Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bad language disdain

Shun evil companions; bad language disdain;
God's Name hold in reverence, nor take it in vain;
Be thoughtful and earnest, kind-hearted and true;
Look ever to Jesus and He will carry you through.
(Horatio Richmond Palmer, 1834-1907)
This verse from the hymn Yield not to temptation, seems positively quaint and old fashioned. This is especially the case with the admonitions of the first line. Surely evangelicalism has outgrown such simple pieties! I propose that we rewrite the opening line so that we can sing it in all good conscience today,
Hang out with the worldly; bad language proclaim;
God's Name hold in reverence, nor take it in vain;
I left the second line unaltered becasue I suppose that most Christians still think blasphemy is wrong. But it is difficult to get away from swearing these days. You will hear it on the streets and in films and TV dramas. You will read it in serious newspapers and contemporary novels. You may also find it on the lips of Christians and read it in their blogs. It seems to me (I say this to their shame) that some "liberated" ex-fundie believers glory in using swear words. However, the Bible seems to forbid the use of such language. I know that I will have damaged my cyber cred by quoting Scripture, but I just can't help myself,
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)
neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks (Ephesians 5:4)
But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth (Colossians 3:8)
Call me a proof- texter, I don't care. These verses have something to say on Christians using swear words - that we must not! This is F. F. Bruce's comment on the first verse I cited, "foul language of any kind is inappropriate on the lips of those who confess Christ as Lord." Bruce was hardly a fundie firebrand now was he?
For Paul, swearing belonged to the old, pre-Christian life of believers. The old man must be put off and the new man put on. I can identify with this because I used to swear a lot before I became a Christian. I could have made even the most "liberated" believer blush. But the Lord put a new song in my mouth and I learned not to swear.
If you think about it, most swear words fall into a couple of categories, they demean body parts (you know which ones) or they refer to the sex-act. Why should believers mock God-given, but "unrepresentable" parts of the body? Has not God given greater honour to these parts? (1 Corinthians 12:23 & 24). Such swearing is tantamount to a Docetic loathing of the flesh. Sex is one of God's good gifts, designed to be enjoyed in the purity of the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4). Why, then do Christians casually use the "F" word? How can that be squared with the intimate language of the Song of Solomon? What are we thinking? As for rude words about bodily waste, just grow up! Is it not the case that in using bad language, Christians are being conformed to the world rather than transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2)?
Now I know that there are worse sins than swearing and that a Christian may never swear, but be a hypocrite in other areas of his life. It is also the case that language can be used abusively without resorting to swear words. But is this really an excuse for swearing? Our speech is meant to impart grace to the hearers, not to needlessly offend. This appplies to our blogging too. Horatio Richmond Palmer was right, bad language disdain!
Comments that include swear words will be deleted, so don't even think about it!

10 comments:

Gary Brady said...

That's a good article. Get someone to publish it in a mag. ;-)

Exiled Preacher said...

Who would publish it?

Dave Shedden said...

I'm just being provocative with this comment - but, how do you explain Paul's references to castration and dung? Can we assume that these examples are 'holy' bad language?

Exiled Preacher said...

Dave,

Fair comment. Presumably Paul didn't think that he was using filthy language when he referred to castration and dung. I'm not arguing for prudishness, but that Christians should avoid "swear words".

Gary Brady said...

Don't the PTS have a magazine?

Exiled Preacher said...

They do and they should be publising an article by me on the mission of the PTS sometime soon. But I'm not sure that this post would be appropriate for the mag. ;-)

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Didn't Paul himself sometimes use language that would be considered "foul" in our day? He called some folks "dogs," which, for his day would have been the equivalent of the female dog swear-word of our day. Also, how is "dung," different from "shit?" The latter was just the ordinary English term for feces until the Normans made the French-based "manure" the term for polite (read "rich") society.

Also, didn't Paul suggest that those who preach a different gospel than his should be damned? Isn't that cursing?

I think bad language is rude and should normally be avoided, but you raise it to a higher matter than seems biblically justifed.

Exiled Preacher said...

Michael,

As I said in a previous comment, I'm not arguing for prudishness. The Bible uses provocative language as in the examples you suggested. See also Ezekiel 16. But that is not the same as the casual swearing that some believers indulge in today.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

E.P., I certainly agree with your last comment about casual "cussing." We Christians can be very harmful with our words: The term "fundamentalist" can be used in a proper, descriptive, non-pejorative fashion, but is too often simply a slur. That is only one of many examples.

Exiled Preacher said...

Michael,

Like accusing someone of "proof texting" for quoting the Bible!

Guy