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Panel discusses Reformed Rap

I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion at the Worship of God Conference sponsored by the National Center for Family Integrated Churches. Here is a video of how the panel answered the question, “What about Reformed Rap?”

[vimeo vimeo.com/80291749]

Related: See my series on Christian rap.

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, 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 four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

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The importance of distinguishing between folk and pop culture

82 Responses to Panel discusses Reformed Rap

  1. Clarification, Scott: I’m not really sure I understood your point about the normative value of the artistic forms in Scripture. A Christian high school literature textbook I read once argued that the literary forms of Scripture are the divine ideal for all literature. As if the literary devices and the genres themselves provide not just a model but the model for all human literature. I felt that this was an unwarranted extrapolation from the doctrine of inspiration. Without ever suggesting that there are errors in Scripture, I don’t think I’m required by 2 Tim 3:16 to believe that Paul, Moses, John, Matthew, Hosea, etc. were the best writers of their day.

    I’m sure I’ve missed longer discussions of your point elsewhere, and I’m happy to be pointed to those discussions.

  2. “Some musical forms cannot be separated from the culture they have come from” (as the last speaker more or less said) – would you be able to comment on that?
    a) Is this, for example, still true for rock? Rock used to be linked to rebellion, sexuality, etc. – associations that have at least been reduced over the last few decades, i.e. it is not fairly acceptable throughout most levels of society. In other words it has been mainstreamed and commercialized and thereby lost its initial meaning (at least in some respects). Is that true?
    b) Rap and hip-hop are associated with violence and conflict, as well as bad attitudes towards women etc. Could it be that in future years, the mainstreaming of rap might also reduce or even remove this original association? If so, is the above statement incorrect?

  3. Mark, I would say this: propositions of Scripture are not the only right way to formulate orthodox theology, but those inspired propositions do provide boundaries for how we formulate our theology today.

    Likewise, the aesthetic forms in Scripture are not the only right way to express God’s truth, but those forms do provide boundaries for how we express God’s truth today.

    I believe that verbal, plenary inspiration implies that the Bible’s ideas, words, and aesthetic form are authoritative for us today.

    Michael Riley articulates this well here: http://religiousaffections.org/articles/biblical-authority-articles/sola-scriptura-form-introduction/

    And I address it in this series: http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-aesthetics/preserving-truth-worship/

  4. Hi Scott,

    This video was brought to my attention today. Presumably, I’m one of the “reformed rappers” referred to in the video. As I watched it, it struck me the same way your series of blog posts a few years ago struck me. Men who desire to honor the Lord, attempting to evaluate whether or not a particular cultural form is biblical- from the perspective of relatively uninformed cultural outsiders. I’ve seen this many times over the years. So I’ve become accustomed to the straw man arguments, lack of biblical support and/or misuse of passages like Romans 12:2, culturally-biased inconsistency and ad hominem arguments. The 3rd gentleman who spoke was particularly uncharitable in his judgments (“so-called art form” “men who think they’re serving God but they’re not. They’re serving their own flesh” “They’re disobedient cowards”) I’m actually surprised that, as an elder at your church, you would post the video in light of that gentleman’s angry rant (an angry rant steeped in irony, considering how others on the panel disqualified rap due to its supposed inherent communication of anger).

    Nevertheless, I want to offer you an opportunity to have a public discussion of these issues with me, so that at the very least you can hear from a cultural insider who shares your doctrinal and theological commitments. Let me know if that’s something that would interest you and we can figure out the best way to approach it. Thanks Scott!

    grace and peace,
    Shai Linne

  5. Hi Scott. I came upon this post from a link in a Christian Hip Hop forum. I will definitely look into some of your posts on this subject. I am curious, though: do any of the panelist live, serve, or worship in an urban context among people where the subculture of hip hop has massive influence?

  6. Hi, Shai. Thanks for stopping by. I’d be very interested in a public discussion. I just read Curtis Allen’s book and was planning on some sort of review/response, so something like what you suggest might help toward that end as well.

    I’m with you, brother, on the ad hominem arguments and misuse of Scripture. In all my writings, particularly with the issue of Christian rap, I’ve tried to avoid such errors, but I’m sure I’ve often failed.

    Additionally, I’m fully aware that as an “outsider,” I may be missing something, so I’d love to open a dialogue.

    I don’t know you personally, but from what I’ve read and heard from you, I respect your desire to communicate God’s Word and reach lost people. Thanks for the opportunity to better understand one another as we all seek to be faithful to the Word of God for the glory of God.

  7. To a limited extent this video saddened me, to a certain extent I am not surprised. I wholeheartedly agree with Shai Linne’s, wise, tempered, and very Biblical response, which in my eyes comes from a heart after God’s own heart. The level of ignorance (not meant as an insult, only in the literal meaning of the word) displayed by what seem to be elders in a Biblical sense is the saddening part. How do we as the church truly expect or even intend to reach men (young and old) from backgrounds different than our own, if we have such mindsets is confounding to me. All that being said, I look forward to fruitful public discussion on this topic.

  8. I’m confused. Is the legitimacy of ‘reformed rap’ in ANY setting being called into question, or just its use in a formal worship setting?

    The majority of it sounded like a blast against ‘reformed rap’ in all settings.

  9. Ignorant & Unbelievable. I Got saved at a Shai Linee Concert. Love you guys & praying for you guys.Luke7:35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.

  10. Hey Scott,

    Thanks for your response. I appreciate both your willingness to dialogue and your tone. Also, thanks for saying this:

    “I’m with you, brother, on the ad hominem arguments and misuse of Scripture. In all my writings, particularly with the issue of Christian rap, I’ve tried to avoid such errors, but I’m sure I’ve often failed.”

    I’m encouraged by your humility in saying that. But you know what would have been even more encouraging? Since you’re “with (me) on the ad hominem arguments”, it would have been really encouraging for you to publicly correct that third gentleman who referred to brothers like me and others as “disobedient cowards” who are not serving God. Perhaps you corrected him off camera? I don’t know. But it would have been consistent with Christian love and keeping in step with the gospel if the respect you communicated towards me in your comment had prompted you to speak up and not allow that gentleman to mischaracterize and disrespect us in that way. His comments do nothing to further discussion or help promote understanding. If I was in a public discussion with Christian hip-hop artists and one of them spoke that way about those who hold your position, I hope I would step up to defend your honor as a brother in Christ. Just asking for the same courtesy, bro.

    With all that said, I do look forward to having this public discussion with you. I’ll contact you offline about the specifics and we can go from there. Thanks Scott.

    grace and peace,
    Shai

  11. Scott,
    I feel like we’ve done this little dance before. At least, I know I have. I am looking forward to hearing your response/critique of my book “Does God Listen To Rap?” It seems as though you may also engage in some sort of public forum with Shai as well. That’s great. I will probably find myself there somehow. I would have to agree with most of the posters here on the candor of some of your panelists. Had I, Shai, or another reformed rap artist spoke that way toward you all, I can’t imagine you all would have shrugged that off. At the very least it was self-righteous and insensitive. I respect the difference in perspective. But I do not respect the difference in the demonstration of the fruit of Spirit. Nevertheless what’s done is done. I look forward to your review of my new book

    In Christ Alone,
    Curtis Allen

  12. I’ll probably do much more reading in this thread than active participation, but I’d like to hear more from Shai and Scott (and hopefully others) about the ability of “relatively uninformed . . . outsiders” of a (sub)culture to judge the characteristics, forms, mores, etc of that subculture as well as how a sub/countercultures relates to the overarching culture.

    Also, I wonder out loud if participants in both sides of this exchange will comment on the notion that exposure to cultures outside our own may be helpful in helping us recognize unworthy elements of our own culture that we did not previously notice simply because they seemed merely a part of the fabric of our existence (like wetness to a fish).

    For more on this, Michael Riley and Scott discuss it somewhat in the comments here:
    http://religiousaffections.org/featured/podcast-can-rap-be-christian-with-michael-riley-part-3/

    But I think there’s some discussion in the audio, too.

    Finally, I will say that I too was quite surprised and disappointed Tues afternoon as I heard the tone and content of the third panel respondent’s comments. His characterization seemed to me to be uncharitable and unbecoming.

