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Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: Can Music Be Sinful?

The first question in our discussion goes to Shai Linne:

Shai_Bio-300x300Scott, in your recent post where you explained your comments on the NCFIC panel, you spoke of rap as “a form of music that is inherently denigrating.” My first question to you is this: Are you saying that music, apart from lyrics, can be sinful in and of itself? If so, what is your Scriptural basis for such a claim?

Scott-thumb-300x300This is an excellent question, and I’m glad we’re starting here; it reveals our shared commitment to the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God.

Yes, I believe that music, apart from lyrics, can be sinful in and of itself. Here is my biblical support:

I begin with 1 Timothy 3:16-17:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Scripture governs absolutely every area of our lives; there is nothing the Bible does not address, either by precept, principle, or example, including our music.

The question then becomes, what in Scripture governs our music? To answer this question, we must understand the nature of music itself.

Music is not a thing; music is an action. Specifically, music is an action of moral human agents. While God created the “stuff” of music (sound, pitch, rhythm, timbre, etc.), moral human agents create songs.

Scripture is clear that the actions of moral agents are either good or evil. By the common grace of God, people can do good things (Luke 6:33; Rom 2:14-15). They can also do sinful things (1 John 1:8).

Specifically, music is communication. Although Scripture is not intended to be a music textbook and should not be viewed that way, Scripture at least implies that music communicates. Here are just a few examples:

Instrumental music can express victory or defeat (Exod 32:17-18), calm (1 Sam 16:1-23), mourning, weeping, and wailing (Job 30:31; Isa 16:11; Jer 48:36), joy (1 Chr 15:16), and pomp (Isa 14:11). This kind of communication may be common to all people or specific to a culture, or even specific to a certain person. Again, Scripture doesn’t teach that music communicates, but it implies what we know by experience.

Scripture says that human communication must be evaluated. Communication can express anger, wrath, malice, and obscenity (Col 3:8). Communication can be corrupt or edifying (Eph 4:29). Furthermore, Scripture’s principles concerning communication apply to all forms of communication like body language or facial expressions (even a “look” can express pride [Prov 6:17]), not just propositions.

Thus, what Scripture says about communication must be applied to music. In particular, music communicates similarly to tone of voice and body language. Assuming what we say is good, if our tone of voice expresses love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control, it is good; and if our tone of voice expresses impurity, sensuality, enmity, strife, or fits of anger, it is sinful (Gal 5:19-20, 22). It can express these things even if we don’t intend them, such as when I speak harshly to my wife after a long day even though I do not intend to.

Making evaluations about what tones of voice express what emotion is not always easy; it requires wisdom and judgment. But if we long to be conformed to the image of Christ, we’ll make those judgments about all of our communications.

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Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is on faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He has written two books, dozens of articles, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and two children.

63 Responses to Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: Can Music Be Sinful?

  1. Steven says:

    Thank you for your answer Scott. What I don’t understand is, why can’t each rap beat be judged on an individual basis? Meaning, judging a rap beat composed by a Christian vs. a non Christian since God judges our hearts. He knows our heart’s intent when one makes a rap beat. That is my understanding of being in the New Covenant, that God is to be worshiped in Spirit and Truth and that can only properly happen if one has been bought by Jesus. Thanks again for having this conversation with Shai!

  2. Ben Viljoen says:

    I think the author confuses rap with death metal… I thought rap was just a guy talking with some beat in the background?

  3. Philip Moses says:

    even death metal isn’t inherently evil. it seems that Scott added a ton of spirit to the law, without even finding a letter of the law! this is what the Pharisees did…

  4. Ivory says:

    Mr. Aniol,

    I have followed this conversation with keen interest and especially appreciate the dialogue about music in general as either inherently good or evil.
    I am thrilled you are opening a dialogue with Shai Linne and perhaps others whom you strongly disagree with musically.

    Encouraged to hear that the beginning foundation for discussion is and must be Biblical.

    You write:
    “Music is not a thing; music is an action. Specifically, music is an action of moral human agents. While God created the “stuff” of music (sound, pitch, rhythm, timbre, etc.), moral human agents create songs.

    Scripture is clear that the actions of moral agents are either good or evil. By the common grace of God, people can do good things (Luke 6:33; Rom 2:14–15). They can also do sinful things (1 John 1:8).”

    I agree that it is the moral agents who either do good or evil. Common grace is seen in all of our world.

    I think this applies to artists who are Christians – by their very identity being “in Christ” the art they produce specifically to convey the Gospel is a very good thing indeed.

    If the artist is in Christ and he or she composes a piece of music, to be sung, with Scripturally rich doctrine, then would not that piece of music be acceptable to God – the only One who judges the heart and knows the intentions of the artist?

    I also have a further question which comes from the panel discussion and some of the writing which has been done since the NCFIC panel was posted.

    What are we to do with classical music which comes to us from moral agents who were/are professed agnostics, atheists, deists, etc.?
    By their own professions are known biblically to be enemies of God.
    Is their music then, inherently evil?

    Just some that come to mind:
    Goethe – Hundreds of German art songs by Schumann, Strauss, Beethoven, Schubert, etc.
    Beethoven , Mahler, Debussy, Rubenstein, Brahms, Britten, Shostakovich, Copland, Fauré, Holst, Jánaček, Verdi, Vaughn Williams, Bartók, Berlioz, Prokofiev, Bizet, Ligeti, Boulez, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Bussoni, Ned Rorem, Saint-Saëns, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers.

    There are many, many more.

    When Scripture tells us that anything done not in “faith” is sin – then what are we to do with this mountain of music from the Master Composers?

    How would the music of these classical giants be redeemed since their very existence comes from sinful moral agents?

  5. Ronnie says:

    The first question was a bit imprecise but the force still should have been felt, because it shows the shaky ground on which Scott is standing. The question was *can* music apart from lyrics be sinful. We know that just about everything *can* be sinful. Even praying or love of spouse *can* be sinful if done in the wrong way.

    Scott makes a good point that all things communicate something, but that something is not always good or evil, sometimes it is indifferent. For example, my walking on the sidewalk is not communicating a good or evil thing, it is indifferent. However, in order to properly grasp the communication of the indifferent things we must often know the context in which it is being done.

    The question should have been asked “is” music apart from lyrics inherently sinful? The obvious answer is no. It is indifferent. The context will give the music a good or evil connotation. Scott goes off on a tangent pretty quickly when he mentions

    “Assuming what we say is good, if our tone of voice expresses love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control, it is good; and if our tone of voice expresses impurity, sensuality, enmity, strife, or fits of anger, it is sinful (Gal 5:19–20, 22)”

    But the question asked about music *apart* from lyrics. However, even if we allow Scott to go down that tangent he hasn’t said anything that isn’t true about any type of song or verbal communication. Scott must show that these things are *always and inherently* a part of rap music in order to justify his position. I don’t think that is something that Scott will not be able to do.

  6. Martin says:

    Hi Ronnie – I think you have a point, and one I have made previously as well. It seems to me that music without lyrics does not provide a clear message in the sense of being moral or immoral. Even if we could agree that e.g. rap sounds angry and heavy metal is aggressive, this does not mean sin per se. It depends on the situation. It seems to me there can be a mismatch between music and lyrics because, as Scott laid out well elsewhere on this blog, music is the form which shapes the message. Yet, ‘be ye angry and sin not’ clearly implies you CAN be angry without sinning. God is sometimes angry; Jesus was angry when He cleared out the temple. So inherent anger would not be the problem. It’s when you combine angry-sounding music to lyrics that are clearly not meant to express anger that you are – well, sinning? – in error. You are miscommunicating in the sense of saying ‘I love you’ to your wife with an angry demeanor.

    I think sin comes in when you combine the music with its social context, connected attitudes, and sometimes rather obscene or offensive lyrics. The latter is normally not the case with Christian artists but they still need to think about what their styles are associated with within society even if they have better lyrics and do not indulge in sinful lifestyles.

    Yet, using the ‘wrong’ music does not look like sin to me; rather, it shows a lack of understanding on the side of the artist. Lack of understanding is not necessarily sin.

    I’d also submit that music can be used in many ways, and that even music that is offensive can theoretically be used in ways that are not sinful (e.g., soundtracks or even for teaching purposes). So again, I think it depends on the context. For example, if Christians were to listen to Eminem and enjoy it as good music, we need to ask why they would still, after their conversion, find pleasure in depravity. Something is wrong there. I would not be able to say the same to a Christian listening to Shai’s music, since its messaging is good. Yet, the onus is on Shai to think about how he can communicate his message better than with rap or whether rapping is the right method to reach the communities he would like to touch. This will surely be the topic of future posts in this discussion.

  7. Tim says:

    With all due respect to the people posting feedback, this is not rocket science, folks. There’s not as much to parse here as you want to believe there is.

    Neither is this conversation between Shai and Scott anything that believers in Christ haven’t held before. Musical discussions – and controversies – have been going on for centuries. There is nothing new under the sun.

    Might I suggest that if we don’t like what either Shai or Scott have to contribute, then first we ask ourselves: what is the BIBLICAL basis for my differing perspective? As this forum goes on, hopefully it will become apparent that culture – where we usually turn first for answers – is an unreliable resource.

    Let’s remember: ultimately, we’re all supposed to be on the same side here. God’s.

    Thank you.

  8. Ronnie says:

    Martin,

    Yeah, I think we are pretty much in agreement but a few finer points. I’m not saying you necessarily hold to these but I want to be clear.

    “Yet, using the ‘wrong’ music does not look like sin to me; rather, it shows a lack of understanding on the side of the artist. Lack of understanding is not necessarily sin.”

