I was wrong and how I intend to make it right:
A tested Biblical methodology for
addressing traditions and false teachings in Christianity
Being wrong is one of the finest things that can happen to a person. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be wrong a majority of the time. No one does. But let’s face it, were imperfect. I think most of us are fairly familiar with the Biblical information in this regard.
There is a bad thing about being wrong. It reminds you that it represents a step away from God, a move in the wrong direction. However, God can even use us people moving in the wrong direction for His work.
There are many ways, of course, to be wrong, but when you are someone like me, who writes his opinion about theological subjects, the negative effect can have bigger repercussions. This is what the Lord showed me a few days ago due to some advice I gave to a woman who I do not know personally, but have since come into contact through that magical online universe known as FACEBOOK.
As for the context of this, here is the thread, so you can all see the context of where my foot entered my mouth.
Here is the statement that prompted my moronic advice.
“I would like to send you a free copy of my book immediately to give to that pastor. Maybe the best place for you is in that church praying every Sunday for him to change? Maybe after reading it, he may change his mind and repent. I hope so. Thank you for sharing.”
Kristie, let me tell you a fact. Your first instinct as a woman and a mother was the right one. Getting up and leaving was the right thing to do and if I were you, I would never go back.
Now my advice on the surface sounds so nice and touchy feely. It is the right thing to do to now show that dear misguided pastor friend “the truth.” Oh and if we just pray hard enough and sit there and ask God to open the pastors heart, he may change. That is all true and nice and makes me feel good just thinking about it and that is where it is 100% dead wrong.
Look, anyone who has any common sense knows that the chances of that pastor ever coming around are about as possible as you walking into Wal Mart, pulling a three dollar bill out of your wallet and attempting to purchase some goods you wish to buy. Dear friends, in short, it ain’t gonna work!
Why? Because that pastor is a man of God. He is ordained of God to be in the ministry. He is in authority over his congregation. He is responsible for their spiritual development and growth. He is the expert.
Who am I? Just another one of those misguided Christian who doesn’t know Bible truth if it came up and slapped me in the face! Do you mean to tell me that the Bible suggests something different than what our dear pastor friend is teaching? “I mean come on Martin? Are you serious? Can you read English? I mean are you an idiot?”
What will be the reaction? It is the same reaction that we get from Michael Pearl - Pearl has publicly appeared unapologetic (March 2010): “Michael Pearl laughs at his critics.” - http://pearlchildtraining.blogspot.com/2010/03/michael-pearl-laughs-at-critics.html
It is the same reaction we get from Detective Robert Surgenor of the Family Defense Network of Ohio, a well know proponent of corporal punishment and the author of the book “No Fear”. In his book on page 41, Surgenor’s dad, a born again minister, who found the Lord due to a purported heavy equipment accident in which his life was apparently saved, said: ”When I hear that spanking actually produces violent children my sides hurt – from laughing.”
So, are we noticing a trend here? While many of us are still crying over Sean, Lydia and now Hana, these dear people are laughing. With such people, Kristie’s motherly protection response to get up and leave never to come back is the right move, 100% full stop. I was dead wrong in telling her to go back there and pray for that pastor.
Am I saying she (and you and I) should not pray for that pastor? No I am not. But as I said earlier, he is the minister of God, God’s instrument, God’s shepherd to his flock, he is spiritually responsible for the people in his church. What is it going to do to his position of authority in that church to backtrack? How will he, the great man of God, look in the eyes of his people if he now goes down another path? Were he to do that, he would not last 10 minutes in that church. But as long as he toes the party line in his denomination, he is sitting pretty. He is the big boss, the top dog, the cash keeps rolling in, the heads keep blindly nodding up and down and the world is right side up.
So, Kristie, I lead you astray and I have to say that it was a major ‘blow it.’ The thing is, though, if you have a flat tire on your car, are you just going to continue to drive it around with the flat tire, or are you going to get out of the car, pull that spare out of the trunk, get your hands dirty and change the tire and move forward? That is what this paper is an attempt to do.
Good luck if you intend to challenge most church, church hierarchies, ministers and church leaders
As we have shown here, most people in hierarchies created by men and women, especially religious hierarchies, are one of the most resistant groups to change one could possibly imagine. Why? Because their jobs, authority, prestige, relationships, networks, etc are all connected to the perpetuation of what ever party line they are toeing.
