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You cannot legislate salvation; individuals must work it out for themselves. Therefore, it is fundamentally wrong to legislate morals that were intended to accompany salvation. – mikalyn
A nice short post that’s got it right. When I read Guerrilla Learning the following paragraph caught my attention:
“The presumption … is; People will only be good if they are forced to be. The fundamental question, more honestly posed, would be: Are you going to force your children to be good or let them be bad? The dichotomy is false because, in fact, people cannot be forced to be good. Goodness counts only when it is freely chosen, as the biblical parable of the prodigal son illustrates.”
In other words when someone is given no choice what they are doing (or not doing) then it is neither good nor bad as it related to them. Good will only be a meaningless abstraction unless there is another less “good” choice available to be made. Except perhaps in hypothetical discussions, I’ve never heard anyone say something to the effect of gravity is good (or bad). But, most consider someone holding the door for them to be good because the alternative of letting it slam in their face is there, unchosen.
Originally, I had written and posted an entry with this title very late Saturday night. In a way, this is going to be a rewrite of that post. But, I realized over the first few hours on Sunday that I had tried to address too many subjects in one post. There are a number of doctrinal errors which underpin the arguments in favour of punishment. I was trying to respond to the ones that I’m aware of. I realized on the drive over here on Sunday evening that doing that is not necessary.
One of the first major characters in the Bible is Abraham. And the New Testament says this of him:
And Abram (Abraham) believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.
And the question I asked myself, upon discovering this passage many years ago, could be synonomous with,
Is there anything in the Bible which indicates that the statement, ‘Ron believes God, and it is counted to him as righteousness.’ is not true?
There is in fact nothing anywhere in the Bible that says or even suggests that. Quite the contrary, the New Testament is littered with passages that say it is true. From my own reading of it, I believe that communicating that the above statement is true (in reference to any who chose to believe) is the primary reason the New Testament was written.
The question which arises is, ‘What is it that we ought to believe?’ I am going to excerpt a number of statements from Arlan’s original comment (found in this thread):
- the repentant child is welcomed with open arms
- Having done what was wrong, I was afraid
- we should be afraid of the chastisement God will bring if we sin
But, if I believe and it is counted to me as righteousness, none of these statements are of any direct concern to me. The second and third statements are representative of Job at the beginning of his story. Obviously, there is a doctrinal error which leads to the above statements (since they clearly conflict with belief being counted as righteousness). The error is perhaps more clearly shown in this portion of Carlotta’s comment:
Certainly the overall Christian message I took away from my youth entailed the perfecting of the act of looking for and understanding oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mistakes or sins, seeking forgiveness for these and on the other side perfecting the art of forgiveness.
In fact, that is the overall message I took away from my youth. While both seeking and giving forgiveness play a role in the Christian life, the above statement is not the Christian message. I’ll frame the true Christian message in phraseology which will relate it to this post:
Because God is holy, just, perfect, etc., the sin of man (used in this paragraph in the human race sense) caused a separation between man and God. The separation leads to man’s eventual death. To correct that situation, God took the form of a man and accepted consequences (i.e. death) of man’s error in his place. For anyone who believes in that person and that act, it is counted to them as righteousness.
Now to correct Arlan’s statements:
- It is not that a repentant child is welcomed with open arms, but that a believing child is welcomed with open arms. A believing child may repent. Ergo, derivatively, Arlan’s statement is true. An unbelieving child cannot repent.
- I am not afraid of having done wrong. We have all done wrong. Living a blameless life is not what Christianity is about. Knowing that whatever you do, you are still going to do wrong things, is relevant to the Christian life. But, doctrinally, you are not a Christian if you are afraid of having done wrong. (i.e you have ceased to believe the central tenet of Christianity.)
- We should not be afraid of God’s chastisement. Arlan’s statement contradicts at least a dozen passages in the Bible.
Even though we say a religion is a set of beliefs. Really, it’s not. If we have a set of beliefs that we do nothing with, they’re fluff. Religion is about what you do and the underlying reason for why you do it. Now that I’ve explained the why of Christianity, I’d like to show you ‘what’:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
What this verse says is that the perfect religion consists of 2 things (i.e. The basic, central/critical tenets). The first is to have mercy. Christianity is a religion of mercy. The principle stems from us having received mercy from God and us, having received/accepted it, are under obligation to offer it to others. And that takes us back to the mercy triumphs over judgement.
