New Ethics

By :  Robert Brinsmead

I suggest that ours is a generation more ready to accept the view of a non-punitive Deity, of a Abba Father that does not correct by coercion and violent retaliation against evil.  God treats violent rebellion with non-violence.

When there was the view of a  punitive Deity, parents naturally assumed that the rod was good for children. eg, “Mischief is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod shall drive it from him.”  From this we got the maxim, Spare the rod and spoil the child.  Physical punishment was dished out to children at home and at school.  Then things began to change.  Rod and strap have been banned in school, along with slapping and flogging.  Some countries have made it an offense to use corporal punishment with children.  Parents who beat their  children in the old fashioned way can now be charged with assault – and rightly so.  If physical assault is not acceptable to inflict on an adult, it is doubly offensive to inflict on a child.  I listened to a wise counsellor who sought to correct parents who felt corporal punishment is necessary for children.  How can we correct them if this is no longer acceptable, he was asked.  He replied (tongue in cheek of course) , “Just spit in their face.”  When the parents were horrified with his counter suggestion, he said, “Well… just a little spit.”  Of course he was joking so as to draw attention to a wrong attitude.  Children are people, and as people they are equally human.  As I wrote a few years ago, any vertical authority or attitude does not work in human relationships.  It may work in the Army, in teacher/student matters, but all personal relationships (even with God) can only be horizontal.  That’s why we often kneel down to a child’s level to talk to them – it is to put ourselves as equals in value and in human relating.  Beating a child in response to wrong doing is far worse than beating an adult for wrong doing.  Hollywood may often give the impression that wrongs can be settled with one good punch to the jaw of an offender.  Even the police are forbidden to retaliate on an offender with violence.  We no longer accept the flogging of law breakers.  And rightly so!

So our culture has improved vastly on this point, and in our lifetime.  Any parent who resorts to physical punishment (even moderate violence) to correct a child advertises a failed methodology.  This new way of complete non-violence (spanking, slapping) in correctional response is moving in the right direction.  People should be more ready to accept that God does not correct his children with any form of violence.  The Apocalyptic mentality is doomed because it is a narrative of divine violence. No kind of a violent response to evil is evidence of taking evil seriously.   A more developed human consciousness knows better than this.  Even the worst criminals are not subjected to brutal treatment as a part of their rehabilitation –  and even prisoners of war are not to be inhumanely treated.  Give humanity a lot of credit for great advancements on some of these things – we have come a long way since the flogging days of the British penal colony in Norfolk Island and Port Arthur in Tasmania only 200 years ago.  As for the Bible, it says that it is OK to flog a slave just as long as he able to get up within three days after the flogging. The law of Moses (called the law of God) is sometimes very inhumane.  Even the Fourth commandment is inhumane in its comments about slaves.  The God of the OT imagination is very often inhumane, and Jesus clearly never subscribed to that kind of God as Bob Miller pointed out in his essay on the non-apocalyptic Jesus.