Those who promote corporal punishment are especially like this. Do you think for one minute that a leader of a huge mega church or a nationwide ministry with hundreds of radio stations with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars is for one minute going to come out and admit he was wrong? Not a chance! He would lose all of the power, influence and prestige he has built up, not to mention his ministry would come crashing down. No way on earth is he or any one in his position going to change very easily, if at all. Think this is not the case? Ask yourself this? How many people like one of these mega preachers or Christian psychologists or people like them have changed their mind on anything? You just will hardly find an example of that.
To sum up, I am going to add a quote here from my father in this regard who taught me the following: “And the most resistant of all to the gospel truths are the leaders of denominations, churches, church schools, or church universities. The hierarchies of the established religions are interested in usually only one thing -- the perpetuation of the cult of traditionalism. They do not want to know the truth, which will cause them to change their ways. In other words, they claim in many cases, these leaders of denominations, churches, and schools, and universities, to be the ones who are commissioned by Christ to teach the gospel at this time. They think that they have an ordained status from God, a ticket from Him, to be able to give the message of the gospel to the world, and they look on all others, even academic leaders and the general public, as not being capable of taking this message of the gospel to anyone. They feel they are the ones in authority to do it. And those who accept that type of a belief are the most difficult to reach with the truth.
Now the greatest detriment to bringing forth the new truth that God prophesies will come forth at the end of the age from this good old book, called the Holy Bible, are those who are the hierarchical leaders of organized religious organizations. And if you start to take it to them, I will assure you, in most cases, you are wasting your time. Don't even take any new truth to religious leaders, that is a church pastor, or a church administrator. That doesn't mean that the person is necessarily bad. No. It's just that he is resistant to the truth, because he is in a position of authority, to be able to maintain the status quo, or, the traditions that have been given to him by his ancestors, by the authorities who ordained him, or commissioned him by the laying on of the hands in the first place.
He gets his living, his job, his prestige, his money, by being able to perpetuate what they consider to be their denominational creeds. And if you come along with a new teaching from the Bible, and it's absolutely the truth, still they will resist in most cases. And why will they do that? Because you are going counter to the teachings which that denomination, or that church, accepts as their creed which governs the lives and the thinking processes of their people.” (Ernest L. Martin – “Principles for Gospel Teaching”: Audio Cassette Recording, ASK:1990)
Let us understand that this information is not new. “Now that's exactly what happened to Christ and the apostles in the First Century. That is why Christ, when He went to the scribes and the Pharisees, He had a great resistance on their part, because they had already established, in the first Century, traditions. And the word "traditions" simply means teachings counter to the Scripture (you can find this in the dictionary, if you'd just look it up) counter to the teachings of the Scripture, which they have inaugurated, extra-biblically that is, outside the Scripture, but which are the dominating factors in their belief systems. That is what traditions are. That's what the word "traditionalism" means.” (ibid.)
Let me tell you a fact. The doctrine that is trumpeted by many Christian leaders today is a teaching which is found in the Bible, but that teaching is not found clearly in the Christian New Testament! I’ve point this out in my book, “Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy.” Do you realize that not one of the texts which are found in the book of Proverbs and seem to authorize this practice is found in the New Testament? That is right. When you look at the doctrine of corporal punishment, you find many divergent opinions throughout the ages and there is no uniformity of belief concerning this issue. I have also shown this in my book.
Now, there are some things that all Christians believe and agree upon. I’ll give you one teaching that we all agree on. There was a person who lived 2,000 years ago. His name was Jesus. He was God in the flesh. He was born here in Israel, lived and died and was raised from the dead. Almost all Christians would solidly agree on this fact. It is NOT a belief of tradition. It is one solidly found in Scripture.
Corporal punishment of children is not so. Yes, there are seemingly teachings about it in the Old Testament, but when it comes to clarity concerning it in the New Testament, it is interesting how many advocates of the practice are forced to primarily quote Old Testament Scripture for their justification of it. It is not so clear in the New Testament.
Couple that with the fact that later Christians did not develop a unanimity of belief. Many divergent opinions about these texts in Proverbs emerged. I have pointed out that we have a 3rd century Syrian text known as the Didascalia which interprets the texts in Proverbs related to spanking children as not relating to a literal ‘rod”, but the rod in question are the words, not rods.
O.M. Bakke, an associate professor of Church History at the School of Mission and Theology, Stavanger, Norway wrote a book titled "When Children became People; The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity" This is a scholarly book which is filled with information on children in the ancient world. My copy is already full of underlines, notes and comments. I really could not put it down.