Rather that try to elaborate on what the pollution of the world might entail, I’m going to close with the list of qualities which exclude the pollution of the world:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I do not see punishment as being consistent with those.
Given the way I feel tonight (and I’ve felt all day), I know I won’t get through the entire subject tonight. It occurred to me today, that I ought to pick up on the last post and further clarify the issue between mercy and judgement. In the previous posts on this subject I have been free to interchange the word punishment and judgement. I would call the Ezzo/TTUAC parenting method a judgement based method. I have consciously interchanged the words because the two acts are inextricably linked. You cannot punish someone, unless you have judged them and found them to have failed to meet up with some standard or measure (eg. a law).
Now, in the last post I wrote/quoted that from a Christian perspective mercy triumphs over judgement. This means first of all that it is the Christian belief that mercy is stronger or more powerful than judgement. The second thing this implies is that the two are not compatible. If they were in some way compatible, then they would triumph together. They are exclusive to one another. That only one or the other can be directed toward a single object. As it relates to someone having failed to meet a standard, to have mercy toward that person is to forgive them. Forgiveness is a common thread through Christian doctrine.
When it comes to someone having not met the standard (i.e. what Christians call sin), the single choice that must be made first, by an offended party, is whether to judge or to forgive. If a sin is forgiven, then there is no punishment. If a sin is punished, since a form of recompense has already been administered, forgiveness from the administering party is no longer possible (except if/when the punishment is later repented).
In the Old Testament, Israel was instructed to forgive 7 times. The disciple Peter asked Jesus for clarification of that. Jesus replied that he was to forgive 7 time 70 (490) times. Jesus was not telling generations of Christians that they needed to carry around a little note book where they tallied people’s offenses against them. What He was telling Peter was that if he was counting, he was not forgiving. To look for the day or time when you might justly dole out the appropriate recompense for offenses is not forgiveness. Whether the offending party is an adult or child makes no difference because that state of mind (perspective/world view) is yours and not that of the offending party.
While thinking through this subject, there were a couple of things which occurred between Emma and I over the last 6 months or so. The first was a month or so before her fifth birthday. One day, she wanted a treat of some kind and told Andrea that I had said the night before that she could have it. At an opportune time where she could ask in private, Andrea asked me if I had told her that. I hadn’t. I told Andrea to not worry about it and not say anything to her about it. That night it was Andrea’s turn at putting her to bed (reading stories, etc.) Emma had already given me my good night hug and kiss and gone off to her room with mom. She was only there a few minutes and she needed me. When I entered the room, she burst into tears and said, “Daddy, I made a lie.” And through those tears proceeded to tell me what I already knew.
If I were to follow the advice of many, I would have punished her, ‘to teach her that lying is bad/sin’. If what I have described has not already compelled you to see that she already know’s that, I don’t know how to explain to you that children already know that. What I did, instead, was hold her and allow her time to say everything she needed to say. Then, I whispered in her ear, “I forgive you.” This was followed by a few sobs of relief and then she was ready to resume her bedtime routine.
Over the last 3 or 4 months, Emma had taken to saying, “I promise.” and then not keeping it. Until a few weeks ago, the only parental thing I did toward that was remind her that she had promised. What I did a few weeks ago was explain to her that when she said, “I promise.”, she was telling someone that she was going to do something. I further explained that I understood that the reason she was saying it was to get something or around something. (Bear in mind this is not an adult, lecturing a child but a 2-way conversation between us.) Then I told her that I did not want her to say, “I promise” unless she was going to do what she promised. (I want to be clear her that I did not in any way hint or suggest that there was some sort of consequences if she didn’t do what I said. Instead, I told her what I expected of her.) To the best of my knowledge, she has not ‘promised’ since. She definitely hasn’t to me.
I have to be honest and say that what I am describing to you was learned through trial and error. Through all the parenting I’ve come to realize that the Christian parent’s primary duty is to model the character of Christ who said:
Thy sins be forgiven thee.
