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Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: Example of Holy Music (Rebuttal)

Shai Linne and I are having a conversation between Christian brothers about Christian rap. This post will not make sense unless you start at the beginning of this discussion and read through all the posts. You can find the other posts in this discussion on this page or on the right hand side of this post. This is Shai’s rebuttal and my reply to my most recent answer.

Shai_Bio-300x300Hey Scott, thanks for your answer to my last question. I especially appreciated your music recommendations. I enjoy listening to instrumental music while I work, so now I have a few things to add to my collection. I want to address a few problems I saw with your response.

First, there was a problem with how you defined holy. In defining holiness, you described positional sanctification in one sense and practical sanctification in another sense. You went on to speak of how music can be holy in that second sense. While the Bible does speak of holiness in terms of moral purity, the predominant meaning of holiness throughout Scripture is the idea of being set apart for God’s purposes. For example, there’s nothing particularly holy about bread, incense or utensils in themselves. However, when used in the tabernacle or temple, they became the “holy” bread (1 Sam. 21:6), the “holy” incense (Ex. 30:37) and the “holy utensils” (Ex. 40:10). But it’s not like they were suddenly changed intrinsically. The molecular structure of the bread didn’t change. What changed? The purpose or usage. The fact that these things were being used specifically for the worship of Yahweh, the infinitely Holy God, is what made them holy, as opposed to common (Lev. 10:10-11).

In your secondary idea of holiness, you rightly stated that “a Christian’s actions are to be holy.” I agree, but of the selections you chose as examples of “holy music”, at least a few of them were composed by non-Christians. Biblically, there is no mention of the holy behavior of people who don’t know the Lord. For behavior to truly be holy, it must spring from a heart changed by God. This highlights a category error that you’re making. What you are calling the “holy behavior” of unbelievers, I believe is actually the Imago Dei. Non-Christians are capable of works of great beauty and skill. That is undeniable. This is the outworking of the image of God in them. You said that you have a robust understanding of human depravity. It seems that your view of the image of God in fallen humanity is not quite as robust.

Second, there was a problem with your distinction between the “natural meaning” and “culturally-conditioned” meaning of music. This is an arbitrary distinction, because it is impossible to discern or assess the “natural meaning” of music without lyrics apart from cultural conditioning. This very conversation demonstrates this. What is the “natural meaning” of a Hip-hop instrumental (Or any other kind of music without lyrics)? And how do you prove it? Those questions can’t be answered apart from a person’s experiences, associations and understanding of context, i.e. cultural conditioning. You are also incorrectly presupposing that instrumental music can only mean one thing. How the same piece of instrumental music is understood and processed varies from culture to culture and person to person.

As a final observation, I find it interesting that you are willing to grant the label of “holy” to instrumental music composed by enemies of God, while at the same time withholding that same label from music that explicitly proclaims the gospel, exalts the person and work of Christ, calls sinners to repentance, highlights the character of the Triune God and encourages the listener to fall at the feet of Jesus in worship and adoration.

Scott-thumb-300x300Thanks, Shai. A few responses:

First, I already acknowledged in my answer that there are several meanings of “holy” in Scripture, and I specifically articulated which meanings I was and was not applying to music. I am not using it here to refer to positional sanctification (music can’t make someone right with God), nor am I using it as a synonym of “sacred,” as you did above. I explicitly stated that I am using “holy” in the 1 Peter 1:15 sense, which refers to conduct that is morally good. The passage (and others) is not talking about positional holiness or setting something apart for sacred use (like bread or utensils); it is talking about actions, and since music is an action (not a thing), music can be either morally good or evil. By the way, I most often use language of morally good or evil rather than “holy” exactly because use of “holy” can be confusing, but I’m comfortable using it in the 1 Peter 1:15 sense to mean morally good.

This also answers your question concerning music produced by believers and unbelievers. Of course, by God’s common grace unbelievers can do things that are morally good (Luke 6:33, Rom 2:14-15), although without faith this certainly doesn’t change their standing before God, and believers can do morally evil things. Likewise, an unbeliever can “do” morally good music, and Christians can “do” morally evil music.

Just because a Christian does something does not automatically render it good, no matter how good his intentions, or even if it happens to have Christian words, no more than a Christian bombing an abortion clinic in the name of God is good.

Second, if you want to talk about “sacred” music, that is, music set apart for specifically sacred purposes, then I would certainly narrow my criteria. I would insist that sacred music be both morally good and have a sacred text that “explicitly proclaims the gospel, exalts the person and work of Christ, calls sinners to repentance, highlights the character of the Triune God, and encourages the listener to fall at the feet of Jesus in worship and adoration.” I will readily acknowledge that there is no such thing as “Christian” or “sacred” music without Christian lyrics, but this is not the same thing as denying the reality of morally good or evil music.

So there are three kinds of music: morally good music (with or without lyrics), morally evil music (with or without lyrics), and morally good music that has been set apart for sacred purposes (with explicitly biblical lyrics).

Third, I’m glad you brought up natural vs. conventional meaning, because this is something I’ve wanted to elaborate on but haven’t had the chance yet. It’s important in this discussion to understand how music carries meaning naturally. I highly recommend Stephen Davies’, Musical Meaning and Expression, which clearly articulates where the most basic meaning does and does not lie:

  1. It is not a system of conventional symbols, like a language.
  2. It is not depictive, like representational paintings.
  3. It is not based on the feelings or intent of the composer or performer.
  4. It is not based on its power to move the listener.

