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"PEJORATIVE" LANGUAGE
by Philip Owen

             One of the great ironies of our present culture is the disparity that exists between the cultural demand for “politically correct speech”—speech that offends no one—and the name-calling and gutter language that pervade our existence.  We need not descend to melodrama or broad generalizations to observe that in many arenas, nothing and no one is worthy of criticism or censure but conservative values and biblical Christians.  And although true believers should not be guilty of hatred and name-calling (we are to speak the truth in love [Eph. 4:15]), we should also be accurate and faithful to the Word of God when dealing with various acts, behaviors, and attitudes.  To do less may be to make light of sin, to fail to alert a sinner to the consequences of his sin, and, perhaps, to dishonor God.

            It is reputed of Dr. M. R. DeHaan, the founder of Radio Bible Class and associated ministries, that a woman approached him after a service that he had conducted and told him that she had a problem.  As she began to pray, she confessed that she had difficulty with “exaggeration.”  Dr. DeHaan immediately interrupted her and in his unforgettably raspy voice said, “Call it lying, madam, and you’ll get further!”

            Believers are not to be harsh, unkind, or uncharitable.  Trying to deliberately shock someone or using provocative language is the ploy of the carnal.  But failing to call sin sin not only does a disservice to the offender but it also dishonors God.  It might surprise some to realize how blunt are some of the terms used in the Word.  The AV translates five Greek words as “fool/s” or “foolish.”  Note the meanings of those five words: (1) moros:  “dull, stupid, heedless (morally), blockhead, absurd”; (2) aphron: “mindless, stupid, ignorant, egotistic, rash, unbelieving”; (3) anoetas: “unintelligent, (by implication) sensual”; (4) moraine:  “become insipid, make (as a) simpleton; (5) asophos:  “unwise.”  We probably would not deem these to be gentle words, but, clearly, God, who is both love and truth, knows it is necessary to identify some things by these “pejorative” terms.

            Among the things that are identified by these terms are the following:  the person who hears the message of salvation but does not believe (Matt. 7:26, def. 1 above);  mere external religion coupled with hypocrisy (Lk. 11:40, def. 2 above); the person who lives only for this present world (Lk. 12:20, def. 2); believers who do not believe all the Word of God (Lk. 24:25, def. 3); those who apostatize, departing from revealed truth (Rom. 1:22, def. 4); those who deny the resurrection (I Cor. 15:36, def. 2); believers who would add the law or works to grace (Gal. 3:1, 3, def. 3); believers who do not walk “circumspectly,” or wisely (Eph. 5:15, def. 5); the state generally of the lost (Tit. 3:3, def. 3); Gentile unbelievers (I Pet. 2:15, def. 2).

            Believers are not to go gleefully in search of someone to call a fool:  the Bible specifically warns against a censorious spirit (Matt. 5:22).  But by repeated example and injunction, the Word of God also makes clear that it is a sin to pull punches.  Calling something a “fib,” “stretching the truth,” “an exaggeration,” and the like, may make us look better, may prevent people from censuring us, but it does not effectively represent the truth.  And upon occasion, we have all needed to be told that we are foolish.  When a biblical term is demanded, anything less is a disservice to the erring person, a disavowal of the Word, and a dishonoring of God.  May our “speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt [i.e., prudence], that [we] may know how [we] ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:6).  Eternity depends upon the truth.         

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