    But I am very pleased to see Shai and Curtis (and perhaps others from the Ref. Rap community whose names I do not recognize?) stop by and participate in this discussion, which I hope will be profitable for discussor and reader alike.

    Thanks, gentlemen.

  13. Scott and Shai,

    May I suggest a Live Podcast Moderated Debate in the same way Dr. Brown and Dr. Waldron just had with Dr. James White as the Moderator. Perhaps he will be willing to do it again. If not, hopefully somebody else would be willing to moderate on their podcast. That way no money is spent on either side on travel arrangements.

    I always found this format helpful:
    1 Ten min opening statement each
    1 Ten min rebuttal each
    1-2 Ten-Fifteen min cross examination each
    1 Five min Closing statement.

    I think a moderated debate on this topic is long overdue and can’t think of two better people to do it than Scott and Shai.

  14. I really like the idea of a debate, whether in written or spoken format. That said, if we go spoken format, I really think it should be set up as a rap battle between Shai and Scott. Anyone else on board with this suggestion?

  15. I think that the rap battle is adviseable only if Ken Myers agrees to be Scott’s second.

    They have seconds, right? Or am I thinking of something else?

  16. Gentlemen,

    A couple things for the record, and then I look forward to some respectful dialogue about this between brothers in the near future (although I plan to spend the next couple days with my family, as I’m sure you all do!):

    1. This was not my conference or my panel (and, therefore, these were not “my panelists”). I was invited to participate on the panel by Scott Brown, and therefore I am responsible only for my own comments.

    2. Having said that, I will go on record that I personally would not use some of the language that a couple of the panelists did, mainly because while I strongly disagree with using rap to communicate God’s holy truth, I personally believe that men like Shai and Curtis are honorable Christian men who are doing what they truly believe is right. I hope you recognized a difference in language with my response compared to a few of the others, even if you disagree with what I said.

    3. However, in one respect I do understand why a few of the panelists used that language, and I want to encourage you to give them the benefit of the doubt. From your perspective, if you believe rap to be a viable form of communicating biblical truth, I completely understand why you would be offended by their language. But try to look at it from their perspective: they believe that the form of rap degrades the gospel and vulgarizes Christ and his truth. I realize that you strongly disagree with that assessment, but put yourself in their shoes; if you thought something was degrading the gospel, wouldn’t you use language just as strong?

    A point of comparison: I personally appreciate what Shai Linne said to condemn health and wealth preachers in “Fal$e Teacher$.” I, with Shai, believe that these teachers are heretics who are preaching a false gospel, and so I was not offended by the strong language he used in condemning them. He used some pretty harsh language, but I believe it was appropriate.

    Now again, I realize that most of you do not understand nor agree with the belief that musical form can be evil even if the lyrics are true, and you cannot imagine how someone would put Christian rap on the same level as the prosperity gospel, but that is what these panelists believe (and I personally agree as well), so please try to understand where they are coming from.

    4. Part of the problem with this video is that (a) it is a panel discussion, and so by nature it is a “sound bite” format where not much in-depth conversation can take place; you have to remember that this is at the end of a 3 day conference, so the panelists’ comments are built off of their own sessions where they explained themselves more fully, and the audience was listening in that context. And (b), this is just one short discussion in the context of a much longer Q&A session, so more full explanation of certain presuppositions occurred both before and after this particular question. I hope NCFIC will post the whole panel at some point.

    All that to say, I think both sides of this debate need to try to understand the other side’s perspective better and refrain from dismissive comments or judgment of motives.

    5. I’d also like to say for the record that for me personally rap is not the main issue here. In other words, I’m not on a vendetta against rap to the exclusion of other forms of music as well. In fact, I equally condemn for use in expressing God’s truth some forms of music from within my own background and sub-culture. But I do think that the rap debate does provide good context for discussing what I believe are some important foundational presuppositions about the nature of music, worship, culture, evangelism, and the communication of God’s holy truth.

    6. Which leads to my final point: One foundational point with which I disagree with Shai is that only those from within a certain sub-culture are able to judge elements of that culture. In fact, I would argue the exact opposite: it is often those outside a given sub-culture that are more able to evaluate it objectively. I have often benefited from what people who do not have my background have to say about my culture since they do not have the personal baggage I do with elements of my culture. Sometimes fish have more difficulty evaluating the water in which they swim than someone outside the water.

    7. However (final point), I am more than willing to hear from Shai, Curtis, and others on this matter, and I’m thankful they are willing to hear me as well.

    I trust you all will have a blessed Thanksgiving with your families!

  17. Beloved brothers, As an African American Reformed Christian. Specifically I am a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Guys, I am deeply offended by this panel. Especially with the 3rd panelist. These comments are extremely prejudice against an entire subculture. Some of the comments even balance on the border of subtlety racist. It is one thing to say you don’t understand a specific music genre or culture. It is an entirely different thing to call those who are part of a different culture (other than Western Caucasian traditions) to be disobedient cowards. Brothers, every tongue nation and tribe will be worshipping before the lamb. That means that there will be Africans who love to worship by jumping to the sound of drums all the way to Bach and the worship of the Lord through his classical masterpieces (whether you like it or not). I love you guys and I don’t want to be uncharitable but I cannot think of anything better to call this presentation than bigoted. I don’t think you are trying to be intentionally bigoted but it is still bigoted none the less. You should really seek to engage and understand a subculture before you speak unwisely, without fact, and through caricatures. I have actually been a supporter of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches for sometime now. I am officially withdrawing anymore support. I love you brothers and I really hope that you guys publicly repent of your prejudice comments. Coram Deo brothers. I deeply love you

    p.s. I do share your concerns with some reformed rap artists. I have been greatly concerned with the level of “selfism” that I have seen in the music videos done by some Reformed Christian Rappers.

  18. On a more serious note than my previous post, I would also be very interested in hearing from either Shai or Curtis on the question of insiders/outsiders and the ability to critique culture.

    I think it ought to be an uncontroversial point to say that, as a suburban white male, I almost certainly don’t grasp the scope of 1) the opportunities that open more readily to me than they might to others, or 2) the kinds of things I might do or say that suggest racism (or simply are racist) on my part. Here is where brothers in Christ like Curtis and Shai become a welcome gift from our Lord in my sanctification: they have the ability, because they come from outside my culture, to see my culture more clearly than I do, because I am one who is immersed in it.

    Now, when the critique from the outsider comes, I might insist that he simply doesn’t understand where I’m coming from, that the considerations he’s raising have nothing to do with my intentions, and therefore are irrelevant. I think I would be wrong to have this reaction. Now, it may be that, on reflection, taking seriously what my brother has drawn to my attention, I still say that such and such a practice on my part is not racist, but perhaps I also recognize that I have to change how I participate, etc. The analogy here is strained because I’m giving no specific examples.

    The contention of those of us on this blog who argue that rap, as a medium, is a problematic form into which to pour the gospel, are contending that insider status with rap (growing up with it, it being part of one’s culture) may be no advantage to seeing it clearly.

    Again, Shai and Curtis (or others who agree that rap is valid medium for the gospel), I would be interested in your thoughts here. Agreement with us on this one point (that the outsider sometimes has a better view of a culture than an insider) is not in any way a concession that we’re right about rap. We might still be completely wrong. But it would mean that the argument that because we’re outsiders, we simply can’t understand this issue properly, would be weakened. Again, we may not understand this issue properly, but then that would need to be argued; it wouldn’t be something that could be assumed because of our cultural background.

  19. I certainly echo the support for a public discussion between Scott and Shai. One of my hopes for our generation is that we do better than other generations at finding ways to talk *to* those we disagree with rather than merely talk *about* them. Obviously, the value of those conversations will be contingent on the nature of the disagreement and its relative significance within orthodoxy. (And at the very least, perhaps we can try to understand those we disagree with.)

    Scott, one of the more breathtaking arguments I heard on that video was the first panelist’s assertion that rap distracts the focus from the words. I’d love to hear whether you agree with that point. I’m also curious whether you think that Shai and Curtis have in any way changed (redeemed) the form in any way along the lines you describe, even if you’re not fully satisfied by those changes.

