Saturday, June 17, 2006

Authenticity or Hypocrisy: Who Decides?

I have been reading quite a bit lately on the postmodern turn, and specifically, the response of Christianity to this seeming change in the way people synthesize truth today. One of the basic postmodern trends we see today is a longing for authenticity. In church life, this means people want their leaders and services and everything else to be "real."

I just finished another book by Mark Driscoll, a brilliant if somewhat confused young pastor in the Seattle area. Mark is, for me, the perfect subject of the statement that "you have to hate him a lot not to love him a little." In fact, I appreciate him more than a little, and also hate a few things about him a lot. While I could write about how I agree with his "missional" emphasis, and how I enjoy his doctrinal tenacity, and appreciate his heart to see the Spirit (He calls him "God the Ghost") draw people to Jesus through the Gospel, I just want to discuss one little thing here briefly. I find it fascinating that, in this area of "authenticiy", one man's "realness" is another's "hypocrisy."

Mark makes no bones about the fact that he cusses. In his book "Blue Like Jazz", Donald Miller actually described Mark as the "cussing pastor." And while Mark occasionally suggests, with some subtlety, that maybe, perhaps, in a way, conceivably, it might be good for him to restrain himself a little more, it is clear from his own references to it that cussing is one of the ways that he shows the watching world that he's "real." And, while I am sure that to a certain segment of Mark's target audience, cussing demonstrates a certain earthy "authenticity" unlike the stoggy, tie-and-suited-preacher of their youth, for me rough, course, gutter speech used to further the Gospel message seems grossly hypocritical. Vulgarity for Jesus just doesn't seem right, somehow. Challenging hearers to live righteously while wearing profanity as a banner of authenticity puts Mark in the same camp with those preachers of yesteryear who said one thing while doing another. I guess some modernity has found its way into the postmodern camp after all.

But, lest this end with you thinking that I have it out for Mark, be assured that this is not the case. I think he's brilliant, and I believe God is using him in amazing ways to bring freedom and forgiveness to the broken in this world. I just wish he'd clean up his language. I don't think the use of gutter speech demonstrates the kind of authenticity a follower of Jesus Christ really wants.

What do you think?



At 12:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


I share your concern about profanity slipping into the life of a believer.

My perspective is that it is a matter of discipline. If I am unable to control my tongue, what else will I be unable to control.

If I want to relate to the unchurched, I will do it by shared experience (like talking about the latest episode of 24, or the challenges of life) not by adopting their lifestyle.

If I want to appear "real", it should be by actually caring about others, sharing their burdens and seeking their good (to the glory of God).

I think that the world knows what is really "real" and when they see it they are often pleased and impacted.

Mark (not Driscoll)

At 9:39 AM , Blogger Robert Campbell said...

Thanks David,

I don't recall Mark saying that cussing is one of the ways he is authentic. Can you point me to that page in the book?

The assumption, it seems, is that his language is unrighteous, which makes him a hypocrit in your opinion.

That could be a matter a significant discussion. Is the use of 4 letter words unrighteous? Do certain words for bodily functions that some have deemed profane make them such? Are these words forbidden in Scripture or just Christian culture?

I would doubt that Mark considers them unrighteous, though he does appear to see that they at times have a negative impact.

I don't use the select English profanity, though I have no theological reason for it. But, as a word guy, I appreciate the proper use of an explitive now and then.

Thanks for the thoughts.

At 12:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


It amazes me how Ephesians 4:29 can either be overlooked or how we can justify our behavior or even rationalize our words so that they don't seem to be in contrast to God's clear commands.

"Is the use of 4 letter words unrighteous? Do certain words for bodily functions that some have deemed profane make them such? Are these words forbidden in Scripture or just Christian culture?"

Are you kidding??? Of course they are! How much more clear could Paul have been? The only way he could have been more clear would be to use the very words he said Christians should not use!

How is that any different than someone in an affair asking..."Are certain bodily functions wrong or are they just deemed wrong and therefore we think they are wrong? Are these acts forbidden in Scripture or just Christian culture?"

God forbid that we reach that point! (If we haven't already).


At 4:36 PM , Blogger Robert Campbell said...

Scott, you did well to concede that Paul did not use those words in his inspired letter.

