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Profanity

October 2, 2006

Today I have something on my mind that is not directly related to unity but hopefully will provide food for thought.

Deu 5:11 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

Eph 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Eph 5:4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

Rom 3:12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
Rom 3:13 “Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
Rom 3:14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”

Col 3:8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.


As the passages above illustrate, the scriptures have quite a lot to say about the sin of profanity. Yet we are surrounded by it everywhere we go. Christians must be different in this area, and must make a difference. We should not even have a hint of profanity in our language.

Strangely, most profanity involves words related to just a few things–mainly: illicit sex, bodily excretions, and God. (I feel uneasy even enumerating those three things in the same list!) The words are usually introduced into conversation without regard for their dictionary meaning, as a means of emphasizing something, generally as an expression of emotion. Such an utterance is called an expletive. When words having holy meaning are dragged into this kind of filthy conversation, the result is blasphemy. This kind of filth should not be coming from the lips of a Christian. And it should not be comfortable for a Christian to listen to it, whether in person or in the media.

Here is one of my pet peeves. There is another class of expletives that is derived from the former. These are slight variants of the standard profane words or phrases, which are used as substitutes for the more direct profanity in “polite company.” I am talking about expletives like dang, darn, heck, freakin’, cotton pickin’, gee whiz, golly, shoot, son-of-a-gun…and many more. You get the picture. It does not take a linguistic genius to tell where these words came from. Speaking in this manner lowers our resistance to the more overt profanity. I believe the latter terminology is every bit as inappropriate for Christian lips as the former.

Pro 17:27 A man of knowledge uses words with restraint,
and a man of understanding is even-tempered.

Jam 5:12 Above all, my brothers, do not swear-not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.

A wise and righteous man does not need to add expletives to his language to emphasize. And he does not need to swear to demonstrate that he is telling the truth. The very idea of swearing suggests that when the speaker is not swearing, his word cannot be trusted.

Words and sayings that were once regarded as profanity are becoming accepted in the common vernacular. And profanity itself is becoming more and more acceptable. Christians must make a conscious effort not to be conformed to the world in this area.

Matt 12:34b Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

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13 comments

  1. Alan-I always appreciate your posts. I read in the Christian Chronicle the other day that David Faust, President of Cincinnati Christian, a Christian Church school, will be appearing at Freed-Hardeman soon to have a public “discussion” with one of the professors there. What is your take on this? Faust is walking into a lion’s den, it seems to me. I wonder what will happen and come out of it. Just wondering your thoughts. Maybe a post would be good?!Keep up the good work, brother.Kent


  2. Hey Kent,Thanks for pointing this out. I checked out the Freed Hardeman site and found this.Search down the page for “FHU TO HOST CHURCH UNITY DISCUSSION”Here is a quote that clarifies what FHU is looking for from this:”I would like for us to be able to worship together again and work together again. And I would like to think that, for the sake of unity, they (the Independent Christian Churches), would lay the instrument aside.” — Dr Ralph GilmorePerhaps the instrumental churches would be willing to lay aside instruments during those occasions when the two groups are together. And perhaps the non-instrumentalists would accept that as sufficient for them to embrace one another as brothers and sisters.


  3. Alan-I hope that we can find some audio on this after it happens. My hope is that both parties look upon this as an opportunity for dialogue and progess and getting to know one another. My fear is that the people from FHU will not be too nice to Faust.


  4. Alan, Touchy subject and well said. What (and how) we say things is an overflow of the heart. Our speech can reflect self-discipline, kindness, anger, deficiant bible vocabulary, etc… I will be on alert for this in my own words. Thanks. PhilRestorationUnity.com


  5. Alan and Kent, I am on the Board of Trustees at Freed-Hardeman. I assure you that David will be treated with the utmost kindness. I am suprised you think otherwise. Have you ever been there? It is the friendliest campus in the world. (Yes, I am biased ;-), but outsiders often say it as well.) Will his logic be challenged? Yes, but Ralph is a complete gentleman and will treat David well. My hope is that the same discussion will occur on one of their campuses instead of a useless, teary eyed exchange of Bibles. It will be recorded (and videoed) Email me when it is over and I will tell you how to get a copy. brettpharr@yahoo.com


  6. Hello Brett,Thank you for dropping by. I am very encouraged by the willingness of the two groups to get together and talk about obstacles to unity. I pray that it will result not only in talk but also in solutions and a resolve to pursue those solutions.I understand why some people think that a “teary-eyed exchange of Bibles” might be useless. But I disagree. There are not only logical barriers, but also emotional barriers to unity. I am glad people are pursuing unity on both fronts.


