Each week, it seems, stories of parents arrested for spanking their children make the news. Periodically, proposed bans on spanking are considered, but are typically shot down on grounds that such bans tread on parents' rights. Such bans are also met with opposition from some Christians who believe that since the Bible appears to require corporal punishment of children, bans on spanking would prevent Christian parents from living out biblical convictions. Leaders such as James Dobson, Wayne Grudem, John Piper, and Albert Mohler—conservative evangelicals, to be sure, but not at all of the Michael and Debi Pearl stripe—agree that Scripture requires parents to discipline their children corporally. A quote from Focus on the Family's website sums up their beliefs: "the Bible's word on discipline clearly demands that parents be responsible and diligent in spanking."

In a new book, Corporal Punishment in the Bible (InterVarsity), William Webb, professor of New Testament at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Canada, examines the Bible's strange and sometimes disturbing passages about corporal punishment, such as, "Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts" (Prov. 20:30), and, "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die" (Prov. 23:13). Webb, like the aforementioned scholars and leaders, once believed that Christian parents who sought to apply the Bible's teachings to their lives were more or less obligated to spank their children, and taught his seminary students the same. Over time, while parenting his three children (one of whom suffers from a degenerative brain disease), Webb grew aware that ...

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