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Shepherding a Parent’s Heart

Perhaps I should give caveats and qualifications to this excellent critique by friend Anne Sokol on a book that I have heartily recommended but found myself accompanying said recommendations with caveats and qualifications, many of which are similar to Anne’s concerns. Anne raises some issues that have become matters of of concern for me as well. However, I may not be as strongly dismissive of the book because I think there are emphases that are good for certain people. Pastoral experience has taught me that a pastor is much like a pharmacist who mixes and concocts various sources to apply to particular needs. Often there needs to be a big dosage of “Shepherding a Child’s Heart,” however I do think that it should always come diluted with an awareness of problems that Anne has respectfully raised. Her four concerns are succinctly stated here and then expounded on in her article.

  1. The book’s focus on requiring obedience as the primary component of the parent/child relationship and emphasis on parental authority as the right to require obedience.
  2. Tripp’s teaching that spanking is the means the parent must use in order to bring a child back into “the circle of blessing.”
  3. Tripp’s interpretation that the “rod” in Proverbs equals spanking, that spanking is even for young children, that spanking is the God-ordained means of discipline (which parents must obey) and that use of the rod saves a child’s soul from death.
  4. His portrayal of any other style or method of parenting in a derogatory manner and training parents’ consciences that failure to discipline as his book teaches is disobedient to God.

It is not an uncommon experience among many Christian families that the youngest child has a more intimate, loving relationship with the parents than the oldest child. It is also not uncommon that the youngest child had far less spankings in his or her lifetime. This is often flippantly explained as a result of the youngest having the benefit of learning from the consequences suffered by the eldest. Or it is bitterly opined by the older children that the parents got soft. It is also a fairly common observation that older parents are less inclined to spank than younger parents. This is explained by saying that older people are sometimes overly indulgent and lack the energy required to be disciplinarian.

There may be some truth to the above statements, but I really think that another major factor is that maturing of Christian people to the realization that the parent-child relationship does not necessarily have to be defined by, as Anne says, the “rubric” of authority/submission, but by a loving relationship that accepts as very real the fact that a parent does not have the power to make a person change and that “spanking is not endued by God with such spiritual power, nor, in fact, is a parent endued with the power to restore the child.”

I do think that pain is sometimes necessary in discipline. But I also agree with Anne: “In His dealings with us as His children, God does nothing like reaching down and spanking us each time we disobey.”

I think thoughtful parents should carefully read Tripp. They should also carefully ponder critiques such as this.


90 Minutes in Heaven?

I don’t have time to write a review, but questions about this book (which I’ve read) have been brought up, so here’s my assessment: I don’t believe it.

Now, if you want a better review, here are some good links:

90 Minutes in Heaven

Book Review: 90 Minutes in Heaven by Tim Chailles

E.P. Sanders & The Fatal Fundamentalist Flaw

No human in the world can escape the effect of presuppositions on his thinking. I read Paul, A Brief Insight and was sometimes stunned by E.P. Sanders’ categorical dismissal of anything that he could not immediately comprehend or his disregard of processes of thought that seemed incoherent to him. On several occasions he accused Paul of arriving at conclusions that did not follow from his arguments presented in the text because he (Paul) was already set in his mind and would therefore just “prooftext” to make his point. This is especially obvious in Sanders’ analysis of Galatians. The only way he could do this is to disregard the inerrancy of Scripture and the belief that Paul was actually an inspired apostle of Jesus Christ with all of the inherent authority that comes with that label.

To believe in both the inspiration of Scripture and in its inerrancy is a fundamental of the Christian faith. It is an anchor, a bedrock, a foundational truth that is also a basic Christian presupposition in our approach to Scripture. Sanders slanders Paul by equating him to modern fundamentalists.

Paul argued like an ancient Jew; this is not in the least surprising, though reading the arguments can be bewildering. In Galatians 3:6-18 Paul argues terminologically, using proof texts from the Abraham story, and making the wording of that story fit his own view. A “proof text” is a passage from an authoritative source which contains words or phrases that a later author can use to “prove” his argument, without regard to the original meaning of the passage.  Those who know something of modern fundamentalists will understand Paul’s technique.  He was not concerned with the meaning of biblical passages in their own ancient context.  He had in Scripture a vast store of words, and if he could find passages which had the right combination of words, and stick them together, he scored his point.

While E.P. Sanders may be accurately describing many modern fundamentalists, he is slandering Paul. There is no doubt that following Paul’s argumentation in Galatians is hard and his hermeneutics of the Old Testament difficult to grasp, but we believe that Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit and that not only is his conclusion right, but his process of thought in arriving to that conclusion is exactly right. Once, however, one concedes inspiration one has the right to not only doubt Paul’s process of thought, but his conclusions and, like Sanders, eventually arrive at a form of universalism and a tolerance of homosexuality. One also closes himself off to understanding of some passages that are explained by a faithful systematic theology.

