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Can Rap be Christian? Evaluating Hip Hop

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series

"Can Rap Be Christian"

You can read more posts from the series by using the Table of Contents in the right sidebar.

Today we finally arrive at a discussion of the nature of rap itself. This post will be beneficial for you, however, only if you accept the following assertions on made on Monday:

  1. Man is completely depraved and thus cannot trust his own preferences implicitly.
  2. Music is a medium of human communication and thus must be carefully evaluated to determine whether its communication is sinful.
  3. Cultures are imbedded with values since they are external expressions of value systems.

curtisallenvoiceFor the past three days I have further explained and defended these assertions. Tuesday I dealt with the objection that believers are not totally depraved. Wednesday I considered the nature of neutral objects and their uses. Thursday I dealt with the nature of culture.

If you do not agree with these arguments, then evaluating hip hop will make no sense to you. This was essentially the mode of defense taken by Shai Linne in his interview with Mark Dever.

However, as I observed on Monday, Dever, Linne, and Allen implicitly admit that rap does indeed communicate because they discuss the different “flavors” of different kinds of rap, and they argue that rap is actually a fitting medium for the expression of biblical truth.

It is this assertion that I’d like to evaluate today.

Once again, let me ask you to separate personalities from this discussion. We are not evaluating persons or their motives; we are evaluating a culture and a medium of communication.

The Roots of Rap

Rap music is a subset of the culture of Hip Hop, which began in New York in the early 1970s.1 It was developed in the impoverished, gang-saturated communities of the Bronx at block parties, which incorporated DJs who would play the hit music of the day. DJ Kool Herc, one of the most popular DJs of the early 70s and a Jamaican immigrant, began to recognize that people danced better to the percussive interludes of songs, and so he began to creatively mix together these smaller rhythmic sections in order to motivate the people to dance longer and harder. He combined this practice with the traditional Jamaican custom of “toasting,” or calling out above the music in rhythmic, rhyming chants. Thus rap music was born.

Rap music soon became the voice for expressions of anger and discontent with society. Its heavy rhythmic content and forceful, declamatory presentation provided a perfect vehicle for expressing this angst. Some, such as Afrika Bambaataa, an ex-street gang member, attempted to use hip hop culture as a means for re-channeling the rage of young people away from gang fighting into the music, dance, and art (graffiti) of the culture.

Rap music has developed in some ways since its inception, mostly in terms of complexity. However, its essential elements remain the same:

  • aggressive, self-assertive, rhyming declamation
  • discontent socio-political commentary
  • heavy rhythmic foundation

The Culture of Rap

Today, rap music (and hip hop culture in general) is most often associated with violence, profanity, rebellion, hatred, and sexuality. This is not a Christian analysis by any means, but a common, conventional association that clearly exists today. For example, consider this list of songs from a “Top Essential Hip-Hop Albums” list:

  • Murder was the Case (Snoop Dogg)
  • Me Against the World (2Pac)
  • In Cold Blood (Scarface)
  • Stranded on Death Row (Dr. Dre)
  • Dead Presidents (Jay-Z)
  • Protect Ya Neck (Wu-Tang)
  • Ready to Die (B.I.G.)
  • Night of the Living Baseheads (Public Enemy)

Or listen to this rap enthusiast:

When you think of artists like Snoop, Dre, Spice 1 or McEight, the first thing to come to mind is violence or gang- banging. It may be true to a certain extent but to me it’s still an art form.

One sympathetic author, writing for The Journal of Negro Education, argues that this association with violence results from the fact that a violent culture birthed the music:

America for all her protests against violent rap lyrics has failed to acknowledge her role in the creation of this relatively new art form. Evidence of America’s preoccupation with violent activity is pervasive and can be found, for example, in virtually all of the entertainment industry. As a result, of the prevalence of violence in music, movies, television and video games, America has nurtured an environment that some have come to call a culture of violence. If there is in fact a culture of violence, the true parent of rap lyrics is America herself, who financially rewards the glamorization of behaviors deemed socially unacceptable. Rap music, in this context, is merely another creative expression that is an outgrowth of prevailing entertainment practices.

Any casual survey of rap lyrics, album titles, or news reports about rap artists or their concerts reveals immediate connection to this kind of sinful activity.

In the interview we’re discussing, both Dever and Linne acknowledge this common connection as well:

Dever: One objection that I’ve heard before about this is that even if you’re persuaded that such music is not in and of itself wrong, what about the fact that for a lot of people they do associate rap as being a form of music that has been so characterized by violence … and profanity and materialism, and especially the degradation of women? What makes you then say, I want to use that form to spread the gospel and build the church?
Shai: I’m sensitive to that objection. I would join my brothers and sisters who would take serious issue with the things that are common and most secular forms of this music.
Dever: In secular forms of the music, if nothing else, anger seems palpable.

Dever: One objection that I’ve heard before about this is that even if you’re persuaded that such music is not in and of itself wrong, what about the fact that for a lot of people they do associate rap as being a form of music that has been so characterized by violence . . . and profanity and materialism, and especially the degradation of women? What makes you then say, I want to use that form to spread the gospel and build the church?

Shai: I’m sensitive to that objection. I would join my brothers and sisters who would take serious issue with the things that are common and most secular forms of this music.

Now these kinds of associations don’t necessarily prove that the music inherently communicates these things (apart from the lyrics), but they should give any Christian careful pause for several reasons.

First, when a medium of communication is birthed out of a certain value system, there is great reason to assume that the medium will naturally express those values. If rap music (a medium of communication) was birthed out of an ethos of violence, drugs, hatred, and sexuality, it would be a far stretch to argue that it does not naturally express those values.

Second, it is instructive that when disturbed, debase people want to express rage, hatred, and violence, they are drawn to this form of music. Why is it that other cultures or musical forms do not have the same kind of magnetism for these values? Why is it that (with few exceptions, I’m sure) no one uses Appalachian folk tunes to express their social angst? Why is it that no one uses music from the Baroque period to express delight in explicit violence? Why is it that no one uses English folk music to express degradation of women?

Third, even if this were all merely conventional associations in our day (which I don’t believe), what is the Christian’s responsibility? Did Paul tell the Corinthians to “redeem” the meat that had negative associations that might cause weaker people to stumble into sin? No, he told them to avoid eating the meat for the sake of the gospel and the weaker brothers.

The Meaning of Rap

When evaluating the meaning of something, we judge its natural connections. What does it look like, what does it feel like, what does it sound like? If we are evaluating the body language or vocal inflections of someone else, we consider what those gestures and tones normally communicate when they are expressed by most humans.

When we evaluate what a form of communication communicates, we must ask what kinds of bodily movements and emotions look or “feel” like what the music sounds like. So, for instance, light bouncy music “feels” like being light and bouncy, i.e. “happy.” So what does rap music naturally “feel” like?

What does rap mean?

First, a basic style analysis by Timothy Shafer, a professor in the Division of Music at Penn State:

As a style, rap music is dominated by rhythm and specifically the backbeat; harmony and melody take a back seat. The sound of the backbeat inherently signifies the motion of the body during the act of sexual intercourse, as any rock musician will readily attest. The relative durations of the spoken rhythms are highly syncopated against the pulse, suggesting agitation and in louder instances, anger. Phrase structures (in terms of the groupings of spoken rhythms) are frequently irregular as well, again suggesting instability and a lack of respite. What harmony there is is extremely minimalistic and repetitive. Melody, for all intents and purposes, is non-existent. It may be claimed that the melody is single tone, but those tones are rarely sustained to the point of qualifying to be sung notes. It is rhymed, rhythmic speech, but not singing.

So basically, as a rhythmic art form, rap is dominated at all levels by syncopation, which is on the emotional spectrum between surprise, through agitation, toward anger/rebellion. The syncopation indicates varying levels (according to dynamic and other contexts) of aggression by virtue of its purpose of conflict against the principal pulse.

I agree with his analysis. The rhythms, sonorities, timbres, and movements of rap all “feel” like (to one degree or another dependent upon the specific song) rage, violence, aggression, sex, agitation, and rebellion. His analysis is based upon a comparison of the objective musical characteristics to natural human behavior. If you were to hear the music at a distance without being able to understand the lyrics, what would you naturally assume the music is expressing? Remember, we’re not talking about the motives of the performer here, we’re talking about what the medium actually says. Just like I could communicate something to my wife without intending it, the same can be true for a musician.

So the kinds of messages the culture of rap is naturally associated with in our society is not due merely to convention, it is due to the sounds and rhythms of the music itself.

Let’s consider the performance styles as well. Of course, there is a certain range among performers, and Christian artists certainly would not perform the more explicit bodily expressions of sexuality or rebellion. But what do the bodily movements and vocal tones of most rap performers naturally communicate? If you were to watch a video of a rap artist (Christian or not) with the volume turned down, what would you naturally assume they were communicating? Once again, rage, self-assertion, rebellion, and aggression.

Add to all this the dress, mannerisms, graffiti, slang, speech styles, and attitudes of hip hop culture, and we come to the unavoidable conclusions that this culture cannot and should not be combined with God’s holy truth.

Now most of the Christian rap I listened to (mostly by Shai Linne and Curtis Allen) was admittedly softer in tone than other secular rap. However, the essential elements of rap remain: aggressive rhymed declamation over a heavy beat.

Now at this point I think it would be helpful to discuss the importance of distinguishing between kinds of emotions. I would assume that when these Christians perform, they intend to express in-your-face, aggressive, assertive proclamation of truth. They actually believe that how rap naturally communicates is actually conducive for gospel proclamation. They say as much in the interview. They believe that the medium of rap is particularly fitting for proclaiming God’s truth (an implicit admission of its ability to communicate in certain ways) because of its capacity for expressing “a lot of information” and its very direct style of declamation.

But what they fail to recognize is that not all emotion is created equal, and some is absolutely incompatible with God’s truth. Remember, mere words are actually inadequate to describe different kinds of emotion. They might insist that what rap communicates is simply direct assertiveness, like preaching, when it actually communicates something more like self-assertive aggression. Fervency for the gospel is different than aggression. Righteous indignation is different than rage. It’s differences like these that we must recognize as we determine what is acceptable for God’s worship or the expression of his truth.

Can Rap be Christian?

Why am I making such a big deal about rap? Because I love the Gospel. And I know that men like Mark Dever, Shai Linne, Curtis Allen, and John Piper love the Gospel as well.

Music is not really the most important issue here, God’s truth is most important.

So I am very concerned with how God’s truth is presented, delivered, proclaimed, and disseminated. If the way that the Gospel is presented contradicts the very message, I am concerned about the integrity of the Gospel.

So where does this leave us? Based upon all of this analysis, the unavoidable conclusion is that rap music, because of what it inherently communicates, is incompatible with the Christian Gospel. It expresses sentiments that contradict the very message that we love.

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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 Cutlure, 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 three children.



Endnotes:

  1. Most of the information for this essay is taken from two sources: Can’t stop, won’t stop: a history of the hip-hop generation by Jeff Chang and what is considered the most scholarly collection of essays about Hip Hop, That’s the joint!: the hip-hop studies reader edited by Murray Forman and Mark Anthony Neal. []

180 Responses to Can Rap be Christian? Evaluating Hip Hop

  1. Scott, I appreciate this site and your labor to support intellectually a rationale for God-pleasing musical choices. I know it is a difficult endeavor to define right and wrong in this post-modern society. It seems to me that many of your critics are arguing that it can't be done in the area of music, and therefore we must not judge the musical preferences of others. Their defense of rap illustrates to me the absurdity of their position. I cannot believe they really believe the words they are saying in support of rap but they have to say it because the position they have staked out demands it. I say this not as an argument one way or the other, but just as a reaction from one person in the audience listening to the discussion. Just want to encourage you in your efforts. Thanks.

  2. Actually Paul, what is absurd is the quote from Shafer above. The second sentence destroys all credibility not only because of its ignorance but also because it is flat out wrong. "Any rock musician" will attest to that? If you suggested such a thing to a rock musician that knows anything about music, they will fall over laughing.

  3. Dear Fred,

    It's neither absurd nor ignorant to assert what I have asserted. Dozens upon dozens of citations from both the rock and roll world and the academic world can be provided to corroborate what I've said above. Here are a just a few, taken from John Makujina's book, "Measuring the Music.:

    "Rock 'n' roll is 99% sex." – John Oates of Hall and Oates.

    "Rock music is sex. The big beat matches the body's rhythms." – Frank Zappa

    "The throbbing beat of rock-and-roll provides a vital sexual release for its adolescent audience." – Jan Berry (of Jan and Dean)

    "I saw the Beatles on televesion, and I said to myself, 'I can do that' – not necessarily the same way, but to touch that same kind of nerve; that hiddne, unknown erogenous zone – which is what rock and roll is all about." – Paul Stanley, guitarist for KISS

    con't. below

  4. Our music is, and always has been, fueled by a strong sexual undertow. Pop music is partially about sex. The two things can't be divorced." – Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys

    The only rock musicians who are laughing appear to be those laughing on their way to the bank at what they have done to our willing culture. I can provide many, many more statements such as these to support my assertion above.

    con't below

  5. Makujina also cites additional sociologists and musicologists:

    "Of all the mass media rock is the most explicitly concerned with sexual expression. . . . If rock's lyrics mostly follow the rules of romance, its musical elements, its sounds and rhythms, draw on other conventions of sexual representation." – Frith and McRobbie (study of sexuality in rock)

    con't below

  6. "The sound of the [Rolling] Stones is sexy because of the totality of the mix and the beat, the way the music hits the body and the hormones instantaneously. This sound, perhaps some of the most definitional sound of ultimately undefinable rock, is coded as unmistakably phallic, and masculine." – Norma Coates

    "Young people know that rock has the beat of sexual intercourse." – Allan Bloom

    So I hope you see, Fred, that it is neither ignorant nor absurd to assert what I've stated above. I would speculate that those who do not recognize this simple bioacoustic fact about rock music have been fed such a steady diet of it that its intrinsic sound meaning has become obscured through many additional individual and personal associations with the music. Perhaps desensitization is another way to put it. The Christian rock subculture has appropriated this music without regard for its inherent meaning (i.e. sound without lyrics) and now finds itself in the awkward position of defending the sound of rock music with new spirit-of-the age, relativistic, postmodern, and unbiblical arguments that claim that music is neutral.

    That's what is absurd.

  7. Sorry for the many posts, the website kept rejecting my submission. I don't think it likes the topic!

    Tim

  8. I've often said that arguing against rap with those that love it is like taking the food bowl away from a hungry dog. It might be your dog, but when you begin to pull the bowl away, you'll get a negative reaction.

  9. Scott, that frankly is a lot of bunk. You and your friend Tim do not know what you are talking about. You look silly when you try to liken a beat to sex. Why don't you contact some professional rock or rap musicians and run your theory past them. When they stop laughing, they will tell you you are crazy. Oh, I'm sure you will find a musician here and there that will agree with you, but your assertion that everyone but Christians believe that is wrong, wrong.

  10. Dear Fred,

    Let's hold off on calling people silly for a little bit and examine the process.

    The assertion doesn't depend on the testimony of rock "musicians" to be valid.

    Do you know the processes by which music communicates emotion?

    Can you explain them?

    Tim

  11. Fred,

    As I've been thinking about this conversation, I was wondering what it was that apparently annoyed you so greatly. So I re-read the threads. I think it was my fault.

    When I said, "any rock musician. . . " I was using a conventional phrase from conversational speech. But in writing it shows up as a universal affirmative, as in "all rock musicians think . . . " Of course, I have no way of knowing what ALL rock musicians think, and did not mean to say that I know what all others of a particular group think. I apologize for that careless use of language in my writing.

    So I will amend my assertion from ". . . as any rock musician will readily attest" to say:

    "The sound of the backbeat inherently signifies the motion of the body during the act of sexual intercourse, as many prominent rock musicians have openly testified."

    You may still think the assertion itself is a lot of bunk, but hopefully you will not be provoked by my telling you what you or others think. What remains are facts I think can be demonstrably proven.

    I still hope we can have a conversation about the way in which sound communicates motion and emotion, Fred.

    Tim

    Tim

  12. Interesting article. On one hand I agree with much of the analysis, but on the other hand I have seen things with my own eyes that make me take pause before making a final decision. I have been in some pretty bad neighborhoods with a reformed Christian rap group doing street evangelism. We would find a little park, set up a grill, cook some food, and then they would turn on the speakers and perform for a few minutes. It was all theologically sound rap targeted toward evangelism. When the music started, it brought a lot of people over, who then got free food. Once the crowd was good, they would hand the microphone to me to preach. In short, rap was the draw that got them out of their houses and off the basketball courts to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Was I partnering with the world for the cause of Christ? I certainly hope not! Experience is never to be taken over Scripture, but for me making that call will take a bit of prayer and thinking…

  13. Dear ChurchSalt:

    My own thought about your experience is that that is fantastic. The more people who hear the Gospel, the better. But at least a couple of distinctions should be drawn by the Christian evangelist:

    1. Street preaching (Acts 17 for example) is not corporate worship.
    2. Music is not a God-promised and ordained means of grace. Though He may certainly use whatever means He desires to save His people, music is not promised in Scripture as one of those means. Of the commanded elements of worship, music is the only one specifically excluded from the means of grace.

    You said, "rap was the draw that . . . got them to hear the Gospel." Any illegitimate thing might be substituted for 'rap' – fighting, nudity, gambling, drinking, etc. That these things 'draw' people does not make them a biblical means of grace to be pursued by the evangelist.

    These things should give the Christian pause for thought, because people will become followers of that to which they were drawn. If music, then music. If Christ, then Christ.

    Tim

  14. When talking about the culture of rap, I find it interesting that only artists that fall into the gangster rap category were used. The very first hip hop song was done by the Sugar Hill Gang and the song itself reflected a culture that was about partying and having fun. Much of the hip hop music that came after that reflected the same style and subject matter. Hip hop (emceeing or rapping, breakdancing, and djing) emerged to help the youth cope with the injustices that were being done in the South Bronx community as a result of commercial construction that was ruining the community and forcing the underclass black and latino populations. Instead of dealing with poverty and injustice by resorting to violence many of the youth would perfect their craft as rappers, djays and breakers. All of this to say, ask any person that knows hip hop, they will tell you that hip hop originally started out as a fun type of music that took over as disco fadedout. Let's not use examples of hip hop that support the argument of hip hop not being Christian without giving credit to other forms of hip hop.

    This discussion is one of those topics that divide believers. You have done a good job of researching this topic. We give so much credit to the enemy by attributing him with the ability to create anything. If Christ is the head of all things created why do we limit the things that he can use to redeem. God has the power to use anything to bring people to confess Jesus as Lord genuinely. I believe that there are many secrets that God desires to reveal to his children and many of His mysteries are reserved for when we go into glory. Let's look more to Christ's power and less to our ability to figure out what He can and cannot do with objects that are subject to him anyway.

  15. Dear Gordon,

    I'd be glad to listen to any song of your choice to evaluate its intrinsic musical meaning. Do you have the name of a specific song?

    You're missing the point about the means of grace. No doubt the Lord can, as you say, use any means of His choice to bring people to confess Christ. But He has promised in His Word to use, the reading of Scriputre, preaching, prayer, and the Lord's Supper to do so. When we become dependent on extra-biblical means of grace (such as music in any form), are are guilty of not taking God at His word – not trusting Him. We become dependent on our own means, programs, and techniques.

    I'm not so sure I can agree that God redeems all things. Propagation of sinful acts (as explicitly described in Scripture) in the name of Christ would surely not be blessed by God. We are called to use discernment in evaluating activities not explicitly described in Scripture according to biblical principles.

    Music is a creation of man and subject to the Fall. It is subject to evaluation in the same manner that literature and art are for its truth, beauty, and goodness. We cannot discern perfectly, but God can and will.

    Are you suggesting that we not evaluate music for its suitability because the act of evaluating it divides believers?

  16. Hi All,
    Keep the objectivity coming – clarity, based on Biblical truth, is what we are called to pursue. One glance at Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church makes it clear that God has preferences regarding how His people use what He has given them. To say that all things are created by God and, therefore, can be used by US to glorify Him, is simply not supported by scripture. In the Old Testament, the children of God got impatient with Moses being away from them while he was on the Mount. They constructed a golden calf as a representative of the God who brought them out of slavery. They used what God had given them in a sincere attempt to glorify Him. He rejected what they had done because it was contrary to what He instructed. They were as sincere as could be. The lesson here is that sincerity doesn't count much when the task is offensive to a holy God. Romans tells us to not be conformed to the world. An understanding of what is meant here draws a pretty straight line to the current discussion. Am I conforming to the world when I use “worldly” music? At what point does association with a particular non-Biblical lifestyle identify something as “worldly” and, therefore, something I’m to not be conformed by/to.
    Tim’s distinction between evangelism and worship is important. Too much of our corporate worship experience has been hijacked by evangelism. There is a place for both. Maybe not at the same time, though. A lot of the current angst regarding music in the church stems from a blurring of the line between called-body worship and evangelism. What would the music of the church be like if corporate worship was a “closed” house – no unbelievers welcome? Would we lose all the arguments for using popular music styles? But, I digress . . .
    A clear understanding of Romans 12 seems to be a necessary starting point for this current thread. Can some of you who are supporting Rap and other worldly forms please help us understand what you would consider "off limits" in the light of Romans 12?

  17. Tom,

    It's interesting that you use that example from Scripture. As they returned from the top of the mountain, the first sign that Moses and Joshua had that the Israelites had been unfaithful was the sound of their singing (Ex. 32:17-18). Yet their festival, as you say, had been dedicated by Aaron as a festival "to the Lord" (Ex. 32:5).

    Because of sin, we all deceive ourselves on particular topics. Music is particularly susceptible for use as a tool of deception, since it is a language of the heart, and as scripture tells us, "the heart is deceitful above all things." (Jer. 17:8-10)

    Tim

  18. Hi Tim, Yes, that's a very insightful point. So, at least as early as Moses, there was a distinguishable difference between music of God and music of the other. Can we safely infer that it was the music, rather than the text, that signaled Moses? If so, that's a rather large truth.

  19. Tom,

    I have no notion of the Hebrew text and can't give any kind of insight into that. But the English translations seem to imply that there are no audible words from the distance at which Moses and Joshua first hear the sounds. Various translations use more general words such as "noise" and "sound." In verse 19, the chronology suggests that only *after* hearing this 'noise' or 'sound' Moses "approached" or "came near to" the camp to the point where he was able to see the idolatry. So I think it's probably reasonable to gather from these English descriptions that the first hearing was too far away to hear specific text, but that only a general noise/sound was audible.

    Joshua's response to the sound was that he thought it was the sound of war. Some commentators here think Joshua could hear that the sound was in fact singing and was trying to determine with his question if the singing was that of the sound of victory songs or the the sound of defeat songs as was apparently the custom after a battle. There may be something in the Hebrew to indicate this – I don't know. (It seems that I remember that the Hebrew word translated as sound/noise is the same word as the one that is Moses uses that is generally translated as 'singing,' but I'm not sure about this.) The way it reads in English translations, though, suggests that Moses corrected and refined Joshua's impression of the sound/noise by identifying it as singing when Joshua was unable to do so. This would imply a cacophonous sound such that Joshua couldn't even recognize it to be what he knew as singing. Moses already knew, though, that the singing was not that of an obedient people because God had revealed to him that the Israelites were in rebellion (Ex. 32:7) before he and Joshua started down the mountain.

