The Good Name: The Power of Words to Hurt or Heal

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The Good Name by Samuel T. Logan, Jr. encourages readers to see the dangers of “false witness” among Christians, especially when dealing with disagreements, which can cause damage to individuals, the church, and the good name of Jesus.

By exploring what it means to be a true witness in the Bible and the Christian church, Logan emphasizes the power of words—both divine and human—and explains how our Christian responsibility is to honor others in truth and respect, especially when we disagree.

This powerful book draws on Scripture and historical evidence of all the damage that verbal nastiness of Christians has done to the cause of Christ.

Christians often disagree with one another and, because they are Christians, they tend to hold their beliefs very strongly. This sometimes leads us to speak harshly to and about one another. But the Bible has more to say about the way we speak than it does about almost anything else, and The Good Name examines how we may express our disagreements in a way that honors Jesus.

Logan provides biblical wisdom and practical help through specific examples of how to talk to and about those with whom we disagree on “hot button issues,” such as abortion, evolution, same-sex marriage, the place of women in ministry leadership, and so on.

While encouraging readers to honor the good name of Jesus and love their neighbors, Logan also explores how Christians have undermined the gospel throughout church history. But words have the power to heal, not just hurt, and this resource outlines how to be winsome and respectful in all conversations, especially disagreements.


Samuel T. Logan, Jr., MDiv, PhD, has been International Director of the World Reformed Fellowship since 2005. He served at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 1979–2007, and is now President Emeritus. He was also Visiting Fellow at Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1988–1989, and special counsel to the president at Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, from 2007–2013. He is a minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Dr. Logan’s publications include The Preacher and Preaching, Sermons That Shaped America, Confronting Kingdom Challenges, and numerous articles on Jonathan Edwards.


"In his book, The Good Name, Logan provides a careful and complete look at how we must live out the ninth commandment. He provides solid biblical grounding, relies upon a range of Confessions of the church, considers historical contexts, and challenges the reader to speak faithfully. Most helpful is his format for approaching the challenging issues of the day. Most compelling is the way he encourages us to speak to each other even in the face of our disagreements. Take this book to heart, and let it speak to you."
Steven R. Timmermans, Executive Director, Christian Reformed Church in North America

"Sam Logan's book, The Good Name, is needed in our internet age of rising incivility and increased polarization. Christians often are 'conformed to this world' in reactively expressing their opinions electronically rather than thoughtfully following the Scriptures in general and the implications of the ninth commandment in particular. Logan’s book is both self-deprecating and insightful as he applies the ninth commandment to himself and our culture of instantaneous communication. The level of our conversations and communications will be improved by our listening to what Sam Logan has to say."
L. Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk, The Presbyterian Church in America; former professor, Reformed Theological Seminary

"In an era when the person who yells the loudest or makes the most outrageous claim is the person who is heard in the public square, The Good Name by Sam Logan urges followers of Jesus Christ to stop and think before engaging. When Christians speak, whether on social media or in face-to-face conversations, they are also representing their Savior and Lord.

Addressing how to think and speak biblically in this divisive, polarized culture, Logan expounds extensively on the biblical and confessional affirmations that address the 'power of our words,' with a special focus on the ninth commandment. Examples from church history are cited to show where failure to manage well this power led to unnecessary division in the church and a compromised witness for the gospel. A significant contribution is his thinking about honoring 'the good name' of your neighbor, and how to honor this often-overlooked part of the commandment to not bear false witness.

Out of this exposition comes helpful and (in some cases) challenging guidance for how to speak into current hot topics such as abortion, evolution, women in ministry leadership, social justice, and same-sex marriage. While the confessional study draws primarily from Reformed confessions, any Christian committed to a biblically based life will benefit greatly from The Good Name."
Jeff Jeremiah, Stated Clerk of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC); former senior pastor of First Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Renton, Washington

