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Profanity, The Last Word

May 20, 2006

1 Corinthians 13:5 “[Love] is not rude”

In addition to my previously posted four guiding principles for when not to use coarse language, let us remember that love is the fulfillment of the law.

Perhaps a coarse word does not blaspheme God, does not curse men, does not glorify sexual immorality, and does not express anger. Is it then always OK to say it? Of course not.

If the word has no defensible edifying potential, then it would be unloving to upset people for no good reason. And even if the word has defensible edifying potential, you still have to know your audience. Sometimes, probably most times, coarse language will obscure the communication of your message.

But I’ll never choose rules over reason for the sake of polite pragmatism. So that’s why I’ve insisted on thinking these things through. I think the most prudish of commentators should admit the possibility that sometimes, even if ever so rarely in their opinion, coarse language actually enhances communication. Paul certainly seemed to think so. If you’ve really got something to say, sometimes it’s worth administering a little shock to your audience in order to get heard.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. May 20, 2006 8:38 pm

    You yourself taught us just last week that “thinking logically” was Biblical. How could you then abandon the call of God to “reason together” with Him, in favor of a list of rules?

    Of course not! Polite pragmatism holds no sway over the children of God learning from their Father in Heaven what pleases Him.

  2. May 21, 2006 3:00 pm

    I think the most prudish of commentators should admit the possibility that sometimes, even if ever so rarely in their opinion, coarse language actually enhances communication. Paul certainly seemed to think so.

    I agree, and I think it is telling how frequently and with respect to what subjects Paul used “curiously strong language.(c)” [I just coined that term, too bad I didn’t say “Purpose Driven (c)” Language, hopefully I won’t have to pay any candy companies for it]

    As you identified, Paul talks this harshly about/to legal-ism/ists. And Jesus had some harsh words for the Pharisees. But those words were sparing compared to the rest of thier speech. This seems to affirms this principle of polite love.

  3. May 21, 2006 3:01 pm

    and one more thing…the template changed!


  4. May 22, 2006 5:26 pm

    another word about profanity, or more precisely vulgarity was shared over at Challies.

    Know that the link goes to a book review, which has some ‘raw’ quotations.

    A year ago I would have reacted w/ horror to a pastor saying the things quoted in the review of Driscoll’s book. Now I think a little differently about it.

    I do not mean to egg Mike on to post again on profanity…but the comments may continue. :)

  5. May 23, 2006 10:46 am

    I have it in my head that somewhere the Bible (probably Paul) says that the offense if the weakness of the offended. And yet, I am now unable to find it anywhere. Can anyone correct my recollection?

  6. May 23, 2006 10:53 am

    I’m guessing you’re thinking of Romans 14? Or maybe the Proverb that says it’s the glory of a man to overlook an offense?

  7. May 23, 2006 10:57 am

    I feel the need to explain that while the arguments against “cussing” is not completely dependent on remaining inoffensive (there’s also the stumbling of your brother), that *is* what their argument always seem to boil down to.

    Because anything else requires discernment, and they only want a clear set of rules to be enslaved by. Nevermind that they will resort to a self-righteous insistance that their list is the one true list if I tell them that I’m offended by their use of the word “slave” when they describe my addiction to profanity, it doesn’t matter. Because their argument isn’t about my mouth, it’s about their ears. And that is distinctly unbiblical.

  8. May 23, 2006 10:59 am

    I just looked at Romans 14, and didn’t see what I was looking for there. Maybe it was Proverbs, but I was thinking it was explicitly focused on the weakness of the offended. I’ll dig though Proverbs.


  9. May 23, 2006 1:58 pm


    I think I may see another point about the wrong-headed nature of judging by “offense.”

    Should not ethics be cast against the positive rather than the negative? In other words, instead of asking “when is it wrong?” asking “when is it right?”

    Now we look at edification rather than offense. I’m thinking that might have been Jesus’ methodology (ex):
    Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?(Lk 10:36)

  10. May 25, 2006 7:50 am


    Good point. It has been good for me to consider my words and actions in this light. Are they loving, or merely defensible? Am I motivated by caring for those around me and letting them in on the good friendship God and I have now, or by “looking good” and winning admiration by my ready wit.

    hmmmm… confessions of a reformed mocker?

  11. May 25, 2006 11:23 pm

    not a mocker who is Reformed, mind you….

    but a Mocker who is reformed…

  12. May 30, 2006 9:17 am

    not that I’m not Reformed as well, ya know….

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