    In any case, the passage seems to reveal a kind of foreign singing/music-making that is not indicative of an obedient people. Further, I think there is a strong case to be made that, even without being able to hear the words, there is a kind of singing that bears witness to, and perhaps is a harbinger to, idolatry. First the general sound of idolatry, then upon nearer examination, the verification of idolatry.

    Keep in mind, I'm not a trained theologian and do not know Hebrew. But commentaries I have read point in this direction about this passage. In any case, I think this passage is a very important passage for analysis in this debate about sounds that are fitting for worship (I Cor. 14:40).

    I think you're right, Tom. If we can infer that it was the music, rather than the text that not only signaled Moses, but confused Joshua, it's a very large truth about this issue.

  20. Thank you, Tim. Maybe one of our Hebrew scholars can help us clarify the meaning in the original. Until then, I'm eager to hear from folks regarding examples of what is "off limits" in light of Romans 12. What is "the world" that we are to avoid? Since Romans 12 is the second half of the letter – the first half being concluded with the great summary/doxology found at the end of Chapter 11 – what are the large ideas found in the first 11 chapters that feed the sweeping instructions in the first couple verses of Chapter 12? The "of, through, and to" found at the end of Chapter 11 affirm the idea that all things come from God. The "therefore" that opens Chapter 12 seems to indicate the following: Even though all things come from God, because of the Fall, they are not all good enough to be used to glorify God. Therefore, don't think in a way that makes all things good and acceptable, but change your mind from that way of thinking to a way of thinking that discerns between good and bad so that you can demonstrate the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. What is the will of God? Examples are listed in the rest of Chapter 12. Two of these examples are condemn evil and support good (v. 9). Even though all things are of, through, and to, they are not all good. What are the bad and what are the good? What is our basis for discerning the difference? This seems to be the crux of the current thread.

  21. I am enjoying this well thought out and polite discussion. Too little of that between Christian Brothers online. After thinking about this, I think I personally might be slowly settling in the view that one should avoid the use of rap music in any form of ministry, and maybe even entertainment. I am also rejecting the division between corporate worship and evangelism, even though I have been associated with it's use in evangelism in the past. So why the change of mind and the rejection of the division? Because everything we do should bring glory to God. A big part of that means separation from the world. If there is no dividing line, how shall His people be known as different, thereby bringing glory to His Name? "Be ye not conformed to this world…" and surely there can be no argument that in our culture today rap is seen as very worldy and as a child of both modern pop and gangster culture. To associate with it may bring about (in bystanders eyes) a pollution of His Holy Name. That is unacceptable. Perhaps in 50 years when it is well ingrained in culture and is seen as another art form it may then be a different story, and more suitable for the debate of it's suitability. But right now the only people who see it as an art form are those who are heavily involved in music. To "Joe Public" it is just hip hop gangster music.

  22. Hi ChurchSalt, I echo your thoughts regarding the objective and polite nature of this discussion. It is very edifying. The division between worship and evangelism I draw is not one of content, primarily, but one of purpose. Yes, everything we do should bring glory to (shine a light on/mirror) God's character. At the outset, I must make sure that everyting in my bucket is acceptable to God and accurately reflects His character. Once I've done that, I choose the most appopriate things from that "discerned items" bucket for the particular task at hand. What I'm drawing a dstinction between is choosing what is appropriate for called-body (worship) use vs. unregenerate (evangelism) use. Yes, both items must, first and foremost, be vetted for their ability to shine a light on/mirror God's character. Until we establish the Biblical ground rules for that vetting process, we are left with personal preferences. Those preferences are certainly a far distant second to the requirements communicated to us by God in His Word. Now we're back to identifying what is good and what is bad. Is pragmatism the standard? (If it works, God must be blessing it.) Is personal preference the standard? (If it feels good, do it.) Is the Holy God the standard? (If it is consistent with His character, use it.) Coming back to the initial question of this thread, Scott has concluded that Rap is not consistent with God's holy character. He outlines the basis for this conclusion. Therefore, he concludes, Rap is not in the bucket of possible items, regardless of the context or purpose.

  23. I suppose the area where I have yet to be convinced, is that the sound is inherently communicating anything immoral.
    I think that I understand your argument and I certainly agree with your presuppositions. Culture has been tainted with sin and there is objective truth with which it should be judged. I don't think Shai intended to disagree with you there, per say, but merely to point out that, in his view, the criticisms are largely based in cultural preference. So, I have seen discussions about this interview at other blogs that really just come down to what people like or don't like with very little serious biblical consideration. While we want to avoid cultural relativism, sometimes preferences are misappropriated to be God's will. Honestly, that's how this issue has often been approached. I appreciate the refreshingly biblical analysis that you have provided here and you bring up an interesting point that content in music is not conveyed merely through propositions. Given all of this agreement, the real point of contention (and I suspect it is the real point of contention that conservatives like Dever, Shai, and Voice would have)…is whether or not the style actually does communicate something immoral? I think Romans 12 is referring worldliness such as that in Romans 1 and the description of godlessness there. I do not think there is anything in the sound of rap that makes it inherently violent or sexual. Certainly, there is a strength expressed in some of its sounds, which lends itself well to expressing spiritual fervor when used for God's glory.
    Basically, I would encourage people to examine their hearts on this issue. If the music causes your heart towards anger or lust, then by all means cut it off! When I became a Christian at 15 and had used rap (and rock) to express anger as a non-Christian, I had to cease listening to secular music. Since I knew of no Christian rap, I listened to only Christian music (some of which may also be objectionable on this blog since it had pop/rock elements which are also often used in relation to violence and sex?). I discovered Shai's music in the past year through his song "Mission Accomplished". I was impressed by his defense of limited atonement and have since returned to listening to Christian rap artists. As I search my heart, I've noticed that the lyrics can have a huge effect on me, so I do not listen to secular music. However, I see no such effect from Shai's music. Quite the contrary, it is a help to dwelling on the gospel. Now, I do not say this to claim that experience should be our guiding authority, but simply to note that as far as I can tell the sound does not convey the sort of things you say it does. The argument you give seems to be merely a list of the ways that the style has been misused in sin by the world. How does that misuse prove that the sound is necessarily immoral?
    Thank you for your gracious criticism and evident love for the Gospel and seeing it proclaimed!

  24. Dear Kate,

    You said, "I suppose the area where I have yet to be convinced, is that the sound is inherently communicating anything immoral."

    For this, you have to have a basic understanding of the two basic ways in which music communicates. Scott has a couple of excellent articles on this on the website, but I'll give a brief summary.

    The most natural and direct way music communicates is through motion. Sound is a portrayal, in real time, of motion. Lots of motions can be depicted: up, down, wide, narrow, slow, fast, smooth, jerky, etc. This is done using combinations of the four basic elements that comprise music: pitch, volume, duration, and timbre. Human beings generally perceive the motions that are depicted in sound and interpret them accurately. The mind then correlates the motions heard in the sound to the motions the body manifests when we experience certain feelings. When we are sad for example, we move in a downward trajectory, smoothly, slowly, and we speak softly. These bodily expressions of feelings are cross-cultural and time-transcendent. Therefore, music that is smooth, slow, soft, and exhibits downward tendencies is understood as sad music. It's more complex than this, but that's the gist of it. This manner of communication is sometimes referred to as bioacoustic (bio = life, acoustic = sound). Music of all types can be analyzed for its expression of motion in order to determine its emotional affect in this manner. (It is no coincidence that the word emotion contains the word motion or that when music makes us feel something we say we are moved.) This is what musicians do daily.

    The second manner in which music communicates is often called associative. This is an unpredictable manner of communication. It depends on the pre-existing biases the listener brings to the listening experience. For example, if a listener was forced against his will to go to classical music concerts as a child, he may always experiences a deep disgust when classical music is played, no matter what the musical cues are for motion (as described above). In this manner, a listener may legitimately say that a fast, spritely, happy tune by Mozart makes him feel angry, or that a slow, somber, smooth movement also makes him feel angry. The feelings of the listener are legitimate, but highly personal and individual; they are not based on the sound cues of the music itself, but rather on the associations that developed with that music from a previous time in his life. This mode of communication accounts for much disagreement about the emotional meaning of a particular piece or style of music.

    When I say that the back beat of rap music suggests the motion of the body during sex, I am referring to the predominant sound of the music itself. The backbeat is nearly always the loudest and most prominent sound of rap music. It dominates the sound of the music. This is the music's loudest and most pervasive sound. I won't go into more detail about its correlation to the movement of the body, but I hope you can deduce that for yourself when you imagine the sound and rhythm of the syncopation occurring on the 2nd and 4th beat of every measure. The sound itself (without the lyrics) is highly sensual. It is the sound of sex. This is what Frank Zappa and Jan Berry are referring to in the above quotes. It is the design of rock music and 99% of the lyrics of rock reflect and confirm it.

    It's possible you may not hear this if you are 1) focusing on the lyrics and/or 2) have listened so long that you've become desensitized by your own personal associations (as described above) with the sound.

    I'm not suggesting that sex itself is immoral. Certainly in the proper biblical context, it isn't. But even in its proper moral context of marriage, the sound of sex in the form of music does not make a good vehicle for communicating the content of the Gospel.

    I hope that helps to convince.

  25. If the culture of the Goths, Visigoths, Franks, Celts and other Western Europeans can become christian, then any culture can become christian……..period.

    ICXC NIKA

  26. Hi jnorm888,
    What distinguishes these cultures from being non-Christian one year and Christian another? In other words, what are the characteristics that make them non-Christian and, then, what characteristics changed that caused them to be Christian?

  27. Dear Kate,
    Paul addressed the issue of examining one's heart in I Cor 8:4-13 when he taught about meat that had been offered to idols. He declares meat amoral. He declares that since there are no "real" idols, the meat hasn't really been sacrificed to "anything." The key to the passage, however, is Paul's plea for people who find nothing wrong with eating meat offered to idols to put their preference aside for the sake of those who, because of a history of idol worship, find it troubling to eat meat offered to idols. For the sake of the weaker brother, I am to abstain.
    In the context of corporate worship, there are any number of potential situations where what is used in the worship becomes a stumbling block to those in attendance. Maybe you don't associate Rap with sex and rebellion. (Whether or not it is inherently evil is what Scott and Tim S are arguing for here.) The issue in corporate worship is creating an atmosphere where people are drawn away from the world and to the holy God. If there is a single person in the corporate worship room that associates the music with the world, according the Paul's teaching, the music should not be used. Those responsible for choosing that music are answerable for this sin. Romans 8:12-13 is pretty clear on this. 12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.
    As worship leaders, we are responsible for the thoughts/conscience of each person present at the worship gathering. This truth is quite intimidating.

  28. Scott,

    I think this was an interesting article. Certainly a lot of history that was new to me. You do establish that there are a lot of worldly values associated with rap music. You seem to argue from its previous use that this form of music can be used in an evil way. I have to say that's a pretty obvious argument that pretty much everybody will grant.

    Question, then: If we learn from historical use, then why should we not begin to add to that knowledge when otherwise trustworthy people (considered outside their music) like Curtis Allen, Shai Linne, and Mark Dever begin to use it in association with good and for good?

  29. Tim: I appreciate your thoughts, though I think similar arguments could be made for any music. Also, this might be a helpful link into what the "sound" communicates for Shai Linne.

    (around 5 minutes into part 1, but the whole interview is worth listening to). He is clearly agreeing that the sound communicates something, but differs on what it is communicating. Is it possible that some hip hop sound can communicate in a way that is reverential? I would say, yes.

    Tom: I'm not discussing whether hip hop should be used in a church service. I agree with you wholeheartedly that that would be a different discussion. Personally, I prefer a good hymn and congregational singing during church, but that is a preference that developed over time. Initially, I associated that type of singing to the Roman Catholic services that I was raised in and so inherently disliked it. Obviously, the Catholics borrowed later from the Protestants, but I didn't know that. My point is just that music can be associated in many unhelpful ways. Anyways, 1 Cor 8 would be an important text to consider in a discussion about using hip hop during a service. I think hip-hop would largely be unhelpful in church because it would lend itself more to spotlighting the person leading the rapping, then an emphasis on the whole congregation worshipping God together. That still leaves the question, though, of if it is sin to listen to Shai while driving in your car.
    Thanks for everyone's thoughts!

  30. Dear Kate,

    Thank you for posting this.

    My heart goes out to this young man. From all appearances, and as much as is humanly possible to discern, he seems genuine and sincere – talking about the things of Christ with biblical accuracy, reverence and awe. Please don't misunderstand me. I wouldn't for one minute doubt his sincerity, his salvation, or his testimony regarding his salvation. But . . . I agree with every word he said about the incongruity – the lack of "fit" – of the medium of hip-hop for the Gospel. He said:

    Christian rapper Shai Linne: "One of the things I struggle with is that oftentimes in hip-hop the medium is, in my opinion, not appropriate to the gravity of the message. Does that make sense?"

    Interviewer: Yeah.

    Shai Linne: "It would be like if you're at a funeral, and like hearing the birthday song, or something – you know what I mean? Like musically, it just doesn't fit with the mood, you know what I mean? We're talking about the cross, we're talking about the gospel and things of deep, grave importance. But oftentimes the backdrop of hip-hop tends to have a trivializing effect. So when you take something that weighty and you put it across the wrong backdrop, it's just been decreased. It doesn't seem as weighty anymore."

    But when he sets about 'fixing' the problem he has correctly identified, he simply adds violins sustaining a single chord. Again, in his own words:

    Shai Linne: ". . . and so with The Atonement, I wanted to choose a musical backdrop that was appropriate to the gravity of the subject. So the album starts off with kind of cinematic string intro that's almost like, almost feels like a movie, just kind of like I'm moving you into, like this is heavy, this is weighty. Stop what you're doing and listen, you know what I mean? Throughout the album there's a lot of interludes that just have nothing but music, just to kind of, again, give you time to reflect on what's being talked about. And then the actual songs themselves . . . weighty is the only term that even makes sense. Even the more celebratory songs are kind of low key."

    So he has, in his own words, elevated the music of hip-hop to the medium of a movie. Even if he's accomplished that, (not a given) that's not a meteoric rise. The fact is, he is simply mistaken. Shai Linne recognizes the sound constructs enough to accurately describe them as not being weighty enough to carry the Gospel. But he's engaging in wishful thinking when he then changes the sound only minimally and claims that it is now sufficiently weighty. Adding violins to the sound and getting a "cinematic effect" does not change its weightiness sufficiently to now deliver the Gospel. Musically, the addition of the violins playing a single sustained harmony does little to mitigate the dominating force in the sound of the music, which is STILL the backbeat. He's correctly trying to make the medium of hip-hop more weighty in order to carry the message of the Gospel. But in an objective musical analysis, his efforts fall seriously short. That's why my heart goes out to him. I think he's sincere but misguided in his efforts.

    Kate, you're ignoring the information I gave you. When you say that "some hip-hop can communicate in a way that's reverential," on what do you base this? What is that way? What is it about the sound is reverential? You have simply said, "I say so," and end the discussion. Defend it based on the sounds.

    I'm not sure I understand your other comment: "similar arguments could be made for any music." I don't know to which point I've made that you're applying that statement. Is it that the backbeat simulates the motion of sex? Or is it that music communicates through motion? I've read and re-read and can't figure out the context for your disagreement.

    You can't simply dismiss the argument by placing all of music under the same umbrella (as when you say "similar arguments could be made for any music"). That's an an intellectual cop-out of the discussion and travels far down the road of relativism. If you're making that argument, the premise undergirding you is that (I know you didn't say this, but your argument depends on it) there is no objective beauty and no objective musical communication. The Bible and experience both speak differently on this.

    To refute your assertion that "similar arguments could be made for any music," I need only to say that not all music misrepresents the cross and the Gospel in sound to the degree that hip-hop does. I will grant that no music created by sinful man since the Fall does perfect justice to the Gospel the way I expect we will find in glory, but some music most certainly does more in its sound constructs to trivialize the Gospel than other music. Paul would not have exhorted us to think on things that are excellent if there were no excellent things (Phil. 4:8). Paul didn't say, all earthly things trivialize the Gospel, therefore don't bother with it. Instead, Paul prayed that our love might about more and more in knowledge and discernment so that you might approve what is excellent (Philippians 1:9-10). He also commanded that all things in worship be done in a "fitting" or "appropriate" way (I Cor. 14:39). "All things" includes the music used for singing.

    Music's inherent communication is exceedingly varied according to many different musical signifiers (pitch, rhythm, timbre, tempo, volume, etc.) and their interactions with one another. Linne is apparently pointing to these sound signifiers in his condemnation of hip-hop and its inherent ability to communicate the Gospel. Yet you ignore information regarding 'bioacoustic' and 'associative' models of communication that explain this in detail and instead have defended Shai Linne's description as valid because of what the sound communicates "for him" (your words) when he opts to use this same sound that he criticizes as insufficient to carry the Gospel. This is relativism. The sound means one thing for him, something else for another person, and yet a third thing for another. This may be, but the associative model described above explains this phenomenon without tossing all of music into the relativistic bucket of "it has no inherent meaning and may mean anything to anybody."

    You've not presented a cohesive argument, Kate. In essence, as I understand you, you've simply said, "certain kinds of rap are reverent to me because I say so," and that the information I've presented to you could be said "about any music."

    Please tell me if I'm misunderstood your assertions.

  31. From Paul's writings, could we glean this statement: "I know that he's involved in false worship, but I don't at all doubt his sincerity or his salvation." It seems that Paul doubted someone's salvation if even one's communication to people did not adorn the doctrine of God (Titus 2). How can we say that this affects the nature of the gospel, but doesn't relate at all to the gospel that someone says he believes? Doesn't Jonathan Edwards judge people's salvation in his Treatise on Religious Affections? He determines true and false conversion by these very kinds of things. There is such a woeful lack of discernment here to the degree that it doesn't match up with what we would expect of someone who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

  32. Hi Kate,

    Sorry for the late reply. The difference between formal hymns and their possible association with the catholic church and the subject of Scott's original post is the inherent communication found in each. Inherently, the music of formal hymns is consistent with the God's attributes, as revealed in His word. Rap, on the other hand, has inherent elements that are contrary to the revealed attributes of God. The question of whether or not God is pleased when we worship Him with vehicles that are contrary to His character is the crux of Scott's original article.
    I'm still hoping to hear from someone who supports Rap regarding what is considered off limits when approaching a Holy God. Without some examples of appropriately applied discernment, we are left with an "everything goes" approach. While this is certainly a post-modern way of thinking, the Bible doesn't support anything close to that world-view. If we conclude that "God is good" and therefore "It's all good," we are, at the very least, denying the presence of sin in the world, and, at the most, denying the Holiness of God.

  33. So, basically, the message I'm getting is that since man is evil, rap music is evil. Let me tell you something, though. As a human being, I have absolutely no ability to create anything, except for the ability the Creator gave me. All creativity comes from God. There's not a single note or beat that was not inspired by the Father. Lots of times, the deceiver comes in and twists the message and distorts the truth that God created, but it doesn't diminish one iota the fact that God is the one and only creator.

    I certainly believe that there is demonic rap, but does that mean that all rap is demonic? Or even that rap was created as a form of demonic communication? I think not. I think that most of the church is like what I'm feeling like you are. They slept through the most important cultural movements of our time, and now that they're waking up to what's going on around them, they're rejecting it instead of using it the way God intended it to be used.

    Do you know why the enemy's hold is so strong over most hip hop? It's because you and I were asleep in our comfort zones while it was being formed, instead of being at the forefront of the movement and claiming it as God's.

  34. Dear Clae,

    Are you claiming that the pitches and beats of music are inspired by God when you say,

    "There’s not a single note or beat that was not inspired by the Father. " ??

    I'm sorry Clae, but you're guilty of adding to scripture here if that's what you're claiming. Do you also believe the words of poets are inspired by the Father? How about novels? Where do you draw the line in claiming divine inspiration for creative works?

    You're seriously misunderstanding this subject by claiming that notes and beats are inspired by God. I would strongly encourage you to read Scott's article on Pelagianism elsewhere on this website to understand what's being said about the effects of the Fall on EVERY one of man's thoughts, words, and actions – including the composition of music.

    You can find his excellent article here:
    http://www.religiousaffectionsministries.org/arti

  35. Brilliant Scott!

    Praise the Lord for the mind He has given you. I respect everything that you have written about concerning this topic of "Christian Hip-Hop", if I can use that term loosely.

    God has given us wonderful gifts to use in our life – to enjoy and to glorify Him. Allow me to park here if you will. Music is a gift from God. I don't  think you would disagree with me there. Emotions are a gift from God. Again, you probably agree. So my conclusion follows, are the emotions stirred up by the music outside the blessing of God's gift to us? Affirmatively, what we do with those emotions or where we let those emotions take us can and often times do counteract God's desires for us. And frightfully so, we are depraved individuals and without the wonderful gift of salvation we are expected to act as such. So I would hope that unregenerate artists are motivated to make music to stir up emotions that lead to unbiblical thoughts and actions, else my faith is in vain and man can be naturally good. This doesn't go to say though that man can be moral. But once we introduce that awesomely, wonderful gift of salvation we no longer are chained to the bed of depravity but have been freed to walk fervently in the knowledge and grace of our loving Lord.

    I am often reminded of the verse, "…love covers a multitude of sins." Is this not the truth? When we love the soul and not the soul-bearer we can look past grievances or preferences or faults to understand the compassion that Christ so beautifully exemplified for us in His earthly ministry. That compassion is a key to unlocking true biblical love for mankind.

    If we juxtapose this compassion with our biblical studies and evangelism we have turned our ears off to Lady Wisdom calling out to us. Our compassion must fill our life. Am I advocating tolerance? Emphatically No! I am seeking to recalibrate our focus from methods of worship and evangelism to motivation for worship and evangelism. Without that correct view of God our motivation is skewed and will produce extra-biblical methods. However, when our viewpoint is perfectly aligned with Scripture and we have a healthy view of God our life can defy Koyaanisqatsi (Life is out of Balance).

    God Bless you Scott and I will be praying the Lord continues to use your brilliant mind to serve His ministry. Keep the Faith! 

  36. What I'm saying is that God is the ultimate Creator. He is the only Creator. All that Satan can do is twist what God has already created. I'm not saying that every hip hop artist is ultimately a Christian, only that God invented music, every kind of music, and every song ever written (in it's pure, untwisted form) is being sung before the throne of God.

    What I don't understand how you can tackle something as subjective as taste in music as though it were objective. What makes classical music any more holy than hip hop, or metal, or bluegrass, or anything else? Surely there is as much unholy classical music or jazz as there is unholy music in any other genre you care to mention.

    How about this: ask God yourself, and see what He has to say about it. Disregard the "facts." Disregard what you think about it. Ask Him what he thinks, and then get back to me.

    Also, as a side note, you do recognize that God is more than scripture, right? I believe every word in the bible is infallible, but certainly there's something more personal to God than words on a page. I don't know about you, but My God speaks to me every day. I talk to Him just like I talk to you. He's as real, in fact He's more real, than you and I are.

    If you think that by my saying that God created every note that I'm adding to scripture, then what do you call a sermon? What about a hymn? Are you saying that the song Amazing Grace is by definition unholy, because it doesn't come directly from the scriptures? How can you even have a conversation without saying something that's not in the scripture?

