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Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: How does rap “flavor” its truth content?

Shai Linne and I are having a conversation between Christian brothers about Christian rap. This post will not make sense unless you start at the beginning of this discussion and read through all the posts. You can find the other posts in this discussion on the right hand side of this page. This is my first question to Shai and his response to my question.

Scott-thumb-300x300Shai, I have heard you talk about the differences between east coast, southern, midwest, and west coast hip hop and the “flavors” they communicate. Would you say that each of these forms has strengths and weaknesses when attempting to communicate different aspects of biblical truth such as lament, exultation, rebuke, or instruction? If so, could you give examples of what each of these do well and what they do poorly? If not, could you explain why not?

Shai_Bio-300x300Thanks for your answer yesterday, Scott. I think I’m starting to understand your position more. Before I answer your first question, I want to follow up on something you said yesterday in hopes that you’ll clarify it in your rebuttal. The question I posed to you was, “Are you saying that music, apart from lyrics, can be sinful in and of itself?” You said this:

“Third, you are making a very common category error in these discussions. I agree completely, of course, that whatever God creates is good. God created music. God created meat. These things are good. But God did not create rap. People did. For that matter, God did not create Gregorian chant, German chorales, Appalachian folk tunes, country western, jazz, or rock ‘n’ roll. People did. And because these are all human communication, they are moral. It is very dangerous to ascribe to God something that he did not make.”

Brother, I’m not understanding the distinction you’re making. You said that God created music. But then you went on to say that people created particular genres of music. Every genre you mentioned has lyrics, which you rightly termed “human communication”. But my original question was about music apart from lyrics. Can you explain what you mean when you say “God created music.”? Thanks. And now, to your question:

This is an excellent question, Scott. It’s something that I think Christian Hip-hop artists need to wrestle with more than we do. My answer is yes. Like all genres, different regional forms of Hip-hop have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to expressing different kinds of truth. It’s something I’m conscious of and it guides how I choose the music I rap over. It’s the point I tried to make starting at the 5:50 point of this video:

“One of the issues I struggle with, just in terms of Hip Hop, is often times the medium is, in my opinion, not appropriate to the gravity of the message. It would like if you’re at a funeral and hearing the birthday song or something. Musically that just doesn’t fit with the mood.”

Hip-hop has changed since I made those comments in 2009. The internet and other factors have combined to de-emphasize regional distinctions, though they still exist. But to use those categories, southern Hip-hop is strong when it comes to encouraging excitement and rallying around something. Lecrae brilliantly leveraged this to rally Christians to foreign missions on his song Send Me:

While that style (music and lyrics) is great for inspiring and motivating to action, it wouldn’t be the best style to use if the song were an introspective prayer to God confessing sin. My two caveats would be this:

  1. While I would question the propriety of someone using that style for that form of communication, I don’t think it would be universally sinful to do so.
  2. I speak from a particular cultural context and I don’t make the assumption that every person in every culture who hears that song will respond in the same way.
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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.

72 Responses to Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: How does rap “flavor” its truth content?

  1. Mackman says:

    I have a feeling Scott is going to simply hold the line and maintain that music, in and of itself, apart from any lyrics or context, is communication and can be judged as inherently moral or immoral. The crucial flaw in his argument lies in equating it to “sentences” or “tones of voice,” saying that both of those things are “communication” and therefore inherently moral.

    That’s what I want to hear more about, because the more I think about it, the less sense it makes. They are not communication in and of themselves. They are a part of communication, and it is the whole that must be judged as moral or immoral, not the individual parts. It’s like saying a screw is bad because they can be used to build gas chambers.

    An angry tone can be used for righteousness (as Jesus does in clearing the temple). A gentle tone can be used for evil (as pimps do when convincing a hesitant prostitute). To judge the tone itself as moral or immoral is absurd.

  2. Steven says:

    I agree 100% Mackman, which is why we are judged by our heart because God knows the true intent of our communication. He doesn’t judge it by the tone.

  3. Christian Markle says:

    Fascinating study on non-verbal communication (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beyond-words/201109/is-nonverbal-communication-numbers-game). Seems that if we want to adequately communicate we need to make sure that our tone (and other non-verbals) agree with our verbals. If no we will mis-communicate — even communicate the opposite of what we are saying. If we really want to edify we should use consistent communication…No matter what our intent is, what we actually communicate will be held to account (Matthew 12:26 cf Proverbs 15:28). I think Brother Linne gets this to some degree, and I think that is good.

    That said, It appears that Scott’s example regarding tones is being mis-construed to say that an angry tone is always evil and an nice tone is always wrong. I am not sure that that is what Scott was saying, but I am sure he can clarify.

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  4. Mackman says:

    Christian, he said that music, divorced from lyrics, is “communication”, and thus inherently moral. Then he said the same thing about tones of voice.

    I agree with you that tone needs to agree with what we are saying, because it’s the communication AS A WHOLE that can be judged as moral or immoral. It’s the tone, the context, the words, the intention, the impact, etc. that make up the entire communication, and THAT is what is judged…but the tone IN AND OF ITSELF, apart from context, words, etc., CANNOT be judged as moral or immoral. Much like music, IN AND OF ITSELF, apart from context, words, etc, cannot be judged as moral or immoral.

    That’s the point I’m trying to make. Does that makes sense?

  5. David says:

    Mackman, based on what I’ve read here on this website and heard Scott teach, you are correct. In fact, the RA folks have already judged not only reformed rap as sinful, but any form of Contemporary music, including the Gettys, Tomlins, and pretty much any worship leader you’ve ever heard of. Basically, if it’s got drums or isn’t 1500s-1800s European hymnody, it doesn’t fit the bill.

  6. paul says:

    Doesn’t it seem that music in the church should be something that we can unite around? Should it be something that divides us into different kinds of categories? Should it be something that we have to endure out of deference to others? Isn’t there some kind of music that we can all find acceptable and that we can all in good conscience participate in with one heart and one voice?

  7. Steven says:

    Christian,

    If God judges our heart, why isn’t each beat judged by God by the intent of that person’s heart when creating that beat?

    Is God more glorified by the rap beat created by a redeemed soul or more glorified by classical music composed by an unregenerate soul?

    Finally, does the person who created that rap beat to glorify God need to repent?

  8. Mackman says:

    Paul,

    As far as I know, no one is advocating for widespread use of rap “in church” (during the worship service). It doesn’t lend itself to corporate worship in that setting (much like, say classical music doesn’t lend itself to participation). As far as I’m aware, the discussion is about whether rap is suitable for personal consumption, not corporate worship.

    That said, if there WAS a congregation where the vast majority of the congregants found rap “acceptable” and were able to participate in it “in good conscience,” I wonder if you would still have an objection. If so, would you have a similar objection if you attended a service in, say, Spanish. Must everyone learn to worship like you do?

    But that’s really beside the point, because no one is “forcing” anyone to endure anything. We aren’t banging on the doors of your church demanding that you give 15 minutes of your worship to rap, are we? We just want to put an end to the position that certain kinds of music, divorced from context, are inherently sinful.

  9. Adam Blumer says:

    David, unless I’m mistaken, I believe you have mischaracterized where RA stands in respect to the Gettys, for example. The article I’ve seen posted at RA points out some possible issues, encourages discernment, and recognizes that each church and pastor must explore the issue and decide for himself. Nowhere in the article do I see Scott or anyone else at RA outright calling Getty music “sin.” (http://religiousaffections.org/editors-picks/the-sovereign-gracegetty-music-question/)

    Also, nowhere do I see Scott or any other RA spokesperson legitimizing or condemning certain music based on when it was written. The claim of an old-music-is-only-what’s-correct argument is a strawman. The issue has always been primarily about musical style and what that communicates, along with associations, culture, and other pertinent secondary issues.

    Paul, absolutely unity among believers can be found in Christian music, and I think everyone commenting here knows what music unites and what music divides. Yes, Christian music should unite us, and I’m sure that’s what God desires. In fact, I think “in good conscience” is key to the discussion. If a brother cannot use rap in good consceince before the Lord, isn’t he sinning to go ahead and use it?

  10. Mackman says:

    Adam, have you seen ANYONE–literally anyone–advocate “forcing” people to use rap? Or even encouraging them to use it when they’re uncomfortable with it? Just a question, because if not, YOU just might be the one who is straw-manning.

  11. Adam Blumer says:

    Mackam, did I make any type of claim of “force”? Please review what I said. My pointing out a possible strawman was in the context of the claim that RA advocates only old music. Hey, brother, I love you in Christ.

  12. Jeremy says:

    Am I hearing a bit of commonality?– in this sense: Shai is stating something on the “micro” level that Scott would probably agree with, but apply on the “macro” level. Shai’s statement above seems to indicate that he believes (happy to be corrected if I’m misunderstanding) that within a given genre (i.e. hip-hop) certain sub-genres are appropriate or inappropriate for communicating a certain message. Whereas Scott might apply that judgement more broadly to the entire genre. Judging from the two caveats at the end, Shai considers those choices merely a matter of appropriateness, not sinfulness (or put a different way, not moral in nature). Am I understanding correctly?

  13. Christian Markle says:

    Brother Stephan,

    Based on your question: “If God judges our heart, why isn’t each beat judged by God by the intent of that person’s heart when creating that beat?”

    I ask, What text of scripture would you suggest indicates that God is solely concerned with the intent of my communication? (emphasis being on the world solely. I am certain that God is concerned with my intent, but I am pretty confident that the Bible does indicate that is His sum total of His concern in regards to my communication).

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  14. Mackman says:

    Adam,

    When I read your post, it seemed that you were implying that the hip-hop/rap movement was at fault for somehow encouraging those uncomfortable with it to sin. If I was incorrect, I apologize.

    Mackenzie

  15. drfiddledd says:

    For me the idea that some musical forms are evil has been suspect since I heard it applied to rhythms that made you want to move your body and that was why we didn’t sing “Coming Again”.

