Thursday, February 15, 2007

Baby out with the bathwater?

The ‘Exiled Preacher’ presents his view regarding the matter of Christians and bad language, as I recently discussed here, and Alastair here and here.

EP writes:

“You may also find [bad language] 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 [don’t look at me like that!] 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”
It needs to be remembered, of course, that this proof-texter has something of a history of loosing arguments with me (cf. the inerrancy series), so keep that in mind...

However, among those of us who have consciously moved away from conservative Evangelicalism there is the constant danger of throwing the ‘baby out with the bathwater’. For example, I have noticed that not just a few from within the ‘emerging conversation’ are prone, once they rediscover the cosmic in the NT and learn that the individual’s relationship with Jesus is not the ‘be all and end all of everything’, to stop entirely speaking of and delighting in God with personal and relational language - as if it were unscriptural. But this is an overreaction. Personal language certainly exists, for example, in the Pauline letters in terms of the believer’s relation to the risen Lord – I’ve spent some exegetical space in my doctoral work showing just this.

And the same could be said in relation to inerrancy. Once it is accepted that, at the very least, a strong definition of inerrancy should be dropped, some loose practical respect for the scriptures and a sense of expectation when they read it.

Or mission is rediscovered such that it becomes less concerned with the mere propagation of a propositional message, and all of a sudden, personal evangelism is forgotten etc. etc.

So the question needs to be asked: Is the cuss-frenzy just another overreaction to an overly introspective and painfully individualised piety within conservative Evangelicalism, which in many cases (though not all) couldn’t see beyond its nose when it came to morality?

How do you respond to EP’s argument, and especially his proof-texts?
As it is getting late, I will keep my musings to a sentence and leave the rest for the comments: I think the word ‘context’ is extremely important to remember.


At 2/16/2007 12:08 AM, Anonymous Jim said...

EP is right. I dont know who he or she is, or where from, or anything. But the meaning of those passages is exactly on point.

(watching cyber cred deteriorate but I don't care!)


At 2/16/2007 1:13 AM, Anonymous Chris T. said...

I think your point is a good one, Chris. That was certainly my reaction as I left the LCMS, and it's taken several years to recover that reverence for Scripture and that concern to be a good disciple of Christ without all the baggage from before. And talking about my love for Jesus without feeling like it refers to Cardboard WWJD Jesus. Praying the Office has helped a lot with this, though.

I suppose I see "bad" language as akin to eating pork. Should we use bad language (eat pork) in front of people for whom it will cause problems of discipleship? No. Should we be aware of the fact that using bad language (eating pork) regularly will make it harder for us to be sensitive to those for whom it is a problem? Yes. Should we use that language (eat that pork) in moderation because of this? Yes. Is it an evil thing for which we'll be sent to hell? I don't think so.

That cartoon is hilarious, BTW.

At 2/16/2007 2:42 AM, Anonymous One of Freedom said...

Good point about the reaction of many to new and renewed insights. I have often described the Church as a big pendulum swinging from one extreme to another. It is hard when you jump on to not get thrown to the extremes with the big pendulum. As for the course talk even despite contextual concerns there is definitely a use of langauge that is inappropriate - that of using language to inflict violence on another. Everything else is really a grey area IMHO.

At 2/16/2007 9:17 AM, Anonymous Exiled Preacher said...

Why did you think that I was getting at you? Is is because you are the baddest potty mouth-est ex-fundie blogger in cyberspace? If the cap fits....

I do wonder if swearing has become some some kind membership badge for the liberated ex-fundie brigade. A new perspective on swearing?

Good that my broadside has made you reflect on this issue afresh.

By the way, I didn't loose the inerrancy agrument just becasue hardly anyone agreed with me. Exiled Preacher contra mundi! Why d'you think they exiled me?


At 2/16/2007 10:20 AM, Anonymous Simon Hardwick said...

E.P. wrote: Is is because you are the baddest potty mouth-est ex-fundie blogger in cyberspace?

And the rest..!

I second that..I know from personal experience!


At 2/16/2007 11:30 AM, Anonymous MadPriest said...

The categorising of language into good and bad is just another example of the middle classes patronising the working classes.

At 2/16/2007 12:34 PM, Anonymous Exiled Preacher said...


Isn't it a bit patronising to suggest that the working classes are foul mouthed while the middle classes are pure of tongue?

I know plenty of working class people who hate bad language and plenty of potty mouthed middle class types.

Aren't you confusing "correct" pronunciation with bad language?

At 2/16/2007 4:52 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Thanks CT, that makes sense, as does your comment, Frank.

Guy wrote: "By the way, I didn't loose the inerrancy agrument just becasue hardly anyone agreed with me."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHahahahahha ehu. Ha.


*tears stream down face*

No, that's right, you really didn't loose that argument.


At 2/17/2007 12:35 AM, Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

I think it clear that Paul sometimes swore and I gave a few examples on Exiled Preacher's blog. However, I think the point of pendulum swinging is an excellent one. Bad language is, at minimum, rude. Much of it tears people down (I think of foul terms for women based on sexual body parts, but other terms do the same things for all people), or connects violence and sex (all the F-bomb related terms), or condemns people to hell, etc.

Even the scatalogical terms (feces related) that come to my lips too often when angry are rude and keep me from exercising discernment. They can also get in the way of reconciliation between folks.

So even if the Bible isn't as anti-"cussing" as Exiled Preacher seems to think, we do need to watch over-reactions.

At 2/17/2007 12:52 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Simon, I deny everything!

Michael, that is a really good point, thanks. I wonder too if Paul's words to the circumcision was also in the dodgy direction?! (Galatians 5:12 I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!)


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