Monday, January 25, 2010

Loving Our Kids on Purpose

Recently, I finished reading Danny Silk's book, Loving Our Kids on Purpose. The author is some sort of family or associate pastor, but he indicates that he wrote the book because of his experience as a foster-parent having to utilize non-corporal discipline exclusively. Despite the stated basis for the book, it appears the only specific examples he cites pertain to his natural children.

His main argument in the book is that parents should love their children without causing them to fear punishment or discipline such as spanking or the rod. His primary, and perhaps sole, scriptural support is I John 4:18 which states, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (NIV)

On the surface, the above verse makes a fairly convincing case. After all, it seems pretty clear that fear and love are mutually exclusive at least in this passage. And although Mr. Silk does not exactly build his case with scripture, he does pull out of his bag of tricks a handy anecdote, which he repeats "ad nauseum", to really cinch the deal. It appears that at some point in time either he or one of his children noticed a picture of a large yellow construction-sized dump-truck crushing a red street-sized pick-up. Upon viewing this picture he seems to have had an epiphany of sorts and concluded that there are no yellow trucks in Heaven.

I know pastors love their illustrations, but this book is a perfect example of how widely misused they are even by the clergy. First of all, I will admit that illustrations do have their place in helping one to understand a difficult concept. However, illustrations are not scripture; nor do they carry the weight or force of scripture. Unfortunately, Mr. Silk relies on this illustration to be one of, if not the primary, source(s) of evidence for his premise. Although Mr. Silk draws some debatable conclusions from this illustration, it really doesn't amount to a hill of beans because he relies on the illustration, not scripture, as proof for his point.

So let's get back to what scriptural support Mr. Silk does use -- I John 4:18. On page 54 of his book Mr. Silk defines the passage by saying, "It means that all the fear leaves your life when love comes in. There is no fear of punishment in love!"

The Greek word translated as "fear" in this passage is phobos, and it means alarm or fright according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Additionally, there are several other closely related words such as phobeo. However, just like many English words, context is important to defining the Greek phobos and its derivatives. Perhaps that is why I Corinthians 2:12-13 gives the following instruction:

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

Now, while I concede that I John 4:18 certainly makes a profound theological point regarding the Christian's relationship to his Savior, I am not convinced that it is a universal truth applicable to the parent-child relationship. If, as Mr. Silk puts it, "...fear leaves your life when love comes in," then how does he explain the following "problem" texts to name just a few of the many examples available:

"And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word." -- Matthew 28:8

"And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day." -- Luke 5:26

"There is no fear of God before their eyes." -- Romans 3:18

"Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour." -- Romans 13:7

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God....For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter....And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him. -- II Corinthians 7:1,11,15

"Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." -- Ephesians 5:21

"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." -- Philippians 2:12

"Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear." -- I Timothy 5:20

"And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:" -- I Peter 1:17

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:" -- I Peter 3:15

In a word, he doesn't. Frankly, I found this aspect of the book rather alarming coming from a man who identifies himself as a pastor. Perhaps I shouldn't be shocked, but this was a scripturally shallow, if not outright erroneous, book written to scripturally shallow readers. The real tragedy is that Mr. Silk's book is only one of many such "wishy-washy" publications readily received by many of today's Christians and "pseudo-Christians" alike.

Even though Mr. Silk fails to prove his case, his book does have some merits that may make it worth reading. For instance, he does bring home the point that parenting and bullying often resemble each other a little too closely for comfort in the American fundamentalist paradigm. Also, he poses some very good questions about what one's goals should be in parenting one's children. But perhaps the most redeeming feature of the book are the examples he cites with his children. The stories reveal what correction can look like sans spanking.

So perhaps unwittingly Mr. Silk has indeed inspired me with Loving Our Kids on Purpose. Although I am not ready to remove spanking from my parenting toolbox, I am compelled to try other tools first. Even more significantly, Mr. Silk has prompted me to reassess my parenting goals and to utilize discipline in accordance with these goals. Finally, he has encouraged me to use creativity in parenting instead of solely relying on a single method of correction.

The Savage adds: If you want a book review that actually tells you what the book says ;-), try this review on Amazon.


Kathy said...

Thanks for the in-depth review! I have heard good things about this book but hadn't encountered it personally. I'm sorry to hear it is so scripturally vacuous!

The Savage said...

I think people's reactions to the book are driven by what they're looking for in the book.

