In Defense of Clean Speech in Christian Fiction, Part 1

Clean Speech InitativeSee Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6Part 7, and Part 8.

Over the last year, many Christian authors have participated in virtual blog debates about what language should or should not be permissible in Christian novels published for the Christian marketplace.

Some folks have appealed to common sense and logic, others to audience and publisher guidelines, some to realism and freedom of expression, others to what they “think” crude language/cussing is and isn’t. All well-meaning folks who are brothers and sisters in Christ, whom I truly love.

But often discussions have been bathed in the soothing balm of relativism. You’re okay, I’m okay. What you think is okay for you is okay for you. What I think is okay for me is okay for me. As if no one could possibly stand up and say, “I know the answer.”

Getting to the Core

Very few of the debates I’ve seen have actually gotten to the core of who we are—as Christians who serve a God who has told us His mind on many issues. Shouldn’t what God thinks—not what our opinions are—be at the center of this debate? Shouldn’t our understanding of Him and His desires be at the heart of everything we do? After all, everything we do should spring from who we are—blood-bought people who owe all we are and have to the God who grants us new mercies every morning.

Actually, I would argue that truly understanding who we are in Christ should settle the debate once and for all. Sounds too simplistic? Guess what? I’ve got a secret.

Truth is simple.

For the most part, I’ve watched these debates from the sidelines. I participated in only one heated, blood-pressure-inducing exchange at a popular blog about Christian fiction. And that was enough, believe me. After realizing even scriptural appeals were falling on deaf ears, I pulled the plug. I finally (and sadly) bowed out and concluded that arguing further was an exercise in futility.

Why I Gave Up

“But why did you give up?” some may ask. Simple.

1. Because the majority couldn’t even agree on simple definitions (what is “vulgarity”? what is “swearing”?). Or else they knew and simply wouldn’t admit it.
2. Because most of the arguments were based on what I think or what you think, not on absolutes
3. Because linguistic guidance was rejected (I’ll get into that more in a future post.)
4. Because some segregated Christian fiction into a realm where art and realism took precedence, making the “art” untouchable, even from biblical absolutes.
5. Because those who stood on Scripture and declared a biblical absolute about communication were  labeled “legalists.” Seriously.
6. Because any notion that the issue could possibly be black and white was soundly rejected
7. Because many resorted to pragmatism: if our books can attract the world to the gospel, then using speech that may be offensive to some must be excusable.
8. Because many questioned even being questioned, concluding with the old taken-out-of-context mantra: “Judge not.”

So, you see, argumentation was futile. If there is no truth, nothing absolute to stand on, then the debate becomes only about opinions. But we don’t live our lives based on opinions, do we?

Presenting the Case

I don’t intend to argue here. Simply to present the case. Then you can decide for yourself.

But first, let’s be clear. We do know God’s mind about everything we need to know in this life. God’s Word pertains to all matters of life and godliness. No area of life is exempt from God’s unfailing Word, which must be our litmus test for all things. And God is not silent about the type of communication He desires to describe His children.

If we can at least agree on that, then we might get somewhere.

As you’ve guessed, I’m beginning a series that evaluates what clean “Christian” language is, based on what God says. Then I plan to apply that truth to what gets published in the marketplace under the banner of “Christian” books. Did you notice what I said? This is based on what God says, not on what I think. Just want to be sure we’re clear on that.

Sounds like fun? Get ready to rumble.

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12 thoughts on “In Defense of Clean Speech in Christian Fiction, Part 1

  1. Glynn

    Me, too, Adam. Whether it’s Christian fiction or Christian speech in general, I think we need to strive for what’s right and beautiful and not what’s trendy. Not long ago, I was in a training seminar at my church, with an outside speaker who was a pastor, and when he started using “trendy vernacular” he turned everyone in the room off. If something makes you mad, say “It makes me mad.” Good post.

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