Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Steve Camp on Harsh Language

Over on his blog, Steve Camp takes Paul Tripp to task for using harsh language -- in this case, his use of the "s" word. Yes, that "s" word.

If you are in any way offended by the use of that word, regardless of context, then I suggest that you stop reading right now. If, on the other hand, you are interested in what all the fuss is about, you may want to view the video in question. Here it is:
What were your initial thoughts?

Steve Camp didn't like it. Not one bit. He writes:
    FYI: this is one of the promo videos for Piper's upcoming DG Conference "The Power of Words and the Wonder of God" at the end of September produced by his ministry. They had to put a disclaimer at the front of this video because of its bad language. But even then, Piper is Clintonian in not really owning it calling the "s" word "...potentially offensive, four letter language..." Personally... I'm staying home. I don't need to pay 175 bucks to hear these pinheads not give us the Scriptures and dance around what "wholesome speech" might mean as they wrest the Word to suit their own guttural proclivities. Besides, when you invite Tripp and Driscoll rather than MacArthur, Sproul, Mohler, Duncan, or Begg - then something is amiss; or in this case, a mess.
Wow. I think someone missed the point entirely.

First of all, there were at least 20 seconds worth of disclaimers warning those who might be offended by the use of that particular four-letter word. Thus, the context in which the subsequent language was used was clearly and firmly established. This was a guy talking about a frank discussion he had with his family regarding language; it wasn't a preacher delivering a flowery sermon on Mother's Day.

Secondly, it was not used in a judgmental, blasphemous, or sexually perverse manner. It was employed to illustrate a specific point -- and judging by the vitriolic, knee-jerk responses in the comments section on Mr. Camp's blog, it succeeded.

Thirdly, Tripp said that if he was in a context where that word could not minister grace or edify, then it shouldn't be said. But, as he pointed out, that goes for everything we say. Again, reemphasizing the main point of the video.

Camp called the video "crap" (a word he later edited out of his original response) and referred to Paul Tripp, Mark Driscoll, and John Piper as "pinheads." He admitted in the comments section that he used those words "intentionally to see if anyone would take the bait and use that as a diversion to somehow justify Tripp." Well, Paul Tripp happened to use the "s" word, and Camp was all over it like a muskie on a minnow.

Ephesians 4:29 says, "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." So, if Paul Tripp can get people to consider their overblown reaction to one little word in light of what scripture says about everything we say, then mission accomplished.

Many Christians, however, cite the above verse in order to admonish other believers who use the occasional coarse word. But how is "corrupting talk" defined in this passage? The definition is obvious in that it is contrasted with talk that it is "good for building up." In other words, we should avoid talk that does not build up. Could that include calling another brother in Christ a "pinhead"?

Oh, but that isn't the same as dropping the "s" bomb. Camp says that one who uses such a word "to make a 'profound biblical point' is a lightweight and has thought culturally but not biblically." Yet in condemning Tripp, Camp himself is guilty of thinking culturally. After all, the Bible doesn't define what constitutes a swear word; culture does. In fact, our culture has assigned meanings to all sorts of words, drawing distinctions between those deemed unsavory and those considered acceptable in polite conversation.

If you go back and watch the video again, you will note that Tripp does say that the use of the "s" word is considered impolite. But, again, it is not a word that is judgmental, blasphemous, or sexual in nature.

Now, to be clear, I am not saying that this gives Christians license to use it like any other word. But I think the fact that so many commenters on Mr. Camp's blog couldn't get past that one word that they failed to grasp the actual point of the video demonstrates why such a discussion on language is needed. Intent and context are much more important than the words themselves.


Penn Tomassetti said...

You put this really well. I needed to read this and watch that video, because my mennonite grandmother dropped the "s" word at supper Monday night, and my mind kicked into search mode for Scripture. She sometimes says things like that about cows, because she used to live on a farm, and one of them got into her yard.

Scott Shaffer said...

I watched the video and didn't miss the point. However, just because he made his point doesn't make what he did/said right. He could have made his point without repeating that crass term.

Seth McBee said...

Good post.

I would also ask,

What is the difference if Tripp were to just say, "the 's' word" instead of using the actual term? is there a difference?

It is amazing to me that people can't allow a pastor show the background of words and try and give his understanding of why words are bad and which ones are "good."