Go, and sin no more. And
Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
And who among us, moreso that children, know not what they do? I’m not saying that they don’t realize that they are doing something wrong (eg. lying). What I am saying is that children do not understand the implications of what they are doing (it is not as though the soldiers who were crucifying Jesus did not know they were crucifying someone).
As a father, there is only one way for me to teach my children that when they say, “Father,…forgive me my transgressions?” to believe that those transgressions will be forgiven. And that is to forgive them before they learn how to say forgive me, forgive them to the degree and consistency that cultivates a relationship where such a request is welcomed. Secondly, I must model a character that seeks forgiveness from my children. This 2 sided approach is the only way that a child can learn what it is to be both an offended party and an offending party. I can punish until I am blue in the face and my children will not learn nor know forgiveness.
In the previous post, I closed by saying that I would follow up on the remainder of Arlan’s comment. After the first paragraph, the first statement made which I feel needs to be addressed is:
We childern of God are punished by God for our disobedience…
All of the following statements are found in the Bible:
God sends rain on the just and the unjust.
(God) gives generously to all without finding fault.
Every good and perfect gift is from (God).
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
I know that Arlan’s statement is a widely held belief in many Christian circles. However, I disagree with that assertion. I do not believe God punishes me or anyone else for disobedience. The author of the book of Hebrews asks:
How shall we escape, if we neglect such great salvation?
And, from a Christian perspective, what, beside punishment or judgement, should we be concerned with escaping? Whether there are things that may be escaped in addition to punishment, this verse clearly says that escaping punishment is possible. Also, from Hebrews:
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement.
Judgement and punishment, whatever that might entail, does not occur in this lifetime. It follows, then, that if, as adult Christians, we do not face or undergo punishment and we are training children to become adult Christians, then we do not need to train them to face or undergo punishment. Secondly, claiming that we do need that training as children would imply that adults who grew up in an environment that was free of punishment could not become Christians.
In my somewhat limited experience, I have found that one of the characters in the Old Testament which is often overlooked is Job. Briefly, Job went through a series of tragedies in his life. Before telling the story of those tragedies and his response to it, Job is described as:
blameless and upright
(i.e. Someone who didn’t deserve punishment.) In Job’s first response to those tragedies, he says:
What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.
In the next 30 chapters or so, Job elaborates on that by saying what amounts to, “I’ve been judged.” And that is what he was afraid of. An example of the type of things he says is:
Let God weigh me with accurate scales, And let God know my integrity.
He expressed that he believes he has been judged unfairly. The situation abates when Job admits:
Surely, I spoke of things I did not understand.
I will say here that anyone afraid of judgement does not understand. I am going to finish this segment of my discussion of discipline versus punishment with another quote from James:
…judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement!
From a Christian perspective, having mercy toward others is the proverbial life boat. If a Christian parents want to train their children toward escaping punishment then the children should be trained to be merciful. And if the parents want to escape it themselves, they need to be merciful toward their children (as well as everyone else).
This is a bit of a departure from my usual writing, but I feel it needs to be said. Whether or not you needed to read it, I needed to say it.
A gentleman named Arlan Purdy left
me us a very lengthly comment below. The first paragraph is this:
I think I am sticking my nose in where I am not really welcome, because it seems that all parties present have already decided, and are firmly convinced, that corporal punishment is a bad thing. And I am not going to attempt to change anyoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mind on that count. I think that some of you are interested in hearing someone from the other side address the subject in their own words, so, merely for your interest, I offer this.
Arlan, I have to be honest and say that I grew up in a bit of an isolated society and there were/are people who I knew/know who prefaced most any opinion they offered with a sentence or 2 that sounded alot like this. Whether or not I feel a preface like this serves a useful purpose in some situations, this is not one of them. What this paragraph suggests to me is that journals, weblogs or blogs are not something with which you have had much experience. (eg. contrary to what this paragraph suggests, there are considerably more than 5 people who read this blog.) So, allow me to briefly elaborate for your benefit.