"Dr Logan's analysis of the ninth commandment is a salutary reminder of the importance of a good name, and how easily Christians ignore the teaching of Scripture in bearing false witness, either maliciously or unintentionally. That Dr. Logan's study emanated from his own self-confessed breach of the ninth commandment heightens the awareness of the reader's need to reflect upon the use of his or her own tongue, as it did for me. This study contains theological and historical reflections, but is also full of wise advice as to how we should engage in discourse, especially when discussing controversial issues, so that our speech might always be gracious, protecting others' good name, as we seek to glorify God."
Glenn Davies, Archbishop of Sydney and Metropolitan of the Province of New South Wales in the Anglican Church of Australia; member of the following boards: The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, The Global Anglican Relief & Development Board, and The Gafcon Primates Council

"We live in a culture of contempt, where slander and many other sins of speech damage reputations and destroy relationships. The Good Name deploys the surprisingly vast resources of the ninth commandment to confront this contemporary crisis in the way we communicate. Drawing on hard-won lessons from his own life and ministry—as well as the teaching of Scripture and traditions of Reformation theology—Dr. Samuel Logan gives practical guidance to help us learn the language of love and unleash the power of our words for good instead of evil."
Philip Ryken, President, Wheaton College; member of the Council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals; author of more than thirty books; former senior pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia; former member of the board of trustees, Westminster Theological Seminary

"Sam Logan's The Good Name begins with a startlingly candid confession of personal wrongdoing that makes unmistakable his commitment to the subject of the book: the importance of truth-telling to meet Christ’s standards and accomplish his purposes. The book unfolds biblical principles and Confessional statements that should bring most of us to repentance for the unthinking, uncharitable, and unrighteous labels we put on others' (and our own) activities, and it also prepares us to deal 'Christianly' with the hot button issues of our times. This book is exceedingly contemporary, exceedingly challenging, and intentionally healing for the advancement of Christ’s cause."
Bryan Chapell, President Emeritus of Covenant Theological Seminary; senior pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA), Peoria, Illinois; council member, The Gospel Coalition

"Dr. Sam Logan writes, 'Biblical truth-telling takes work.' After absorbing his in-depth understanding of what is required and forbidden by the ninth commandment, I felt like Job: 'I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more' (Job 40:4–5). His final chapters, however, contain practical advice as to how we can talk about issues on which professing Christians disagree. In this age of the internet and the anonymity of social media, Dr. Logan's wise counsel will move us toward 'speaking the truth in love' (Ephesians 4:15)."
Will Barker, Former President of Covenant Theological Seminary; former Vice President for Academic Affairs at Westminster Theological Seminary (PA); former moderator of the PCA General Assembly

"Sam Logan has written a beautiful story of redemption. His story is born in pain. The experience of being terminated as the president of his alma mater, after having served that great institution for twenty-seven years as distinguished professor and president, could have left him a bitter and wounded man. To the contrary, his experience set him on a healing journey of profound reflection and careful study of one of the greatest challenges to civility in church and society. The Good Name is a great book. In characteristic Logan fashion, his book represents wisdom drawn from meticulous study of theology, linguistics, social psychology and the great creeds of the church. The richness of it issues forth in an eminently useful guide to dealing honestly with the inevitability of conflict in a way that is civil and conciliatory. The Good Name will guide us in the affirmation, rather than the defamation, of one another's character and honor. I commend The Good Name to you with enthusiasm and with gratitude for the good man who wrote it."
S. Douglas Birdsall, President of the Civilitas Group; honorary chairman, The Lausanne Movement; former president, American Bible Society

"Words matter. Not just the words—but when to speak them, when to remain silent, where to speak them, how to speak them. In a masterpiece written for the layman as well as the trained theologian, Sam Logan provides excellent teaching and insight into the ninth commandment. Dr. Logan treats the observation of this commandment with great intellectual care, but also with a Christlike attitude and spirit. The Church has a responsibility and an opportunity to be different in an increasingly hate-filled and polarized culture. Sam makes this all very practical as he applies his thinking to specific, biblically complex subjects of our day. In a time when it is so easy to shade the truth and bear false witness, this book calls us back to obedience to a key commandment of our great God!"
Bob Doll, Chief Equity Strategist, Nuveen Asset Management and member of the following boards: Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Word of Life Fellowship, New Canaan Society, Kingdom Advisors, National Christian Foundation, The Lausanne Movement, The New York City Leadership Center, Cairn University, the Wharton Graduate Executive Board, and the Princeton HealthCare System

