SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVES


THE DANGER OF THE WWJD PHILOSOPHY

GARY W. SUMMERS

   
One of the current popular religious fads, often expressed on bracelets, surfaced two or three years ago with the sudden appearing of the initials, WWJD. It was thought that the behavior of people (young people in particular) might be positively affected if, before engaging in certain actions, they would first ask a particular question: WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

At first, this suggestion seems like a terrific idea. In fact, Charles Sheldon wrote an entire book, In His Steps, with a similar premise--everyone decides to abide by the ethics set forth in the Scriptures; society undergoes a social revolution. And what could be better than keeping God in one's thoughts at all times? We know that Jesus would not cheat on tests, gossip, spread rumors, use corrupt and vulgar language, or put Himself in a position where the temptation to commit sexual immorality would be overpowering.

So what could one possibly have to criticize about the practice of asking, "What Would Jesus Do?" It would probably serve as a great help in an era not governed by the postmodern philosophy. If people could consider the objective word of God and the absolute nature of truth, then acting on the basis of the WWJD philosophy would be an asset. But the leading thinkers of this age tell us that truth is slippery, subjective, situational, and incomprehensible. They also have several allegations to offer against the integrity of the Scriptures (none of which possess any validity). So, by the time everything becomes watered down, WWJD becomes WDIWD (What Do I Wanna Do?). In other words, we imagine that Jesus would agree with our thinking.

A case in point is seen in a guest column written by Roland Johnson ("pastor" of Iglesia Bautista Calvario) and published in The Dallas Morning News on January 8th. In fact the title of the article is: "School Boards and Paddles--What Would Jesus Do?" The writer begins by affirming: "Schools are the only bastions in our society that still allow corporal punishment" (4G).

After a history of the termination of the use of flogging in the military (the reader is apparently supposed to see some sort of connection between military discipline and public schools), he states his disagreement with the paddling policy used in the Dallas Independent School District. He is free to disapprove of that procedure if he wants, but unfortunately he finds it necessary to trash the Scriptures in order to make his point.

Advocates of corporal punishment base their case on the sayings of King Solomon in the book of Proverbs.

Solomon was a baneful, sensual, idolatrous king whom the Encyclopedia Britannica calls "the most overrated figure of the Old Testament." It is true that Solomon said, "He that spares a rod, hates his son" (Proverbs 13:24), but proper interpretation demands that we look at the Bible as a whole (4G).

Whew!! Seldom has anyone, much less a Baptist "pastor," gone to such lengths to discredit Solomon in order to object to the practice of corporal punishment for children. Mr. Johnson is obviously writing from an emotional motivation, rather than a logical one. But he is not finished yet with his diatribe against Solomon.

Next he calls as evidence for his position the way Rehoboam turned out. Obviously, he argues, Solomon's parental wisdom failed, as seen by the fact that he produced such a dud for a son. Johnson quotes Rehoboam's threat to scourge the people with scorpions as proof of Solomon's rotten "rod" philosophy.

We know that the hard-line approach led to revolt and civil war. More important, it underscores what psychology tells us: that violence promotes violence. It becomes a never-ending cycle. Solomon's sons had learned physical punishment as the way to solve problems (4G).

Oh, please. This point has been stretched so far that the elastic is ruined. If Rehoboam were paddled when he was younger, that practice surely was not responsible for his turning into an obnoxious jerk who listened to the wrong counsel. If anything could be pinpointed to explain Rehoboam's behavior, it might be argued that the prosperity he grew up with spoiled him (as it has so many in today's society). Besides, there is no evidence that he was personally violent. The threat he issued was a civil one--one that was never carried out, either.

Notice what experts Johnson calls to make his case for him: Encyclopedia Britannica and psychology. Everybody knows what Biblical experts both of these are. The former promotes heavily the false doctrine of organic evolution, and the latter opposes the Bible on just about every aspect of life there is. In other words, neither of them has any respect for the Word of God; so why would anyone consort with such "witnesses"? Desperation forges strange unions.

If Solomon was overrated, it was a writer inspired by the Holy Spirit who overrated him. The Queen of Sheba probably did not have the degrees that the writers of the Encyclopedia Britannica had, but she possessed one thing they lack--firsthand knowledge:

Then she said to the king: "It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. However I did not believe the words until I came and saw it with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard. Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness (1 Kings 10:6-9).

The inspired writer adds:

So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. And all the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart (1 Kings 10:23-24).

Actually, he seems like a hard man to overrate "when we look at the Bible as a whole." But, Johnson must negate Solomon's wisdom because of his stance on disciplining children. With an air of self-righteousness, he continues: "I prefer to listen to Jesus" (as though the Lord somehow contradicted Solomon's teaching).

