What if the plumber doesn’t do pipes?

…or if the Archbishop does not know the word of God?

David Moxon,  Anglican Archbishop of New Zealand appeared on Radio Rhema recently to put a case for the “yes” answer to the question  “should a smack as a part of good parental correction be a criminal offense?”

Aaron Ironside asked him to describe the biblical evidence supporting his position. From his answer, David clearly doesn’t know what God’s word says, which is surprising since he is the chief overseer of the Anglican church in New Zealand. David made a number of points about the biblical witness, which were almost all wrong, and missed out a few important bits. Note that my record of David’s on-air statements below are not word-for-word from his mouth as I do not have a transcript of the show.

David Moxon: In proverbs it says “spare the rod and spoil the child”.

This is not actually found in the bible, at best it is a loose paraphrase. Proverbs does say “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” and “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”

David Moxon: The rod is a shepherd’s staff, not for beating, but for direction and guidance.

This is a blatant lie. David seems to have missed the part where it says “Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell.”

David Moxon: In the new testament we find Jesus laying hands on children.

This is correct, if fairly irrelevant to the topic.

David Moxon: And Jesus says that whoever hurts one of these little ones, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck.

What Jesus actually says is “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” The whole point of the teaching of physical discipline from proverbs is to prevent the children from “stumbling” by correction. I invite David Moxon to consider that by advocating the criminalization of physical discipline he may in fact be held accountable by God for children whose parents subsequently fail to administer loving discipline.

The bits that the Archbishop missed out include probably the most direct new testament treatment of the practice of a father’s discipline. The letter to the Hebrews explains that God himself physically disciplines the sons that he loves:

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives. (Proverbs 3:11-12)

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

The scourging talked about in this passage is the same thing that happened to Christ as he was scourged by the Romans prior to the cross.

There is more to the biblical picture of a Father’s discipline, none of which came from David Moxon’s lips. God says of his priests:

My covenant with Levi was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name.
True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity.
For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” I hope David Moxon takes these words to heart and works quickly to repair some of the damage his misleading survey of the biblical witness has already caused.

As an aside, I was also amazed that Aaron Ironside, who must by now have some familiarity with the biblical witness, did not call David out on-air for his falsehoods and omissions.

Do not withhold correction from a child,
For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.
14 You shall beat him with a rod,
And deliver his soul from hell.
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