    "Don't add to or take away from" is meant to those who would try to use partial scriptures to justify their own evil works. It doesn't mean that we can't extrapolate from what we have that since God is the creator, He therefore created music, and every sound is divinely inspired, whether or not once it comes out of the person it goes into it is holy or not.

    What I'm saying is that He is the giver, but it's up to us what we do once we receive it.

  37. Dear Clae,

    To be clear, while I believe like you do that every word of Scripture is infallible, I do not believe that God speaks to me verbally in ways other than through Scripture. He has spoken through the prophets, and through His Son, but not through me. This is what Scripture teaches. So I'm careful when I use or hear the words, 'inspired by God.' That means something very specific and according to the Bible, it should be used only regarding Scripture. To give anything else this status (the poetry of a hymn, the writings of a theologian, the words of a pastor's sermon, or the music composed for a hymn) is exceedingly dangerous, as it tends to elevate these things to the status of Scripture. These things are works of fallible men, not divinely inspired, holy "creations" of God.

    God gave us the raw elements for music. There are only four: waveform, frequency, amplitude, and duration. They translate roughly to the musician as timbre, pitch, volume, and rhythm. These exist in nature and are found to follow the laws of physics/acoustics. We use these four elements to create music, but our creations are not inspired by God. To the contrary, they are tainted by sin. We can't ignore these facts as you suggest. Christianity doesn't ask us to ignore facts, but rather to use our minds to discern from among various levels of sin-tainted, man-made creations. See Philippians 1:9-10, for example. So the best I can do in asking God what He thinks about it, is to scour His Word for explicit and implicit commands, statements, and examples. God reveals Himself through His Word and through His creation – as He states in His Word. I don't believe He speaks to anyone by any other means since apostolic times. If you believe the Bible to be true, you will find these same claims in it, and no more.

    I'm not sure where you get your information about what's being sung before the throne of God. I don't find what you've said anywhere in the Bible. In fact, I don't believe that it's in any way biblical to say as you do that every song ever written is being sung before the throne of God. It appears that you're elevating music to some sort of mystical, divine status. I'm just not sure why you've chosen only music to elevate to this status. You said,

    "'Don't add to or take away from' is meant to those who would try to use partial scriptures to justify their own evil works. It doesn't mean that we can't extrapolate from what we have that since God is the creator, He therefore created music, and every sound is divinely inspired, whether or not once it comes out of the person it goes into it is holy or not."

    I'm sorry, Clae, but you've carried your extrapolations far too far. Why do you not say the same thing about poetry or literature? An analogous statement would go something like this: "God is the creator, He therefore created poetry, and every word is divinely inspired . . . " Or even, "God is the creator, He therefore created literature, and every word is divinely inspired. . . " These things (music, poetry, literature, etc.) are works of art created by man. Nothing more. You've got to be more careful in your extrapolations.

    We're not speaking about musical taste or musical holiness here. We're speaking about musical craftsmanship and inherent musical meaning, both of which have objective, factual, components that can be examined, analyzed, and evaluated.

    I hope you'll continue to explore this website.

  38. Just want to congratulate Tim and Clae on a very informative exchange. The two of you are worlds apart in your understanding of scripture – worlds apart in ways that are at the heart of this discussion. If the standard is subjective, e.g., what I hear from God on a daily basis, I am apt to "hear" what pleases me. If the standard is objective, e.g., the revealed written Word of God, I am apt to "read" what pleases me. It is the whole counsel of God that is needed in informing the complete picture of how God intends what He created to be used by whom He created. He has certainly given us all we need to know regarding how to live lives that please Him. The question is whether or not we are willing to submit to this truth apart from our preferences, likes, dislikes, natures, etc. For my part, the truth of God is objective and knowable. An unregenerate PhD in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek should come up with the same translation and meaning of the original biblical texts as a regenerate PhD in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The Spirit is not needed to discern the translation/meaning of the text. The Spirit is needed to discern and enable obedience in the application of the text. To say that the Spirit helps me understand the meaning of the text is to deny any need to go to school to learn how to study the text. So, as we debate the biblical standards for music in the life of the obedient Christian, we are about the business of identifying what the instructions are in the inspired, written, objective, Word of God.
    Scott's original post asks us to consider the undeniable sinful antecedents in Rap music. Tim, as usual, is ready with the objective musical analysis that helps us understand why, from an acoustic absolute, Rap music is contrary to the holiness of God as described in the inspired Word. Like Tim, I'm eager to hear a response to the question "Where do you draw the line?" "In light of the holiness of God, what is out of bounds?"

  39. Because most people are agreeing with the argument that Rap Music Is Of The Devil, few are being bold enough to just come right out with it. Behind the pseudo-science are some really weak ideas. For example:

    You can make a neat and tidy line between evangelistic singing and worship singing, can you? Is singing in a service in front of your unsaved child evangelistic? Or is it corporate worship? What about carol singing in the entrance to the church> Shame on you for making ChurchSalt join the no rap club by setting up false divisions. In the Bible Paul wrote about unbelievers attending church.

    And this choice specimen:

    "When I say that the back beat of rap music suggests the motion of the body during sex, I am referring to the predominant sound of the music itself. The backbeat is nearly always the loudest and most prominent sound of rap music. It dominates the sound of the music. This is the music’s loudest and most pervasive sound. I won’t go into more detail about its correlation to the movement of the body, but I hope you can deduce that for yourself when you imagine the sound and rhythm of the syncopation occurring on the 2nd and 4th beat of every measure. The sound itself (without the lyrics) is highly sensual. It is the sound of sex. "
    Dem drums… dem jungle drums! Perlease! American Christians just embarrass the whole body of Christ with this mucky racist thinking. I am tired of it. Consider Ravel's Bolero, Carmina Burana – filthy beat, filthy lyrics — so, classical music is all ungodly, right? No, of course not. The sound of sex? The sea sounds sensual, the wind in the trees…

    "Inherently, the music of formal hymns is consistent with the God’s attributes, as revealed in His word. Rap, on the other hand, has inherent elements that are contrary to the revealed attributes of God." Unfortunately for your argument, hymnwriters sometimes used pub songs and music hall tunes for their hymns. But that's fine because …? Because God is a white man — everyone knows that!

    Someone had to say it — the emperor has no undies on. Read Gary Younge's book No Place Like Home. It's an ordinary travelogue until he describes going to church. It was chilling account. Until that beam is out of the church's eye, best leave Shai Linne's mote in his eye, methinks.

  40. Dear Anthy,

    This is a new one on me. Nobody has ever trotted out the race card before when I've been involved in these discussions. It's amazing to me that you so quickly go there and falsely judge your brothers, rather than to engage in the content of the argument.

    You bring up Ravel's "Bolero" as an example. I don't think anybody on this side of the aisle would argue that Bolero is not sensual. Of course it is! It doesn't matter that a European white man composed it. The reason we're not talking about it and condemning it is that nobody's making serious attempts at offering it up for worship in the church. It's just not relevant to this discussion of church music. I would object JUST AS STRENUOUSLY to Ravel's "Bolero" used as music for worship as I do to rap and for a lot of the same reasons.

    You also won't hear me objecting to the majority of African-American spirituals used in church. That's because many of them are absolutely musically congruent with the Gospel texts that they carry.

    So be careful about going off half-cocked with charges of racism against your brothers before you've studied the biblical points behind the argument. Something I've read somewhere about bearing false witness comes to mind.

    We're talking about musical facts here – not the continent that from which the composer's ancestor hails, and most CERTAINLY not the color of anybody's skin.

  41. By the way, Anthy,

    Your 'proof' by way of the excerpt of Gary Younge's book says more about the author than it does about the people with whom he was worshiping. Most of what he describes is going on in his own mind – which is the only thing I find chilling about the passage.

  42. Dear Anthy,

    I think I may have taken a wrong trail with what you were saying about "Bolero," misunderstanding what you were saying. In re-reading, I gathered that you're expressing frustration with the condemnation of all of rap because some of rap is overtly sensual. You do this by citing Bolero's and Carmina Burana's overt sensuality and show how senseless it would be to therefore condemn all of classical music. Sorry for misunderstanding. Let me respond to what I now understand as your criticism:

    Classical music has an enormous range of musical affects achieved by an exceedingly large melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic pallet. The tangible musical tools used by rappers are far more limited and in every instance (that I've heard) these are dominated by the sound of the backbeat that I described above. So your comparison of generalizing classical music as rap music has been generalized falls demonstrably short on a purely SOUND, not RACIAL level.

  43. Yes, I am indeed saying that all poetry and literature is inspired by God. You are clearly misunderstanding what I mean by that. When I say inspired, I mean that the original purpose for the music, the inspiration, is holiness and worship. Satan is the prince of the powers of the air, and as these divine ideas stream down from heaven, often times they are intercepted by demonic forces. The messages that these songs or books or poems would have had is therefore corrupted by the evil one.

    However, you also subscribe to the belief that God doesn't speak to people anymore, and so with such different ideas about the way God works, I feel that I'll have a hard time helping you to understand what I'm trying to say, much less convince you that it's right.

    You are right in saying that it is possible to err if I consider that God has spoken to me. However, Abraham was made righteous through faith, and if we go by that logic, I think, and this is my personal theology for the record, that it is better to try to hear God and miss the mark than to live in fear of missing the mark. It's better to try and fail than not try.

    I respect what you have to say, however I believe that you are selling God much too short, and selling man's sinfulness way too high.

    Also, when I said ignore the facts, I was referring to your idea that because rap music is sexual, in rhythm (not just lyrical content), that it is evil. I would ask you then, what are we to do with the Song of Solomon? Because as I read it, it seems to me to be entirely about sex. And it's in the Bible, so even if God doesn't speak here and now, you have that.

  44. Dear Clae,

    You're speaking from a theological perspective that I know nothing about, since I can't find these things in the Bible (divine ideas streaming down from heaven, being intercepted by demonic forces, God speaking to you personally by means other than Scripture, etc.). I believe you are in error in these things, since they are extra-biblical special revelation about God.

    I disagree with you that man's sinfulness can be over-exaggerated. Scripture tells us that the heart is deceitful *above all things.* I know that I'm constantly guilty of "selling God short," however, though I doubt if I mean the same thing by that that I think you intend.

    One last consideration for your theology regarding all songs ever written being continuously sung around the throne of God: Both Amos and Isaiah, among other prophets, teach that God will not listen to some songs, and stamps out others. Consider the following two passages:

    Amos 5:22-24 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.

    And also Isaiah 25:4-5
    You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert. You silence the uproar of foreigners; as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled.

    I think that this clearly contradicts your notion that all songs ever written are being sung around the throne of God and that all music is divinely inspired by God or pleases Him. I would urge you to study the Bible and pray over these things, Clae. When it comes to knowing the things of God, only Scripture will do.

  45. "Classical music has an enormous range of musical affects achieved by an exceedingly large melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic pallet. The tangible musical tools used by rappers are far more limited and in every instance (that I’ve heard) these are dominated by the sound of the backbeat that I described above. So your comparison of generalizing classical music as rap music has been generalized falls demonstrably short on a purely SOUND, not RACIAL level."

    The ignorance of the musical complexity of drumsbeats that's in this comment is built on an ignorance of music (outside a very limited range). My husband plays the drums(he learned in the Boys' Brigade), and he has taken the time to learn about military style, then Afro-Cuban, Berber and West African styles, too. No one who has listened to Berber drumming and music could call it simple — unless that person had already decided as a result of his upbringing and education that classical Western music is always better. All my life I have listened and read nonsense built on a presupposition that black people are simple people who do things simply. Thanks to good Christian teaching (eg Ken Ham) I know that this is social Darwinism "
    This is a new one on me. Nobody has ever trotted out the race card before when I’ve been involved in these discussions. It’s amazing to me that you so quickly go there and falsely judge your brothers, rather than to engage in the content of the argument."
    Tough luck if you don't like a spade being called a shovel. The content of the argument is built on presuppositions of the inherent superiority of the musical and cultural norms of your background. The content of the argument is racist, no one has mentioned it to you because they mistook you for a genuinely thinking, open-minded person — or were afraid of being told off.

    "So be careful about going off half-cocked with charges of racism against your brothers before you’ve studied the biblical points behind the argument. Something I’ve read somewhere about bearing false witness comes to mind." It's not false witness if it's true. Don't think that a veneer of erudition masks the cultural biases behind the argument — and how do you know that I have not studied? Another presupposition.

    In sum, these attacks on rap music are just the same old tired biased prejudices, served up just like overcooked leftovers — only nowadays, the family are not willing to eat them up. Sprinkling a few Bible verses over them won't make them any more tasty or nutritious. Shame on you. Shame on you.

  46. Dear Anthy,

    What's truly tiresome is hollering 'racist!' in the middle of the discussion of the issues. Discuss the issues with me and take me at my word (as one Christian does for another) that I am not a racist.

    You imply you have studied. How, then, in your understanding, does music communicate its various emotional affects? What are the mechanisms from composition to perception?

    You are putting words in my mouth. Did I say the drumming was simple? No, but you said I did. You are presupposing that my criticisms are based on racism and filling in with the words you want to hear me say to support your presupposition. I said the sounds were more limited than classical music and DOMINATED by the backbeat. I stand by this until you show me differently. Show me differently.

    Your entire paragraph demonstrating my "ignorance" is based on words YOU put in my mouth that I didn't say.

    I challenge you to stop reading into my words with your presuppositions about my racism and start reading my words so we can have a coherent conversation.

  47. There are two kinds of people: those that are not racists and racists who won't admit they are racists. So, we can't just take your word for it Tim that you are not a racist. We can read what you write and decide for ourselves. And you have to have your head in the sand not to see that conservative Christianity has not been afflicted by racism. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate to bring racism into this discussion.

  48. Dear Scott (Roberts),

    We're talking about sound, the communication of sound at a bioacoustic level, and its use in the constructs of music for emotional communication. That these are cross-cultural and time-transcendent is demonstrably biblical if you're interested. Additionally, there are numerous scientific studies that bear our these assertions (not that the science is needed if it's biblically true).

    The cry of racism is a red herring in this discussion. Use my comments to prove your point or you are guilty of bearing false witness. You compound this false accusation when you accuse me of failing to see that the conservative Christian church has not been affected by racism. I have not said such a thing, nor have I implied it. Again, use my words to prove your accusation.

    Scott, either you have not read, do not remember, do not understand, or do not believe I Corinthians 13, where the Apostle Paul exhorts believers who are commanded to love one another to also always *trust* one another. If you are a Christian, you are obligated to give my words regarding my beliefs the benefit of the doubt unless or until you demonstrate them to be false. You cannot simply excuse yourself from that command from the Apostle Paul.

    Anthy has accused me of mucky racist thinking because I've said that the sound of syncopation on counts 2 and 4 of every measure is the sound of intercourse. You've been even more vague Scott, saying you can't take me at my word that I'm not a racist, but will only "read what I write and decide for yourself." Please make the connection more apparent for me, since I'm busy with my head in the sand.

    It certainly is chic in some circles these days to disagree with people by crying, 'racist' with no foundation. It's also easy.

    Your view of the division of the world is not the biblical division, nor is it even accurate from a secular perspective. Plenty of people openly admit to racism, making a third category.

    Lots of accusing going on. Not much substantive discussion.

  49. After this comment, I won't be returning to this website. This discussion is going nowhere, and clearly none of you have any intent of admitting that you're wrong or biased. You clearly ignored my argument about the song of Solomon. You're not hearing me, and in all honesty I'm having a hard time hearing you because you are making me angry. I won't continue this conversation because I do not want to say anything to hurt you. I have no problem offending you, the Gospel itself is an offense, but I have no ill will in my heart towards you, and nor do I wish to say anything to hurt you.

    I just have one question: Why? What's the purpose of serving a God who doesn't speak to you? I cannot for the life of me understand why you would. If I didn't believe God spoke, if I didn't hear him speak to me to get saved, I would not be a Christian. I wouldn't want to be. It would be a complete and utter waste of time. Why would you want to waste your life gaining an intellectual knowledge of a being you could never know personally? It would be just that: a waste.

    All in all, I can't believe that there are still people in the world who believe that only Southern Gospel is from God, or classical, or whatever. Either He created music or He didn't. It's either from Him or not.

  50. Ok, one more. What is wrong with sex? You do realize that God created us to have sex, right? His very first commandment was "Be fruitful and multiply." Of course, there are biblical guidelines, but my point still stands.

  51. Dear Clae,

    I'm sorry to have ignored your comment about the Song of Solomon and I'm sorry to have made you angry. It was not my intent. Certainly the Song of Solomon is a book that addresses God's gift of intimacy between a man and a woman. Keep in mind that the context of this discussion is music for gathered, corporate worship. While intimacy between a man and a woman have their biblical place within the confines of marriage, I hope you would agree that it is not appropriate during corporate worship, nor is it appropriate to cultivate that feelings that attend it with music that suggests it.

    I didn't say that God doesn't speak to me. But I believe He speaks in these latter days only through His word. Revelation 22, Hebrews 1, and other passages are typically cited as biblical proof texts by those who, like me, believe that God speaks only through His word. If God is truly speaking through man today, then those who hear His voice should set down these revelations and they should be added to the Scripture. (I do not say this sarcastically.)

    No one has said that only one musical style (Southern Gospel, classical, etc.) is from God. (As a matter of fact, no one is arguing that any musical style is from God.) But there is an argument being made here that music speaks in a more or less concrete manner to the affections and that the emotional message inherent in its sound constructs should be congruent with the text that it carries. This can occur in many different musical styles.

    I hope you would return and visit this website, Clae. Scott has many excellent articles here that help to explain the position.

    Would you care to comment on the scriptural passages cited above that state that God no longer listens to particular songs and stamps out others?

  52. I would. When I speak about songs, I don't necessarily mean music or lyrics, but that the song itself as it was inspired is being sung. Of course, anything that comes out of man is going to be tainted and imperfect, but the original inspiration is from God. The psalmist said to "Sing unto the Lord a new song." I believe that this constitutes new sounds, and new lyrical/poetic expressions about who God is.

    When man sings a song to or about God, it always comes from his limited understanding of who God is. Therefore, the song we write can never be perfectly in tune with the song of Heaven. However, we do the best we can at expressing the creative gifting that God gives us.

    I believe that God is more than scripture. That is, that there is much to be learned about Him in areas outside of scripture. Surely, we weigh these things against scripture, and reject that which is counter-biblical. Still, I think that God can be seen in nearly any form of art not deliberately rejecting Him, and even that isn't always the case.

    To the right eyes, there are clear messages of the Gospel in The Terminator. So why not hip-hop and rap? I don't think that there is even one kind of music that is inherently ungodly. In itself, there is no music that is evil. The Lord spoke to Peter saying "Do not call unclean what I have cleansed." If God is using it to reach people, who am I to say He's wrong? Anything leading people to Christ and not away is alright in my book.

  53. Dear Clae,

    I guess I continue to be perplexed by your use of the word "inspired." The Bible uses this word to describe itself meaning God-breathed, inerrant, and infallible. Is that what you mean by your use of the word?

    Certainly Scripture tells us that the heavens themselves declare God's glory. Paul says that God's invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen since the beginning of creation and that they are made known to us through what has been created. So I agree with you that there we can learn about God from His creation. But that character of God that can only be known through special revelation – such as His mercy, His plan for salvation, how He would be worshiped, etc. – these things are limited to Scripture.

    God's revelation to the Apostle Peter was in regard to meat – that which the Lord has created. Scripture does not tell us that the things created by man are cleansed by God. In fact, Isaiah tells us that even the best of most righteous of all of our works are as filthy rags before God. The craft of making music is like the craft of wood-working or diamond cutting, or sculpture; music has tools and materials and the craftsman works with these to create a work of art that no matter how beautiful or meaningful, is prone to flaws and the effects of sin just like any other man-made creation.

    Our creations – our works of art, poetry, literature, music, etc. – are all tainted with the sin of the Fall. These things then are not inherently clean and require discernment in our use of them (Philippian 1:9-10, 4:8). These works of art are all imbued with meaning – meaning by means of image, words, or sound. That meaning is not neutral, but moral/immoral and that requires discernment. The sound of music has meaning inherent in its sound (apart from any text/lyrics).

    For answers to questions like these, Clae, I only trust Scripture. My interpretation of Scripture (its explicit and implicit commands and examples) may be flawed and most certainly is flawed, but Scripture is the only source for special revelation from God. Many claim to have heard God in extra-biblical revelation since the apostles – the Mormons, Christian Scientists, and others. The historic Christian view is that Scripture is the only means by which God has chosen to give special revelation of Himself to His people.

    I do talk with God – in prayer; and He talks to me – through Scripture. I hope this helps explain my position, Clae.

  54. Wow, this has certainly taken an interesting turn since I last visited. I offer the following presuppositions in an attempt to refocus and create common ground. 1) God is holy. 2) We are not. 3) The world consists of the sacred and the profane. 4) God calls us, through knowledge of His word and the power of His Spirit, to avoid the profane and embrace the sacred. 5) Some things are inherently profane. 6) Music inherently communicates affective ideas/meaning. 7) Those ideas/meanings are either sacred or profane. 7+1)The means of musical communication can be analyzed through an examination of musical elements as they are manipulated by the composer/performer.
    If we can agree on these points, we can return to the purpose of Scott's initial post. If, however, "it's all good" and there is no biblical basis for discerning the difference between the sacred and the profane, there is little benefit in continuing.

  55. Analogies often fail, so I apologize if this one doesn't work. Sex is inherently good. However, in a context outside of marriage, it is sin. Rape is inherently bad. Even in the context of marriage, it is sin. There are identifiable combinations of music elements that are inherently good that, used in the wrong context, become bad. There are identifiable combinations of music elements that are inherently bad that, regardless of the context, remain sin. Scott and Tim S are helping us identify combinations of music elements to avoid. They are basing their arguments on their understanding of music as an acoustic phenomenon and of scripture as the inspired, inerrant Word of God.

  56. I COULD. NOT. figure out what was going on here.
    Is this a joke? Is it satire? Is the author trying to make a point by using the absurd? Is Bill Gothard writing under a pseudonym? Then I saw it…degree from Bob Jones University.

    Click.

  57. I think this discussion illustrates how powerful the emotional facet of the language of music is. When criticism is leveled against music one has grown to love, ad hominem attacks are easily and irrationally substituted for a substantive discussion of the issue. People who might otherwise engage in reasonable discussion on any other topic instead throw barbs having nothing to do with the essence of the topic or the Bible. It's one very important reason why the topic of music divides. The emotional power of music (either from a bioacoustic or an associative level) is such that rational discussion becomes nearly impossible to maintain if "you're criticizing the music I love."

    I think it's interesting that music has this ability to attach itself so closely to a person affections that any criticism of the music is taken by those who love it as personal insult to the extent that they immediately respond with ad hominem attacks on the original critic.

    Debby's sarcasm notwithstanding, I'd hope that she would return and explain what she thinks is so absurd here.

    It's a demonstration of

  58. In the first comment on this article, I said I found the position of the defenders of rap absurd. Scott and Tim are saying that there is a line between that which is pleasing to God and that which is not. They are attempting to explain which side of the line a particular style of music is on by analysing its musical structure and cultural associations and what they communicate. I find their ideas interesting and pretty convincing though admittedly above my pay grade. Their opponents seem to be saying there is no line. It is wrong, arrogant, racist, etc. to make such judgments. But they are in fact making such a judgment. Everything is on the God-pleasing side of the line. Every form of music this degenerating culture produces can be redeemed by adding lyrics that convey scriptural truth. This seems to me absurd and terribly risky. Perhaps it is difficult to objectively define what is pleasing to God and what is not. Doesn't this at least argue for caution? It seems to me that a growing segment of the professing church is throwing caution to the wind and rushing headlong to embrace any and every kind of musical expression the world can come up with and offering it God as worship. That scares me and I want to at least listen to the voices that are saying let's think about this. The voices that are saying do whatever you like arouse my suspicions.

