Over the next couple of weeks, Shai Linne (bio) and I will have a public discussion about Christian rap here on this site. I am grateful that Shai has asked to have this discussion. He and I spoke on the phone Saturday, we got know each other a bit, and we prayed together. I was encouraged by his desire to understand where I am coming from, his humility, and his evident love for Christ, his truth, and his Church. I share his desire to understand more fully his position, to correct where I have misrepresented him and others, and to dialogue about these matters with respect.
The discussion will take the following format: we both will ask each other five questions, beginning with Shai and alternating between us. The questions (or series of questions) will be limited to around 250 words; each answer will be limited to around 500 words. After the ten questions are completed, we will each give a 500-750 word closing statement.
Our desire with this discussion is to fully understand each other’s positions. It is not likely that either of us will persuade the other. But we hope to model a grace-filled conversation in which each of us truly listens and responds with respect.
I’d like to start by highlighting where Shai and I agree. During our recent phone conversation, Shai and I marveled at how close we were in many key areas, and I think it is important to reflect on those as we begin a discussion about our disagreements.
First, both Shai and I are wretched sinners saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I am happy to call Shai my brother in Christ. Because of that shared faith, I believe that we enjoy Christian fellowship. Our disagreements in some areas might preclude cooperating on all levels, but this does not mean that we cannot call each other “brother” and rejoice together in the gospel. Likewise, both of use recognize that we are accepted by God fully upon the merits of Christ, and no amount of holy living or “correct music” could earn any favor with God since whatever we do is stained by sin.
Second, both Shai and I believe that the truth of the gospel is what is ultimately most important. In fact, I believe it is that love for the gospel that motivates both of us to have this discussion. Shai is understandably concerned that my position may evidence legalism and may lead to disunity in the Church. I am concerned that particular ways of communicating the gospel demean the gospel. And it is our shared love for the gospel that motivate us to have this discussion with grace and respect.
Third, both Shai and I are committed to making disciples of all nations. Each of us desires to proclaim the gospel boldly to as many people as possible. Each of us desires to take new converts and teach them all that God has commanded us. And both of us have a deep love for Christ’s church and a longing to see our churches grow.
Fourth, both Shai and I have a high regard for Scripture and believe it to be our supreme authority. To say that either of us holds our view because we do not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture would be a straw man. We are both striving to actively apply the principles and precepts of the Word of God to our lives and ministries.
Finally, both Shai and I believe that Christians must be holy, must fervently follow God’s commands, and must do all for the glory of God. We may disagree on some definitions and how this kind of life will look, but our hearts and motives are in the same place.
Differences between Shai and I will be apparent as we discuss this issue of music, but since we agree in so many essential areas, I look forward to having a discussion that is gracious and respectful.
Here are Shai’s opening remarks:
First, I want to thank Scott for his willingness to engage in this discussion, as well as for hosting it on his blog. I’m hopeful that the Lord will use the fallout from the NCFIC panel discussion for His glory and the strengthening of His church. As Scott mentioned, I do think it’s important to highlight where we agree. It’s easy to come at discussions like this with an adversarial stance. I don’t see Scott as my adversary or my enemy. He’s my brother in Christ. In fact we have a common adversary- the devil- who would love to use situations like this to sow seeds of discord and disunity. Lord willing, this discussion will be evidence that we’re not unaware of Satan’s schemes (2 Cor. 2:11).
I want to “amen” what Scott said about our areas of agreement. I believe this is crucial to setting the proper context for this conversation. Without question, the single most important thing about Scott and I is that we are united to Christ by faith in His life, death and resurrection. Because of God’s grace, we are both new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). Though we have differences in culture and background, we have both been reconciled to God in one body through the cross of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:16). What unites us is infinitely more powerful and precious than anything that could divide us. Because of what Christ has accomplished, at a fundamental level, I have more in common with Scott than I do with someone from Hip-hop culture who doesn’t know Jesus. Scott is my family in a way that transcends what’s even true of my blood relatives who are not Christians. Not only is there a fundamental unity, but we also have strong theological unity, even beyond the essentials of the Christian faith.
I’ve been very public about my commitments, but for those who are reading who may not be familiar, let me highlight a few.
1. I am committed to the glory of God as seen in the absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things. I believe that this universe and everything in it exists for the singular purpose of ultimately bringing God the maximum amount of glory, according to His infinite wisdom (Rom. 11:33-36). Scott shares this commitment.
2. I am committed to the proclamation of the gospel as God’s appointed means to reconcile sinners to Himself. I don’t believe that people are saved by good music, clever speech or excellent art. The gospel and the gospel alone is the power of God for salvation to all who believe (Rom. 1:16). Scott shares this commitment.
3. I am committed to the sufficiency of the Scriptures to govern Christians individually and the Church corporately in all areas of faith and practice. In areas of disagreement between Christians, the Bible is our final authority. I resist arguments that are grounded in pragmatism, personal preference or the wisdom of man, if it is in conflict with the plain teaching of Scripture. While I’m thankful for godly traditions, even they must bow to the Sacred Text. So when brothers have a conflict regarding particular practices, it won’t be long before you hear me quote Isaiah 8:20 “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” Scott shares this commitment.
The first question and response will be posted tomorrow.
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.