Having so recently made mention of Voddie Baucham's sermon and one of his books, while revisiting his teachings, I wanted to revisit another matter. Some time ago, a reader sent me information about Baucham's online claim that “anti-Baucham websites” have completely distorted a 2007 sermon he delivered on child discipline and corporal punishment.
Someone online summarized one of Baucham's teachings in this way in an online discussion where the charge of misrepresentation was made: “I meant to unsubscribe after your ridiculous argument that 'a parent who doesn't make their kid say hello to me is sinning, and if I allow the parent to let their child disobey I am sinning.'”
Since the topic at hand was a matter that I've addressed here specifically in the past, I thought that I would make Baucham's own words more easily accessible to arrest any confusion about his claims that the way that he was quoted here was “inaccurate.” I don't believe that I misrepresented him in any way. This person's assessment of the matter sounds fairly direct, concise, and accurate to me.
First Time Obedience
I've written in more detail about Baucham's preaching concerning what others have named “First Time Obedience” (FTO), a principle that he later adopted as his own position. Because this is a lengthy subject about which writings are plenteous and the discussion long, this element is not my primary focus in this post. However, while mentioning it in the context of the sermon in question, I would like to reiterate that I find the concept quite cruel, as Baucham seems to demand of young children what most adult Christians fail repeatedly to yield to God themselves. Even God allows men to stumble and repent, and Jesus spoke of “seventy times seven” forgiveness. God not only allows us to make sinful mistakes while He beckons us to choose righteousness, but He also readily forgives us when we turn from them.
I find it ironic that I'm accused of forsaking Biblical principle in favor of professional knowledge and secular or societal influences, all while Baucham explains that tolerance and forbearance actually train a child to accept sin as permissible. The Apostle Peter was instructed by Jesus Himself to forgive others, but Baucham claims that immature children can only make a single sinful error. He also teaches that parents sin when they tolerate more than a single error, sending the message to the child that sin is not a serious matter. The consequences of the child's error must be severe enough that they understand that they cannot repeat it.
In short, I would first say that Baucham's thesis sounds a bit to me like a practical psychology of parental convenience. He also fails to support his ideas with specific Scripture, other than general ones about correcting children and encouraging good behavior. It sounds to me like a works-based salvation of general intolerance that spiritualizes personal preference. Second, I believe that those who embrace the concept of FTO put their children at great risk. Though I do not share all of the opinions of Alice Miller, I believe that her works including For Your Own Good point out several flaws in this approach as well. When we train children to become profoundly obedient adults who respond to forceful authorities, as Christians, we destroy Bereans. We create people who fail to think for themselves. In society, we create citizens ripe for totalitarianism because “might makes right.” They will follow authority for authority's sake, primarily because they sign over their decision making to an intermediary who speaks for either Caesar or for God.
Has Voddie been misrepresented? Listen for yourself.
In previous posts on this subject, I linked to a few audio downloads of Voddie Baucham. I appreciate that, for the most part, his tone sounds kind and reasonable. Perhaps this is why so many people like him as a speaker. He sounds nice and is engaging, so perhaps people assume that what he's saying can't be that bad. Amazingly, I don't have that problem. I find those things which he proposes to be quite troubling. But I also suppose that most people don't have time to listen to an entire sermon when trying to understand this topic. In the interests of clarity, I've pulled out just a few limited clips related to some of the more problematic statements in just one of Baucham's presentations.
From Voddie Baucham's Child Training Sermon at Hardin Baptist Church (2007.11.04 AM-020):
(I didn't transcribe the first section. I included it in the audio (via video) as an afterthought at the request of my husband because he felt that it elucidated a great deal about homeschooling's “Biblical” patriarchy movement.)
20:50 – 22:10 “'Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, and the rod of correction will drive it far from them.' The Word of God says that your children desperately, desperately need to be spanked. Amen, hallelujah, praise the Lord and spank your kids, okay? They desperately need to be spanked. And they need to be spanked often. They do. I meet people all the time, you know, and their like, 'Yeah, you know, I can think of maybe four or five times that I had to spank Junior.' Really? That's unfortunate. Because unless you raised Jesus the Second, there were days that Junior needed to be spanked five times before breakfast. If you only spanked your child five times, that means that almost every time they disobeyed you, you let it go. And almost every time they dishonored you, you let it go. When they were two and you said, 'Come 'ere,' and they said, 'No!' You should have “worn them out,” but you didn't. And so you think because it didn't escalate to a certain point that that means that you didn't need to spank 'em. No. They disobeyed. We can't tolerate disobedience...
25:20 -25:38 A lot of your toddlers throw fits because you've taught them that that's the way they can control you. When instead, you just need to have an all day session where you just “wear them out”...