  59. Hi Paul,
    Yes, you have summarized this well. The central question seems to focus on how the holiness of God informs a believer's behavior. Paul (the apostle), talks a lot about denying self. It is this truth that 21st century Western culture struggles with. Tim's observation regarding the hyper-defense mechanism that goes up when someone's taste in music is biblically challenged is instructive, too. Why are we so very reluctant to put aside our own desires in our quest to please the holy God of the universe? Scott and Tim have outlined a biblical argument for why Rap offends God's holiness. If I'm bothered by this argument, I should be bothered because their argument is inconsistent with revealed truth – not because their argument condemns my behavior. (A selfish response in and of itself that only hinders our objective discernment.) If I think Scott and Tim are wrong, I should structure a biblical counter-argument to show where they are wrong. If no biblical counter-argument is offered, their admonition stands. There is no need for hyper-defensive emotion, personal attack, wide-brush condemnation, name throwing, etc. Either there is a biblical counter-argument or they are right. So far, no one has offered that counter-argument. There are examples in scripture of God sanctifying the unholy for holy purposes. (The use of humans as instruments of the Gospel is no small example!) What are the contexts of those examples and how do those contexts/principles impact the question at hand? Can there be sanctification without a “setting apart?” How would one go about “setting apart” Rap? Can Rap be “set apart,” in the biblical (Greek) sense of that term? Does changing the words accomplish this “setting apart?”

  60. I have seen many arguments against Christian Rap/Christian Hip Hop. The more I read these articles, the more I read my Bible and the more I pray. I have come down to one question, How powerful is God? Jeremiah 32:27 says, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” I believe that this whole discussion on whether Christian Rap/Christian Hip Hop can or should be used is really a deeper issue with many people. We all need to ask ourselves the above question. Ultimately it comes down to this can God take something that man means for evil and use it for good?

    My last question would be, have those who are opposed to the form of rap/hip hop read any of the lyrics? Not with music, but lyrics alone?

    The real issue is not with the form of rap/hip hop, your issue is with God's power.

  61. Thanks to all who have participated in this thread, especially those who did so cordially.

    I'm sorry I haven't been involved as I would have liked. I've been swamped lately. :)

    Just one observation here. It is very interesting to me that no one who disagrees with the main argument of this post has engaged the argument itself. We have seen ad hominim attacks, charges of racism, broad generalities; but no serious attempts to engage the argument.

    This seems to be the case most of the time in these discussions, unfortunately.

    Just an observation.

  62. Dear Jeremy,

    Of course God can use something man meant for evil and use it for good. Does the fact that Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery and God used it for good mean that it's therefore ok for us in God's eyes to sell our brothers into slavery? Is that the biblical example you would cite as a model? (Exodus 50:20) According to the apostle Paul, "Shall we sin so that grace may abound? Certainly not!" (Romans 6:1)

    Your question implies a misuse of God's grace that Bible doesn't condone.

  63. Dear Tim,

    No we should not sin so that grace may abound. That was a poor example for me to cite as a "model," I apologize for that. I also meant to ask if anyone had read the lyrics of any of the Christian Rap/Christian Hip Hop mentioned in the interview not secular rap/hip hop.

    Does God judge by appearance or by the heart? 1 Samuel 16:7.
    What defiles a man? Matthew 15:18-19
    What does the Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul, tell us to let proceed from our mouths? Ephesians 4:29

    Man is sinful and what proceeds from his heart is evil. All the things that you have listed for why rap music is inherently evil are things that proceed from the heart. The same things can be said of any form of music. It's the Holy Spirit that changes your heart. So how powerful is God the Holy Spirit? Jeremiah 32:27

    Have you read any of the lyrics by the Christian Rap/Hip Hop artists in Mark Dever's interview or any other Chrisitan Rap/Hip Hop artists for that matter to see what is proceeding from their mouth and most importantly their heart?

    I understand that emotions play an important role in this discussion and it seems that many are believe that only those who agree with Christian Rap/Christian Hip Hop are emotionally attached. But could not those who are opposed to Christian Rap/Christian Hip Hop be opposed because of the emotions invoked by hearing the word rap/hip hop?

    I understand that not everyone likes the form of rap/hip hop, but not everyone likes the form of classical, folk or rock. Nor should anyone be expected to like all forms of music, but should we not all love that God's Word is proclaim and it is proclaimed truthfully? How are we told to worship? John 4:23-24.

    I understand that many will disagree with my analysis. Some might say I am not addressing how rap/hip hop music has promoted violence, anger, and sexual immorality. I agree and one should refrain from such things, but these are not caused by the form of music, but these things come from the heart of man. I think that the analysis of this site attributes the evil in rap/hip hop music to the music itself instead of to man's heart. Many would still say that the roots of the music are what causes it to be evil, but this argument still does not address the heart of man being evil and that being where defilement comes from.

    Notice that in the interview, that both men agree that their music should not replace preaching or reading the Bible. But as an evangelism tool it can and does work. If their music causes someone to read the Scriptures more is that bad? If their music causes someone to seek God is that bad? Read their lyrics and ask yourself, are they proclaiming themselves, rap/hip hop music, or God? Matthew 5:16.

    Do the ends justify the means? No we should not sin so that grace may abound, but sin does not come from our actions, it comes from our heart, which is in opposition to God. Only God can make our hearts new by sending His Holy Spirit to change our hearts.

    I mean no disrespect with the following comments. To me I get the feeling that people here are trying to say that you have to listen or use specific types of music to proclaim God's Word, this seems like it could easily go down the road of legalism/ritualism. Not saying that anyone here believes that, but it just feels that way because it feels that you are disqualifying a form of music on grounds that do not seem to be supported by Scripture.

    I will leave it at that.

  64. Dear Jeremy,

    Thank you for engaging in this discussion at a substantive level and in a civil tone. You're the first who disagrees with Scott's article to do so and you present interesting questions. I have read the lyrics and listened to the interviews. I am not questioning the propositional content of the lyrics or the testimony of the young men in the interviews (see my earlier post on this).

    What Scott is saying in his article (and what I am saying in addition) is that the sound of the music has its own communication (separate and apart from the lyrics) that reaches people on an emotional level. This sound exists with or without the lyrics and communicates with or without the lyrics. You asked if I've read the words these songs – yes, I have. I would ask you if you've listened to the sound of the music without the lyrics? This sound communicates separately from the lyrics. In some cases the sound of the music may be congruent, or fitting with the content of the lyrics. In other cases it is possible for it to be incongruent, or not fitting. This argument – that music has meaning apart from lyrics – has been made from Scripture by several theologians. Scott and I are arguing that the sound of rap/hip-hop has a musical meaning (apart from the lyrics) that is not congruent with the Gospel.

    Music communicates to the part of man known as his affections. It communicates with or without words. If the music has words, then the sound of the music should be congruent with the words.

    Jeremy, would you agree that music without words can communicate to the emotions?

    Tim

  65. Dear Tim,

    I would agree that music without words can communicate to the emotions. But let me ask you this, are you suggesting that all rap/hip hop music without lyrics communicates the same message? Let me ask you this, if a Christian is inspired to create and instrumental rap/hip hop song to honor God and then passes this on to a Christian who composes rap/hip hop lyrics for it that honors God, is the song bad? Does the inspiration not come from my heart where the Holy Spirit resides? Your argument still does not address the heart of man being sinful and that being the reason someone would compose an instrumental song that communicates inappropriate emotions. If my heart is made new by the Holy Spirit can I not compose and instrumental that communicates my emotions about God?

    I will end my posts here with this, there are many Christian Rap/Hip Hop artists who do not use instrumentals (beats) from secular composers (producers) because of what you have described and they encourage other Christian Rap/Hip Hop artists to do the same. To say all rap/hip hop music communicates the same message is a generalization that does not address the heart of man being sinful, and needing the Holy Spirit to renew it. The same argument of music without lyrics can be applied to any other style of music. There are many hymns that are actually sung to old drinking tunes, do we then say that old hymns should not be used? I am going to leave here with this, you respect the lyrics and content of the Christian Rap/Hip Hop from the artists interviewed and maybe other artists that you have looked up. But you do not like/prefer/think that the instrumental of Christian Rap/Hip Hop is good. While I think this is bad, I will not become upset over this because I think that I would be trying to force you to like/endorse/promote something that is not comfortable with you and that goes against Scripture. I think that it is fitting to end with a phrase that is constantly used by Shai Linne, one of the artists interview by Mark Dever, Soli Deo Gloria.

  66. Dear Jeremy,

    Thank you for answering my question above. I promise to address all of your points in your posts, but for the moment would you indulge me in continuing to answer a couple of questions?

    Do you think that music can represent the range of human emotions?

    Are there human emotions that are sinful in the sight of God?

    Thanks, Jeremy for answering these questions. Meanwhile, I will work to address your points.

    Tim

  67. Dear Jeremy,

    I'm not addressing the question of the status of the 'heart' of any composer. I can't do that. Only God can do that. I can't presume to say that a particular composer's heart was or was not in the right relationship with God when he composed a particular song. The status of the heart is not at issue here. I know of some of the most theologically correct, beautiful music in existence where the composer has admitted he was not a believer. I also can cite numerous examples of sincere believers who ascribe to good doctrine but compose junk (both musically and theologically).

    What is at issue is the communication of the sound produced by a given composer. The sound of music is a language that communicates. That's what I'm examining. Sound can be examined, analyzed, and evaluated for its properties. I'm attempting to evaluate the craft and sound of the music and its potential for communicating certain affects.

    I have heard quite a bit of rap. Many of the musical elements in rap are demonstrably the same from song to song. These elements are what give it its distinctive sound and style; without them the music wouldn't be rap. These musical elements prevent the sound from being congruent with any facet of the Gospel. The musical elements of rap are more congruent with emotions of anger, sensuality, rebellion, agitation, and so forth. Of course, particular songs offer variety, but the general direction these stylistic musical elements take the affect is in the direction of the emotions I mentioned above. When the emotion communicated by the musical sounds does not match the propositional content of the text, then the music is not a fitting match for the Gospel. It violates the Apostle Paul's command that all things in worship be fitting (I Cor 14:40). And just like when I violate one of God's commands, it's a bad thing.

    Jeremy, you have put words in my mouth when you say I don't like rap. I haven't said that. I haven't used any language regarding my musical preference or taste in this conversation. I'm talking about objective congruity between the emotions communicated by the musical sounds and the content of the text. There are many musical sounds that are not congruent with the Gospel. Much of the music of Bach, Liszt, Mozart, Chopin, Debussy, Bartok, Joplin, native Americans, Javanese gamelan, African Djembe drumming, traditional Chinese music, and American bluegrass (among many others) is not congruent with the Gospel. This statement does not address the status of the heart of any of the composers of this music, but only addresses the sound that is being produced and its relationship to human emotions and the Gospel.

    If you're interested in the process by which music communicates human emotions, I'd be glad to describe it.

  68. Hi Tim and Jeremy,
    It's so encouraging to see engagement at this level. Thank you for being substantive.
    Tim – Could you list for us what you consider the elements of the Gospel with which you believe music must be congruent? Perhaps a comprehensive list is impossible, and I'm not looking for such. What I'm looking for is a more clear understanding regarding Gospel affections that any music seeking to carry the Gospel should mirror. You've highlighted music by several composers you consider incongruent. What, specifically, is it in the Gospel you consider this music to be incongruent with? Thoughts?

  69. Dear Tom,

    Those are excellent questions. The Gospel is, of course, enormously multi-faceted. Hymn texts might focus on any of dozens (hundreds?) of aspects of the redemption narrative. God's attributes could be a topic. These could range from majesty, power, strength, and nobility to mercy, tenderness, and lovingkindness, to His eternal qualities, to righteousness, judgment, wrath, and on and on. Christ's passion might also be a topic for a hymn text. Affects might include sorrow, fear, terror, surprise, excitement, anguish, conquest, victory, glory, transcendence, and many more. Hymn texts might focus on the glory of God's creation, sinful man's plight before a righteous God, Christ's incarnation, etc. Each of these topics, a legitimate topic for a hymn text, would require a composer to consider the specific aspects that attend the topic and to compose music that would support the emotional tone of the text.

    When I mentioned these composers and styles in the previous post, I wasn't condemning all of their music as incongruent with the Gospel. Most of Bach, for instance, is highly congruent with the Gospel; he composed it to be so. But much of the music of his dance suites would not be congruent with any aspect of the Gospel (that I can think of!). Little of Debussy's music would be congruent with the Gospel or other aspects of the Biblical narrative. His music is highly sensual and much of it melodically fragmented. Little of it would be appropriate for the setting of a hymn text dealing with redemptive issues. Much of the music of Chopin and Liszt is highly sentimental/romantic. These are not appropriate affects for biblical themes that I can think of.

    These are broad generalizations. Ideally, every individual text and music pairing should be examined for its affective congruity (among other things). Consider these few verses of Psalm 45, for instance. What should the overall sound of the music be like that would be fitting with the tone of this text? What instruments should accompany the music used to sing this text?

    My heart is stirred by a noble theme
    as I recite my verses for the king;
    my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.
    You are the most excellent of men
    and your lips have been anointed with grace,
    since God has blessed you forever.
    Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one;
    clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.
    In your majesty ride forth victoriously
    in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness;
    let your right hand display awesome deeds.

    Should the music that carries the words "your lips have been anointed with grace" have a different sound than the music that carries the words "In your majesty ride forth victoriously"? If so, how would a skilled composer do that? Or, does the the fact that he is riding forth "in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness" have a bearing on how the preceding claus should sound? Would dance music be appropriate for the text above? Or would music in the style of a love song an American pop love song from the 1970s? There are a thousand questions a composer must answer when he begins with the text as his rule, and not a musical style.

    The content of the text should be the determining factor in making decisions about the sound.

    My purpose in providing the list of composers/styles in the previous post was to demonstrate that it's not only the sound of rap/hip-hop that contains musical incongruities with the Gospel.

    I hope that answers some questions, Tom. The process is incredibly intricate when done well

  70. Dear Tom,

    Do I think that music can represent the range of human emotions? Yes, if not all of them then quite a lot of them.

    Are there human emotions that are sinful in the sight of God? Yes, but I do think that context can play a role in that sometimes.

    "I have heard quite a bit of rap. Many of the musical elements in rap are demonstrably the same from song to song. These elements are what give it its distinctive sound and style; without them the music wouldn’t be rap. These musical elements prevent the sound from being congruent with any facet of the Gospel. The musical elements of rap are more congruent with emotions of anger, sensuality, rebellion, agitation, and so forth. Of course, particular songs offer variety, but the general direction these stylistic musical elements take the affect is in the direction of the emotions I mentioned above. When the emotion communicated by the musical sounds does not match the propositional content of the text, then the music is not a fitting match for the Gospel."

    To say that rap only communicates the emotions in the text above, taken from one of your earlier posts is opinion. Did you not say that some of Bach's music was not congruent with any facet of the Gospel? But then you did say in your next post, "Most of Bach, for instance, is highly congruent with the Gospel; he composed it to be so." So the composer composed a song to be congruent with the Gospel correct? Is this not possible for a rap/hip hop composer to do the same? Could they not choose sound elements that invoke emotions that are congruent with the Gospel? Is anything to hard for God? (Jeremiah 32:27)

    For you to say that you can not find any facet of the Gospel that is congruent with the Gospel is your opinion. Music without words communicates, correct? Is it possible that rap/hip hop music communicates in a way that you do not understand but others do? Do we still read the Bible in Greek and Latin? To communicate, the sender and receiver must speak the same language or else a translator is needed. Or in the case of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit speaks through certain persons to communicate to unbelievers. So, how powerful is the Holy Spirit? (Jeremiah 32:27)

    If we are to follow the command given to us by Jesus before He ascended into heaven (Matthew 28:18-20), do we not need to be able to speak God's Word in a language that the people we are speaking to understand? Do you speak English to some one who's native language is Spanish? Is rap/hip hop on the same level as English or Spanish? No, but it does communicate to quite a lot of people in today's culture, specifically the younger generation and even some a little older.

    You make an interesting point in an earlier post when you say, "The status of the heart is not at issue here. I know of some of the most theologically correct, beautiful music in existence where the composer has admitted he was not a believer. I also can cite numerous examples of sincere believers who ascribe to good doctrine but compose junk (both musically and theologically)." But let me ask you this, how are we to worship God? (John 4:19-24) How can you say that the heart is not at issue? Neither of the composers were worshiping God, the first composer's heart was not right with God and the second did not proclaim truth as revealed in God's Word.

    Tim, your argument is very complex but steeped in your own analysis. God requires to be worshiped in spirit and truth. If the Holy Spirit moves me to compose a song that is steeped in truth revealed in the Scriptures, how can you say that it is not congruent with any facet of the Gospel?

    Let us look at this argument from a different angle.
    God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Correct?
    So God did not choose someone back in eternity past to who sins would be atoned for by Jesus and then be filled with the Holy Spirit to communicate His Word through the medium of rap/hip hop? How powerful is God? (Jeremiah 32:27)

    Tim, your real issue is not with rap/hip hop music, it is as I said before with God and how powerful He is. You limit God's power and reach by saying that rap/hip hop can not be used for His purpose to glorify Himself.

  71. Hi Jeremy,
    Would the Spirit ever move someone to compose a song that in incongruent with the truths/affects of the Gospel? This is what Tim is saying, I think. Scott and Tim seem to be trying to create an objective, Scripture-based, paradigm whereby manipulations of musical elements can be discerned as either congruent or incongruent with Biblical truth/God's attributes. Regardless of how sure we are that we've been moved by the Spirit, if what results is incongruent with Scripture, there is strong evidence the Spirit was not at work. The Spirit never moves an individual to act contrary to the truth of Scripture. The question is whether or not there is objective truth that affords discernment regarding musical element manipulation (musical composition).

    Hi Tim,
    Thank you for providing some further examples of the affective nature of the Gospel. Would it be appropriate to use Rap in an oratorio where the scene in the oratorio was clearly about rebellion?
    We have a bit of knowledge regarding the music of the OT Jews. Would you agree that the music of the ancient Jews was less affective than what we are used to today? Would you agree that most of the music in the first century church was chant-based and homophonic? What I'm getting at is whether or not music, prior to the unique treatment and development it received in Western culture (beginning in the Renaissance), was suitable as a vehicle to carry the Gospel as you have outlined for us. Must non-Western cultures learn Western music in order to please God with their musical offerings? What do we do with cultures where tonality is not understood as Western culture understands it? Do you consider modal chant (say Dorian or Lydian, for example) an acceptable vehicle for the Gloria?

  72. Forgot to ask this question . . . Tim, you mention Bach dance suites as examples of incongruence. Why? These forms are highly regular, organized, and, it would appear, exactly the kind of congruence you are advocating. What would the OT music have been like that accompanied worship dance and entertainment dance as outlined in the Psalms an elsewhere? While we're on the topic of dance, would you say there are objective criteria for discerning dance gestures as either congruent or incongruent with the Gospel? I would imagine so, since the gestures of music and dance parallel each other so closely. Thoughts?

  73. Dear Jeremy,

    Thanks for answering my questions, and thanks for responding to the content of the discussion.

    First, I'd like to follow up the two questions you answered with another question:

    If music can represent the range of human emotions, and if some human emotions are sinful in the sight of God would it not follow that music that conveys those emotions that God finds sinful would not also be sinful? (Lust, rebellion, anger, for example.) I'm ignoring your comment about context for the moment, since I'm not sure what you mean by that.

    Jeremy, I don't think you're understanding the explanations of musical communication that I'm describing. Maybe that because I'm not being clear about how music communicates. It's not merely my opinion. It's the way the sounds composers choose relate to the human psyche. When a composer chooses loud repetitive impulses of sounds that rapidly ascend in pitch, for example, this is perceived by human beings as belonging to a certain narrow band of the emotional spectrum. It may be possible to confuse certain sounds that are close together along this band of the emotional spectrum, but it's not possible to confuse a sound like I've described with feelings of calmness and restfulness.

    As another example, the rhythmic phenomenon known as syncopation characterizes all of rap/music. In fact, it is present in virtually all of pop/rock. The sound of syncopation evokes emotions along a particular band of the emotional spectrum and can range from surprise to agitation to sensuality, to anger and rebellion (and other affects along these lines) depending on other musical circumstances (tempo, volume, frequency, rate, pitch distance, harmony, etc., etc.). The very definition of syncopation is that the sound must rhythmically contradict or oppose that which is the rhythmic norm in order to achieve these affects. Its musical/emotional meaning is therefore tied to its very essence. Its presence is defined in sound by rhythmic opposition to the norm and without opposition to the norm appearing in its sound, it is not syncopation. Rap not only uses syncopation pervasively, but syncopation dominates the texture of the sound. By that I mean that the volume of the syncopation is nearly always the very loudest aspect of the sound in rap – there is no hiding it or subduing it. If it weren't there, it would not be considered rap. It is a defining element of the style and it brings with it these emotional meanings that are rooted in opposition to the norm. So I hope you see that it's not my opinion, it's a self-defining musical fact that presents itself in affective communication. You repeatedly refer to it as "my argument" or "my opinion" but in reality, it's the way music has been understood for centuries until the past 40-50 years when post-modern philosophies influenced musical criticism and the general population saying that any music can mean anything to anybody. Yes it is very complex, which is why it takes years of study to absorb. But one thing it's not, is "just my opinion."

    You misunderstood my statement about Bach's music. Perhaps I wasn't clear. The music I refer to by Bach that is not congruent with the Gospel is found largely in his dance suites – secular forms that he didn't intend for the church, but as stylized dances. The music that Bach composed to be congruent with the Gospel is music in which he used interval patterns, rhythmic motives, and harmonic sequences that are designed to evoke feelings of lament, joy, majesty, etc. as these feelings manifest themselves in human beings' patterns of motion when they are feeling these emotions. When these sounds are correctly conjoined to biblical texts or themes, as they are when Bach intends them to be, they are perfectly suited to be sung in worship.

    These connections of motion to emotion are easy to observe. When I watch "America's Got Talent" for example, I never see winners sulking off stage with downward body language. When winners names' are announced, they universally jump up, their hands go up in the air, their eyes go up – everything about them is UP.) 300 years ago in Germany, Bach knew about this same human attachment of upward motion to the feeling of joy. Good composers learn to approximate it in sound with crescendos, upwardly moving melodies, upwardly moving harmonic sequences, 'up'-tempos, etc. These upward ideas in music are understood as conveying joy because they match the body's natural motions when we feel joy. And this is just one example. The number of emotions and they ways to convey them are enormous. Rap and hip/hop composers are limited in their emotional spectrum because of the need to set their ideas in this pervasive, dominating sound of syncopation. Syncopation is a stylistic necessity for all of the broad spectrum of pop/rock. Without it, it's not understood as pop. Nobody listens to it; nobody understands it as cool; and most importantly, nobody buys it. It is the syncopation (in the form of immediate gratification of motion) that sells the music. So my answer is, "no," rap/hip-hop composers cannot determine to choose sound elements that are congruent with the Gospel without betraying the style that their customers want. I think your first citation of the Jeremiah quote is misplaced, since God is not the composer of rap/hip-hop.

