Tuesday, June 21, 2011

John Piper Wants to Go to Prison: An Argument for Hitting a Child

John Piper is a very odd man.  He is old and has many a follower that will stick up for him when there is even a tiny whisper of dissent.  He tends to say some incendiary things, and then grandstands when the ridicule comes shooting in, waving it off as being persecuted for the truth.  But in many cases, the truth for John
Piper is a relativistic sort of thing.  He sees many things in life as being very dichotomous - black vs. white, having no color.

One of those areas is spanking.  And the way he gets around to telling us why he believes in spanking is very odd indeed. He titles his chat, "Would Jesus Spank a Child?

Watching Johnny talk in his multitudinous video collection online, this title does not surprise me in the least.  He did it for the express reason of causing areaction.  It worked.  He got one out of me.

Let's explore what drivel he has to say.  You will notice that I have nothing but disdain for this man.  He is a cancer on society in my opinion.  A threat to freedom in Christ.  Any good that he does in preaching what he deems as "the truth" is negated by his worldview as pertaining to simple things like "roles" for women (and men, of course...you have to be politically correct when you're trying to put a woman in her place by pretending to care what role a man has, rather than just glorying in the fact that you were created to be superior to the "weaker sex") and of course, spanking.

Piper Boy starts out with this:

"If Jesus were married and had children, I think he would have spanked the children."

The fact is, Jesus wasn't married and never had any children,. unless you believe in The Davinci Code, so we don't really have to go there.  But Johnny forced our hand, so we must.

Rather than, "If Jesus were married and had children, he would have loved his wife and children, gave the kids hugs and smoochies every night before bed, fed them three squares a day and lots and lots of sugar and Twinkies, taught them about God until he was blue in the face, and then left them all to fend for themselves when he died," Johnny decided to go the route of the most important aspect of married life with kids - hitting your children.

In all fairness, this is Piper Boy, chatting about spanking so it kind of fits, but, we are working on conjecture here and it begs the question: "Why did Johnny have to go here?"  Seriously.  Why?

Let's move on.  Hopefully he'll tell us.

"The place that I would go to help a person see that he would, when they can't imagine that he would, is Matthew 5 where he said, "Not a jot nor a tittle will pass away from the Law until all is accomplished." In other words, all the Law and the Prophets stand until they're done. And the Law says, "Spare the rod, spoil the child." That's a paraphrase. The book of Proverbs says, "If you withhold the rod, you hate your son." Jesus believed the Bible, and he would have done it."

Did he just say that?  I can't believe he just did.  This paragraph is not fickle, by any means.  It completely and utterly describes the underlying theology, whether he likes it or not, of how Johnny views Christianity.  He is saying that Jesus told us that the law still applies to us today. 

Jesus goes on for the rest of Chapter 5 and a few more chapters saying, "the law says this, but I say that you need to do this".  And the "this" that Jesus referred to was always much more difficult than the law contained.  Don't just not murder your brother, don't hate him either.  Don't feel good about the fact that you haven't
committed adultery, you better not even look at a woman to lust after her.

This was a message to people that were pretty high on themselves and their perfection.  In contrast, which it really isn't a contrast, but rather a good segue, Paul writes in Galatians 3 (reading the whole chapter gives excellent context) that the law, which was our guardian before Christ, who came to justify us by faith in Him, no longer applies.  We don't need a guardian anymore.  We're all sons of God.

Now, I don't always agree with Paul, but I can say I am convinced he's dead on with this point.  Jesus wasn't talking about all that schtuff we had to do in order to be perfect.  He stated that perfection was needed to be accepted into the kingdom of heaven.  Then he stated the perfection that was needed and notes that even one little piece being broken causes us to have broken the whole law, which he made harder than the law actually was written as.  Thus, if we can't do it anyway, what the heck is the law for?

A guardian prior to Christ.  A schoolmaster to point us to Christ.  A picture of our own sinfulness that points to the fact that we cannot DO anything close to following the law without Christ.

