I mentioned a week or two ago what James Montgomery Boice taught me about how to get smart. His curiosity was well developed. You can read about that here.

Wanting to inspire my children to his level of curiosity and intelligence, I told my children all about this.

Several weeks later I was working on a project of some kind, and my second son was hanging around. He was, as children are want to do, pestering me with an unending barrage of questions.

Finally I had had enough and I asked him if he wouldn’t really rather go play outside. He declined, preferring to stay and ask me questions that I could not answer.

Finally, my answer giving limit was reached, and I asked him to please do something else.

He said, “But Dad, you said this is the way to get smart.” (And, of course, being a son, he just wanted to be with me, but that was nothing he could express.)

It takes pretty good skill to fail as an intellectual mentor AND as a father at the same time. But I accomplished it.

Hermeneutics, Life, and Death

Someone asked me the other day, “What’s hermeneutics?”

I explained to her that it is the science of interpretation of a text, and that in our circles it refers to the interpretation of the Bible.

I also told her that the difference between proper hermeneutics and improper hermeneutics can be the difference between life and death.

I was not being overdramatic.

* * * * *

Early in our parenting journey I was given a small booklet which proposed to me that the key to parenting success was the art of the rod. Moving from the proverb which promises a spoiled child to the parent who spares the rod, this booklet taught that the biblical method of parenting demanded frequent and forceful spankings.

Once vulnerable and trusting young Christian parents are told such things, they may just believe them. I did. For a time.

The problem is that the passage does not demand spankings but discipline, and a broader reading of scripture calls for an attitude of grace which views children as God’s image bearers and not as mere Pavlovian dogs or Skinnerian objects.

The difference between the booklet’s understanding and that of the above paragraph is not merely one of ‘point of view’. The differences are rooted in a proper and an improper hermeneutic practice.

And this difference is deadly.

I early saw the fallacy in the ‘beat them into godliness’ school. I also learned that my baser nature made me an untrustworthy bearer of the rod. But though I have grown in my understanding, others have not. I have been blind to the horrible damage, the unconscionable acts, which have been perpetrated in the name of such ‘biblical’ parenting.

Here, here, here, here, and here, my good and gifted friend TulipGirl has shared the sad, sad news of a case of child abuse which resulted in death. This case involves Christian parents who are the followers of such methods. They did not spare the rod, and as a result, a child is not spoiled, but dead.

TulipGirl has written passionately and articulately about this particular tragedy. If you have not done so already, go read what she has written. If you are a follower of Christ, weep not only for the children, but for the honor and reputation of Christ.

If you follow her links, you will see this tragedy set in the larger context of the frightening power wielded by the unrepentant teachers of such false systems. TulipGirl does not relish the role of the confrontationist, and she makes every effort to speak fairly and with grace. But if the name Pearl (or Ezzo) adorns the spines of the parenting books you or your friends trust, you should read and ponder what TulipGirl has to say.

We should be saddened by such stories. But we should be saddened as well by the broader carelessness which characterizes the hermeneutics of those who assume to themselves the mantle of ‘teacher’ in the Christian world. Hermeneutics is a matter of life and death. In this case, faulty hermeneutics has led to a child’s death. In other cases, it leads to impoverishment. In others, to a bondage of spirit from which people with difficulty emerge.

Not everyone who spouts Bible verses or claims to be ‘biblical’ is to be believed or trusted. And I say that as someone who spouts Bible verses and claims to be biblical.

* * * * *

The woman who asked about hermeneutics is following a path that will serve as a healthy antidote to the tyranny of the experts that plagues the Christian church. She has picked up R. C. Sproul’s excellent little intro to the subject called Knowing Scripture. She’ll be okay.

I commend the book to you. But I commend as well prayer for Christ’s church, for her teachers, and for those who teach the teachers. May we all be true to him who gave his Son not to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him.

Re-Centered Parental Priorities

My creative son drew me a cartoon Sunday morning to tape to my study door, already covered with the likes of “Baby Blues”, “Grimm”, “Non Sequitur”, and others.

His cartoon is pretty good, so up it will go.

But the real insight was on the back. He told me that this would be the first in a series of cartoons, and so on the back he drew pictures of each character over a brief description.

Don’t ask me where he learned how to do this stuff.

There are four characters – a mom, a dad, a son, and a daughter. The son is smart and ‘likes all kinds of science.’ Already sounding like a family we know.

The daughter is described as having ‘anger issues’. What 9-year old brother does NOT think his sister has anger issues?

The mom is, appropriately, described as ‘a loving mother sweet and calm’. That’s precious.

The dad? “A work loving dad (& family loving one).”


I’m glad for the parentheses, but I can’t escape what has taken top billing.

I took him to Starbucks today for some family loving time!

I’m reminded of Dan Allender’s story in his book Bold Love. Allender is writing a book about love, and so he wonders how much he’s taught his kids about love:

“I wonder how often love is truly taught and lived as the central priority of life. I asked one of my children what she thought was the most important lesson I wanted her to learn about life. She replied, ‘Work hard, do your best, and don’t lie.'”

She said nothing, he noticed, about love.

We can learn a lot when we listen to our kids. I pray for God’s grace to enable me to really, really listen.

The Best Parenting Advice

I’m a bad parent – I gave up reading parenting books long, long ago because they never seemed to help me and only succeeded in making me feel guilty.

So, today, not reading a parenting book, I came across what is without a doubt the best parenting advice ever offered. I still don’t do it, not with the consistency and intention that I should, because I’m a bad parent. But it certainly aims us in the right direction.

“It is surprising how seldom books on parenting talk about prayer. We instinctively believe that if we have the right biblical principles and apply them consistently, our kids will turn out right. But that didn’t work for God in the Garden of Eden. Perfect environment. Perfect relationships. And still God’s two children went bad.

“Many parents, including myself, are initially confident we can change our child. We don’t surrender to our child’s will (which is good), but we try to dominate the child with our own (which is bad). Without realizing it, we become demanding….

“Until we become convinced we can’t change our child’s heart, we will not take prayer seriously….”

Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life, pages 168-169