All of these things can be true, but they do not describe the most basic, naturally meaning in music. Instead, Davies explains music’s expressive power with the fact that it resembles “emotion characteristics” in human behavior. He describes what he means by “emotion characteristics in appearance”:

The character of a person’s appearance, bearing, face, or voice sometimes is described by using emotion terms. We might say “He is a sad-looking person” . . . In such cases we do not mean that the person feels sad; neither do we mean that he frequently feels sad, or that we make believe that he feels sad. The reference is not to any emotion, in fact, but to the look of him. (222-223)

He summarizes his position this way:

Music presents emotion characteristics. Just as a willow can be sad-looking, or a person’s face happy-looking, music can present an expressive appearance in its sound (without regard to anyone’s felt emotions). This is because we experience the dynamic character of music as like the actions of a person; movement is heard in music, and that movement is heard as purposive and as rationally organized. (277)

Davies even goes so far as to deny cultural deviation in this level of communication:

I think that the behaviors in question are grounded in our common humanity rather than in arbitrary cultural differences; that is, I believe that Chinese sad-lookingness is much the same as French sad-lookingness. (243)

Because I hold that expressive behaviors owe as much to our common humanity as to our various cultures and that music is expressive in being experienced as like human action, I think that there is a common expressive element found in the musics of different cultures. I know of no culture that consistently expresses sadness with jaunty, fast, sprightly music, nor of any that expresses happiness with slow, dragging music. To take on example, Westerners formerly unacquainted with Japanese music are very unlikely to take the gamelan music that accompanies the weeping of puppet characters in wayang kulit for happy music, or to mistake battle pieces for funeral music. (244)

Davies helpfully explains what I’ve been articulating all along: music’s expressive power is in the music itself, not in any person’s interpretation of its meaning. Furthermore, this position strengthens the view that intrinsic meaning in music is universal, actually rooted in the fabric of humanity.

This way of explaining the most fundamental meaning in music is the consensus of other modern philosophers and theorists such as Susan Langer (Feeling and Form), John Hospers (Artistic Expression), Leonard Meyer (Emotion and Meaning in Music), Peter Kivy (Introduction to a Philosophy of Music), and Bennett Reimer (A Philosophy of Music Education). It is also the consensus of thousands of years of philosophical discourse. Despite their differences in many matters, including some of the specifics of musical value, most of the significant philosophers, musicians, and Christian leaders of the past agreed with this basic understanding of meaning in music, including Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Justin Martyr, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Boetheus, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Asahel Nettleton, and many others.

In summary, because music is human action, particularly “emotion characteristics in appearance,” music may be either morally good or evil, not based on the intent of the composer or performer, or on the interpretation of the listener, but based on how the music itself corresponds to universal human experience.

Series NavigationDiscussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: Example of Holy MusicDiscussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: What Defines Rap?
Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

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

169 Responses to Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: Example of Holy Music (Rebuttal)

  1. Rick says:

    Scott, if I am a new Christian that reads what you say and believes it, then I am now crippled in fear. I don’t want to sin against my God and apparently I can by listening to the wrong type of music. However, you still have not told me how to identify this music! This is very important because I can’t change the channel on the radio for fear of sinning. I’ve evidently listened to music (unknowingly) that is sinful. Oh God….I am so sorry! I must be careful to not listen to this music. But how do I know what music I can and cannot listen to?

    You state it can be from either a secular or Christian composer. Good…I am safe there. Apparently, I must look at the “emotion characteristics in appearance” of the song. Evidently, it is not supposed to be the emotion itself but the emotion characteristic. Please explain that because you point to the face of a sad looking person and a sad looking willow or a person’s happy face. Chinese sad-lookingness and French sad-lookingness are the same so I’m sure I can identify that. Is sad looking bad and happy looking good? Maybe the movement in music is more important to look at since it is “purposive.” What must I look for in the movement of music? You start talking about all cultures using the same type of music to express happiness and sadness. Wait, you didn’t explain the movement in music and what I need to look for there. And I’m still confused about how it is not about the emotions in music but communication….but you keep talking about happiness and sadness in music. Isn’t that emotions? How do I know what is right and what is wrong? I am so confused!

    Apparently, you may just be using this as an example that there is “intrinsic meaning in music.” But I don’t understand what meaning Shai Linne is using in his music that is sinful. Please explain it to me so I can look out for it in all music. And poor Shai must be heart-broken now that he knows he is sinning by putting out this music. Perhaps he understands and can explain what he was communicating with the music. I’ve read some of those you refer to when you say “most of the significant philosophers, musicians, and Christian leaders of the past agreed with this basic understanding of meaning in music.” These guys agree that music expresses emotion. How do I tell when that emotion is sinful?

    Dr. Aniol, I am scared out of my mind because I can’t be sure of what is right and what is wrong. Help me!! With my whole being, I long to stay away from sin and honor my Lord with music. However, I don’t know if what I am listening to is right or wrong.