But, why argue that point.  Piper Boy makes a very strange segue here.  He says that Proverbs was the law.  This is a consistent mistake that people like Piper make.  I can assume that it may be inadvertent on Johnny's part, but I don't think so.  I think he purposefully ignores the meaning of "the law" because it fits his own little
definition of what it means to be a "true Christian."

The law was the law.  The law of Moses.  The one that was written down.  You know.  The Ten Commandments and bunches of other Levitical laws in between.  Yes, laws. Proverbs is not part of the law.  Psalms is not part of the law.  Huge parts of every book of the Old Testmant was not part of the law.  That means that "spare the rod, spoil the child" (which isn't in the Bible) was not part of the law.  Nor was it part of the Prophets.

Then, after ignoring the true definition of "law" Piper makes a smooth transition to calling it the "Bible".  But there is a problem here.  Jesus didn't believe in the Bible.  Jesus couldn't care less about the Bible.  Jesus was God.  He had God's true word in his back pocket.  The Bible didn't even exist.  It had yet to be formulated
and gathered together and canonized by counsels of men.  Yes, men.  Jesus knew the LAW, John Piper.  Not the Bible.  He knew what the law was and what it was meant for.

Finally, if we take John Piper at his word, why would Jesus change the law?  Why would he say the creed of divorce handed down by Moses was because of the hardness of the hearts of the Jewish people.  Could it be possible that the rod is one of those "rules" that fit into the category of "not applicable"?  We don't need to conjecture there anyway because there is a very simple point to be made here.  The Old Testament tells us to stone rebellious children, accusing him to the elders, not only as a rebel, but also a drunkard and a glutton - Deut. 21: 18 - 21.  It tells us to kill a child if he hits his mommy or daddy - Exodus 21:15, 17.  Even the most holy of holy books, Proverbs, states that even if a child so much as looks at his father in mockery and disobeys his mother, must be held down and have his eye plucked out by wild birds - Proverbs 30:17.  That Proverbs one leads us to possibly see, just maybe, that many parts of the Bible could potentially, likelyishly be allegorical.  You think?  Or take Psalm 137:9 where the writer is speaking of revenge against the enemy and glories in the possibility of children be dashed against rocks, most likely killing them.

Would Piper say Jesus condones that because, after all, he believes in the Bible!?

Let's move on.  Hopefully Piper says some good stuff so we don't have to hit these super softballs out of the park.

I won't quote him directly but Piper goes on to say that there is a problem in our culture.  The "heart of the issue" is simply that the person accepts the sign, that isn't there anymore, along I-35W in Minneapolis, Minnesota, imploring people to not hurt children.  To that, Johnny says, "That's all it said! And spanking is equated with hurting children." So, I assume he doesn't believe that hitting children actually hurts.

It gets better:

"Well, I will go to jail over that issue!"

Really, John Piper?  You would actually go to jail over hitting your children?  Seriously?  So, you would risk leaving your wife without a husband for a time while you sat in prison for your righteous endeavors?  You would leave your children with the only option of seeing your face through a window and hearing your voice over a phone just because spanking was right?  You would rather spank and go to jail than compromise by doing other forms of discipline, just to prove a point?  You would rather go to jail than make sure your kids had three squares a day?  You would rather withhold sex from your wife except for state-approved conjugal visits beacuse you felt spanking was right?  Maybe you missed Roman 13:1-7.  If you do read that John, skip Verse 8.  Its innaplicable to our life today because of what Jesus says in Matthew 5.

Then Piper goes on to make a weird attempt at connecting how we parent our children to how the author of Hebrews referenced how God treats His sons.  He calls Hebrews 12:6, the "direct connection".  All that verse says is that God disciplines us and chastises us because he loves us.  I'm not sure why Johnny didn't go further because Verses 9 - 11 actually would serve to prove his point a tad better.  But, the fact is, discipline may not be the same as hitting.  Unfortunately, when Piper sees "discipline" he sees "beating a child".  I don't see that.  I learn discipline by motivation, hard work, staying at it, verbal and emotional chastisement, people coming
alongside me and walking me through the process, mentors, and even through my own mistakes.  Nobody whoops my behind and yet I learn just fine.

