Puritan Board Junior
Never thought of it this way before. Now, I'm not saying that I'm going to start dropping four letter words left and right, but it does seem to set some things in perspective: Steadfast Lutherans » Using Foul Language in a Fair Way
Note this from the article:
Note this from the article:
The first argument goes, rather simply, that the Bible says that we shouldn’t use foul language. What counts as foul language? Here the argument depends upon the notion that there is an agreed-upon list of bad words. Of course, the list isn’t as agreed upon as many would like to think. For example, “****” made the list in our house, but it didn’t make conservative Evangelical preacher, Chuck Swindoll’s. The verse that’s usually pointed trumped out is Ephesians 4:29, which in the KJV reads: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth but that which is good to the use of edifying that it may minister grace to the hearers”.
The KJV contains an unfortunate translation of this verse. The way it is translated implies that there is something inherently corrupt about the words used. But Paul is quite clearly not talking about words which are themselves inherently corrupt but instead words which do the corrupting of others. Many versions translate it the same as the KJV (NIV, NRSV, RSV, NASB to name a few). Quite ironically, however, they don’t translate the second half of the verse in the same way. They all say – in effect – “that which is good for edifying”. Now if they were consistent with the first part of the translation they would translate it as “edifying words” or something similar, which would imply that there are words that are inherently edifying instead of words which have to be used in edifying ways. No one is edified simply by saying lots of Christian-associated words like “grace” “God” or “Jesus” (Perhaps you’ve seen those green and white bumper stickers which simply say “Jesus”. I always think, ‘Yeah, what about him?’ It makes him look like he’s running for office or something). None of these words are not inherently edifying, they have to be used that way. We seem to understand this when it comes to encouraging someone, but somehow we don’t think the same about discouraging or “bad” words. Here, we have a list. And the mere mention of a word from that list at any time, according to many Christians, is tantamount to corruption. Why? Well, they’re just bad words and your not supposed to say them. Is there any biblical support for this? Of course! Ephesians 4:29. And so the circle continues…
Thankfully, the ESV gets it right. Rather than “corrupt talk”, the translation reads: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” This translation discourages the reading that there are words which are inherently corrupt. The words are not spoken of as being corrupt in themselves, rather to qualify they have to corrupt somebody. Paul’s point is: Don’t use words to harm others, not: Don’t use “harm” words (i.e. words from the naughty list). The difference (again) is between using words which are already corrupt vs. using words for the purpose of corrupting. How we decide what words these are depends on the effect they have on the listener not whether or not they are on an arbitrary, predecided list of words.
Understanding Ephesians 4:29 this way doesn’t support the idea of the list. It means that vulgar words like any other words can be used for harm or for edification. Suppose I am caught in a real bout of spiritual despair and am not putting faith in Christ but dwelling on my failures (a form of self-righteousness in its own right) and a fellow believer sees me in this state and says, “D*** it, John, quit trusting in yourself and look to Christ. What the **** can overcome the new life you have in Christ?” Are these not words which edify? Perhaps I have been shaken by the seriousness of his/her plea through the use of strong language in a way that I might not have without these words. Since I was not corrupted by what was said, but was encouraged to flee in faith to Christ, then what was said (vulgarity and all) qualifies as “words which are useful for edifying” and not “corrupting talk”.