Welcome message

Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

"So you think corporal punishment/spanking/smacking is ok because you turned out fine: Think again"

So you think corporal punishment/spanking/smacking is ok because you turned out fine: 

Think again!

Spanking/Smacking/Corporal Punishment is not bad. I am the perfect example of that. Look at me. I turned out just fine so spanking/smacking/corporal punishment is just fine in my book. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard that over the last twenty years!

Make no mistake about it. This idea is one of the most prevalent among those who advocate in favor of corporal punishment of children. A simple Google search will easily confirm this.

I think many of us who have been engaged with this issue can say the same thing. Let's face it. The vast majority of people who were spanked or smacked (particularly in a Christian religious context) definitely believe this. 

The only phrase that you might hear more than this one is "Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child." We all know how engrained this idea is in our culture and how people just believe totally that this is what the Bible teaches.

I have really struggled over this statement, which is the title of this post. I have always been a bit intimidated by it because I never really had a good answer for this statement that I have heard over and over and over again, until now.

I am a good person. I am!

I guess it is normal to think that one is a good person. I remember my dad saying when I was a kid: "Hey, I am one of the nicest guys I know, just ask me and I will tell you!" Now he always said that tongue in cheek, but in fact, with the many flaws my dad had, he still considered himself a patriotic, generally law abiding, hardworking, fairly decent person overall. And he was all of those things!

Now, theologically speaking, my father did not look at himself that way, but for most people, I don't think their deep theological beliefs ever really come into their thinking or their assertions about themselves. They genuinely believe that they are basically good people and that a good spanking or smacking helped them tremendously in directing them to become the "good" person they are today.

Even though life going on around me is not good, I am above that because I was spanked/smacked

Now, I think that most reasonable people looking at the general state of humanity will say that the situation could be improved. In fact, in some cases, we have to admit that humanity is not currently in an ideal state.

"For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:22-23 ESV)

But the interesting thing about those who were spanked/smacked, they see in their experience a type of purifying that took place by them being spanked/smacked: a kind of "trial by fire" and guess what: they have come through the fire better off for the experience.

It is so interesting to see testimonies of people who grew up in these types of environments. These people really had the devil beaten out of them. They often even use this kind of language.

They think that those who received spankings as well as those who administer them to their own kids are better than other people.

Now, this is not a new idea. In fact, the roots of it are as old as history. Note what the prestigious Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics says in an important article about Flagellants (people who hit themselves because they think it is good for them):

"Voluntary flagellation as a form of penance is as old as history and almost as wide spread as religion itself." (vol. VI, pg. 49)

Flagellants, or people who hit themselves, came to believe that they were more holy than other people.

Note another quote from Hastings who talking about some of the Middle Age Flagellants in Europe said concerning these flagellants:

"they believed that their blood would mingle with the shed blood of their Saviour and that this practice of painful, penitential flagellation, continued for 33 days and a half would wash the sould free from all sin. As these ideas came to clear consciousness in the minds of the Flagellants,. they began to feel that the means of salvation were in their own hands and that the mediation of the Church and its priesthood could be dispensed with." (ibid., pg. 50)

Today, we know these people as "holier than thou" types and make no mistake about it, these type of people are some of the most ardent supporters of corporal punishment/spanking/smacking and its beneficial aspects today.. 

They still believe that the devil can be beaten out of people, and especially children. 

There is only one problem with this. The devil cannot be beaten out of something in which the devil is not inside in the first place. 

But wait a minute! These people say: "I was evil and I deserved it." But were they really evil?

They use very literal interpretations of the book of Proverbs and totally believe in the efficacy of these types of spiritual activities of inflicting violence. The people who undertake these trials are definitely better for their experiences. 

They feed on texts like this:

"The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly." (Proverbs 20:30 KJV)

But the key question we really have to ask is: Are these people really better off for being spanked/smacked?

The Arrogance of saying "I am better off because I was spanked or smacked."

One of the things that was a realization of mine of late was the utter arrogance of saying that I am better off for being spanked or smacked. 

The important question in my mind surrounding this assertion is the following: "Better off than who?"

Well, most people are going to say that I am better off than those who were not spanked or smacked.

Now, before we entertain this assertion, let's back up just one baby step and consider the following fact. 

Any person who says that they are better off for being spanked or smacked holds a view of themselves which believes that they are better than other people!

There is no secret in this. People who say it just openly come out and say: I am better than other people. You can sugar coat it and say: No, wait a minute, that is not what we mean? Oh! Not in my book.

They are more holy
They are more righteous
They are more correct
They are better
They are more honest
They also know the truth better than other people 

This is exactly what Michael Pearl, for example, teaches:

"It has come to my attention that a vocal few are decrying our sensible application of the Biblical rod in training up our children. I laugh at my caustic critics, for our properly spanked and trained children grow to maturity in great peace and love.

