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.