    Do not take this as sarcasm. It is not. This is the way I used to feel when I was a young Christian. I was crippled in fear because I didn’t know how to identify music that was inherently wrong. I was told by those I trusted that it could be wrong but I didn’t know how to identify it. To confuse matters more, those that were preaching this to me had differing musical preferences that others would say were wrong. This is serious. Either get to the point of identifying sinful music or quit spreading fear that is crippling young Christians that don’t know any better. Many of them will at some point just throw up their hands, throw in the towel, and walk away from God…I’ve watched it happen.

  2. Steven says:

    Scott,

    Let’s say I take a composition from Bach which communicates something as morally good and put a beat to it. Why then is it morally not good with a beat?

  3. Wayne says:

    Rick – I hear you!

    As a general rule, I would stay away from all music that has ties to Africa…

    African music has been a major factor in the shaping of what we know today as Dixieland, the blues and jazz. These styles have all borrowed from African rhythms and sounds, brought over the Atlantic ocean by slaves. African music in Sub-Saharan Africa is mostly upbeat polyrhythmic and joyful, whereas the blues should be viewed as an aesthetic development resulting from the conditions of slavery in the new world.

    As the rise of rock and roll music is often credited as having begun with 1940s American blues, and with so many genres having branched off from rock – the myriad subgenres of heavy metal, punk rock, pop music and many more – it can be argued that African music has been at the root of a very significant portion of all recent popular or vernacular music.

    Rapping is often associated with and a primary ingredient of hip hop music, but the origins of the phenomenon can be said to predate hip hop culture by centuries. It can also be found in alternative rock such as that of Cake and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rapping is also used in Kwaito music, a genre that originated in Johannesburg, South Africa and is composed of hip hop elements. Since the early 21st century, it has been possible to hear rap in every major language of the world.

  4. RH says:

    Did he just basically compare “christian” rap to bombing an abortion clinic? Or am I misinterpreting the meaning of that paragraph? Please tell me I’m misintepreting that…

  5. David Oestreich says:

    Steven, you understand that Bach already has a beat, right? Many beats per composition actually. And usually 3, 4, or 6 beats per measure.

    So you’re talking about adapting a a Bach piece to pop/rock/samba/polka beat. Which changes the composition and alters the “meaning”. The message isn’t in the “tune”. The message is in the composition as a whole.

    I think the best approach here might be to really try understand what is being argued and respond accordingly. Anyone who had been reading to understand Scott’s point, it seems to me, would have been able to anticipate and articulate my perfunctory spelling out of the answer to a question such as Steven’s.

    I don’t mean to be uncharitable, unkind, or snarky, but some of these comments just seem like people aren’t really trying to engage what has been said.

    Nor is Scott the first to articulate these things. See Neil Postman and Marshall McLuhan (albeit regarding different media). This isn’t the stuff of flat-earthers and lunatics. This is just basic aesthetics.

  6. Nick says:

    If the only thing Scott can do to “prove” music can communicate, with the level of specificity he requires to make music evil — saying a song sounds sad will NOT do it — is to appeal to secular authorities, then this is not going anywhere. At the time of Galileo the church followed, quite dogmatically, the geocentric science of the day, which had been followed for hundreds of years. The church did use some bible verses, but make no mistake, it was the science that drove geocentricism. And it was wrong. Yet, just like the church, it appears Scott wants to base his theology of music on science and not Scripture.

    Unbelievers cannot please God, and every moral “good” they do is like filthy rags, because they don’t do it for the glory of God, which is a commandment. So it seems like Scott’s theology of total depravity, despite all his boasting — and he was the one who boasted about how robust his was — is still quite deficient. The fact is the Chinese song he posted came from Pagan origins and was made purposefully for Pagan uses, as Wayne showed. But I do agree it could be used by the church for precisely the same reasons I believe rap can be used by Christians. Scott, on the other hand, has to resort to call a Pagan artifact “morally good” if he wants the church to use it.

  7. Martin says:

    Scott, thanks for the explanations around the meaning of music. Some more books to add to the reading list… yet, I have to agree with Rick: first you repeat the claim that music (without lyrics) is moral or immoral behaviour but the only evidence for that you produce (as helpful as it is) is that music represents emotion. If you followed the comments on previous threads, you will have noticed that we have figured the same but that emotions are not by themselves sinful or good – they are human, for sure, but without context, they are neutral. So we are back to the problem of moral communication without lyrics and/or some other context. You still owe us an explanation that goes further than what you have explained so far.

    Also, I grant Shai that there is not only a natural but also a culturally conditioned meaning of music (what we have called ‘association’ in previous comments). Yet, as I already wrote here and also on Shai’s own blog, this is a moot point since something that is based on cultural consensus still IS meaning, even if it is not universal – it IS clear to the (larger) culture the music is intended for, so we still understand its associations nevertheless.

    Let me repeat my alternative to the above:
    1. Music (without lyrics) does not communicate propositionally but merely represents emotion.
    2. Therefore, making or using such music cannot be called moral or immoral activity.
    3. When used in a specific context, music will shape lyrics and other expressions (e.g., film) in ways determined by its immanent features.
    4. Combined with lyrics, then, music will impact on how lyrics are received. This can take on moral significance.
    5. Although moral situations can be thought of (e.g., playing inappropriately gay music at a funeral that offends those present), the main focus of this discussion should be on artistic expression and how to appropriately combine music and lyrics when communicating Christian messaging. This is a question of good vs. bad art, rather than one of sin.

