What is the difference between discipline and punishment?

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Mindaboo

Puritan Board Graduate
This is a spin off from my other thread. What is the difference between discipline and punishment? I just studied this a couple of weeks ago while working through the book of Deuteronomy.

The main difference I have noticed is that discipline seems to be a gift to the believer, while punishment seems to indicate eternal judgment that is reserved for the unbeliever. I did not find any verse that used the word punishment in regard to a believer. I am using an ESV, so maybe it's just my version.

When I discipline my children I am training them. I don't see that as a punishment. I think the two are very different.

Am I way off base here?
 

kainos01

Puritan Board Senior
Calvin noted that there are two kinds of divine judgment; one is the act of a judge; the other of a father. He wrote, "For when a judge punishes a criminal, he aminadverts upon the crime, and demands the penalty. When a father corrects his son sharply, it is not to mulct or avenge, but rather to teach him and to make him cautious for the future." (3.4.31)

These are the distinctions I make between discipline and punishment. Thus, I would agree that discipline is a "gift" given to the believer, while punishment (in the sense Calvin describes) is reserved for the unbeliever.
 
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CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Punishment is applied within a legal context. It is an authority inflicting vengeance proportional to the wrong done. This is more or less Aristotle's definition of justice in Nicomachean Ethics. So, punishment is primarily concerned with the past and with wrongdoing. The emblem of punishment is the executioner or the judge.

Discipline is applied within a relational context. It is an guardian taking measures to secure the well-being of the one under care. So, discipline is primarily concerned with the future and with doing right. The emblem of discipline is the parent or the coach.

It may not always be obvious whether a particular action is discipline or punishment. They may look very similar at times, or quite different. You are punishing if your action derives from the answer to the question, "What does [insert person's name] deserve?". You are disciplining if your action derives from the answer to the question, "What will help [insert person's name] do right or be better off?".
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
You can see the paradigm of a distiction between chastening and punishment, though not the precise vocabulary, in 1 Corinthians 11:31,32. Whereas for an unbeliever, he is judged and condemned, a Christian is judged in order not to be condemned.

W.G.T. Shedd points out from Hebrews 12 that since chastening is not tied to justice, the chastening authority can use their discretion. If a child disobeys, in other words, you don't have to feel bound to chastise every time, or to chastise in the same way, or with the same severity. Where it would be wrong for a judge to commute a death sentence into 5 hours of community service, it is not wrong for a parent to overlook or punish mildly some particular offense if that seems wisest.
 
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