    It seems the same assumption is in play here when we state rap is the ‘wrong’ music. If the music is not inherently sinful then it is not by default ‘wrong’. If rap music is wrong because the culture often uses it in a sinful way then what kind of music is ‘good’? Tunes on the piano? Used in this culture in a sinful way also. As a matter of fact Christians had better get rid of their TVs, the internet, and almost everything else that they use in this life if that is the standard we are using.

  9. Martin says:

    I mean ‘wrong’ in the sense that it does not combine with the lyrics, or does alter their meaning in a way that is not conducive to the artistic intent. I am NOT saying rap is wrong in all situations – it may be well suited to certain kinds of communication, including protest, anger, resistance, or simply ‘blowing off’… but I stick to saying it would be the wrong style to put a psalm to song.

  10. Ronnie says:

    OK.

    “I stick to saying it would be the wrong style to put a psalm to song.”

    It maybe wrong because of our current culture, but not because it is inherently wrong. Why is the piano right? Why is the organ right? What about a bagpipe? What makes these instruments right when none of them were used by God’s Old Covenant people when they sung the Psalms?

    BTW, rap is not only used to communicate the emotions that we normally associated with sin(e.g. anger, aggressiveness ), but also those virtues that we cherish(e.g. love, hope ). As a matter of fact rap predates the American Hip Hop culture and even in American it wasn’t always aggressive and vulgar.

  11. Martin says:

    Haha! If we are having so many problems communicating with ‘lyrics only’ (on this forum) then no wonder it gets really complicated once we add the musical styles!
    No, what I was talking about is not instrumentation, although that also has an effect. I guess you could accompany rap with a piano, or even an organ if you want to be innovative? That is not the point I am trying to make. It’s the inherent qualities of how language is spoken in rap: it’s very self-assured and forceful. When I listened to some tracks of Shai’s album ‘Attributes of God’ last night, I could confirm that how the lyrics are spoken has a strong impact on how they are perceived by the listener. And this style does not lend itself to expressing lament, awe, or praise (just as you can’t convince your girlfriend you love her if you tell her that in an angry voice). That is why I am saying it’s “wrong” when you try to combine it with a psalm meant to express those feelings. Instrumentation is really secondary here. Another illustration would be using oil paint to make a technical drawing – it simply isn’t the right medium for what you want to achieve.

  12. MARK C. says:

    Tim, Martin, and others:

    Thank you for the insightful input to this dialogue between Shai and Scott. In regards to an artist’s “delivery”, and how it is received, it seems that individual subjectivity is not being addressed. Making the claim that the way an artist expressed their lyrics did not lend itself to glorifying God is wholly subjective. What may be angry or forceful to one may be bold and confident to another.

    Consider the myriad of different preaching styles. Some preachers get extremely loud, shouting scripture at the congregation (yes, i’m talking about the STEREOTYPICAL southern baptist style – and no, I do not believe every southern baptist preach has this style). On the other spectrum, there are preachers that express the Word in a less boisterous manner. They calmly delivery God’s word. Some people don’t like all the “hoopin’ and hollerin'” of the rowdy pastors.

    So does Shai Linne have to use a certain type of worship music to mimic on his albums. So then what type of worship music? What you grew up listening to on Sundays was your experience, not mine. The music I listened to is my experience, not yours. Just because you or I find someone’s delivery inappropriate does not make it so.

    Tim – I agree with you but let’s remember that these types of discussions may not be old news to everyone. For some, this may be their first exposure to this particular issue.

    At any rate, I applaud the civil behavior of everyone involved!

  13. Martin says:

    Hi Mark,

    “Making the claim that the way an artist expressed their lyrics did not lend itself to glorifying God is wholly subjective. What may be angry or forceful to one may be bold and confident to another.”

    Yet, you appear to contradict yourself since you then go on to talk about Southern Baptist preaching styles as if it were self-evident that some are boisterous or rowdy. I would agree that we can all agree on the latter, i.e. that some preaching styles are indeed such. If we can agree, this implies there are objective and universally valid principles that we can use to judge these styles.

    The entire reason for being of this blog (as I understand it) and also the present discussion is precisely to get BEYOND subjective judgements. We do indeed all have our own experiences in the past that make us who we are and also shaped our tastes and preferences. That, however, should not be taken to mean that we cannot make any objective judgments on those tastes and preferences. Scott has written on this subject on this blog, and essentially is saying that we are subject to depravity, and so are our tastes and preferences. I would say, there REALLY IS such a thing as good and bad taste, and we need to find out which objective criteria we can use to determine that and make biblically informed judgments in the realm of culture (if you were right, we could never do that). If this were easy, there would be no need for our discussion here.

    So I deny the claim that experience should determine the outcome of this debate. “Just because you or I find someone’s delivery inappropriate does not make it so” – quite right, so let’s make an attempt to find objective criteria to ‘judge all things’ (1.Cor 2:15) and get beyond what each of us (me included) FIND an artist’s delivery to be (subjectively and merely based on our respective experiences).

  14. Ronnie says:

    Hey Martin,

    You said:
    “When I listened to some tracks of Shai’s album ‘Attributes of God’ last night, I could confirm that how the lyrics are spoken has a strong impact on how they are perceived by the listener. And this style does not lend itself to expressing lament, awe, or praise (just as you can’t convince your girlfriend you love her if you tell her that in an angry voice). That is why I am saying it’s “wrong” when you try to combine it with a psalm meant to express those feelings.”

    The Psalms contains a range of emotions, not just lament. Take this from the Psalm 3:7:

    “Arise, LORD! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.( Psalm 3:7 )”

    I guess this would be considered aggressive, right? Well the same is true for rap, it contains a range of human emotions. It seems one of the mistaken assumptions is that rap is only aggressive in tone. That is not the case and if you listen to Shai Linne enough you will see this. Actually I found most of Shai Linne material as teaching of theology, therefore not overly aggressive or a lamentation. Different rappers have different styles. For example this album( http://jovanmackenzy.com/seduction-of-self-released/ ) is mostly self-reflection and includes lamentations. However, people will even disagree over what is aggressive. I wonder if those that are not used to listening to rap will consider almost everything aggressive, but that is because they are conditioned by their culture not any real biblical standard.

  15. PhilT says:

    >>>”Music is not a thing; music is an action. Specifically, music is an action of moral human agents. While God created the “stuff” of music (sound, pitch, rhythm, timbre, etc.), moral human agents create songs.”

    A thing plus a thing plus a thing is still a thing. An moral human action is the *creation* of music or one’s *response to* or *use of* it. Thus morality is derived from how we interact with things or people and whether or not our interaction with those things or people transgresses the moral law of God. But it is essential for the above argument that a collection of things ceases to be a thing and then takes on a life of its own. I would contend that I don’t know of any other circumstance where this takes place.

    Creation: A chemist in a lab (fallen moral agent) combines elements (things) to make rat poison (thing) for mass-production. The thing is neutral (or perhaps even still good depending on how you view “morality” of things…Aquinas would say that all things are inherently good because they come from God), but the creator has not sinned in creating it. A chemistry teacher (fallen moral agent) combines elements (things) to make a poison (thing) to kill his wife. The thing is still neutral, but the creator has sinned in his motivation for creating it. So, if someone stumbled across the chemist’s poison and then used it to kill rats, the morality of the creator does not dwell within the thing itself.

    Use: A homeowner (fallen moral agent) purchases rat poison (thing made by fallen moral agents) to kill rats in order to avoid them spreading disease to his children. The homeowner is not sinning in using the thing created by a fallen moral agent. A husband (fallen moral agent) purchases rat poison (thing made by fallen moral agents) to kill his wife. The husband has sinned in his violation of the moral will of God as revealed in Scripture. Still, the thing itself remains morally neutral.

    Argument: Music is a *thing* composed of various *things* which are created good by God. Morality, as a human act, enters into the equation with the intent of the human creator of the thing, or the intent or employment of the thing by the end-user. The thing does not take on a morality of its own in the middle.

  16. Martin says:

    Cultural conditioning is, however, part of the argument. If OUR CULTURE understands rap as being aggressive, then we have a valid argument that it will indeed by understood as such (at least, by the majority).

    I’ve expressed myself on Psa 137 and how it squares with rap in a parallel thread (towards the end): http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-culture/explanation-of-my-comments-about-reformed-rap-on-the-ncfic-panel/

    Psalm 3 would be analogous to that statement. Again, there is a difference between crying out to God to punish the wicked and angrily rebuking the wicked. Note I am not saying Shai is aggressive as a person; I’m saying he expresses his thoughts through the aggressive rap style. The fact that he is trying to teach through his art does not negate the charge that the teaching style he has chosen is associated with aggressivity and a biting sound that suggests complaint or rebuke, rather than lament.

    I personally don’t see that my evaluation that rap is qualified as aggressive, imposing, and ‘telling off’ in its language style is subjective. Of course, this can be discussed further. Does anyone have some further-going material (not opinions) we could consult which would indicate that rap is not aggressive in its basic expression?

  17. Martin says:

    I have to agree with PhilT.

  18. Christian Markle says:

    It has been asserted that the “Argument: Music is a *thing* composed of various *things* which are created good by God. Morality, as a human act, enters into the equation with the intent of the human creator of the thing, or the intent or employment of the thing by the end-user. The thing does not take on a morality of its own in the middle.”

    Is this true of all “things.” For instance the rack, the gas chambers at Auschwitz, a Playboy magazine, or statues of Baal?

    I think it may be asserted that the material itself of each of these items are not evil, but the formulation of them and the purpose of such formulation calls us to categorize them as evil or at the very least detestable (ie Ezekiel 37:23). If not evil, they certainly are to be treated in ways that evil things should be treated if any evil thing could exist — they should be detested, denounced, discarded, avoided and cast down not “redeemed” for worship to God or evangelization of the world.