  16. RH says:

    Scott,
    I, personally, think that before the discussion between yourself and Shai goes any further, “Christian” music needs to be defined by the both of you. This article should give reasoning behind my opinion that you both should clearly define what exactly Christian music is. http://ctkblog.com/2013/12/05/why-switchfoot-wont-sing-christian-songs/

  17. Adam Blumer says:

    Mackman, I see where you were coming from. I was responding to the idea of music that builds unity in the body of Christ. My point is that I do believe there is Christian music that could/should unite all of us, and I think most of us already know what this music looks like. But it’s difficult to build unity among believers when certain music forms go against the consciences of some brothers and sisters. That’s my point. I’m not saying Christian rap is being forced on anyone, yet many who are being encouraged (not forced) to accept it as a legitimate worship form simply cannot because they cannot do so in good conscience. Make sense?

  18. Steven says:

    Christian,

    Thank you for your response. I don’t believe God is solely concerned with the intent of the communication but It has been proven by the numerous examples given by many on this site that understanding the communication is cultural. So while one hears rage/anger, I don’t. There is no sinful rage/anger being communicated through the music to that culture. That is why I said God will judge the heart of that person who is communicating to understand the communication since there is no prescription in the New Covenant for how to make music.

    That is why the tone of the husband yelling at his wife saying ‘I Love you’ fails in comparison. Everybody understands that mode of communication, because out of the mouth the ‘heart is revealed’. Out of the mouth of the angry husband is an angry tone. Not everybody understands what is communicated in Music. I don’t understand why when I say I don’t hear rage/anger, people are telling me ‘yes you are’. That is why I said God judges the heart’s intent when making music. Good question.

  19. Mackman says:

    I see where you’re coming from as well, Adam. However, wouldn’t that logic dictate that because some Christians are uncomfortable eating meat, that all should become permanent vegetarians? Would it dictate that all Christians stop watching television, since some Christians think it is a sin? I can go on and on with this.

    Don’t focus on that, though: here’s the important bit. To suggest that there is one type or genre of music here on earth that brings all Christians together is absurd, when you think about how many cultures and people-groups that includes. I was barely comfortable in a Mexican worship service in Mexico, I don’t know how I would feel at a worship service somewhere in Africa! Is there worship invalid too, because it doesn’t bring their culture together with ours?

    But the thing is, it actually DOES bring their culture to ours, because there is one unifying thread: Jesus Christ. That is, coincidentally, the same thread that ties Christian Rap to every great hymn that’s every been written, to every Christian song-writer who’s ever lived. And it is not the fault of African worship music, or Mexican worship music, or the music of any people or culture (including rap), if that unifying thread is overlooked and declared inconsequential.

    Thoughts?

  20. Christian Markle says:

    Brother Steven,

    Your statement, “Not everybody understands what is communicated in Music. I don’t understand why when I say I don’t hear rage/anger, people are telling me ‘yes you are’.” may expose a crucial point. We do not always understand what the music is communicating. We may feel or not feel things, but we have not taken the time to learn the language of music or understand the meaning. So we are left with impressions rather than assertions. I think we live in a culture that feels music rather than thinks it and this is not good (I am just as guilty of this deficiency which is one of the reasons I am trying not to engage directly about the particular genre of hip hop, but instead with the ideas that are being used to defend or decry it.)

    If I understand the RA argument, the reasons behind our inability to see/hear is not just an education issue it is a worldview issue. We are so immersed in it (American culture in the macro sense) that we cannot see the problems in our micro cultures. Part of the macro culture will not even allow us to communicate our discernment even if we had some because we are not to judge and it cannot be judged so any form of discernment is squelched. I am encouraged by the clear attempts at discernment expressed in Brother Linne’s statements above. But I suspect full discernment is limited by the assumptions that music (absent words) is not communication and the product of communication (the music) cannot be evil.

    Still thinking and trying to glorify God in all this,
    Christian Markle

  21. PhilT says:

    Excellent articulation by Shai Linne. He’s obviously wrestled with culture and is working to articulate the Gospel in a unique way within that particular context and he’s not pushing it as *the normative* approach to communicating the Gospel in song in all cultures. Good for him!

  22. Curtis Sheidler says:

    Christian,

    For the sake of argument, I’ll concede that Scripture clearly identifies music as having an intrinsic and identifiable moral quality.

    With that in mind, could you use Scripture to demonstrate some practical application or street-level outworking of that idea?

    Specifically,

    1. Assuming sound, godly, theologically rich and faithful lyrics like Brother Shai’s, at precisely what point does a music’s tempo reach such a speed that it ceases to be godly and becomes worldly? Put another way, exactly how much more slowly should Brother Shai perform his lyrics in such a way that they cease to be worldly and become appropriate for general Christian consumption?

    2. Similarly, at precisely what point do rhythm, cadence, and volume make the transition from being suitable to convey sound Christian doctrine to being examples of self-aggrandizing worldliness? Would rap music, for example, be less worldly if the words were spoken more softly and more slowly? If so, precisely how MUCH more softly or more slowly?

    3. Exactly which sorts of sounds does Scripture indicate are more suitable to convey (pardon the expression) sound theology? Of the two, which is more appropriate for authentically Christian, theologically rich music–the snare drum or the tambourine? And why?

    I’m interested in hearing your response.

  23. Mackman says:

    A follow-up question for Christian:

    If a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s there to hear it, was the sound it made moral or immoral?

    You’ll say that’s not a fair question, that a naturally occurring sound is different from a man-made sound. If so, what makes it different?

    I’m guessing you’ll say that it has to do with intent, and context, and all that good stuff, and you’d be right.

    But here’s the thing: Scott isn’t taking all of that into account. He’s saying that the SOUND of certain music, in and of itself, is immoral. That something inherent in the beat or melody can make a sound immoral. Which makes about as much sense as ascribing morality to the sound of a tree falling in the forest (after all, what if the tree slides down a mountain and recreates a rap beat?)

    You’re completely right that communication, as a whole, has meaning and can be called moral. But the various PARTS of communication cannot: No tone is inherently moral or immoral, no context is inherently moral or immoral, no sentence or word is inherently moral or immoral: It is only once the communication is complete that it can be judged. But talking about music in and of itself as a complete communication is foolishness.

  24. Alan says:

    Shai Linne is judging rap here. He says some is inappropriate because it lacks in quality to match with the message. He falls short of saying that the inappropriate character of a rap qualifies as sinful. There is something about the rap though that doesn’t match up with the words. I think a point Scott might be seeing is, “How can he judge that the music is inappopriate if the music doesn’t have meaning?” And If it does have meaning, it can have wrong meaning. That seems to be where this is heading. We’ll see.

  25. Christian Markle says:

    Brother Sheidler,

    Although I am grateful for your concession of the moral quality of music and I appreciate for what I can only understand as an honest set of questions, you misunderstand my role in this conversation. I have not entered the conversation to parse the morality of a particular genre, I entered due to ideas that simply did not seem to be accurate (practically or scripturaly). Frankly, I do not feel equipped to answer your questions the way you have asked them, Scott or some other person may feel free.

    I do see some ideas in your questions that I think may be misunderstandings, so I will proceed with those. I think your questions suggest a misunderstanding of what worldliness is. I think the category “world” is a biblical one but is used in a number of ways (not all bad) in the text, but it has been mis-represented by preachers to the point that we have lost the ability to discern accurately how to not love it. They have pointed to things as being worldly, but have failed to explain the texts that identify what is in the world that we are not to love (ie 1 John 2:15-17). I would suggest the following set of sermons as a help in this area (http://seminary.wcts1030.com/resources/mp3-audio?start=10). I think I might summarize my explanation like this: Worldliness is about culture not about timber, cadence, and volume. Cultures produce genre’s of music. These genres are expressions of that cultures values.

    At this point I would welcome correction or the opportunity to clarify based on interaction. I am of the opinion that your questions is not the correct right next step after the concessions you have made. I would suggest that the wrong aspects of a genre of music are found in the fact that it is an expression of a culture which has been tainted by the fall — which ALL have been. Cultures were a possibility in creation, but each culture was not God’s creation. Cultures are not to be considered sacred nor is there likely a culture that is completely absent virtuous qualities. Common grace is to be thanked for that. Special grace is what is necessary to ensure a truly unworldly culture. To the extent that a culture has adopted the Revelation of God as it source of value it will not be worldly. To the extent that a culture has adopted ungodly values it is worldly and will produce music that is consistent with those values. For a Christian to attempt to take these expressions of these ungodly values and sanitize them is to misunderstand the power of these expressions. The expression of ungodly values cannot be scrubbed clean as if the problem is on the surface. We cannot re-paint them, slow them down, turn the volume down, or some other superficial change. Just like in regeneration we are not turning over a new leaf we are a brand new person (1 Corinthians 5:17), so expressions of ungodly values must not be retained (or loved as 1 John 2:15-17 says) all things must be new.

    This may mean a complete rejection of a genre or style, or something less drastic. I suggest that the process should be to ask what is it about X art form/style that expresses ungodly values. In music many have taken this step with the lyrics, but they appear to have assumed (based on what appear to me to be bad ideas) that they do not need to do this with the musical element. We should be asking what does the music communicate and evaluate that as an expression of a godly or ungodly value. This is not easy work especially for those immersed in the culture. We are easily blind to our ungodly values; we are prone to love them (again 1 John 2:15-17) and by nature the world is pressuring us to conform (Romans 12:2), this is why I think we should value the input of others outside our culture to help us.

    Frankly, Brother, the reality is I have not arrived at some master plan of perfect musical expression. I am in the process of extracting (and too often re-extracting) the love I have for the world and its ungodly values all the time. At times I feel like it is one step forward and too many steps back. Oh, how I long for heaven! But I cannot give up the fight to bad ideas (wrong ideas of about what worldliness is nor claims that things cannot be evil).