  8. Nick says:

    Nay, it need to correct something I wrote. Scott is not basing his theology of music on science, but on secular philosophy. And as a renowned philosopher, Plantinga, said, there is hardly any subject in philosophy that is not debated today. I pretty much doubt there aren’t philosophers that would deny everything that Scott said.

  9. Wayne says:

    See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

  10. Martin says:

    Well, Nick: you could say the same about interpreting the Bible, though. And the great number of opinions does not mean there isn’t one correct interpretation!

  11. Mike Bowman says:

    Scott,

    I see where you’re going with this, and I completely agree that there are certain intrinsic emotions and actions that music conveys. I also agree that secular and Christian hip hop artists have used beats that convey unholy anger and have beats that sound like they belong in dance clubs rather than churches. I don’t believe these songs are appropriate for conveying the gospel (Derek Minor’s song Deaf actually points this out pretty well that people naturally pay attention to the beat and can often ignore the message for the sake of dancing).

    However, the discussion we’re having is that hip hop, as a whole, is not a sufficient vehicle to deliver the gospel to the masses. If an artist and dj are diligent in making sure their beat has no inkling of anger, hatred, malice, lust or anything else like that, and their lyrics are purely biblical, would this not be an appropriate vehicle to display the gospel? There are many instances of hip hop songs made by Lecrae, Trip Lee, Shai Linne, Timothy Brindle, Beautiful Eulogy and others that do not have angry or hateful beats, but are very beautiful, soft and loving in their sound and composition. I have one stuck in my head right now, which is Anchor by Beautiful Eulogy. Also Triune Praise Remix by Shai Linne, Fallin by Trip Lee, Take Me As I Am and Prayin For You by Lecrae, Forgiven It All by God’s Servant.

    I’m not trying to say that hip hop has been guilty of displaying too much pride, anger, hatred, malice and lust, because it’s very obvious that it has. What I am saying is that I do believe that there is a well-polished form of hip hop that is fruitful and displays the good character of God appropriately, as according to the scriptures.

  12. Nick says:

    Martin, correct, but the difference should be obvious. The Bible is a book written to be understood. Generally people agree the Bible says Jesus rose bodily from the death, even if they don’t believe it.

    There’s really very little consensus whatsoever in philosophy. And what is consensus today tomorrow is old fashioned. What has philosophy established so that no philosopher can question it? Plantinga’s point was precisely that nothing except the most trivial facts had consensus in philosophy. Maybe he was making an overstatement, but even overstatements nred to be based on some reality.

  13. paul says:

    This is a discussion not a debate, right? It’s purpose is to promote understanding between those with differing viewpoints, isn’t it?

  14. Steven says:

    David,

    I know by adding a modern beat it changes the composition. The question I poorly asked earlier is can one prove what was once communicated as “Happy” now communicates rebellious anger. You can’t tell people as they listen through all the tracks on Shai’s CD ‘Attributes of God’ that every track communicates rebellious anger. Every track on Shai’s CD helps the lyrics communicate the intended message. Compare the Music where Shai raps about the Jealousy of God verses the Music on the patience of God. This proves those who are dogmatic in Scott’s position loses credibility. It’s as if you have your hands over you ears shouting, “Nope that’s rebellious anger you’re listening to”, when we are saying “no, that is not what’s it’s communicating to me.”

  15. Wayne says:

    “This is a discussion not a debate, right? It’s purpose is to promote understanding between those with differing viewpoints, isn’t it”

    Paul, some of us may see this as a discussion, and some may see this as a debate. That is subjective, much like many assumptions written here. I think your question is a good example of that.

  16. David Oestreich says:

    If you can point me to where Scott said all of Shai’s songs communicate rebellious anger specifically . . .

    Although I wouldn’t be surprised if Scott believes and/or said that rap styles generally convey something like that.

    This is a conversation about explaining of principles, their bases, and the way they interact with the arts. It’s a general conversation.

    Scott has already said he is fine with at least one of Shai’s raps, so we should see this as a conversation about rap in general.

  17. Nick says:

    Steven, Actually I will defend David and Scott here, even if I strongly disagree with them.

    I don’t question their assertions. I do believe they hear rebellion in rap. Just like you and I do not hear such rebellion.

    Why? I think the answer lies in cultural conditioning.

    I know of a brother who used to play classical, Spanish, guitar when he was an unbeliever for parties and such (he is Cuban). He came to associate the guitar with sin. So he stopped playing it. I don’t think that’s silly at all. It is simply a recognition of one’s weaknesses — and I for one would be far better off if I recognized mine as readily as he did. The Lord taught us to pray to be delivered from temptations… Yet sometimes it seems like I run to them instead of avoiding them.

    Now, that brother did not say everyone who played classical guitar was in sin. But he couldn’t do it.

    It is the imputation of sin of other brothers based on secular philosopher’s assertions what I think is wrong for Scott to do.

  18. Nick says:

    No David, that’s not Scott’s claim. Read again this thread, and read other of Scott’s articles on this website.

    Scott believes rap as a genre is intrinsically evil. All of it.