  19. Martin says:

    The answer is YES, this is true of all “things”.
    I ALSO agree that not all things should be ‘redeemed’. Clearly, the gas chambers are hard to be redeemed. Even turning them into say, a gym or art gallery (obviously removing the gas injection devices) does not really redeem them since the memory of the place persists. Also, making it into a museum does not redeem it since it’s exactly the purpose to show how evil the place is.

    But more academically/theoretically spoken, the gas chambers themselves are not good or evil. The INTENT to build them was evil. Their USE to kill Jews and dissidents was evil. But otherwise, Phil’s rat poison comparison still holds.

    Bowing down to a Baal statue to worship it is morally wrong, as well as creating it for that purpose. Having it in a museum, taking a picture of it or making it part of an art exhibition is not morally wrong. It simply is an artifact made by humans that can be used in different ways. Playboy’s intent is morally wrong but the image of a naked woman itself is not evil. Yet, when we look at it lustfully, morality comes back into the picture.

    I think what makes this theoretical discussion difficult in the field of music is that the intended use of music (to listen to it and enjoy – or learn from the lyrics) are very well defined and will represent the overwhelming majority of its uses, such that the use comes to be associated with the artifact (music really only exists once you listen to it). Yet, I think it is better to separate the two and speak strictly of the uses of music (including its creation) as moral actions but not the music itself.

    Having said that, if 99% of the typical uses of a type of music are indeed found to be morally deficient, we may simply have to reject such music as fit for Christian consumption. We are responsible to think about how we use art in ways compatible with the Christian worldview.

  20. PhilT says:

    >>>”Is this true of all “things.” For instance the rack, the gas chambers at Auschwitz, a Playboy magazine, or statues of Baal?….the formulation of them and the purpose of such formulation calls us to categorize them as evil or at the very least detestable”

    Rack and Gas Chambers: People (fallen moral agents) commissioned to make these items from material (things) for the intent of human pain/death (evil) either sinned or were merely complying with sinful men who forced them to make the items. There was certainly sin in the intent. The objects now exist as things in themselves with no moral value. Perhaps the rack (as in some Reformation History collections) can remind us of the suffering of our forefathers. Perhaps a gas chamber (as in the Holocaust museum) can remind us of the fallenness of our race and the horror of war and racism. But in neither event is the thing itself sinful.

    Playboy: I don’t think we can question the intent here. Certainly the intent is to make money from the lust of people and the abuse of other people. Definitely a sin in the creation. Given that intent, I have no problem warning people of the danger of pornography because it is designed to evoke lustful responses. But, as you noted, the thing itself is not moral. It is made of good things (dots on paper/screen). It does not in and of itself *demand* an immoral response. Otherwise, if I see a pornographic image unintentionally, I would have to say that the image forces an immoral act within my mind. This (along with many of the “the music made me do it” arguments) dilutes the control and work of the Holy Spirit. I recognize that this is the most challenging of all the ‘thing’ arguments, mostly because we see the way people have taken this thing and used it to their own (and others’) destruction. I’m still working on how to fit this into the overall biblical paradigm on the issue, but I hope I’ve started to outline how this can be done.

    Statues of Baal: The Scriptures make clear that an idol is not a thing in and of itself (1 Cor. 8:4) and is just a piece of material that man uses to push out God (Isa. 44:12-20). The issue is not the thing itself but the intent behind the creation and the implementation of the thing. To your point, discoveries of Baal images have significantly furthered our understanding of the cultural background of the Old Testament in the ANE cultural milieu, so from my standpoint, I see this as a positive result.

    All Things: I think it is easier to deal with the occasional challenging thing from this perspective than it is to take the other perspective. If things themselves are moral, then the thing itself must be punished. And I just struggle with the notion that God would condemn *objects* to a future in hell (insert image of burning CD’s in the afterlife). In fact, this overall approach to things is most in line with Scriptural teaching such as 1 Timothy 4:4.

    >>>”they should be detested, denounced, discarded, avoided and cast down not “redeemed” for worship to God or evangelization of the world.”

    Your point here actually accentuates two points I was hoping to make here.

    First: Just because something is good (or neutral, depending on your view of things), doesn’t mean that I must redeem the thing for Christian worship or apologetics. It may not be the most helpful thing to interact with in this way. It may simply not lend itself to redemptive engagement. That isn’t to say that the thing is bad or that the thing can never be used in a different way. This leads me to the second point.

    Second: What the “redeem culture” crowd is *not* saying, is that every *thing* should be redeemed and used in worship/evangelism, but that every *category of thing* can be redeemed and used for worship or evangelism. In other words, we are not called to redeem Playboy, but we certainly can redeem print journalism or social media, or internet videos. Applied to music, I’m not suggesting that we need to redeem the song “Single Ladies” although it is in and of itself just a thing, but I am saying that genres like Hip-Hop, R&B, Jazz, etc. can be redeemed.

    I hope these explanations are helpful to the discussion.

  21. Some things are neither good nor evil – they are morally neutral. Your zeal for the sufficiency of Scripture is clouding your application of Scripture to an area about which I truly believe Scripture was not intended by the Spirit to speak authoritatively *in the sense in which you perceive it to speak authoritatively* and in the sense you’d give to the notion of authority.

  22. Wayne Irby says:

    “Thus, what Scripture says about communication must be applied to music.” (Aniol)

    I am looking for any scripture (implied would be fine) that sets any precedent of God’s opinion (approving or disapproving) about music in and of itself. I get that music apart from lyrics can and does invoke an emotion. I get that some beats, rhythms, harmonies, etc can “express victory or defeat (Exod 32:17-18), calm (1 Sam 16:1-23), mourning, weeping, and wailing (Job 30:31; Isa 16:11; Jer 48:36), joy (1 Chr 15:16), and pomp (Isa 14:11).” (Aniol)

    So, in all the thousands of years of recorded history of this “stiff-necked people,” God did not once address the misuse of music? The absence certainly cannot be because music is unimportant. Music is introduced in Genesis, is present throughout to OT and New, and is obviously important in heaven for eternity.

    I’m thinking some rebellious young Israelite had to drop an unholy beat on the drum at some point. In all the festivals, not once did a musician look at Solomons’ lifestyle (giving his heart to many foreign women, his singers, both men and women, and many concubines) and arrange some sort of seductive musical number to fit the occasion?

    If not Israel, then I assume the other nations also had instruments and music. God describes many of their cultural practices as unholy. But where does he condemn their musical beats, rhythms, and harmonies? Many examples throughout the bible of heathen cultural expressions and none of them suggest that if you play their heathen music without words something would be wrong. There is nothing to suggest that the heathens used incorrect instruments. And nothing to suggest that their beats, rhymes or rhythms were unholy.

  23. Christian Markle says:

    My intent is that things while evil or not can be detestable and ought (by command of a holy God) be cast down and avoided. In this they are treated as evil, harmful to the soul of man, and the only right affection toward them is to detest them. Seeking to redeem what God calls us to detest is a not so subtle violation of the first and greatest commandment.

    It appears that we are struggling with categories, sub categories, and sub categories. Whereas atoms are not evil and must not be detested, and paper and ink are not evil and must not be detested, and magazines (as a category) are not evil and must not be detested; a Playboy magazine should be detested (I have purposefully avoided calling it evil out of deference not agreement that it is not evil, but the reaction of detesting remains). Yeah, all of the category of magazines (or other forms of media with similar properties of inciting lust) are to be detested as well.

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  24. Ronnie says:

    Hi Martin,

    You said:
    “Cultural conditioning is, however, part of the argument. If OUR CULTURE understands rap as being aggressive, then we have a valid argument that it will indeed by understood as such (at least, by the majority).”

    I totally agree and that is why I previously stated:

    “It maybe wrong because of our current culture, but not because it is inherently wrong.”

    The reason I say “maybe”, is because I’m not so sure it is considered aggressive in some bad way by “our” culture. We have many cultures here in the U.S. I don’t think in most predominately black inner cities cultures this kind of rap would be considered aggressive or tough. We have to stop confusing our own specific culture as the standard for all others.

  25. Cheryl says:

    It seems like you really don’t like this music, so your are interpreting scripture based on your feelings. What about the urban youth that don’t have anyone but these rapper reaching out to them? Isn’t the spiritual fruit proof that God is using this doctrine packed music for his glory? The beat makes it listen-able to many many youth. Why is that wrong?

  26. PhilT says:

    Christian:

    Please also note that I didn’t say anything about “redeeming” any (note this…) *thing* that is designed to incite lust. And your category isn’t even in line with what I was talking about. The redemptive argument is that fallen people using art to incite lust are forging into territory that should be God’s (since he created all things good), and that we should push back. Beautiful art that avoids subjects designed to elicit lust is an effort to use the things of God for good ends rather than neutral or negative ends.

    How you view specific things is up to you, but I would suggest that we should understand *why* we tend to detest certain things. What we’re actually detesting is not the thing itself, but the evil intent behind the thing and the abuse of the thing to man’s immoral ends. The thing, no matter if used in excess or defect, is still only a means to personal sin of individual people. I think this helps us understand how to deal responsibly with cultural things (i.e., not like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7KqWsFST9s). In the end, I would like to think that this approach to things would be more in line with Jesus’ approach (Mark 7:1-23). It isn’t the thing itself that is the problem, it is what is in the heart of man (Mark 7:15). The more clearly we articulate this, the better we can encourage people to live a holy life in line with the Gospel.

    In terms of the hip-hop debate…would you be inclined to view it as a “detestable thing”? If so, why? As a category of things, what exactly makes it immoral?