"I've known Sam Logan for thirty-five years, and, in spite of his self-confessed struggles in this book (or maybe because of them) he has served the global church as an outstanding exemplar of Christian integrity. In addition, he has been—to me and to many—both a friend and a mentor. In this greatly needed book, he addresses a question, often thought even if not spoken: "Why are so many Christians so very mean?" His reflections in this book are deeply biblical, richly practical, and imminently wise. As we would say in my native Appalachia: 'That's right. He said it. It needed saying!' And he says it with love."
Craig R. Higgins, Founding & Senior Pastor, Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA); a founding member of the La Jolla Group; member of the T. F. Torrance Theological Fellowship and the American Scientific Affiliation

"I am so grateful for Dr. Logan's clarion call to Christians to manifest the grace and truth that our Lord embodies. In our twisted world, it is sadly the case that grace without accountability can become complicity, while cries for truth can be used to condemn with an angry heart. The Good Name delineates the discipline of 'speech made ready by preparation' that we, as Christians, are called to practice."
Diane Langberg, Founder and Director of a counseling practice in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, which includes fifteen therapists with multiple specialties; co-leader of the Global Trauma Recovery Institute at Biblical Theological Seminary; member of the Board of G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment); co-chair for American Bible Society’s Trauma Advisory Council; author of many books, including Counseling Survivors of Sexual AbuseOn the Threshold of HopeIn Our Lives First: Meditations for Counselors, and Suffering the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores

"I won't say that I'm happy my friend (and fellow sinner!) Sam Logan once committed the sin of 'shading the truth' in his leadership role. But I will say that I'm happy the occasion inspired him to write this fine book about what goals and qualities for human community the Lord had in mind when he commanded us not to 'bear false witness.' This book is a marvelous resource of much-needed, biblically grounded wisdom for believers who are called to 'live out the truth' in a culture—and even, these days, in our churches!—where the value of words is increasingly under attack."
Richard Mouw, President Emeritus of Fuller Theological Seminary; current Professor of Faith and Public Life at Fuller; former President of the Association of Theological Schools; recipient of the Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life; author of more than twenty books, including Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World

"Some books are hard to read because of the complexity of their content. In The Good Name, Sam Logan gives us a book that is hard to read both because of the personal nature of the subject and the call that it makes of every Christian to examine the nature of our words as witness. A brutally honest study in truth-telling brings biblical, theological, personal, and practical insight in a volume that is both compelling and challenging. This is a book that could only be written by one who has faced that challenge and in humility records its impact. This is a book to be read slowly and prayerfully with tears and the expectation of blessing!"
Rob Norris, Teaching Pastor at Fourth Presbyterian Church (EPC, Bethesda, Maryland) and Chairman of the Board of Directors of The World Reformed Fellowship

"In many circles today, the court of public opinion has usurped the courts of truth and justice. Consequently, almost anyone can broadcast a false report that maligns a reputation, derails a career, and destroys a community. The results are often tragic as true victims are overlooked and true innocence and real repentance are disregarded. If there ever was a time for a renewal of truth-telling and ninth commandment practices, that time is now. Sam has done a remarkable job addressing this urgent need."
Scott Sauls, Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee; author of several books, including Jesus Outside the Lines and Irresistible Faith

"Please, if you use words, and you desire your words to comport with God's words, or you are tempted to use labels or you engage in debate on social media, hear Dr. Logan's plea. But, be prepared to be challenged with winsome, biblical clarity to process more, to question yourself and others more—in short, to do the hard work of carefully and consistently promoting the honor of Christ in both how and what you communicate. The church will be grateful for this timely contribution of a scholar-pastor who humbly shepherds our souls to mirror the glory of God in our esteem of the good name of our neighbor."
Mike Sharrett, Interim Pastor, Wallace Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCA), College Park, Maryland,; former member of the board of trustees at Westminster Theological Seminary

"Sam Logan has written a book that everyone needs to read, especially during such fractious times. His careful analysis of the ninth commandment is a helpful corrective to the tendency to damage the reputation of others. Shakespeare poignantly reminded us that, 'He that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed.' We too often tend to belittle or demonize those with whom we disagree, caring too little about the damage that may occur although we are incensed when the victim. Becoming more observant of this commandment could benefit us immensely."
Luder G. Whitlock, Jr., Served the president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando for twenty-three years; former executive director of The New Geneva Study Bible and The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible; executive director, CNL Charitable Foundation; author of Divided We Fall

