Whole Counsel Theology

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Some thoughts about Bad Language

I've thought about this for a while, and the Scriptural implications of it. I don't remember if blogging about it ever came to mind, but I don't have to do it now. :) Dr. Phil Johnson of the Masters Seminary (and good friend to Dr. John MacArthur) blogged about it this week over at TeamPyro. You can read it HERE, and like about anything else I link to, I strongly recommend its reading.

May God be Honored in ALL our Speech!


  • C.S. Lewis had a unique perspective on this. He was criticized sharply once for calling something "damned nonsense". His response was, "No apologies, that is EXACTLY what I meant to say." He meant it with the full weight of eternal damnation, and that's exactly what he said.

    In MY house, words like, "stupid", and "hate" are bad words. Just ask my 4-year old how we feel about those two.

    From my own journey, coming out of a military maintenence shop, learning to speak without using expletives is very rewarding because it shores up your thoughts and ideas. Going through the process of "How do I make my point without cussing in this siutation?", will force you to sound more intelligent if only because now you have to think about what you are saying.

    In today's world, I don't know, maybe I work at such a professional organization , hearing foul language is an exeption rather than the rule. I have a co-worker, about whom I say, "It's always interesting to see where he can drop an F-Bomb on the conversation". Everyone knows exactly what I am talking about because he is one of the VERY few who talk like that at work.

    From what I have read about the Bible's restriction on taking the Lord's name in vain, it is referring to hypocrisy rather than a foul mouth. CALLING yourself God's adopted and chosen child, a CHRISTIAN, and choosing to not live for Christ in every way possible is taking His name in vain.

    I really liked what Donald Miller had to say about the cussing pastor in "Blue Like Jazz" too. Basically "He's doing God's work. Get over it."

    I saw a guest pastor from the UK in Atlanta one time. He (very unintentionally, I am sure) sprinkled his sermon with "hell" and "damn", and not what we would call the proper uses of those words either.

    Jesus said that it is what comes OUT of a person's mouth that makes them unclean. I don't think he has a particular list of words in mind. I think he means the manner in which they come out. Expletives are usually expressions of anger, frustration, ignorance, etc. I think we are all more guilty of this than we think.

    Not saying certain words is not the goal in our daily language.

    How we use our words is far more important than avoiding a blacklist.

    Are you saying these words so that you can feel better or make the other person feel worse? If so, then I don't care what words you use, you are worse than my co-worker who has to work the F-Bomb into every conversation.

    Speaking the truth, are you saying it in love? Are you communicating CLEARLY and offering the right image(s) to your listener? If so, then you have to freedom to use whatever word(s) you deem necessary to get that point across in that manner.

    (This is FUN!)

    By Anonymous Andrew Short, at Monday, May 22, 2006 1:20:00 PM  

  • Andrew:

    Did I ever tell you you're brilliant? :) Well, let this be the first time of many if I have not.

    You raise some good points. I like what C.S. Lewis had to say about it for sure. I was listening to a couple of sermons over the past two days where John Piper used the word "damned" a couple of times, but I have to think that he was doing so in the same way that Lewis was -- he meant what he said.

    At the same time, using certain words can often come across as unnecessarily crass, rude, and obnoxious, as well as thoughtless. A couple of good questions to ask ourselves before we say such a word (or anything really, as you have well noted):

    1.) Is what I am saying building up others and giving grace to them, or is it doing the opposite?

    2.) Are we striving to do what is honorable in everyone's sight, and, as far as it is up to us, to live peaceably with all?

    Mark Driscoll, the "cussing pastor" that Donald Miller refers to, I have to think goes over the line at times, and in fact, frequently. This has been a topic as of late in the blogosphere, especially with Tim Challies doing a review of Driscoll's latest book. *WARNING*- previous link not for the faint of heart! I would have to say that it is pretty clear that Driscoll was being unnecessarily vulgar and inappropriate.

    With all that said, I do think there is a place for such a word as "damn" or "Hell" as long as they are used properly. Like you said, if by "damn" we mean "eternal condemnation" then it is not misused unless we're being blasphemous with it (such as inserting the word God in front of it with a slight modification). Hell of course refers to a place of eternal torment, and when used in such a way, then it too is appropriate.

    However, some words and phrases, as a general rule (and this will vary depending on what part of the world you happen to be in at the moment) ought to be avoided just because they would clearly not be useful for building up or for peace as Ephesians and Romans command that we do. It's just not worth me being the offense and taking away from the Gospel for me to use that kind of language.

    Besides, as you said above, taking the time to think about it makes you appear more intelligent anyway. :)

    David Hewitt

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Monday, May 22, 2006 9:23:00 PM  

  • I'd like to add that we also need to cater to our weaker brothers and sisters (per Romans 14). For example, certain words might be an accurate description of our life before Christ, but if they offend our brothers or sisters, then we shouldn't use them.

    By Blogger Helene Hewitt, at Monday, May 22, 2006 10:15:00 PM  

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