Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Profanity, Cussing, and Christians

A while back I was at a Bible study where, if I were to summarize the point, we studied the justification for cussing. It was one of the most frustrating Bible studies I have ever attended. How can one take the clear statement of Paul in Ephesians 5 and make it mean nothing - or the very opposite? Positions in the group ranged from situational ethicists to ultra-conservative to Christian libertarianism to utter liberality (without much Christian consideration).

Hardest to refute, for me, at the time was the question of definition. Who defines which words are profane, and which jokes are coarse? And if the majority culture decides, what does that do to Christian absolutism - let alone the call not to be like the world? I believe that the cultural inacceptability of certain words and topics is a remnant of a spiritual life in this civilization, not part of the 'rudiments of the world' to which Christians should not be conformed. It is obvious, at least, that profanity is usually associated with non-Christian cultures.

The Pyromaniacs give a refutation of this point at their blog, using the thrust and context of Paul's words in Ephesians 5. Phil Johnson says that cussing is the emblem of the godless brotherhood. In lieu of real Christian community, their weak substitute for love is this commonality built on treating sacred things lightly and good things badly and modest things crassly. Of such things they talk. For such talk they laugh. Paul was discouraging us from settling. I prefer the edification of a loving assembly that urges me to align my perspective with God's. Not that we cannot make jokes! We were made to laugh! But laughter is crude that pokes fun at that which God has called serious. Lightness in conversation leads to lightness in living.

I've said enough for one post. Read Team Pyro's blog on cussing. I tell you, it's good. And read my next post. Comment, too. I am interested in discussion. Rules here are that comments may not contain any foul language.

To God be all glory.


comatosesoul said...

Unless we are talking about two different bible studies, your summary ‘justification for cussing’ seems very disingenuous. The topic started with a discussion of Titus 2:7-8 augmented by Ephesians 5:3-5. I believe I may have even brought up the sermon about the pornification of the pulpit, given by the author of the blog you reference.

Justification was in the extreme minority. My goal was for people to move their focus inward (and upward – towards Christ.) I am personally frustrated by those who continue to focus outward, those who have defined for themselves what is right and what is wrong and stand in judgment against their brothers. I remember no point in Matthew where we are instructed to preach against our brothers.

The four popular arguments given by Phil Johnson are laughable. These are arguments I’ve never heard from any believer I know. Nor do I remember covering any of the four at this particular bible study. He goes on to associate Ephesians 5:3-6 to specific words (I’m sure he has a list in mind.) Ephesians 5 is beautiful, and it is rich with meaning for me (and appears to be for you as well.) I take these verses very seriously. This is why I spend time on them. I am sure I fail repeatedly. But I continue to be baffled by how anyone can mutilate them into a list of unacceptable words for believers.

‘I believe that the cultural inacceptability of certain words and topics is a remnant of a spiritual life in this civilization…’

Inacceptability changes from century to century, from culture to culture. Words that are vulgar today were perfectly acceptable in the 16th Century. Phrases used in the UK might be considered dirty in America and vice-versa.

Maybe I am confused. I remember no one trivializing Ephesians 5. No attempts were made to erase the meaning of Ephesians 5. No one supported a message opposing Ephesians 5.

Lisa of Longbourn said...

I'm sure we are talking about the same Bible study. And while I'm willing to believe that your beliefs and intentions are as you said in your comment, my observations about how the discussion went that night are unchanged. If you did not know that was the impression I got, and how frustrated I was that night, I think it is good that you know now.

However, the point of mentioning that study was not to attack the study, but to springboard into a topic I believe is important for Christians to think about - and one that remains to be agreed upon as evidenced by the variety of positions presented during our discussion. And more importantly, we need to be challenged not to just have our beliefs come from what we're used to, but from diligent study and application of the word of God.

I admit you are correct when you say that acceptability changes with time. My point that cultural inacceptability of certain words is a remnant of a more godly history is not changed by that fact. Both can be true.

Posting this comment took so long because I'm not sure it was a comment on my blog as much as a letter to me. As such, I'm trying to handle it as a friend. Black and white person is frustrated by a less black and white person who won't confront her when he disagrees. I am rather confused at where I stand in our friendship, but am trying to do my best to be a good friend, just the same.

To God be all glory,