Piper then makes a funny statement.  He excitedly declares (he's always excited when he's making a great point - I know - I'm the same way) that saying don't hurt a child is a wrong view of God and that, since God uses suffering to discipline his children, so should we.  This is very dangerous.  John Piper is not talking to students in a classroom where they can follow-up with questions on actual application of his teachings so as to do it right and not hurt someone.  He is talking to everyone who will listen.  And for everyone who would only rub their children's behinds or even tap them to stay on the good graces of the law, there are ten more that will beat the living hell out of their children because Piper Boy told them it was our job as parents to make the kids suffer.

In Piper's defense, he does follow that one up with his extra-biblical application of not breaking an arm or giving them a black eye.  Then he floats a whopper:

"Children have little fat bottoms so that they can be whopped."

Really?!!!   So, let's explore that a weeny bit.  Has Piper Boy ever met my kids?  Their butt cheeks couldn't hold up a pair of underwear if the cloth was glued to it.  They eat like horses and can't gain an ounce.  But, they have a little fat on their heels so maybe that's the place to spank.  Or, they're pretty large around the mid section when they're younger, so, maybe a good kick in the belly would work.  Also, with that philosophy, adults have fat bottoms too.  Maybe they need a good whoop arseing every so often to keep them in line.  Piper is too skinny, so he gets a pass, but I think his wife might have a few extra pounds.  She may be a great candidate for his lil' bop theory. 

What a stupid line.  A real good whopper to base your theology on.

Then Pipes tells us a sweet story about a kid, during the discovery period of a child's life, colors some orange crayon on the wall.  Now, in the Piper household, coloring on the wall is akin to stealing maney from a  bank.  It's evil.  Pure evil.  Doing that little act of curiosity deserves a whoopin'.  So Piper takes the guy in a room, gives him a good thwacking and then makes it ok by hugging him and saying he loves him.  Don't be shocked.  Piper says it was just fine.  The kid was bouncing off the walls "happy, happy, happy"!  Glad he didn't put a hole in the wall because Johnny Boy might have thrown him through a second story window and then went and hugged him on the concrete below.  Of course, Piper would have no consequences for breaking the window.

Hey John.  Who whoops your arse when you fart in an elevator?  You should know better!  What a completely asinine idea.  Here, a kid is learning to explore and discover new things in life and the parent comes over and hits him, putting an end to his creativity. 

Why couldn't John Piper just go and take his hand, walk him over to a coloring book, and have him color on the proper places?  Maybe because he might have to do that stunt many many times.  Maybe because spanking is much more efficient because the child equates fear of dad when he wants to write on the wall.  Maybe because John Piper doesn't gives a rat's rear end whether or not his child maintains a penchant for discovering knew things.  Did John Piper, in that one orgasmic moment of his brilliant parenting career, singlehandedly change the direction of his son's life from a nuclear physicist who would discover cold fusion?

But, no.  John makes the only alternate conclusion available to all mankind in the area of child discipline by saying:

"Now if I had said to him, "You go into your room and you sit there and you stay there until you feel appropriately guilty, and then we'll see if you come out and do the right thing," what a wicked way to punish a child!"

Very typical of those who want to prove an unproveable point.  they make the alternate seem, not only evil beyond measure, but also, the ONLY way.  He never goes on to explain why that form of discipline is evil.  It has worked very very well for us in many cases, including staying on the good side of the law when we were not allowed to do anything else while running a daycare. 

And he finishes with:

"Spanking is so clean! It's so quick! It's so relieving! A kid feels like he has done atonement and he is out of there and happy.

To these modern ideas of timeout, or sitting in the corner, I say, "Bologna! Give me a spanking! I want to go play!"