I consider it wise to stop where Paul stops. You may well argue that in our culture and language, certain words have unwholesome intent and are unwise to use. You may even argue that they cannot possibly be used in a righteous way. I would agree with both of these.

However, as a good Calvinist, I cannot call sin what the Scripture does not call sin. My application of "unwholesome talk" will never be authoritative. Calvin, I'm thinking of Institutes book 3 chapter 19 on liberty, fights for the liberty of those he does not agree with and then fights against those who turn their own reglations into legalistic applications.

Maybe you're right. But I dont think so. At any rate, I think you need to be careful when making black and white that which is nots so that the Gospel of Christ's sufficient death does not become confused with whether or not one says @%#&!. That was Calvin's concern and mine too.

At 10:02 AM , Blogger Robert Campbell said...

Got a funny thought.

If Paul had given a list of words as "unwholesome," we could use each one of them and not offend anyone in the 21st century U.S. Hmmm. Maybe the actual words aren't the point.

I think I'll start using σκύβαλον for emphasis in public conversation.

At 12:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding foul language, and many “other behaviors”…

I was raised better, I know better, yet I don’t do better.

I understand that I should keep my eyes on God, not on man. Yet, even at 41 years of age, with a responsible position in the community, financial stability, a beautiful family and all that I need, I still long for pastors to “set the example” for me.

Weak humans like myself will look to anything to justify our own wrong behavior. Don’t make it easy for us by using the same rotten language of the world.

DL in 92506

At 9:38 AM , Anonymous Sam Neylan said...

I thought you guys might find this interesting. It's from Todd Bolen's blog (he lives in Israel).

An Israeli Swear Word
The latest Caspari Center Media Review is out and includes this paragraph:

In a column explaining the monthly "hot" colloquialisms in Israeli culture, the business daily newspaper Globes (May 17) reports the frequent use of the words "Jesus Christ" (in English) as a term of frustration on the streets of Tel Aviv. Author Moran Sharir says, "It is heard so much (in Tel Aviv) that an outsider would think that that they were in born-again Christian territory." Sharir explains, "the way the words 'Jesus Christ' are mumbled indicates the level of annoyance." The author explains that if the irritation is at its highest level then "'Jesus Christ Almighty' is needed."
It is indeed interesting that very few Israelis know anything (accurate) about Jesus, but that so many use his name. Why is it that his name is so attractive as a swear word? Is there any irony that the Jewish people use his name in vain? I think that we can thank Hollywood for this export.

At 4:46 PM , Anonymous Denny Sullivan said...

So who decided what words were vile and sinful? Is there a list in the Bible somewhere? Did I miss the class on the theology of cussing? I would have taken it had it been offered so that I could look down my self-righteous, fundamentalist nose at those worse than me (those that are "darned" to hell).

Since the Bible is void of a list, here are my rules of cussing:
1. You must be 18 years or older to cuss. Since war is hell and you have to be 18 to fight in war...
2. You cannot cuss AT another person or use profanity to describe them (i.e. she's such a *&$%# or ____ you).
3. Words used to describe a sexual activity are not to be used. This cheapens the godly act between a husband and his wife.
4. Words used in a denigrating fashion of females or female body parts are off limits.
5. Don't include God's name in association with any cuss word.

Maybe we can get the list to ten rules, just to be consistent with the tablets of stone.

Happy cussing

At 1:51 PM , Blogger Scott DeJong said...

You're my hero..I've been looking for justification for bulls***. So thanks...
Also, if you could get some kind spiritual gift add on so that sarcasm could be a gift..I think I'd be all set.

Thanks for the insight

Scott DeJong

At 12:56 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

We tend to forget that some of the first disciples were fisherman. They were rough and tumble, near-to-the-earth kind of guys. I doubt their language was "stained glass." Yet they managed to do great things.

Again, concentrating on "outward legalist things"?
We must be careful. We have glorified the disciples as some kind of pure saints, when they were regular, probably often crude men who got past their "humanness" to be God's instruments. This should not give us despair, but hope instead.

The further back in time we view someone, the more saintly they tend to become (regard Princess Diana).

Jesus had a lot more pertinent things to say than worrying about occasional vulgarity. I think he would have been concerned only if it is used to hurt others.

By the way, using God's name in vain is not using it as a cuss word. It is making a promise in God's name that you intend not to keep.

But that's another story.


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