Last week there has been a lively debate in Norwegian media about “spanking” in child rearing. I became involved in the debate because of four sentences in a radio report on NRK Ukeslutt. My words were mixed and pasted together to the maximum. The reporter tried all the techniques of radio journalism to get me to say things so she could make “good radio”. She included of course any suggestion that there is room for “spanking” in child rearing, but omitted skilfully my extensive discourse about the fact that I do not quite believe in corporal punishment. I told you I’ve never utilized spanking of my children and that my parents had tried two times to give me a slap, but both times we ended up laughing and agreeing that I would be a good boy. 🙂 However, the NRK Ukeslutt report was inflated to hysterical proportions by ombudsman Reidar Hjermann who “chastised” me for this distorted version of my message ….
It became even worse when the Pentecostal Leadership published a press release, along with a copy of an NTB (Norwegian Press Agency) message that focuses only on my alleged statements about “spanking”. I received the press release via the newspaper DagenMagazinet. Unfortunately, no one in the Pentecostal Leadership themselves took the hassle of contacting me to check what I had really said … 😦
In yesterday’s edition of the Pentecostal weekly newspaper Korsets Seier, the statements of both the Pentecostal Leadership and the Ethics Council were conveyed, and both strongly opposes any use of “spanking” in child rearing, without balancing this with what the Bible says about discipline that may include spanking. The illustration that accompanies their article is of a girl who lies terrified on the floor with a man’s fist over her. What a powerful message!
Let me repeat what I actually stated about “spanking” in child rearing, as I stated in aftenposten.no, incidentally the only statement that I have given:
“I would venture a little comment in this intricate debate: In the interview that I did with NRK Ukeslutt I supported the Supreme Court ruling from 2005 that allows”a light smack” of ones children. I am against all beating and physical grips of ones children. “A light smack” has a symbolic effect, nothing else. The New Testament teaching on the basis of Hebrew 12 is about “paidagogos” which means discipline. This happens 99 percent by positive feedback and setting boundaries, not by words and strokes in affect and with the intent to harm. I have sincere sympathy with anyone who has experienced devastating blows as part of parents’ attempts at upbringing. Many parents have a lot to ask their children forgiveness for. But at the same time even necessary boundaries, and even positive boundaries, can be difficult to handle for the kids. Personally, I have never smacked my children. My own parents gave me smacks on two occasions, but without any pain. It was probably intended as a friendly reminder, and I thank them for that. 🙂 “
Let me add on Hebrews 12: This should primarily be understood symbolically. “Scourging” sounds very dramatic, at least as I understand the word, but use of the word seems to illustrate that “paidagogos” may include physical means, as a last resort. I think that it is a very negative development in our time that trendy theologians and priests/pastors reduce unpleasant biblical texts so they cease to have their real significance. It is absolutely correct that the word “discipline” in Norwegian Bible translations is inadequate. But the context in Hebrews 12, in the NT, and in the OT, shows that there may be room for physical measures. The Ombudsman will not get rid of this by imposing on Bible translators to remove the word “discipline”. Then much of the Bible would have to be rewritten to adapt to the “zeitgeist” and “fashion”.
Finally, let me inform you that the worldwide Pentecostal Movement believes in positive and loving parenthood. But if some leaders in the Norwegian Pentecostal Movement say that such parenting precludes any kind of “slap”, then they are probably on a collision course with the great majority of Pentecostals worldwide. Let me quote from the leaders of the largest Pentecostal Movements in the world today, movements that the Norwegian Pentecostal Movement wants to stand with.
First Jack W. Hayford, President for International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and my former pastor in Los Angeles. He writes among other things in “Hayford Bible Handbook” (General Editor: Jack W. Hayford, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995) in a chapter on “Corrective Discipline for the Rebellious (Prov. 13:24)”:
“Discipline is the other side of teaching. A child with a teachable spirit will still need thorough explanation, much patience, opportunity to try and experiment, including the right to fail and to learn by failure. A child, however, who is caught up in willful disobedience (Prov. 29:15), rebellion (1 Sam. 15:23), or stubborn foolishness (Prov. 22:15), closes off effective teaching and disrupts the harmony of the family. God’s answer to this is firm and loving discipline.
The Bible makes a clear distinction between discipline and physical abuse. Discipline may be painful but not injurious. We are never to inflict harm on a child (Prov. 23:13), but at times pain may be a part of effective correction. God describes Himself as a strict disciplinarian. Although He always disciplines us out of love and for our own benefit, His correction may cause us pain (Heb. 12:5-11). Likewise, God requires that parents properly correct their children. Even a child’s eternal destiny can hinge upon the godly discipline provided by parents (Prov. 23:14).”
Then I will quote from “Children’s Ministries Help Sheets 2001 from the Children’s Ministries Agency of the Assemblies of God“, the section on “Healthy Conscience, part 1 of 2—Helping Children Develop a Healthy Conscience”. This official statement from the world´s largest Pentecostal Movement Assemblies of God is written by the clinical psychologist Richard D. Dobbins, Ph.D., who I have had good contact with. He writes under the title “Punishment Vs. Discipline”:
“Among the first tools we use to help our children toward a healthy conscience are punishment and discipline. Punishment is control from the outside; it teaches the child what not to do. If he touches the electrical outlet on the wall, he’ll be punished. If she hits her brother or sister, or breaks one of their toys, she’ll be punished. Running into the street or inappropriate language are all things that should bring punishment to children when the behavior is repeated after a reasonable warning. Punishment applies a measured amount of pain to the child. This pain is less than the pain that would be experienced if the behavior were not stopped. Never punish a child because you are angry and out of control. This is not what you want to model for them. Consistent and controlled punishment—suitable to the seriousness of an offense and administered by an in-control parent or teacher—is the goal. Punishment teaches the child what not to do.”
I have chosen to make this official statement on my blog, but I will not allow debate on this blog. The good debates should happen in other forums. If you want, please send me an email.