I just think spanking is really healthy for children. It is a measured deliverance of a non-damaging act of mild pain that makes the child feel the seriousness of what he's done. It is not beating. It is not abuse. There is a clear difference. The very word "spank" exists because there is such a thing as a loving way to whop a child on his behind or his chunky thigh."

John Piper would never be trusted with my children - EVER!  Hitting them on a chunky thigh?  Are you kidding me?  I've been slapped on my thigh and it's not cake walk.  Also, he acts like hitting a child has some magical pixie dust qualities that, when administered on the fly, gives a child the necessary training they need to be a perfect human being.  "...give me a spanking!  I want to go out to play!!!!!!!!"

But then again, I don't take my children to prison for daycare.  Being in a cell with Big John would be a scary thing indeed.



  1. I used to think John Piper was actually a good theologian who at least knew the Bible, even though I obviously disagree with his interpretations and way of viewing it. Your article has me seriously disappointed. He would suggest that the law still applies? Or, my god, that Proverbs is the same as "the law"? What the hell? Has he never READ the Bible?

    Also, I'm so sick of people like him or unequivocally endorse spanking that I'm not even sure what to say anymore. He and spanking-makes-children-happy Pearl get only my disgust. What is wrong with these people? Have they ever spanked a screaming, squirming, terrified child? Or are their children some sort of twisted version of Oliver Twist: "please daddy, could I have a spanking?"

    And as to the coloring on the walls bit - it makes me SO MAD when people spank their children for being curious and doing what comes naturally to them. They're KIDS. Or did they miss that point? My god, stop beating the spirit and curiosity out of them!

  2. I followed the same line of thought in my pre-parent, pre-freedom mindset.

    Now, I see that Christian ideals for child development have come to be succinctly summed up in a single word, that being: "control"... by any means, needless to say. My own siblings are the very same siblings that experienced such an ideal upbringing. It's no wonder they, as well as I, have come to some pretty erroneous conclusions on such a matter as discipline.

    Our perspectives have diverged from our common point of faith in Christ. I believe there's an erroneous extension that is easily mistaken as "freedom", which purports a "blessed household" from living by principle. There's no freedom in such a household. Christ is the blessing before you ever experience any pleasurable "obedience" to your own will as a parent. Our freedom is paid for by his wounds. Our children will annoy the hell out of us until we see their faults are simply misunderstandings.

    I am eagerly awaiting the day my one-year-old can talk, so she can talk some sense into me.

  3. Right on, Liberty. That first statement of his shocked me as well. This man has built up an empire of consenting souls that he can turn with whatever winds of doctrine he spews forth. My hope is that people see him for what he really is - a legalist with pretty wrapping paper around him to make his message seem more palatable.

    His conclusions in this piece were so off the wall, I even wondered if I was being Punked or reading a script from Steven Colbert, or even SNL.

  4. Clarification:

    I am not picking on Piper's wife in this piece. When I mentioned her, it was to tear down the point that Johnny Boy made that children have fatty tissue on their bottoms and thus spanking is the right way to go. (Funny, fatty tissue on bottoms doesn't make a time-out proper????)

    Thus, with this conclusion, I felt it was a good idea to look at just the fatty tissue part and decided to explore Piper Boy's immediate family's fatty tissue. So, my question was, if fatty tissue is reason enough to beat your children, why wouldn't it be reason enough to have yourself beaten or even your wife. After all, adults have fatty tissue too.

    That's all I was saying.

  5. Absolutely love it Muzach! I only wish I had realized this years ago.

    Looking forward to your kids' bottoms never having bruises on them. Looking forward to them never cowering in fear that you'll hit them with a designated hitting object. Looking forward to your success.

    Bravo on opening your eyes! I also look forward to what you have to teach me, buddy. Don't hold it back.

  6. Yes, I have heard this sermon before you tore it apart. Big wording with some scripture references thrown in from a well sought after theologian had me convinced.

    IC, how do you hear stuff like this and pick it apart so basically?!?!?!?! One of these days I will be there.