    For His glory alone!
    Christian Markle

  26. Curtis Sheidler says:

    Alan,

    The difference is that Shai’s distinction of certain styles of rap as “inappropriate” are with respect to the type of mood that they evoke. His is NOT the moral argument that Scott’s is, nor does he (as Scott does) make sweeping generalizations about the entirety of rap as a genre.

    To put it more simply, Porky Pig’s “That’s All, Folks!” is fitting at the end of a Loony Tunes cartoon; it’s NOT fitting at the end of, say, Schindler’s List. And while the USE of that phrase or that film clip at the end of Schindler’s List might be sinful (if it were done with the deliberate intention of trivializing or suggesting a level of fictionality to the events that movie described), it simply doesn’t follow that the line or the film or the medium of cartoons are somehow inherently sinful.

  27. Mackman says:

    Curtis hits it right on the money.

    Different music evokes different moods, and certain moods are not always appropriate in all occasions. Matching the wrong words and music might be an artistic error, such as choosing the wrong paintbrush or color, but it falls far short of sin.

    He also doesn’t say it “lacks in quality.” He says the quality is different, and that “different regional forms of Hip-hop have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to expressing different kinds of truth.”

    Just listen to Lecrae’s song “Send Me”, linked above in the post, and compare it to his “Desperate” ([http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8IMvTYwXTw). Two COMPLETELY different styles, yet both exquisitely suited to what they’re trying to do.

  28. Christian Markle says:

    Mackman,

    Secular musicians do not seem to agree that music by itself cannot communicate meaning. Try this book Musical Communication by Dorothy Miel

    The following two paragraphs are the description of the book:

    “Music is a powerful means of communication. It provides a means by which people can share emotions, intentions, and meanings even though their spoken languages may be mutually incomprehensible. It can also provide a vital lifeline to human interaction for those whose special needs make other means of communication difficult. Music can exert powerful physical effects, can produce deep and profound emotions within us, and can be used to generate infinitely subtle variations of expressiveness by skilled composers and performers.

    “This new addition to the music psychology list brings together
    leading researchers from a variety of academic and applied backgrounds. It examines how music can be used to communicate and the biological, cognitive, social, and cultural processes which underlie such communication. Taking a broad, interdisciplinary look at all aspects of communication, from the symbolic aspects of musical notation, to the use of music in advertising, the book is the first of its kind. It will be valuable for all those involved in music psychology, music education, and communication studies.”

    Information from the following: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780198529361.do

    These claims are not in isolation:
    http://english.cri.cn/7146/2012/03/12/2361s686292.htm
    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/768199?uid=3739976&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21103154228693
    -http://www.academia.edu/200249/Meaning_and_communication_in_popular_music_an_exploratory_qualitative_study
    http://www.lipscomb.umn.edu/docs/Lipscomb_Tolchinsky_ICMPC8_proceedings_final.pdf

    I could go on. I suggest that the claim that music on its own does not communicate is really foolish according to those that have spent time really thinking about it (without an moral agenda). Tell me does this not communicate something different than the original version? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2PsNnj1ftQ. I would observe that the words have not changed, and I would admit that the sequencing and choice of scenes have an effect, but the music certainly communicates as well.

  29. Mackman says:

    Music definitely means something. It definitely adds to what is being communicated. But that something is not “evil” or “good” in and of itself.

    There is music that lends itself to dancing, music that lends itself to singing, music that lends itself to worship, etc. There is music that excites us, and music that calms us. There is music that is angry, and sad, and joyful. How fortunate, then, that Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there are times for all of these, and more!

    To ascribe a moral stance to music–“This chord/beat/style ALWAYS communicates something that is ALWAYS sinful”–is akin to ascribing a moral stance to a tone of voice–“This tone ALWAYS communicates something that is ALWAYS sinful.” That is a ludicrous move, but it is one that Scott is making.

    I can say “I love you” in a whisper, or in a normal tone of voice, or in a defiant shout. I can say it tersely, or I can say it slowly. I can say it in any number of tones. To say that the tone affects the meaning of the overall communication is obvious: To say that the tone in and of itself has a moral quality is absurd.

    That’s the distinction I’m making. Do you see the difference?

  30. LR says:

    Mackman,

    Let’s put aside for the moment, the matter of intrinsic morality and if I might, let me ask you for some clarification on two things you said.

    You say, “Different music evokes different moods, and certain moods are not always appropriate in all occasions.”

    By what biblical standard (sola scriptura) did you determine this to be the case? Could it ever be sin to have the wrong mood at the wrong occasion?

    You further say, “Matching the wrong words and music might be an artistic error, such as choosing the wrong paintbrush or color, but it falls far short of sin.”

    How did you determine that this falls short of sin? If the music in question creates a mood that lies or deceives about the message words, would that be sin?

  31. Mackman says:

    LR,

    Your first point: “Could it ever be sin to have the wrong mood at the wrong occasion?”

    Yes… but it depends on several factors. For instance, serenity (or even happiness) on hearing of a great tragedy would often be considered inappropriate, but if the serenity stems from a knowledge of God’s grace and sovereignty, it would be appropriate: On the other hand, if the happiness stemmed from the tragedy in itself, that would certainly indicate disorder and sin.

    On the other other hand, we are told to “mourn with those who mourn,” so being visibly cheerful, in such a way as to cause distress to those mourning, would be negligent at best and consciously sinful at worst.

    Anger is another, easier example. There are times when anger is appropriate (see Jesus cleansing the temple), and some things where anger is not appropriate (the many, MANY times when the disciples miss-understood Jesus, yet Jesus treated them gently).

    I think that works. If you are happy/angry/sad/whatever for the wrong reason, it can definitely be sin.

    Your second point: “How did you determine that this falls short of sin? If the music in question creates a mood that lies or deceives about the message words, would that be sin?”

    That’s fair. I was just having a discussion with a friend where I hashed this out more fully. Let’s give it a go:

    Music can evoke emotion. Of course, the kind of emotion involves culture to a large extent (what we’ve been conditioned to perceive as “happy” or “sad” or “epic”, etc), but the fact remains that it can evoke emotion.

    It’s possible to evoke emotion that, DEPENDING ON CONTEXT, might be inappropriate. It’s possible to evoke happiness, which is not bad, at something we should not be glad about; It’s possible to evoke sadness at something we should not be sad about. Etc.

    A happy, uplifting tune would be inappropriate for a song about the need for repentance and the depravity of humanity, for instance. In the context of the words and culture that it’s in, it certainly has the potential to promote a false theology and would be sinful (however, I think charity would dictate that we distinguish between intentional falsehood and accidental falsehood).

    I hope you respond to this: you seem like a reasonable dude. I don’t know your experience of rap, so I’ll just say this: A lot of people against Christian rap betray a complete and total lack of knowledge of it. So before attempting to apply any of this to Christian rap, I hope you don’t make that same mistake.

  32. CR says:

    One has to wonder how fast the beat was when King David almost danced out of his clothes.

    We worship in spirit and truth, so I am suspicious of the “scriptural proof” that attempts to show that God doesn’t consider only the heart when people rightly glorify God and worship him with sincere hearts, but also the tune, beat and tone in which they do it.

  33. Craig says:

    I appreciate Scott’s position from a philosophical rationale, however, if we understand that God, the word, is incarnate in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom 8:3), yet remained sinless, then we have a biblical impulse for engaging a culture in a way they will connect with. This, it seems, is what Shai does.

  34. Rick says:

    There is truly nothing new under the sun. Even Isaac Watts was criticized greatly when he used his new form of music for God’s glory and for the edification of the church. Shai, keep on going!

  35. Alan says:

    Is it sinful to disrespect God?

  36. Someone linked me to this blog to sort of witness this discussion and see if I had anything to add. I think they did it because I have a lot of overt sympathy Dr. Anoil’s moral/aesthetic argument. I think he’s right about man’s moral responsibilities in art — but ironically, I think that whether or not Shai Linne would make the same argument the same way, he agrees with the point of it (which is: all art is not created equal, and all forms of expression are not interchangable).

    So to that end, my only contribution to this discussion would be this: if we can agree that the medium (the genre; the tempo; the mood; etc.) matters, and that Rap has all of these things, the real question is whether or not we have Christian vocational uses for the genre, tempo, mood and mode of Rap music. Surely no one here would say that Rap is a necessary part of the Christian faith, would they? Because we would not, we have to deal with this question in the human sphere which it resides.

    I am certain I can think of 3 vocational uses of Rap, but I’m not trying to take over this discussion. It looks serious, brotherly, congenial, and Godly. I wish these brothers well as they work it out, and look forward to seeing the rest of this exchange.

  37. Martin says:

    Mackman, I agree with what you wrote in principle. Would you dare to venture our and actually say how you would apply the above rather universal agreement on that music must match the lyrical content at the example of rap and/or hip-hop? If we combine the genre with biblical teaching, can you think of ways of doing this that could lead to a distortion of the message that is either bad art or immoral? Not sure if you can point to examples (and the firestorm that could cause) but this seems to be the questions we are trying to get at here.

    Christian: “I suggest that the claim that music on its own does not communicate is really foolish according to those that have spent time really thinking about it (without an moral agenda).”

    I think we can agree that music has meaning, and your ‘Sound of Music’ video clip (awesome!) illustrates that music is not neutral in the sense that it has no impact on how lyrical content (and in the realm of movies, imagery) is perceived. We just watched Captain Phillips and I found it incredible how the music is used to keep you on the edge of your seat for more than half the movie.

    Yet, we are all wondering why this non-propositional communication of music by itself has moral connotations. The point was already made several times. It definitely impacts on how content is received but only WITH the content is there clearly some moral meaning as well.

  38. Note to Dr. Anoil – because this discussion is very useful, you might consider adding a tag to your tag cloud called “rap” so that interested readers can see all the posts at a glance.

