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Specifically when it comes to a parent disciplining their children or husband disciplining his wife - it seems there has been a lot of talk about both and I'm curious what different denominations and the Bible has to say on the topic.

  • Is corporal punishment/discipline ever OK?
  • Is corporal punishment/discipline from a parent to a child OK?
  • Is corporal punishment/discipline between a husband and his wife OK?
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Welcome to Christianity.SE! Can you reword this question, a little, perhaps? "Is x a sin?" questions are discouraged on this site. See this and this for more information. –  Steven Doggart Aug 15 '13 at 17:28
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@user5432: how are you defining "disciplining"? –  Pat Ferguson Aug 15 '13 at 18:30
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It is never right to lay a hand on your wife. –  Wikis Aug 15 '13 at 19:04
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@Wikis: +1 completely agree :) –  HelloWorld Aug 15 '13 at 19:08
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@warren: no, no exceptions. It is never right. (If I can I will later add an answer here.) –  Wikis Aug 15 '13 at 20:29
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3 Answers

I have never heard of a husband disciplining their wife, I certainly don't do that. However parents have an obligation to discipline their children for it is written

He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly. (Proverbs 13:24)

May I add that I don't use a physical rod :)

“Impatience in the parents excites impatience in the children. Passion manifested by the parents creates passion in the children and stirs up the evils of their nature. Some parents correct their children severely in a spirit of impatience, and often in passion. Such corrections produce no good result. In seeking to correct one evil, they create two. Continual censuring and whipping hardens children and weans them from their parents. Parents should first learn to control themselves, then they can more successfully control their children. Every time they lose self-control, and speak and act impatiently, they sin against God. They should first reason with their children, clearly point out their wrongs, show them their sin, and impress upon them that they have not only sinned against their parents, but against God. With your own heart subdued and full of pity and sorrow for your erring children, pray with them before correcting them. Then your correction will not cause your children to hate you. They will love you. They will see that you do not punish them because they have put you to inconvenience, or because you wish to vent your displeasure upon them; but from a sense of duty, for their good, that they may not be left to grow up in sin. (Testimonies For The Church Volume 1 p. 398, Ellen White)

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You are asking about corporal punishment which I am taking to mean physical punishment not designed to cause injury.

Is corporal punishment/discipline ever OK?

Yes, in one specific instance, see below.

Is corporal punishment/discipline from a parent to a child OK?

Yes, this is the only instance I can find in the Bible where physical punishment is permitted. Three times in Proverbs it is mentioned that this is a way to discipline children, in 22:15, 23:13 and 29:15. To take 23:13 as an example:

Withhold not discipline from the child; for if you strike and punish him with the [reedlike] rod, he will not die.

It is necessary to discipline children; God does it; see Proverbs 3:1 and Hebrews 12:6. That Hebrews passage goes on (v7-10) to show that parents should discipline their children just as God does.

However, if you are angry, you must be self-controlled (Galatians 5:22-23) or you yourself may sin (Ephesians 4:26); you may hit too hard, too many times or use physical punishment when it might not be appropriate in that case. Bear in mind that in the same passage (Ephesians 6:1-4) where children are reminded of the command to love their parents, fathers have this command:

Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord.

Is corporal punishment/discipline between a husband and his wife OK?

To me, this question misunderstands the Biblical relationship of a husband and wife.

First on the subject of adult-to-adult physical punishment. Jesus made a passing reference (Matthew 24:49) to this that clearly shows that this is a sin.

Now, regarding husbands and wives, let us start with Ephesians 5:25:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.

What does it mean for a husband to love his wife? In the text below, try mentally substituting love with loving husbands in this well known text 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a):

Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.

It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].

It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].

Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].

So, if someone loves their wife, why would they sin by hitting her, even under the guise of discipline?

A wife is not to be treated like a child or a servant but loved as an equal: both men and women were together made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). That is why I think this question misunderstands the heart of the Biblical relationship between a husband and a wife and what they were created to be. It is never right for a husband to strike his wife.

On the subject of creation, I will close with the words of the theologian Matthew Henry:

“Eve was not taken out of Adam's head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.”

Footnote: the only physical beatings I can think of in the New Testament are directly or indirectly demonic: Matthew 27:27-30, Mark 5:5, Acts 19:16 and 2 Corinthians 6:4-6.

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Last para from Mathew Henry is most appropriate. –  Seek forgiveness Aug 20 '13 at 4:12
    
@jayyeshu: undone your correction, see Matthew Henry. –  Wikis Aug 20 '13 at 4:21
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Oh...I should have corrected his birth certificate –  Seek forgiveness Aug 20 '13 at 4:24
    
Matthew 24:49, I do not believe, can be used to say this is categorically a "sin" –  warren Oct 8 '13 at 22:08
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I did a word study on "chaste" and "chasten" several months ago, because I had heard of such topics discussed in the great portions of Christendom than I had previously been acquainted (I give some references to those websites both via a Google link, and directly in the footnotes to that article).

If you read the (few, but fairly detailed) sites that purport to be about "Christian Domestic Discipline", they will typically give some form of biblical support for the practice (where CDD is between a husband and wife).

Surely as representatives of Christ in the home, the husband/father is responsible for discipline in his family (Eph 5:23,28-30 & 6:4 as a quick start) - just as Christ is in His church.

We are to discipline ourselves (1 Cor 9:27), and we see in 2 Tim 3:16-17 that discipline and correction rightly arise from scripture.

Does this mean that husbands should be allowed to exercise corporal discipline over their wives? The Bible does not say directly. We are to love our wives as ourselves - and we are to discipline ourselves.

You cannot spank yourself, but corporal punishment and discipline is not forbidden in the Bible in general.

In short, there is not truly a clear answer either way - and should be a matter of personal conviction, convincement, and agreement between a husband and his wife.

Regarding corporal punishment/discipline between parents and their children, all throughout Proverbs, and many other places, discusses (and even encourages) corporal discipline when appropriate. It is by no means the only form of discipline available in a parent's repertoire, but it is, biblically, available.

It is a parent's job to know their children and to know what forms of discipline (both corrective and formative) will be most effective with their child - and that may vary from child to child, or age to age with the same child.

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I fail to see where the verses you've referenced give any indication that the husband should discipline his wife. I see your point about Eph. 5:23, but you have to admit that it could easily be read in a different way without any contorting. You said "as a quick start", so perhaps you could provide better evidence of that? –  Steven Doggart Aug 15 '13 at 19:49
    
@StevenDoggart - I didn't say they give the husband the inherent right to apply corporal discipline towards his wife. However, given that discipline is a much more encompassing term than mere punishment, and given that as husbands we are responsible for our families, and given that every Christian is responsible to discipline themselves in the Lord, and given that the husband should love his wife as he loves himself, the husband/father is responsible for discipline in the family. This does not mean he may corporally discipline his wife, but it cannot be categorically denied, either. –  warren Aug 16 '13 at 14:30
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