  27. Mom of Two says:

    I am a stay at home mom, not at all living in an urban area. I love love love listening to this music. I’ve learned about the hypostatic union while doing dishes. My three year old came to me quoting “Be strong in the Lord and the power of his might.”

    This music is not only for youth, or the unchurched. It is dense theology that encourages and edifies, to convict and sanctify Christians, it makes me reflect on the cross deeply, more so than most of the hymns I also listen to.

    Non Christian rap fiercely glorifies man, and when you live in the world, is fun to listen to, and it makes you feel good. What better genre to fiercely glorify God? And this is high quality hip hop, skillfully done as the psalm calls for. It does not sound like it’s imitating the secular rap out there. (as many other contemporary Christian music of other genres sound, making it hard listen to seriously.)

    This music makes me feel excited about God and his Word when I listen to it. Hip Hop music is a fact of life, it is not going away, and it speaks to the heart of many. Why should it not be used for God’s glory? Not everyone has to listen to it, but it is frustrating to hear it condemned because it’s hard for some people to listen to.

  28. Christian Markle says:

    My approach at this point is to deal with ideas rather than issues: the idea of things being evil or not and especially how we are to approach certain things. I did this by attempting to use some extreme cases to test the theory that things are not evil but demonstrate that even if they are not inherently evil they should elicit a response of detestation. Out of this I believe I can make the following observations

    1. One’s definition of evil matters in these discussions (evil can be moral or tragic), but this is only a note to self.
    2. A thing/object cannot sin (ie do any acts of sin)
    3. A thing/object can incite (tempt) to sin, but it does not hold automatically transferable properties of evil with which it may automatically defile (ie Mark 7 see note 1)
    4. Whether a thing can be actually evil or not we are still told to feel certain ways about certain things (ie detestation).
    5. Not feeling appropriately about certain things (whether they are morally “evil” or not) indicates a problem with our affections; and this is serious.

    Note 1: While I agree that things do not force defilement on a man (make him unclean as per Mark 7); choosing certain things to love or enjoy is the defilement. Somethings should not be loved other things should be. Although one may not believe that a thing can be evil; choosing to used certain things to do certain things and even loving certain things is moral.

    However, this whole little bunny trail ignores Brother Aniol’s assertion that music is not an thing; it is an activity. Of course sheet music is paper and ink, but the when played is an activity and when listened to it is an activity. The issue at hand is what should be our reaction to certain things; and should we engage in certain activities. These types of choices ARE good or evil; therefore, they are moral choices.

    Note 2: The word detestable was used again in the frame work of ideas, specifically from Ezekiel 37:23. It was applied to that category called “things” (as the passage does) with certain examples. To the question of hip hop being detestable: I do agree with Brother Aniol that music is not a thing it is an activity; furthermore, I agree that music is a form of a certain kind of activity: communication. The Scriptures address the activity of communication quite thoroughly. These three affirmations lead me to believe that some music may be sinful to perform or to choose to listen to; however, if someone forces a person to listen they would not automatically be defiled. I, therefore, believe that certain types of music are detestable to God and therefore should be detested by those that love Him. These conclusions for me are ideas that matter (right or wrong, they matter). At this point one’s views of hip hop are not as important to me as the of means of getting to these views. The ideas that matter will matter long after hip hop is not hip anymore.

  29. drfiddledd says:

    Rap is not my thing…and neither are polka and Gregorian chants. My wife and I are also both older than almost anyone in this discussion. She is also a trained, classical musician.. We’ve met Shai :Linne on a couple of occasions. I sat next to him in a church service and the guy has a pretty decent bass voice and did a respectable job holding his own on “O For a Thousand Tongues”.My wife refers to rap as poetry, not music and after listening to Shai’s “Mission Accomplished” the other night, said that it was the best explanation of particular redemption she’d ever heard.

  30. […] artists cowards, issued a suspect one for his comments. Meanwhile panelist Scott Aniol has begun an online dialogue with Shai […]

  31. Martin says:

    PHIL – I loved the video! Quickly, on your earlier post, I think we agree that not everything should be ‘redeemed’ but in light of the above posts, isn’t ‘redeem’ a misnomer when speaking of things? If things have no moral qualities, we don’t need to redeem them. As you said, it’s a question of wisdom as to which things could be used, depending on the purpose.
    Yet, categories such as printed matter also need no redemption because they have always been used for Christian purposes – after all, the Bible was the first book ever printed in Europe! Or if you want to keep to journalism, then we are simply called to ‘be content with our wages’ as John the Baptists told the soldiers: everything can be abused but Christians should walk in righteousness. So ‘redeeming hip-hop’ or any other genre would imply it can be used for – well, what exactly? – worship, evangelization? As said, I’d leave this terminology out of our discussion and would rather focus on what a genre is suitable for. I’m not sure that when a Christian plays jazz that he is then redeeming that art form in any way.

    RONNIE – what I meant by OUR CULTURE was the Western culture, i.e. as a common denominator. I did not mean sub-cultures like the hip-hop culture. So if it is a Western custom to wear dark clothes at a funeral then that is common to Western culture and all its sub-cultures as well (exceptions confirm the rule here). That sub-cultures will foster specific tastes and preferences is an inherent element of sub-cultures. So the argument that the hip-hop culture may not see rap as an aggressive (or feel free to use a different term such as ‘upset’ or ‘reproachful’) expression does not necessarily reflect the cultural consensus we have, i.e it is not objective but only valid for the group of people who have gotten used to this musical style. We can numb our ability to discern these things, which can be observed in society at large as well in other areas, such as tolerance for things that would have been offensive just a few decades ago. But I’m not saying that these judgments are relative and change over time but that we need to take a step back and think about it, analyze it and come to a more objective view. There was some discussion on a different post around whether someone from outside a (sub-)culture could actually judge it better than someone that knows it from the inside. There is definitely something to this idea, notwithstanding the need to also understand it from the inside perspective.

    CHRISTIAN – I was surprised you brought up a question once more that I thought was already answered. I shall try it again as I realize that it may a bit hard to understand:

    _____________MUSIC_________PAINTING__________SCULPTURE

    ACTION:______write, perform______paint______________sculpt
    (moral)

    THING:_______recording,_________painting___________sculpture
    (neutral)______sheet music

    ACTION/USE:__listen_____________see_______________see
    (moral)

    I hope this graphical depiction makes it clearer. I tried to compare different art forms to illustrate why I distinguish between the creation and use of art versus the artifact itself. Again, in real life we don’t distinguish between the music and its use but the parallel examples are meant to show that such a distinction can indeed be made. Creating, performing or listening to music is the (morally relevant) activity but not the music itself.

    The style or form of the art (e.g. hip-hop, cubism) comes in when the ‘thing’ communicates, i.e. when we see (use) it and process what the creator’s intent may have been. Certain things will tend to communicate in specific ways, which includes those intentionally created to incite to sin. If we fall for that, our use of the thing is indeed morally deficient. We should reject a thing whenever it is likely to lead us to morally wrong behaviour or thought (e.g., your Playboy example).

    Yet, since even malicious intent does nor NECESSARILY mean that we will sin when using the artifact, we must consider it morally neutral. This is NOT the same as saying that it does not affect communication – it is NOT neutral in terms of how it shapes its message! But any thing is not morally responsible and can be used in both good and bad ways (you could use Playboy to fire up a stove, for example).

  32. Kristen says:

    Martin

    I appreciate your above chart showing the flow of connection between music, painting, sculpture and, I would add, literature. In many generations over the course of world history we often see a common thread linking all of these artistic expressions together according to the prevailing sensibilities and world view at the time. (I.e. lots of ornamentation in one generation, versus clean lines and simplicity in the next.) These waves of expression throughout the arts are often the manifestations of a particular generation’s view of man and God, because the arts reflect the worldview of the artist.

    I strongly disagree, however, with your listing of recordings, paintings, sculpture, (I would add books,) as neutral. What are neutral are the paper, plastic, metal, and rock involved in these creations, but once human hands take them and shape them, they are no longer morally neutral. A line is just a line until it is shaped with other lines into pornography. A rock is just a rock until it becomes a nude statue. An individual alphabet letter is completely neutral until it is grouped with other letters to become blasphemy. Any particular note is morally neutral on its own until it is combined with other notes and shaped by the expressive hand of fallen man, at which point it can no longer be morally neutral. We must be careful to differentiate between the amoral atoms themselves and the extremely moral creation. The atoms in a pornographic magazine might be useful to light a fire, but the effect of it falling into the hands of my child, (who has no experience with sexual perversion) would be devastating!

    One of the main foundations of this entire discussion is the question of whether music, on its own, is amoral or whether it can objectively morally judged. I believe that in exactly the same way that a painting, sculpture or a book communicates a moral message, all music speaks with a moral voice. In the garden, everything fell and became perverted from God’s original design. Why do we think music did not? The individual line, letter or note is nothing, but combined, they can be used to bring highest praise and glory to God or exactly the reverse.

  33. Ronnie says:

    Martin,

    You stated:
    “What I meant by OUR CULTURE was the Western culture, i.e. as a common denominator. I did not mean sub-cultures like the hip-hop culture. So if it is a Western custom to wear dark clothes at a funeral then that is common to Western culture and all its sub-cultures as well (exceptions confirm the rule here). “

    Whereas I agree with your point about culture and I do believe there are some things that we may have a consensus on in the Western Culture I don’t believe there is such a strong consensus about rap music being “aggressive” as you seem to think. People from much broader cultures than just hip-hop don’t paint rap music as being “aggressive”. As a matter of fact there is a segment of rap that is called “gangsta rap” which most would identify as “aggressive” without painting the entire movement in that way. I tend to think our different perspectives on what the culture consensus is, is itself affected by our own background and environment. It seems those with a limited exposure to rap (e.g. the panelist) only/mostly know about it through the negative impact, because that is what makes the news.