    I think your paragraph that begins, "For you to say . . . " contains a typo. I'm not sure what you mean in that sentence about finding a facet of the Gospel that is congruent with the Gospel. To answer your question in that paragraph, sure it's possible that rap communicates in a way that I don't understand but others do. I am sinful and full of flaws, prone to mistakes and error. But interpreting music is my vocation. I'm paid to do it. I also tend to accept the witness provided in the text content of the vast majority of rap that supports my interpretation that the sound itself is a signifier of anger, rebellion, sex, and lust. Your language analogy is a nice try but it doesn't hold water. I've taught many students whose language I don't speak and who don't speak English but who understand the emotional content of the passage we're working on together because of the sounds of the melodies, the harmonies, the rhythms, and the volumes. That rap communicates to a lot of people is not at issue. What it communicates is. Have you heard the axiom that music is "the universal language"? The reason for this is that people understand the sounds of music at an emotional level according to the motions that the sounds communicate.

    Jeremy, if you as a true believer decide to compose a song, that song doesn't give me an insight into the status of your heart and your relationship with God. It only gives me an insight into your musical craftsmanship and the kinds of emotions you are attempting to communicate through the sounds you choose. I do agree with Tom that the Spirit doesn't inspire that which is incongruent with His revealed Word. In any case, I cannot judge your heart based on a melody you compose, or the harmonies you select, or the rhythms you choose. One can determine if the text you write is biblical but even that doesn't confirm the sincerity of your belief (James 2:19) or that you are truly trusting in Christ alone for your salvation.

    Of course we are to worship in spirit and truth, no argument here. I did not say that the heart was not an issue in worship, as you imply above. But the heart is not an issue in whether or not a composer can write worship music that believers can use in worship. Unbelievers can write beautiful music with theologically correct lyrics that believers can use for praise in worship. By the same token, believers are capable of writing junky music with poor poetry and bad theology that shouldn't be anywhere near the church. Music is a skill and must be developed (Psalm 33:3, I Chronicles 15:22). By His common grace, the Lord allows Mozart (who by all accounts was not a believer) to compose as beautifully and theologically correctly as Bach (who by all indications was a true believer). But their compositions are most surely not the indicators of whether they were or were not worshiping in spirit and truth. Only the Lord can judge that. So I reiterate that I'm not judging their hearts, nor am I judging their worship. I am only judging the musical product they produce. Would you insist that the craftsmen who make the chairs you sit on during worship be believers? Or would you insist that those who bottled the wine or grape juice you use in the Lord's Supper be believers? By the same token, if a composer writes excellent music for a biblically true text, believers may use this product for worship. If you as a believer composed music that communicated rebellion and set it to biblical texts, I would judge its communication against principles revealed about music in Scripture. Is it set apart (Psalm 29:2, 96:9)? Is it fitting (I Cor. 14:40)? Is it skillfully done (Psalm 33:3, I Chron. 15:22)?

    I have nowhere said that God couldn't use music (of any kind) as a means of grace. It's just that He never promised to do so. Trusting in music as a means of grace is decidedly unbiblical. It elevates music to a status equivalent to that of His Word, preaching, prayer, or the Lord's Supper – elements of worship which He did promise to use as a means of grace. I think it's dangerous to step outside of His word and trust music on issues of eternal significance. I don't believe it's limiting God to stick to trusting the promises in His word. I think rather it's a lack of trust to add elements to his promised means of grace.

    I hope I addressed all your points, Jeremy. Thank you for the dialogue. I think it's very profitable.

  74. Dear Tim,

    I sense from reading your last post a bit of hostility developing. Let me clear the air, I do not mean any disrespect to you and I will make sure to choose my words carefully.

    If I have come off as placing my trust in music as a means of grace, let me apologize for that. That was and is not my intention or belief. I think we might need to ask each other some questions to clarify where we each are coming from, so since I am writing this now and you will not see this until after I post it, I will start. What is your definition of worship? Is music not to be used in/for evangelism?

    I understand the argument in terms of musical composition and I understand the characteristics you described. But are the same emotions triggered in me that are in triggered in you when we listen to Bach and Mozart?

    This is an opinion, I disagree with the assessment of rap/hip hop only invoking emotions along the spectrum "…surprise to agitation to sensuality, to anger and rebellion (and other affects along these lines)" and I understand that I am going against the norm. There is rap/hip hop on the secular as well as the Christian side that invokes emotions outside of this spectrum. The rap/hip hop to me that it seems like you are describing is "gangster" rap/hip hop. They are distinct sounds within rap/hip hop and maybe you have or have not experienced them. When you compare secular rap/hip hop to Christian rap/hip hop there sounds are different. And maybe I am rebelling against this argument because I listen to too much rap/hip hop, who knows.

    God is not the composer of rap/hip hop music, but According to John 1:3, "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." And Colossians 1:16, "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him." How do you interpret these passages of Scripture? But are you saying God is the composer of classical music, such as Bach or Mozart? I think that my reference to Jeremiah 32:27 is valid if everything was created by Him and for Him. Is God not powerful enough to use what He has created to glorify Himself?

    Rap/Hip Hop music invokes emotions of rebellion, okay. Well, there is an artist who Shai Linne mentioned, Lecrae, who has an album entitled Rebel. He encourages His listeners to "rebel" against the culture of today. Anger could be used to demonstrate God's feeling towards sin. Agitation could be used to demonstrate God's frustration with sinners. Surprise could be used to demonstrate how Christ will return, "…as a thief in the night…" 2 Peter 3:10.

    We both agree that music without words communicates and you will admit that it is possible that rap/hip hop communicates something you do not understand. Is it possible that the music of Bach and Mozart communicate a message that is not understood by some of the people today? Maybe a different style is needed for different people, do you agree?

    The requirement to worship God is set by Jesus Himself in John 4:19-24. We are to worship in spirit and truth. This can not be refuted. You have admitted that it is possible that you might not understand what is being communicated in rap/hip hop and I admit that I might not understand what is being communicated by Bach and Mozart. The same piece of music can invoke two different emotions in two people, but I have to admit that they are trends. I understand your vocation is to study music, but are you willing to put what your vocation tells you above that of what God tells you? Can you point to a Scripture that tells us that a specific style of music inherently incongruent with God's message or are you placing that requirement on music yourself? Our ways are not His ways, correct?

    Of the verses you cite for music only the last two deal with music in context of scripture. Psalm 29:2 and Psalm 96:9 mention nothing of music, but to worship the LORD because He is holy (set apart). 1 Corinthians 14:40 deals with order during worship in the Church not music. So do we only worship God while at Church? I would gather from the context of the verse from 1 Corinthians that worship involves more than just music, do you agree? The last two passages due address that the composers were skillful, so are you saying rap/hip hop music is not skillful?

    Tim we have established that God judges by the heart. God tells us to worship in spirit and truth. There are no verses in scripture which define the style of music to worship God. The studying of music you have done, is from man's point of view, not God's point of view. I agree with you, the text of your song along does not determine the sincerity of your belief, but we are talking about worship. And Jesus said we must worship in spirit and truth and only God knows the heart, so only God knows when we or anyone else truly worships. So how can you say that a certain type of music can not be used to worship God, when you can only evaluate half of the requirement? You can make an educated guess based off James 2:26.

    For you to say rap/ hip hop can not be used to worship God is unbiblical because you can not determine a man's heart, only God can. I do believe that rap/ hip hop has restrictions inherent in the way it communicates its message; I do not think it would lend itself well to a congregation using it. But that does not mean that a person can not recite the words of a christian rap/hip hop song or write words to a christian rap/hip hop song and it be worship.

    Tim and Tom, this will have to be my last post. I feel that this issue is detracting from our main task, going out into all nations and making disciples and teaching them to obeys the commands Jesus gave us. I will say that you have good arguments Tim, but they seem to flow from your vocation more than from your biblical view. Should it not be the other way around? That last statement and question our my observation, and do not necessarily mean that is the case. I pray God will continue to work in your lives and draw you closer unto Himself. I have enjoyed the dialogue.

  75. Dear Tom,

    Thought-provoking questions! All of my comments have been in the context of music for gathered corporate worship. The apostle Paul's exhortation to think on that which is lovely, noble, pure, excellent, praiseworthy, etc., (Phil 4:8) would seem to have a bearing on our personal choices for reading, music listening, movies, and all our activities. To that end, rap is not the best example of musical craftsmanship. But I wouldn't be here arguing vigorously for individual preferences what music to listen to in the concert hall or on the stereo.

    There's obviously no notated music from the first century church as notation didn't begin to develop until the 9th century. Descriptions are sketchy at best. There is one volume by Suzanne Haik Vantoura that has interesting speculation on the sound of the Jewish music of the time, but still, nothing certain. It's probable that much of the instrumental music of the time was monophonic (one note at a time or no harmony). But melody alone is certainly capable of carrying great emotional affect. When the Bible is specific in its mentions of music it almost always alludes to (or specifically mentions) melody alone. (There is one exception to this in 2 Chron 5:13 where the description of the sound might imply a richer texture than just monophony, but not necessarily). Certainly when the music was under the Lord's specific direction it was suitable (see all of I and II Chronicles and I and II Kings). I'm sure the hymn that Jesus sang on the night before his crucifixion was suitable, even if it was only melody! In other words, music doesn't have to have complex harmonies and developed rhythmic motives to have beautiful affects. Much of the 9th century chant is beautiful and highly appropriate to the text it carries from a bioacoustic perspective. But music has continued to develop across the centuries. Polyphony (harmony) was developed in the church, for the church, by the church. The history of western music is inseparable from the history of the church. Ancient modes are absolutely useable by the church (and is even today!). In fact, this morning in church we sang "Wondrous Love" a melody in Dorian mode.

    Often (not always), in cultures where tonality is not understood as Western culture understands it, music exists in the form of extended drones or repetitive rhythm patterns for the purposes of chant and meditation. (In fact, much of rap resembles this.) This music has its purpose in a culture where Christ is not, often as a means to induce trance and altered states of being (extended repetition being the primary musical device). When Christ enters the life of an individual, He changes that person. If that person is an author, one would expect his writing to change. If a musician, Christ's change in the person's life would necessarily impact all aspects of his being, including his composition. Not right away necessarily, but ultimately and eventually. (Frances Schaeffer has much to say about this in "How Should We Then Live." Scott has an excellent article elsewhere on this website about this topic.) Consider the change in the works of Michelangelo after his conversion. In fact, one of the reasons music developed the way it has in Western culture is that Western culture is where Christ has been the longest and has therefore had the most influence on culture. As the Gospel now makes big inroads into Asia (Korea first, China, Taiwan, Japan, Malasia) what impact can we expect to see from that region's artists, authors, playwrites, and musicians? Hopefully, a Christ-centered China will produce different kinds of art, literature, and music than a Confucius-centered China. I don't apologize for this view, though it might be viewed as imperialistic by some. According to Scripture, Christ-wrought imperialism is on its way inevitably. To become more Christ-like then, before His coming and as informed by His Word, is a privilege. I don't have a lot of knowledge about dance, either ancient or modern and so can't speak about that with any certainty.

  76. Dear Jeremy,

    Let me begin by stating emphatically that there's no hostility at all! I apologize if I gave that impression. Sometimes I'm just blunt, but not hostile! So forgive my bluntness. Let me also thank you for your tone and honesty in discussing this matter. I've not taken anything you've said to be disrespectful. I think you bring up very good points.

    The worship I am speaking of is corporate worship. Corporate worship is the gathering of God's elect as a body to offer praise (both sung and spoken), thanksgiving, confession of sin, prayer, to hear His word read and preached, and to bring tithes and offerings. Though the Lord may use worship evangelistically, it is designed by God for His people to praise Him for what He has done for them through Christ, and not as evangelism (I Cor 14:24). I believe the purpose of evangelism is worship, not that the purpose of worship is evangelism. Music is a commanded element of worship to be used by God's people as they offer their praise and prayers to God; singing is directed to God and is for God. Here's a brief list of biblical reasons why God wants us to sing. I didn't include citations for reasons of length, but the following are all from Scripture.

    Because he is highly exalted. To tell of his wonderful acts. To proclaim his salvation day after day. Because of the joy we have in his refuge. Because he has been good to me. To exalt him and praise his might. Because he is our King and Lord. Because he is our fortress and our refuge we sing of his strength and love.
    Because he is King of all the earth. Because he is our help. To sing the glory of his name and make his praise glorious. To make his faithfulness known through all generations. Because he makes us glad by his deeds, I sing for joy at the works of his hands. Because he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. Because all of his commands are righteous. Because the glory of the Lord is great. To celebrate his abundant goodness and joyfully sing of his righteousness. We are to sing to the Lord all our lives; as long as we live. Out of thanksgiving. To let it be known to all the world that he has done glorious things. Because he saves me. Because he has redeemed Jacob and displays his glory in Israel. Because he rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked. To give us a spirit of unity among ourselves as we follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth we may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. To let the word of Christ dwell in us richly with gratitude in our hearts. To declare his name in the presence of the congregation.

    A by-product of this is that believers will be edified. The purpose of singing during worship is not as evangelism or to entertain. Nowhere in Scripture does the Lord say that we should use music to evangelize. That doesn't mean that He won't/can't use it, but again, He doesn't promise it, command it, or model it in Scripture.

    "But are the same emotions triggered in me that are in triggered in you when we listen to Bach and Mozart?" Naturally, not everyone will have the same emotional response to a piece by Bach or Mozart. But if you've followed my reasoning in previous posts, you will see that the reasons for this can be many. The most common reason is that listeners are capable of bringing their own biases to a listening experience, resulting in associative emotional responses. These are not responses triggered by the sound cues from the composer/performer (as described previously in the bioacoustic model), but rather individual responses brought to the listening experience by the listener. I am arguing that this highly individualistic associative model cannot be the model by which we choose music for worship since it is dependent on the individual rather than the music itself. Though individuals may have radically different reactions to any given music because of these associative models of communication, the church must choose music for worship that is based not on this chaotic, individualistic model. Rather, it must choose music based on the objective and natural sound characteristics of the music itself. I have also previously argued that if you're unable to hear the natural musical cues in the sound of music – those that suggest the motion that links to our emotions – then you may well be desensitized to the sounds because of your regular musical diet. In your honesty above, you admit as much, saying, "And maybe I am rebelling against this argument because I listen to too much rap/hip hop, who knows." It's a bit like eating hot sauce on all your food for years and then being unable to taste the natural flavor of a food when it doesn't have hot sauce (which for the purpose of this analogy is the backbeat found in all pop/rock music). The sound constructs of rap are very uniform. That's what makes it recognizable as rap. It's very difficult for those who listen to such a steady diet of a music like rap, with such uniform and immediately accessible sound constructs, to disengage from their diet to hear music that emphasizes other elements of the sound, such as melody or harmony. There is a desensitization process that occurs when drums accenting beats 2 and 4 are the primary sound in all or most of the music you listen to. I believe the sound of the music should be composed by skilled composers to communicate the affects of the texts. The affect of the text should therefore determine the sound constructs/style of the music. When these texts contain Gospel truths, and the composer has done his job well in correlating the music to the affect of the text, the human heart is taught well how to feel about the propositional content of the text. (Remember that Joshua and Moses first heard the *sound* of idolatry before they saw the idolatrous behavior. Ex. 32:17-18)

    Before writing this, I listened another time to Shai Linne's "The Greatest Story Ever Told." I first listened to it in another room, where, although I could hear all the sounds, the words were not distinguishable. I'm sorry, Jeremy, but the sound characteristics of this music are as I said: the syncopation of the backbeat is dominant and driving the affect, Shai Linne's voice is hypnotically and repetitively monotone and loud, and toward the end his voice gets even louder, suggesting increasing anger in the context of the backbeat and the monotone. His voice sounds like the voice of someone yelling at someone else in anger. When I listen more specifically to the content of the words, I am struck even more by the incongruity of the text with the sound. The sound of his voice suggests that he is angry with someone and yelling at them. Additionally, the inflections he uses for the text are not natural; they do damage to the intelligibility of the words, making comprehension much more difficult (by this I mean he mis-emphasizes many words for the sake of perpetuating the syncopation – a stylistic concern of the music that trumps his concern for relaying the text). In texted music that is well-written, the text will be the driving force of the sound, causing composers to choose rhythms, pitches, and dynamics that support, rather than contradict the natural spoken quality of the words. The style of the sound of rap takes precedence over the concern for the listener's understanding of the text.

    I am in no way saying that God is the composer of classical music. God is not the composer of any music that we listen to. Of course, I believe the Scripture that says that all things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made. My understanding of this is that God created the raw physical elements that we use for music: frequency, amplitude, timbre, and duration. But man uses these things to create the organized sound we call music. God no more creates an aria by Bach than He does a rap song by Shai Linne. He has given both men the same raw elements to work with, but they create differently according to their gifts and skill levels. The same is true of authors, poets, painters, sculptors, etc. God creates the clay that man uses to form his statue, but God doesn't sculpt the statue.

    The Scriptures give many instructions for worship and there are hundreds of passages that specifically discuss music (more than 600). No, there is no passage prohibiting specific musical styles. But there are many, many passages among those that discuss worship and music that point to principles by which we should measure what we bring before the Lord in our gathered worship. You quickly dismiss passages regarding worship that don't specifically mention music, but that have strong bearing on the music we use in worship. Psalm 29:2 and 96:9 command us to worship the Lord not *because* he is holy (though that's certainly appropriate from other passages, but not the essence of these passages), but to worship the Lord *in* the splendor (beauty) of holiness. Shall worshiping the Lord in holiness include pursuing the inclusion of music from the most debased aspect of a culture? Does that cause you to even ponder the goal of appropriating rap music for use in corporate worship? Translations of I Cor 14:40 include doing everything in worship in a fitting way, an appropriate way, and in good form. Does everything in worship include music? Does music fit into Paul's exhortation to do everything in worship in a fitting or appropriate way? Or is music exempt from the word 'everything?' The musicians described in Scripture studied for years (no one was permitted to lead in worship who was under 30 years of age) under close supervision to develop the skills required before being allowed to lead in music in worship. I Chronicles provides an extended description of the musicians, their training, and their tasks.

    I believe our main purpose, Jeremy, is worship. Those evangelized are being evangelized *to worship.* How we worship is prescribed by God and therefore not a detraction. It's very worth considering what the Lord has to say on these issues.

  77. Here's a brief example of an associative response to music in Chuck Colson's message from November 24.
    http://www.breakpoint.org/commentaries/13594-god-

    He describes his associative response to a familiar Christmas tune that has nothing to do with the sound constructs inherent in the music itself. Rather, this particular association is based on a word from the carol and his memory of a small boy.

    Associative responses to music can be as varied as individuals. But because they are based on an individual's own associations with the music, they cannot be the basis on which we choose music for worship. Rather, we should examine the sound constructs of the music itself to determine its inherent affective content. Appropriating music with sound constructs that communicate anything and everything and attaching gospel lyrics is not the solution.

  78. Hi Everyone, Glad the site is back up.

    Tim, Thank you for responding to the question regarding Western music development and how one would judge non-Western tonality.

    You make a very important statement when you say "A by-product of this is that believers will be edified. The purpose of singing during worship is not as evangelism or to entertain. Nowhere in Scripture does the Lord say that we should use music to evangelize. That doesn’t mean that He won’t/can’t use it, but again, He doesn’t promise it, command it, or model it in Scripture" in your November 23 post to Jeremy. We must all remember that the context of this discussion is the appropriate use of music in worship services attended by believers. Maybe we have hijacked what God intended as believer's worship and turned it into outreach for unbelievers. Does it really come down to purpose? If one distinguishes between appropriate music for worshiping believers and appropriate music for evangelizing unbelievers, is there really a difference between the two? If so, what are the rationale for such a difference and, more importantly, what are the biblical guidelines for the appropriateness of each? Doesn't it all come down to mirroring the character, worth, and work of God, for BOTH purposes? Now we are back to the initial question, "Can Rap Mirror God?"

  79. Pardon me, but rap music was created in the west, in America. It is part and parcel of the American experience, and therefore western culture.

    Allow me to also say that rap music's early beginnings was relatively benign in a sense. Its subject matter was indistinguishable from other forms of secular music i.e. partying and romance. However, unlike jazz, country, bluegrass, and rock music (all of which had similar origins) rap music went on its downward spiral because "respectable people" wanted nothing to do with it because it was so associated with the black underclass. As a matter of fact, the biggest criticism of rap music originally came from the black middle and upper classes, who felt that the music and culture threatened their attempts to integrate with a still largely hostile white American mainstream (yes, we are talking about a time when not a few churches did not even allow blacks to join). So, where mainstream and corporate America "tamed" other forms of secular music, rap music was dominated by people on the margins of society: criminals and political radicals. Had mainstream America and/or the black upper class not taken a hostile position towards rap music in its more benign days, the "gangsta" genre would have never flourished, as the "gangsta" element in rap music came along rather late, after the medium had been popular for nearly ten years, and when it did, even most rap music fans hated it for ethical and aesthetic reasons. (Ironically, gangsta rap won out over its critics only because it significantly increased the number of rap fans. Before "gangsta" rap, the number of rap fans were small, and there were few major hit albums by mainstream standards. It was gangsta rap that created the big sellers of the genre, and attracted fans in waves that vastly outnumbered fans of the original less evil rap music.)

    So, rap music is nothing more than what many forms of secular music and entertainment would have developed into had they not been tamed by corporate America for the purposes of mass marketing to mainstream middle class consumers. In this respect, it is what other forms of music might have been. (For example, where country music is now considered "all American music" by "traditional values conservatives", including Christians, the truth is that it was once the "rap music" of underclass whites, and dealt heavily with alcohol, sexual immorality, violence, anger, rage, crime, frustration etc.)

    In that context, singling out rap music when other genres are merely sanitized (and again, by corporate America for financial reasons) versions of the same is myopic and unfair. To be consistent historically, culturally and spiritually, you would have to reject all music save traditional forms that originated in the church.

    Except … even that is problematic. Though Jamaican forms were very influential in its development, rap music nonetheless the descendant of disco. Disco is the descendant of R&B music. R&B music is the descendant of soul music. And soul music has long been acknowledged to have been black gospel music with secular lyrics. (Incidentally, rock and roll music underwent a similar progression. Only jazz has always been secular.)

    Before you take the convenient escape "but that is black culture, which is not truly western per se, but more the product of blacks who were never truly part of western culture due to slavery and Jim Crow." Not only is that a shockingly liberal statement, a justification for affirmative action if there ever was one, the easy way out still often obscures the truth.

    The reason is that even many "traditional western" forms of Christian music either had pagan origins, or were developed by the pagan Roman Catholic cult. Christianity was born in the near east, not the west. It merely spread from the ancient near eastern culture to the west, first the Roman Empire and then to the tribal areas (Angles, Saxons, Celts, Franks, Danes, Vikings, Germanic tribes, etc.) Of course, the Roman Empire was pagan, and the tribal European areas even more so (or perhaps not so much pagan as animist, as tribes generally are). Now by this time, anything pertaining to the original culture of Christianity – which was Jewish and therefore Oriental – had been long cast off. Instead, the Roman Empire Christians simply added the new faith to their pre-existing pagan culture, and the European tribal Christians did the same.