    I was raised in such a way as Piper describes. Hell to the no will I raise my kids like that. I feared my parents and was under their control. A quick bark from mom made us all jump.

    My wife has a nice bottom. I love spanking it... Wait, are we talking about the same thing? =p

  7. ROTFLOL! My wife too. Yes, that was exactly my point. Wife bottoms. Mwahahahaha!

    Anyway, you ask how I do it. Well, I'm not alone, for one. If I come across something like that, I have my own thoughts about it, but I also talk at my wife for hours. She hashes it out with me when I finally climb down off the ceiling and calm my emotions down.

    Half of that stuff is insight from her, actually. Also, we read like crazy, not to mention that the whole Bible was crammed down my throat my entire childhood so I know the contents like the back of my hand. I don't gloat over that by any means. I merely mention it to show that my childhood was a great preparatory ground to teach me the right way, no matter what wrong way was shoved in my face.

    Also, 30 years of swallowing this crap (half of those years without question, then most of the rest was dabbling, and now slowly clawing my way out) has put much life experience into my words.

    I don't get everything right all the time. And, at times, I revisit thoughts and conclusions I have made previously and realize I have moved away from them. But that is life.

    I run from any man or woman who pretends they have it all figured out.

    Don't hesitate to share your thoughts here. I will stick them in my noggin and roll them around. if they stick, they stick.

  8. Joe,

    Ineresting read. I respect your viewpoints, I just had a couple things bouncing around in my head...

    I think it's a bit misinformed to say that Piper is a cancer on society! We all have our problems, so to a certain extent we are all in that same boat, but obviously when one person is singled out in that way, it is meant to be degrading. I used to go to Bethlehem (Piper's church). Piper and his church had weaknesses, but I can tell you firsthand that Piper isn't a cancer on society. Regardless of whether you agree with his theology, God has done some really awesome things through this man. I have seen countless people in his church that he inspired making positive and loving impacts on communities and in outreaches. I have also seen the deeply loving and caring side of Piper which has helped bring emotional healing to many. On a less relevant note, one thing I really love about Bethlehem is the cultural diversity. They have flags of many nations hanging in the sanctuary, and they play worship music from many cultures. There are so many incredible ministries going on at Bethlehem.
    On the flip side, I do agree with you that Piper has weaknesses. I've seen them. But a cancer on society? I strongly disagree.

    One other thing, I understand why people don't choose to spank their kids, and that is cool with me. But to call someone "asinine," for choosing to spank? All I can say is, my parents spanked me, and I'm glad they did! I was a first-rate idiot sometimes, and I'm glad my parents spanked me to get me under control. It also taught me not to be a sissy. I never felt abused and I never used spanking to justify hitting a sibling. Also, I was a skinny little twig, but the pain didn't even come close to killing me....it was pretty minor. Obviously, not all kids are alike, and parents don't have to spank. However, I'm glad mine did and I know they aren't asinine!

    I'm enjoying reading your posts and they are providing interesting stuff to think about. Keep it up :)

  9. Isaac. It is possible I needed to temper my words a bit more. There was a lot behind that "cancer" statement and I really meant the essence of it, but maybe could have been a bit more gracious in portraying my contempt.

    See, the thing is, if I disagree so vehemently with Bugs Bunny, it doesn't much matter to anyone, because nobody older than three (myself included) really cares. But when I foundationally and fundamentally disagree with a man like John Piper, who is looked up to by thousands and possibly millions of people, the disagreement becomes more important.

    I have a problem with Piper's idea of gender roles. I obviously have an issue with his view on spanking. I also have problems with Reformed Theology and strict Calvinism. Most importantly, in my view, I have an issue with his presentation style. He is very confident in what he has to say and portrays everything as obvious. If you don't get it, well then, you're not thinking deeply or obviously enough.

    Ok, enough about Piper. Not sure we'll agree on that anyway. Let's move forward to spanking.

    My premise is very simple. I believe that spanking is hitting and hitting a child is wrong. I see my child hit another person and I deal with it by hitting my child and then expect him to connect the moral dots. I confuse my kids enough. I don't need that.