  39. Tim Emslie says:

    Martin- not sure you are quite conceding Christian’s point that music on its own communicates meaning. I think his point is that if the music can change the meaning of the exact same images, then logically it communicates meaning on its own. Then, of course, communication must be morally good, etc.

    As DavidO once put it, if we could exactly describe what each kind of music means using words, then we wouldn’t need music. And, I might add, wouldn’t it be unfortunate if we were unable to perceive, enjoy, and communicate meaning at the musical level? Could this be a gift we have as image bearers?

  40. LR says:

    Mackman, Thanks for that answer. I agree with you. But as I understand what you are saying, I wonder how that fits in with what seems to be your overall point here that, at least as I understand it, it is wrong and impossible to judge some music as immoral. Perhaps I have misunderstood that. You seem to acknowledge that music can promote sinfulness but also deny that music has moral meaning. I can’t process that. Have I misunderstood you? Can you help clarify?

    If your point is that some music might be sinful for a particular context or occasion, but not inherently so and not necessarily universally so, I understand that to be a distinction from Scott, who would agree with your point, but would extend it to say that such meaning is inherent and universal in at least some cases (I think).

    This leads me to the question then of how would you determine that a musical setting would be inappropriate or even sinful (based on your above distinctions)?

    BTW, my experience of rap is limited. I don’t care for the medium, but I find it intriguing at a number of different levels. I can see how some songs communicate clear doctrine. I have a Shai Linne station on Pandora and from time to time I go to it to see what’s comes up. I rarely listen to more than a song or two. Yesterday I was trying some out and one came up and I thought, “That’s the problem right there.” It sounded angry which was totally contradictory to the lyrics. But I don’t remember which song it was.

  41. 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

  42. Mackman says:

    Martin,

    It most certainly CAN be used to distort the biblical message (as it can be used in any musical genre, or indeed, any form of spoken communication whatsoever). A disconnect between the music and the rest of the communication (lyrics, context, culture, etc) will certainly be bad art, and if severe enough, can definitely cross the line into false teaching and sin.

    I doubt anyone would say differently. The point I am arguing, however, is that Scott is saying that there is no way to properly match the content of the Gospel to rap music, that something about “rap music” (an already absurdly broad category, by the way) makes it inherently unsuitable. While I can’t give you any examples of it being done poorly, I CAN give you examples of it being done well.

    Lecrae’s “Desperate”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8IMvTYwXTw: Contrary to the “angry, heavy” beat that some seem to envision, the music here is largely driven by piano as Lecrae laments his sinfulness and begs for God to create in him a clean heart.

    Trip Lee’s “To Live Is Christ”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ro3ZSf7bGgg
    Trip Lee raps through the letter to the Phillipians to the accompaniment of a light beat and a violin.

    Shai Linne’s “Gospel Music”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2r4ujFeuqk. The music perfectly fits the straightforward, unapologetic tone of Romans, without once descending into the “anger” that many people envision when thinking of rap.

    In all of these examples (and many more), the music perfectly fits the subject matter, making the song an ideal vehicle to communicate grace and truth. I would ask that you listen to one or two of them (if you haven’t heard them already) and tell me if you agree.

    LR,

    Music cannot promote sinfulness in and of itself. That is, there is no music that will promote a sinful reaction in every circumstance (which is what music being “moral” would entail).

    What music can do is evoke emotion, or moods, which may or may not be appropriate depending on the circumstances. Even “sensual” music, music which has the capacity to move people towards lust in the wrong circumstances (if such music exists), finds its place in the bedroom of a married couple. Because there is a time and place for almost every emotion, that means there is a time and a place for the music that promotes those emotions (as opposed to what Scott is pushing for).

    As for your experience with rap: I hope you’re not judging an entire medium based on one song that you heard once that didn’t match the message? I’m not saying that’s what you’re doing, but listening to the panel that sparked this whole mess, I think you would agree that many of them seem to be doing exactly that: judging the genre without a proper understanding of it.

    Check out the songs that I linked to in the first half of this comment. I think you’ll agree that if even ONE of them fits the message, if even ONE of them communicates grace and truth through the medium of rap, then the argument that rap is inherently sinful goes right out the window.

    To BOTH of you, and anyone else who wants to continue a reasonable, logical discussion: Feel free to click on my name up there and comment on my own personal blog, where it might be a little easier to communicate clearly, without worrying about interdicting comments.

    It’s a pleasure going back and forth with you, and I eagerly await your response.

  43. Martin says:

    Christian: I guess so. I will clarify in my answer to Tim.

    TIM: Music on its own has, as far as I understand, meaning on two levels. A) there is some inherent meaning in the combination of beat, instrumentation, tempo, loudness etc. which creates or equates to emotions. If you were to watch Christian’s clip on The Sound of Music, you would notice how the music suggests eeriness and danger. I admit that this is only partly directly emotional and partly cultural (learned) association, but from what I have read so far, certain musical clues are very universal across cultures (like the hel-lo to call someone or the oh-oh when something goes wrong).

    B) There is communication on the basis of association. If I hear bossanova, I think of Brazil, holidays, and having a good time. If I hear the Pink Panther theme, I think of Peter Sellers and lots of nonsense. If I hear the national anthem, I think of honour and patriotism. I think rap, likewise, evokes such associations with the rap sub-culture and associated attitudes and lifestyles. To shed this is certainly something Chirstian rappers need to contend with.

    So this is meaning but it is not propositional. As such, I don’t know where moral judgement comes in (judging whether association with specific things may offend some people may, however, be part of deciding which particular compositions or styles one would use for specific purposes – a very basic case being if I throw a party for someone I won’t play music I know that person dislikes). Emotions are not bad, and neither is an association with something, which is simply a fact that must be taken into account. This is about suitability, not morals, in my understanding.

    So music alone communicates vaguely or generally (e.g., sadness). Testing has shown not all people can associate the same music with identical emotions. Associational meaning will be different for certain individuals (this is ‘our song’) and for people from different cultures and backgrounds.

    “if the music can change the meaning of the exact same images, then logically it communicates meaning on its own”

    This is true and false (oh, how I am contradicting myself here) – to explain, music has ‘vague’ or general meaning and WILL shape propositional content, as seen in Christian’s clip. What I am saying is that when COMBINED with propositional content, we have clear communication that should be subjected to moral evaluation. The communication of music alone is, as far as I can see, too fuzzy to be either moral or immoral. Even the ta-ta-ta-taaa fo Beethoven’s Fifth does not clearly mean death knocking on your door although once you know its intended meaning you may think the composer represented that very well the way he did.

    Some will say there is nihilistic music from India etc. – this I would agree with: the music is a product of that culture and its beliefs, and was created to express their ideas and beliefs. Yet, such music by itself is not evil or wrong. The underlying worldview may be evil but the music is simply an artistic expression fit for it (and if I have a different worldview I probably won’t listen to it). If we give it more significance I think we’re back to the ‘the music made me do it’ idea, rather than what seems more appropriate = I chose the soundtrack that fits my worldview. It is well in line and expresses well what it is meant to express! Once, however, I combine it with Christian lyrics, I have a mismatch: there is incongruence between the lyrics and the music, and so the propositional content either becomes a farce (like in the Youtube clip) or the music weakens, changes, or distorts the intended meaning of the lyrics – rather than reinforcing them.

    Mackman has responded while I was writing this (I will try to get back to him later), and I generally agree with him. I believe mismatching lyrics and style is bad art. I understand that this may be sin in some cases but am still looking for criteria to define such situations. Otherwise, I would plead these are ‘Apollos’ (Acts 18) situations where he did a good job with good intentions but needed to be instructed to do a better job still.

  44. Alan says:

    I asked if it were sinful to disrespect God, and the lack of answer seems to imply, “Yes.” No one answered, probably because it seemed to be an insult to the intelligence, I guess. Usually people here are jumping to get their thoughts out there. OK, if it is sinful to disrespect God, are words the only way for God to be disrespected? By saying something disrespectful? Or are there other ways to disrespect God than a statement or lyric of disrespect?

  45. Mackman says:

    Alan, no one’s engaging with you because you aren’t engaging with the discussions that are 1) addressing the very points that you bring up, and 2) are taking place literally directly above your comment.

    When you bypass the entire discussion to ask a question you (and everybody else) already knows the answer to, it demonstrates that you aren’t interested in discussion.

  46. Alan says:

    Mackman,

    To be kind, what you have written has been so nebulous and so ambiguous so as to be indecipherable what you’re even talking about. Two pertinent, tell-tale examples are paragraphs 1, 2, and 7 of your 12/7, 11:10am comment. From what you’ve written, we have no idea when some contradiction between words and music is severe enough or what the line is that must be crossed in order for the music to be sinful, and yet at the same time music cannot promote sinfulness, that is, (just to contradict yourself again) “there is no music that will promote a sinful reaction in every circumstance.” Music cannot promote sinfulness and what you mean by that is that music won’t promote a sinful reaction in every circumstance. I’m waiting for a flurry of nonsensical verbiage that is called engaging in a discussion.

    I’m just trying to get this down to certain fundamentals. Can God be disrespected? No one actually did answer that question in anything that was written.above.

    Is he only disrespected by words or can he be disrespected some other way?

  47. Mackman says:

    I’m sorry, Alan, where are you seeing the contradiction? Can you explain yourself please? Because from where I’m sitting, it all fits together pretty well.

    Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that “for everything there is a season,” and goes on to list several actions that imply emotion. Dancing and mourning, just to name two, saying that there is a time for each of these things. Where dancing is appropriate, it would be sinful to mourn: Where mourning is appropriate, it would be sinful to dance. Neither mourning nor dancing are moral acts in and of itself: It all depends on context.

    I’m merely applying that same logic to music. So where are you seeing the disconnect?

    And to answer your question: God can be disrespected by any word and any action, if done in an inappropriate context.

  48. CR says:

    I am curious to hear an actual critique of one of the songs listed by Mackman to demonstrate the theory of hip hop music sounds inherently distorting a godly message (regardless of culture and intent). If hip hop is inherently sinful, it ought to be provable. Something so vital to sanctification would not be left unclear by scripture.