For example, notice how Sanders’ pontificates on Romans 7. It does not, he says, “describe anyone, except possibly the neurotic” (153). The neurotic, only, say, “O wretched man that I am”?  Protestants are divided about whether or not Romans 7 describes the saved or unsaved man, but all take it to be a description (possibly hyperbolic, but not necessarily so) of the soul of man under the impression of the reality of Gospel truth about the pervasiveness of sin. Furthermore, Sanders thinks that Paul’s assessment of humanity is weakened by the fact that he did not have access to more sophisticated sciences (i.e. psychology) and several times throughout the book Sanders suggests that Paul would think differently now had he had more time to mature theologically and had he at his fingertips the resources of science and modern understanding that we now have.

Take for example, this simple statement regarding Paul’s view of the law:

“Similarly with regard to the law. He had not done psychiatric case studies of covetous people and learned that they coveted only because they heard the commandment not to covet. Nor had psychological study le him to the view that attempting to obey commandments leads to self-alienation. The critique of the law is not experiential, but again theological or dogmatic. The law must do something bad, since it was not intended by God to save – since God saves through Christ” (156).

Sanders is not complimenting Paul or affirming inspiration here. This is an academic critique of Paul’s work. He is treating Paul to peer review. Thus, there is some truth to the criticism and at least one fatal flaw. Obviously, it is true that Paul did not do a psychological study to determine how people would or would not respond to the command not to covet. For those of us who believe that Paul was inspired by God and that his writings our inerrant we accept this as an un-disturbing fact. The Holy Spirit knows human psychology quite well. Sanders goes on to say, however, that this is pure theological (read abstract) an dogmatic, but not experiential. Indeed, it is not experiential in the sense that it can be analyzed empirically in a laboratory, but where Sanders goes wrong is that it is in fact experienced and millions of Christians world-wide read Romans 7 and feel as if they are looking in a mirror. Christians who have felt the convicting work of the Spirit of God on their lives and the power of the Gospel understand the psychology of Romans 7.

Is it neurotic to feel that way about sin? Perhaps it only seems that way to those who have never felt the convicting work of the Gospel.

Proof texting is, indeed, a fundamentalist flaw. We should make every effort to avoid it. It has had scandalous effect on thousands of innocent people. However, when I completed Sanders’ work I realized that he really believes that the big one, the despicable fundamentalist flaw, is that fundamentalists believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and consequently respond to it as absolute authority.

This is, in his mind, the fatal flaw. In my mind, it is a precious fundamental of my faith.


Book Review and Interviews

I just want you to know about a book review and a couple of interviews. Nope! Not my book, nor interviews by me or of me. I’m just lucky enough to be acquainted with powerful people in the media, so I got to be on the inside scoop of some of this stuff! Joy McCarnan, Cindy Swanson, Jason Janz, and Bob Roberts. All in one day. Only now am I realizing that I let the whole thing go by me without one signature or group photo to frame and hang in my office. What a waste. Anyway…

Joy did a book review on SharperIron that you ought to check out if you get the time. It’s about racial segregation in the church. I have written a few things about Rosa Parks this week since she died, but I’m too tired to do much in the realm of blogging these days except to go spy out what others are doing (and writing and mingling in the occasional argument on someone else’s site). It’s terrible for blog ratings to be as laissez-faire about blogging as I am. But, there is more to life than the blog.

So, for the two of you that still read this thing, be conscious of the fact that today Cindy Swanson interviewed Jason Janz of SharperIron.org and Bob Roberts of Kids4Truth, both friends of mine. (Jason is here for North Love’s Reformers Unanimous conference. Being the separatist that I am, I didn’t go.) I did sit, however, in on the interviews, enjoying Cindy’s easy-going style of interrogation. You’ll want to make a point of listening to her interviews. Bob Roberts’ interview was particularly impressive. He’s got something good going with his doctrinal alternative to Awana, the King’s Kids, and the Patch the Pirate Club. I’m not sure when Cindy will air the interviews on her show. Maybe somebody will do me the favor of posting the times.
Learn about the Kids4Truth Clubs!


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More of Tim’s Reading: Why Small Groups?

Another helpful book review from my brother, Tim Bixby, pastor of Cleveland Park Bible Church in Spartanburg, SC.

[ Read Tim Bixby’s review of Why Small Groups? Together Toward Maturity, C. J. Mahaney, ed. ]

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Tim’s Reading

We all should read for ourselves. But who doesn’t like a helpful review every now and then? Tim Bixby is pastor of Cleveland Park Bible Church in Spartanburg, SC. Enjoy. (Then get the book!)

[ Read Tim Bixby’s review of Iain Murray’s The Forgotten Spurgeon. ]

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