    So, what happened was that the pagan Greco-Roman culture and the animist tribal European cultures were "Christianized." Prior to Constantine, it can only be said that Christianity itself had been "Hellenized" because of the purging of Jewish influences. But after Constantine, it must be said that European pagan and animist culture was "Christianized" because that was the way of "Christendom", which was the conscious mixing of not only church and state, but church and culture, with any concept of separation between the church and the world gone. Anything that went on in a "Christian nation" was thus deemed "Christian", and a nation (or tribe) was considered "Christian" upon either its conquest or the "conversion" of its rulers (who often "converted" in the face of inevitable conquest). But the idea that the Roman Catholic Church went about the business of reforming the culture in these pagan and tribal areas is folly. Instead, the Roman Catholic Church simply conformed itself to the existing cultural, political, economic, and yes religious ideas, and only added to it churches and priests. An example: rather than doing anything to transform it, the Catholic Church was one of the most powerful institutions that kept the dreadfully oppressive feudal system in place, and not only that but the Catholic Church benefited from the evils of feudalism greatly.

    So, claiming that traditional western worship is the product of God's special grace is historically untenable, because it presumes that the theology of Eusebius – that it was God's will to merge Christianity with pagan/animist state and culture – was correct. If that is the position, then it must be asserted as a matter of theology that God for some reason prefers European paganism and animism to African, Middle Eastern and Asian versions of the same. Even better, since – again – black Americans are westerners and rap music was created in and by western culture and is as much a part of it as Mozart symphonies and baroque piano, then it asserts that God prefers white western culture to black western culture.

    Specifically, it asserts that God prefers the affluent, well educated white westerners who created and sponsored classical music and art (i.e. "Christian" landed nobles who paid large sums to support and commission composers and sculptors while the serfs and proles around them were starving to death!) to the poor, black inner city denizens whose culture developed in isolated neglect due to slavery, segregation, Jim Crow and the Great Society. Of course, one does not need to be a liberation theologist to realize that such is an inversion of the words of Jesus Christ in Luke 6:20, which is "Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God."

    Please consider this before you consider comparing ChurchSalt's use of Christian rap music in evangelism to "nudity, gambling, drinking." At the very least, be consistent and apply the same standard to traditional and high church worship components that can be directly traced to the paganism of the Roman Empire or the animism of the European tribes. Thank you.

  80. It is so interesting to me how folks can work themselves up into claiming that someone has said something that hasn't been said. Job says, ". . . claiming that traditional western worship is the product of God’s special grace is historically untenable. . . ." But I don't think that he can point to a single instance where someone has claimed that western worship is the product of God's special grace on this page.

    Job, while the history you have provided is interesting, rap's history and cultural roots are not at the crux of this argument. What is at the core of the argument is the bioacoustic meaning of its sound (apart from any and all lyrics). No one is suggesting that rap be eliminated from worship because it comes from such and such a cultural background. What Scott said in his article was, ". . . the unavoidable conclusion is that rap music, because of what it inherently communicates, is incompatible with the Christian Gospel. It expresses sentiments that contradict the very message that we love."

    "Because of what it inherently communicates." This phrase refers to the sound of rap apart from lyrics. It is the sound of rap that is incongruent with the affects of the Gospel.

  81. i wonder though, a symbol, such as the cross, created and devised by evil men to inflict as much suffering as possible for a prolonged period in the execution of criminals in order to ridicule, shame, and deprive the criminal of any dignity was redeemed by the grace of God.

    everything the cross communicated before the resurrection was ugly, dirty, and inherently evil. i'm not saying for sure that God has done the same with rap music, but do you think He *could* redeem rap music for His glory?

  82. Dear Jonathan,

    I wouldn't presume to place limitations on our Creator. Of course He *could* redeem rap. I don't see any evidence that He has done so, though. Those who might claim that He has are more likely being persuaded by their own associative responses to the sound.

  83. Tim S wrote: "Of course He *could* redeem rap. I don’t see any evidence that He has done so, though."

    Tim S, what evidence would you need to see?

  84. Dear Debby,

    I hope you won't mind if I answer your question with a question: Does a Bible verse printed on a pornographic image redeem that image? Would this be acceptable as a witnessing tract? Or is this an offensive proposition?

    Inherent in the sound of rap is the sound of anger, rebellion, sensuality, and sexuality – not because of its association with these things but because of the properties of its sound and the movements the sounds naturally communicate.

    If you accept for a moment that my premise is true about the sound, does attaching Christian lyrics to this sound redeem it?

    I hope I've made clear the connection in the analogy.

  85. Actually, no. My question still stands..sincerely asked but unanswered. If you haven't seen evidence that God has redeemed rap, but you believe He "could" redeem rap, what would be the evidence of that redemption?

  86. Jonathan,

    First, we need to make sure that we are not making a category error. A cross is a neutral thing. Its use by humans (too execute a murderer or to murder the Christ) makes it moral or immoral.

    Music as an abstract idea is neutral. But once a person composes a song, music has entered the category of use by humans, and therefore becomes moral or immoral.

    With that in mind, it may be correct to make a parallel between killing the Christ and the human communication medium called rap. Both are immoral.

    Did God use the immoral act of killing the Christ to accomplish good? Absolutely. Yet those who accomplished the act were still culpable of great sin, were they not?

    Could God use the immoral communication expressions of rap to accomplish good? Absolutely. Yet this does not justify the creation of the medium any more than that murders of our Lord are justified in their act.

  87. Hi Tim, Scott (further below),

    1) Tim: "Those who might claim that He has are more likely being persuaded by their own associative responses to the sound."

    I have a sneaking suspicion that the feeling from promoters of christian rap music is mutual =)

    2) Tim: "Does a Bible verse printed on a pornographic image redeem that image?"

    Does an image of a naked body itself represent immorality and sin? Or is it the context that it is placed in and thus framed by give rise to its unacceptability? Or is it the depravity of the viewer?"

    3) Scott: "With that in mind, it may be correct to make a parallel between killing the Christ and the human communication medium called rap. Both are immoral."

    My parallel was with regards to the creation, and thus imparted (and inherent) nature of the neutral object. The cross in its *form* and creation was evil and I would consider notes, beats, and timbre to be the amoral building blocks of rap (and all other) music, much as wood, rope, and nails the amoral building blocks of the cross.

    Rap (form) & the cross (form) both in their inception and use were immoral. Even then, I would hesitate to say that the beat itself, though primarily carnal (which I do not disagree with), cannot be framed by a given context to advance the cause of the gospel

    4) Scott: "Did God use the immoral act of killing the Christ to accomplish good? Absolutely. Yet those who accomplished the act were still culpable of great sin, were they not?"

    Yet killing in the name of God was an act of obedience in the OT. The act in itself was/is not immoral. Even then, surely arguing that a neutral idea/object once acted upon by humans becomes moral/immoral then subjects itself to the contingent factors of intention, context, and consequent interpretation by the target or external viewers, and therefore in and of itself is amoral.

  88. Personally, I do agree that any music should be properly evaluated for contextual appropriateness. However, your final arguments against rap music really did not do justice to all your previous arguments. Despite what you claim:

    “Because of what it (rap music) inherently communicates.” This phrase refers to the sound of rap apart from lyrics. It is the sound of rap that is incongruent with the affects of the Gospel."

    Using words like "feel" and contrasting "rage" versus "assertiveness", brought all the arguments back to the fact that it is the *observer* that ascribes meaning to the music. whether it is the scientist, or the subjects of the experiment/observation, THEIR own interpretation was crucial to the immorality of the music.

    You've reduced your whole argument to relativism: "I think it's aggressiveness, not assertiveness"; "what you naturally *assume* they were communicating? Once again, rage, self-assertion, rebellion, and aggression.." And an argument based on the relative interpretation of the relative interpretation of rap music listeners by Timothy Shafer.

    What I'm saying is, if you're saying that rap music *inherently* communicates immoral emotions, then you can't say that it is due to the effects it has on people, or how people view it.

  89. Sound is a signifier of what is. The sound of a car wreck provides a certain level of description of what has happened. The sound of water running signifies what is transpiring and gives indications regarding some of the other characteristics of what is transpiring – how much water is flowing, how fast it's flowing, etc. Sound does this using acoustical properties: frequency, duration, amplitude and timbre. We can tell much about the physical properties of two objects colliding by the timbre of the sound, for example. People may draw different conclusions about the properties of two colliding objects based on the resulting sound, but in the end, one is right (or more right) and one is wrong (or more wrong).

    The organized sound of music presents the hearer with an impression of motion. Human beings are able to perceive the motion conveyed by the sound (again frequency, duration, amplitude, and timbre) to varying degrees of accuracy. (And to be fair, these sounds have some variability in their ability to precisely convey motions.) This conveyance of motion by sound is, in turn, linked to the motions that manifest themselves when humans experience certain emotions. This is a rough description of the sequence of events that transpires for music to communicate emotion.

    It's no accident that the lyrics of rap from culture (which verbally express rage, rebellion, violence, and sex) are assigned to the sounds used in rap. The words and the inherent qualities of these sounds are highly congruent. But when Christians appropriate these sounds for use with texts about the Gospel, then claim that the sound supports the text, it's analogous to hearing the sounds of a car crash and claiming that the event is that of a babbling brook.

    Jonathan, contrary to your assertion, this is a much more objective means of communication than you admit. Your model (associative) of musical communication is the relativistic one.

    Debby, to answer your question is to predict how God might suspend the laws of (at least) the physics of sounds, human emotion, and human perception. I would speculate that at least these things would have to be suspended for a time to provide evidence that God has changed the way sound communicates. The sound of a car crash doesn't depend on the listener's accurate understanding of it for it to be the sound of a car crash.

  90. Hi Tim, I disagree, but at least we know where we disagree.

    For simplicity's sake, communication has 4 parts: Sender, Message, Medium, Receiver. These 4 parts are always surrounded by context. IMHO, there is no "inherent" communication that is not subject to relative interpretations due to context (culture, interpretation etc)

    Most proponents of rap music will see it as a medium, and thus amoral. You argue that it is not just a medium, but that it is actually communication in itself. Either that or because of the context of the medium (rap), it inherently communicates something.

    1) Do you think that mediums of communication are amoral (apart from context)?
    2) If rap music is in fact *not* a medium, and is in of itself communication, then doesn't that lend itself to be subject to subjectivity?

    I guess I am more of a critical realist: there ARE absolutes in the universe (my theology demands it), but all interpretation by humans are relative, but we can do so with enough accuracy to approach absolute knowledge – e.g. we see a chair, touch a chair, and we can conclude that it definitely is a chair. However, that means that there is still room for subjective interpretation.

    For example, if we were to watch a silent movie of the marketplace in a house of worship, and suddenly someone comes in and overturns tables, and shouts at the vendors, makes a fuss, surely we'd conclude that the person was a lunatic, and was expressing rage. But we all know Jesus was expressing divine anger.

    Furthermore, Tim said, "It’s no accident that the lyrics of rap from culture (which verbally express rage, rebellion, violence, and sex) are assigned to the sounds used in rap."

    You are then assuming that the aggressiveness/rebellion/violence/sex are the deepest motivators for the actions and sounds coming from a rap artist. And not anguish, frustration, rejection, and/or a desire for oppression to cease, which *then* expresses itself in aggressiveness/rebellion/violence/sex.

    The creation and motivation for those therefore would be congruous with the gospel.

  91. Jonathan,

    You've stated correctly that I am arguing that music/sound has communication that is inherent in its sound constructs. I think you'll find that to be a main point of Scott's entire website. Scott has many excellent articles to this effect. I would encourage you to read them.

    On the other hand, you describe a mode of communication that gives far more authority to the recipient for the determination of the propositional content of the message of the sender. A bow in this direction quickly results in relativism and tends toward ignoring the fact that the recipient may well be a faulty interpreter of the message. Your theology may be demanding absolutes, but your epistemology leans heavily in the direction of relativism.

    I'm not as interested in the motivation of the "artist" as I am the communication they express. I am not in a position to be judging hearts and motivations, only words and actions. Your argument about rap being congruent with the Gospel because of a presumed motivation of anguish and frustration is a faulty one. If I murder someone because I am frustrated and have been rejected, am I therefore justified? Your argument seems to imply that sinful action is to be excused because of justifiable motivation. I can't buy into to your apparent line of reasoning for any of your arguments.

  92. Tim,

    Yes, I would consider critical realism a subset of postmodern relativistic thought. In that sense, I believe all epistemology is necessarily relative – if not through your own perceptions, then through your perceptions of other's perceptions do you form your view of truth, as absolute as truth is.

    In that case, I am happy to disagree, because I also cannot reconcile my thoughts to believing that any action/communication in and of itself can be inherently moral/immoral when separated from a given context.

    Perhaps either of us will be convinced otherwise in time. I pray that only the truth may prevail. Meanwhile, I will check out some of Scott's articles =)

  93. Hi Tim,

    I think its unfair to reduce the argument to that statement, since we disagree on whether music can be sinful in and of itself, apart from its motivations. In fact, the statement itself is in question, since is it highly questionable that actions themselves cannot be considered sinful in and of themselves, removed from their motivation/execution/reception.

    Furthermore, you would imply that playing a wrong note during a church service is in and of itself is a sinful action, since motivations have nothing to do with whether an act is sinful or not. I don't know if God intended for us to play wrong notes, but I don't imagine accidental (pun not intended) minor second intervals being in most people's definition of perfect music.

    For example, you brought up the example of murder, which already implies killing *with intent*. More generally, culpable homicide implies killing with an intent to kill, or to cause bodily harm in the knowledge that it can kill = SIN.

    Then, killing in the form of manslaughter is without the intent to kill, but there is intent to commit harm, or other injurious acts, or through sheer negligence = SIN.

    The only legal justification for killing is self-defence, where a person is legally "allowed" to kill if the act of killing prevents a certain serious injury/death. Even then, there is imperfect self-defence, where the act of killing is not proportionate to the harm it would have prevented. But there still exists a defense for killing – self-defence = SIN?

    That's not even considering the (truly) un/nonviable foetuses which are "murdered" by doctors all over the world because they are malformed and will not survive live birth (not typical abortion).

    Even then, I think God clearly demonstrates His willingness to redeem murder (Israelites killing the Philistines), lying (midwives lying to save Moses, Rahab lying to save the spies), or at least not hold it against them, when clearly through (or in spite of) murder or lying, God's plan was accomplished.

    The question is – what pleases God's heart?

  94. Jonathan,

    It's completely fair to reduce the argument to this point. The analogy holds all the way. You have made the statement that the sinful expressions (aggression/rebellion/violence) of rap performers are congruent with the Gospel if their motivation is anguish, frustration, rejection, or a desire for oppression to cease (presumably examples of justifiable motivations). One manifestation of the violence you mentioned is murder.

    But you've made an even larger biblical error when you question whether actions can be considered sinful apart from their "motivations/execution/reception."

    The Bible makes it abundantly clear that actions are indeed sinful, and further, that even "good" actions are sinful because they are always tainted with sinful motivation. Isaiah tells us that all of our works have become as filthy rags and Jeremiah tells us that our hearts are deceitful above all things.

    These views of sin as you describe them are not biblical, Jonathan. The Bible is very clear that sin is not a relative or a contextual issue in the sight of God and that sin is committed in thought, word, and deed. I would strongly encourage you to read and study the Lord's absolute views on these issues and "see to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ…"

    I don't think you'll find biblical evidence of God redeeming murder. He permits it, he forgives it, but he doesn't redeem it. Relativism is a dangerous road to travel.

  95. Hi Tim,

    You are right to say that relativism is a dangerous road to travel. I agree. I don't think absolute relativism (pun intended) is any more helpful than is pure modernism. I think hard relativism is self-defeating and incongruent with both theology and logic.

    However, I doubt any serious modern biblical scholar can claim that he has absolute access to the absolute truth. We can form a view that very closely and very accurately approximates absolute truth, but we are incapable of accessing that truth, apart from divine revelation. Even then, we cannot communicate that truth absolutely. If we disagree here, then I think that this will not be the right forum to address that.

    Clarification: my point was saying that the sounds were birthed in "anguish, frustration, rejection, or a desire for oppression to cease" and that is their main message they seek to express. People may then interpret it as "aggression/rebellion/violence", or the creators themselves may misinterpret themselves and express it as ""aggression/rebellion/violence". But the fundamental driving factor for the creation of rap music may not even be "aggression/rebellion/violence".

    But I don't deny that some rap music is expressly trying to communicate "aggression/rebellion/violence" and is founded on those values. I'm suggesting that the motivation may not be so shallow. Which also brings us to ask, "Is all rap created equal?"

  96. I would suggest that you abandon all music and just stick with the Psalms based on your arguments. It's funny how you white guys get all uppity about a form of music that you don't agree with. I guess you might have some issues with Black Gospel music as well based on the "roots".

    Honestly buddy, step out of your lily white world and go attend a church that isn't all Caucasian. You don't have any real love for your brothers & sisters in Christ except for those who look like you. Go to the inner city and live there among the people. Go to a third world and live there among the people. I'm not talking about taking a week long trip on some mercy mission. There's no power in the body of Christ because of people like you who won't do what it takes to get messy and show the real love of Christ.

  97. Hi Scott,

    Thanks for your post on rap music and its appropriateness for Christian worship. I think your analysis was very careful and thought-provoking. However, I have a few thoughts that I'd like to contribute to this discussion.

    1) I feel that rap does not exclusively communicate rebellious, sexual, or aggressive emotions. Granted, 95% of today’s rap or hip hop talks about discontent, sex, or illegal activity. But this is clearly a reflection of our times, not a reflection of the “only thing” rap music can inherently communicate. For example, consider Tupac’s famous “Dear Mama,” which has nothing to do with sex, drugs, or violence, but rather is a deep-felt eulogy to his mother. For Tupac, there was no emotional disconnect between the deep respect he wanted to show his mother and the music he would use to communicate that. If Tupac could use rap to honor his mother (and no music critic known today considers his attempt disrespectful), then why can’t a Christian use rap to honor God or discuss Christian issues?

    2) I assume that you would also advise Christians to not use other popular styles of music, such as pop, or general “rock and roll,” in their worship since the majority of secular artists communicate sex, drugs, rebellion, etc. However, this is to ignore the other vast emotions that rock, etc. can communicate. Rock/pop can also convey joy, energy, excitement, optimism, and even general happiness. Consider Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb,” or John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change,” or even the light-hearted “Hot Air Balloon” by Owl City. If audiences everywhere associated rock/pop styles strictly with sex or rebellion, then these songs would be considered absolute shams. But they’re not. Their message (and the music they use to communicate that message) are widely accepted and enjoyed. There is no “contradiction” between these artists’ positive message and the music style they are using.

    3) Our own society uses rock and pop to communicate a much wider range of emotions than these styles may have initially been created for. For example, while rock riffs may have once been the anthems of angry or disgruntled teenagers in the 50’s and 60’s, rock riffs are now played universally during sports games and other competitive events to communicate excitement, determination, and a spirit of enthusiasm. Pop music is used on children’s—even toddler’s TV programs, in our advertising, at doctor’s offices, in elevators, at theme parks, and even on the evening news (in between new clips). This is not so that we are inundated with a message of sex and hatred for authority (I would not deny, of course, that advertisers use sex to promote products), but because these music styles have been discovered to successfully communicate other positive emotions, such as excitement, relaxation, fun, and sometimes even joy.

    4) You said: "If rap music (a medium of communication) was birthed out of an ethos of violence, drugs, hatred, and sexuality, it would be a far stretch to argue that it does not naturally express those values." Extending your philosophy to other forms of art, this would make it inappropriate for a Christian to use free verse when writing poetry, since most poets strongly associate free verse with Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, and many other “social rebels” of their time. Of course, though, many Christian poets (Mary Oliver, for one) have found ways to let free verse communicate far more than just social discontent and rebellion. In many ways free verse was the “hip-hop” of its day.

    Your thoughts? Thanks again, Scott.

  98. Hi, Jim. Thanks for your comments.

    First of all, I am not arguing that the source of a particular art form necessarily renders it unusable for a Christian. What I am arguing is that if something comes from a sinful source and its very purpose for creation was to express unbiblical values, then we at least should carefully consider whether or not the form itself actually communicates those values. It is possible that something could come out of a sinful environment and not actually express those values, but it would be rare. What I am suggesting is that rap music itself naturally expresses the kind of sinful attitudes and values that characterized the ethos from which it was formed.

    Neither am I arguing that association with a sinful lifestyle or culture necessarily renders something unusable. So this is where I would disagree with your example of free verse; while it may be associated with the writers you mentioned, it was not created by them nor does it naturally express the kind of "social rebellion" for which they are known.

    I agree that certain forms of pop are more than sexuality or rebellion, but even there I would suggest that they are not appropriate or worship because what they do communicate is not fitting for the expression of ordinate religious affection for God.

    What I am most concerned about is what these forms naturally communicate by nature of their rhythms, timbres, harmonic structures, performance styles, etc.

  99. Re: the free verse; in a sense, every free verse poem has its own unique form designed to carry the meaning of that poem alone. Its hard to equate directly to musical styles. I'd suggest one would almost have to examine each poem individually. Furthermore poetry is different than, say, music or painting or sculpture because its made of words and therefore (usually) propositions which will dictate all sorts of choices relating to line length, stanza structure, tone, etc. I'm not saying poetry is incorruptible, but it is a different sort of art.

  100. @Scott Aniol let me tell you one thing our country (Kenya,Africa) is filled with a junk gospel which is called prosperity gospel and you will never hear anyone tell you your state before a Holy and Righteous God and the day when I took that cd by Lecrae I heard the Gospel for the very first time and made me jump to my old dusty Bible for the very fast time, and through reading The Bible and listening to His and God started teaching me 
    "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me."John 6:44-45
    and before long I pleaded with God to save me and he answered my prayer coz I was looked dirty an filthy before God and I couldn't bear my conviction, and I am saved, obedient to His word and regenerated
    You can say all you want to say but you are not the person who reached me when I was dead in sin, or you are not the person God used to reach me but he used an album so you cannot reach everyone in the world let what God is doing in this young men reach people like us with the Gospel through their music, if you didn't reach me just keep quiet, and if you are not even helping me and preaching to me and young men in my neighborhood on how I will live a life of faith, you are just wasting your time and resources ave never even heard of you I haven't even seen or heard anything of yours that will build me up spiritually, none……..  You can't ignore what God is doing in this genre of music, it has raised one of the most radical Christ centered young Christians in our Generation people that are ready to read the word of God and live with zeal and it's coz of the Gospel that is displayed in their music and Offensive Gospel, the True Gospel or like C.H.Spurgeon said The Old Gospel that’s is so rear in our Churches

  101. First off: Thank you Scott for your refreshingly calm and careful reply. I have a special appreciation for those in the fundamentalist circles who don’t write in constant absolutes. In fact, taking a look back at my post, I think I made quite a few absolute statements myself rather than qualifying them with “possibly”or “may” or “I believe.” So to you I give the honor of having stated one’s position in a less aggressive fashion than I did. Nice!

    Well now I’d like to take that all back and get back to screaming at you in absolutes! Here are a few of my thoughts to your reply.