Great post on this subject though because Steve Camp is so out there these days that he doesn't even realize his own irony in what he does.

I have lost all respect for him.

Unknown said...

I think he makes a powerful point, and the using this particular word was essential to make that point.

I also notice the time and place. This was not in a Sunday morning sermon, but rather in a video promo for a conference for pastors. In other words, Tripp is talking to mature, biblical leaders. Certainly there are places to have these types of conversations.

The same can be said of sexuality. As a Pastor, I must preach about sex because it is in so many bible passages--and is alluded to in even more. In fact, much of the New Testament is set against the back-drop of a sexual deviant culture. However, I must also be cautious as to when I discuss this. There are many things I can say in an adult Sunday school class that I would never dream of saying in the Sunday morning sermon. But should I never discuss masturbation, sodomy, Greco-Roman bath/sex houses, lesbianism, bestiality, etc? Scripture certainly discusses these things, at times in graphic terms.

Furthermore, scripture uses rather crude language---for example, Paul's use of the Greek equivalent for s---. One difference between Paul and Tripp: Paul used the s--- word in a sarcastic, biting critique of someone else. Tripp used it initiate a discussion of the power of words and intent. It seems that Tripp was considerably more mild and less offensive than Paul.

Seth McBee said...

I would agree with you...almost.

The only thing I would say is that you should preach on sexuality from the pulpit, but give warning to parents that it will be coming up. Then also give warning before the sermon, so they can have their kids elsewhere if needed.

I think the biggest problem with sexuality is that it is embarassing within the church because pastors make it embarassing.

You know what I mean?

Lee Shelton said...

Now that I think about it, Paul Tripp may have opened the floodgates. What's next? Song of Solomon flannelgraphs for the second grade Sunday school class?

Scott Shaffer said...


You're kidding me right? There is no difference between someone referring to the "s" word and actually saying it? Even our secular culture recognizes this difference. It is a crass word.

My point still stands: Tripp could have made his point without actually using the word.

Seth McBee said...

So if I say in a conversation...

"Dr. Tripp said the 's' word"

or I say

"Dr Tripp said shit"

In both instances, don't you hear the "s" word in your heart?

Why does it matter then? I don't see the difference personally. The only difference I could see is if you were around children or people who find it offensive.

But, in Tripp's case, if you find the "s" word shouldn't have watched the video..they gave a warning at the beginning...heed the warning if your ears can't take someone actually using the word.

D.J. Cimino said...

I personally think that Camp gets a little to wound up about some things. This is one of them. (that's why I don't even look at his blog anymore...)

but, I certainly check out your weekly run-down on Calvinism! Thanks for the service.

Anonymous said...

Good article.


There was a disclaimer before and after the video. A detailed explaination. The context was between that man, his family and God.


Camp, I'm vaguely familiar with so, I will just poo-poo him away.

I have problems with an individual's theology being in error, such as word faith heresy for example.

Penn. LOL!

Seth - Nice to meet you brother.

Paul Tripp - Yeah, I did too!

Scott there is no difference in saying the term, and the letter signifying the word.

Was Tripp being crass in his explanation? Don't know? Would sit down with my daughter and kick around cuss words, why are they bad? I don't know, but I would answer in the affirmative.

Lonnie I love your blog.

Disclaimer, in the article, disclaimer in the video. Shows discernment and maturity.

If one is inclined to disagree with all the disclaimers in place BEFORE hand, what is that individual's motive in watching and listening, to pass judgement? I think that's equally wrong, if not moreso.

I love the updates in calvinism. I would like to add you to my links.


Anonymous said...

I understand what Paul Tripp is trying to do. He is saying that you should only speak words that build each other up. Sometimes it could be expletive words (which I don't know any expletive that lift people up) even.

At the same time, he went against his own belief by saying the actual word himself. He should of had enough sense to know that the world would see this video and and people would be offended.

Anonymous said...

Steve Camp in an old interview.

"I'll have a Foreigner 4 [secular rock group] album going in my car and then the next minute I'm on my knees talking to the Lord about something that is very personal in my life. . . . Some guy will just say, 'I'm only a Christian entertainer.' Bull [expletive deleted]! These guys have a responsibility to talk to these kids as if they were speaking the very words of God themselves in their theology" (STEVE CAMP, CCM performer, interview with CCM Magazine, Nov. 1986, pp. 20-21).

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