Contend Earnestly: More Stuff/Crap About Vulgar Language

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More Stuff/Crap About Vulgar Language

As I continue to take a deeper look into what this means to use vulgarity and what it means to try and understand coarse language, I think there is something that is missing in this understanding. What I, and what I suppose Tripp, Driscoll and Piper are saying, and what I know Tim Lien is saying, is that vulgar language is not always used nor appropriate. What I am not going to do is walk around and just start to use vulgar language for the sake of doing so under my liberty. For the sake of stereotyping, I am not going to become a drunken sailor. :)

The idea behind language is to know the hearer. This is really just another understanding of contextualization. This does not mean that if I am standing with folk that like to cuss for the sake of cussing that I just join in. But, what I am saying is that if I am with a crass crowd that think they are doing just fine in their walk in life, it will make more sense to use some coarse language for them to understand their plight. Meaning. I would show them how their righteous deeds are like bloody tampons (Isaiah 64:6); that Paul counted all things that he did in the flesh as "s____"; that their idols in their life are like them being whores and sluts instead of submitting to the authority of the Creator (all of Isaiah,Jeremiah, Ezekiel).

Does this mean that I sit in front of my 4 and 5 year old and talk to him in the same way? No, of course not. Does this mean that I stand in front my church and preach this in the same way? Some of the above would be worth it, not all of it though. Am I going to tell a mother that has come out of a divorce, hooked on drugs and knows she needs a redeemer that she is a whore after other gods? No. I have to know my listeners. This is how Christ and the prophets all did it as they exclaimed the word of God. The listeners had a huge role in what ways the gospel was pronounced. So, with the righteous people Christ used very coarse language and word pictures, but with the woman at the well, it was done with more "soft" wording for her to see the water that never runs dry. I also will not use words that I know someone finds offensive if we are just having a conversation. Again, important to know the hearer.

I think the biggest fear of most people that see these types of posts is the fear that I am going to give out a license to cuss. That is not what any of us are saying. We are saying that any time we publicly speak things we know to be vulgar, or coarse, this is to be bathed in prayer for understanding and to behold the glory of God in it. The reason for any type of vulgarity or coarse language is the same reason for vulgarity and coarse language in the Scriptures: to awaken the hearers out of their dullness.

If we take a stand against vulgarity and coarse language for the fear of licentiousness then we should go ahead and do the same with the grace of the cross. The reason I say this is that a lot of people hate when pastors focus in on grace and forgiveness because they are afraid you are going to give people a license to just sin and ask for forgiveness. But, we must not be scared to preach biblically for the fear of what sinners might do with the message. Remember what Paul says, "Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!" We must preach the message of the Scriptures under the fear of our God. The whole counsel of God is to be preached, not just what we find to be useful or appropriate. I start to wonder if we really believe 2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
2 Timothy 3:16

There is a time to preach and teach the vulgarity of sinfulness. There is a time to use terms that will awaken the hearer to their plight. We must contextualize the gospel so that all will hear and awaken. We must also not just use vulgarity for the sake of vulgarity. We must use only what is deemed permissible in the Scriptures to awaken the hearer, even if culture would screech at such word usage.

I am guessing that no one in culture would like to hear the following:

19 Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt. 20 There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. 21 So you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when in Egypt your bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled.
Ezekiel 23:19-21

We must use discretion when to use Ezekiel and when to use Christ's words to the woman at the well, as there was nothing vulgar or coarse in his language, yet it penetrated the woman:

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
John 4:13-14

This is why it is not an easy job to preach and teach the gospel of our Lord. He doesn't tell us when to use Ezekiel and when to use more subtle and soft language. Maybe this is why Paul exhorts us to "pray unceasingly." Maybe this is why the early church instituted that they could "devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word."


Tim said...

Excellent words...and what a *higher* standard for communication. It seems that this would be at the height of being pastoral. If anything we are corralling *all* words to be subsumed/consumed with the expression of God's Word to its hearer. It requires widom, discernment of the most sensitive caliber. Like Driscoll, this discusssion has really prompted personal repentance, re-examination of motives, and a renewed stubbornness to say unpleasant things for the glory of God. Many thanks for struggling through this and teaching me along the way. Grace and peace, Tim said...

"We must also not just use vulgarity for the sake of vulgarity."

Thanks for this article. I have had quite a number of discussions with friends about whether or not it is right to swear. These friends do swear; they say that it is in a social context, and language has morphed so that swearing is just an every day occurrence.

I myself do not swear; it's not that I'm trying to "be better" since that's not possible; but what I've tried to tell my friends is, as Christians we shouldn't be the same as the culture, and our speech should be different.

I'm glad you mentioned that we shouldn't be vulgar for the sake of being vulgar. I also agree with the idea that sometimes it's necessary to use more vulgar or shocking language to get the point across in witnessing. But I think that's where it should stop. I don't think Christians have a free license to swear just because of grace. I think we are called to be a holy nation, set apart - although it's difficult to explain such things without getting into the troubling lines hovering near legalism.

Sorry - I'm rambling now. :)

Thanks for the article!

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