NASHVILLE — Jeff Durbin, who leads a Reformed assembly in Arizona along with apologist James White and others, is drawing scrutiny after he recently used preplanned profanity as a guest speaker at a gospel-themed conference in a move to condemn what he considers the “woke church.” Durbin’s verbiage is being condemned as “unnecessary,” “disappointing” and “shameful” by supporters and pastors, some of whom called him to repentance or referred to such talk as “the language of Hell.”
Durbin, who leads Apologia Church in Tempe — an active group that seeks to confront issues such as abortion, homosexuality and false religions like Mormonism — is no stranger to controversy for pushing the envelope, including raising questions over his choice of language. He has repeated profanity outside of abortion facilities so that viewers of his videos could “hear [the pro-abort’s] form of argument.”
On Oct. 2, Durbin delivered a message entitled “Vantillian Killshots: How to Fight BLM, LGBT, and End Abortion” (referencing theologian Cornelius Van Til) at the “Fight, Laugh, Feast” conference just outside of Nashville.
The conference was presented by CrossPolitic and its Fight, Laugh, Feast Network, which identifies as not “your typical Christian network.” Other speakers included Toby Sumpter, a host of the CrossPolitic podcast and associate pastor at Christ Church of Moscow, Idaho, along with Doug Wilson, who leads Christ Church; George Grant, pastor of Parish Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee; and Central Connecticut State University professor and author Glenn Sunshine.
According to the event website, in addition to the various sessions held at Franklin Arena, a “Beer and Psalm Sing” was held Oct. 1 at Kings Bar in Franklin, with punch for the children in attendance.
“I want to be very careful about what I’m about to do because I want you to understand why,” Durbin said to attendees of his session at Franklin Arena. “Say what the prophets said and do what the prophets did.”
He prefaced his forthcoming remarks with the notation that he does not allow profanity in his house and that his children have not heard him swear. Durbin stated that when God saved him, He cleaned up his language.
“You can ask my children; a foul mouth is punished severely,” he contended. “My children never grew up in a house with a father with a foul mouth who was loose with his lips. If I were to curse in front of my children, my children would be shocked. … You can ask for references from my family or my church body.”
He then, however, claimed that there are different categories or “speed limits” in regard to language, noting a teaching from friend Doug Wilson that certain matters require one to be more aggressive.
Wilson is the author of “A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking.” In a video released last year on “godly obscenity,” Wilson explained why he used a vulgar word for a woman’s private parts for “shock value” in speaking against the grotesque actions of liberal female “minister” Nadia Bolz-Weber.
Durbin noted that Jesus used strong terms at times, such as referring to the Pharisees as “whitewashed tombs” full of dead men’s bones. He pointed to Ezekiel 16 in illustrating that vivid language was used in describing the spiritual harlotry of Israel.
He then proceeded to address issues in the Church.
“In light of all these issues — BLM, LGBT, and the abortion issue — evangellyfish woke pastors, you say, ‘Homo lust is not a sin,’ even though Jesus said sin begins in the heart,” Durbin said. “You say, ‘We aren’t under law; we’re under grace. We don’t need God’s stipulated standards of justice.’ Yet you throw up your Marxist, Communist fists, shouting, ‘No justice, no peace.'”
“You swallowed the member of the Marxist, denying what God says about our unity and identity in the Messiah, and you teach people that our identity is in our color. Shame on you,” he continued. “You deny God’s word, accusing people of guilt for the sinful color of their ancestors.”
Durbin then stated what he had been building up to with his preface.
“Thus, you invalidate the word of God for the sake of your woke [expletive],” he said, inserting profanity.
In his defense, Durbin told those gathered that, if they prefer, he could use the Greek word “skubala” used by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:8 instead. A few chuckled.
“Or, I think if I want to be faithful and say what the prophets say and do what they did, I need to be more like Ezekiel,” he continued, referring to the woke evangelical as a whore and slut who “makes Cardi B’s ‘WAP’ look like performance art for preschoolers.”
“Pray that God removes these pimps from the pulpit and fills it with prophets who will keep His bride pure and faithful,” Durbin closed.
The video was shared to various social media platforms with the warning, “This clip is not for those with commitments to ‘pious’ language that would make the prophets look bad (they often used worse). … We need to say what the prophets said and do what they did.”
In sharing the footage, Durbin’s choice of language erupted in controversy online, with some claiming — as Durbin did — that the word is like what Paul used and is appropriate considering the situation, and others stating that while Durbin’s message was true, it is “shameful” for profanity to ever be uttered from the pulpit, no matter the attempted justification.
“I think what he’s saying is that he doesn’t use cursing loosely or uselessly anymore. But, there’s a lane in which you step things up a notch to communicate at the level needed for impact,” one commenter wrote. “The word [expletive] … isn’t something he’d use on a daily, or in front of his kids, but it fits the situation.”
