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A Theology of Profanity3 min read

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Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4)

You might think that Christianity has a univocal view of profanity, especially based on the scriptures above. But that’s actually untrue. Below is a nice list of articles on the subject. Enjoy.

  • Apologizing for Profanity – Bible teacher John Piper apologizes for using profanity, but alludes to the fact that perhaps God is not as prudish as us. This got me searching again for some good articles on the Theology of Profanity.
  • A Theology of Profanity Experimental Theology has a very nice piece on what makes profanity profane.  I don’t think he has the whole picture, but I like the direction he’s heading.
  • The Real Problem with 4-Letter Words – A short piece on the three types of cursing (profanity, obscenity, and abuse), and how we ought to view them.
  • Is Cussing a Sin?Reformed Answers says no, with qualifications.  Nice.
  • On Cursing – a short piece on the difference between speaking harm on others v. voicing anger (cursing v. cussing ;)
  • Ps 109:6-20 – A passage showing us how to declare curses on our enemies.  There’s also the interesting historical story of the condemned man who recited Psalm 109 as a curse on his captors.
  • Dark Christianity – TTA had a post about “Dominionist” Christians and why we should stay awake at night because of them.  One of their supposed tactics, related to “spiritual warfare,” is calling down curses on their ideological enemies. Also, looks like some  anti-abortionists take this opportunity seriously.  Hey, I’m there if it will stop abortion and punish those who perform such crimes against humanity.
  • Violence, Profanity and Nudity, O My! – CT discusses their proper use in movies.  Nice.
  • Sacred v. Profane in Art – looking at how this subject is dealt with in art can help us understand a little more about language also.

It would be interesting to see a theological study of what the bible has to say about profanity, cursing, and good v. bad speech.  To finish off, here’s some quotes on profanity:

  • “Profanity is the attempt of a lazy and feeble mind to express itself forcefully.”
  • “Profanity is the use of strong words by weak people.”
  • “Profanity is a crutch for the conversationally handicapped.”
  • “When a man uses profanity to support an argument, it indicates that either the man or the argument is weak – probably both.”
  • “Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” ~ Mark Twain, a Biography