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5 Reviews

  • 5
    Our and Others' Good Name

    Published by Michael Philliber on 11 10 2019

    Are you, like me, deeply concerned about the heavy “shock-and-awe” approach that is being taken on social media? Are you alarmed by the vitriol and venom poured out through broadcast and print? Are you’re beginning to become distressed with the ways the social environment is increasingly becoming anti-social and how it is impacting your congregation and community? If so, then there’s a new book out that may well be a helpful part of the remedy. Samuel T. Logan, Jr., ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, one-time president of Westminster Theological Seminary-PA, emeritus professor of church history, and associate international director of the World Reformed Fellowship, has recently published a helpful resource, “The Good Name: The Power of Words to Hurt or Heal.” This 192-page softback takes up God’s command, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” and presents it in a series of very contemporary applications. Specifically written for Christians, whether clerics or congregants, Logan addresses the power of words, beginning with his own past failures and moving out into up-to-date situations. Logan unpacks what most Protestants number as the Ninth Commandment (some Lutherans and Anglicans, along with Catholics and Orthodox will call it the eighth). The author exposes his own failure in the past, which cost him his seminary presidency. He chronicles how this loss opened up to him several other ways he breached the command to not bear false witness against others. Then he pulls out historical catechisms – Reformed, Methodist, Baptist, Catholic and Orthodox – demonstrating in what ways this command has traditionally been understood. Next, he works through the Scriptures, showing what God has counseled in his Word and gives plentiful examples. Finally, Logan presents numerous illustrations and suggestions to aid readers in preserving their own and other’s good name. And yet, the author is very clear that it is important we stand for the truth and the Truth. We cannot call evil good, nor good evil. And we cannot be silent, and thus become complicit, in the face of sin. Therefore, this book is more about how we deal with sin, stand up for right, and faithfully hold to biblical orthodoxy and orthopraxy. “When we stand for the truth, we will be seen as doing just that – standing for the truth. But how we stand for the truth can make all the difference between bearing true witness and bearing false witness” (74). Toward the goal of standing for the truth while not bearing false witness against our neighbor, the author piles on several helpful guidelines, and challenges a huge social media problem, the online disinhibition effect. This is that sense of anonymity, invisibility, and lack of accountability, which is boiling and cooking cyberspace, and beginning to seep out of its pores into our churches, and relationships. I must say that throughout the entirety of “The Good Name” I found my toes stomped on, and my shins kicked. It has brought me to ruminate on my own words in the past, whether written, preached or conversed. Though some readers will find areas of disagreement with the author’s assessments here and there, nevertheless, if they will momentarily put those disagreements to the side and thoughtfully ponder the content and message of the book, and reflect on applications in their own lives, they will be richly profited. I highly recommend the book. My thanks to New Growth Press for sending me the copy used for this review, at my request. Neither the publisher nor author gave me any marching orders. Hence, this analysis is my own, written with liberty.

  • 4
    Our words and our witness for Christ

    Published by Joan Nienhuis on 10 26 2019

    Logan had been president of Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) for thirteen years when he told a lie at a faculty meeting. He lost his position as a result. He explores the broader issue of bringing dishonor to Christ in this book. He looks at what the Bible says about the power of our speech, the kinds of words we are to speak, how false witness damages others, labels, and the impact of social media. He also includes examples of thinking through some tough issues, like creation/evolution, women in ministry and more. I appreciate Logan's exploration of hot issues causing hurt among Christians today. I like how he emphasizes that our words are to be consistent with biblical teaching. Yes, we are to tell the truth but in a way consistent with biblical commands such as the “one another” passages. I am glad Logan reminds readers to be aware of the consequences of our words. Logan is from the Reformed tradition and some readers may not be familiar with a few of his sources, such as catechisms and the works of Calvin. Also, Logan's writing style is rather academic and would appeal to those more used to lectures than personal conversations. I appreciate the bottom line of Logan's book, that we honor the good name of Jesus Christ. Logan has learned through experience the damage caused by words. He encourages readers to communicate so that love and care are clear and truly try to understand the view of others. While lay Christians would benefit from reading this book, I think it is best suited for church leaders and others involved in ministry. I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