    Alan if you are getting at the idea that hip hop disrespects God (that is the impression I get), can you or anyone here demonstrate it? I think we are dancing around an ambiguous theory, but no one seems willing to discourse on the matter of whether hip hop is the ‘death rattle’ of society. (I certainly don’t think so but I would be interested to know exactly how someone comes to this conclusion.)

  49. Alan says:

    I’m not going to move ahead where Scott and Shai are in the debate. I think we should wait and see where they are headed and interact with what they write. I think we are right where they are at. They are not to the point that you guys may want them to be, but I’m pretty sure they’ll get there, and if not, then it can be carried on. I wouldn’t critique those clips because we’re not there yet. And that goes to the “death rattle” comment as well.

    If we don’t agree that, first, disrespecting God is sinful, and then, second, that He can be disrespected by more than just words, then the discussion is over.

    Mackman,

    Your reply didn’t clear up what you had written, and I wasn’t pointing out anything about Eccl 3 or what you said about that. I explained myself. You can go back and look at your comment, the one I referred to, those paragraphs, and the contradictions.

    In answer to my questions though, we agree so far as it relates to the major point so far, which is where Christian above seems to be too. That is in fact where the conversation is so far. Shai isn’t going as far as you. He has said that any style of music can be sinful. I’d happy to have someone point out how he has.

  50. Alan says:

    Correction: Shai has said that no style of music is sinful, and I’d happy to have that corrected.

  51. Mackman says:

    I’m looking at what I wrote, and I’m not seeing a disconnect. Where is the contradiction in saying that music can be appropriate or inappropriate in different contexts?

    Your refusal to clarify is not conducive to charitable and profitable discussion.

    To clarify my position:

    Point 1: NO STYLE OF MUSIC is sinful in and of itself, divorced from context or lyrics.

    Point 2: ANY STYLE OF MUSIC can, depending on context, contribute to the sinfulness of the overall communication it is attached to, or evoke inappropriate or sinful reactions (much like “tone of voice” does the same thing with verbal communication).

    Do you see a contradiction there? If so, where do you see one, and what is it? Enough stand-offishness, enough “Well, if YOU can’t see then I’m not going to point it out!” That’s not helpful, and it contributes nothing to the discussion.

    Finally, you must have missed the end of the last post, where I state:

    “And to answer your question: God can be disrespected by any word and any action, if done in an inappropriate context.”

    Nobody is disputing that, and your little “ultimatum” implying that we ARE disputing it is laughable.

  52. Martin says:

    Mackman:

    Desperate: This is truly amazing. I would agree that this does not sound aggressive but rather, well – desperate. They way he is speaking he lyrics, he is expressing a restlessness and urgency that seems well suitable for what he is actually saying – a cry to God for help when he feels guilty of sin. I’d say he is speaking as if he was telling a story to children, trying to impress the story on them by using somewhat exaggerated language and expressions. Now the refrain is a little too ‘Back Street Boys’ (or maybe even Enrique Iglesias – I’m sorry) for my liking – this is where hymnody really is superior in expressing a prayerful attitude. I guess one critique – a very basic one – would be to question whether what he’s saying should actually be put to music, or at least to a rhythm that nevertheless is a bit dancy or at least cool-sounding. His lyrics are very authentic and ‘un-cool’ I would say. But otherwise I think this is artistically well done.

    “To Live is Christ” did not go down so well with me. To start, it’s certainly a high aim to put the Letter to the Philippians to sound. Yet, he speaks quickly and the music with the rap genre here is not conducive to the lyrics being processed. I was busy enough to try and understand the lyrics (given his accent) but what he says is theologically so dense that I find it impossible to follow as he goes through it. So when an artist is trying to teach – something normally found in the realm of preaching – he needs to think twice. I see a conflict here between the medium of rap music which is (at least, in this instance) fast-paced and the need to clearly articulate and give the listener time to process what is said. If his idea is indeed to teach what Philippians says, I think he loses out to normal speech, meaning the song fails in what it tries to achieve. The instrumentation (violin) makes it sound less hard but contrary to Lecrae’s song, I find that this one is more typical of rap and the language DOES sound somewhat aggressive or at least confrontational.

    “Gospel Music” – Shai chanting, “Soli Deo Gloria, eh!” really DOES take out the reverence or sincerity I would have expected here. It looks like an exaggerated attempt to be cool while singing about serious things (which is either immaturity or being purposely juvenile – no offense). The lyrics are much easier to understand than in the previous song. Yet, again my question whether this is a good way of communicating a summary of Romans. Would it be too boring to read the words out in normal language? Doesn’t the ‘cool’ sound take away from the gravity of what Paul was writing? It then becomes a question of IF I like to listen to rap, would it not be best to choose music that tries to communicate Scripture or at least scriptural thoughts, rather than secular rap. I don’t quite believe this specific song will do well in reaching non-Christians in an evangelistic way (though others may disagree?) since it is so openly talking about a subject which, if I am interested enough about to listen to Shai’s song, I might actually be ready to attend a Bible study anyways. And if I don’t, I’ll switch it off as soon as I understand this is about the Bible.

    So these are my 50 – eh, 2 cents on the three songs you referenced.

    Having written the above about how I perceive the combination of some versions of rap with Christian lyrics, what about the other problem I alluded to before: association. I mentioned nihilism in Indian music – so if we say this style was created to reflect that philosophy, and is still associated with it today, would we then want to combine it with Christian lyrics? If you agree with me the answer is no, then we have a similar problem with some Western genres as well. Mind you, this is moving away from the question of whether sin can be involved or not, but I am trying instead to go deeper on the artistic choice question.

    Hard rock is clearly a non-black style and as such, discussions here could be exposed to the (inverted) racism charge as well. But since this genre does not represent non-whites well, is it then artistically astute to combine this music with Christian lyrics if we understand the Gospel to be for all cultures and races (really, we are all one race anyways)? For hip-hop, someone who should know has written that the worldview this music expresses is “Life ain’t nothin’ but bitches and money” (http://www.city-journal.org/html/13_3_how_hip_hop.html). Now, Christian artists try to redeem the genre and get away from that but again: if THIS is what the genre was created to express, why use it? Many in the hip-hop culture will likely still see (or presume) the same confrontational and anti-authority stance in Christian works that are so clearly associated with the works of their secular peers. What I mean is, why are we even trying to redeem a style that comes from a culture with so different values than those of Christianity? Isn’t this syncretism? Once we become Christians, should we not rather break with our former customs, and if we offer a sanitized version of those customs to make a decision to trust in Christ easier, are we not risking that parts of their old life that should be given up are actually transferred into the new life and may, at least in some cases, serve as bridges back to the former life?

    I’m not advocating the burning of CDs (and even those are disappearing anyways – please recycle!) but would think that a gradual moving away from secular rap would ensue if someone comes to Christ. Do we then need to replace it with Christian rap? Sorry, I am jumping the gun here with respect to the underlying exchange between Scott and Shai (apologies to Alan) but reading the above-linked article really made me think about this question again. What are you guys proposing as a response to my worries?

  53. Mackman says:

    The question of whether the “genre” was created to express a certain worldview is completely irrelevant, for one very simple reason. If we can agree that “Desperate” is a legitimate vehicle of grace and truth, then the broader discussion of whether or not rap is inherently sinful is effectively over. If “Desperate” is rap, and if “Desperate” is also an artistically well-done communication of the truth of the Gospel, then rap is a viable medium, PERIOD. The conversation at that point has to shift away from universal condemnation, and towards educating those on both sides to maximize edification.

    Also, as an aside, do you REALLY find it plausible that a style of music in and of itself–an arrangement of beats and notes set to a rhythm–can express a worldview, let alone a worldview so specific?

    Moving on:

    I think you’ll acknowledge that many of your critiques boil down to nothing more than personal preference. Understanding fast-spoken lyrics is an acquired skill (as is appreciating any other kind of music). I have to disagree with you about any degree of aggression or confrontation in “To Live is Christ.” There is nothing in the tone that suggests aggression: It is exuberant, yes, it is excited; but not aggressive in the least. And regarding the density of the material: No song is meant to be listened to just once. Look up the lyrics, listen to it a couple times, and it will reward you.

    Regarding “To Live is Christ” and “Gospel Music”: they were part of an album titled “13 Letters,” and it covers each one of Paul’s letters. And it was produced and intended not mainly for evangelistic purposes, but for the edification of those who are already believers (the 2nd track in the album, “Dig In,” encourages the listeners to ” grab your pen, pencil, highlighter, and your commentary/ And dig deep in the scriptures,”) It is not intended to replace Bible study, or to replace the actual reading of Paul’s letters: But they do give insights into the text, and it certainly moves me to introspection and worship when I listen to it: What more do you want from a song?

    But I have to say, I’m legitimately disappointed by your critique of the music as “cool.” You use that word several times, always as something that takes away from its value. What do you mean when you say “cool”? And why is it inherently a bad thing? Why does something sounding “cool” take away from the Gospel message?

    Regarding the rest of your response: As I said at first, if even one Christian rap song can be shown to be a theologically-responsible, artistically-sound medium for grace and truth, then the premise that rap is inherently sinful is a non-starter.

    And on a broader scale, this brings us right back to the question: Can music, in and of itself, as a mere arrangement of beats and notes and chords, be evil or righteous? I think it’s absurd to argue that it can (my arguments for this are in my previous comments).

    Meaning that any question of “is it worth it to redeem this style of music” is rendered moot by the fact that when it comes to music, there is nothing to redeem, in and of itself. It is like speaking of “redeeming” screws that were previously used to put together a gas chamber. It is like speaking of “redeeming” an angry tone of voice after being yelled at, or “redeeming” sex in a culture of prostitution. It is a tool, a modifier, and it can modify things for good or ill. This is nothing more than guilt by association.