    But, let's look at it in a different light. Every time I come out that I hate hitting children (spanking) I am confronted with the same argument that you so eloquently (I am most definitely NOT being sarcastic here) put forth, that it worked for you and your parents did it right.

    My answer to that is this:

    Think about two things. You say it worked for you, so I'll give you that. But, in saying that it worked for you, are you also saying that anything else that did not inflict parent-induced pain on you would have also failed? Could there not be another way that may have been better?

    So, that naturally leads to the question:

    Why is one better than the other? Why is spanking wrong and other methods correct? Or, even the other way around.

    Let's look at the history of slavery. It was arguably condoned in the Bible. Everyone did it. Even New Testament writers speak to the idea of Master/Slave and talk at great length about how slaves should treat their masters.

    So is the rod. Depending on your interpretation, the rod in Proverbs condones beating your children. Yes, beating. Could this not also be historically engrained in us as acceptable only because we, as a society, haven't yet been enlightened enough to deem it as morally reprehensible?

    In the old world where slavery was acceptable, traditionalists vehemently argued for its practice and stood on Scripture as their proof. Now, we would dismiss their words as ignorance and folly. Bad theology chasing after perceived good intentions.

    Can spanking be in this camp, as well.

    When I look at spanking through the lens of hitting my child and the command from Christ to love others and to not hurt the "smallest of these" I would argue that it is.

    Spanking is ripe for joining slavery on the ash heap of history.

    What say you?

  10. You're right, there are other methods. I have no problem with anyone making a decision not to spank their children. This decision makes sense for many of the reasons you already noted.

    In regards to slavery, for one, it is a bit difficult to make the comparison between the way we treated African Americans (slave ships, bondage for life, etc.) versus a slap on the rear. But like you said, it is debatable whether or not slavery is condoned in the Bible, and I'm guessing you've probably read the arguments on both sides. I would agree with you that it is debatable, and we can't tell for sure.... so because of that I don't really make the assumption that God endorsed slavery.

    I see what you are saying about not hurting "the smallest of these." But I also think that someone could take that to mean that we shouldn't hurt their feelings or do anything to make them feel bad because it's hurting them, so don't discipline at all (obviously you aren't claiming this though). And there are times where you need to be physical with a child in order to prevent them from being hurt. For example, if they try to stick their finger in a fan, the parent would have to react quickly and the child might end up getting hurt in a minor way. So when Jesus said that, I don't think he was trying to make a black and white blanket statement. But we obviously do know that he is condemning abuse of children. So then the question is, what is abuse? And that's where we differ. I understand your side of the argument, and I don't have a problem with you hating spanking. And from another one of your posts, it sounds like you have experienced the dark side of spanking.

    But the other side of the coin is when spanking is not done in the heat of the moment, not during an angry mood. My parents would always calmly and clearly explain why it was being done, and it never was an issue. So I guess my main point is, even though you strongly disagree with spanking, maybe looking from the other angle, people who do it are not exactly "asinine" (except for maybe the ones that abuse it).

    Btw, your play out there at 2b is really getting solid! Sand Creek lost twice to Rosemount today, so it looks like the division is ours to lose!

    Peace brother

  11. Do children ever deserve punishment? Yes.

    Why? It helps them understand how to relate to God and to the world. They'll eventually have to go out into the world and follow laws or face punishment. Good parenting is introducing to them some sort of punishment, right?

    So what punishment is appropriate?

    Piper thinks that a simple "swat" or "thump" on the rear end is best in certain situations. Why? It delivers mild pain as a consequence of breaking rules. It's quick and the pain is gone, but the lesson is learned from the child. (Piper wasn't trying to discourage curiosity - the kid knew he was wrong).

    Eventually you don't keep spanking a kid. Why? Because as they get older, they value other things and so punishment will need to be taking away those things they value so that they learn their lesson (ie, cellphone, tv, video games, "grounding").