    Scott did not acknowledge there was good rap. What he did is instead say that what Shai did was actually not rap.

    Maybe your claim is more modest that Scott’s?

  19. Wayne says:

    Nick, I would agree more with your assessment of Scott’s opinion of Rap.

  20. Steven says:

    David after you’ve boasted:
    “I think the best approach here might be to really try understand what is being argued and respond accordingly. Anyone who had been reading to understand Scott’s point, it seems to me, would have been able to anticipate and articulate my perfunctory spelling out of the answer to a question such as Steven’s.

    I don’t mean to be uncharitable, unkind, or snarky, but some of these comments just seem like people aren’t really trying to engage what has been said.”

    You have shown you have not heeded to your own words. Have you forgotten so quickly Shai’s rebuke to Scott that he is ignorant of rap? Nick is correct that Scott told shai that the song he approved of his was not rap.

  21. David Oestreich says:

    Boasted. Well.

    I haven’t forgotten anything. I was using Shai’s categorization, with which I tend to agree, that’s all.

    Nick, claims abot “rap as a genre” are general claims, Scott’s reclassification of “All praise to the name” notwithstanding.

  22. theDave says:

    Is there any kind of emotion that is truly evil? Is hatred evil? If so, how can I hate sin when the “hate” is evil in and of itself?

    Scott’s whole premise is Gnosticism in attempted Christianese. His philosophy is re-shaped / re-packaged Star Wars philosophy.

    It’s like pasta – you have spaghetti, linguine, angel hair, etc…it may look differently, but they’re all pasta in different forms.

    Scott’s philosophy is inherently Gnositc in a different form.

  23. Nick says:

    David, see http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-music/can-rap-be-christian-evaluating-hip-hop/
    I think Scott explains his views on rap quite clearly in there. Granted, that posting is old… Have Scott’s views changed? I will gladly ackwlnowledge so if there’s evidence to the contrary.

  24. David Oestreich says:

    Nick,

    As to your question about my claims, I’ll bite.

    Rap, or whatever rap I’ve had experience with, tends to have a combative posture, a contrarian sensibility. This is my perception, but if you’ve read Russell Moore and Doug Wilson on the matter, they seem to, generally, see the same thing (which is why they see it as an appropriate vehicle for imprecation and prophetic denunciation). I’m using weasel words here, yes. This is my general assessment.

    Furthermore, rap is a style nurtured within pop culture. I don’t think much of anything important can be said importantly in a pop idiom. That’s largely a philosophical judgment, but philosophy, properly derived, can be considered “light of nature” and is, therefore, admissable in this discussion.

    I do think it may be possible for an artistic use to be made out of popular forms (as Langston Hughes, Kevin Young, and Sean Hill have done with blues stylings–Hill is really very good). But essentially then, I think those elevated forms truly do become something else if still inspired by the pop form.

    Ultimately, though, time will tell if I am correct. I guess we’ll see in one-, two-, or five-hundred years if reformed rap is cherished by the saints of those later ages, or if it’s considered a novelty type artifact akin to records of Rudy Vallee singing through a megaphone.

  25. Nick says:

    David, it seems your claims are more modest than Scott’s, at least the way you described them. I think Martin may be somewhat close to what you wrote — at least he would like to take the argument in the direction of “appropriateness”.

    But Scott is claiming nothing short of sin — and intrinsically, which means in all circumstances.

  26. Martin, and all,

    In your loose syllogism above, you said:

    “5. Although moral situations can be thought of (e.g., playing inappropriately gay music at a funeral that offends those present), the main focus of this discussion should be on artistic expression and how to appropriately combine music and lyrics when communicating Christian messaging. This is a question of good vs. bad art, rather than one of sin.”

    I agree, in large measure, with what you’ve said here, but disagree that it underwrites the dichotomy with which you conclude. That is to say, if there truly is such a thing as an inappropriate combination of tune and text (as you acknowledge), and if someone insists on continuing to offer that inappropriate combination as suitable for worship, is there not a certain point at which such activity could be considered sinful?

    I think the connection holds true even apart from questions of intent. Certainly, if someone is writing Christian polkas for the purpose of trivializing the sacrificial atonement, he is sinning. But suppose that another person is writing Christian polkas (or, as I’ve argued elsewhere, Christian limericks) with a sincere heart? His sin is (doubtless) less than the one who is attempting to mock the faith. But may there still be sin involved? Especially if the person proffering such things is an elder or leader of worship?

  27. Martin says:

    Michael, my understanding is that this discussion is NOT about (corporate) worship but more generally about the genre as it is used for entertainment and for teaching, as Shai suggests.

    Nevertheless, you make an important point requiring more refinement of our discussion, for sure. What I meant to say is that there is the possibility of sin but that I do not think it occurs frequently. My preliminary take on this question is that IF the artist misrepresents the biblical intent of the messaging he provides (whether intentional or not, as in your polka example) then he may be sinning just as a preacher preaching false doctrine is sinning. It would be miscommunication, including trivialization or possibly, the creation of wrong affections as is often criticized with respect to CCM that suggests a romantic love for God, rather than a reverent love of our Creator and King.