    (And while I’ve never heard Indian music, it may well be useful in a song about Ecclesiastes, or one contrasting the worldly condition with the heavenly condition).

    And forgive me, but I actually laughed out loud when I read your statement that something so “non-white” as hip-hop might not be able to represent the Gospel well. I doubt you meant to, but you implied that OUR culture’s music–white, western culture–somehow represented the universal gospel better than THEIR culture’s music. At the very least, you implied that while THEIR music isn’t suitable for all cultures, OUR music most certainly is (which it most certainly is not). Do you see that? And for the record, I’m as white as they come and I have NEVER felt excluded by Christian rap music.

    There is literally no reason to give up rap unless it is demonstrated that rap is inherently sinful. And if even one rap song is good, then rap cannot be inherently sinful. Do you agree?

  54. Mackman says:

    Striking my second-to-last paragraph: I misread what you had written. However, the basic point still stands: You are attacking a style of music for not being equally accessible to all cultures, while assuming that OUR music somehow is inherently accessible to all cultures, which is utterly unjustified.

    One last thing: When you’re listening to “Desperate,” do you REALLY believe that anyone–literally anyone–could come away from it and “likely still see (or presume) the same confrontational and anti-authority stance in Christian works that are so clearly associated with the works of their secular peers”?

    I hope you don’t, because to believe that is to believe that “genre” is this mystical force that somehow overrides the ACTUAL beat and lyrics of a song and replaces it with the “genre beat.”

    Stop giving so much power to the genre. Rap is HUGE, and to boil it down to “bitches and hoes” is laughable.

  55. Martin says:

    Hi Mackman,

    This was to be expected :-) Since I challenged you to expose yourself a little by providing some examples, it was only fair that you should do the same to me and ask me to comment from my own perspective. Let me just say that the questions I raised about these examples are really meant as questions. They may reflect where I currently stand but if I had all the answers, I might not be interested in taking part in this discussion. I do like to play the devil’s advocate sometimes, so don’t take every word as what I would hold to be ultimate truth – I’m more interested in what kind of rebuttals I can get that would speak against my current views. All I wrote is negotiable but you will certainly see some of my convictions shine through, i.e. I tend to see some positions as either false or at least difficult to defend, and others make a lot more sense to me, and I see them as congruent with whatever else I think I know…

    To answer your question, I am indeed with you on the position that genre is not inherently sinful. I am even still looking for criteria to determine when its use might ever be sinful (you provided some examples). I might still be convinced that it is sinful in some cases (its use to offend – intentionally or unintentionally – is likely such a case but not really linked to the music itself), but currently I DO hold that it is bad art in many cases. Whether we can say it is ALWAYS bad art when used with Christian messaging is something I hope this on-going discussion will help us out with.

    Yes, I meant hard rock, not hip-hop, trying to give another example not related to our current discussion. I chose the racial preference of that style as an argument – others might be the fact that this music REALLY is hard and aggressive, or the dress culture and gesturing that seems to be part of this music (remove that and it becomes unauthentic and silly). I thought that might be an easier example than hip-hop although I realize this also can be contested – as a matter of fact, I was surprised I did not get a lot more pushback on my latest comment. Well, it’s still Sunday; who knows what will happen tomorrow (or maybe we just tired everyone else out with our lengthy comments).

    I would still hold that musical styles were created to express (or go along with) certain worldviews. This does not automatically mean that they are incompatible with Christianity but it certainly does mean they were not MEANT to be compatible with it. What I was thinking of in terms of ‘nihilstic’ is music that has sometimes unclear and tweaked sounds and no real beginning or end, being somewhat monotonous (mainly used for meditation). That there is no clear perception of time and no beginning or end purposefully reflects the ideology of concepts like reincarnation and a negation of a real beginning and end as opposed to a biblical worldview. This certainly means that such styles need to be subjected to even more scrutiny if we want to use them. I’m with Shai on this one: certain styles GO BETTER with certain uses – whether funerals, parties, intimate moments, or moments of awe, worship, or patriotism (I think we agree on this anyways). All music is not created equal, and that includes certain worldviews. I already stated that music does not communicate as clearly as lyrics do and therefore I have problems calling it good or evil. Yet, the worldview question is one that I think definitely has merit, even if we cannot reconstruct any philosophy from listening to an Indian song.

    Taking out or toning down some elements surely may be of help (as in “Desperate”) but then I have another question: does the exception not confirm the rule in these cases? In other words, listening to that song I would think it is rather untypical for the genre. It still is rap but it is not what we commonly think of when talking about the genre as a whole. So when you question the possibility that Christian rap can still suggest the same attitudes, worldviews or meanings that secular rap is associated with, I want to say that I do not mean this to be true on the basis of one single (or even a few) songs that actually sound very different than secular rap; what I mean is that the use of rap in Christian circles might legitimize the use of its whole range by Christians. Like, “I like Shai Linne but I also like some of the harder songs” (which, by implication, would sound more like their secular counterparts – or even be the secular music = listening to both since you like that genre). So this is more about the ‘precautionary principle’ in the context of conversion and the preoccupation that if we allow syncretism, this may lead to Christians keeping some of the baggage they should really lay down at the cross. This is a big discussion and I don’t know if we will be able to get into this very much here.

    When you say, “Rap is HUGE, and to boil it down to “bitches and hoes” is laughable”, please realize you are saying that to people who are much more sophisticated in this discussion than I am. Although there is great bandwidth within the genre, it is important to understand how the genre as a whole is understood by society and especially by young males immersed in it (and their rap idols). Clearly, such generalizations will never hold true for everyone within the genre but to dismiss them as irrelevant may be an error as well.

    On my evaluations, you commented: “But they do give insights into the text, and it certainly moves me to introspection and worship when I listen to it: What more do you want from a song?”
    I’m not sure how to answer that; maybe I haven’t thought about it enough yet. I expect these things less from songs than from preaching or my own Bible-reading, I guess. My question was whether rap can do this any better than normal speech. I knew that Shai also said his music is not for evangelism but then we need to ask whether music was ever meant to convey such dense thought and theology as rap intends to do, or if rap is an add-on to such teaching which makes it more difficult to understand. I have no proof here but still wonder what the value of it might be other than satisfying a desire to listen to this type of music. Thinking out loud, we all know that all music with lyrics has some content to convey. Worship music is a lot less dense and will usually focus either on personal testimony or some theological theme, and the refrains can easily be used to teach since they are memorable and easily repeated by the congregation – something that is not the case with rap. And, it won’t be as dense as rap. Many of us would probably agree that CCM is one extreme where content has been reduced to a bare minimum (that everyone can agree on so they can sell it to everyone), whereas I see rap on the other, with a very large amount of content that is only matched by preaching (or written prose). If it is to be entertainment, this content is too large. If it is to serve teaching, then, I ask, why try to do it through music? Surely, music with lyrics will always teach something but I am wondering whether (not affirming that) what rap is trying to do is meant to be done. It sure can be done, and as you wrote, one can learn to get used to it (and listen repeatedly) but if I can get the message easier without the music and rap, would that not be the preferred way of communication in this case?

    “What do you mean when you say “cool”?” – I mean the attempt to be accepted by an audience; in this case, an audience that prefers ‘coolness’ as opposed to gravity and formality (trying to define it by what it is not). I see this in the context of appealing to a young crowd (not all rap fans are young, of course) or an audience that wants to remain juvenile in its outlook. ‘Uncool’ would then be formal teaching and clothing as opposed to working within a sub-culture that has a lot of appeal to the given audience, having tattoos and using music and formats the kids like (clichés but certainly representative of much that is going on). Kind of, let’s talk about something really important but without being too serious about it. It’s all serious stuff but let’s not be overly sober so people don’t think of us as an old people’s club. Not sure if this helps but I guess what I mean is where this fits into the whole discussion of ‘missional’, ‘relevant’, and ‘authentic’.

    “I think you’ll acknowledge that many of your critiques boil down to nothing more than personal preference.” So far I cannot. Whereas these MAY be personal preferences, I am not so sure that we cannot find any objective criteria. I think there are three possible positions:
    A) Artistic judgment (of music and in this case, hip-hop) is completely personal and/or culturally determined and hence, we cannot come to any agreement on how such art should really be judged. It seems to me Shai does not hold this view, and certainly Scott doesn’t (neither do I). Yet, I think we all recognize that we have culturally (and historically) determined preferences as to how we judge art (and hip-hop).
    B) There are God-given natural laws that govern how music communicates. If we disagree over what it communicates then that is not due to any judgment being arbitrary bust because we need to learn how to judge art well. If we learn what God-given criteria exist and how to apply them, we will come to a common understanding of these issues. This is a lofty premise but one that has a lot of appeal to me.
    C) Probably a mixture of A and B. So some elements would be personal preference, whereas others could be judged objectively. This may be easier to defend than B.

    I’m kind of hoping Shai and Scott might get deeper into these questions as the days go by.

    Agree with you on the ‘redeeming music’ comment. If we agree that it’s morally neutral I don’t see how it can be redeemed (and I still don’t quite get the ‘cultural mandate’ that supposedly means we are to redeem everything that is part of today’s cultures and sub-cultures – links to articles on that welcome).

  56. Mackman says:

    Woo! Now that we’ve crossed the “not inherently sinful” divide, we can actually get somewhere (I only hope Scott admits that as well, or else the discussion between him and Shai is never going to take off).

    First things first: I don’t think it’s at all the case of “the exception proving the rule,” Merely because the more you listen to Christian hip-hop, the more you’ll realize the HUGE variety in styles of rap.

    You’ll see songs that reflect and repent (all the way from “Desperate” to Ambassador’s “Oh Wretched Man” [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNg36DraRho];

    You’ll see songs that exult and rejoice in the nature of God (whether gently, as in Sho Baraka’s “I see the Lord” [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHta4nl7Be4] or a little more exuberantly, like Tedashii’s “Impressed”[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7ucygjiQrk].)

