the tendency of so many pastors lately to employ profanity, crude and obscene words, vile subject matter, carnal topics, graphic sexual imagery, erotic language, and filthy jokes. Most of you, I know, are aware of the trend I’m talking about. I’m tempted to call it the pornification of the pulpit. The justification usually given is that coarse language and sexual themes are the tools of contextualization. It’s a way to make us sound more relevant. Lots of voices in the church are insistent that this is absolutely essential if we want to reach certain segments of our culture.
It is a clear, vigorous presentation of the case for “sound words” and we would do well to consider it carefully. Mark Driscoll is plainly referenced (consider his sermon at a Desiring God conference on the topic of words, How sharp the edge?), as is Ed Young Jr (of the seven-day sex challenge fame), though they are not simply lumped together. Phil has answered some of the brouhaha over at Pyromaniacs, making plain that – while he thinks that Mark has a case to answer – the sermon is not merely an assault on him. There he makes clear that he has sought to address his concerns personally with Mark, and was clearly not particularly impressed with his response.
These are not insignificant issues: the Scriptures are full of instruction with regard to our tongues, our mouths, our words, our speech. The significance of speech, not least with regard to sin and holiness, is a prominent theme of God’s Word. We would do well to consider the relevant Scriptural principles, not simply to line up behind Johnson or Driscoll from our predetermined positions or as a member of a fanbase. We must consider what God says, heed the careful counsel given by those appointed to teach, meditate on the truth concerning our words, and seek to be holy as God is holy. When it comes to our words, which of us can say anything but this?
“Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6.5)
Update: Rich Barcellos has some thoughts on the language of the New Testament.