    1. About my free verse analogy. Yeah, it is stretching things a bit. I’m happy to drop it for now. But one clarification: while the origins of free verse are murky at best, the style most certainly DID embody the concepts of rebellion at the time it became most popular, notably with Walt Whitman. Free verse has no rules, no limits, no regard for convention whatsoever. With the Beat poets, free verse didn’t even need to contain complete words, thoughts, or ideas. It can be TOTAL chaos if the artist chooses, much like a post-modern Pollack painting. Charles Bukowski is another flagrantly obscene poet who uses free verse exclusively for his art. Why his special attachment to free verse? One could argue that his angry and sexual thoughts would simply look ridiculous in the orderly form of metered verse. Therefore, free verse better “communicates” his anger. Is this reason enough to ban free-verse? Absolutely not. I take it back: I like my free verse analogy! But enough of this poetry nonsense. Let’s talk music.

    2. I’m still confused why you think rap music “itself naturally expresses… sinful attitudes and values.” I mentioned earlier that I think rap can communicate determination, strength of character, honesty, and even respect (like my Tupac example)… am I imagining these emotions are there when they really aren’t? If these positive emotions ARE there, however, then we’ve made a good case that rap can communicate positive emotions, and does not “naturally” express good or bad emotions intrinsically.

    I don’t mean to beat this example to death, but I truly would encourage you to listen to all of Tupac’s “Dear Mama”! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otm6PUmI7B8&feature=fvst) I find it hard to picture you being willing to pull Tupac aside after listening to this and saying, “Sorry Tupac. You were really just expressing sexuality and anger in that song to your mother. If you think you were communicating emotions such as love, respect, and honesty, you were way off.”

    3. For various forms of pop, you said that “what they do communicate is not fitting for the expression of ordinate religious affection for God.” Could you explain this a bit more? I thought made a fair case for pop being able to communicate all sorts of positive emotions. Therefore, we could use pop to positively communicate ideas about God. Again, am I imagining these emotions to be there when they really aren’t?

    4. I think that the emotions that a particular style of music communicates is UNIQUE to the individual. While it is easy to generalize particular styles as “angry-sounding” or “sad-sounding,” this does not mean that all listeners everywhere will have these emotions activated. If a listener says “I feel energized and encouraged” when listening to Christian rap, there’s no reason to second-guess him, throw him under a set of wires and monitors and say, “Hmm. Nope. You’re actually feeling angst and rebellion right now.”

    But this is what my sixth sense is telling me…I’m worried you’re basing your final decisions on some technical analysis—such as “bioacoustics”—to determine whether a sound/style/rhythm ultimately communicates good or bad emotions. I am probably about to speak out of turn here, since I know little about this science. However, here are my thoughts:

    Even if a technical/lab analysis says “you should be feeling X emotion when listening to this,” the listener’s experience is clearly the FINAL say. If a person is showed the color red but SWEARS he sees green (as a color-blind person does), then that’s that. The color-blind man SAW green, though the color rays traveling to his rods and cones were red. Likewise, while you may have this or that study that shows such-and-such rhythm will produce “a surge of testosterone” (this is just hypothetical), if the listener says “I feel energized,” rather than “I’m ready to fight!,” after listening to Christian rap, then again, we must let their subjective experience have the final say as to what their bodies/minds truly felt.

    5. Very minor—extremely minor!—anecdote. I’m totally fine if you find this point strange or questionable (I’d much rather you spend time with questions 1-4). Anyways, I read very recently in a book by C.S. Lewis that, in his opinion, some of the Christian mystics may have experienced something akin to sexual ecstasy when in their deepest prayers. After all, the most intense prayers would electrify all the parts of the brain responsible for intimacy, emotional openness, meditation, and possibly even blissfulness—which are all important ingredients/precursors of sex. If we had doctors and psychoanalysts during that time, these doctors MAY indeed have reported high sexual activity in the brains of these mystics. But of course such unconscious brain activity doesn’t mean the mystic was actually “aroused.” How shallow it would be of us to tap these mystics on the shoulder, interrupt their prayers, and say: “Pardon me. I know you’re not feeling sexually aroused right now, but you should stop doing it is whatever you’re doing, because the brain waves in the areas of your mind responsible for sex are off the charts!” In the same vein, I hope we wouldn’t ask a Christian to stop listening to a song he thought was making him happy when we had lab evidence that “you’re brain is actually showing signs of sadness or angst.” When a person says they are genuinely feeling a particular emotion, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, and not accuse them of mistaking one emotion for another. Let’s leave the question of their honesty between them and God.

    Thanks again Scott! Your thoughts are always welcome. Feel free to pull TimPSh into the conversation as well. He seems to be interested in the itty-bitty particulars of music’s effects.

  102. Everything that was said about the roots of rap were true.  I have to agree with everything that secular rap causes, but you have to stop and think.  "Can God use rap as a tool to reach the lost?"  There are many rap artists that reach many people through their songs that spread the gospel.  Just check out lecrae, he is just one example of good, doctrinally sound christian rap.  It is something to think about

  103. Lots on what to reject; nothing on what to embrace.  Scott, what we need is another article on exactly which styles of music are gospel-compatible.

  104. hi, my view on music is that, God created it and gave it to us. sin and the sinful human nature took what God created and used it for sinful purposes. music in and of itself is not bad nor can it ever be. the only thing that is bad is the way sinful people use it, and express and flaunt their sin.
    here are 2 links to "rap" music that God im sure is very pleased with






    if you dont like a specific type of music then dont listen to that kind, but just because you dont like it doesn't mean its sinful. just that you dont like it
    God can and will be glorified in any way that He wishes. music, rap, metal, rock, country, classical, whatever it may be. if you believe that all of something is completely bad then you have a narrow view of what God is capable of doing and accomplishing. maybe you need to find out who Christ really is.

  105. Scott,
    I would like to offer a short critique of your work, if you don't mind.

    First, I would like to start off where you ended. You state that, "Based upon all of this analysis, the unavoidable conclusion is that rap music, because of what it inherently communicates, is incompatible with the Christian Gospel." Here is the problem with that statement: you conclude that "rap music" is incompatible with the Christian Gospel because of association. Well, I have news for you; all music started out as secular. And, so, since music is evil by association, I sure hope you don't have an organ in your church.

    Second, did you ever think that people listen to rap or hip/hop because they like it? So, if African-Americans like to listen to that music, and they are going to no matter what your personal preference is, don't you think it would be nice to supply them with music that presents the gospel in a clear fashion? I would agree with you on many of the rap artists today who stand for something els, but if we're going on guilt by association, then I guess you shouldn't be blogging on the Internet since it would be considered evil by your definition.

    Third, I would like to point out that not all Christian rap is bad. For example, Flame has a new album out that actually articulates the Gospel clearly in it's entirety. I have shared this album with many of my unsaved, and saved, friends who have either come to Christ or be deeply encouraged in their walk with Christ. I encourage you, even if you absolutely hate the style of music, to go and listen to Flames newest album title "Captured." listen to the whole thing and then pray for an hour that this cd might have an impact on the African-American culture. Just because you don't like the music because it's just not your style, cultural implications, or, well, your race, doesn't mean that it can't help reach people for Christ who do listen to that music. If people love this music and the only style is secular, what's the only option to listen to? Obvious answer: secular. They are going to listen to it no matter what.

    Forth, as an aside, I remember Paul became all things to all people so that he could reach the Jewish and the Gentile cultures. I wonder how these Christian artists would feel about being labeled as a heretic, if it were, when their whole purpose is to reach other cultures and to share the Gospel.

    So my conclusion is: stop wasting your time attempting to limit the power of the Gospel due to cultural bias' or any ultra-conservative beliefs. Instead, let the holy Spirit use whatever He may to reach people for Christ. I know this music has changed my life and is bringing many other people to Christ.

  106. Dear Jared,

    I would like to invite you to please take the time to read what I have written. It is clearly evident by your comments above that you have not read it since none of your straw man arguments address a single issue I have raised, and just about every argument you offer in defense of Christian rap was addressed by me in this series.

  107. Scott,

    I would like to point out that you have also avoided every argument that i just brought up only to refer to your own work. I have to inform you that I already have done some reading on some of the other posts on religiousaffections.org and have come to understand the ultra-conservativism that most people probably criticize this website for is accurate. I have other examples, but I prefer to let it go because bickering about a musicality issue is useless since clearly you have your mind made up already.

    We both preach the same Gospel and, I apologize if this offends you, as long as the Gospel isn't changed, for any reason, then I don't see why it matters so much how it gets preached. People share the Gospel because they want the unbeliever to come to a saving knowledge of grace and because God commands. If you can find anything in the bible that says "rap music is bad," then please let me know. But if this music is able to reach people with the Gospel, regardless of any preconceived notions about rap that you might have, I don't see why you should be so opposed to sharing the Gospel. But I guess that all comes down to context doesn't it?

    My prayer is that religiousaffections.org would come to the knowledge that we are not saved by the law, but by grace. Why does it matter how we share that grace with others? If I were an unbeliever, I would want people to share the message of grace with me regardless they did it. It grieves me to think that the Gospel wouldn't get shared because of someone who is against the style in which it is preached.

    "I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly." Galations 2:21

  108. Thanks so much for taking the time to think deeply and analyze rap music. As a young person who is constantly corrected for enjoying rap music I've had to think a lot about this. I'm not ready to throw it all out completely but you've given me some good material to work with. Thanks and God bless! :)

  109. This whole argument is based upon historical ignorance. To follow the logic of this argument we would ban ALL music from church, even hymns. Harmonized hymns (even sung a capella) are radically different than anything that would've been sung in the early church or ancient Israel. Harmony is a creation of the secular West. 4-part hymns would sound like heavy metal music to Paul, but the historically ignorant are oblivious to this fact. So no music in church until someone finds the sheet music from King David's time and we sing only those songs without harmony (as they didn't sing in harmony then). The lyrical content is what determines whether it is acceptable to God or not.

    Another disturbing aspect of this argument is that it pretty much denies the whole basis of the gospel. If God cannot take something sinful (rap music, country music, rock music, a capella harmony as is used in hymns) and sanctify it and use it to bring glory to himself than the entire theme of the Bible is a hopeless lie. Don't you realize that ALL of the church including every member in it is a worthless piece of garbage that deserves eternal hell? However, God has redeemed us and is now using these pieces of garbage that should be thrown in the trash to glorify himself. I see a parallel: rap music, country music and harmony itself have all been used for sinful things and yet God can use them to glorify himself. In fact, I've seen God use the very sinful practice of harmonizing melodies to glorify himself in churches where choirs sing hymns in harmony.

    Now obviously that last line was in jest, because it's ridiculous to say that harmonizing a melody is sinful, it may be relatively artless as opposed to building a piece of music from the ground up starting with simple themes, but it is not sinful. I'm just mocking the absurd idea that an element of musical style can be sinful in and of itself. Indeed, harmony as we now know it was once considered sinful when it was new. God can take a murderer or child molester and make that person glorify him, and so I don't think taking a music style that has been used for sin such as rap or country music and making it glorify him is too difficult. You may not believe that he can do it, but maybe that's because you don't understand the gospel, and maybe you don't think he can take a murderer or child molester and make him his own child. If hip-hop is beyond God's redemption than I most surely am, I am more wretched than any rap song ever rapped.

  110. If you are calling rap unredeemable because it came from rage, violence, aggression, sex, agitation, and rebellion.. then maybe we should outlaw reading and studying the Old Testament.

  111. Wayne, I am not only saying that rap came from rage, violence, aggression, sex, agitation, and rebellion, I am saying that rap IS rage, violence, aggression, sex, agitation, and rebellion.

    Furthermore, I am not saying rap is unredeemable. When it is redeemed, it will become something entirely different in form than what it is.

    Finally, are you suggesting that the Old Testament condones rage, violence, aggression, sex agitation, and rebellion?

  112. I have recently listened to a series titled the Distraction Dilemma which mirrors the exact conclusions of this article, however being that it is over 10 hours long it is more in depth and has really opened my eyes to the power of the beats and not lyrics. I was wondering if you can write an article on the polyrhythmic beats found in most popular music and the voodoo pagan worship from which most popular music has been inspired from and has also infiltrated the church.

  113. No, I'm not saying that the OT condones these things. But I am saying that God chooses and redeems things and people that (in man's understanding) are unredeemable.

    I'm thinking and am wrestling with Genesis chapter 34. Simeon and Levi are involved in a deceitful plot full of "rage, violence, aggression, sex agitation and rebellion". Levi will be chosen from the "12" to father all the priest of God's chosen people. I don't think many of us would lay a foundation from such. There are hundreds of such examples.

    The Old Testament is full of broken people that God redeems. These people not only sinned and became sinners, these people WERE sinners. "I am saying that rap IS rage, violence, aggression, sex, agitation, and rebellion." All these stories point to the power of God. Not to what He had to work with.

    There was nothing about Abraham (who was a pagan) and his seed that proved merit to make God choose them over another people. Are we making the judgment on what can be redeemed and what cannot?

    "Furthermore, I am not saying rap is unredeemable. When it is redeemed, it will become something entirely different in form than what it is." – EXACTLY!

  114. Glad to hear you agree. God redeems people, and when he does so, they cease to be people of rage, violence, aggression, sex, agitation, and rebellion. Therefore, redeemed people should not perform music that expresses those sinful sentiments. Rap is one of those kinds of musical forms.

  115. Music expresses human emotion and behavior. So yes, just as a Christian should not be filled with rage and violence, so he should not use musical forms that express those sentiments.

  116. I would agree that rap (hip hop) has all the origins and attributes of what your article says it does. Hip Hop has always pointed to something and glorified some object. It usually doesn’t try to describe a feeling or emotion like many other forms of music. It declares something. It comes with an attitude of proclaiming truth even if what it is saying is a lie.

    But either I am missing your point or you are missing mine. It seems that we (Christians) are more interested in copying a part of our culture, cleaning it up, and repackaging it as "Holy".

    I do believe rap is redeemable. And I do believe that redeemed rap will still carry an attitude of pointing to an object and glorifying it. The difference will be that it no longer glorifies a lie, but proclaims and glorifies the God that redeemed it. We have all traded the truth of God for a lie and have worshiped the "creature" rather than the "creator".

    You will know rap is redeemed when it truly glorifies the creator, not when it changes its beats and attitude to fit into a more "Christian" music form.

  117. Thanks for this continued discussion.

    I don't think I'm missing your point, so let me see if I can address this another way.

    I am not concerned with the origins of rap except in that it helps us understand to a degree what that form inherently expresses.

    What I am concerned with is what the form does–what it intrinsically expresses.

    Now I'm thankful that it appears that you agree that rap does something intrinsically, I just don't think you're being honest about what it does.

    You seem to imply that what rap does is to "proclaim" and "glorify." Those are expressions intrinsic to the form. Am I reading you correctly?

    Then, you seem to acknowledge that since the texts of most rap include sex and violence, most secular rap "proclaims" and "glorifies" sex and violence.

    I applaud you for seeking to understand what rap actually does. That's an element missing in most of these discussions.

    However, I think you fall short of what rap actually does, and that is what this blog post was about.

    I (and many others) would argue that rap (the musical form without the words) does more than simply "proclaim" or "glorify."

    Rather, rap itself IS violent, it IS degrading, it IS pompous, all without words.

    So if I marry rap with words about God, I am expressing truth about God in a violent, degrading, pompous manner that intrinsically draws attention to itself rather than to God and is therefore an inherently unfitting form for that purpose.

  118. "Rather, rap itself IS violent, it IS degrading, it IS pompous, all without words."

    We (people, peoples) are the very same thing. Once God has mercy on us, we (people, peoples) still struggle with those things until we are finally glorified.

    Is Paul a redeemed person in Romans Chapter 7 when he talks about the struggle of what he is in Christ and his flesh? Or is this struggle pre-saved Paul?

    Why do we insist on putting a burden of the law on others that we cannot do ourselves?

  119. Absolutely. We still struggle with those things, but does that mean we tolerate them? Surely not! God wants us to be holy. God wants us to put off rebellion and violence and rage.

  120. Maybe looking at an example of a Christian rap song would help in this discussion. Is Shai Linne's “The Hypostatic Union” unredeemed?

  121. How about another instead…

    Are we to put off violence? Is there such a thing as holy violence?

    There was a point in my life where parts of the OT bothered/scared me. Here we have a 6 year old Canaanite little girl, running through the meadow with a flower in her hair. And God commanded His people to go in and not only kill her father and mother, but her and her puppy dog too.

    Are we to say God is unfair or unjust?

    Maybe the application of that (as explained to me by some) is a picture of the Church fighting and "taking no prisoners" in response to False Teachers in the Church. It would seem Shai Linne's latest on that would then be appropriate. (Unless you agree with the teaching of the people he named in the song).

    Is it wrong to express anger at the effects of sin or anger at those who are hypocrites, hatred of the sin that clings to us through our sinful natures, and express a desire to use whatever means necessary to rid myself of sin?

    Could it be that it is not always wrong to express “rage, hatred, and violence” in the form of music?

    Why in earlier post is there an uneasiness in talking about the imagery in Song of Solomon? Is that a picture of Jesus and His bride? What the heck does that mean? Oh yeah, it is a mystery. What does it mean that man was created in the image of God, male AND female He created them?

    I think the brother from Kenya (could be mistaken on what country in Africa he is from) made a powerful point in the earlier post. You who say that Jesus + the correct mode (form) of music = a holy life, did not reach him. I'm going way out on a limb here (and I could be totally wrong), but what is the racial demographic of the town you live in? How does it compare to the racial make-up of your church? Is that important? Do you believe a Church representing the racial make-up the community glorifies God in anyway? I'm just guessing that is not very important to many of us? And maybe we would be totally fine with it as long as we got to pick out the songs.

    I know it is very easy to say, "you are just playing the race card". Maybe so. But maybe people keep pulling it out because it is true. Maybe they keep pulling it out because it is easy to do.

    I think we are much more blind to our sin than the sin of others. I think down deep we believe that even in our sin, we are much more redeemable than rap music. And from my limited understanding of all the issues involved, I think that is at the heart of all of it.

  122. Wayne,

    Where in Scripture do we find any precedent about redeeming music or culture? I submit this argument is one contrived by those who try to justify their identification with/conformance to secular culture. It is not Biblical, in fact, it is anti-Biblical.

    Some proponents of music/culture "redemption" point to Colossians 1:15-20 as a prooftext. Problem is that the word "redeem" does not appear in the passage. Paul discusses that God reconciled all things to Himself through Christ, but an honest examination of Colossians 1 reveals that "all things" do not mean everything under the son. The construction of the original language and the context define all things as "thrones, dominions, rulers or authorities," on earth or in heaven, visible or invisible. Attempting to define these as music or culture requires an amazing stretch.

    What about 1 Timothy 4:4, where Paul says that everything is sanctified by the word of God and prayer? Context there determines that the "everything created by God" refers back to all manner of food found in verse 3.

    Finally, the precedent found all throughout Scripture and summarized in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is one of rejection of heathen culture. God never instructed the Jews in the OT to embrace any facet of life of the whatever-ites. Indeed, a full surrender to Christ involves not conforming to the world.

    To repeat, the concept of "redeeming culture" or "redeeming (insert style of music here)" is completely foreign to the Scriptures. The Psalmist said, "He hath put a new song in my mouth," not "He hath redeemed the song I already had in my mouth."

  123. Wayne, in answer to your first question earlier, no, I do not believe that they was in which Shai Linne proclaims truth about the hypostatic union is faithful to the truth itself.

    And in answer to your recent questions, yes, yes, and yes.

  124. Scott,

    Thank you for your reply. I would like to try to answer Doug on redeeming culture. I think it is important, but I don't have a well thought out answer. I fall well short of having all this figured out. I'm not one of those guys who spends a lot of time commenting on blogs. I think this maybe the second time I have engaged in such a format.

    So, I am recognizing engaging in a format such as this comes with many pitfalls. The first of which is making assumptions of which I have no basis for. I would like to apologize (even at risk of weakening any argument I may have) for making the assumption that you are taking a position on this has any thing to do with race. That was totally unfair on my part. Actually, if I was being really honest, the comment about race should only be addressed to me.

    Peace!

  125. Charles Spugeon. August 23, 1857

    "God does not condemn men for the use of the powers he has given them; he condemns them for the misuse of those powers; not for employing them, but for employing them as they ought not to employ them…" "there is no power which God hath given us, which may not be employed for God."

    "I believe that David uttered a great truth, as well as a great exhortation to himself, when he said, "Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless his holy name." There is nothing in man that God has not there, which may not be employed in God's service."

    "Some may ask me whether anger can be brought in. I answer, yes. A good man may serve God by being angry against sin; and to be angry against sin is a high and holy thing. You may ask me, perhaps, whether ridicule can be employed. I answer, yes. I believe we may even rightly employ it in the preaching of God's word. I know this, I always intend to use it; and if by a laugh I can make men see the folly of an error better than in any other way, they shall laugh, and laugh here, too; for ridicule is to be used in God's service; and every power that God hath implanted in man—I will make no exception,—may be used for God's service, and for God's honor."

    "What man hath gotten for himself by the fall, cannot be employed to serve God with, we cannot bring before God Adam's robbery, to be a sacrifice to the Almighty, nor can our own carnal and sinful passions honor the Most High, but there are natural powers which God hath conferred, and none of these are in themselves sinful. I would have them, therefore, employed for the Master. Yea, even those powers with which it seems impossible to worship, such as the powers of assimilation, eating, and drinking, may be brought to honor God; for what says the Apostle?—"whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God, giving thanks unto God and the Father by Jesus Christ."

  126. On redeeming culture… Maybe sometimes we use terms or words without proper definitions. As a layman, I'm probably a serial offender…

    However, i will try to clarify what I meant by "redeeming culture." In 1 Timothy 4:5, the ESV uses the term "for it is made holy", while the King James uses the word "sanctified". Even if this is only referring to food, the verse clearly is saying that God is making holy (sanctifying) at least one aspect of culture. if in fact, food is cultural.

    As a side note… If you we're going to make a biblical case that homosexuality is wrong, would you only use the 7-8 proof-texts from the bible? I would hope not. We now have the Queen James because of this reasoning. The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is full of reasons of why homosexuality is wrong.

    So, when looking at redeeming culture (as defined in 1 Timothy 4:5), we see big sweeping pictures in many parts of the NT. Acts is filled of examples of one culture (as defined by God to be Holy) clashing with the culture of the Gentiles (unholy). We have the story of Peter and the vision of food coming down from heaven, the Jerusalem Council on circumcision in Acts, and Paul's opposition of Peter in Galatians.

    I will quickly agree that in all these stories, none addresses music. I think the absence of addressing music in these cultural clashes is of upmost importance in our discussion. It is certainly not absent because music is unimportant. Music is introduced in Genesis, is present throughout to OT and New, and is obviously important in heaven for eternity.

    God does, in very clear terms, define the culture of his people as holy and separate from the world. Don't you think it odd then that in all the details given in the OT law (all the "how tos" and "how not tos") it is pretty quite about music. It is true that we have examples of LYRICS and various lists of what instruments were used. But we don't know if the Amorites, Moabites, Canaanites, and what-ever-ites did or did not use the exact same instruments as Gods chosen. In all the examples in the OT of heathen culture, is there a description anywhere of incorrect music practices?

    David is bringing in the Ark to Jerusalem and poor Uzzah is struck down. It seems God had some pretty specific rules about carrying the Ark on poles instead of carts and who could carry them. Then he turns to the musicians and tells them to "play LOUD"!!!