  34. Tim says:

    Chris Ames, I’m assuming you’re applying that verse to yourself as well?

    Really, people! I’ve become far more discouraged about the blatant inability of professing Christ-followers to maintain a civil discussion on this matter, than the actual matter we’re supposed to be discussion (on this board and others).

    Very sad.

  35. Martin says:

    Another pushback, eh? :-)
    Kristen, I think we already cover the immorality you refer to in Playboy in the intent of its creation, i.e. the first activity. The magazine itself is a thing and can be used both in morally good and bad ways, which implies to me it is NOT morally determined (although, in this case, there is a clear immoral intention but that does not NEED to bear out even if it will in most cases). The same for the book: you can say it is (im)moral “in its communication” (whenever there is a use in terms of reading it) but the book itself is a medium just like the Internet: it carries information but unless someone USES this information, there is no activity and hence, no moral implication. As in the example of the gas chamber, there is evil intent in building it but unless it is actually used for its purpose, it remains bricks and mortar. Or are you saying it is immoral to set up a Baal statue in the British Museum? To summarize:
    1) Paper, plastic etc. are morally neutral but even in its raw form, a stone can be used for immoral purposes.
    2) Human artifacts are morally neutral but will sometimes have been created with clear immoral intent (e.g., Playboy). Although this may result in immoral uses 99% of the time, we need to understand that both moral AND immoral uses are possible with each thing, i.e. they are not morally determined.
    3) A second line of thought is that only actions can be morally relevant, not things. Since a CD (recorded music) is a thing, it is neither moral nor immoral. It is only once we USE the CD in a specific way that we enter these categories.
    4) The morality of the use of each thing depends on the context (not to be mixed up with situational ethics):
    a) The pose a woman takes to have a photo taken for Playboy is immoral due to its intended use (publication). It would be moral if she did the same in her bedroom with her husband present.
    b) Blasphemy is such if the intent is blasphemy. On the other hand, if I quote the same words to explain what blasphemy is, it is NOT blasphemy although the letters have already been linked to create meaningful words and sentences.

    If you still think musical form is moral by itself, I would ask you to explain:
    # why the same music can be used for both moral and immoral purposes
    # why a human artifact can be moral or immoral without any use (if communication is defined as a use)
    # and also, how music communicates morally. My objection is that music does NOT communicate moral content. It CAN have meanings such as anger, sadness, etc. but these are not in themselves moral or immoral. Rather, these are emotions that need CONTEXT to take on moral or immoral connotations.

    A special case with music (and theatre or dance, as opposed to other art forms) is the live performance: in these cases, the ‘thing’ category is removed and we only have performance and listening as uses. That would be an obvious critique of the diagram I posted above. Still, we need to ask whether a) if there is no immoral intent in the performer and b) no immoral lyrics, can we then speak of sinful styles or should we describe styles where the lyrics are ‘shaped’ in a way that is objectively in conflict with the affections they are meant to express (my psalm/rap example) as simply incompatible with the artist’s intended message (i.e., it is bad art but not sin)?

  36. Funmi says:

    “Cultural conditioning is, however, part of the argument. If OUR CULTURE understands rap as being aggressive, then we have a valid argument that it will indeed by understood as such (at least, by the majority).”

    Herein lies the rub in your argument Martin, and where I believe your cultural bias comes to light. I’ve tried to follow your argumentation fairly and accord you the benefit of the doubt with charity, but it is disturbing that you are unable to see your subjective judgment of Hip-hop as aggressive. You seem to argue that if the majority should assess one thing a certain way, then the imprimatur of majority view accords it objectivity. Forgive me and kindly correct me if my interpretation of your argument is wrong.

    It would seem that you, and likewise Mr. Aniol, have formed a certain view of what Hip-hop is, and have applied that arguably subjective definition of Hip-Hop in declaring it improper for the communication of the Gospel. You approach the subject from, as your say, your culture – the majoritarian culture. This is quite analogous to another argument from majoritarian culture: Black speech (i.e. ebonics, pidgin english, patois, creole etc) are by nature improper or unsuitable to civilized discourse and the communication of complex ideas. I think this example dovetails with your line of argument that rap is unsuitable for the communication of the Gospel. There is perhaps even a visceral reaction to the mention of ebonics as a legitimate language or form of communication. Would you be surprised to know that ebonics, as a system of communication primarily used by Americans of African ancestry, consists of phenology, syntax, morphology, semantics, lexicon, rate, rhythm, stress, and nonverbal communication? All the markers of “proper” language! Yet we only think of ebonics as a bastardized english, unsuitable for “proper” discourse. But who has defined ebonics or pidgin english as improper for the boardroom or academic discourse? The answer as you’ve clearly highlighted, derives from what “OUR CULTURE understands […] as” proper. If culture has conditioned a certain viewpoint, and that viewpoint is perhaps even held by a majority of people, we often mistake that viewpoint as objective, blind to the cultural conditioning that imposes its subjectivity as objective fact. The argument made simpler: to prove that my view is not subjective, let me show you that a lot more other people hold the same view and because it’s not just my view but a majority/plurality of views counted, it can therefore not be subjective. Argumentum ad populum.

    The argument then falls into another fallacy to prove objectivity: argumentum ad antiquitatem, or appeal to past practice or proof from tradition. You argue that the history of hip-hop and its protest tradition/flavor/essence supports the objective view that it is indeed angry and infused by aggressiveness. (leaving aside the reason why such a protest was even needed in the first place, and the implicit dismissal/repudiation of the expressed anger as sinful and unrighteous / illegitimate) The argument follows that the past tradition or the founding of something proves that it is the essence of that thing when introduced, although in actuality this may be false — the tradition or the founding principles might be entirely based on incorrect grounds that do not form the essence of said thing (i.e. the original Constitution of the United States: Black people are 3/4 human; Declaration of Independence: all men (excluding women and enslaved Africans) are created equal). The fallacy is also present when appeal to the past assumes that past justifications for the tradition are still valid at present, while in actuality, the circumstances may have changed. To apply your argument, the United of States is by nature evil, sinful and irredeemable, because its founding was in sin and it was built on the flayed backs of a subjugated people. As has been argued on this blog, some cultures are not redeemable even in their entirety; perhaps American culture is one of those. (of course, there is another argument that all human government is sinful while we are, through Christ, a holy nation and peculiar people set apart to show forth the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light). Many however, particularly the majoritarian culture, would disagree with this assessment of the United States of America. You might even say there are a great many elements of American culture even amidst this sinful cultural milieu into which America was born (i.e. the Puritan heritage: Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Hopkins, Joseph Bellamy, George Whitefield), and you would be right! But why isn’t Hip-hop accorded the same benefit of historical discernment? It is as though all Hip-hop history devolves into Tupac, Biggie, and gangster rap. Why not also MC Sweet, Stephen Wiley, Michael Peace, SFC (Soldiers.For.Christ)? While these artists were not on the same level of theological density as the current crop of Reformed Rappers, they were also lifting up the name of God and proclaiming the Gospel in the early days of Hip-hop. Instead, “OUR CULTURE understands” and has been conditioned to view Hip-Hop in a certain way, and that view held by many, must therefore be objective.

    Please understand that I am not accusing you or Mr. Aniol of ethnocentrism, and I hope you do not view this note as aggressive or combative in tone. I am merely trying to point out what is clear to me and others in the AA community as a cultural bias, to shine some light on places where you might be blinded to your own culturally defined and subjectively held judgments. There is sincere hurt in this, and it would be uncharitable to dismiss it without trying to understand how, why, and where that hurt comes from. I would love to go deeper into how Scripture discerns between the objective and subjective assessments of culture, but this point has already gone on for far too long. I commend you to Christ dear brother, and pray that this discussion draws us closer to Him, unites His Body, and brings fame to His Name.

    Soli Deo gloria.

  37. PhilT says:

    Martin:

    >>>”isn’t ‘redeem’ a misnomer when speaking of things?”

    I think Ephesians 5:16 at least points us in this direction and gives us biblical warrant for this sort of language. But once again, it isn’t so much about *things* as it is about *categories of things*, if you’re seeking to represent well the argument of those you’re discussing with.

    >>>”I hope this graphical depiction makes it clearer.”

    I certainly appreciated your analogy. One can’t just say “abracadabra” and make music into an action. Even if we say that music is a subset of communication, then we’re still stuck with music as a thing. A spoken word is a thing made up of known morphemes spoken in a particular language in a particular dialect. Thing+thing+thing=thing. The encoder may have an intention with that communication that may not be received (ever had one of those conversations with your wife?). The receptor may receive that communication in a negative or positive way. The *thing*, the spoken word, is not good or bad in itself. The intent of the encoder or the response of the receptor is the action that can be analyzed through Scripture. Good case study: A little child who mispronounces “truck.”

    Christian:

    >>>”These types of choices ARE good or evil; therefore, they are moral choices.”

    I think we’re really close here. We should be talking about how we should or shouldn’t respond to things, rather than placing overmuch emphasis on the thing itself. Even things like money, which we need to provide for our families (1 Tim. 5:8), can become a trap (1 Tim. 6:10). Ultimately, our love should be directed at *people* and not *things.* And the good things around us should be used to point us to the Originator of all things and the One in whose image the people we love are made.

    >>>”Ezekiel 37:23

    I’ll go ahead and dialogue on this, since it seems important to you. I’ll ask a series of questions that will help us walk through the application of this passage.

    First, how does the treatment of idols connect with the rest of Scripture (analogy of Scripture)? Scripture makes it clear that idols are nothing (1 Cor. 8:4) and that they are simply things made from good things which God has created (Isa. 44:12-20); however, the act of making items for this purpose is condemned in Scripture (Exo. 20:4). So, as we approach this passage, we need to make sure that our interpretation works with how the rest of Scripture handles the issue. I’ll offer a holistic interpretation at the end.