    Finally, if I were an independent Baptist fundamentalist, I might be inclined to make the argument that one panelist’s participation in this discussion and posting it without caveat implies affirmation of the other perspectives that are represented. An independent Baptist fundamentalist might think that’s particularly significant when the next panelist so strongly associates himself with your comments in making his own argument, which I and others have found indefensible and/or offensive. But since Scott and I are no longer independent Baptist fundamentalists, I guess I’ll leave that one for Michael and David to kick around. ;-)

  20. “this is just one short discussion in the context of a much longer Q&A session, so more full explanation of certain presuppositions occurred both before and after this particular question.”

    I apologize if my question above was answered and i missed it, but…”Is the legitimacy of ‘reformed rap’ in ANY setting being called into question by this question, or just its use in a formal worship setting?”

  21. I have no problem with someone outside of a sub-culture criticizing a sub-culture. As an analogy, i have never been a Mormon. But that certainly does not disqualify me from being able to criticize Mormonism.

    The problem with this video is that many of the answers are not informed. I heard ignorance. I heard straw men. I heard hasty generalizations.

    It is one thing to criticize Mormonism. It is another to present Mormonism falsely.

  22. Jason,

    Scott and others can answer your question themselves if they want, but I believe that most of the writers on the blog would agree with this answer to your question:

    Rap is especially out of place in a worship service, which should be emphatically congregational. While it is possible with certain rap songs to have everyone involved, there is typically a level of virtuosity in rap, a skill set that isn’t shared by an entire congregation.

    On a more general level, even outside the context of corporate worship, we would argue that rap, as a medium (even apart from the lyrics), is characterized by elements that run counter to the Christian message. Obviously, I’m asserting here, not arguing, but I would see among these a deep sense of confrontationalism (which works well, for instance, in a song like Fal$e Teachers, but is out of place as the constant expression of the gospel message, particularly for a worshiper). Closely tied to the confrontationalism is a significant element of self-aggrandizement. Kyle, a commenter above who is in favor of Reformed rap, noted this in his closing comment about the “self-ism” in the music videos. It seems to me that there’s something about the medium itself that is especially given to a kind of chest-pounding, listen-to-me-ness.

    Other critiques (tendencies to misogyny, etc.) seem, at least to me, to be issues of the lyrics, and not the medium itself. I’m more concerned with the way the medium shapes the message, and particularly the ways in which the medium seems at odds with the message of Jesus Christ. It is hard to do rap, I contend, in a way that really says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” And to be clear, it’s not that I think our brothers doing rap aren’t sincerely trying to do it humbly. I simply believe that the medium fights their efforts.

    An analogy: Carl Trueman’s observations about the problems of celebrity pastors, I think, would be applicable here. There are ways of doing preaching that unduly exalt the preacher. There are ways of doing worship, similarly, that unduly exalt the performer.

  23. Ben wrote: I’m also curious whether you think that Shai and Curtis have in any way changed (redeemed) the form in any way along the lines you describe, even if you’re not fully satisfied by those changes.

    Just my personal perspective here, I do think I notice a difference in at least some of the Reformed hip-hop I’ve heard and the stuff I’m familiar with from the secular mainstream. I won’t go into specific details but some of it seems a bit . . . gentler? more restrained? than the secular rap I’ve heard. Of course the breadth of my experience with either the reformed or the mainstream is less than extensive. And, of course, I don’t think it goes far enough. Nor would it likely be hip hop any more if it did.

  24. Michael, you wrote:

    “insider status with rap (growing up with it, it being part of one’s culture) may be no advantage to seeing it clearly.”

    Do you think that argument applies broadly to all sorts of different cultures, groups, cultural forms, etc.?

  25. To David Oestreich, Michael Riley and others:

    Just to be clear, I am NOT saying that you must be a part of a culture in order to critique elements of a culture. I don’t believe that to be the case at all. Sin is sin, regardless of what particular culture the sin springs from. And every culture has its own particular blind spots. In one sense, the cultural outsider is in a unique position to see what the insider can’t see. Additionally, we have the objective truth of God’s Word, by which we are called to evaluate all things.

    What I AM saying is that you must have enough understanding of a particular culture in order to properly evaluate it in the light of Scripture. Many of the statements made by the panelists demonstrated a clear lack of familiarity with the subject matter they were discussing. They seemed to be arguing against an idea and a caricature rather than something or someone in particular. For instance, the first panelist said “I would argue that with the rap, with the heavy beat, with those things, that the physical distraction is so much that the focus is no longer on the words.”

    To speak about “the rap” in general, without taking into account its multiplicity of styles, sub-genres, emphases and region-specific nuances is quite frankly, silly. I could easily play you 10 different recordings of “rap” that would bear little sonic resemblance to each other beyond the fact that someone was “rapping” on the song. In fact, one of the of the most popular forms of rap today is completely a cappella- it doesn’t use musical backdrops at all! The panelists would know this had they taken the time to look into it. This was my point about cultural outsiders. It’s easy to dismiss “the rap” (or any other cultural form) wholesale. It takes more time and research (and I would also argue, love for actual people from hip-hop culture) to understand why the sample- based production of underground East Coast hip-hop ca. 1993-1998 is distinct from the synth and bass-dominated sounds of Midwest hip-hop ca. 2003-2009 or the disco-influenced sound ca. 1978-1983, etc. To speak of “rap in general” is like speaking of “Asia in general” (without acknowledging the range of difference between Taiwan and Kazakhstan) or “science in general” (without acknowledging the range of difference between natural sciences like physics and social sciences like economics).

    If enough research is done to make an informed critique, I’m all for it. At that point, we can grapple with the Scriptures together. But what we saw from that panel was embarrassing, especially from scholars who seem to be painstaking in their research in other areas.

    grace and peace,
    shai

  26. Michael,

    Thanks for your reply; but I am asking what the context was for that specific panel discussion.

  27. Hi,

    I just watched the entire session and then read through all of the comments. I was surprised at the unanimity. To me, it was refreshing and encouraging. I did not think that everything said was true and that there was something important missing in the presentation. I don’t think what the last guy said was true about saying that everyone agreed that only certain forms could be used. I think Scott would disapprove of country western for worship as well. What was missing was the purpose of worship — it’s an offering to God. Edification, teaching, and admonishment are a byproduct at most, and they won’t occur without the purpose of the music not being fulfilled. With that the case, the question is, “Does God want rap?” Or, “Is rap congruous with the nature of God?” I got that the panelists believed that music wasn’t morally neutral as a form. I would like to read Curtis Allen’s book to hear his arguments — I’ll look for it.

    Regarding panelist #3, I want to offer some perspective. He didn’t offend me. I was happy for his boldness. I also tire of the victims in these types of discussions. This is what the man believes. He doesn’t tolerate rap as worship. The rap itself is more offensive to me than what the man said. But this is where we’re at today. God doesn’t tolerate false forms of worship. He killed Uzzah, Nadab, and Abihu for actions some would justify today, and be offended at the possibility. Well, we know they died, so that is settled, and we’ve got to accept what God said and did. God isn’t killing everyone for the same today (that we know of), but that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t think the same about what men are doing.

    I can’t speak for panelist #3, and know none of these men, but this is why I think he shouldn’t be offensive. Imagine the tomb of the unknown soldier in Washington, DC. Imagine the guard wearing cut-off jeans and flip-flops, munching on doritos, instead of what we know him to do. Would we have stronger words for that than we would for what we think is greater disrespect for God? Men think rap is worse. Should they be expected to show more restraint than panelist #3? We could replace rap with grunge.

    Are the Christian rappers disobedient cowards? If they’re wrong, could they not be ignorant and deceived instead? Romans 1 says that men are not ignorant about God. They first know God, then glorify Him not as God. They suppress the truth. What is perceived as ignorance is actually rebellion. Is that true? Was Paul’s language unhelpful in tone? Later in 1 Corinthians he said that certain worshipers were carried away unto dumb idols. These were professing Christians. Is that more respectful?

  28. As a white guy in Montana who couldn’t be possibly any further from the culture in which rap is often associated (and thus observing from the outside), and yet as an avid supporter, listener and connoisseur of the genre, I really couldn’t disagree more to the objections presented.

