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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

Sunday, February 02, 2014

It’s time to move out of the theological horse and buggy days

It’s time to move out of the theological horse and buggy days
Samuel Martin
My father (at the time of his death) was an internationally recognized theological scholar and he frequently used middle American slang as one might expect of one born in Oklahoma in the 1930’s.

My dad often spoke about the old days prior to the time when cars started to be common. One of his favorite expression was “going back to horse and buggy days.”

Now, dad used this expression to point out people, places or things, which were either still in “horse and buggy days” or were returning to those times. Most of the time, he used it in a sense to illustrate backwardness or sometimes uncivilized behavior.
Here he meant exactly that people, places or things were not advancing in knowledge in particular. While everyone around us are driving cars, some people insist on horses and buggies to get around.

In general, I think we can all look at some situations where this takes place as fine and even nostalgic. I hope one day to visit Pennsylvania where some of my Amish Christian brethren insist on driving around in actual horses and buggies. They shun modernity and one can certainly respect their point of view.

However, while someone who wants to ride around in a literal horse and buggy and not have electricity is not really hurting anyone, when we start to see people in our modern world return our thinking and mindsets, especially in the area of theological thinking, to the horse and buggy days, this can be dangerous.
Horse and buggy people do not like change. They do not like the advancement of knowledge and they love and defend their traditions to a fault. 

I can remember Dad talking about his uncle Virgil, who was a fundamentalist preacher. One of Uncle Virgil's favorite expressions was; "If the King James Version was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me." This is 100% pure horse and buggy theological thinking. It is a type of closed mindedness which is not interested in "growing in grace and knowledge." (II Peter 3:18)

Such is the case these days in some quarters in South Africa as I have observed it of late.
Some well intentioned fundamentalist Christians are using the Bible, the Holy Word of God, urging Christians to embrace a sub-critical, pre-Industrial thinking orientation to the Bible in the area of parental discipline and are thereby telling people to abandon their modern thinking.

They are telling mothers to ignore their motherly intuitions that tell them never to strike their children.
They are ignoring common sense which any reasonable person knows that it is ridiculous to even think about striking a 12 month old baby.

They present compelling Bible verses which seemingly agree with their points of view.

They get some Bible teachers to agree with them.

But here there is a problem. It's pure horse and buggy theological teaching.

In fact, here though is where it gets dangerous.

The thing is, these horse and buggy theologians don't realize that when they stand up and quote their Bible verses in front of a 100 different people, those 100 people all hear the same words, but they all interpret them according to their own experience.

So when it comes to the issue of smacking/spanking, everyone uses their own experience to interpret what Pastor's Horse and Buggy are saying.

How dangerous has it gotten? Deadly dangerous.

So dangerous that little innocent kids are now dead at the hands of misguided parents who take this horse and buggy thinking way too far. If you want to know more, just Google Lydia Schatz, Hana Williams and Sean Paddock.

Bible scholars take a more modern view and call this thinking for what it is. Professor William Webb, a leading evangelical Christian theologian from Canada and a leading expert on the issue of corporal punishment/smacking/spanking in the Bible, calls these horse and buggy theological thinkers practitioners of "gutter theology." - http://redemptivechristianity.com/?p=198

Professor Randall Heskett, another Canadian theologian said the following about these horse and buggy oriented thinkers: 

“For years individuals have appealed to the biblical book of Proverbs as a warrant for spanking their children. They often say, “The Bible says, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child.’ Yet they are unaware that this specific adage does not appear in the Bible. A couple whom I will call ‘Elmer and Connie’ live by what I call a pre-critical or sub-modern understanding of scripture. Elmer, although he has a Ph.D. in education and serves as minister of education in a church, cites the true biblical proverbs as his warrant for spanking: ‘Do not withhold discipline from your son: if you beat him with a rod, he will not die’ (Proverbs 23:13). Elmer and Connie take this passage at face value. Using a half inch thick dowel that is three feet long, they ‘spank’ their children quite severely. In their desire to follow ‘the word of God,’ they ‘beat’ their children to prove their love to them according to their reading of another proverb: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes’ (Proverbs 23:14 KJV) -  Interpretation Journal, April 2001 pgs. 181–184 – Proverbs 23;13,14

Pre-critical? Sub-modern? This is horse and buggy theology or worse, as Prof. Webb calls it, "gutter theology."

Ask yourself this question? Heaven has streets paved with gold and diamonds and it has no gutters. Is your thinking oriented to a heavenly approach to life where there is no pain, no tears, no hunger, no want and no suffering? 

Now, to be fair, I know many religious leaders seem to be advocating good things, but I think all reasonable people will agree that when children are dying at the hands of their parents, something is wrong and actions need to be taken to make what is wrong right.

This may mean that some will have to give up their horse and buggy thinking because lives are at stake.

In closing, I know that many pastors in South Africa have good intentions and want the best for their congregations. However, it is now time to take the advice of the Apostle Paul and permanently put away the rod and embrace love in the spirit of gentleness.

What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? (I Corinthians 4:21 ESV)


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