Phoenix pastor, Jeff Durbin, dropped a few potty-mouth bombs in a sermon a few weeks ago. And by potty-mouth bombs, I mean it was PG-13. Well, by today’s standards it was PG. One would think the time has well passed for such a big controversy (eye-roll) but Durbin’s fans are still screaming about it in social media and might be keeping that up until Jesus comes back. What happened here – the controversy itself – is not of interest to me so much. But there are some observations about this controversy that should be noted.
First, I have a disclaimer. I was once brought up on church discipline charges because I butt-dialed someone about the time that I used the word [fill-in-the-blank with a three-letter word for the buttocks]. Admittedly, it was embarrassing. Also admittedly, the word ass is appealing because it’s so versatile (you have your varieties; dumb, smart, etc) and may from time to time have worked its way into my vocabulary. The Matthew 18 process led to two witnesses trying to figure out whether or not it was a swear word before ultimately rejecting the issue as frivolous.
That’s to say, that anyone who acts too horrified or grieved over Durbin’s use of the term is probably catastrophizing, including and especially myself. While I don’t doubt there are people genuinely grieved over the word ever being spoken, I surmise its the breach of pastorly decorum in the preached word that has many wondering how that would slip out in a sermon. I would also venture to guess that most people hear worse on their radio on the way to work, but we pastors should probably have higher standards than Howard Stern, nonetheless.
And this is the camp I fall in. As a politico, I’m regularly annoyed that public speakers at political events or civics meetings drop a curse word amongst mixed company. Like Durbin, it’s the politician’s way of showing that they’re a real ‘man of the people.’ It’s always cringe-worthy and I wish they wouldn’t do it.
When I first heard about the “sh*% controversy” I had the following thoughts:
1. Of course, Jeff Durbin said that while preaching. Of course, he did. He’s a totes relevant guy, very hip. He’s with it. You know, relevant and stuff. When a dude regularly preaches in a beer t-shirt and wears pants with bedazzled butts, you know he’s the type to prove his cutting edge by pushing the envelope of common decency. I was a bit surprised he hadn’t done that before.
2. I wondered how long it would be before James White was dropping the s-bomb. Let’s be honest, we have a Chester and Spike situation going on here. Since joining Apologia, the Internet’s favorite grumpy apologist has been wearing those weird jeans and sporting his new tattoo-sleeve. Of course, Durbin himself strikes me as pathetically trying to hold onto his youth, despite his glorious dad-bod torso winning the battle of dominance over his waistband (I’m not calling him fat, I’m saying his jeans are too skinny). In my estimation, Durbin only looks cool when standing next to James White, who – bless his heart – is going through some sort of midlife crisis. White has become Durbin’s mini-me and might just go the vulgar-is-cool route if his ecclesiastical Exalted Leader does, too.
I’m actually much more concerned about the over-all frat-boying of the church that Durbin is doing than this symptom of 21st Century gutterization, which is potty-talk from the pulpit. There is a certain looseness of the Christian Liberty movement, a sophomorizing and juvenilization of the clergy that’s the real problem here. The “Booze and Tattoos Debacle of 2017” was enough to show that zeal has become an apt replacement for wisdom among the Young, Restless, and Reformed. And all of this underscores the very real seriousness of Durbin recording the sin confessions of his church members to use against them if they ever criticize his leadership. The fact that Apologia Church is a Cult of Personality by anyone’s definition should eclipse the sh*% word as a concern.
With that said, the ‘Reformed’ Internet should respond to Durbin’s sh*% controversy like it should respond to the giant Jesus tattoo on his arm. They should collectively say, “What is this nonsense? Reformed people don’t do that” and then moved on to the next news cycle.
But they didn’t. Weeks later, and here we are talking about sh*%. And two classes of fanboys – those who approve of Durbin’s language and those who have committed the anathematizing offense of disagreeing – are throwing it at each other like zoo monkeys. The rest of us who find Jeff Durbin far less interesting just chalked it up to someone being a dimestore Mark Driscoll knock-off and moved on almost as fast as we heard it.
Here are the observations that we should take away from Sh*%-Gate 2020:
1. Durbin was on-point in his talk. And that point has been utterly forgotten because he didn’t control his tongue.
2. Too many people confuse “bluntness” with vulgarity. I’m saddened that we don’t see the difference. If a preacher says that a homosexual shouldn’t put a penis in his rectum, he’s being blunt; he is not being vulgar. If he uses inappropriate nicknames for “penis” and “rectum” he’s being vulgar. Got it? There’s a difference.
3. No, the Bible doesn’t use profanity. As Phil Johnson explains, the Greek ‘σκύβαλον’ (skubalon) does not mean “sh*%.” It’s used in ancient Greek medical journals and means waste or feces. That’s not vulgar (refer to #2 above). In fact, the Bible says to avoid this kind of talk (Ephesians 5:3-6).
4. No, the sh*% word does not somehow “drive home a point.” No one will be convinced as to the veracity of your argument because you used profanity…no one. That’s stupid. And might I add, it makes you a lazy communicator.
5. Reformed fandom is obnoxious. We are treating apologetics as though it were a team-sport. Some are on #TeamDurbin. Some are on #TeamNotDurbin. The jersey they’re wearing is affecting their judgment. We are to judge such situations with impartiality (1 Timothy 5:21).
6. Whether or not the word is helpful or wise should be seen in the obvious fact that we’re talking about the word sh*% and not talking about Durbin’s point. But as Durbin himself as illustrated throughout his ministry, he is seldom concerned about making decisions that are helpful or wise, insisting instead upon what is fashionable. And the students become like their teacher (Luke 6:40).
7. The incessant asking, “Where does the Scripture say you can’t…” should really stop being asked by anyone who claims to be Reformed. This is a question for Arminians who hold to the Normative Principle, not the Regulative Principle. On top of this, basic maturity should lead someone to understand that just because you aren’t forbidden from doing something (if your argument is the Bible doesn’t forbid such speech) doesn’t provide a reason to do that thing. Thoughtful people make a thoughtful decision based upon what they ought to do, not what they can do.
8. Durbin could have quickly extinguished this controversy by saying, “I got kind of carried away there. My bad.” Everyone would have moved on with a snort and chortle. Instead, here we are.
Can we please stop talking about sh*% now?