Thank you for your concerns about some of the language you've heard in our teaching. John has offered a few thoughts we feel will help you understand our perspective, addressing it within a larger context:
First off, there is Christianity, and then there is Christian culture. They are not the same.
Various Christian cultures have, for example, condemned going to movies or dancing, and condemned them strongly. People raised in those cultures felt it was obvious that such activities were ungodly. Yet the Bible does not condemn either. That was a matter of culture, not Christianity.
Second, modern Christian culture has become very sanitized and very religious. But the Bible is neither sanitized nor religious. It uses very strong language, sometimes very graphic language, when a strong point needs to be made. For example, when Paul is writing his warnings about the "Judaizers" (the sect that wanted Christians to be circumcised and obey the law), Paul has such strong convictions on the subject (as God does), he says that he wishes these men would go the whole way and cut their penis off:
"I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves." (Gal. 5:12 NASB)
"I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!" (NKJV)
"I only wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves." (NLT)
"Cut their penis off" is a very clear meaning. But Bible translators—and more often, Christian publishers—do their best to try to soften something God felt very comfortable putting in his Bible. "Cut their penis off" is right there, in the New Testament. But I bet a pastor would be fired for saying that from the pulpit—which demonstrates what I mean that we have become so sanitized and religious we think such strong language is unChristian. Yet it is right there, penned by the Holy Spirit himself!
Another example is the use of the Greek word skubalon. Paul uses it in Philippians 3:8.
"What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ..."
Skubalon is translated here as "garbage." It is actually a slang word, a graphic, strong word that should be translated "shit" or "dogshit." Used right here in the Bible to make a strong point. By God.
So we have to begin any conversation about the use of "language" or "swearing" with an understanding of what the Bible contains and what Christian culture has sanitized.
Allow me two more examples of the "sanitizing" of Christianity from the Song of Songs:
"His arms are rods of gold
set with topaz.
His body is like polished ivory
decorated with lapis lazuli." (5:14)
The Hebrew meaning here for “body” is actually penis. But the Christian publishing houses just couldn’t risk using the English word that best says what the Bible means. This happens in chapter seven too, but the subject is a woman’s body:
"Your navel is a rounded goblet
that never lacks blended wine.
Your waist is a mound of wheat
encircled by lilies." (7:2)
The “navel” being referred to is not a belly button; it is her vagina. But again, if a pastor were to preach that, he’d be fired from most churches.
The point I am making is that we cannot have a proper conversation about language or swearing unless we first address two things:
- The Bible uses very graphic language and sometimes very harsh and strong language—language most Christians would consider shocking—when God wants to drive home a strong point. In fact, when you add to this the number of very graphic stories in both Old and New Testaments about rape, incest, murder, prostitution, drunkenness, orgies, and more, you realize the Bible is an R-rated book. Not PG. Not G-rated. God's holy Scriptures.
- It is Christian culture that has sanitized and scrubbed out all such language from the Christian life and even from Bible publishing.
Just as previous Christian cultures felt that playing cards were an immediate sign of ungodly behavior, we now have a Christian culture that has taught us all swearing is obviously ungodly. But is that based in the full counsel of Scripture, or is it based in our Christian culture?
Now, this leaves room for conversation about what is inappropriate for certain audiences, and the issues of the motive of the speaker and the condition of the heart come into play too.
We do not believe in nor do we support using swear words in a careless and caustic manner.
We do believe that sometimes strong language is necessary to drive home a strong point—just as the Bible does.
We hope this helps in understanding where we are coming from.