Numbered in the millions, these kids become the models of self-control and discipline, highly educated and creative—entrepreneurs that pay the taxes your children will receive in entitlements. When your children finally find an honest mechanic or a trustworthy homebuilder, it will be one of ours.

When your children apply for a job it will be at a company our children founded. When they go to a doctor, it will be one of our Christian children that heals them with cutting edge innovation. When your adult kids go for therapy it will be one of our kids-become-psychologist that directs them to the couch and challenges them to release their self-loathing and embrace hope for a better tomorrow."


They are just simply better people because they sin less than other people! 

Yes, that is correct. They are better off for being spanked or smacked.

They are "models of self-control" 
They are "highly educated"
They are "creative"
They are "honest"
They are "business owners" who are more successful, more blessed, smarter and richer than others!

It is almost as if unless you are spanked/smacked you are never going to become anything good in the mind of these dear misguided people.

So how does this view square with Scripture?
How Does God Look At People Who Hold Such A View of Themselves?

In reflecting on this idea, there is one idea that really comes to mind: 100% ARROGANCE!

There really is a supreme arrogance, a superiority, a condescensionary type of elevated look that people who hold this view seem to exhibit. At least that is my experience. I guess I could be wrong, but it seems to me to be a common trait of people who were raised like this.

They have a tendency to look down on others
They have a tendency to pontificate
They have a tendency to lecture and find fault

It really reminds me of an ancient prayer that my father used to put in all of his publications. For me, it really represents a fundamental truth that I was raised with. 

I was raised and taught that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and because of that, you need to show humility and not be arrogant or think you are better than anyone else. And I mean ANYONE!

Here is the prayer I am referring to here and many who have read anything I've written will remember this prayer. It is really a part of me personally.

From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth,
From the laziness that is content with half-truths'
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
O God of Truth, deliver us.-- Ancient Prayer

But to some people spanking and smacking are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and they themselves are all the proof that they need to know they are 100% correct.

I guess it is normal to think that one is a good person, that in the morass that surrounds us, we are above all of that. We are good people. We are holy, loving, virtuous, generous, intelligent, reverential, successful, etc.

The thing is, though, ARE WE all of these things?

But what does the Bible say about this orientation? 

Saint Paul: Standing in front of everyone in the Sinner Line

I am a big admirer of St. Paul. He was a straight talker! Saint Paul was a person well experienced with life. He tells us about his many experiences including many sufferings.

“But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.” (II Corinthians 11:21-33 ESV)

He also speaks often of his many joys in Christ (Romans 15:32; II Corinthians 2:3; Philippians 2:2; I Timothy 2:20).

When we read Paul’s experiences, we can see that he lived a human life much like that which you and I experience today: a life of suffering and a life where one experiences great joy.

A part of Paul’s (and ours) experiences in life lead him to express his own shortcomings and human frailties when coming to the question of the daily task of reconstructing his own character. Paul (like you and especially I) had major challenges with this issue and this is exactly what he tells us. 

Paul did not hold a very high view of himself! Note what he said:

“What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But in, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:7-24 ESV)

Paul saw inside of himself a delight in God’s law, but in his own experience, he found himself deficient (as are you and I) when it came to performance. His reference to his own shortcomings was not an isolated incident. He referred many times to his own personal nature, which he characterized as sinful, mortal, corruptible, and fleshly, terms an honest self-reflecting person is very familiar with. Note what he told Timothy:

“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”  (I Timothy 1:12-15 ESV)

It is interesting that Paul did not say that he “was” previously the “foremost” sinner. No! He uses the present tense to describe his earthly condition. Let us be honest though, Paul was doing his best to pursue his Christian walk, but found that “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (ibid.)

Paul comes right out and says it. I am the foremost sinner. You just can't even think for a moment of Paul coming out and saying: "I am better than other people." Hardly! 

Isn't it interesting that even after all of his trials and tribulations, all of the miracles he wrought, all of the Scripture he wrote, what does he tell Timothy:

 "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”  (I Timothy 1:15 ESV)  

Paul underwent many trials, but he never chose to elevate himself. On the contrary, he headed right to the front of the sinner line. 

Many of the proponents of corporal punishment/smacking/spanking don't seem to have this orientation that St. Paul had.

They are not more sinful than other people.

They are good people

They are better than other people because they have been "corrected." 

They have been "disciplined."

We can give some other examples from Scripture

This idea of saying that one is better than other people because they were disciplined is really captured clearly in the following parable.

 "And He spoke this parable unto certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are: extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

Where do you think Paul would have oriented himself in this parable? Pretty obvious I think.

