Sparing the Rod (Part 2)

Dear Reader,

This is (obviously) a follow-up to my previous post on sparing the rod. I want to start by summarizing and hopefully clarifying the point I was trying to make there.

Here is the gist of my argument: Many take the rod as being equal to discipline. If you take this view then you will probably end up (and many do) viewing other methods of discipline as unbiblical. However, I think this view is based on a misunderstanding of how biblical parallelism works. It sees “rod” and “discipline” use in parallel in two halves of a verse and says “aha! They must mean the same thing.” But parallelism is hardly ever just repetition of equal terms. There is usually some change or some meaning added. My contention is that rather than the rod being equal to discipline, it is being used as something of an emblem for discipline. It was one part of discipline being used for the whole. It is as if we ask our children, “Do you know your ABCs?” when really do are not asking just about A, B, and C but about all the letters. It is a rhetorical device.

If you are willing to at least accept this is a possibility, then the question is: what about those other methods? Time-outs are not mentioned in the Bible. Are they biblical? Now here we get into a question of how one interprets Scripture. Normally I find myself in an extreme camp. When it comes to how we worship God, I take a strict view of the regulative principle and say “if we are not told to do it in the Bible, we shouldn’t do it.” If something isn’t mentioned as a way to worship God in the Bible, then we don’t do it in our church. It is odd to me that people who add to how God is worshipped, doing things that aren’t specifically mentioned in the Bible, will at the same time take such a strict view of how to raise their children, refusing to consider other methods just because they are not mentioned in the Bible. God shows that He takes His worship very seriously, punishing those who do it wrongly even accidentally. It is a guide to oru relationship and interaction with God; it is not primarily a parenting manual. So I can’t see why we woudl take such a loose view of worship and such a strict view of parental discipline.

But if we are to allow other methods not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, what tolls can we use? Here is what I would say: the rod is a part of it. Obviously the rod was so associated with discipline that it could be used to stand for the whole enterprise. So we must not do away with this aspect altogether. But what of all the other methods that may be out there? Here I would say that God has given parents wisdom. Not every child is the same and we must adapt to the circumstances, God has also given us examples in how He deals with us, His children. He uses the rod (figuratively speaking). But He also uses other tools. He uses communication (as also we are commanded to do). He teaches the same lessons over and over again, often through stories. He exercises forbearance. It is hard to translate techniques from a people to an individual. Who is to say if the Israelites’ time in the wilderness is a use of the rod or one long forty-year time-out?

The rod can be used wrongly. Other methods can be used wrongly. But I am not ready to say that all other methods are in themselves inherently wrong. The Bible is not primarily meant as a parenting manual to teach us how to discipline our children, no matter how much we may want such a manual.  It gives us some basics. It gives us core principles and goals, for ourselves and our children. But it doesn’t give us all the details we might wish.


One response to this post.

  1. […] him is diligent to discipline him” [ESV]. (See my earlier posts on this verse here, here, and here. I guess I’ve blogged on this a […]


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