The following video is a clip for the upcoming Desiring God National Conference for which John Piper has invited Mark Driscoll to speak on the topic of harsh language.
Two initial thoughts:
1. I don’t know about you, but I’m already pretty good at using harsh language. I hope that as I grow further in Christ, I will learn to control my tongue, that I will avoid course language, that I will allow my speech to be alway with grace, and that I will be an example to the believers in this area.
2. It could be argued that Jesus used somewhat illusive language at times as well. So, should Desiring God invite Bill Clinton to teach that particular art?
My objections aside, I agreed with much of what Driscoll said in the video. At times the authors of Scripture, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, use very harsh, strong, potent, and seemingly unkind language. For instance, the Galatians 5 passage Driscoll references goes something like this:
I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
The word αποκοψονται means “to cut off” and in this case (dealing with Judaizers) conveys quite clearly the idea of castration.
That aside, Driscoll’s main point is that if Scripture is God-breathed (and it is, c.f. 2 Timothy 3), and if it is graphic at times for emphasis, then there is really no problem with our using graphic language at times as well. He notes strongly, however, that this language was usually reserved for religious hypocrites. Keep that in mind.
My problem with Driscoll and this whole issue of language is that anyone could easily agree in principle with most of the content of the video above; however, Driscoll’s use of “strong” language seems to be targeted not at religious hypocrites but at the unsaved or unchurched (the type of people he is trying to attract and not the type of people he is trying to rebuke) who may think him cool for saying the things he does. For instance, in his book Vintage Jesus he writes:
Roughly two thousand years ago, Jesus was born in a dumpy, rural, hick town, not unlike those today where guys change their own oil, think pro wrestling is real, find women who chew tobacco sexy, and eat a lot of Hot Pockets with their uncle-daddy. Jesus’ mom was a poor, unwed teenage girl who was mocked for claiming she conceived via the Holy Spirit. Most people thought she concocted a crazy story to cover the “fact” she was knocking boots with some guy in the backseat of a car at the prom. Jesus was adopted by a simple carpenter named Joseph and spent the first thirty years of his life in obscurity, swinging a hammer with his dad.
I was pretty sure I knew what Driscoll meant by his term: knocking boots. Perhaps this language is intended for religious hypocrites? Hmm, probably not. I didn’t think this could be a good reference, but honestly I wasn’t sure what it meant; my wife and I googled the term and wondered if we should even click on the links that came up. It’s of the basest slang possible, meaning sexual intercourse.
Here are my problems with his usage of language:
1. He doesn’t keep his own rules (using primarily for religious hypocrites, as often as God does, etc). His usage seems to be all about his persona, being a man’s man. His strategy is simple: shock the churched and try to attract the unchurched.
2. When God uses strong language in the Scripture, He uses irony, sarcasm, and pointedness, etc. While often adapting to the culture around him, Jesus never adopted the corrupted aspects of his culture. Driscoll uses elements of our culture that are base and unbecoming of a Christian.
Ephesians 5:3-4 is clear on this particular point.
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather givng of thanks.
Fornication is not befitting of saints; in the same sense, neither is filthiness (shamefulnes), foolish talk or jesting (vulgar talk, crude or course joking).
There are some very funny parts in the book; his interaction with Emergent Village folks is even hillarious. However, I could never recommend the book because other parts are written in such poor taste. As Challies points out in his review, “Driscoll is perfectly capable of being humorous without being dirty.”
And, I still don’t see why Piper would invite him to address this topic at a conference, perhaps because he too has a large C painted on his chest?