    To argue that ‘Reformed Rap’ artists point to themselves and not to Christ is patently false. I presume there may be some that draw attention to themselves, but the artists that I listen to are as Christ-centered in both lyrics and spirit (as subjectively as you can ascertain such a thing) as any other subset of Christian music. Quite frankly, the most God-honoring lyrics coming out in today’s music comes from Reformed Rap and closely evaluating these artists both on stage and off (or in studio and out) I’ve seen nothing to suggest that both the music and the musician aren’t pointing to Christ.

    To argue against these godly brothers producing godly music with godly, solid lyrics because of the so-called “cultural milieu” from which secular rap evolved is fallaciously contrived. To claim that these men “are not serving God but serving in the flesh” and are “cowards”…this is really an abominable accusation.

    My heart breaks on account of these accusations. They’re simply untrue and unfounded in reality.

  29. The battle lines herein have been laid. Once again the bullies from THE Southern Baptist Theological Seminary have taken it upon themselves to dictate what is and is not acceptable worship. The servants of Almighty God on this righteous panel were simply stating their held beliefs ordained by Scripture. But are we allowed to have an opinion without the morale police at SBTS swooping in and making sure it aligns with theirs? No, obviously not. They may be listening to this rebellious nonsense in Louisville, but thank God for an institution like SWBTS that will stand on the Word of God and squelch these flaming darts from the Reformed Rappers, et al.

  30. Ironic that you would use something as inherently sinful as the internet, in particular, Vimeo, to critique a musical style.

    I even noticed links to twitter and facebook, havens of pornographic images and blasphemy. How cowardly!

    ;-)

  31. I was very disheartened by this video. I listen to Christian Hip-Hop on a daily basis, and I find it very much encouraging and uplifting of the gospel, not to mention it is quite theologically deep. I’d venture to say that a lot of Christian rap songs have more theologically sound content than hymns. (Not dissing hymns here, I listen to them too, just making a point that there is place for both)

    I believe that the way many in the modern church behave towards Christian rap is shutting the door on the furthering of the gospel. The way the church discounts and discredits what rap is doing is working against the furthering of Christ’s kingdom. I know that’s a little harsh, but these men are taking their dislike of a certain style of music, and using that personal preference as a reason to stop the furthering of the kingdom.

    I’ve not always been an advocate of rap. I’m a white guy who never saw the ghetto growing up, and I used to think that tobymac was a rapper too, In fact, I would’ve agreed with these gentlemen, having never heard real Christian hip-hop, but some friends introduced me to Christian hip hop a couple of years ago, and it totally changed my life. Godly artists such as Shai Linne, Lecrae, Trip Lee, KB, 116 Clique, and Tedashii have a gift given by God to be able to communicate His biblical truth through a musical style that can reach an audience that the men from this panel couldn’t.

    Keep representing Romans 1:16!
    -Jacob

  32. PS If you think that these men are doing this for their own glory and praise, I’d encourage you to take a look at their lives. They don’t just preach God’s word through their music, they take it to the streets and live it out there as well.

  33. Ben,

    I suspect I’m being set up for something, but I’ll bite. I’d argue that in nearly any case that I can think of, both insider and outsider have valuable and often irreplaceable insights about the position of the insider. Thus, I understand fundamentalism, from the inside, in a way that is often lost on outsiders. These outsiders, when writing about fundamentalism, seem to me to miss distinctions that are so essential to the discussion as to make their contributions deeply suspect. That said, hearing the outsider is still important: it is almost certain that he will say things that, while painful to hear, contain enough truth that they need to be reckoned with.

    Perhaps another illustration is more directly relevant: no one misunderstands the triviality and banality of much of the gospel song tradition way that older white folks do. They are sincere, they truly love Jesus and these songs, and they just don’t see that the Disney-esque tone of the music (to say nothing about the sentimental lyrics) seems to ill-befit the Lord of glory. They are so far inside that the cultural expression has become synonymous with the truth itself.

    I say this, well aware that this would also be the critique of my position from the advocates of Reformed rap. It is also my critique of them.

    Shai,

    As for my part in this discussion, I can’t speak to or for the men on that panel. I know Scott well; other than him, I couldn’t even identify anyone else who was speaking. Like Ben, I cringed and (quite honestly) started talking back to some of the speakers that seemed to me to be uttering nonsensical positions. We’re word based, but opposed to rap? Music is mostly about memorizing, and we’re opposed to rap? I’m in no position to apologize for anyone, but as one who is still unconvinced that this medium fits the message, I wasn’t at all happy with much of what was said on this panel, and I’m not excited to see it making the rounds as an example of the defense of conservatism.

    I appreciate the distinctions that you make among the various types of rap, and have no doubt that you are correct in your summary of the characteristics of each. I’ll also concede that I’m not well-versed in these distinctions; that is to say, I can clearly follow the points you’re making, but I certainly couldn’t have written that list myself. And so I acknowledge that my lack of knowledge on the topic tempers the value of any critique I offer. I’m not convinced that it renders it useless, but if my knowledge is so entirely deficient, that certainly is possible.

    Can I ask this as a follow up (and my setup here is pretty transparent): do these different styles (regions and eras) of rap have strengths and weaknesses when we are trying to present different aspects of the Christian message? Are certain styles better suited, for instance, for reflection on the cost of redemption, others on the ultimate victory of Christ as conqueror? If so, wouldn’t that acknowledge that, in principle, it is possible that a style of music can create tension with the message it is supposed to carry?

    I’m not trying to set this up as a gotcha question. That kind of thing doesn’t benefit anyone. I’m simply suggesting, from my point of view, that even within the genre of rap, the various kinds of rap have different messages that they support or clash with. The question is whether a genre, taken in toto, might have the same kind of characteristics.

  34. I am a 50 year old single mom, who lives in the urban area. I have been in church my whole life, I love Jesus with my whole heart. I love my neighbors as well. The first time I went to a so called holy hip hop concert was about 7 years ago. The truth spoken that night and the lives of the men who were rapping made it impossible to call it anything other than true worship. They were there for one reason and one reason only and that was to make much of Jesus. The gospel was presented that night from Genesis to Revelation and it was clear that Jesus is King. They took the time to hang out afterwards and they shared the gospel through word and deed. They made it very clear that Jesus is why they were there. I could go on with the ways I have seen God use these men and their gifts. The urban context is a very different and oppressed world and I would even venture to say it can can fly off the mainstream radar, but God has not forgot the fatherless in this area and He uses these men to open doors to gospel conversation. Praise the Lord for all He is doing.

  35. Good topic.

    I would say that most of them men on this panel have very little understanding of the medium itself. Example: Dan Horn first stating that christian rap “always points back to the artist (funny I just heard the brothers from LampMode address this on an episode of the Chopping Block). Clearly if brother Dan and others on this panel had done any sort of research rather than make the broad, sweeping generalizations that they did, they would have found their assumptions to be faulty.

    Sadly, there were definitely some good ole’ boy stereotypes at work here, like it or not. I was sad to see this panel go off without a word of correction or dissent, especially considering the contributions some of these men have made to our generation.

    Felt like Botkin’s comments were outlandish and graceless, just absolutely shameful.

    I think Dr. Morecraft’s FINAL comments were the most poignant in asking the question every Christian must ask themselves, “What does this music do to me?Does it tantalize the flesh, or lead me to true worship?” That’s the real issue, the heart response, NOT the genre.

    I think there are artists in Christian rap who are in it for the wrong reasons, just as there are in all forms of Christian music. Many contemporary Christian artists are just failed secular artists who ended up doing Christian music because we as Christians have set our standards for Christ exalting music far too low……but I am so thankful for artists like shai and those at LampMode as well as brothers I know personally like IV Conerly, Jovan Mackenzy, and Kaptivated aka Edward Sun (who is a great friend and encouragement to me) who are using the talents our father in heaven gave them to exalt the Son by preaching of His crucifixion and resurrection (and many deep truths of the faith as well I might add). I pray that those making music for the glory of Jesus would not grow weary or be discouraged but press on towards the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. My encouragement to you brothers: Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

    I’m thankful for the gracious discussion here and look forward to hearing the public discourse of this topic between Mr. Aniol, shai, and others.