  • 4
    Timely book challenging our use of words

    Published by Wendy on 10 12 2019

    This book came from honest, humble beginnings, written by Logan analysing why it was right for the Westminster Theological Seminary board of trustees to dismiss him as president for ‘shading the truth and bearing false witness’ after speaking a lie in a faculty meeting. He introduces the story and uses it to explain how it led to a lot of soul searching and analysis of the meaning of the ninth commandment, other scriptures and catechisms of faith. He considers damage done by false witness, starting with the first lie told in the bible (the serpent to Eve), and then extends it to evidence of false witness in the early church, Reformation and today. Logan then examines principles for bearing true witness. We should analyse our hearts and why we speak the words we do, and well as remember we don’t know other people’s hearts and cannot speak with authority about their actions or choices. He warns about the use of labels and delves into the mire of word usage online, giving helpful advice and warnings for Christians as they seek to honour God in the online space. The final chapter fleshes out the guidelines in some current, specific areas of controversy including abortion, evolution, women in church leadership roles and same-sex marriage. He starts with four preliminary points: our words matter, check your motive, stay on point and cast no aspersions, and secure slippery slopes. No answers to these issues are given, but rather guidelines on how to have constructive conversations. It’s relevant and instructive, and much Christian dialogue would improve and be more God-honouring if we gave weight to such considerations. A timely book that challenges the reader to consider the power of their words, the easy tendency to sin in this area, and ways to honour the Lord as we choose wisely the words that we use.

  • 5
    Samuel Logan Opens Our Eyes

    Published by Clair Davis on 09 23 2019

    Samuel Logan opens our eyes! We’re used to making magical jumps from what someone actually said to what we’re sure they meant by it. But he shows us how the right label for that, it isn’t scholarly ingenuity—it’s distorting the truth. When someone says something that sounds like it undermines Christian reality, then do some work before you sound off. Talk it over: is this what you meant, how do you avoid this implication? Be teachable: you don’t know it all, do you want to learn—or are you positive a closed mind is safer? Hear Jesus telling you what’s right: be one as I and my Father are. Try harder to make that happen. Logan is so clear and refreshing in all of that. Yes, history is full of deception, there are so many liars out there. So isn’t it smart to assume that everyone who doesn’t say it exactly the way you do is on that list? When you’ve been fooled so many times, it does make you suspicious. But that’s not the perfect excuse for sloppy thinking and talking, how can it be? Our world is fed up with conflicting thinking, it believes it wants fuzzy ‘acceptance.’ But it doesn’t really, does it? What we all yearn for and want is that genuine combo of truth and love. That’s where Logan helps us so much. He doesn’t deal in generalities, he spells it out for us. This is how to talk to people you don’t understand. This is how you mirror God as you tell others his awesome truth.

  • 5
    Samuel Logan opens our eyes!

    Published by D. Clair Davis on 09 19 2019

    Samuel Logan opens our eyes! We’re used to making magical jumps from what someone actually said to what we’re sure they meant by it. But he shows us how the right label for that, it isn’t scholarly ingenuity—it’s distorting the truth. When someone says something that sounds like it undermines Christian reality, then do some work before you sound off. Talk it over: is this what you meant, how do you avoid this implication? Be teachable: you don’t know it all, do you want to learn—or are you positive a closed mind is safer? Hear Jesus telling you what’s right: be one as I and my Father are. Try harder to make that happen. Logan is so clear and refreshing in all of that. Yes, history is full of deception, there are so many liars out there. So isn’t it smart to assume that everyone who doesn’t say it exactly the way you do is on that list? When you’ve been fooled so many times, it does make you suspicious. But that’s not the perfect excuse for sloppy thinking and talking, how can it be? Our world is fed up with conflicting thinking, it believes it wants fuzzy ‘acceptance.’ But it doesn’t really, does it? What we all yearn for and want is that genuine combo of truth and love. That’s where Logan helps us so much. He doesn’t deal in generalities, he spells it out for us. This is how to talk to people you don’t understand. This is how you mirror God as you tell others his awesome truth.

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