In the 1970s if you said something was “bad” it meant “not good in any manner or degree; defective; deficient; poor; evil; sinful; vulgar; rotten; detrimental; defective; having no validity”. By the 1990s, especially if you added a colorful reference to the keister, it meant very good. Of course to be the best you must be the “baddest”. While in 2013 most dictionaries consider the use of “bad” to mean “good” as slang, it has become accepted enough in the language that it is in the dictionary as such.
Many will simply write this off as a colloquialism. By equating good versus bad to good versus evil, one of the definitions for bad, some will say that we are reading in a meaning that is not there. For those who are left, let’s take a look at what the Lord has to say about equating good and evil.
Isaiah 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
Should we consider Isaiah’s warning not only applying to the actual deeds but the language itself? Can we salve ourselves because we are using “bad” and not “evil”? The fact that the “bitter” and “sweet” analogy is in place, we are probably safe applying Isaiah’s comments to “good” versus “bad”.
If the desire is to inspire future generations to confuse good and evil, a good starting point is to distort the meaning of the language. Give posterity a newspeak so when they cannot communicate with clarity about good and evil. Make it difficult to communicate clearly such at a simple statement like “that is a bad tomato” no longer can be taken at face value but must be understood in context. Only with context will the reader know if we are talking about a tomato that has become rotten or is particularly delicious.
By requiring a greater understanding of context to truly know the meaning of a word, you can easily start to quote historic statements with new meaning. George Washington’s quote "It is better to be alone than in bad company" takes on a whole new meaning in 2013 than it had in the 1700s. Is this a warning about those you associate with or a foolish statement about missing out on being with fun people?
Amos 5:15 “Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate;”
Blurring the difference between good and bad, or good and evil also blurs what we are to love and hate. If it is unclear what is evil, how can it be clear what it means to establish justice?
Deuteronomy 30:15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.”
Moses’ statement in Deuteronomy is an analogy. Take away the contrast between good and evil and you take away the contract between life and death. In verse 19 we are told “Therefore choose life…”, but when there is no contrast, life and death becomes a little meaning chocolate or vanilla choice.
Malachi 2:17 ‘You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”’
It is easy to say a slanderous statement when in reality you are just fitting in or saying it out of self-interest. It becomes a throwaway line. When the language is muddled to allow you to make statements proclaiming evil as good without impacting your conscience, what contrast is there between you and those who truly believe evil is good? Is that the group of people we want to be like? Perhaps George Washington’s warning applies here. Is it coincidence that we are also back to the subject of justice?
Hebrews 5:14 “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
Making clear use of the Lord’s gift of language allows us to communicate with understanding. It takes understanding to be discerning and then constant practice to mature.
Using “bad” to mean “good” is the “baddest” form of doublespeak. What did the previous sentence mean? Did it mean that the bad/good confusion and language distortion in general a very good thing? Or did it mean that the bad/good confusion distorts language in an unacceptable way? Let’s be clear: Using “bad” to mean “good” is doublespeak. Doublespeak is destructive to language. Language is important and it is the Lord’s gift. Destroying the language does not allow us to reason together. Please find it reasonable to speak clearly. That would be good!