  7. Brett-I am sorry if I came off negatively toward FHU. I apologize. I have known several people from FHU and they have all been of the highest character.I do wish that you didn’t feel as though the Bible exchange at the NACC was meaningless. Just like I have never been to FHU and shouldn’t rush to judgment based upon reputation, I wish that you would not do the same unless you were there. I was there. The goodwill that was built all week was manifest in that exchange. Was it forced and hokey? A little. It was a moving, symbolic event, though.My main hope for your event at FHU is that you all will discuss the primary issue, one that Alan has highlighted many times on this blog. The main issue is not instrumental music or missionary societies. The main issue is how the different groups interpret scripture and how they view the issue of silence. Good luck.Kent


  8. What a great news item. (FHU)I’m sure that instruments can be laid aside while the two groups meet together. Look at the work Stadia has done in this area. When a church is planted with CoC and Independent Christian Church members, it is non-instrumental.Look forward to hearing how the meeting goes.On an extremely irrelevant side note, Alan, I realize that euphemisms are a pet peeve of yours. Other languages allow you say the same thing as ‘sam hill’ or ‘cotton-picken’ without being profane. But that’s the English degree in me coming out.


  9. Pink, can you explain what you mean by, “Other languages allow you say the same thing as ‘sam hill’ or ‘cotton-picken’ without being profane”? Alan, you said, “A wise and righteous man does not need to add expletives to his language to emphasize. And he does not need to swear to demonstrate that he is telling the truth.”These appear to be situations where someone has deliberately chosen their words to make their point. But I find that I use the “lesser expletives” in times of emotion – anger, frustration, pain or shock. In other words, not explicitly chosen – more of a fight or flight response. I wish I could say that I am spiritual enough that I would never say such things, but often it is after the initial strong reaction that I am able to calm down.


  10. Pinakidion,There are non-profane examples of expletives (maybe Yikes!, Wow!, etc). The main things t I’m protesting are the ones that are derived from vulgarities. I don’t think that is a grey area. But maybe it’s just me.


  11. Alan:What I am saying is that in instances where someone is trying to express emphasis, the English language only allows the use of a profanity.To say, “Give me that (emphatic adjective) ball.” in another language, the emphatic adjective would not be a profane word. Think of it as translating from Greek or Hebrew to English – it’s not word for word.Profanity is using taboo words that usually refer to excretions, sex, or blasphemy. However, in some languages, like Japanese, profanity is expressed by addressing someone in the incorrect social class. There are no euphemisms that I am aware of, you utter something profane or you do not. Our profanities in English simply do not translate at all.Profanity is wrong in every language, regardless of its context. My point was that in English we use euphemisms because there is not really another option besides the option to never express emphasis. Other times, it is clearly profane to take an oath, throw curses on ourselves and others, etc. Again, I’m not talking about those instances.Just food for thought, I understand where you are coming from and I think it’s great.BTW – yikes has an unknown source, so it may have once been a profanity along the lines of ‘Gee’, ‘Gosh’, or ‘darn’, but it may not have been. This leads into a question of whether or not a word is profane is the speaker does not know it is profane. ‘Wow’ comes for a Scottish word about 200 years ago, it is uncertain if ‘Wow’ was originally a Scottish profanity.For those that wonder, being a former Pharisee, I had, at one time, set down the ‘law’ for what was profane and what was not, especially as I swore very frequently in my pre-Christian days.


  12. This is all way too funny. To think that the unity argument is all about the Church of Christ and the Christian Church is about as arrogant as thinking that Christianity is all about the Church of Christ. Would somebody please go read the bible and get over yourselves.


  13. Terry,You misunderstand what we’re doing here. The Restoration Movement is an effort to unite all Christians. Until we can be united within the Restoration Movement there is little chance to unite beyond that point.



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