Review: Withhold Not Correction

Bruce Ray, P & R, 1978, 144 pages

WithholdLuther said that sin is like a man’s beard. You can shave it today, but it will be back again tomorrow. Parenting is tough because the sinful tendencies of our children are always before us. Ray authors a helpful little book on parenting that I would recommend. Here I’d like to devote a little time to three of his issues.

The first point relates to how parents should address the matter of grounding. Ray says that teens are not exceptions to spankings and shouldn’t be grounded because grounding is (1) impossible to enforce and (2) allows sinful tension to remain. While its possible for parents to handle grounding poorly, I don’t see why it has to be this way. If 12 year-old Jeff steals $10 from his mother’s purse, why couldn’t a wise parent say: “You sinned by stealing and deceiving. I accept your apology and will not bring it up again, but you’ll not be going to the basketball game tonight”? And I would generally be opposed to spanking teenagers. Parents discipline for the purpose of teaching their children. For small children, pain on the rump usually gets the point across. But if I’m training my boys to be strapping young men—“plants full grown up in their youth” (Ps. 144:12), then a childish whipping that stings a few seconds won’t mean much.

Second, how much pain should a parent inflict when spanking their child? Ray says that if every time “you put your child across the knee you spank him as hard as you can, he becomes accustomed to that level of spanking” (95) and it becomes very difficult to convince him of later more serious offenses. A Puritan said that converting medicine (spanking) into daily food destroys the remedial quality. I think I agree with Ray here. Jesus gives different levels of reward (Matt. 5:12) and pain (Matt. 11:22), and so should we.

 The final question is regarding how confident parents can be about their children’s profession of faith. Ray says: “In a sense I will never be fully satisfied with my own child’s profession of faith until he establishes his own household and perseveres in pressing on. We need to be very careful that we do not encourage a false profession” (130). If he means that the more fruit the more assurance he has, I agree. But if he means that parents cannot have assurance of their children’s salvation, I do not.

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