    To judge which one is the case is the crunching point in our discussion. Is HHH such miscommunication? If so, in all cases or are there exceptions? How can we determine if it’s the case or not? Which elements of the answer are culturally conditioned and which can be pinned down as universal/naturally immanent? And does the miscommunication only lead to bad art (as in, it still communicates the intended message but could be done better) or does it distort the message so much that we need to reject it as heterodox?

    Well, at least we are refining our questions, even if the answers remain elusive :-)

  28. Martin says:

    Thinking again about the ‘false preaching’ example, I think most here are Calvinists. So would you consider an Arminian preacher sins each time he touches on the subject of salvation, even though you accept him as a brother in Christ? Of course he preaches from his convictions, so there is no immoral intent. Still, it may look immoral from another perspective. I think we have to grapple with the same kinds of questions if we want to judge Shai’s music as moral or immoral. Sticking to the artistic value avoids these issues; maybe we can concentrate on this perspective for now and later analyze if there are sin issues as well.

  29. Nathan says:

    wow this is a dumb debate.

  30. Josh says:

    What I see subtly implied here is that “peaceful” and “calm” are godly emotions while “anger” or anything with action is not. And that is the basis used to determine “holy” music or “unholy” music. That paradigm does not square with the actions of Jesus (John 2:15, Rev 19). Of course music without lyrics can convey an emotion but that emotion is not necessarily sinful, in fact the absence of that emotion is what might be sinful (i.e. calm apathy towards false teaching).

  31. Martin,

    The argument as you’re presenting it is exactly how I’d want to present it. So, to take your example, to whatever degree a Calvinist or Arminian misrepresents the meaning of the text of Scripture, he is sinning. Again, I would distinguish 1) intentional misrepresentation from sincere mistakes, and 2) levels of culpability based on levels of leadership (as leadership ought to know better). Therefore, the hypothetical “person in the pew” who takes an errant position sincerely, having had little opportunity to ever know differently, is at the opposite extreme of guilt from the person who sets himself up knowingly as a false teacher.

    But all of us need mercy, theologically.

    I also would very much insist that there are degrees of error in these matters, as there are with doctrine. Just as denial of the Trinity is (obviously) a much more serious matter than is denial of particular redemption, different kinds of “musical error” can be of greater or lesser significance.

    The standard is the Word, but that does not mean that this is an objective judgment. (An aside: I would argue that wisdom, as conceived biblically, is deeply subjective. In this sense, subjectivity is a virtue, not a vice. It is the practice of sound judgment: knowing, for instance, when to answer the fool. Wisdom is not about following the policies and procedures manual. It is, in that sense, subjective.)

    How is the Word the standard? My claim would be that our goal, when presenting Paul’s teaching on justification (for instance), is not only to say *what* Paul says, but to say what Paul says in a manner that is faithful to *how* Paul says it. Again, this involves judgment calls. But it is the reason that I think we can say that the preacher who is a stand up comic is *unbiblical*. We are making a judgment about the text, and then we are making a judgment about the style of the stand up comic, and finding that they are incompatible. (I think this would be why Carl Trueman was right to say that boring preaching is a sin. http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2011/08/1-tim-1-part-1-doctrine-and-do.php)

    For those of us arguing for conservatism, this is why we feel that this is a biblical issue. It isn’t so much that the Bible *tells* us about style; the Bible *shows* us a style. And sola scriptura demands our allegiance to both *what* the text says and *how* the text says.

    To clarify: this is not to say that we’re all going to agree about either the style of the biblical text or the style of a given piece of music. But our disagreement, like our theological disagreements, doesn’t lead us to the conclusion that there really is no truth of the matter. It will likely mean that, practically, as we come to entrenched understandings of *how* the Bible says things, we will have essentially “denominational” level distinctives. And just as I can recognize my brothers who are Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. (while insisting that they believe errors), I can recognize my brothers like Shai (while insisting that his music presents an error of affections).

    Of course, I still haven’t offered any argument why rap is wrong. But I think the categories here are more important than the specifics. If we don’t agree on the categories (and why they are serious), we’ll talk past each other on the specifics. There may be evidence of that in the neighborhood. :)

  32. Josh,

    You raise a point here that’s been repeated a number of times, and merits comment. Essentially, you suggest that a host of emotions have a place in the Christian life, and to exalt one over the other is misguided.

    First, let’s concede your first point: there are times for a variety of emotions. Your example of Jesus overturning the moneychangers’ tables is good.

    But second, let’s make some careful distinctions. Not all anger, for instance, is the same. Perhaps an example would be useful. Consider this scene in the recent-ish movie on Martin Luther:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZTKKjxvBhE&t=1m36s

    Now, imagine that at about 2:35, when the depth of the evil of indulgences settles on Luther, that the soundtrack switched to something more like this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QpQk8oBLLE

    Is the original soundtrack and my proposed replacement doing the same thing? Are they expressing the same kind of energy against false teaching? What manner of confrontation with his opponents would be suited to each soundtrack?

    Third, even though we definitely need to allow that a variety of emotions have a place in the life of the believer, it is also the case that some emotions should *characterize* his life. I don’t think this is debatable. For instance, this Sunday I’m preaching 1 Timothy 3:1-7, the qualifications of the overseer. Among these, he is not to be contentious, not to be violent, but to be gentle, and self-controlled, and sober-minded. In other words, certain “emotions” are to be his dominant characteristics.

