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Location: MInneapolis, Minnesota, United States

I am now a simple Grandpa who's life is made richer as each grandchild is born. My wife and I have raised five children and the 30 year love labor of raising them has begun to yield sweet fruit..... And then there are fruits of 30 years in ministry ... I am a satisfied old man full of the joy of the Lord.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Why Christians Spank

I used to tutor Behavior Theory classes when I was a junior at Memphis State University. Another name for the class was Learning Theory. You know, this is the class where you learn about Pavlov's dogs?

Behavior conditioning, behavior modification, operant conditioning are all other terms for this general area. B.F.Skinner was the current darling of the experimental psychologists at that time. He was so... well... how can you say it? Measurable ? (And he was from Minnesota)

But the point is, how do we learn? How can we develop good behaviors and extinguish unwanted ones in man? Can we raise humans like we do animals? Do humans and animals learn the same way? I think not.

You can get a dog, through a series of rewards, to simply sit perfectly still for very long periods of time, overcoming its flesh and all of its instincts. If you try to get a dog to do these things through punishment you cannot expect these results. As a matter of fact, the dog will cower and draw away with its tail between its legs. In order to achieve good results you have to make it fun and rewarding.

Can you train a human child effectively this way ? I think not ! A child raised that way will turn out to be a miniature mass murderer and totally take over the house. Why is this? Have you ever stopped to think about it? A dog can learn to control his appetites through rewards but a child rarely if ever learns to overcome its desires that way. You have to give it what it wants... Food and affection... In that order.

Children are made in the image of God. But they are fallen. So they think that they are God from the day they are born. I remember when I had my first child and she could barely sit up in the high chair by herself. I discovered that at that age she was already learning her powers. If she would drop the spoon, dad would pick it up. It was a neat game to her and a frustration to me. Even if I told her "no" and "stop it" she would just drop the spoon again. I could give her something else to distract her but that didn't solve the spoon problem.

To train her to stop negative behavior it had to be painful. First just a startle response would achieve it. Later it had to be a little sting on the hand. Still later it escalated to spanking. I remember one night of particularly excessive rebellion, in which I cried out at God, "why do you have me beating my baby?" Of course I was not beating her but I was totally frustrated with having to spank in order to train.

The goal of our training cannot be the same as the goal of training dogs. We are not trying to "condition behavior." We are trying to change hearts. Hearts that were made in the image of God but are fallen with their own definitions of good and evil. In a word, rebellious hearts. Independent hearts. Selfish hearts. We are born that way and we must be born again in order to solve the problem. (And even then we have to learn to agree with God's definition of good and evil slowly over the rest of our lives.) But at least we have a starting point. A point at which we say, "not my will be done, but thy will be done." And with His will in our hearts we learn to overcome our flesh.

But, you ask, "you titled this 'Why Christians Spank' what's your point?" Well my point is that only pain teaches us what the right thing is. It makes no difference if we are infants or adults. How many times do we have to hit ourselves in heads with a hammer before we realize stopping is good? Now don't get me wrong. God still loves us but He is trying to get us to put down the hammer. While we were still broken head bangers He died for us.

Pain focuses us on what is important. Yet many of us spend all of our lives refusing any form or sort of pain. People reject God at the first sign of pain. They want a god who takes away pain and if he won't then they figure that they will just remain god until they find one who will do their will.

Why does the word say "count it all joy when you fall into tempation?" Because we are going to learn what is valuable from learning what has no value. Righteousness has value. It is a valuable free gift. Have you learned that lesson yet?

To the dog, food and affection are the things most valuable. To a human it is not so clear. We can have food and affection and still engage in self destructive behavior. What is the most valuable thing to you?

I suggest, that the most valuable thing in life is a living, real, and vibrant relationship with the Holy Spirit of the Living God, who is happy with us and enjoys us. He is trying to get our attention. Are we listening?

The pain in our lives is not to punish us for bad behavior. It is there so that we can be trained in righteousness and dwell with our Holy God. If sin did not have consequences then there would be no need for a God to save us. He saves us by changing our hearts with His beauty.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Bruce! Love, Lys

12:18 AM, March 09, 2005  

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