Jesus makes the whole matter clear and orients us properly

We've seen the example of Paul and how he looked at himself, but let's now look at an even stronger example, I think. It is that given by Christ Himself.

"And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." (Luke 18:18-19 ESV)

We can go round and round on what this means exactly, but I think it is telling us that mankind needs to reach to a higher example, an example outside of himself, because I think it is fairly clear that if we look horizontally, we can all agree that man, generally speaking, is not good, no matter what these "holier than thou" types say.

Let's agree with Jesus who said: .

“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." (Luke 18:18-19 ESV)

I'd welcome your view.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

One of the most powerful messages from a mother I have ever read anywhere anytime - Do not miss this!

One of the most powerful messages from a mother I have ever read anywhere anytime - Do not miss this!

I read this today on The Guggie Daily and I have to link it here!

My Past is Defeated for My Children’s Future

by Jennifer Lee Wright

Here is a small but powerful excerpt - I strongly urge you to read the rest here.


"After a year of being sober and trying, we became pregnant with our first child.  Something changed.  Deeply, drastically, beyond anything else I’ve ever experienced before in my life, upon becoming a mother.  Suddenly, I NEEDED God in ways I’d never known or thought was possible.  I didn’t want to mess this up.  I needed him in my marriage, I needed him in my mothering, I needed him in everyday things.  But more, I learned a whole new side of, and understanding of…...love.  I was also forced to face the demons of my past and sort through them.  I had to think upon and work through how I had been raised.  I had to realize that I didn’t have a family unit around me to help me in my new role of life.  It was devastating, heartbreaking, and healing all at the same time.
One huge life changer for me was when I held my baby.  I would look at her and I would feel such a huge, breathtaking emotion that I couldn’t understand or put into words.  All I knew was that I loved this child in greater proportions than I even knew was possible.  I felt as though I was going to explode, I had so much going on inside.  Finally the dam, that wall of protection I’d built up inside of me to be strong and carry on, broke and the flood burst forth.  I broke at the realization of what had been done to me as a child came flooding in with a clarity that made me ache to my core.  I wept out of heartbreak for myself as well as for the healing laying in my arms at a chance of a new kind of life.  A chance to break the cycle. Tears just poured out of me in a cleansing way and washed away my pain as pure love filled me from within that I never knew existed.  
As I looked at this child so small, so helpless, and so dependant on me for her everything, I simply could not imagine ever treating her the way I had been treated.  How could THAT be good and right and lovely?  It flew in the face of everything I knew about God.  Granted, I didn’t know much, but I was learning that he wasn’t the God I had been taught as a child.  He was a God of love, grace, forgiveness, peace, mercy, patience, kindness and goodness."

This is an amazing testimony and it has a strong message of Gentle Parenting as well as Jennifer was also spanked  and suffered greatly as a child! Please do yourself a favor and make sure you read this!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Our surroundings influence how we look at Scripture

Our surroundings influence how we look at Scripture

Living in Jerusalem certainly gives one an interesting perspective about the Bible. One has to admit that living here is just a little different than say in London, England or Los Angeles, California, where I grew up.

I think it is safe to say that if we were to objectively compare Los Angeles and Jerusalem, the person in Jerusalem would probably have a better chance of having a slightly richer understanding of the Bible?

I think most people would probably agree with that. My surroundings influence how I look at Scripture (both the Old and the New Testaments).

I am not alone.

One’s surroundings strongly influence their view of the Bible. Let me give you a very simple example.

Note this seemingly uninteresting and unimportant text from Ruth:

“And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. (Ruth 2:14 ESV)

Now the word I have italicized is “wine” which here in Hebrew is חומץ (ghoh-metz)

You find this word translated in the King James Version generally as “vinegar.” (see Numbers 6:3; Ruth 2:14; Psalm 69:21; Proverbs 10:26 and 25:20

You can refer to the following website which gives a good run down of how many scholars and Bible translators have looked at this point: http://bible.cc/ruth/2-14.htm

There is no problem with translating this word “vinegar”, but it could also mean something else and depending on your perspective, you may be influenced on what you think this word means.

“Vinegar” is the common interpretation, but if you were from Jerusalem, you might look at this verse and potential meanings a bit different because of the foods that you see commonly eaten around you.

One of these foods is hummus.

Many people may be familiar with this dish made of chick peas which are cooked and then crushed and mixed with sesame seed oil, lemon, paprika, salt and eaten with bread.

It is certainly not the same thing as vinegar.

Now, the interesting thing about this is when you start to look at Hebrew dictionaries because you will find that the word for “chick pea” (from which hummus is derived) is: חמצה (Ben Yehuda’s Pocket English-Hebrew Dictionary (Pocket Books, 1961,1964).