    Second, what does the passage actually say? I know you’re laser focused on the word “things” and are claiming that this particular word undermines the traditional understanding that things are good because they are created by God. But there’s a small problem. The word “things” in Ezekiel 37:23 is merely supplied by the translators because of the substantival use of the adjective. So I would say that the interpretation of this passage needs to be understood in line with the whole Scriptural dealing of the topic of .

    Application: Although the thing itself is nothing and the stuff that makes up the idol is good, the act of making the idol was directly condemned by God (Exo. 20:4), and the overwhelming human response of worship (culturally bound) of these things was directly condemned by God (Exo. 20:5). So if both the creation and the use of this thing was specifically and directly forbidden by God, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to call the whole process (creation, all the way to the use of a thing) as “vile,” and for the thing itself to come under that same critique, while the actual essence of the thing (wood/metal/stone) isn’t in and of itself bad.

    Relation to Music: Does Scripture condemn universally the creation and use of music (category)? I think we would rule this out. In fact, creation of music is commended repeatedly in Scripture. The dissimilarity becomes evident. Now our questions should be as follows: So what does the Bible say (positively and negatively) that can relate to the creation of things in this category? What does the Bible say (positively or negatively) that can relate to our responses to things in this category? How can I create and use music in obedience to Scripture? My response: redeem it!

  38. Martin says:

    Phil, we should use other passages than Eph 54:16 here since the meaning of ‘redeem’ here is not salvific but rather, ‘making the most of’.

    Funmi – personally I am careful with majority views. I guess what I meant to say is that cultural consensus is either a reflection of an objective truth that is actually independent of culture or otherwise, is a convention that nevertheless has a clear meaning that a sub-culture cannot easily change (actually, sub-cultures usually exploit those common meanings to shock mainstream society, such as punks using rats as pets).

    So my argument would not be that something is true because the majority holds it. Rather, I was calling the majority as a witness that there is indeed a more objective evaluation of what a style means than the statements of insiders who may not see things as clearly because they are so fond of the music they identify with.

    I agree with your comments on the “argumentum ad antiquitatem”. I believe there is a reason why the early community created the hip hop style as they did because it lends itself to their message of protest. Yet, you are right that a) the message can change over time (especially when a genre is commercialized) and b) that perceptions can also change (rock is less associated with rebellion now than some decades ago).

    I am not quite convinced of the ‘redeeming culture’ idea and would rather advocate a Christian sub-culture, although that may borrow elements from secular culture as well. My understanding of the Bible is that ‘everything becomes (indeed) new’, which would include our preferences and tastes, and would therefore also reach into the music we listen to and use in Christian ministry.

    “I would love to go deeper into how Scripture discerns between the objective and subjective assessments of culture”
    If you could point to further-going material, that would be great!

  39. Christian Markle says:

    Martin,

    I am not sure that I have not understood your argument, but I will try to spend more time reading and thinking on what you have said. At this point in my understanding, I am not sure your point is relevant in light of scriptures that tell us things are to be detested, cast down, avoided ect. I think it also breaks down with the example of false teacher teaching (action of teaching falsely), false teaching (recorded or printed in a book) and listening/reading/consuming false teaching. Would you say that only two of the previous categories is moral and the middle one, false teaching recorded, is morally neutral? I would suggest that any of these forms calls for an appropriate reaction, rejection of false teaching activity, records, and acceptance as evil (Romans 16:17-18; 1 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Peter 3 etc). How one feels about things (esp. things that contain meaning/information) is moral, and our interaction with things matters. The intended uses of Playboy (looking, reading, and lust) are evil , the appropriate use (burning, destroying, discarding, avoiding) of Playboy is good.

    What is the reason for such a distinction? The first reason for such a distinction is that these things have meaning. To the extent that a thing has meaning and its meaning can be parsed; it must be discerned as good and benefical or bad and detrimental. Secondly, some aspect inherent in the object (meaning) has an intended use and an appropriate use. Music has an intended use (sheet music is to be played; recorded music is to be listened to and enjoyed). Some music should not be played and should be discarded. To look to lust at Playboy (which should be burned) is a morally evil choice (Matthew 5:28); to play/listen and enjoy music which should be discarded is a morally evil choice.

    The mistake, in my understanding of this conversation, is not relating the question of objects/things being evil with the question of appropriate/inappropriate use of such objects (this assumes that things can have meaning). When the intended use is equal to the appropriate use, it is a good thing; when the intended use is not an appropriate use, it is a bad thing. To leave the answer that things are amoral/neutral without any explanation means that evaluation of them (discerning) is unnecessary (according to this thinking they cannot be morally determined) and my affections toward them can only be categorized as preference (the question of appropriate/inappropriate response is moot). I do not think anyone actual consistently practices this because we do discern (rightly and wrongly) because we are moral creatures (Romans 2:15), but this is where these ideas will have eventual degrading consequences.

    In summary, if God the holy Judge of all things tells us that some things are to be detested, then we must have some mechanism, terms, and categories to discern such things (ie Philippians 4:8). To say that they cannot be evil like a person is evil (things cannot choose) is accurate, but to say they they are not evil in the sense of tragic (morally dangerous when used as intended) is, in my understanding, to play with words to no profit and cause untold damage in the realm of ideas. This is nothing to say about the self-deception in both the hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) of the creator (source of intended use) and the user (discerner of appropriate use). No, objects are not neutral, especially objects that communicate meaning (books, recordings, magazines, pictures, ect) and this is where the Mark 7 passage, I believe, is applied inappropriately — food does not communicate meaning in the same way as these objects. Jesus was talking about consumption of food not information.

    Lastly, if it appears that I am repeatedly coming back to the same thing and missing your point, then we may need to recognize why. It may be that we are not understanding each other. It may simply mean that we do not agree on some level of ideas. We will never profitably agree in the discussion of hip hop unless we understand each other and agree in the area of ideas. For good or ill, I can be pretty tenacious about such things.

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  40. PhilT says:

    Martin:

    I agree that the usage in Eph. 5:16 is not necessarily salvific in one sense, but it is certainly Gospel-driven at some level (I’ll flesh this out momentarily). On the other hand, your translation is not truly semantically based (the ESV presses the word dynamically here, which isn’t necessarily a problem as long as you understand what they’re doing). The word does not mean “make the best use of” on a fundamental level. That may be a great way of making it fit the context or applying the idea of “redemption” to “opportunities.” In other words, the translators are asking: how does the idea of redemption (paying the purchase price) relate to opportunities of time. So the word literally refers to the same kind action that Christ did on our behalf (Gal. 3:13; 4:5). While Paul didn’t say that we are imparting salvation to time, what was he saying (to place ourselves back in the seat of the translators)? And how is it different for me to say that I’m “redeeming” culture in the same sense that Paul commands us to “redeem” time? Why is it okay for Paul to use soteriologically-charged language in reference to categories like this? My answers: We redeem the category of time by making the best use of God-given opportunities that the Evil One seeks to eliminate. When we redeem music, we make the best use of God-given musical elements that the Evil One seeks to dominate.

  41. Martin says:

    …of course, once you open up the possibility of diabolic domination of musical elements, this begs the question if there are genres that are dominated in this way. Maybe indirectly, in terms of using worldly entertainment to keep people away from eternal issues.

    The question remains if all genres can/should be redeemed in this way, including Scott’s question as to whether such redemption leaves the genre intact or changes it into something else (practically, this will likely come down to a rejection of certain genres in favour of others). In other words, can trash metal be redeemed or is it so chaotic and nonsensical that it must be shunned?

  42. Christian Markle says:

    Brother Phil,

    I refer you to much of what I wrote to Brother Martin.

    I will just comment briefly on a few additional things.

    First, your claim that the word thing is “supplied by the translators because of the substantival use of the adjective” does not seem accurate because the Hebrew word is a noun not an adjective. The Hebrew word means “detestable thing” (BDB)

    Second, I am not sure that our understanding of Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 8-10 is in agreement with mine. I believe that Paul was arguing that the idols were nothing was the argument of his detractors and he directly deals with this argument in vss 10:14-22. He appears to agree with them in order to deal with the issue of love (vs 7:13), their claim on rights (chapter 9). But in chapter 10 he shifts back to deal with idols. They are dangerous and to be avoided (10:1-14). Starting in vs 14 he begins to show that just as religious artifacts and actions in Christianity (cup, bread ect) have meaning so do religious artifacts in Peganism. So the conclusion and practical answers revolve around meaning – direct connection to the idol does matter because of what the idol means.

    This idea of meaning then becomes critical to our discussion. The argument that things are not moral as found in 1 Corinthians 8:4 is mitigated by Paul’s argument that although this may be true when things are infused with meaning (religious artifacts) they are to be treated according to their meaning. Just as letters and even some words are neutral as they are put together to form meaning and sentences they are to be evaluated for truth and falsity. This means they become moral as they become meaningful.

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  43. […] More discussion here. […]

  44. Martin says:

    Christian, of course things have (intended) meanings. Especially musical genres are also associated with lifestyles and meanings. I believe Paul was aiming at association when writing about idols. Objectively, the idols are nothing. Yet, because some people worship them as gods, they are associated in people’s minds with such worship. Hence, we need to avoid them since they actually draw people into false worship.

    Now this was at that time; today if we were to put one into a museum I doubt there is much danger that someone will bow down and worship one of the exhibits. Again, there are meanings intended by the (human) creator of artifacts but we don’t automatically sin when we use them in various ways (though we may ALWAYS sin if we use them in the intended ways!).

