I thought this was in interesting post on cursing. This happened last month when John Piper let his language overly express his passion and then apologized. Wayne Grudem then weighed in on the situation with the following theological evaluation of cursing. I thought it would be good for your viewing and discussing pleasure.


I saw on Justin’s blog a link to your comments on your use of “strong language” at Passion07. I’m glad you said that now you regret saying it and thankful that you were willing to say this.

I’m not sure if this will be helpful but I’ve thought of such language as a question of having a reputation for “cleanness” in our speech, as in the rest of life, out of concern for how that reflects on the gospel and on God whom we represent.

A number of different words can denote the same thing but have different connotations, some of them recognized as “unclean” or “offensive” by the culture.


  • urination: taking a leak, pee, “p—“
  • defication [sic]: poop, “cr–“, “sh–“
  • sexual intercourse: sleeping with someone, “f—“
  • rear end: backside, “a–“

Speaking of these things and using different words for them is not contrary to any biblical command (and so it is different from taking the Lord’s name in vain, which is explicitly forbidden), but we are also commanded to maintain a reputation for cleanliness:

  • ESV Titus not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
  • ESV Ephesians 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
  • ESV Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
  • ESV Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Using the words commonly thought to be offensive in the culture seems to me to be sort of the verbal equivalent of not wearing deodorant and having body odor, or of going around with spilled food on our shirts all the time. Someone might argue that not wearing deodorant or wearing dirty clothes are not morally wrong things in themselves, but my response is that they do give needless offense and cause others to think of us as somewhat impure or unclean. So, I think, does using words commonly thought to be “obscene” or “offensive” or “vulgar” in the culture generally. Plus it encourages others to act in the same way. So in that way it brings reproach on the church and the gospel.

I remember a long time ago you mentioned to me that when you were in jail for Operation Rescue you listened at night to the talk of prisoners in the cell block, and how their talk was just filled with vulgar bathroom language and sex language. It struck me at the time how a person’s purity or impurity of speech is often an indicator of purity or impurity of heart. (ESV Matthew You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.)

As for your comment about finding language “as offensive as that” in the Bible, I’m not sure. It’s difficult for us to be sure about the connotations of words in an ancient culture. When I was in seminary I remember another student arguing that Paul’s use of skubalon in Philippians 3:8 (For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ) was just like using “sh–” today. I thought that sounded right. But later I found that the word has a broader range of meaning and I’m not sure it had the offensive overtones that “sh–” does today in English. (BDAG: useless or undesirable material that is subject to disposal, refuse, garbage [in var. senses, ‘excrement, manure, garbage, kitchen scraps’]). In translating the ESV we rendered that term in Phil. 3:8 as “rubbish,” not as a more offensive word. I think that was a good decision.

All this is to say I think you were right to express regret for saying what you said.

Again, out of respect for your time, please don’t feel that any response is necessary. I am so thankful for you and for your faithfulness to the Lord.


I am not sure, but from the New Testament scholars that I have heard from on this, they believe that the Greek word skubalon is stronger than Grudem suggests.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    8 replies to "Can Christian’s Curse?"

    • stevemoore

      Another article on this subject, giving it a scholarly (and also humorous) approach.


    • Chad Winters

      hmm….. interesting, but it shows also how hard it is to avoid saying something that may offend “someone”. I thought from th e reaction that he must have “dropped the F-Bomb” or something similar, instead he apparently described God as occasionally “kicking our a _ _” when we are disobedient. I don’t think I would have batted an eye if I had been present and definitely would not have thought he needed to apologize.

    • Scroll

      It’s strange that may church people will never dream of using crude language, but have no problem with loose screws outside marriage. O sherbet I cussed! A thousand apologies.

      Talk about straining out the knat and swallowing the camel!

    • bzentis

      My two cents…

      I had a friend (actually a coworker who lead me to Christ) who was a severe Baptist. He never said any of the words that he should not say. But when anyone would do something he didn’t like, he would refer to them as “a stinkin’ moron” with such venom, I always thought he should just use the words he said he would never use. It made me realize that it’s the thought that counts. I might say “Aw sh__!” when I stub my toe without sinning mentally or having a wrong attitude. Admit it… toes can be sensitive!! On the other hand I can use G-Rated words to commit character assassination, or belittle someone. I think it’s the attitude that counts.

      My wife’s roommate when we were dating (a great Christian gal) was famous for saying: “Cursing isn’t sinful, it’s just rude!” I agree with that…too many people use foul language as away of getting attention or just being over the top. That’s rude! If you have strong feelings, use strong language to make your point. Just make sure that your attitude is in line first, and remember that it is sinful to cause another to stumble when you exercise your freedom.


    • Threepwood

      Yup, I think that it is the motive behind it. In all honesty, we should have so much guard over our mouths that we say nothing at all when offended or hurt. We are not to say the Lord’s name in vain ever, under no circumstances, but isn’t “Gosh” just replacing the “d” with “sh”? It still means the same thing, (but at least it’s a step in the right direction, if not the right thing.)
      It is our mouth that defiles us, and since that is the case we should be worried about a lot more than just a four letter word with an exclaimation mark every once-in-a-while. We always need to watch our tongues.

    • Shelley

      Well, I think the best advice I ever received from a pastor of a church I attended years ago was “be above reproach, do not be the reason someone else falls”. We are human & the occasional slip up is quite possible. However, if Jesus is truly the center of your life you should be trying to be as much like him as possible, as this is what we are called to do. Often times I hear non-believers say Christians are no different than anyone else, they are gettin drunk & having affairs just like anyone else. It is our job as true Christian, to be Godly examples, so that others can see there is a difference. So if you are cursing along with your co-workers or throwing back a few beers at the local bar, are you truly being an example of Christ? We are called to live in the world, but not be of the world. Dare to stand out as Jesus did!

    • Damian

      An excellent lecture on this very subject can be found here:


      Audio file #26 “Language and Appearance.” The first 30 minutes addresses swearing and it’s the best, most articulate, most sane and, not least of all, most biblical argument I’ve ever heard delivered on the topic.

      The rest of it is also good. It’s on another subject entirely (appearance/dress) but it’s still worth hearing.

      Thank you. God bless. 🙂

    • Luke


      I get the side of the argument that says it’s a character issue and reflects upon us.

      However, at the same time, I almost think that I might have more respect for someone who uses the common vernacular.

      The cleanliness of a person’s speech can be, but is most certainly not always an indicator of the cleanliness of their heart. Just look at all of the pastors and other people in positions of power in the church who have to leave because of some kind of a scandal they were involved in.

      As such, I think that speaking a little bit of the common tongue is actually good in the sense that, in a way, you are acknowledging that you are no better than anyone else, and not above anyone.

      Now, I think there’s a difference between saying some of the more common curse words and being flat-out vulgar. As another user alluded to, you can be even more damaging using “G-rated” words if your intent is to harm someone else.

      At the same time, I do think that, as Christians, it’s important that we not let our speech get too vulgar, if at all. I’m simply making the argument that I don’t think we should be so uptight about throwing a “damn” or a “hell” out there every now and then, among others.

      Of course, for some people, it’s such a faux pas that they would never even want to try to incorporate that kind of language into their everyday speech. It’s simply ingrained into some people so much that they will never change their minds on the matter.

      But to those people, I would say that they aren’t really missing out on anything. If anything, not saying curse words is probably good. But choosing to use them, especially depending on the company you are in, I do not think will do any harm, either. If anything, it may make your peers see you more as an equal.

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