The vast majority of written material that is available on the web provides no means providing feedback directly to the author. Among the remaining sites, many require that you be a registered user, agree to terms of service, etc. Others require that you contact the author to receive a password which will allow you to read and/or comment on what they have written. What I am trying to tell you is that when you encounter a blog which allows you to leave an anonymous comment, the owner of the blog has welcomed you without ever having known anything about you.
Arlan, I’m assuming that your first paragraph is due to your inexperience with this method of communication and I’m not holding it against you. I’m also going to be straight up about it. Going out of your way to tell someone, who has offered the best welcome possible, that you don’t feel welcome is horribly inhospitable and ungracious.
If you are going to leave comments in blogs and identify yourself as a Christian, don’t offend people before you get to your point. If you have an opinion and you feel it’s worth stating, get used to the idea that people are going to disagree with you. And if you are going to preface everything you say with something like the paragraph above, don’t expect that you are going to have very many deep and meaningful discussions from it because most of the people I’ve met on the internet don’t have the time or interest it takes to get past prefaces like that.
To everyone else, please excuse this tangent. If you are so inclined as to read his entire comment and respond, I’m asking you to overlook the first paragraph. I will get back to some of the remainder of Arlan’s comment in another post.
This post is going to be somewhat brief. It’s late and I have to get up in the morning. At the same time, I have to be honest and say that this subject grieves me (and I know it does many of you as well). One of the things that tears at me is the fact that this subject has been on my mind (and often discussed with Andrea) for years. About 3 years ago, Andrea and I discussed something she found (a story I may tell in a subsequent post) and the weight of it has never really left me since. Part of that weight has been the thought that what I am going to talk about in this post and a few future ones needs to be done. Have you ever had that feeling that I can’t not say this?
In the post below Doc left a link to Growing Families International (Ezzo). As it turns out, these folks are ones that Andrea and I have discussed before. To our understanding, they promote very similar treatment of children as do the authors of TTUAC.
I have scraped the following from their homepage:
The primary focus of Christian parenting should be defining God to our children and we believe that task is best accomplished by introducing and guiding our children in and by GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s moral law.
On Friday night, while reading, I found this:
You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:4 NIV)
In the New Testament, whenever the term ‘the law’ is used without any distinction (i.e. a specific law) it refers to the law given to Israel in the Old Testament. In the letter to the Galatians, Paul is telling them that setting out with a focus on observance of the law (i.e. Ezzo’s defining God via moral law) is contrary to Christianity and salvation. What we can conclude from Paul’s statement is that children will not learn about (or get to know) God by being taught as recommended by the Ezzos.
Without promise of when, I’ll pick this subject up in another post.
The image below was created by Rebecca. To read more on the boycott click on the image.
The note I would like to add is that TTUAC is not the only parenting book which advocates a judgement (i.e. crime, punishment, shame, humiliation) based parenting approach. I don’t have the info on any others at this time. But I do recall Andrea and I discussing more than one of these books over the years. If you know of others could you drop the info in a comment? TIA
Andrea and I briefly discussed the story in a google chat. Andrea told me not to read the linked news story. And I haven’t. If I have time and the heart to do so, I’ll write on this subject sometime. As much as our society pressures us to compartmentalize our selves, I do not for a moment regret that I cannot help but feel an indescribeable amount of sorrow, not only for this young man, but also for the thousands upon thousands of children who are treated in a similar manner.
But one thing that I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand is the insistence of some Christian sects on using the older bits of the Bible Ã¢â‚¬â€ translated from a far more distant time and culture Ã¢â‚¬â€œ as t.h.e. guidelines. Those people were neolithic nomads. At least Jesus was a person who lived an urban life. Why not focus on the newer parts with the message of love and acceptance, Ã¢â‚¬â„¢sufferingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ children to come unto me, doing good to the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœleast of my brothers?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ How much more Ã¢â‚¬ËœleastÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ can we get than small children. (But that leads to a different can of worms. Why beat children youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve insisted have a right to be born?)
Good question: Why?
Earlier this week, Andrea announced our Carnival of Unschooling.
This is a post is for the carnival and is on the subject of Christian Unschooling. I have posted 3 previous articles related to Christian Unschooling here, here and here. We have also discussed the subject in the forum.
In the second of the articles, I said that after the 3 of them we would be in a postion to discuss Christianity and unschooling.
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