    This is why (returning the one of Martin’s earlier comments) I think this question of rap, etc., is relevant for all of life, and not merely corporate worship. Even if we say that rap is fitting for prophetic denunciation and the like, if our daily listening is characterized by such things, is that fitting with what the standard life of the believer is to be?

  33. Martin says:

    Very well put, Michael!

  34. Alan says:

    We have a “discussion” here from people mainly immersed in postmodern culture that has attempted and largely succeeded in removing meaning from almost everything. Now, I am not saying that things don’t mean anything resulting from pomo, but, again, the pomos have removed the meaning for their own purpose. Most of the commenters here have sold out to that. I think that most, using feigned incredulity, know that they’re doing it. It is simply justifying their actions, like the Corinthians, meats for the belly and belly for meats. They know that if you add rock percussion to Bach, “Hooked on Bach,” you change the meaning of Bach. The world knows that, so it applies the “hooked on,” designation, describing perfectly the point of the rock percussion. How does rock percussion ‘hook” someone? Professing Christians know too, but play the village idiot out of convenience.

    I don’t believe the faux peril, “crippled with fear” over not knowing what is morally good or bad. I don’t believe that the people reading here don’t get it. I don’t believe any of the above do not get it. Everyone here knows this. I add one caveat — consciences become so salved or seared that they lose capacity to warn.

    It’s obvious that the two debate participants have held themselves to a word count, so when Scott doesn’t deal with exactly what you “need,” he hasn’t failed. Let’s start with what he said. Is it right or wrong? That’s how we should be reading this. Music has inherent meaning and as human communication it can be morally, inherently good or bad. This is agreed upon by the experts. I know it is agreed upon by the readers here too, but they can’t admit it, because they don’t want their music judged. Scott is dealing with this on the most root level. He is attempting to attempt agreement, it seems, on the most elemental aspects before moving on. If he can’t get agreement on the most basic, he’s not going to get anywhere.

    For objective purposes, I don’t know why Scott used Chinese guzheng music. To start, we’re talking about music someone plays or listens to, not uses for worship. I don’t think it was a good example. I think he was trying to show several things in the one example: unbelievers can communicate morally, it isn’t just Western (also combats the typical racial accusation sure to come), and there is inherent meaning (despite the associative issues that Wayne has enjoyed pointing out). I believe it was a bad example, because (1) there are associative problems, (2) we should be judging it as potentially wrong because of the religious influence from which it comes, and (3) it has elements in it that could be judged to be morally, inherently wrong. The guzheng is very often played to experience the way of zen, and the musical example Scott used sounds just like the Buddhist music played to experience zen. Is this morally wrong? The music dovetails with biblical characteristics: a feeling of peace, tranquility, calmness, and rest — but those are all part of Buddhist meditation, attempting to become one with the universe, the pantheism. Scott is not advocating for using this in worship, just listening. The effects might be the same as the effects someone gets in a certain sense from doing yoga. It sounds similar to new age music, which I would think he would also judge to be morally wrong. I personally like new age music, but I don’t listen to it because it is morally bad and influential to false spirituality. The guzheng, I believe, can be used to play good music, but because of its associations, it has mainly been used for Buddhist or zen music.

  35. Wayne says:

    Alan, I enjoyed your last paragraph.

  36. Rajesh says:

    Alan, in light of what you have just written, would you think that “O Holy Night” played instrumentally on guitar and cello in a very conservative style by dedicated Christians in the context of Christian worship would be a good example of “holy” music or would you judge it also as a bad example because the guitar has obviously been used by many people to produce lots of sinful music?

  37. Nick says:

    Alan, so are Christians in China in sin for using that music for worship? Scott appeared to approve of the practice. Does that mean he’s approvingof sin in your eestimation?

    Of course, you know I’m one of those “post moderns” that believes the meaning of music is as much cultural as anything else, thereby agreeing with Shai. But I am curious. After all, you intimated this is all obvious and that we should know, or perhaps our consciences are seared.

  38. Alan says:

    I think there are a lot of similarities between Chinese Buddhism music and Bach, which is why, I think, that Scott sees the guzheng music in his example as moral. Here’s my take on it. Bach is pre-enlightenment music that orders his music after transcendent beauty. He looks at the nature of God and writes music after God’s nature as seen in the order of God’s creation. There is a mathematical precision to Bach. There is a geometry to both Hindu and Buddhist music, but why?

    Buddhism sees flesh as evil and spirit as good. The music is to help through meditation the listener or participant into pure spirit by releasing him from his body as much as possible. This is the entrance to the zen state. He is becoming one with nature. The music takes on the qualities of nature, like a floating butterfly or a river or clouds moving, those kinds of things. Nature is mathematical, because God created it, and so there lies the similarity between Bach and zen music. However, the latter is qualitatively different in its meaning, a different kind of repetition, like cycles, which are intended to take someone from his world of pain into this oneness. This is a transcendental meditation technique. It is very dangerous, because it is false spirituality, and opens someone to demonic influence. The zen empties the mind and the Bach engages the mind. The two are very similar, but different. This is where I don’t get Scott on this, and he shoots himself in the foot, in my opinion in what seems like an attempt to be generous.