This book is a major contribution to this subject and represents the fullest picture yet of the experience of children in the classical period and the ancient Christian church community. This book is a seriously in depth scholarly examination of this subject. Bakke deserves a huge "thank you" from the whole Christian world seeking the true picture of the experience of children in ancient times. Additional credit should also go to the government of Norway (here was one government program that is doing fantastic things – great job Norway) for their support of this project, which allowed Bakke a whole year to write the book. This is a vital piece of scholarship with some 54 pages of notes!
So what does Bakke say about corporal punishment? A great deal. For example, he quotes a text written in the middle of the third century by the Christian community in Syria saying the following. This quote will certainly give those biblical literalists focusing on the literal interpretation of the "rod" in the book of Proverbs something to think about.
"The Didascalia goes even further in emphasizing the obligation to raise one's children in accordance with Christian ideals. It was composed in Syria in the first half of the third century and combines a church order and pastoral exhortations. The fact that it devotes an entire chapter (though one that is relatively brief) to the upbringing of children makes it the most detailed discussion of the subject in the Christian tradition up to that date. The author underscores that if parents neglect to correct their children, their children will imitate the evil actions of the pagans. Much is at stake here, and this is why the author admonishes parents not to be slow to 'rebuke and correct and teach them; for you will not kill them by chastising them, but rather save them alive.' He writes that such a practice is in keeping with the doctrine of the Lord, and adduces as scriptural proof Proverbs 23:14 ('Chasten thy son, that there may be hope for him: for thou shalt strike him with a rod, and deliver soul from Sheol.') and 13:24 ('Whosoever spareth his rod, hateth his son'). The 'rod' in these texts is not understood literally, but as a metaphor for the Word of God, Jesus Christ; the author draws the conclusion that anyone 'who spares to speak a word of rebuke to his son, hates his son.'" (Pg. 158)
According to this and many other examples I have given in my book, corporal punishment of children looks like a tradition, not a Christian doctrine precisely taught in the New Testament. Here is another quote from my father in this regard:
“Now Christ and the apostles had the same thing that they had to go up against in their day. And we have it today. Look at what Christ said in Matthew, chapter 15, beginning in verse 1. Here were the scribes and Pharisees coming to Him, and He was trying to teach them the truth. But what happens in regard to traditions of men? They will believe the traditions, any day, most people will, over the teachings of the truth. Chapter 15 of Matthew, verse 1:
"Then came to Jesus, scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do you also transgress the
commandment of God by your tradition?"
... You can find what those oral traditions were. Some of them claim, they said, came directly from Moses through oral tradition. You could not find a word of it in the Old Testament, especially on this washing of hands, and numerous other doctrines. … , Yes.."Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?"
Now that is what Christ said to the scribes and the Pharisees from Jerusalem. You see Jerusalem was the capital. That's where the Temple was. That's where the headquarters was. That's where the administrators were. And the scribes and the Pharisees were the administrators, and they were carrying on with their traditions. And then it goes on to say, verse 7: "Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
Now that's it. And that's what traditions are, the commandments of men. They do not come from the biblical revelation. And that is our problem that we have today. Here we live at the end of the 20th Century, and most of our Christian churches, or denominations today, claim to get their teachings directly from the New Testament.” (ibid. - Ernest L. Martin – “Principles for Gospel Teaching”: Audio Cassette Recording, ASK:1990)
Of course, spanking children is one of those teachings. It is a traditional teaching. But while this is the case, many of the key stakeholders and power structures in Christianity epitomized by Kristie’s pastor, hold the majority view concerning this issue.
So this paints a pretty grim picture, but this is the way it is. However, thankfully, all is not lost. Thankfully, there are two groups of people who are receptive to new ideas from the Bible and we are going to consider them now.
Where you can go and how to do it to advocate for Biblical truths
I know the abovementioned title is a bold statement, but what I am going to tell you now will be something that many of you in fact will be very familiar with and something that many of you are either consciously or unconsciously already doing.
There are two groups of people that I believe we should concentrate our attention on reaching out to build their educational capacity when it comes to issues that many of us have been studying for decades now. These two groups are as follows:
First, go to the general public and second, go to the top scholars in universities, seminary or colleges. These two groups are the most receptive to new information.