Because Silk assumes his audience already agrees with his theological position ("we're in the New Covenant so all need for punishment has already been paid for"), he makes almost no effort to support his non-punitive parenting paradigm from Scripture.

So if you agree (that punishment and parenting don't belong in the same sentence), his book offers a lot of good practical ideas for parenting in that paradigm. If, however, you're looking for a Scriptural defense/support of non-punitive parenting... Silk's book won't help.

TulipGirl said...

Thanks for the detailed review. I have the book, started reading it but (even though I have friends who were encouraged/inspired by it) it wasn't clicking with me when I started it. . .

Now I'll have some interesting things to look for if/when I do finish reading it.

(And. . . can I say. . . one of my pet peeves with a lot of parenting books is the lack of sound use of Scripture? Maybe it is because I have friends who are so careful with their use of the Bible, that I expect that from everyone. . .)

Anonymous said...

I was just googling reviews on his book because every one seems to think this man is amazing. He however in his DVD lectures says that there is sin in heaven so we need to prepare our kids to make good choices so they don't sin in heaven. This goes against every thing the bible teaches us about heaven. I'm curious on your opion about this.

The Savage said...

Hey Anon--
Sorry to be tardy in responding.

My husband wrote this review after reading the entire book; I asked him & he said there's no mention of such an idea in the book. I've only read (large) chunks of the book, but not seen any mention of sin in heaven either. So I'm afraid I can't be much help. Have you actually seen him say that in a DVD?

I don't think it's relevant to your question, but one thing that did strike me as odd was the notation on the copyright page.

Please note that Destiny Image's publishing style capitalizes certain pronouns in Scripture that refer to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and may differ from some publishers' styles. Take note that the name satan and related names are not capitalized. We choose not to acknowledge him, even to the point of violating grammatical rules.

Okaaaaaay. That was a new one on me. But, yeah. Not relevant to your question.

Angie said...

You might like to go back and read the book he says he worked with foster parents who were unable to spank and needed help getting through to their foster child. He and his wife have 1 daughter and 2 sons. Wonder what else you missed while skimming. My family of 6 has changed dramatically under the guidance of his books and videos. From my 2 year old up to my 14 year old. Its amazing what can happen when you quick punishing and start allowing consequences. Oh and he does believe in spanking when appropriate. Reread the book. Watch the videos.

Angie said...

You might like to go back and read the book he says he worked with foster parents who were unable to spank and needed help getting through to their foster child. He and his wife have 1 daughter and 2 sons. Wonder what else you missed while skimming. My family of 6 has changed dramatically under the guidance of his books and videos. From my 2 year old up to my 14 year old. Its amazing what can happen when you quick punishing and start allowing consequences. Oh and he does believe in spanking when appropriate. Reread the book. Watch the videos.

Larry Naselli said...

I viewed the entire video series and, although the goal of training your children to be motivated by the value of relationships, rather than the fear of punishment is laudable, this does not necessarily lead to a) the conclusion that corporal punishment, properly deployed, is ineffectual in support of that object, or b) adoption of the training method of choice-absolutism that Danny Silk presents as authoritative.

Silk presents some very clever examples of how to outwit your child into making the right choice, by leading the child to recognize that they will thereby obtain a result that makes them happy. The natural way of a child is to seek his own happiness, and Silk's method may make a child adept at making choices that serve this self-interest, but I don't see how this leads to a heart that is motivated by the love of virtue, or to conviction that will prevail when temptation or persecution offers a choice of pain for faithfulness and pleasure for default.

As the reviewer points out, Silk does not rigorously (or even non-rigorously, from what I observed) interpret scripture with other scripture to establish his thesis. However, I am less disturbed by Silk's de-emphasis of biblical chastisement -- because of the real needs of adoptive or foster parents to have an alternative that won't result in the State taking away their children -- than I am alarmed by the thin reed of scriptural support for the methodology that Silk claims fulfills a scriptural imperative. That method is giving choices to your children about everything.

Throughout the video series, I kept waiting for Silk to clarify that his choices uber alles method was not intended for very young children, and should be introduced progressively in proportion to the child's increasing maturity. I waited in vain. Tragically, well-meaning parents who follow this approach will be training their child to falsely believe that he possesses wisdom and autonomy that he does not actually possess, and will find themselves, in due course, with children who are wise in their own eyes, of whom the Bible says, "...there is more hope for a fool." Considering the currency that "Loving Our Kids On Purpose" has in the churches, it is sickening to contemplate the harvest from these seeds.