    Christ bless you all

  36. Briefly, an musician has the potential – the temptation – to make the music and/or performance about themselves. Why limit such a charge to rap? In fact, any Christian in any given vocation may battle the temptation to seek their own glory above God’s in money, power, prestige, et al.

    I cannot believe the “coward” comment. On what would a Christian base such a generalization toward other Christians whom he knows nothing about? Ironically, there are at least a couple of Shai Linne’s song where someone could learn solid doctrine through the rhymes.

    On a side note: I’ve seen video of former Muslims, now Christians, worshiping in a house church strumming a little ukulele-like instrument while dancing around praising Christ. While don’t know the language these Christians are singing, their worship certainly looked nothing like the formal, traditional American worship. I wonder if someone on the panel might think they are sinner because they are worshiping wrong.

    BTW, my friend Brent replied to much of this video on his site.

    In Christ,
    Mark

  37. That was one of the worst public discussions of Christianity and music I think I may have heard in over 20 years. It’s hard to get more sacred/secular and legalistic than what was presented in that discussion. Even worse, the entire discussion was theologically inept masquerading as mature and wise.

  38. Musical style brings out a lot of emotion and a lot of interest, I believe, because it is so physical, so tied into the body. You can have a dog as a pet, that you feel really close to, but when you take away his food, he will treat you like an enemy. People get more upset about the critique of their music than an important doctrine. What is ironic is that it isn’t important enough to divide over and shouldn’t be divided over, and if you do, you’re a legalist and a Pharisee, but if somebody critiques it, the vitriol comes out. Being able to have and use the style YOU like does matter. The question again though, should be, “Does God want it? Does it represent Him?”

    If a professing believer critiqued the music I use in worship or even listen to, I would be interested in it. I want it to be judged. I want it to be right. I wouldn’t go ballistic like I read here. I wouldn’t say, “How dare someone judge me?” I wouldn’t assume the critic was a legalist, a bigot, a racist, or a Pharisee, like commenters here. That reaction is tell-tale. Who despises correction or reproof?

    My concern, and I’m guessing Scott’s concern, is that God be honored, and certain musical forms can’t honor God. They are not redeemable as means of worship.

    What I’m finding is that the problem in persuasion in these matters isn’t knowledge. With all of the communication that Scott offers, it won’t convince, because it isn’t a knowledge issue, but a will issue, a willful suppression of biblical orthopathy. I’m not saying its absolutely worthless, but it is especially not worth it to give and take, where points are conceded in order for everyone to come to a gentle compromise somewhere near the center, like two feuding cousins at the family reunion. I’m disappointed with those who seem to argue as if we’re coming from position of neutrality.

    There are enough red herrings in this comment section to open a Long John Silvers. The types and styles of rap, speech-effusive, battle, grime, celtic fusion, bhangra, whatever, doesn’t make any difference. Being able to or not being able to differentiate the nuances is not where the point or argument is. Rap is rap, and the question is, does God want to hear it? It doesn’t matter whether we like it, whether we were “blessed” by it, we got “saved” when someone was singing it, or how sincere its performers — none of those prove anything. They are typical where music is only a matter of taste. There can’t even be anything profane, common, or kitsch. Bach is no better than Bon Jovi. All of those start with ‘me’ at the center. Acting, posing, or even communicating like you’re aghast, out-of-breath, or forlorn — those aren’t arguments.

    If there is no concession that even one type of music is not worthy of worship of a holy, majestic, righteous God, then this discussion won’t get anywhere. Can we judge music? Does music mean anything? Is that meaning only assigned by its cultural context? Does music have inherent meaning? In past Christian history beauty, aesthetics would and could be judged, i.e. there was objective beauty. It did have inherent meaning.

  39. While Panelist #3 had the most offensive comments, I actually believe it is Scott who had the most concerning and alarming comment. I believe it is his comment which is the most degrading to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He says if Rap was redeemed there would be change and he does not see change. The fact that he doesn’t see change is alarming; I believe there is enough scripture to prove that God would disagree with you. The fact that many of these rappers would glorify self in their raps but now proclaim Jesus is Lord is evident of change (1 Cor 12:3). It is because of this change that Jesus is glorified. It is because of this change that rappers are able to submit acceptable worship to God. It’s as if one was looking for the white washed tomb ignoring the fact that Jesus changed the heart producing God lovers. That is why Scott’s comment is the most degrading to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Some random comments:
    1) I keep reading the panel referred to as old white men. Scott is younger than many of the Reformed rappers, so don’t lump him in. 
    2) I keep reading that the panel is racist. I don’t believe that should be the charge against them. However, the panel did show their prejudice. Words have meaning so let’s be careful that we are not being gossipers and liars.
    3) Was the 2nd to last panelist really convinced because of a backwards hat and wrinkles?
    4) Joel Beeke said he agrees with EVERYTHING that was said before him, so the “Disobedient Coward” charge also comes from him.

    Finally,
    Serious Question for those who agree with the Panel: What is a more acceptable form of worship to God: an unredeemed person who sincerely sings the hymn Amazing Grace or a redeemed person rapping a song sincerely to God?

  40. Very interesting video and dialogue. I think that as suggested before, a live moderated podcast debate would be very beneficial to this discussion. If we’re honest, long blog debate postings are time- consuming, become tedious and difficult to follow. In addition, lots can be lost in terms of communication whereas having a verbal discussion eliminates some of that miscommunication. My husband, Devin and I, hosted a weekly internet radio show, “Theology Matters with the Pellews”, which airs live on BlogTalk radio each Thursday evening with all podcasts available for free to the public for download after the live recordings. We both highly respect both Shai Linne and Scott and are reformed ourselves and students at Southern Evangelical Seminary. We have special guests on weekly to discuss apologetic, theological and biblical worldview issues and have had some some top names in the world of theology and apologetics on our show- including many of the reformed apologists from apologetics.com. We have also moderated a number of friendly debates on our show discussing topics such as God’s Existence, Catholicism and Predestination. We would love to host a friendly, crossfire, formal debate between Scott and Shai- considering that this is obviously a topic of great interest and passion for many and this would offer a simple format by which both guys can call in from their respective locations. In addition, we have the ability to receive phone calls, which would allow for others to call in with questions or the request clarity on the issues discussed. Please let us know (theologymattersradio@gmail.com) if either of you are interested and we will be more than happy to set it all up. Blessing to all in the discussion and may the Lord be edified through our dialogue and pursuit of truth!

  41. I wanted to respond to what Scott said to Shai, particularly the comment that if someone likes reformed rap then Scott could see how some comments from Geoff Botkin (please name the 3rd guy) could be offensive.

    Look Scott that’s ridiculous. I don’t like rap music at all no matter if it’s secular or Christian yet I found Botkin’s comments offensive. His comments weren’t offensive because someone was bias towards rap but because THEY WERE WRONG aka sinful. How can you miss that?

  42. Michael Riley,

    I appreciate your candor in your 11/27 8:28pm reply. In it, you seem to express a level of confidence in your ability to assess your own culture that you don’t extend to Shai and Curtis when you say that “insider status with rap…may be no advantage to seeing it clearly.”

    This certainly strikes me as an inconsistency. Perhaps you can account for it in a way I simply can’t see. But I’d suggest that you should consider how this provides fuel for the charges of cultural elitism you receive.

  43. In a twenty-two year career as a professional church musician in the liturgical churches — performing mostly the classic European church music canon and “the great hymns of the faith,” I have never heard such spiritualized hogwash in defense of a purely racist cultural preference, and frankly not since I read Frank Garlock’s “The Big Beat: A Rock Blast” as a child growing up at Bob Jones University.

    Music is cultural. Period. If you don’t like a particular style of music (and I absolutely detest Fanny Crosby’s hyper-emotional hymns), then don’t listen to it or perform it; but you have a lot of nerve to impose your cultural preference through theological sleight-of-hand on the one who worships God “in spirit and in truth” as the Scriptures indicate he SHOULD do using his own native musical language.