“And which one of you hasn’t said of something being [expletive]? It’s common language today in a lot of realms,” another stated. “Although we are called to a higher standard, it’s meant as a shock standard to get your attention. Wake up people. Our nation is at stake here. We are at a crossroad. Where [do] we go from here?”
“It’s not surprising that so many viewers are more offended by the use of the word ‘[expletive]’ than the tragic reality of the state of the Church that he spoke about,” a third wrote.
“Congregants look up to their pastor’s words and deeds. This will surely let a sheep of the flock [think that it is] justifiable to go ahead and use cuss words,” one worried. “So why not use the f word [or] any other word? … We all make mistakes using language, but willfully saying certain things to provoke a reaction is unnecessary and unbecoming of a pastor.”
“I agree with Jeff’s content, but he should not have stooped to using the world’s language,” another opined. “Paul did not do that. ‘Skubalon’ is merely the word for dung or refuse. It is not cussing in Greek. How do we know? Eph 5:4: ‘Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place…’ God’s word cannot contradict itself. It cannot tell us to not use filthy/foolish/obscene talk in one verse and then use it in a different verse.”
One commenter directly addressed Apologia, writing, “[I] thought you just said before you were saved you had a foul mouth, then you use foul language. I don’t get it.”
Apologia Studios replied, “Answering the fool according to their folly. Proverbs 26:4-5. It’s a method.”
However, some pastors and other leaders also voiced their views on the incident, contending that using profanity to battle evil is never justifiable.
Mike Riccardi, elder at John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church, while not specifically mentioning Durbin, posted a fairly lengthy commentary on the matter, stating that it is a “myth” that the Apostle Paul used profanity in writing the word “skubalon.”
“Arguing that Christians may use profanity on the basis of Philippians 3:8 does little more than reveal one’s ignorance,” he said.
Riccardi noted that soon after Paul utilized the word, which is akin to the English usage of more dignified terms such as waste or “filth from the sewer,” he expressly told Christians that there “must be no filthiness and silly talk or coarse jesting” among born again believers.
As Scripture cannot violate itself, and as Paul chose to use a word that was not profane to refer to refuse and filth, the evangelist was not implying that it is acceptable to use profanity on occasion if the word fits the situation.
“In reality, the etymology for ‘skubalon’ comes from the Greek phrase ‘to tois kusi ballomenon,’ which means, ‘that which is thrown to the dogs’ (i.e., refuse) (see the entry in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament),” Riccardi explained.
“Dirty words were available to Paul, and he chose not to use a word that was ‘filthy,’ ‘coarse,’ or ‘foolish’ (cf. Eph 5:3-4) but rather a strong word that conveyed severity without breaching the bounds of propriety and wholesomeness,” he outlined.
“So no, Paul did not use foul language in Scripture. Let’s stop perpetuating that myth,” Riccardi wrote. “And let’s repent of the notion that God would ever sanction the violation of the commands of Scripture in order to make the Scriptures clear to others. We can’t serve the interests of Heaven by using the language of Hell.”
Riccardi also remarked in responding to a commenter who asked about Durbin’s speech that he finds the argument that such words are biblical when used in context to be “childish” and “false on its face.”
“The fact that we know to put asterisks, abbreviate, or don’t use them in polite company shows that there are certain words in every language and culture that its speakers know to be vulgar,” he said.
Chad Davidson of Good Fight Ministries, led by Joe Schimmel, pastor of Blessed Hope Chapel in Simi Valley, California, likewise talked about the matter on his podcast, stating that the use of the word was counter-productive because while Durbin was speaking against the “woke” church, it is “woke” pastors who insert profanity into their messages.
He said that such is being like the world instead of being holy in one’s speech.
Davidson pointed to the liberal Tony Campolo, associate pastor at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in West Philadelphia and professor emeritus at Eastern University, who was known for opening his messages at events with, “I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a [expletive]. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said [expletive] than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”
“It’s one thing to point out the fact that the Bible specifically shows the whoredoms of Israel and uses that strong language to talk about them whoring themselves out to other nations. It’s another to say, ‘Well, blankety blank,'” Davidson said.
“You can ruin your witness by the way you speak to other people and the coarse language that you use,” he lamented. “There’s nothing wrong with being firm in your language, but … you are not bridling your tongue when you are forcing yourself to use foul language. You need to repent.”
Davidson pointed to Ephesians 4:29, which states, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” He also noted Colossians 3:8, which teaches that new creations in Christ are to put off “filthy communication out of your mouth.”
While on a smaller scale, Durbin has raised questions before for using profanity outside of abortion facilities, repeating the four-letter word of a passerby to “expose” a woman’s wicked thinking.
“I wasn’t expecting the biggest f-bomb to come from his mouth,” one man wrote under a video clip shared to Facebook. “I’m glad my kids didn’t hear it.”
