29 January 2015

Watch your language, Guard your relationships

by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Phil back in October 2009. Phil offered his thoughts on Eph 5:3-6 and its application in our day.

As usual, the comments are closed.
We often hear people suggest that because the apostle Paul used the word skubalon, (translated fittingly as "dung" in the KJV), scatology has thereby been sanctified. Have at it. If Paul could say that, nothing should be taboo. Christians nowadays likewise try to justify even worse kinds of crudeness on the grounds that Paul spoke harshly and indelicately about the Judaizers in Galatians 5:12. (He hinted that since they believed circumcision makes a person holier, they ought to take their doctrine to the next level and emasculate themselves.) I've responded to those argumentsrepeatedly.

But notice what Paul himself said about lewd and off-color language. He classifies it as impurity in Ephesians 5:3-6, where he treats indecent language as one of several worldly substitutes for love. The Greek term Paul uses is akatharsia, a word that refers to every kind of filth and pollution—"uncleanness" in the KJV. Paul is talking about real spiritual uncleanness, not ceremonial defilement, but moral filth.

And when he gives some specific examples of akatharsia in verse 4, all of them have to do with the misuse of language: "obscenity," "foolish talk," and "coarse jesting." He is talking about the words we use, the things we talk about, and the spirit of our conversation. He covers all the bases.

Look at any of Satan's strongholds; any place where wickedness operates unrestrained; wherever you find a band of thieves or a federation of scoundrels—from the juvenile gangs that roam our streets to the old-men's club that hangs out at the neighborhood tavern. "Filthiness . . . foolish talk [and] crude joking" are always their main stock in trade. That's what will consume the leisure time they spend together. Because those are the main badges of fleshly fellowship, and that is the glue that substitutes for authentic love in virtually every worldly fraternity. That is exactly what Paul is describing, and he says, Don't let such things characterize your fellowship with one another.

In order to obey the principle Paul sets forth here, we need to be intentionally counter-cultural, because our culture values evil companionship much more than wholesome love. Have you ever considered the degree to which this is true? "Filthiness . . . silly talk, [and] coarse jesting" are virtually the trademarks of secular society. Vile language, crude subject matter, silly talk, and sheer folly are the main currency of the contemporary entertainment industry. The corrupt notion of brotherhood Paul is attacking here is exactly what most of our culture has substituted in the place of real love.

That's why movies are filled with dirty words and smutty themes. That's why contemporary comedy is so dependent on vile language and filthy subject matter to get a laugh. Situation comedies on television used to feature families and plot lines. Now they are shows about nothing dealing mainly with relationships between friends who are unmarried, unattached, and lacking any discernible direction in their lives. "Filthiness . . . foolish talk[, and] crude joking" describes about 99 percent of the content of programs like that.

Our culture insists those things are perfectly benign, but Paul says they are not. Carnal camaraderie is practically the antithesis of true, godly love. Crude language, filthy joking, and risque entertainment are "not fitting" for Christians. They have no place in the Christian's walk. Verse 12: "For it is a shame even to speak of those things which [they do in secret]." Keep those things out of your life. More than that, keep references to things like that out of your conversation, Paul says.

And notice this: he categorizes spicy talk about frivolous subject matter along with some of the most serious of all sins. Don't get addicted to that brand of language and humor, and especially don't allow that kind of companionship to characterize your own life.