    Literary forms? You’ve got to be kidding me. As though the vast majority of Protestant hymnody has employed the sophisticated anagramatic poetic forms of ancient Hebrew psalmody… As though the ancient art of cantillation in Hebrew worship bears any resemblance to the gospel songs of the Revival era in the twentieth century… As though “Victory in Jesus” and “Glory To His Name” and any number of other beloved Southern WHITE Baptist songs reflect some timeless well-constructed marriage of music and words…

    Scott, you have to know better than that, and you have to do better than this!

    Six white guys sitting around talking about how to make black Christians more white by forbidding them to use their own idiomatic styles and “teaching” them to adopt your own narrow tastes. It makes me ashamed to be a part of the glorious tradition of European Church Music in praise of the Great Redeemer to whom ALL our praise is due to observe this priggish display.

    Shame on all of you.

  44. This comment: “Six white guys sitting around talking about how to make black Christians more white by forbidding them to use their own idiomatic styles and “teaching” them to adopt your own narrow tastes.” is what comes across in the video. Nothing more.

    Hopefully, you (Scott) and the rest of the panel will get some bit of a clue at how ungracious, uncharitable, untrue and unChristian your comments, attitudes and actions were in this presentation. I don’t think it has sunk in yet, judging from your defense of ‘disobedient cowards’ above.

    Side note: Lig Duncan has chimed in on the topic – http://www.raanetwork.org/the-holy-hip-hop-hullabaloo/

  45. Scott and Mike Riley,

    I know you won’t be able to respond to every blog and post directed at you, but I think this response by the Reformed Rapper God’s Servant would be perfect for you to respond to. He addresses the claims of being “worldly” and what the Bible really means when it tells us not to be of this world. If you disagree with his conclusion, it would be great to hear you articulate your position.

    http://www.baptisttwentyone.com/2013/11/death-rattle-or-life-preserver-an-appeal-to-the-ncfic-panelists/

  46. Can the repetitious, unresolved, tantric dissonance of Buddhist music be used to worship the one, true God? Is that music yellow? Or is it informed by philosophy, feeling, and belief? The medium itself expresses a meaning fitting of Buddhism. It can’t be redeemed for true worship. Not everything is redeemed. Study Paul’s conversion. Some of him could be used, other had to be ejected. Music isn’t a color or a pigmentation. All culture is to be judged. Much of it is to be rejected. Rejecting it isn’t racist. Much of modern Western civilization should be rejected. It isn’t white. That itself is racist because it is obsessing on race, and then if someone judges it based upon an underlying philosophy or meaning incongruent with the nature of God, he is called a racist or bigot. Read John McWhorter’s, Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation Of Language And Music And Why We Should, Like, Care.

    Our school is minority white. Our church is multiracial. We just finished evangelizing every house in 100,000 populated Richmond, CA, 31% white. By the way, do you think this would be the case if we were racists? Wouldn’t that be obvious? I preached for 8 years, once a month, at a mission without a white face in the room. I knocked on every door in what most consider the most dangerous neighborhood in the East Bay, the Iron Triangle in Richmond. No one else was doing that. Who care for those people? Certain kinds of music are a problem for the people. They are worse off because of it. The music doesn’t fit with the God of the Bible. We are not all enriched by it. It harms the attention span of the students. It is contradictory to linear thought. Thinking is the key to Christian growth, not feeling. God is worshiped through our affections not our passions, and some music is passionate, not affectionate toward God. Contradictory to secular psychology, emotion isn’t neutral. Other music expresses affections not fitting of God, inordinate affections. It has nothing to do with skin color. It is cultural. We are not helping people by giving them what they want. That kind of pragmatism is actually truly what is unloving and racist. A lot of what I see and read is mere pandering based upon guilt (read Shelby Steele). Things are just going to get worse with this philosophy.

    Scripture is clear that false teachers allure through the lust. Sin comes through the lust. Almost never does a church change its doctrine by means of a replacement of its doctrinal statement: “Hey, here’s some new doctrine.” No, it starts with a change in feeling or mood and the doctrine adapts to the new feeling. You see this in Corinth. The euphoria, ecstasy, and enthusiasm of the mystery religion was accepted as spirituality. Then new beliefs came with it. The gateway of the false doctrine is the feeling, today often created by the music. The feeling itself causes the problem. It often starts with neutrality, “meats for the belly, belly for meats.”

    By the way, anyone reading here knows that Scott opposes the carnival, merry-go-round, banal music of revivalism. That’s where a lot of the modern iteration of this started. Music is not a biblical method of evangelism. Salvation isn’t a human effort aided by innovation — “Hey if we use their music, they’ll listen and be saved!” Finney had the idea that people could be aroused by a particular music, because he was Pelagian in his theology (read his systematic). The outworking of this theology saturates this comment section. Christians before characteristically believed that beauty was transcendental, therefore objective (much more could be said here, but it has nothing to do with race, a slander which is a crying shame). You have one God and you have one beauty. Very little culture that left the tower of Babel was acceptable.

    Why is there a music of a particular people? Shouldn’t we be the least bit curious about that? The fact that it originated with unbelievers for unbelieving purposes, shouldn’t that be a concern? Christians thought this way once, but have incrementally given it up on the way to where we’re at today, which isn’t better.

  47. Kent,
    There are many that believe that Psalm 29 is a praise psalm to Yahweh in which David may have taken what was originally a hymn to Baal and altered it to speak of Yahweh. It’s an apologetic tactic similar to Paul’s use of non-Christian philosophers. Taking what is known to that culture and redirecting their focus to Yahweh. Now that is not my reason for defending reformed rap as I don’t believe it’s use is only for evangelistic purposes but as one rebuttal to the belief that one can’t take something that is secular and use it to worship God.

    If that is true in regards to Psalm 29, Scott’s whole argumentation of using the Bible’s literary forms hurts his position.

  48. Steven,

    Unbelievers write poetry. Even if it is a parody of a Canaanite poem, likely at best speculation and non authoritative, it reads like other psalms. It’s still a psalm. I haven’t said, and I don’t think Scott has said, that all forms used by unbelievers should be ejected. Roman men wore short hair. Mussolini got the trains to run on time. Jesus took a Greek word, ekklesia, and repurposed it for His institution. That is another red herring.

    Music shouldn’t be used for evangelism. The Bible is specific about that. It says, Preach. The Gospel. Using a method that “works” is pragmatism. And in the long run, it doesn’t work, and when we say it does, we take away from glory to God. Does that matter to anyone here, or are they just upset they might not have their music? I actually think that’s what this is all about. Not just rap, but whether the Christians. I think it’s interesting how that many who argue against the altar-call, the invitation method, support music for evangelism.

    In the only evangelistic verse tied to music, it says the unbeliever sees, sees not hears, the true worshiper and fears — it doesn’t even say anything about the music, and the reaction is fear, not hip hopping. Since scripture is sufficient and music isn’t an evangelism medium in it, we should reject that medium for that purpose (that’s before we discuss rap or whether it’s even music, if it doesn’t have a melody). That’s where this is Finney and Pelagian. Curtis Allen can say that he’d never heard of Finney, and I had never heard of Horace Mann, but it doesn’t mean his philosophy wasn’t influencing me (read 7 Men Who Rule the World from the Grave).

    So if rap is not for evangelism, then I guess its for worshiping God by those who like it. It’s like giving God a present that you like. Anyone here in favor of that for Christmas, getting presents from people because “they” like it? To be consistent, you shouldn’t criticize it, because you’re probably a legalist and a Pharisee and a bigot if you don’t like what they want to give you. Only here it’s about God, what He likes. People want you to believe that we can’t know what God likes — no information, nothing to go on. All of that flies in the face of the history of the transcendentals, and how Christians have judged beauty. I have a hard time believing that people don’t get this, but are playing possum or ostrich. Is there a difference between Marilyn Monroe’s Happy Birthday to President Kennedy and the Happy Birthday I sing to my brother? Can’t be. Maybe we could redeem breathy, sexy pouty lipping songs to evangelize that crowd. Careful bigots.