    Thousands of examples throughout the bible of heathen cultural expressions and none of them suggest that if you play their heathen music without words something would be wrong. Nothing to suggest that the heathens used incorrect instruments. Nothing to suggest that their beats, rhymes or rhythms were unholy.

  127. Hi, Wayne. Thank you for this continued discussion. I apologize for the delay in replying; I've been distracted by some other matters!

    I only have a few minutes, but I'll make two quick points and see what you think:

    1. Culture is behavior, pure and simple. How anthropologists (who invented the term) define culture and how evangelicals use it as well correspond to the idea of behavior in Scripture. With that in mind, all culture (behavior) is moral and must be evaluated and judged.

    2. With that definition clarified, I do believe in "redeeming" or "sanctifying" culture (behavior). But as with all behavior, when it is sanctified, it is transformed into something different; something moral rather than immoral.

  128. man, yall tripping. all this talk, but where are the biblical references of sinful music. if you going to make music sinful, throw in violent sports like football and wrestling, which many christian men love! all i know is God created everything and everything was good. and then the devil twisted it so that things look bad. so you say rock music = sex = bad ; no, sex = good in God's eyes we need it for reproduction, he made it good. who made it bad ? Satan, and his demons taint their badness with everything they do.. is eating bad? but rock stars eat, they may even pray to their god over their food. oh what if a rock star gave you some food. well the bible i read says you can eat it cause you know there is only 1 God and them praying to fake God doesn't do anything. That's how I feel about music, as long as the lyrics are true (there are some christian rock/rap that does have it twisted), but that's why you have to study yourself to know the truth. oh and about the biblical music, you know when Moses sister was playing that tambourine, God spoke to Moses directly and didn't tell her to chill out; or you know how David danced out his clothes, he probably was twerking a little, cause you can't dance out your clothes doing the 2 step. and finally Jesus is laughing at this debate, why because Jesus knows the heart but man looks on the outside. so when Jesus said believe in your heart and confess with you mouth, he didn't say, don't do it with a 8 beat snare and bass drum, cause i don't hear that rap music.

  129. Good discussion!

    Just for clarification. You are defining culture as behavior. As I understand, you are saying that “things” in and of themselves are not cultural (apart from behavior). So, I think we both agree that bacon is unclean (unholy) in the OT. And, I think we both agree that what a “culture” (people group) eats and does not eat (food) is cultural. Would you say that in the OT, bacon itself is “ok” until someone eats it the act of eating (behavior) makes it not OK?

    And I agree that behavior is either moral or immoral and therefore should be evaluated and judged. Are you saying that we should ONLY judge behavior? Are you saying that we are not to judge “things” in and of themselves apart from behavior?

  130. Hmm… I haven't read most of the comments, just the last few since Wayne entered the discussion. I didn't read the entire article either. I read just enough to figure out his point. Two things and I'll step away because I'm not going to spend time arguing over this stuff.

    1. To the author of the article:

    You say,

    "So I am very concerned with how God’s truth is presented, delivered, proclaimed, and disseminated. If the way that the Gospel is presented contradicts the very message, I am concerned about the integrity of the Gospel.

    So where does this leave us? Based upon all of this analysis, the unavoidable conclusion is that rap music, because of what it inherently communicates, is incompatible with the Christian Gospel. It expresses sentiments that contradict the very message that we love."

    God is much bigger than you and I both. He doesn't need our defense. No where in scripture does he ask for it.

    Thank God that he is bigger than this mess because the way I see the Gospel presented and represented by so many Christians is heartbreaking.

    2. Scott Aniol;

    This is just a question and by no means is meant to call you out.

    How many non-believers are you walking with right now? Not how many non-believers do you buy coffee from or wave to each day. But how many are you intentionally living life with so that they may be pointed to Jesus? How many do you know their story and they know yours? Come to you home? Eat at your table?

    Your answer to this particular post doesn't really matter because you don't answer to me. The question is only asked so that you may possibly think about this yourself (if need be). I ask this question because when I began following Jesus and walking with others, discipling them, these conversations/arguments/debates began to take a back seat. Now I'm much more concerned with pointing individual people to Jesus than getting others to agree with me.

    Josh

  131. Josh, we welcome discussion and even debate here, but what you have just engaged in is called trolling. Having not even read the article or the comments, you fly in, make controversial and disparaging comments, and then "step away."

    If you want to intelligently engage in discussion here, we welcome your contribution.

    If you simply want to cause trouble, I invite you to take your trolling elsewhere.

  132. "I reject at once an idea which lingers in the mind of some modern people that cultural activities are in their own right spiritual and meritorious—as though scholars and poets were intrinsically more pleasing to God than scavengers and bootblacks.

    …The work of Beethoven and the work of a charwoman become spiritual on precisely the same condition, that of being offered to God, of being done humbly 'as to the Lord.'"

    ~ C.S. Lewis -The Weight of Glory

  133. Well I have to say its cause of christian hip and other genres that have helped me out the most in getting my life back to God and on the right path again. I can say they artists in my mind are trying to reach the youth and people from their environments i.e the ghetto. All lot of youths and non believers in general only listen to that genre of music especially if they are coming from the street life. They hear the message and get the word through this music. There is no where in the Bible that says hip hop evil, if hip hop evil then christian rock must be evil then too, cause for the longest time rock n roll has been related to evil and wordily nature. Artists like Lacrae have good message and he talks about subjects that are related able to the community that listen to rap and he always is praising God in his music. The artists Bizzle calls into play the issue about mainstream artists claiming to be christian or putting christian undertones in there music but the rest of it is worldly and promotes unGodly message and how its false preaching. In the end as long as they are practicing what the preach in the songs it's all good. Hip hop has helped me get my live on track again. Mainly cause it music I love to listen to and they lyrics glorifying God and encouraging me that I can get over my addiction and other issues with the help of God.

  134. Josh,

    I agree with there is no biblical basis for calling one style of music unholy. That was in my comment above from May 12th.

    "God does, in very clear terms, define the culture of his people as holy and separate from the world. Don’t you think it odd then that in all the details given in the OT law (all the “how tos” and “how not tos”) it is pretty quiet about music. It is true that we have examples of LYRICS and various lists of what instruments were used. But we don’t know if the Amorites, Moabites, Canaanites, and what-ever-ites did or did not use the exact same instruments as Gods chosen. In all the examples in the OT of heathen culture, is there a description anywhere of incorrect music practices?"

    from my May 12, 2013 at 11:08 pm post

    W

  135. there is “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9)

    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

    (Heb 13:8)

    With the exception of God's opinion on how to play music. No opinion in OT, many opinions now…

  136. What about Lecrae and Trip Lee. They have a true message in their music, and is clear. It is just about the gospel.

  137. PRAISE YE THE LORD, OUT OF EVERYTHING I HAVE READ JESUS IS OUR EXAMPLE HOW WE SHOULD DO THINGS. THE ONLY TOOL HE USED TO DRAW SOULS IS THE WORDS OF HIS FATHER. SOME RECIEVED IT AND SOME REJECTED IT. THE CONCLUSION OF IT ALL IS , ” JESUS SAID ANY MAN COME IN ANY OTHER WAY EXCEPT THROUGH HIM, IS A THEIF AND A ROBBER. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY BUT JESUS WAY. AMEN

  138. Scott, serious question…..I’ve always felt that portions of Beethoven symphony no 5 communicated rage and aggression and other classical music has communicated similar feelings. How come I have never read anything by you addressing classical music that doesn’t reflect the beauty of God? Do you believe there is such a thing? Do you believe there are pieces of classical music that doesn’t reflect the beauty of God and what makes that so? Thanks!

  139. Hi, Steven. First, let me say that I do indeed think it possible for art music (what you called “classical music”) to fail in reflecting the beauty of God. There are certainly many cases where art music expressing things not fitting for corporate worship. You’ll find many instances on this site of my warnings against what might be considered “Romantic music” being used in Christian worship.

    On the other hand, I would also say that the musical presentation of something like anger or aggression in and of itself is not what makes it problematic. It is more what kind of anger/aggression is being expression and how the music is doing so. This is something that often cannot be put into words, which is why we have music in the first place.

    I would say that music that carefully and artistically expresses aggression in the context of a larger work in which these things are developed over time is likely going to be far less problematic than music that expresses unbridled rage at a very raw, visceral level.

  140. Thank you for your response Scott. Curtis Allen just released a book called “Does God listen to Rap” which you can find on Amazon. It would be nice for you to start a new blog post in replying to what he wrote. It’s short, so it won’t take you long to read it.

  141. Rap, rock, jazz, classical, etc. are all mediums of art. Much in the same way that ink, paint, cinema & pencil are mediums of art. Therefore, as a way of detailing the absurdity of what you’re saying, I am going to quote the last section of your article and swap in all mentions of “rap” with “paint”. Get ready!

    “Can Painting be Christian?

    Why am I making such a big deal about paint? Because I love the Gospel. And I know that men like Van Gogh, Michaelangelo, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Isaak Levitan love the Gospel as well.

    Painting is not really the most important issue here, God’s truth is most important.

    So I am very concerned with how God’s truth is presented, delivered, proclaimed, and disseminated. If the way that the Gospel is presented contradicts the very message, I am concerned about the integrity of the Gospel.

    So where does this leave us? Based upon all of this analysis, the unavoidable conclusion is that painting, because of what it inherently communicates, is incompatible with the Christian Gospel. It expresses sentiments that contradict the very message that we love.”

    You blind guides! You filter out a gnat, yet swallow a camel! “How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but on the inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that its outside may also be clean. (Matthew 23:24-26 ISV)

    With All My Mind, Judge of All the Earth, Faithful God, All Consuming Fire — Shai Linne
    New Creation — C-Lite
    Anchor, The Size of Sin, Instruments of Mercy — Beautiful Eulogy
    Let There Be Light — Andy Mineo

    Listen to these songs. Then re-evaluate your position. The same Pharisaical judgement came out about “rock ‘n’ roll,” the “devil’s music!”

  142. Dear Scott,

    Thank you for the interesting article and discussion! It’s nice to find a discussion about music on the internet that hasn’t completely turned into a rage war.

    My first notable exposure to rap was when I heard Lecrae’s song ”Don’t waste your life”, and it really had an impact on me. I got interested in rap because of that song since I found it amazing how biblical truth could be expressed so clearly without the clever wordplay many christian artists hide behind today.

    I would like to start with saying that I agree with you on some points. For example, I agree that rap music should not be used as worship in a church, just as rock shouldn’t be used there either, since some people do associate it with the things you have brought up in the article. However, I do not think this means rap music is wrong to listen to personally for everyone, just as eating bread offered to false gods is not wrong in and of itself. It becomes a sin when we ourselves have a problem with it, or do it in front of a brother or sister who does. This also means that if I were in your company, for example, I would choose not to listen to rap since you obviously don’t think it is right.

    The things you brought up seems to me to be purely based on association, like the sound of the backbeat being compared to sounds of sex. I just want to say that, as far as I can remember, not once have I associated the backbeat of a rap song with something sexual. I have, on the contrary, often been inspired by these songs to live a life free of sexual immorality. Also, the fact that rap was originally used to express anger and rage does not, in my opinion, necessarily mean that those are the emotions the music in and of itself communicates. When I hear a fervent rap song about some important biblical truth, I might feel a divine anger against satan and the practices of this sinful world. And if the Spirit has revealed a sin in my life through the lyrics, I might get a feeling of regret and repentance, which leads me to confessing that sin. I have not, however, experienced any kind of anger that I have come to understand as sinful (which, according to my understanding is anger directed at fellow human beings and not the devil or sin).

    I find it hard to believe that rap is in and of itself sinful to everyone, since I most certainly have not experienced more sinful feelings when listening to rap than I have listening to any other kind of music. It seems to me that it comes down to what we associate the music with. I can imagine that you associate rap with these sinful things, and therefore to you it would not fit to communicate bibilical topics in this manner. However, rap to me has never been about violence, sexual immorality or any other sinful behavior. To me it has always been a very weighty and serious way to share biblical truth and encouragement to other believers.

    Do you have any thoughts on this?

    PS. I hope you understand that I have no ill feelings against you or anyone who thinks rap is wrong. I think it’s very sad to see that so many christians here judge you just because their opinion differs from yours.

    God bless!

  143. rap is completely controlled by the rapper, including the emotions expressed. to say that all rap has the same elements is to completely misunderstand or simply not have enough information about it. look up beautiful eulogy if u dont think christianity can include rap

  144. Gentlemen, thanks for a thought-provoking look at music. It seems (to avoid absolutes) that we are not really even discussing hip hop in particular, rather we are discussing musical forms that share the heavy drum beat typically found in hip hop. Hip hop is primarily written in 4\4, correct me if I am wrong. Does that mean that a heavy kick on the 1 and 3 accompanied by a strong snare on the 2 and 4 beats, in any genre of music, would evoke, or simply suggest or maybe imply, the same list of sinful emotions or reactions listed in the article(I don’t have a question mark on my keyboard, so imagine one here) If so, then the cultural context wherein hip hop was birthed is merely icing on the cake, and sort of a non-factor, because if the music itself, minus lyrics, were not (as you say) immoral, then the lyrical content delivered atop the music might dictate the moral standing of a given song. I am sure that I have more questions than this, but I would like to ask two – presuming I am in the right ballpark above:

    1. Is there a short and simple list of genres which are neutral or even “morally good” in their form(question mark here)

    2. Is the study of the form of hip hop (as well as any other genre) absolute(question mark) In other words, is the association between rhythm and beat and specific human movement, made by Shafer and many others, truth, or is it simply one’s interpretation of composition(question mark)

    It seems that we are banking on the association, or correlation (forgive me if neither is the right word), between rhythm, beat, melody, etc. and human movement, not merely in response to, but almost married to such – is this association fact or theory(another question mark goes here)

    If it is not fact, then should we make statements along the lines that rap is inherently sinful(question mark)

    Might I say that hip hop, or rap, is probably not the most effective style of music for corporate worship, so to that end, I agree with you gents, but I wonder if to deem it “sinful” is possibly an overstatement based on music theory and not Biblical truth.

    Of course, some other thoughts are now brewing in my mind, but I will await your response before I keep rambling.

    -Nate

  145. **Please note that Soul Anchor Collective is a hip hop blog, which covers Christian and secular artists and may contain content readers of your blog might find highly offensive – Please do not click the link if you find such music offensive**

  146. “Forget the money, cars and toss that ice,
    The cost is Christ,
    And they can never offer me anything on the planet that’ll cost that price”

    Those are lyrics from a gospel rapper named Lecrae. The song is called “Don’t Waste Your Life” based upon the book by John Piper.

    You were saying?

  147. I am more entertained (as I imagine much of the world is as well) watching the entirety of Christians arguing among themselves over “side topics” and ignoring things that are more important. This entire post is a perfect example.

  148. This article concludes hip-hop/rap, a medium of communication is not compatible with the gospel. How can a medium of communication be unholy unless it can be proven the essentials components of the medium or sum total thereof is sinful itself?

    The author made a few collegiate references (by people who ultimately stated opinions), but failed to present one bible verse that would condemn use of metered poetry/lyrics over a drum beat.

    Essentially that’s all hiphop is… Period.

    All other details are irrelevant. This is a sinful world, “Man is completely depraved” so why would it not be such that most neutral things at worse would be used perversely? The image of hip-hop is in my opinion what the author is first constructed and then condemned – yes, the image -not the medium in its most basic form.

    What upsets me though is that as a Christian, I still feel the demonization of things black culture. I still feel the association of my looks, countenance and being with something negative. Looking back at history, never was a good reason needed, so why would it now be? The only thing needed is a closed mind and ignorance.

  149. Hello Scott,

    A great article, well written. Your concern for Christ and your brothers and sisters is clear.

    For over ten years I was part of the Dutch hip hop scene, both “holy” as well as secular. I was even called one of the founding fathers of the Dutch ‘holy hip hop’ scene and made a couple of albums with various ‘crews’.

    Everything said here about hip hop is correct, even about Christian use of this ‘music’. It is not neutral, it is not ‘okay’ and the love for the beat will only breed conflict as it will exceed the love for the brother and sister in Christ or even Christ Himself. The ‘holy hip hoppers’ lived lives that were far from holy and would not tolerate any criticism on their lifestyles either.

    The influence of this subculture is now globally visible: it is anti-authoritarian, anti-order, anti-innocence, immodest, disharmonic, incompetent, ignorant, self-indulgent, ugly and relentless. Consequently, it begets these things in anyone who falls into it.

    Sadly,the ‘music’ and its techniques have influenced popculture everywhere. It’s in ads, speech, manners of dress and behaviour. It is a spirit of rebellion that every Christian has to reject and denounce.

  150. Well. Congratulations. You’ve succeeded in making yourself look like an idiot. It is impossible to say that Godly music is ungodly because of its genre. If Lecrae, KB, and Andy are making music that converts people, does it matter the style? Also, I hope you know that thousands of people read these articles for enjoyment. Whenever I need a good laugh, I read articles like this

  151. “…are making music that converts people…”

    Ian,

    Thanks for your really helpful contribution to this discussion.

    I did not write the article, but I write articles like it, and though I do not necessarily write about laughing matters (and this is not a laughing matter), laughter, I suppose, is as good a response as any when there is not enough comprehension to meaningfully interact with the substance of the conversation.

    Sorry, that was a long sentence.

  152. This is an eloquently written post. Growing up in the hip-hop culture and even partaking in the whole rapping and producing lifestyle I’ll tell you this: it’s as incompatible with following Jesus as oil trying to mix with water. It’s all about getting attention and praise. We know that all the glory and praise belongs to God.
    My father left my mom at a young age and “rapping” and “producing” (creating soundtracks to rap to) gave me attention, validation and praise that I craved. I even began rapping for “Jesus” after a conversion experience. What’s my point? It’s to emphasize that what seemed right to me, stemmed from a corrupt lifestyle and a genre that promotes violence, pride and degradation of women. At the end, would you rap a song in front of a holy and Sovereign God? If the answer is no then you know the truth. Rapping, breaking, rocking, dancing and you name it…is a distraction from the “foolishness of preaching” used to “save those that believe.”

  153. In Psalm 105 of the King james bible it reads quote “Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works” ok… Show me a bible verse that is against doing that with a particular rhythm or style…Why should form or sound determine how sinful the music is? It is about the message being delivered period..

  154. I have also expressed thoughts that there does seem to be, on the part of authorized contributors to this site — not excluding Pastor Aniol — at least somewhat of a common, continual refrain to beckon readers back to original articles instead of directly and distinctly answering questions; to criticize entities or groups or forms of communication instead of working toward communicating the Gospel message to all persons. There have been appeals to ancients, and scholars, in attempts to decry entities or groups in communication of Gospel-centered worship.

    And I find that to be frustrating.

    There seems to be a tendency, of authorized contributors to this site, a decrying of such-and-such worship music based on certain presuppositions asserted by scholars.

    For example, Pastor Aniol — with all due respect — I find it quite frustrating to just be referred to your published writings.

  155. Rap and Hip Hop are the most SATANIC types of music on this earth! Read the lyrics! Any song that tells about fornication, murder, rape, stealing, and glorifies it is completely againest every word written in the Bible! The devil surely has successfully pulled the wool over your eyes! Wake up the time is near!!!!

  156. You should do a survey about how many people who listen to “Christian rap” are struggling with pornography! You would be surprised and shocked. This kind of music is “feeding the flesh”.

  157. Lilli,

    Interesting. Correlation does not prove causation, but it may suggest symptoms of a common illness. Have you taken an informal survey yourself, or is there a formal study that demonstrates this correlation between listening to rap and struggling with pornography?

  158. I just have one question: It’s easy to find countless examples of companies we support and products we purchase that still directly hurt others. These companies are very corrupt, and cause the death of millions. Are we as Christians obligated to stop using their products? The answer may very well be a yes. I’m not arguing either or on the rap debate right now, I’m just interested in what you all have to say.

    Also, does that mean it’s time to start walking everywhere? What about missionaries who use air planes?

  159. Lilli,

    I know people who hate rap who struggle with pornography and people who love rap who don’t. I don’t think rap (inherently) influences people to look at pornography. Obviously, if you’re listening to people like Kanye West and 2Chainz, who talk about objectifying women, you will be influenced. However, if you’re really interested, do that survey yourself ;)

    Peace,
    Fred Jones

  160. I just want to point out that unless you disagree with this conclusion then you’re so incredibly wrong. Unless you yourself are morally stuck in a deep southern Baptist or catholic church then you’ll realize that more churches now are implementing rap choruses into some of their worship songs. My church just did it at Easter. I did the rapping. You see where went wrong was theorizing the music that artist like Lecrae and Tedashii cannot be deemed gospel because of its colorful past transgressions in society. Stop looking at the past because that’s all it is. I know for a fact that both people mentioned as well as people like Toby Mac and others are undeniably raping the gospel. We’re to far past the age of strict conservative thinking and decisions to let something like the past define the future of gospel praise and worship. Sound like guns never harmed anyone. It’s the people who’s hands it’s put in that makes that decision.

  161. Music, yes, a very interesting subject that means so much in people’s lives. Life without it I would find unimaginably barren, dull, devoid of any joy or inspiration, very monotone. Actually, worse than that even. That does not mean I like all music, no not by a long shot, but that would apply to most of us I would say. We all vary in our tastes thank God, or else we would not be able to say there is “ Good “ music and there is “not so good music”. All that aside, when it’s all… sung and played… music is all a matter of vibrations whether it comes from your vocal chords or , your drum sticks or while you tinkle the ivories. Music in itself is no more good or bad than the air we breathe. What can spoil it is what we mix in with it, like various forms of pollution; noise,screaming, suggestive forms of dancing or messages that are immoral & destructive .
    Music in my opinion is no more than a vehicle and although neither good or bad, it can, by association, be used for good and bad purposes, convey positive uplifting, joyful, harmonious sounds, as
    well as the very opposite. Not only can they be, they are, for the simple reason that we live in a world that is too much that way inclined. We use vehicles to build up as well as destroy in every walk of life. As for me personally I have to say that what some people call music can come across to me as the very opposite to what is melodious, harmonious, peaceful, joyful, uplifting, inspiring and I would avoid like the plague. We certainly need to be very discerning about such things as “ Conforming to the things of this world “ and the frequent quote….” I like to have an open mind “ on this matter.
    The Tragedy of Open-Minded Christianity | Keep Believing …
    http://www.keepbelieving.com/…/the-tragedy-of-open-minded-christi…/
    1.
    2. Oct 28, 2011 – In the name of being “open-minded,” they held that the Christian church should be an exceedingly broad fellowship. Writing over a century ago, …

  162. Now that I have read a bit more about this subject “Can Rap be Christian” I just want to say in the shortest possible way. NO ! The mind boggles that so many people waste so many words on a practice that is so outspokenly evil.

    2 Cor. 6:15

  163. … And by the way, about the topic, see them by their results:

    “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

    What is noble or pure about ‘rap’? Where does it come from, from nobility, or purity, or excellence?

    What does the Bible say about the use of many words (Proverbs, for example)?

    ‘rap’, not convenient.
    Staying away from stupidity, convenient.

  164. I find it somewhat interesting that you call rap stupidity at the end of your post, yet you do so in the name of “whatever is pure…lovely…admirable,” while your approach is far less than such. I am not sure that any musical style, any genre can be “noble” or “pure”… or do you have a specifically noble and pure genre in mind?

    Another tangent we could go on, is what TV shows do you watch? The question then would be do they have noble and pure origins?

    Just some thoughts.

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