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How to Think About an Emerging Issue: Is Some Profanity OK?

It has become cool among Christians who are emerging adults to differentiate between words that take the name of the Lord and those that culture considers profane. The emerging view is that the latter is not forbidden by the Scripture.

How are to think about this?

John Piper recently used a word that would be considered coarse. He then publically expressed regret.  Tim Challies covers it here. He links to Wayne Grudem’s letter that Dr. Grudem wrote in response to Dr. Piper.

I reject the distinction of emerging adults that there are two different types of profane words: forbidden and acceptable. Why? Ephesians 4:29 says that no unwholesome talk is to come out of our mouths. The word is the word for garbage. A few verses later Paul (and God say) that there is to be Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

In these verses God is forbidding garbage talk, dirty talk. But, the question will be asked, is not such talk culturally defined? Aren’t all things that are culturally defined, relative?

No. In fact, certain cultural things are in fact sinful. Scripture says love is not rude (1 Corinthians 13:5). But rudeness is culturally defined. While a child might be disciplined for burping at the table in America, a child might be disciplined for not burping after a meal in another culture. I think both parents would be right to discipline.

A loving heart will express itself by what the culture says is acceptable – burping or not burping. Similarly, certain words are profane. Those very words may not be profane in another culture. But our culture they are coarse. They are considered garbage.

Bottom line: Should emerging adults curse to get the attention of those around them? To make a point?  Love is not rude, even in coarse language.

P.S. You should talk to your children about this. You would be surprised at the number of facebook posts that include the words like: scr***, cr**, s****, etc. Trust me. Talk with your teen through this issue. Get their feedback. I think you will be surprised.

Updated 4/2/2011 – As usual, Doug Wilson has some provocative things to say here.

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