  49. “Can the repetitious, unresolved, tantric dissonance of Buddhist music be used to worship the one, true God?” What the devil are you talking about? It appears to me that you just strung a bunch of words together about Buddhism (which is a philosophy, not a religious practice) to characterize what you clearly have not experienced. If Buddhist chant is characterized by anything it is undisrupted consonance which induces a trance state in those who participate. If you aren’t participating, it’s rather boring, since it mostly consists of repeating the same pitch and the same syllable for a very long time. For the person who comes from a Buddhist background, of course this musical language of mindfulness, familiar as it is to her, can become a point of contact with God.

    If we’re going to discuss repetition — a cognitive aid to learning — we’d better talk about Martin Luther’s co-option of bar form (AAB) from the tavern songs of his time (and sometimes their melodies) as a means of crafting memorable hymnody: the foundation of Protestant hymnody, quite frankly. We’d also better talk about motivic development in large forms as perfected by J.S. Bach and advanced by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, etc.

    Oh, yes, I get it: you’ve preached at racial minorities so you aren’t racist. That’s almost as convincing as “I’m not racist. I have a black friend.” That you seem to be oblivious to the arrogant presumption of cultural (and thus racial) superiority in your remarks does not lend credence to your claim not to be racist. Racism is cultural and structural, not just an individual attitude.

    Can Christians eat meat sacrificed to idols? Paul says yes and he gives a very good answer as to why.

    There’s nothing doctrinally wrong with “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine.” For a whole lot of people, it is a worshipful song to sing, especially when the chorus comes in with “This is my story, this my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.” But for me, it evokes a snarky, eye-rolling connotation that turns me away from Jesus because it reminds me of my youth in the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement, which nearly cost me my faith. But that problem is MY problem, not the problem of the congregation that sings this song in humility, faith and wonder at the work of the Savior.

    Who are you and who am I to apply any metric but our Lord’s to what constitutes “Right Worship?” “God is a spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4: 24) I tell my choirs regularly that God takes our feeblest human efforts and perfects them so that our praises, by the time they reach His ears, transform from dross to gold.

  50. I didn’t finish one sentence in my second paragraph, and it I’ll finish it here, whether the Christian skate board community will be able to keep their grunge or punk.

  51. Scott, I don’t know you and weren’t even familiar with you until I saw the video of the panel, so let me first clarify that I write this post as a fellow Southern Baptist and a friend, not a foe. My intention is not to attack you, but to encourage you to follow in the footsteps of other leading kingdom voices such as your seminary’s President, Paige Patterson, and simply denounce the rhetoric of that panel without qualification.

    I’d like to pose two questions followed by two statements in response to your earlier post.

    First the questions (and know these are sincere):

    1. You stated that redemption always brings change. What would redeemed hip hop look like for it to pass this test? Clearly, the lyrics aren’t enough of a change, so what else must be changed, how will we know when enough has been changed, and who determines the appropriate change?

    2. What have you done to redeem the internet and video media that you use? We all know that these media are closely associated with sinful activity so the same test you offer for hip hop is relevant. How have you changed your website to reflect sufficient change to defend redemption?

    Now the statements:

    1. In your earlier post you excuse your failure to address the slanderous rhetoric of other panelists by stating that you were simply an invited panelist. I don’t believe that is an adequate defense, in fact, it actually holds you to greater culpability. You were an invited panelist. Let me say that another way: you were asked to be part of a group discussion and speak your mind. Scott, you had an open invitation to say what you felt needed to be said as a panelist. So while you are not responsible for what others said, you are indeed responsible for what you did not say.

    You should have immediately interjected your concern that Christ’s church was being wrongfully slandered and called for the other panelists to either clarify their statements or repent of them. You should have cared enough about the audience listening to protect them and do what you could to prevent them from walking out of that meeting believing that brothers in Christ who perform hip hop are cowards. You should have defended your brothers in Christ whom, by your own admission in the post I reference, are honorable men.

    I would encourage you to simply apologize for your silence at the time.

    2. You in suggesting that everyone should try to understand the perspective of the panelists you offered a seriously flawed point of comparison involving Shai Linne’s Fal$e Teacher$. In that song, Linne addresses the false teachings of 12 men and women. This is a contention that can be supported by analyzing their heretical teachings, which are public record, and contrasting them with Scripture. They clearly fail the test and preach a false gospel, thus deserving a strong public rebuke.

    The panel did not attack the doctrine of the hip hop artists, but their style. Had Shai Linne recorded a song calling John Piper a coward for being too emotional when he preaches or calling Matt Chandler a coward for saying, “ok” too much when he teaches, then the comparison would hold. As such, it is a flawed comparison.

    Scott, I encourage you to retract your attempt to defend the other panelists.

    I’m a married man, and I see that you are. As such, we both understand an important lesson our wives have taught us. When it comes to saying you are sorry, there is no room for a “but.” Ever. It’s sorry period. I suggest that you follow that principle here and simply clarify that the language of that panel was wrong period.

    And leave it at that.

    soli deo gloria
    Brian Dembowczyk

  52. If, indeed, you use the scripture as the basis for your worship format, I would like to ask at what point in your Baptist service do you use incense, bells, and the other ornaments, as well as the liturgy, that are parts of the ancient, original worship services.

  53. It seems like they are singling rap out.Pretty much any and every platform theirs temptation to become prideful including theirs.They talked about a renewed mind would produce change?How can they have the audacity to Gage whether or not a christian or non christian is changed by christian by rap ?Especially by the clothes they wear!(toby mack?).We all came to Christ through his love and grace ..like the thief on the cross ,but it appears to me as if these particular men want to make others crawl or get in through works to get to Christ.
    They have set up their own rules ..or metaphorically speaking laws. It is impossible to keep all 800 laws in the Jewish culture and it would be impossible to follow their instructions on how to worship God.The same one that says “come as you are” After Jesus died on the cross we are officially in the ministry of reconciliation.Reconciling the hearts of men back to God whether through rap,song,dancing etc… Rap has a redeeming quality just like rock music.Using a deductive scheme, jumping from one scripture to another ,or any other system to prove a point in any discussion ..without the holy-spirit, compassion,fruits of the spirit,????

  54. To whom it may concern:

    I didn’t learn what Reformed Theology until I heard it in a Rap song by timothy brindle who happens to be a “Reformed Rapper.” Sorry but there were no Presbyterian or Reformed Churches within 20 miles of my hood growing up. Let’s just say Church planting didn’t consider my area amongst the sons of Knox and Calvin. I’m sure it was financially motivated.

    Listening to this panel again showed what separatism looks like from the other side. Me being a black American I see how many within my own people group try and separate themselves by putting “Black” or “African” in front of everything we are apart of. What this panel showed was “Elitism” and “Cultural Superior” perspectives from the panel. It’s was very repulsive and I bet that third Panelist wouldn’t have said that if me and my dudes were sitting there in the front row.

    As a Father of 4 Kids (Tyndale, Triniti, Tytus, and Timothy Knox) I have embraced Reformed Theology as my Heritage and Culture. No where have I read or understood from scripture that words and truth have to be done in one particular music art-form. That is ridiculously subjective and scriptural unwarranted. A man’s conscience should be bound by scripture and scripture alone. Not another man’s opinion and eisegesis of scripture. I think that was Mohler who said earrings represent paganism would he charge God with endowing the Children of Israel with earrings and nose rings of Paganism?

    Ezekiel 16:11-13
    English Standard Version (ESV)
    11 And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. 12 And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. 13 Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty.

    So I am very concerned with this false “Piety” and “Particular Ethnical Rightness” showed on this panel. There is no wonder their churches lack attendees from urban culture and why there is a continued field of unreached and uninfluenced communities. They playing with straws instead of preaching and discipling people into the image of Christ. Not their people group.

    Grace and Peace,
    seal

  55. “After the music stops”( pun intended) or after you rationalize music away.. next people will begin to rationalize holy-spirit away and parts of the bible that don’t coincide with what they believe in.And then we will be left with a bunch a non believing believers-this is why the world laughs at us smh.

    I agree with most everything shai linne had to say in this post ,and really like his music.but he sure did ruffle my feathers with “false teachers” although he may have made valid points .I felt he was judging in a condemning way.

