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 - Download it here - http://whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/
Christian Theologians who advocated against spanking - Pt. 1
In this post, I would like to refer to the work of Dr. Philip Greven. Dr. Greven is an Emeritis history professor from Rutgers University who penned the book “Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse.” I highly recommend this book.
Dr. Greven has been researching this phenomenon since the late 1960’s. In his excellent book, he very effectively documents this spirit of disunity among Christians. On the one hand, he points out that (starting with the Protestant Reformation period with which Dr. Greven began his discussion) in the last 500 years, most Biblically oriented Christians have sided with those advocating for spanking. This list includes a dizzying array of the most prominent names in the Christianity for the last 500 years.[i] However, there is not unity among these ranks! In this series of post, we are going to talk about some of these Christian voices against corporal punishment.
Christian Theologians who advocated against spanking
Spanking, as a teaching, seems to be clear and plain. It is for this reason that the majority of fundamentalist Christian ministers advocate for the necessity of this practice. But can the majority be wrong?[iii]
|Rev. Jacob Abbott|
A primary witness in this regard, pointed out by Dr. Greven’s research, is that of the Rev. Jacob Abbott. His son, Lyman Abbott, comments that: “I do not remember that he ever punished me. Yet I not only do not recall that I ever thought of disobeying him, but I do not remember ever to have seen a child refuse him obedience, and I have seen him with a great many young people of all ages and temperaments.”[v] Greven further mentions referring to Jacob Abbot that: “moderation and mediation were the secrets of his character.”[vi]
For more information about this great man of god, prolific writer of children's books and wonderful servant of children and families, see
[i] Rather than specifically refer to individuals, I direct my readers to the excellent work of Dr. Greven.
[ii] In this regard, I wish to express my deepest and sincere thanks for Dr. Philip Greven for his important work in this area of corporal punishment and his willingness to place his research before the public. I also wish to thank the Alfred Knopf division of Random House, Inc. for their courage to bring out this excellent book.
[iv] Greven, Spare the Child, pg. 15.
[v] ibid., pg. 14