦ He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness,â€ť What will his emotional response be? Will he be able to understand that a loving God can allow pain and suffering for our good? That a loving God can deny us our requests for our good? It is by the faithful use of the rod as a tool of grace by his loving and compassionate earthly father that he can smoothly make the transition to submission to the loving discipline of his heavenly father.
It is in the life experience of an obedient parent that, when he reads passages such as Proverbs 13:24 â€śHe who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently,â€ť that he comes to understand his relationship with God. The theological understanding of a loving Godâ€™s discipline as an act of grace is manifested and exemplified to the child in a loving earthly fatherâ€™s discipline of the child as an act of grace. Both are rooted in theological truths and one can no more be subjected to the status of arbitrary method than the other.
In the Holy Scriptures, there are many â€śword picturesâ€ť of manâ€™s relationship with God rooted in a theology of the family-- God as â€śFather,â€ť â€śchildrenâ€ť of God, â€śadoptedâ€ť as sons, â€śfamilyâ€ť of God, â€śborn again,â€ť â€śmarriage feastâ€ť of the Lamb, â€śbrideâ€ť of Christ, â€śbridegroom,â€ť etc. One of these word pictures is that of the loving father disciplining his child with the rod. That the rod should be included in these familial word pictures is clearly taught throughout Scripture, one example being - Hebrews 12:7-11 7 â€śIt is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.â€ť The pastor may no more arbitrarily reduce the rod to a method than he may reduce to method the word pictures of wedding, marriage, family, father, etc. The problem is that the rod has, for so long, been removed from the theological teachings of both the family and how this relates to our relationship with God the Father, that both the rod and a loving God who would inflict pain, suffering or denial upon us as an act of love and benevolence, is almost nonsensical in the modern church. If questions about marriage, monogamy, sexual abstinence, homosexual marriage, abortion, etc. are presented to the pastor or education pastor, there has always been a strong theological defense, based on the churches/seminaries Scriptural beliefs. Unfortunately, in the area of the rod, a less offensive and volatile method of child raising, if not adopted, was allowed in the teaching. This must change â€“ pastors, teachers and educators must come face-to-face with the reality of the theological position of the rod in the family as a doctrine â€“ the rod as a tool of grace. This is why this subject is so needful. There is a doctrinal reason we raise our boys as boys and girls as girls. There is a doctrinal reason that children are raised by a heterosexual married couple and why couples get married before sex and before bearing children. There is a doctrinal reason why mothers do not kill their unborn children. There is a doctrinal reason why the husband is head of the home, why the wife submits to her husbandâ€™s leadership and why children obey and honor their parents. And there is a doctrinal reason for the use of the rod in disciplining and training of children. These are not optional methods with which to be experimented but grounded in doctrine as part of the theology of the family and there is a doctrinal reason for the use of the rod as a tool of grace. The rod as a tool of grace should be and must be included in all doctrinal teachings of Scripture concerning the family. It can no more be left out than any of the other items on this list.
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