    . There are three different kinds of root words for judgement/discernment

    1.anakrino-ability to distinguish
    2.dokimazo-test or prove
    3.and krino-to condemn

    The third one(krino) is never the role of a christian.You can distinguish good from evil..you can even test and prove..but we are not supposed to condemn ,but we do it anyway.

    that’s just my opinion ..it is what it is.,but if shaii linne came to Charlotte I will be front row and center 1. genuinely like his music 2. Im a FEMALE christian .rapper BWAHHAHAH lol.

    I even had a response song to shaii linne “false teachers” because i was offended. But stop the recording on it because i don’t even qualify to judge him with a RIGHTEOUS judgment if my heart is not in the right place.(love).

    here is a snippet of what i wrote after the offense was off my heart.

    This is where the gifts come in/This is where the eye come in/This is where the feet come in /This is where the head come in/This is where the heart come in All of them are parts of him/Yeah we need to talk,lets about this dichotomy/Need each other to build up Gods kingdom economy/Slicing up the mind of god like a lobotomy/cutting up the body of Christ not how it ought to be/I’m a battleaxe in everything i go through/Just when i think i’m done/ He says” Latoya” i will throw you into the hearts of many your my Gideon my go to/Weapon yeah i’m prepping you to step into these running shoes/be a light and go and smite the darkest point of views/evaluate my words in psalms/carefully like book reviews/if he’s using you/tell him who will use who/Tell him who’ll subdue who /God El Elyon rules.

    inspiration–1 Corinthians 12:22

    kind regards

  56. Key Paragraph

    “I allow myself those arguments in my head when I want to absolutize my preferences and satisfy myself in the righteousness and superiority of my own musical taste and theology. The problem for me is that my theology of music will not allow me to stay self-satisfied on the matter, and by God’s grace I have not made arguments out loud that would violate that theology.”

  57. Steven,

    Thanks for the heads upon the article. I had already listened to Mohler preach on the subject and he preached it very dogmatically, unlike this article. He preached like he believed it, and preached that same theology on the outside like that’s what those people were to believe and practice, probably because that wouldn’t be a problem at that church and he wasn’t having to say anything about rap. I guess someone could like that. There are people who would get it. It’s a place where 2 plus 2 equals 4 in your head, but it equals something else on the outside, all depending. Beauty is objective, it’s a transcendental like truth and goodness — it must be — it’s the nature of God, and we’re commanded to think on that which is lovely, but, hey, it’s fine for people to have the wrong view, even if it hurts them, if it misrepresents God, as long as who knows what. Primordial ooze.

    I’m not going to give my honest assessment of the article here, because that is not welcome in evangelicalism. There must be toleration and “unity.” That’s my understanding of the inward and outward here. You won’t say what you think because you won’t get enough agreement. You get truth by taking a poll. It’s more like an opinion. I have to say that totally, absolutely totally, do not understand how that you’ve got the inner theology, which is true, that contradicts the outward theology, and you go with the outward theology, you know, so as not to offend. It reminds me of the inner voice of George W. Bush and the outer voice — which was actually a joke, because it is, well, a joke. If you let the inner voice become the outer voice, your poll numbers drop.

    Unless there is suitable change, I won’t be back here.

  58. Let’s all listen to what a bunch of older white men have to say about rap. There can’t possible be any bias here!

  59. Wow – now if that’s not racist?!
    (would really be nice if bloggers here could stop the stereotyping and instead engage in meaningful discussion)

  60. Just want to go on record stating that I appreciate what Scott and Kent are arguing here. Also, going to accusations of racism is really pathetic. IMO, it reveals one doesn’t have much of a serious argument. Now, back to lurking.

  61. Having grown up on the south side of Chicago and now ministering just north of Detroit for nearly 30 years, I can appreciate the racial sensitiveness being expressed. Our church sponsors nine “Boys and Girls Bible Clubs” in Detroit proper and the surrounding communities. We work with many black students, teachers, and leaders. Our clubs have great success in the varied ethnic environments that surround our church. In all of our clubs we use conservative, traditional hymns and Christian songs. None of our constituents misunderstand our songs, the lyrics, the beautiful melodies, or the stories taught. It is simply not true that one must borrow from the hip hop genre to communicate to the black community. Since that genre from the beginning has been closely associated with the worst elements of criminal violence, gang identification, sexual indulgence, misogynist attitudes, and unbridled passions as much of the rock industry has done for decades, I think it best in the spirit of Philippians 4:8 to use a worship expression that is free from those elements.

  62. Ok, I’m only replying because my friend Mike Harding did on his experience in Detroit. I appreciate the work his church is doing in the inner city. Yet I wonder if “clubs” done in these areas are an accurate measurement of the impact of music. I also wonder if there are church plants in Detroit which have found a way to incorporate elements of rap. If so, I’d like to hear from them.

    I’m not a rap connoisseur and don’t listen to it regularly, mostly because it’s not part of my culture. I have listened to some Reformed Rap from Shai Linne and others and have found some of it interesting and refreshing. I loved his song on prosperity preachers.

    With the men on the panel the opinions were fairly predictable. I would like to see a panel with men like Scott Aniol and Shai Linne who charitably disagree and yet are able to treat each other fully as brothers in Christ without the righterism exhibited by some who feel they know what’s best, not only for their own geographically/demographically limited, culturally bound and conditioned viewpoints, but know best for others as well. Once they ride the high horse on this they leave behind a lot of manure and they aren’t taken seriously. I’m with Thabiti Anywabwile that “I wish the video had been left in the obscurity it deserves.” But I’m glad that he and others are responding.

  63. I skipped many of the comments to ask a simple question. Maybe someone has posed this, and I skipped it. What has music got to do with the furtherance of the gospel? We are not supposed to reach the unsaved through our or their music. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Once saved, we corporately and individually worship God in a manner worthy of his majesty, glory, transcendence, and holiness. Now how we choose to be entertained at times outside of our worship experiences is another matter. But even then we are to approve things that are excellent.

    The rest of the debate is going to collapse where it always does – no absolute, inspired verse to settle the issue. It will boil down to taste, preference, and depth of understanding of scriptural principles where no rules are stated.

    I cannot fathom God being honored by any form of rap. But then I’m not a member of the urban community. But I can’t imagine God being honored by heavy metal, acid rock, or any other form of music born of the flesh.

  64. All music is “born of the flesh.” We listen to music with our ears, we sing with our voices. All of these things require having a body to compose, perform, or to listen.

  65. You should call in to James White’s Dividing Line program on Thursday, he’s hosting a discussion about your panel. Shai Linne, IV Conerly and Voddie Baucham will be on.

  66. Grafted in gentiles – who have been allowed to worship the God & Messiah of Israel without outward circumcision and the burden of becoming Jewish – after having enveloped their Jewish rooted faith in a European tradition & expression – now feel justified in making sweeping generalizations about a culture they do not understand while demanding others “circumcise” their artistic expression & appearance to fit their own man-made traditions??? This is what we call Irony.

    A public discourse with Shai Linne is not merely requested but necessary. These men clearly cannot distinguish hiphop culture from sagging pants, gold teeth, and bad manners (and no doubt make many racial assumptions as well regarding what hiphop actually is). To be fair to those of us who have been radically transformed and encouraged through such ministries, a public discourse is the least we can do. Grace & peace.

    Lamp Mode family…

    In Messiah’s Service
    Tony of Hazakim

  67. Lastly, how can any reformed believer worth their weight in salt hear the music of a shai linne (for example “Jesus is Alive”, “False Teachers”, “The Fall of Man”, “Penelope Judd”, “Election” etc), and not shout with a resounding “AMEN” to every verse? Any believer who would not see the truth expounded upon in such songs are either too cold and pretentuous to admit it or have not yet been exposed to the aforementioned. This coming from a non-calvanist Messianic!!

    Bobby & others (with all due respect)…Youtube the aforementioned songs and then come back and we can talk. Grace & peace…

    Tony of Hazakim

  68. I just recently listened to a rapper named Lecrea. I thought it was fine and much better message than some of what we call contemporary Christian music. However I would find it difficult to worship with as worship seems to me to be more introspective and thought provoking. As one person said, though, I was saying “Amen!” to the message I heard and was glad to hear it in a new way. I will, however, stick with the idea that it would not be something that I could worship with. I am sure that at least one person thought David’s dancing was embarrassing and foolish too and I don’t want to be in her crowd.

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