The reader expects to read next a Scripture in which Jesus challenged paddling children, but all that is cited for the antiviolence position is Matthew 18:3 and Luke 17:2, neither of which has anything to do with the issue. The former passage stresses the humility of children; the latter one does not even mention children ("little ones" can refer to disciples in general). But even if children were in the context, nothing forbidding paddling is remotely mentioned. Yet the conclusion is drawn: "From such passages we can conclude that Jesus believed that it is never OK to hit a child. I would rather follow him than the debaucherous King Solomon any day."

So would we all, but the point is irrelevant. The debaucherous king wrote inspired Scripture, and his later immoral actions do not negate the purity of the truths he recorded earlier. Why does Johnson assault King Solomon so viciously? He states that using corporal punishment on his sons "affected them very negatively." Yet surely he must realize that entire generations have been reared with corporal punishment, and most of them were affected positively, not negatively.

We are arguing neither for nor against paddling in the public schools, and certainly we agree that there are other alternatives in administering discipline; we object to his decision that Jesus would draw the same conclusion that he did concerning the subject. Actually, the Lord agrees with what Solomon wrote--if "we look at the Bible as a whole."

The Bible teaches: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God..." (2 Tim. 3:16). Proverbs is an inspired book, and the inspired writer of the book of Hebrews quoted from the debaucherous King Solomon:

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" (Heb. 12:5-6).

The verses cited are from the Septuagint version of Proverbs 3:11-12. The word translated "scourge" (a verb) appears seven times in the New Testament (Matt. 10:17; 20:19; 23:34; Mark 10:34; Luke 18:33; John 19:1; and Heb. 12:6). Without exception these verses refer to physical punishment. The noun form of the word, used on six occasions in the New Testament, is translated "plague(s)" or "scourging(s)." All of these refer to physical distress.

In other words, physical suffering can have a practical value even for adults, and God could chasten us via that method. As the psalmist wrote, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes" (Ps. 119:71). Of course, there are other methods of discipline; but physical punishment is also an option. The conclusion of Johnson's article is therefore erroneous:

School board officials who are considering the proposal to ban corporal punishment should base their decision on sound psychological research. But above all, we have the light of God's word, which as a whole teaches that children are a gift of God, and that it is never OK to hit them (4G).

Sound psychological research? Pardon us who harbor large chunks of skepticism about the validity of almost anything in psychology. There are so many contradictions within this genre that one can scarcely find consensus--unless it involves a politically correct issue. We would rather stick with something more certain, such as the Word of God, which does not teach that it is never OK to hit a child. Of course, hit is a loaded term, much more odious than spank. Johnson apparently enjoys stacking the deck in his favor. We have already demonstrated the fallacy of his approach to this subject.

The point of considering his guest column was not just to take issue with his position; it was to demonstrate what happens when people misapply the WWJD approach to problem solving. They determine the outcome in advance, based on their own prejudices, and then support their positions by affirming, "Why, this is what Jesus would do in this situation."

And the fact is that a similar route has been traveled before. God legislated on a number of situations in the law of Moses. But then came the captivity. Jews were scattered; the theocracy that had existed was no longer possible--especially when the Jews were being ruled by the Romans. Questions arose. What would God want us to do in these times and in this new culture? Probably no one wore WWJD (What Would Jehovah Do?) bracelets in Jerusalem. But some religious leaders had answers for all those thorny questions.

They were called Pharisees. They had figured out what God wanted. If one swore by the temple, for example, he was not obligated to keep his word; if he swore by the gold in the temple, however, he must keep his word. Pretty soon they came up with ways to circumvent honoring their parents (Matt. 15:1-9). Their opinions of what God wanted became law, which they then had to defend. They became so attached to their man-made system that when Jesus came along, preaching the truth, they decided their doctrines were right and the Son of God was teaching error! So familiar with error were they that truth sounded false.

Today many people have likewise grown up with religious error that they cannot be talked out of. It may not be what the Bible teaches, but "I was born a ________, and I'll die one, too." No wonder Jesus told them, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you" (Matt. 21:31). Those spiritually wrong cannot see their error.

Perhaps, instead of ask WWJD, we might ask WDJD ("What Did Jesus Do?") or WDJT ("What Did Jesus Teach?"). Attempts to imagine what the Savior would do only result in assigning to Him our own reasoning. Let us remain with what the Scriptures teach. Man's departures from the Word result in the formation of new creeds, authoritative opinions, and even criticism of inspired writers. When systems devised by men become popular, they arrogantly defend them while rejecting the truth taught in the Scriptures--which will keep them from eternal life.

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "THE DANGER OF THE WWJD PHILOSOPHY (1/23/00)."


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