Durbin personally replied, stating in part, “This isn’t easy, safe or ‘soft and gentle’ ministry. They are are murdering babies inside, and the PP protesters are outside providing cover and support. Part of the reason for filming is to expose them and their arguments. This isn’t the time or place for pious behavior. It’s a place for confrontation, the gospel and to expose them. She muttered that word so only I could hear it. I repeated it so that everyone could hear their form of argument.”
In commenting on Durbin’s latest video, one commenter similarly wrote, “I believe you need to address your attention seeking behaviors that shine though in many of your videos, and to repent for your love of being edgy and controversial for its own sake. I notice that if someone else swears at you in your videos, you love to quote their swear words back at them … Being edgy and controversial is not how you promote the gospel; it’s how you promote yourself. Please, seek the Lord on this. I say to you what the prophets say: ‘Repent.'”
As previously reported, Durbin also generated controversy in 2017 when he launched his late-night comedy show, “Next Week With Jeff Durbin,” which uses monologues and punchlines akin to the style of popular late night shows but with the intent to “mock sin.”
“Apologia Studios is passionate about making Christian entertainment not s*ck. That’s right, we just said s*ck. This is not your typical Christian show, and it’s not your typical late-night show,” a press release for the show read.
The premier episode included a news segment that discussed the firing of Trump Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci for his crude language, “presidential drunk texting” and Trump’s ban on transgenders in the military, as well as concerns about a recent Vogue article that teaches youth how to engage in sodomy.
“[T]rust me, this one was easy to find the butt of the joke,” Durbin jested in regard to the sodomy how-to article, later adding that years ago, teens were rather taught about driving and “how not to rear-end someone.”
In the second episode, in speaking about Trump’s use of Twitter, Durbin jested, “When all his enemies want to flip him the bird, he uses the very app that has a bird as its mascot giving it right back to them.” A photo was also placed on the screen showing an angry Trump with a bird/Twitter logo over his hand.
He recorded a separate video with Marcus Pittman of Apologia Studios, in which he expressed his concern over what he perceives as “personal piety” among Christians, which he opined conflicts with the Scriptures because the Bible uses vivid language in speaking about sin.
“We can’t have a standard of pious language that is higher than God’s because when God is dealing with sin to such a degree, he cuts, and he uses language to expose the foolish,” Durbin said.
“It was mockery. We’re taught not to ‘rear end’ people. That’s what the Bible says,” Pittman also remarked in regard to the sodomy reference in the show. “Just ‘cause the subject matter is gruesome, and it is, that’s the point. I actually think that was a really well-written joke.”
“Because it’s meant to expose a very sinful, immature, foolish practice,” Durbin interjected. “… If you say, ‘Well, you shouldn’t engage in mockery of those things. Those are too serious,’ well, then you need to read your Bible because God mocks sin constantly in the Bible.”
A social media post shared by Durbin earlier this year surrounding his “End Abortion Now” efforts shows a meeting at the Apologia property in a room with movie posters hung on the wall for R-rated films such as “The Revenant” and “The Hateful Eight.”
According to Plugged In Magazine, both films use numerous curse words, with “[f]ifteen or more f-words and about the same number of s-words” in “The Revenant” alone, along with other uses of profanity. “God’s name is mashed up with [expletive] around 10 times. Jesus’ name gets abused four or five times,” the site explains.
In “The Hateful Eight,” Plugged In outlined, there are “[a]bout 25 f-words, 15 or more s-words and nearly 70 uses of the n-word. … Nearly as many profanities fall from the mouths of characters as drops of blood, as moviegoers stumble into an unrelenting hail of words such as [expletive], [expletive], [expletive] and [expletive]. God’s name is misused at least 35 times — almost all of which come in conjunction with [expletive]. Jesus’ name is abused five or six times.”
One member, who is involved with the “End Abortion Now” effort, also posted to social media that he was watching the film “Hellboy,” which is likewise rated R and includes “[a]bout 30 f-words [and] 10 s-words,” as well as other profanities. “God’s name is misused about six times [and] Jesus’ name is abused three times.”
‘NO NEED FOR UNLAWFUL WORDS’
In his 1872 book “The Abominations of Modern Society,” Thomas De Witt Talmadge, a Presbyterian pastor, wrote, “The English language is magnificent and capable of expressing every shade of feeling and every degree of energy and zeal; and there is no need that we take to ourselves unlawful words.”
“If you are happy, Noah Webster offers to your tongue ten thousand epithets in which you may express your exhilaration; and if you are righteously indignant, there are in his dictionary whole armories of denunciation and scorn, sarcasm and irony, caricature and wrath.”
“Utter yourself against some meanness or hypocrisy in all the blasphemies that ever smoked up from perdition, and I will go on to denounce the same meanness and hypocrisy with a hundred-fold more stress and vehemency in words across which no slime has ever trailed, and through which no infernal fires have shot their forked tongues — words pure, innocent, all-impressive, God-honored …”
Psalm 19:14 says, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”