    You’ll see calls to shake off the slavery of sin (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWO2L4pDv4A) and calls for Christians to stop pretending they’re mere civilians in the heavenly battle (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4_HRhL4ekE).

    You’ll see Ambassador’s bold, in-your-face style, and you’ll practically taste his joy in weaving rhymes to the glory of God (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKJbDl8hDho). And you’ll see Beautiful Eulogy, which combines spoken word with rap to make something truly unique (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqBAsYjaccs).

    Some rap songs exists to edify believers; others, to reach the lost. Some seek to explain the Gospel to those who have never heard it, and others seek to go deeper, to give a taste of meat to those who have previously known only milk.

    Some rap is angry. Some is bold and confrontational. Some is inviting and reflective. And some is broken and pleading.

    All rap is rap. That is the only appropriate label, and even that is insufficient.

    Secondly: I don’t understand your apparent wish for a hard line in-between Entertainment and Teaching. I listen to this in my car; I listen to it when I work out (regardless of how distressingly few and far between my work-outs are). When I can afford the distraction, I’ll even listen to it while working (note that this doesn’t apply to just Christian rap: I have a huge assortment of Christian music). Even when you’re only half-listening, you will still catch a line that you never quite heard before, and you will think, “Yes.”

    To those who enjoy rap, this music excels as Entertainment. And to those who enjoy theology, this music excels as Teaching. It does not sacrifice the theology for the sake of the music, nor does it sacrifice the music for the sake of theology. And before you judge it as bad art–before you judge something that so many people enjoy, something that is causing me to spend my time here rather than playing video games or writing–I think you owe it to the medium to explore the best of what it has to offer, rather than assuming the worst.

    Thirdly: So, when you said that the “coolness” of the songs was detracting from the overall quality, you meant that their attempt to be successful musicians and appeal to the audience was detracting from the overall quality?

    There is a time and a place for suits and ties. And there is also a time and place for informality, for familiarity, for breaking concepts down and expressing them in terms that will be understood (for an extreme example, see “Da Hawai’i Pidgin Bible”).

    And I think that you go too far in characterizing it as “let’s not be too serious.” Because if good rap is one thing, it is Authentic. It is Real. In fact, one reason Lecrae is so popular among even secular audiences is his tangible authenticity. When he raps, it is never to “be cool.” It is never to say what he is “expected” to say, or to tell people what they want to hear.

    Also, i want to caution you about building too strong a bond between “serious” and “sober” (which I’m taking to mean “grave” or “subdued”) A wedding is a very serious affair indeed: But I’m glad my own wedding wasn’t a sober (or somber) one.

    Good rap is serious, but it is not dressed in suits and ties.

    Finally, some thoughts on your overall arguments:

    I think you give too much power to the overall genre, without considering the vast variety that exists within it. Even in acknowledging individual instances, you still attempt to hold to a larger picture that simply doesn’t hold true when compared to the Christian rap movement.

    I think that you hear anger and aggression, where instead there is only passion and a faster beat than you’re used to.

    I think you give rap listeners far too little credit, assuming that they only hear the beat and don’t listen to the words (How else could they come away from any of the songs that I’ve linked to with the assumption that it was secular?).

    And I think that you assume far too much universal good in traditional church styles, to the point of denying the legitimacy of other styles on the basis that it is not like traditional church music. “He has made all things beautiful in his time.” If there is a time that calls for the content that rap can deliver and the tone that rap can deliver it in, then rap, too, is beautiful in that time. That time is not all times, but neither is it no times.

    Those are simply my thoughts. I’ve enjoyed going back and forth, and I DO think that we’ve made some progress.

  57. LR says:

    Mackman,

    I confess to some confusion now. You originally said music can promote sinfulness by promoting a contradiction a commanded response. Now you seem to say it can’t. I don’t know what to do with that. Either it does, as you first said, or it doesn’t as you now say. But until we establish that, we can’t really move on. Does music have the ability to promote sinfulness?

    Saying it won’t promote sinfulness in every circumstance isn’t the issue. We already stipulated that. But if it ever does, whereas another kind of music would not, then we have to why is that so. By admitting that it might sometimes do that, you are conceding Aniol’s point that music has meaning. That, then, brings us back to the original issue: If it promotes sinfulness (ever, such as you already admitted), how would you judge that? By what means or method or principle would you determined that it was promoting sinfulness?

    One we have determined how we know it has meaning, then we can determine whether that is universal or not? Or whether it is due to dulled senses of not (like the idea that pain has meaning universally, unless you have nerve damage, or callouses)?

    You see, I think we are going about it backwards. We declare that music has no meaning, and then we set out to explain everything in light of that proposition. In other words, whenever it is suggested that music might have meaning, we declare it false because we already said it didn’t. Then when it is acknowledged it does (as you did), we say it isn’t inherent. Why? Because we said it isn’t. It can’t be, or I wouldn’t have said it did. Arguments cannot progress in that fashion, at least with any reasonability and integrity. Such an argument falls apart way too quickly. It would be better to start with the music itself, and determine what the music does (creates sadness, joy, anger, peace, etc.), and then determine why it does that, and then form the general proposition from that. In other words, it should be inductive, not deductive.

  58. Mackman says:

    LR,

    I haven’t changed my position: I’m not sure where you’re seeing that. I also think that we’ve discussed literally everything you bring up here (btw, it might be easier to do this over live chat: I think you can email me through my blog if you would like to do that).

    I still hold that music, when combined with context and intent and everything else that makes up communication, can be sinful and/or promote sinfulness.. However, that is far different from Aniol’s assertion that it can be inherently sinful.

    Everything that I’ve argued so far has insisted that music has meaning. How else could it evoke different emotions? It is to some extent inherent, to some extent culturally derived, but it obviously has meaning.

    We determine whether music is promoting sinfulness in the same way we determine the sinfulness of literally every other form of communication. We put the music together with the context, the intended audience, the intent of the musician,and we look at the communication AS A WHOLE. If the music is inappropriate (or sinful), it’s because of how the music interacts with the rest of the communication.

    Again: I’m not understanding your confusion. I would much prefer a live chat so we could hash this out. Would that be possible?

  59. Martin says:

    Hi Mackman,

    To finish off, just some clarifications:

    “Some rap is angry. Some is bold and confrontational. Some is inviting and reflective. And some is broken and pleading.”
    Listening to “Oh Wretched Man”, I hear someone upset, someone who is complaining. He’s letting off steam – and this is very human and probably good and useful sometimes. Yet, lyrics such as “Jesus Christ can give life to a wretched man” don’t fit the style (or vice versa). There is, I believe, a clash between the words ‘Holy, holy, holy – the Lord on high’ and the rap style in “I see the Lord”. I believe his desire to live a holy life and his lyrics are indeed authentic but it just does not square (Tedashii’s song has this problem even more than this one). And if 116 Clique is not aggressive-sounding, I don’t know what is. What else are those E-guitar riffs and calling out loudly (even crying like wolves?) for? I wasn’t sure if this is rap or hard rock. And when Ambassadors sing “Gimme that” (city, revival) – is that the way how we are to ask for these things? This may be well meant but it’s incongruent. I guess Beautiful Eulogy takes us back to where we were with Shai and LeCrae in the previous post – great poetry but I’d prefer the pure words without the music.

    Since you like this music, what I wrote may offend you but it’s not meant to. Either I am wrong or you are – we can’t both be right unless we resign to being completely post-modern. So if we want to get beyond taste and personal preference, we need to find objective criteria. I know this will not be easy.

    “when you said that the “coolness” of the songs was detracting from the overall quality, you meant that their attempt to be successful musicians and appeal to the audience was detracting from the overall quality?”
    No, and neither did I mean it takes away from the quality of the artwork. What I mean is that ‘coming down to the level of the audience’ or how they prefer to be taught rather then challenging them can be a problem. I hear you when you say LeCrae uses challenging texts – yet, what I mean is appealing to the audience’s tastes when delivering the message = the HOW (the famous quest for relevance in today’s churches, which, once they adopt all the methods that secular society uses, becomes self-defeating since they are then identical to the world and definitely no longer relevant in terms of being the salt of the Earth). I don’t want to make this long – this takes a lot more thinking and explaining to get to the bottom of; maybe we will visit this again as the debate continues.

    “When he raps, it is never to “be cool.” It is never to say what he is “expected” to say, or to tell people what they want to hear.”
    Someone rapping a text is certainly ‘cooler’ than someone just reciting it. As I just wrote above, I don’t mean the lyrics but the WAY the lyrics are communicated. Doing it as rap, in my mind, makes it more informal than what the lyrics might demand in some cases.

    “I think that you hear anger and aggression, where instead there is only passion and a faster beat than you’re used to.”
    As I admitted, that may be, but points A to C at the end of my last comment were to point out that there could be natural laws that we need to discover. Taking beauty as a parallel, you will often hear it’s in the eye of the beholder (completely subjective). I tend to disagree: there are rules and concepts around beauty that govern what can rightly be called beautiful, even if we are burying those laws and training ourselves (or are culturally conditioned) to transgress them – they are not physical laws that MUST be obeyed but rather, natural laws that need to be discovered. In any case, I don’t mean to say I know them and you don’t but that we need to find out if we ever want to agree on these things.

    “I think you give rap listeners far too little credit, assuming that they only hear the beat and don’t listen to the words (How else could they come away from any of the songs that I’ve linked to with the assumption that it was secular?).”
    What I meant was they may accept the genre as a whole, given they like rap and that there is a Christian (sanitized) version. If they then play the liberty card and also still enjoy secular rap, then there is potentially a problem. One should assume that the lyrics would signal which is which and that there is a clear difference but not all Christians are as discerning as they ought to be. I’m certainly not saying this must happen or that it happens to everyone; just wanted to point out the danger.