This is quite similar and from the same root word as that mentioned above. So, were Boaz and Ruth, like many couples continue to do today here in Israel, sharing a plate of hummus, not dipping their bread in vinegar?

I am not saying that they were. But I do wish to make a point.

What difference does it make? Hummus or Vinegar? So what? So who cares? What difference does it make whether it was hummus, vinegar or bread dipped in wine (as the ESV has it)?

It can make a big difference because we all are influenced by our surroundings.

Many of those translators or grammarians who never visited the Near East or spent any time in Israel will often not be willing to look outside of their own rigid 21st century views. They don’t have firsthand knowledge. They have limited terms of reference and perspectives and they are influenced by their surroundings. They may also have specific agendas behind their translation approach.

They would never in a million years even think of hummus!

Their minds may just not be focused on that even as a possibility.

Now, this is a small example and it is something which does not have a majorly significant impact on daily life. But what about passages that do have major impacts on daily life?

What about passages that influence human relationships one with another? What about passages that influenced how parents treat children? What about passages that influence how men treat women?

With the little example I am giving here, I hope you can see how important it is to get these things right or at least not be so dogmatic that you know the truth 100%.

Intellectual honesty demands that one leave the possibility that he or she may not be correct. I think this is exactly what St. Paul is telling us when he said:

“Let God be true though everyone were a liar” (Romans 3:4 ESV)

And continuing:

None is righteous, no, not one;
     no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
     All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
     not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12 ESV)

This I think is where we who love the Bible can learn some lessons about our own biases and perspectives.

We are all carrying baggage which influences how we look at things.

This is where we have to be humble and admit that at any time any of us might be teaching error or falsehood. I pray that is not the case, but I have to tell you that in Paul’s appraisal of himself, me and you, we are “liars”. Thankfully, we are not under condemnation for this because we don’t know that we may be thinking or believing something that is false. I hope we are not, but I think we need to be like the five wise virgins in the parable and make sure we have extra oil in our lamps! (Matthew 25)

Let’s consider another example.

Review now Leviticus 10:9:

“Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. (ESV)

Now, here the ESV agrees with most of the versions we know who can be found here: http://bible.cc/leviticus/10-9.htm.

Commentators go to great length mentioning various theories about what this “strong drink” is.

Let me be clear.

When we Americans read this (who have all visited a Costco or a Walmart and seen aisles of "strong drink:"), we immediately think of something stronger to drink than wine. I know because I asked several of my friends who confirmed this.

Here we definitely have in mind alcoholic beverages like rum, vodka, whisky, etc.

Some translations even add the word “liquor.”

Any problem with translating this word “strong drink”?

No, not really, but in fact, when we go back to our Bible perspective and ignore all of the Western civilizational influences, we find that according to that same dictionary I quoted earlier, the Hebrew word שכר (sheh-chahr) means exactly “beer”, and nothing stronger.

In fact, if anyone would simply even study the matter in the most simple of ways, one would find out that modern spirits that we are familiar with today, were simply unknown in the Biblical period!

In fact, modern distillation of spirits is not even 1,000 years old! In addition, it may not even be 600 years old according to one of my scholar friends, Prof. Randall Heskett, who along with another colleague has authored a book on wine in the Bible. Check it out. http://www.amazon.com/Randall-Heskett/e/B001HOF9VS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

This “strong drink” is in no way the equivalent of whisky and translations that use the term "liquor" are wrong!

It is in fact a beverage which had lesser alcoholic content than the previously mentioned word in that passage, which is “wine”!

Now to the point: these are simple examples which are innocent and have some interesting elements of teaching in them, but the important point is this. We Christians, especially those of us who are not experts in understanding the Bible in its original context, need to make sure as best as we can that we understand what it is that we believe about we think the Scriptures are teaching us.

As I have shown in my book, “Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me; Christians and the Spanking Controversy” (get it free here - http://whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/), much misunderstanding exists in what people believe the Bible teaches about the issue of the “rod of correction” and about familial relations in the Biblical period.

My point in that book was to help provide additional information about what the Bible may be teaching regarding these important issues.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. I believe that the Holy Scriptures do have them and that it is up to us to discover what it is that God wants us to do and what God wants us not to do in today’s world.

This also extends to what God wants us to believe versus what He does not want us to believe.

We better be sure that if we are not even 100% sure what people were eating and drinking or even the clothes they wore in ancient times, we probably have to admit that we are not 100% sure how they were raising up their kids.

 I think if we all agree to handle two of our most treasured possessions, our children and God’s Word, with the utmost care that they deserve, we will be on our way to having a better relationship with both.