The general public are generally speaking practically minded men and women who have to go out and earn a living and care for their families. Kristie I think probably considers herself to be one of these people. She was smart enough to get up and walk out of that church when her motherly protection God inspired inner voice told her that what she was hearing was not inspired by God’s Holy Spirit or from God’s Holy Revelation.
The general public are the most open to new truth. We all remember how the religious authorities in the First Century “feared the masses” because they held Jesus and John the Baptist to be great prophets! Go to the general public directly with the best information you can get and let the practical minded no nonsense everyday man or woman in the street have an opportunity to see a new way of looking at things.
This is exactly what I see taking place around me on a massive scale. One way in which it is taking place is via the web, via blogs, via FACEBOOK, in newsletters, in e-books, in people taking initiatives and speaking out against the status quo and I believe that God is blessing these efforts.
Everyday people are sharing not so everyday information that one will NEVER find preached in most pulpits today, but this information is spreading like wildfire and in fact, it is not wildfire, it is Spirit water, which quenches souls, refreshes, restores, heals, entertains and brings joy.
There is a second group who are also essential to take new information to. This group comprises the top scholars, theologians, academics, professors in institutes of higher learning. People at the very top in particular have often reached such high positions in their respective professions that they are threatened by no one.
Let me give you an example of this. In this case, I am going for the Biblical approach and give you an example of two witnesses of high academic scholars who have shown recent openness to new ways of thinking and in this case we are going to use and example specifically related to corporal punishment.
The first quote comes from Emeritus Professor of the New Testament, I. Howard Marshall. Dr. I. Howard Marshall, BA (Cambridge), MA, BD, PhD (Aberdeen), DD (Asbury) Emeritus Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Honorary Research Professor; Formerly Chair of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical and Theological Research; President of the British New Testament Society and Chair of the Fellowship of European Evangelical Theologians.
But, where these other works tend to be more academic in their approach, this book has added a nonacademic postscript written at a more down-to-earth level, with abundance of personal insight and experience as well as practical application that parents will find helpful. (I could have profited much from it if it had been published when Joyce and I were bringing up our four children.) Moreover, the approach is conciliatory and gracious toward those who are gently but firmly corrected for not realizing that their approach to Scripture does in fact lead them to move beyond what Scripture says while holding to the supreme authority of Scripture. … And that in its turn will forward what matters most to the author: the development and practice of behavior that is truly biblical and Christian, and so pleasing and glorifying to God as well as commending the gospel to the people.
In short, I enjoyed the book and could not put it down once I started to read it.”
”Foreword - Corporal Punishment and the Bible: A Redemptive Movement Hermeneutic for Troubled Texts - http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/toc/code=2761” – Buy yours here.)
Notice the text in bold. It plainly says that this dear Christian scholar, Prof. Marshall is pointing out that this book breaks new ground. So much so that even he “could not put it down once he started to read it.”
Here is another example from Prof. Webb himself whose comments appeared on this blog just a few short days ago.
“It is my hope that my recent book (Corporal Punishment in the Bible: A Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic for Troubling Texts) will inspire hope and positive dialogue that helps the Christian community move towards something better for our children. The book outlines how Marilyn (my wife) and I changed our minds about spanking. Like the Pearls we were severely deluded in thinking that the rod was God’s way. But over time we learned how to read and understand the Bible differently.” (Comments by Prof. Webb – http://samuelmartin.blogspot.com/2011/10/v-behaviorurldefaultvmlo.html)
In these two statements, we see two top theologians whose professional job it is is to interpret the Bible and help it make sense for the non-expert saying basically: “We are here presenting something new which we think reflects well on what the Bible teaches.” As for me and my house, given the choice between the preacher that Kristie walked out on and these two Bible scholars, I am going with the later.
Scholars have pushing the envelope, challenging the status quo, putting their ideas out there, publishing first and talking later in their job descriptions. The General Public also are amenable to new ideas.
Churches, church leaders, church councils, church committees, individual pastors are often the most resistant to change because they have the most to lose and they are also holding fast to their traditions from which their power originates.
I know that when many of your read this, you will see that you have already been doing this. You’ve been searching for accurate information from top people, from academics and scholars and you are now taking it to the general public through the means you have available. This is what I am doing and I think solid results are being produced. I say lets move forward and keep it up. I believe that God is blessing this approach and His Name is being honored and glorified due to the same.
Let’s continue in “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. (I Peter 3:15)