Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lessons in the Use of Language from Mark Shea and Luther

Here are a few lessons from Roman Catholic apologist Mark Shea and Martin Luther on how to use the Bible to say what you really mean:

Mark Shea:

That reminds me. Periodically, I will use a... coarse word when it seems to me to be apt. My profound moral guidance in this is St. Paul who, in the course of majoring in majors in the his battle with the Circumcision Party, opted not to major in minors by fretting that he wrote the Greek equivalent of "s**t" when he said "Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ" (Phil 4:8) The word politely translated "refuse" has an earthier and more organic meaning. He also recommended that the Circumcision guys go all the way and castrate themselves (Gal 5:12). Strong language that. But nobody wrings their hands about how Paul is "a bad witness". RHIP, I guess. [Source]

Martin Luther:

“Was [Jesus] abusive when he called the Jews an adulterous and perverse generation, an offspring of vipers, hypocrites, and children of the Devil?… The truth, which one is conscious of possessing, cannot be patient against its obstinate and intractable enemies.”

My boast is that I have injured no one’s life or reputation, but only sharply reproached, as godless and sacrilegious, those assertions, inventions, and doctrines which are against the Word of God. I do not apologize for this, for I have good precedents. John the Baptist [Luke 3:7] and Christ after him [Matt. 23:33] called the Pharisees the “offspring of vipers.” So excessive and outrageous was this abuse of such learned, holy, powerful, and honored men that they said in reply that He had a demon [John 7:20]. If in this instance Latomus had been judge, I wonder what the verdict would have been! Elsewhere Christ calls them “blind”[Matt.23:16], “crooked,” “liars,” “sons of the devil” [John 8:44, 55]. Good God, even Paul lacked evangelical modesty when he anathematized the teachers of the Galatians [Gal. 1:8] who were, I suppose, great men. Others he calls “dogs” [Phil. 3:2], “empty talkers” [Tit. 1:10], “deceivers” [Col. 2:4, 8]. Further, he accused to his face the magician Elymas with being a “son of the devil, full of all deceit and villainy [Acts 13:10].” [Source]

My own 2 cents: I don't use the language Shea argues for. Our culture still has a remnant of taboo placed upon particular words. Further, I don't wish to offend a weaker Christian by a particular language liberty. Finally, I don't enjoy the use or overuse of particular scatological words, so I avoid them. Maybe when I was 15, I thought I was cool saying a bad word. Now, those who perpetually use profanity remind me of a junior high school child with a vocabulary lacking maturity.

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