  45. PhilT says:

    Martin:

    >>>”diabolic domination of musical elements”

    If God is the Creator and is truly sovereign, then all belongs to him. It is clear that the Evil One still asserts rebellious rule over the earth and other things that God truly governs (Eph. 2:2). I believe in the possibility of Satan claiming ownership of art, politics, business, etc., but I also believe that this claim is not substantive. In other words, it is not a rightful claim in the sense that the things in those categories *actually* belong to him (so…qualitatively different than God’s dominion). In reality, they belong to God, and Christians who use things in these categories in alignment with God’s will are acknowledging God’s rightful ownership and dominion of all things. So in the similar sense that God “buys back” people under domination of Satan and demonstrates his rightful rule over his creation, we replay redemption in microcosm by “buying back” portions of art or business or technology and using these areas to demonstrate the rightful rule of God over his creation. I hope this explanation is helpful. You probably understand it already since you may have already read Wolters.

  46. Curtis Sheidler says:

    Scott,

    You said, Assuming what we say is good, if our tone of voice expresses love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control, it is good; and if our tone of voice expresses impurity, sensuality, enmity, strife, or fits of anger, it is sinful (Gal 5:19-20, 22). It can express these things even if we don’t intend them, such as when I speak harshly to my wife after a long day even though I do not intend to.

    You’ve used this argument a couple of times now in this discussion, but it seems to me that you think it accomplishes more than it really does. You clearly WANT to say that tone of voice communicates just as much as the content of the speech itself, with the analogy you’re looking for being that the style of music communicates just as much as does the doctrine contained in the lyrics.

    But notice how you yourself have to frame the discussion here: “Assuming what we say is good…. You see, even you can’t pretend that a tone of voice–which is your analogue for musical style–can be pinned to good or bad communication when divorced from its lyrical content.

    You’ve given the example before of how, in anger, you attempted to ‘compliment’ your wife and to say things to (possibly ‘at’) her that, in terms of strict content, were technically complimentary and uplifting, yet were sinful because you yelled or snarled them at her. I’d agree that your speech was sinful in this case–but not because your tone of voice was intrinsically sinful (because, really, what’s the decibel or timbre threshold for a “sinful tone of voice,” exactly?), but because you were ultimately bearing false witness about what you were really thinking and feeling toward your wife. Think about it: if you yell, “I’m having a really great time!” at your wife in the midst of your attempts to lecture her about why you don’t think you should have to help clean up the kitchen after dinner, that’s sin…but would it be just as sinful to yell the same thing at her sincerely at, say, a football game, where it’s too loud for her to hear otherwise?

    This, again, is the problem with your whole aesthetic here: you’re attempting to ascribe moral value to very specific functions of sound waves: rhythm, volume, tempo, etc. But you never seem to realize that the burden of proof then lies upon you to demonstrate from Scripture what constintutes a “godly volume,” or a “Christ-exalting pitch,” or “authentically Christian tonality,” or anything like that. These are things concerning which Scripture is silent, and because of that, you are engaging in legalism by arguing that brother Shai’s particular musical preference somehow falls short in honoring Christ.

  47. ToniTonyTone says:

    Is there the notion in the minds of those who vehemently oppose hip-hop or rap music as a means to convey the Gospel that rap music is monolithic and monchromatic? Are you fellas not aware of the differnt styles, sounds, influences? Some hiphop grabbing largley from jazz and easy listening sounds and others grabbing from more aggressive, sythesizer based sounds? Some more poetic and lyrical, others more chanty? East coast styles, West coast styles, southern & northern styles? Hip-hop that is played by live musicians (even orchestras), sampled & synthesized musical accompaniments…even no beat at all?

    I doubt many of you know the history of hiphop (pre gangsta-rap), and even it’s roots in the black gospel music tradition (gospel quartets were rapping in the 30s and 40s – I’ll post video reference later).

    Your understanding of this complex sub-culture is based on stereotypes and the exploited presentation of it – post commercialism. Be fair.

    Go youtube Shai Linne, Timothy Brindle, Hazakim, Beautiful Eulogy… Their music has more theology than many seminary classes. Educate yourself and then we can have a balanced discussion.

  48. Martin says:

    Quick question on aggressiveness:
    I’m assuming we agree that the history of rap & hip-hop was one of dealing with anger and protest, actually serving as an outlet of aggression through the music, rather than resorting to gang violence and vandalism.

    If that is more or less correct, is it not also correct that at its inception, rap and hip-hop were created as art forms to express anger, and that the musical form and speech type expressed anger at that time?

    If that is so, then why would we now (some decades later) say that the sound of it is no longer expressing aggressiveness? I understand the argument of different sub-styles some of which use more or less beat, different instrumentation etc. Yet, they are all within the same genre and can be distinguished from other genres by their common elements.

    So then, isn’t that original aggressiveness still present within all these sub-genres – especially in the “speaking at” rather than “speaking to” of the rap style? Even if the music is sometimes quite ‘soft’, the speaking style has remained very typical, even if the lyrics have obviously changed in Christian rap.

  49. Chris Ames says:

    Tim,

    Yup.

    Chris

  50. Martin says:

    Christian,

    In response to your earlier post: “I am not sure that I have not understood your argument, but I will try to spend more time reading …”

    Realizing you are in a discussion with PhilT about whether Paul is or is not saying that things are morally evil, I think we should see that even IF Paul were saying this, what he must mean is the effect the thing can have when we use it:
    # an image of a naked woman is not evil in itself but within a second we can see that it is pornographic and the intent of its creation is very obvious. Since we are very likely to sin if we dwell on this thing, we need to shun it. So the thing is ‘detestable’ because our use of it will most certainly be sinful. I certainly don’t envy policy officers investigating child pornography since they will be professionally exposed to imagery that may cause them to sin. As a Christian, by God’s grace one may be able to gain the distance necessary to avoid sinning but it’s not going to be easy. Yet, these images can be ‘good’ in the sense that they document exploitation and can lead the police to those who are committing crimes.
    # false teaching, I would assume, has no evil intent. I believe most false teachers genuinely think they are teaching correctly. So the proof is in the pudding: our evaluation of what is taught will show if it is beneficial or not. And this is even what we are doing right now, i.e. discussing how we should approach the topic of music. I believe Scott is wrong on some issues – but is he therefore a false teacher? Is his teaching evil because it may be wrong on some aspects? I would submit that we should all be studying books and teachings of other Christians, and need to discern truth and error in each. So even false teaching can help us understand a matter better if we analyze it and it leads us to a deeper understanding of Scripture, which may well show that we beg to differ with the author.

    So YES, I am indeed saying that false teaching as a thing (written or recorded) is morally neutral. Its naive use without reflection, however, is irresponsible and therefore morally deficient (prove all things, the Bereans, etc.).

    I liked your distinction of intended and appropriate uses – this is a helpful concept when dealing with ‘things’. I also like your idea of linking intended use with good or bad properties of things. Still, I think this concept does not work in all cases: an AK-47 is made for killing people. The intent may be good inasmuch as it is intended for a righteous war (if such a thing exists). Yet, as I pointed out elsewhere, its actual use may be as intended but its moral value then would depend on the situation: if it is used to kill innocent civilians, it is bad; if it is used for defense against an attacking army, it is good; if it is used for terrorist activity, it is bad, etc. A wrench can be used to repair something or for sabotage; its intended use is simply to turn a nut or screw. I admit the situation is much clearer with Playboy as the intended use is very obvious and will almost always be its actual use. Yet, there are other cases where the ‘intended use’ can be both good or bad. This is why I hold that the thing itself is neutral and only takes on moral connotations once it is used (as intended or otherwise), and that morality always depends on the specific situation.

    The required moral evaluation is not one of the thing itself but of how to use the thing, including its intended use and the moral intent of the creation of an artifact. Your affections for things can still be judged and evaluated even if the thing is neutral – inordinate affections for things are moral activity related to things, and actions can be morally evaluated. Think about the money example that was already given by others.

    When the Bible speaks of preferring excellent, lovely or pure things I really think it means their uses: in everyday language, we will indeed call some things wholesome, good, or excellent. This will include good books, good music, etc. But what we MEAN when saying this is that these things are profitable when used in ways compatible with the Christian worldview. So our discussion here should be about which music would be most excellent to use in corporate worship; which to use for entertainment; which books or articles might be excellent in terms of helping us along in understanding this subject, etc. So if you call something ‘good’ or ‘bad’ then it will mean it’s good or bad FOR YOU when you use it in certain ways. Some books are only good to balance a table :-)

  51. Nicole says:

    “A look can express pride” but out of context the same look can mean 2 different things. So I would argue that while communication is not limited to words, the words determine meaning. Shai’s words are a wonderful display of great theology and paint the beat behind them in a beautiful light.

  52. Christian Markle says:

    Sister Nichole,

    In you assertion, ““A look can express pride” but out of context the same look can mean 2 different things,” are you implying that a phrase of words out of context cannot mean 2 different things. Context is certainly necessary to understand meaning, it is interesting that the non-verbal communication we offer (as context and in the context of our words) can override the verbals we use when they are in-congruent (see http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beyond-words/201109/is-nonverbal-communication-numbers-game).

    I am not sure I understand your statement “while communication is not limited to words, the words determine meaning.” Communication has been defined as “the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/communication). Communication is the transfer of meaning (information). The words may express information to us more precisely, but they are not the only way we get information/meaning. It would be my contention that we discern the details as well as the package.

  53. Christian Markle says:

    Brother Martin,

    I think we are closer to understanding each other and may be in more agreement than we realize. I think we are still hung up on trying to explain how certain things should be avoided, rejected, even hated if they are not evil. Certainly exposure to evil does not have to make us evil. In the case of police investigating crimes, I wonder if they would call what the observe evil? The observation of the content does not make them sinners, but the content of the evidence is evil and that is what makes creation of it a crime.

