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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

Thursday, March 22, 2012

“To Train Up a Child contains the methods of "traditional child training that parents have done for thousands of years in all cultures and all religions,"

Announcement: As of May 4, 2012, Samuel Martin's book "Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy" is now available for free - For details, please see -  http://samuelmartin.blogspot.com/2012/05/pen-is-mightier-than-punch.html

Many of you may have seen this discussion between Janet Heimlich and Michael Pearl of late. In that discussion and article which accompanies the video are some interesting quotes. One of them is as follows and will be the subject of my short discussion here.

To Train Up a Child contains the methods of "traditional child training that parents have done for thousands of years in all cultures and all religions," Pearl argued. "And it's not information primarily derived from the Bible, not at all. My parents trained me up in the way that I trained my children, and my children are now training up their children the same way." http://www.christianpost.com/news/biblical-chastisement-are-evangelical-christians-more-likely-to-abuse-video-71332/

Michael Pearl actually believes this statement, but he is dead wrong. Unfortunately, it seems that Pearl obtained a BS, but it seems he did not read too many history books along the way. Had he have, he would realize that you cannot generalize when it comes to historical facts. We should not be too surprised though because of the almost 80 quotes I could find in his book, they were all from the King James Version of the Bible with 2/3rds of these from the Old Testament. Nothing wrong with the King James Version, but if you are living in rural Tennessee trying to understand information that was happening several thousand miles away across an ocean some three thousand years ago using tools that are themselves 400 years old, you’re going to perhaps have limitations in understanding. I mean some of us are doing our best to work with Scripture in the modern world of the Internet, the IPAD and the IPHONE, while others are still using tin cans with strings attached to communicate. Anything wrong with two tin cans and string? No, but when it comes to understanding Scripture, give me an IPHONE and an IPAD over two tin cans and piece of string any day
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So let’s look at his generalization referenced above: "traditional child training that parents have done for thousands of years in all cultures and all religions," Pearl argued. "And it's not information primarily derived from the Bible, not at all.

So, as Pearl tells us, he is just doing what ‘all cultures and all religions” have been doing for “thousands of years.” Well, let’s check this out.

Don’t Generalize

When I was in college, I followed the BA track and took lots of courses on history, sociology, anthropology, etc. I even earned a minor in anthropology as a part of my degree which focused on Middle Eastern studies.

Early on in my academic experience, I was given a solid lesson in not generalizing. I was writing this paper about Europe and made some really ridiculous generalizations in the paper. I was talking about what was taking place in “Europe” in the 14th century. To hear me tell it, “Europe” at that time just represented one homogeneous group with little difference or distinction and this is where I got rightfully corrected.

My teacher told me: Sam, this is an ‘A” paper, but don’t GENERALIZE. To say that what was happening in Bohemia in the 14th century was the same thing as what was taking place in Paris or Copenhagen during the same period is just really silly nonsense and my teacher was right. I remembered that lesson still today just as clear as it was now some 20 years ago when I was in university.

So generalizing is dangerous territory, but Pearl marches right in. To say that “all cultures and all religions” have done what Pearl is doing today is, with all due respect, absolutely ridiculous.

Let’s look at a case study.

There is a great book called “The Child in Christian Thought” (Eerdmans: 2000) edited by Professor Marcia Bunge who is one of the giants in the child theology movement. Professor Bunge has written a number of books and in fact we are waiting for a new one to come out this year which promises to be her most exciting offering yet and it will be not disappoint because it will be about child theology. This book contains essays from the cream of the global theological world currently dealing with the subject of child theology.

In that book, there is a chapter titled: ‘Wonderful Affection’: Seventeenth Century Missionaries to New France on Children and Childhood by Clarissa Atkinson, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Harvard Divinity School.

Let's look at a few quotes from this article because it is very relevant to our discussion here.

“Along with the gospel, Christian missionaries carried to the New World distinct and deeply held beliefs and assumptions about children and childhood. Such beliefs and assumptions are embedded in culture, and in Christian contexts associated also with the theological anthropology of particular times, places, and religious subgroups or denominations. In the seventeenth century, the ideologies of childhood of Roman Catholic missionaries to New France drew them into close and intense encounters with people of cultures radically unlike their own. To Jesuit and Ursuline missionaries, the indigenous people of Eastern Canada held not only different but horrifyingly mistaken views about many things – notable among these, the nature, education, and discipline of children.” (pg. 227)

So, these missionaries about 400 years ago from Europe had some specific ideas about children in mind (similar in fact to those of Pearl), but what did they find in Eastern Canada? Well, according to Pearl, “all cultures and all religions” have been doing what he is today doing for “thousands of years”, all except these people in Eastern Canada that is.

This is because “the Jesuits, enthusiastic proponents of the widespread belief in physical discipline among early modern Europeans, insisted upon such punishment on their French schools. Neither their humanist tradition nor their dedication to education countered their acceptance of the general view that beating a child was a necessary and appropriate part of moral and intellectual training.” (ibid, pg. 237)

To these well intentioned French Europeans who went to Canada as missionaries among the native peoples 400 years ago, they brought their belief in corporal punishment with them. But what did they find when they arrived?

“The most striking and significant comments by Jesuits on cultural difference concern the discipline, punishment, and ‘spoiling’ of children. From the very beginning, the missionaries were both struck by the Indians’ love for their children and horrified at the way they raised them.  “They treat their children with wonderful affection, but they preserve no discipline, for they neither themselves correct them not allow others to do so.” (JR 1:277) This attitude and behavior interfered with instruction and conversion The theme is repeated over and over: children had to be taught in boarding schools away from home because their parents would not allow them to be properly trained – that is, subjected to the corporal punishment that was taken for granted in French homes and schools.” (ibid.)

This phenomenon was not limited to Canada. Note the following testimony from a Canadian missionary:

“All the Savage tribes of these quarters, and of Brazil, as we are assured, cannot chastise a child or see one chastised. How much trouble this will give us in carrying out our plans of teaching the young.” (ibid, pg. 238)

A final thought summarizes how these two groups (French missionaries and native communities looked at each other.

“The affection shows by native adults toward children looked to the missionaries like spoiling, while French discipline looked to the natives like incomprehensible brutality.” (ibid, pg. 240-241)

Let’s not put our heads in the sand though. The native communities were not always 100% kind to all children, especially orphans, but this article illustrates an important point which we are here emphasizing:
I reiterate in saying that this article helps demonstrate that to say that “all cultures and all religions” have done what Pearl is doing today is absolutely ridiculous. Just in this article we have testimony from 17th century Canada referring also to the same time period of native peoples also living in Brazil that they did not follow this European model of child rearing which had corporal punishment as a key element.

This is why our dear friend Pearl needs to stop generalizing and start learning some facts about some of the things he is asserting in his books.

Let me conclude by saying that I believe that the teachings in Mr. Michael Pearl’s books concerning corporal punishment come out of this European tradition of corporal punishment and they represent the very worst gutter theology (to quote Professor William Webb of Toronto Seminary in Canada) on the religious book market today. Those who purchase these books are warned to take care to consider alternative points of view because the point of view given by Pearl and his supporters is very narrow and lacks any serious investigation of history, culture, sociology, or anthropology, but rather relies on opening up the King James Version of the Bible and pulling out a few verses here and there and adapting it to a cultural lifestyle which is by no means necessarily connected to the Biblical context at all.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

You are right on, Brother. Kelly