27:25 – 28:20 “Let me give you an example. A prime example. The so-called 'shy kid,' who doesn't shake hands at church, okay? Usually what happens is you come up, you know, and well, here I am. I'm a guest, and I walk up, and I'm saying 'Hi' to somebody, and they say to their kid, 'Hey, you know, say – say good morning to Dr. Baucham.' And the kid hides, and runs behind the leg. And here's what's supposed to happen. This is what we've agreed on silently in our culture. What's supposed to happen is, I'm supposed to look at their child and say, 'Hey, that's okay.'”
“But I can't do that. If I do that, then what has happened is, number one, the child has just sinned by not doing what they were told to do. It was direct disobedience. Secondly, the parent is in sin for not correcting it. And thirdly, I'm in sin because I just told a child that it was okay for them to disobey and dishonor their parent in direct violation of Scripture. I can't do that. I won't do that. I'm going to stand there until you make them do what you said.”
Voddie Baucham has inserted himself into the process of how a parent deals with their child? If the parent choses to handle the situation differently than he would, how long will he “stand there?” How would he go about ensuring against the “sin” of the parent? Will he publicly take that parent to task, regardless of circumstances or issues with the child about which he may be unaware? Will he go to the pastor and demand that some formal disciplinary action be taken to ensure that the parent in question does not sin?
Take note of this similar theme in one of Baucham's books.
From Family Driven Faith, pp 109 - 110:
What this means is the degree to which children properly respond to the authority of their parents is indicative of the degree to which they are filled with the Spirit. In other words, obedience is a spiritual issue...
You tell your two-year-old to do something in front of the pastor’s wife and she sticks out her tongue yells “no,” and takes off running in the other direction... Eventually you learn that everyone is willing to accept this behavior, or at least to make comments that suggest their acceptance.
I am in no way suggesting that parents should not train or discipline their children, nor that inappropriate behavior should be tolerated, though I'm sure that my own critics will try to paint me this way. (I'm also criticized by many anti-spanking activists because I do believe that limited corporal punishment can be appropriate when a child is at risk of a greater and immediate physical danger.) My concern regards healthy and realistic expectations of a young child and their ability to master behavior and emotion, especially when those standards have been set by someone other than parents, family, and those who are familiar with a child. Please take note again, I in no way condone rudeness such as sticking out one's tongue or running anywhere inside a church building under any circumstances which Baucham offers in his book as exemplars of inappropriate behavior.
Nurses are required to train in basic child growth and development to be able to not only identify developmental delays but also to assess how children respond to illness and treatment. Included in that developmental theory is an understanding of age appropriate emotional development and self-mastery. Young children often manifest fear as shyness or as anger, especially when they are pre-verbal, because their ability to communicate and modulate their own emotions is limited. Physical illness or unidentified learning disabilities can also interfere with communication.
Though I am painfully well aware that many parents do not discipline their children appropriately, I also do not believe that it is Voddie Baucham's place to determine the appropriate standard for children, nor is it appropriate for him to determine how all parents should best discipline their own children. Not all parents believe that it is the best choice to spank their children, and for those who do employ corporal punishment, I know many that would not agree that God requires that children be spanked “often.” I also believe that it is quite inappropriate for Baucham to suggest that he has the ability to discern whether parents are, in fact, “filled with the Spirit,” particularly by his standard of personal preference concerning the behavior of their children. Christians within the pale of traditional, conservative orthodoxy also disagree on the matter of “responding to authority.” (Many reject Baucham's high demand, ecclesiocentric system of patriarchy and family integration as aberrant.)
In the audio sermon at Hardin Baptist Church, immediately before the statement about the “so-called shy kid,” Baucham speaks of a three year old. Because he expresses a similar concern in his book about how a two year old should behave in a church setting, I'm inclined to think that children who are three and four years of age should be skilled at greeting him in this way. Though I agree with him on nature of the desirable and undesirable behavior he cites, and I also agree that both negative behavior in small children and issues of sin are sober matters, I find his authoritarian approach to this topic to be quite flawed. They are matters to which a parent must attend. If a child manifests fear as shyness, or if an overwhelmed, young child manifests fear by sticking out their tongue, I don't necessarily find this to be a sin, particularly considering the age of the child. But I also find Baucham's concept of single trial learning or “First Time Obedience” to be highly abusive.
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So after listening to the clips themselves, what do you think? Did the woman's comment noted above sound like a distortion based on misrepresentations of things that Baucham has said himself? Does he expect that his pleasant tone and style should somehow mitigate the offensive, inaccurate, and intolerant things he's said?