    In regards to communication being evil or not, I am surprised by the apparent dodging of apparently clear passages like Ephesians 4:29, but I will offer a few more to help (hopefully they do not muddy the waters further. Proverbs 15:28 speaks of the pouring forth fo evil words from the wicked man’s mouth. The character of the man is wicked, the activity is pouring forth words, the character of that which is poured out is described by the Holy Spirit as evil. Ecclesiastes 8:3 also tells us not to stand in an evil thing (lit. evil speech or words). The character of the thing is described as evil; we are to determine what things/speeches are of this character and not to stand in them.

    Again, Jesus himself described teaching as false; he characterized it that way. The evil is that it is false; exposure to it does not defile one. If it is discerned as evil and rejected then one is right; however if he accepts what is false he is defiled. But the whole reason we must decide is because the teaching is either true of false. This means the discernment is based on the character of the teaching. If there is no potential for the teaching to be “wrong” (or evil or false) then there is nothing to worry about accepting it.

    I would suggest that just as words can be right/wrong, helpful/destructive, holy/profane so can any communication (anything that has meaning).

  54. nicole says:

    Christian,
    I am not saying that words cannot express 2 different meanings in different context. I just think we should be careful in saying, “because we can use a look to communicate pride, the look we use to communicate pride, will always be meant to say: PRIDE.” Do you follow?

    “while communication is not limited to words, the words determine meaning.”
    What I mean is, though words are not the only way to communicate an idea, what we say determines what we mean. though we can say something and our expression and tone of voice shape that idea, without the words we cannot know what the person is thinking. (How many times have I misread someone based on what I thought their face was saying, only to find out later that they were not thinking that at all?) The motivation and ideas expressed in word are the litmus test for if a rap song is good or bad. And any other song in other genres for that matter.

    I think its not accurate to say we need to discern the details as well as the package, I think better said would be to discern the details in light of the package. take apart a sarcastic comment piece by piece without the whole package and you will come to a much different conclusion than you aught.

    I think music, like facial expression, is a vehicle for the message. I don’t think rap can in and of itself be sinful. so this obviously taints my logic.

  55. Christian Markle says:

    Sister Nicole,

    Your honesty is refreshing! I find it interesting that you say the following: “How many times have I misread someone based on what I thought their face was saying, only to find out later that they were not thinking that at all?” You seem to believe that faces say things…is this true? You seem to believe also that faces can be mis-read…is this true? You seem to be treating faces in the same way we treat words (they say things and they can be mis-read) Yet later you posit that “facial expression is a vehicle for the message.” You appear to naturally believe that your friends face was communicating (saying) something; you misunderstood it. But you still got a message from the face. To ignore these things seems to be ignore the obvious, but if these things are so, then evaluation of faces is not wrong (for they do communicate meaning) but responsible evaluation is imperative (because they can be mis-read). I might add that those who have faces need to be responsible to not mis-communicate with them. As a communicator I am aware of that possibility and must seek to avoid it.

    Although parsing a sarcastic comment may seem unprofitable or ineffective, those who come from cultures that do no understand our sarcasm may indeed do such parsing. When they figure out there is a category of sarcasm as well some of the tones and forms we use, they will be better equipped to understand the meaning. This comes automatic for us, but must be studied by the uninitiated. I would add that those of us who are prone to such speech have discovered the damage it can create and realize we are responsible in its use. We may have even become convicted that such our speech habits are wrong and driven by a heart that is wrong even though we know that we could defend our intent (ie Prov 26:19).

    All of this seems to me to support the fact that responsible communication calls for more than evaluation of words, but the non-verbals employed as well.

  56. nicole says:

    I would agree that facial expressions can communicate something but only when paired with other things. So in my example, yes I got a message from a facial expression, but the message I got was wrong, and so it would be wrong of me to make a judgement on them before I get the whole picture. I think that is irresponsible evaluation. That’s what I think is happening with rap. Assuming the doctrine is right, people feel uncomfortable with the method of delivery. (I think this stems from an unfamiliarity. In my opinion human nature naturally resists change.) So I believe that while facial expressions and music and hand gestures and even the tone with which we speak can shape the message, the message must be evaluated as a whole. If you are uncomfortable, by all means, abstain. I don’t think that makes the call for all people though.
    I think I see your point on the sarcasm, though I don’t think all sarcasm is wrong. (I’ve had many good laughs where sarcasm was the catalyst and no one was the “butt of the joke” if you will.) I think you have to have the whole picture to know that sarcasm is what is being done. So it is with music, if you have a classical ballad that sounds wonderful you may think it is great. If you hear the song again, this time with words, and the words are promoting a lifestyle of adultery or some other sin you would condemn it. (I hope.) So it isn’t the musical arrangement that makes it good or bad, its the message as a whole.
    As a communicator you are right to say, lets be careful with how we say things…so I would never think Shai Linne should rap at some conference where those panelists and the people who agree with them are the audience. But for Shai to go to my cousins pick-up basketball games on Monday night (at his church where most of the men are black men from Detroit) I would say there won’t be a misunderstanding of the message based on its means.

  57. Martin says:

    Christian,
    Yes, the police would call evil what they see = the intent behind creating the images, as well as the abuse they document (both actions). We keep revolving back to this issue. We have no real difference over communication either; to me, it is human activity and therefore subject to moral responsibility and judgment. Yet, we differ over whether music is communication. The key is to distinguish between the music as composition (written or recorded), the equivalent to a book in literature. What I am saying is that these do indeed communicate (i.e. the author communicates through them) once we USE them (interact with the medium that carries content) and THEN we can speak of morality. Only I want us to separate the ACT of communication (not a thing) and the artifact itself (which contains the content to be communicated).

    Maybe Paul’s exhortation to avoid evil communication can be understood exactly this way: if a thing is likely to communicate immorally, we are to avoid it. Back to the pornographic image: once we look at it, it communicates its message (which has evil intent). If we interrupt such communication, recognizing its immorality, we have not sinned. If we receive the communication and dwell on it, we do. Yet, nakedness is not evil in itself, neither the image of a woman. Only once we as moral beings interact with it do we have communication. But I guess I’m only writing things I wrote before in a slightly different way, hoping it might make more sense to you.

    I understand what Scott says as meaning that music SHAPES the lyrics, i.e. it is not communication itself (which is what I would add here in contrast to Scott = since there is only some emotional ‘colouring’ of the content caused by musical form but no propositional communication, we cannot speak of real communication in terms of moral activity) but is combined with content in order to determine the HOW of communication. This is what Shai also confirmed in terms of various sub-genres being more or less suitable to express elation, triumph, or reflection. I believe you and I agree on this part. So only once we combine content and form, can we speak of communication, not form alone. So, in my view:

    Form = neutral
    Content = neutral
    Form + content = a composition = neutral as a ‘thing’ (human artifact which can be used for good or bad)
    Form + content + author/receiver = communication = action = has moral qualities

    If form and content are combined in a way that leads to miscommunication, we have a problem. If it can be shown that rap is an objectively aggressive form that leads to the message being ‘talked at’ the listener, rather than ‘talked to’ then it will shape some content in a way that will lead to miscommunication (wrong affections).

    Back to attributes such as ‘wicked’ when speaking of men – again, I understand this to mean they are evil in their thoughts and actions (thoughts really are the origins of actions and Jesus clearly saw it this way when He condemned hate and lust as evil as much as the deed itself). So if we do evil constantly, we are justly called evil. These qualities only manifest themselves in actions – so again, no ‘thing’ here. And if you take Eccl 8:3 and this refers to evil speech – yet again, we are speaking about action, not things.

    Then, I am unable to call speech itself ‘evil’. This word, to me, implies moral responsibility, but the speech itself (say, if we record it or write it down) is not evil, although it may be wrong. Now he who speaks wrong things may well be evil, and with his speech provoke evil things: I am trying to distinguish again between the content of the speech (a thing) and what happens when a receiver hears the speech and interprets what is said (communication), which is an act.

    We can say teaching (propositional content) is true or false. Yet, only once this teaching is USED (communicated) in a specific situation can we observe negative or positive (moral) outcomes. We can read a speech that promotes apartheid in a history course with a positive outcome: we judge the intent of the author as evil (even if he thought at the time that it was moral – I agree with you that evil intent is not necessary for evil communications: even the Nazis believed what they said) but understanding the context, we become better people as we learn from how people thought (wrongly) in the past. So, of course there is potential for the teaching to be wrong. Actually, teaching is always either right or wrong: this is its quality. Yet, we can think of situations where wrong teaching can be communicated with a good outcome. Again, HOW we communicate, then (both on the side of the sender and the receiver) determines morality. The content itself may suggest a moral outcome but we are not forced to receive it either way.

    So, I think we’re actually agree on the subject of communication? Yes, it is moral and can be evil (and it’s not a thing but action).

  58. Christian Markle says:

    Brother Martin,

    It appears that our multi-thread (both here an http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-culture/discussion-about-christian-rap-with-shai-linne-how-does-rap-flavor-its-truth-content) postings have arrived at a conclusion between us.

    1) Communication is moral (Ephesians 4:29 ect)
    2) Music is communication (albeit non-propositional communication) (based on experience, musicologists, etc)

    What we are left with is the question of how non-propositional communication can be moral.

    Is this accurate?

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  59. […] treated seriously in a public forum, but that’s what is going on now. You can follow it here. Linne and Aniol are asking each other respectful and intelligent questions, and giving careful, […]

  60. Saying that music without lyrics can be sinful is legalism. Any music style conveys different messages to different people.

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