    Thanks for pasting in the links – I enjoyed listening to those songs even if I don’t like them as much as you do :-)

  60. Mackman says:

    Regarding “relevance”: So what then should Lecrae do? How then should he attempt to reach the people he feels that he’s been called to reach? Should he tie his hands, restrict himself to the channels that western Christianity has decided is appropriate.

    I am offended: Not because you didn’t like rap, but because you minimize and eliminate all the ways in which Lecrae DOES challenge his listeners, because the form is similar. It’s like saying a professor isn’t challenging his students, because he’s still using a classroom and white board. It’s focusing on the form, to the literal exclusion of the content.

    Paul went to Athens and threw down with the philosophers in the very heart of the philosophical world, using THEIR poetry and THEIR idols in his message, so that he would be “relevant” to the Athenians. (Acts 17)

    Paul went to Jerusalem and submitted to the Jewish rituals of purity, paying for the ceremonies of 4 men, so that he would be “relevant” to the Jews. (Acts 21)
    Paul went out into the world and forsook Jewish law, eating and drinking with the Gentiles, so that he would be “relevant” to the Gentiles. (see Galatians 2 for a contrast to what Peter did)

    Indeed, Paul says in no uncertain tones or words, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” 1 Cor. 9:20-23

    When Paul debated the philosophers, his tone and style of argument was what they were used to: But the content was different, and the combination of a familiar style and a challenging content was what turned the tide.

    When Paul went to Jerusalem, he used their style of ritual—a style he himself despised—in order to remain relevant to them.

    When Paul went to the Gentiles, he lived like they did and talked like they did, and as a result he planted innumerable churches.

    He became all things to all people…but thank God he didn’t become a rapper, right? Because that would have been too far.

  61. Martin says:

    Mackman, I suggest you take some time to read through Kevin’s thread on ‘Relevance Is Irrelevant’ on this blog. Quote:

    First Corinthians 9:19-23 is not about spicing up the gospel with the cultural artifacts of this world in an effort to make the gospel more palatable to those who value the world that is passing away. Instead, this passage is about the role of individual freedom and gospel preaching. In chapter 9, Paul is showing how he puts into practice the Christian imperative to give up rights in Christ in order to avoid offending others, the instructions he gave the Corinthians in chapter 8.”

    http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-church/relevance-is-irrelevant-conclusion/

    http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-culture/all-things-to-all-men/

    On your comments:

    “Should [Lecrae] tie his hands, restrict himself to the channels that western Christianity has decided is appropriate.”
    In a way, I would say yes. Of course this is held so general that it could mean many things. As long as what Western Christianity has decided is biblical, Lecrae should restrict himself to that.

    We have not had the discussion yet as to whether music can be used evangelistically, so I won’t answer that now. There is a lot of material on the subject on this blog, however.

    Your comparison with the blackboard is a category error. The blackboard is like the computer, slide projector, or the Internet: a means to communicate, but not the communication itself, or even the form. You need to compare what the teacher does with the blackboard to what he does with the computer, or his Internet tools if it’s a distance learning course. Yet, if the professor now chants instead of speaking normally, or if we writes poems to teach instead of using prose, then that is a valid comparison to what Lecrae and others are trying to do. And I agree with you that Lecrae is indeed challenging his listeners. I prefer that to many a sermon I’ve heard! My question here is whether there is ‘a more excellent way’ of doing what he’s trying to do.

  62. Mackman says:

    I read the blog, and I’m not impressed. It diminishes Paul’s ministry and states that because he chose to avoid “lofty speech” with the Corinthians, he then must have chosen to avoid it altogether.

    Which is absurd. Because if quoting Athenian poetry and referencing Athenian gods isn’t “lofty speech”, I don’t know what is. If engaging with Athenian philosophers on their turf, in their fashion of speaking, isn’t using “words of wisdom,” then nothing is.

    Paul changed his method of delivery depending on his audience. He spoke to the the Athenians in a different tone, and using different words, than when he spoke to either Jews or other Gentiles. He actively used THEIR culture and THEIR philosophy, to preach the Gospel. And to classify such a move as merely “defensive” is laughable.

    This is because the Gospel is not found in a tone of voice, or in a particular manner of speaking. The Gospel is the message itself: The words and the ideas. Paul preached the Gospel while undergoing the Jewish rites of purification, and Paul preached the Gospel while eating forbidden foods in the company of Gentiles, and Paul preached the Gospel while engaging in philosophy at the Areopagus. He changed the tone, he changed the context, he even changed the manner of delivery, but he never changed the message.

    Given your arguments so far, you are utterly unjustified in drawing a distinction between Paul engaging in these activities, and Lecrae engaging in rap.

  63. Brentley says:

    Maybe we are approaching this from a wrong angle. I think we all agree to some extent that music and the lyrics are a form of communication.
    In 2 Corinthians 5:17
    Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
    That is where I think people miss the boat on a lot of issues. Imagine someone that comes out of a culture (pick one) and continues in that venue. Has he really shown change? I am not saying that we should doubt his Salvation that would be inappropriate. When a true drunkard is SAVED you usually wont see him in a bar hanging out with his old buddies.
    Imagine again instead of bringing any form of music that is like the world’s to the table…and then bringing old fashioned hymn sang reverantly from the heart. Which do you think would have greater impact? Something that sounds like any other concert out there or something completely different?
    My point is this, think of these things as magnets…opposites attract…and like poles push away.
    We keep the old hymns…when new people come to church they are amazed some never come back. Usually those that don’t return are wanting entertainment.
    My friends and those of you who are brothers and sisters IN CHRIST. You dont know how much of a blessing it is to see this type of discussion without belittling and cursing at each other.
    Thank You for that.

  64. Mackman says:

    “When a true drunkard is SAVED you usually won’t see him in a bar hanging out with his old buddies.”

    This is nothing more than guilt by association–the same guilt that the pharisees assumed when accusing Jesus.

    “And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes o the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:15-17

    There is nothing remotely sinful about being in a bar. There is nothing questionable in the slightest about hanging out with your old friends (After all, if you care about them, you WILL be with them and try to bring them to Christ). But for you, merely being in a bar is apparently enough to proclaim a lack of regeneration.

    Moving on: In the very language you use, you advocate waiting for people to come to church. And you’re right: When people come to a church that sings hymns, it’s likely that they have an affinity for hymns.

    But Christian Rappers don’t do that. They don’t wait for people to come. They approach people where they’re at, and they challenge them, they teach them, they exhort and encourage and rebuke them, all in a language and context that they will understand.

    You are advocating change without explaining why things should be changed. Paul makes it quite clear what needs to be left behind: sinfulness and immorality. Christian rappers have done that (or, more accurately, are in the process of doing that, much like all Christians).

    That’s why you can’t just skip over the rest of the discussion. You’re assuming something that has yet to be proven: The inherent sinfulness of rap music as music.

  65. Martin says:

    Have to at least partly agree with Mackman. Sure, we want to see a change, but what about if the culture someone comes out from is not ‘guilty by association’? I guess a Bach fan will not necessarily change his preferences after becoming a Christian! So I find it difficult to apply the change argument to music, suggesting we must all leave ALL our preferences behind and ONLY love hymns from now on. This is oversimplification.

    That we ‘don’t run with them’ anymore are the apostle Peter argues, must mean that we don’t do things anymore that are offensive to Christ. So we may still go to bars but not strip bars if that is what we were doing with our friends.

    I sympathize with your argument that people will be moved by seeing (hearing) something different at church than what they are used to from pop culture. Yet, Mackman’s argument is valid: what about actively reaching out? And this is where we enter into a whole new discussion as to how we should evangelize and whether we can rebaptize cultural forms or whether this is syncretism. But I would suggest Christians should be different in their culture – if culture is an expression of worldviews, then a change of worldview should logically bring about a change in culture and preferences. So what would a Christian sub-culture look like? Turn back time 100 years before pop culture became ubiquitous? Lots of books have been written on that, I guess…

  66. Mackman says:

    Thank you, Martin. I appreciate your support in this area, and I hope I will be able to do the same if I see someone oversimplifying on the rap side of things (and I will try to avoid doing so myself).

  67. Martin says:

    Mackman – on your earlier comment: “I read the blog, and I’m not impressed. It diminishes Paul’s ministry and states that because he chose to avoid “lofty speech” with the Corinthians, he then must have chosen to avoid it altogether …”

    Here’s what Scott wrote on this one: http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-culture/contextualizing-gospel-part-2/

  68. Mackman says:

    (Commenting here so as not to de-rail the other conversation):

    I can actually agree with a lot of what he has to say there. We shouldn’t treat sinful things as though they’re not sinful, and we shouldn’t try to “adopt” or “use” sinful things to preach the gospel.

    The problem, once again, lies in Scott saying that hip-hop, when distilled down to its essence, is still inherently evil and therefore unsuitable. That’s the sticking point.

    Paul used the philosophy and rhetoric of the Athenians, and he was fully justified in doing so: Neither philosophy nor rhetoric are sinful, but only the way the Athenians were using them. That’s the parallel I’m drawing.

  69. Brentley says:

    Maybe a litmus of sorts is in order. My Pastor uses this illustration and demonstrated in a class.
    Close your eyes turn on any music. Then place that music where it is you most likely would hear it. Be honest about.
    I think this would be a great test. To blindfold someone and drive them to concert, church etc..Then note the responses.
    Random recordings played to classroom would also work. Pastor has done this results not surprising. Try it and report back.

  70. drfiddledd says:

    When I listen to “Coming Again” I’m at the roller skating rink; a place that was banned to me in my youth because of the evil music they played.

  71. David Barnhart says:

    Brentley, If you want to make a determination about the absolute value of a piece of music, I think your litmus test would only be interesting if it was done with music with we had absolutely no experience. Otherwise, our experiences would color what we thought of it. On other other hand, using music from our own culture in your test would tell us quite a lot about its current associations, which are interesting enough in their own right, but likely won’t help us judge the inherent value, and in fact may detract from it.

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