    I was listening to the guzheng and my wife asked, “Why are you listening to that?” I explained. She knew I wouldn’t listen to it. There is a reason why it clashes with my/our culture, speaking of Christian culture, not Western. There is something wrong with it. I think the people need the gospel first, but I wouldn’t use Buddhist music in worship. I’m not advocating confrontation of Chinese on their music — they wouldn’t get it. I wouldn’t listen to it for enjoyment, not because of personal taste, but because it is morally wrong.

    And I believe people reading this know what I’m talking about.

  39. Alan says:

    Rajesh,

    Did you read the last sentence of my previous paragraph? Because that should have answered that question.

  40. Alan says:

    Rajesh,

    I thought I should write a little more. I believe most instruments can be used in worship. Psalm 150. This is usually a straw man argument. Some instruments have been invented solely for a particular kind of music and those are the most unlikely, and some because of association. I would wonder if the guzheng could be used at all for worship, but I can’t say, no. It doesn’t play all the notes of historical Christian hymnody, so new tunes would need to be written just for those words. I don’t think it’s the instrument that is the problem here, Rajeesh, but the culture that uses that instrument almost exclusively for Buddhism or zen. That’s all I’m saying.

  41. Nick says:

    Alan,
    Actually I only get the part that it is not western music, and the part that it has been associated in the past with Paganism. I don’t get the part about it being evil… But you probably could have already guessed that.

    Do you believe the Christian church used exclusively Jewish music before say Constantine? If not, would you not agree that music would have had Pagan roots? Or do you think Christians made brand new genres for the purpose of worship?

  42. Rajesh says:

    Alan, I did read your last sentence and was fairly sure how you would answer my question. Still, I wanted to check to be sure.

    I think that the example that I proposed is a good example of “holy” music. Here’s an audio recording for anyone who might like to hear what that sounds like: http://apeopleforhisname.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Guitar.cello-duet-O-Holy-Night.mp3

    I think many other similar examples could be produced.

  43. Wayne says:

    And they sang a NEW song, saying,
    “Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
    for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
    and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

    We are not going back to Egypt or to the Garden. We are going forward to a city full of all tribes, languages, peoples and nations. Yes, Chinese guzheng music has pagan roots and pagan themes and is a horrible example of “holy” music (under any definition of “holy”). I believe a NEW Chinese guzheng song can be played on this side of Heaven. And if Revelation is only talking about a new song in Heaven, then all the music on this side of Glory will be gone (including our most beloved ones).

  44. Ronnie says:

    Hey Rajesh,

    Good to “see” you again.

    You stated:
    “I think that the example that I proposed is a good example of “holy” music. Here’s an audio recording for anyone who might like to hear what that sounds like:http://apeopleforhisname.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Guitar.cello-duet-O-Holy-Night.mp3”

    If you had never heard of “O Holy Night” before, what would be the objective characteristic of the music itself so that you could identify it as “holy”?

    Ronnie

  45. drfiddledd says:

    Lacking a clear and simple definition of what constitutes evil or good music, there seems to be one solution to allay the fears of those who are afraid they might be listening to evil music.Their leaders will tell them what is good and evil. That’s what scares me!

  46. Rajesh says:

    Hi Ronnie,

    I’m appreciative that our previous interaction did not prevent you from discoursing further with me. In deference to Scott and the ongoing debate that he is having on this subject, I will refrain from laying out my views about the answer to your question at this time. When this debate is done, I’ll be glad to engage with you more about that.

    For now, I will say that I believe that there are other key aspects of biblical teaching about music that have not been accounted for in the debate or in the discussion threads in the comments on the various posts and that my approach to this matter depends in large measure on how those other considerations affect the whole nature of this discussion.

  47. Rajesh says:

    drfiddledd,

    What makes you think that there must be a simple definition of what constitutes evil or good music? The apostle Paul had to devote 3 chapters in a NT epistle to teach believers how to handle certain issues about which the Bible does not give specific, detailed instructions.

    Allow me to suggest that you repeatedly immerse yourself in the more than 3000 verses in Scripture that have to do with music. Let me also add that God wants Christians to heed instruction from their leaders.

    Spiritual maturity involves training over a long period of time in discerning between good and evil. According to Scripture, one part of obtaining such discernment is to allow spiritual leaders to disciple you.

  48. Ronnie says:

    Hey Rajesh,

    My last sentence in my last post was:

    “Until we meet again in another thread.” :)

    Well the reason I asked you, was because you gave an example of “holy” music. So let me ask you a more basic question. Are you saying that you can hear music without any context for its creation and know if it is sinful or not based on biblical principles?

    Ronnie

  49. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    Yes, I did read your last sentence. but expected that it might be a while before we would interact again.

    Yes, I do believe that mature spiritually minded believers who are filled with the Spirit can listen to instrumental music pieces and know that they are sinful by hearing them without knowing anything about the “context for [their] creation.”

  50. Martin says:

    Sorry to interrupt…

    Upon David’s (above) recommendation, here’s Moore’s article in Christianity Today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/may/ww-jay-z.html

    Quote: “Hip-hop with a bowed head (or a bowed heart) is hard to imagine; it would be unfaithful to the spirit of hip-hop, and to the spirit of reverence,” Myers said as we continued talking over e-mail. One cannot, he said, rap the Sermon on the Mount without altering the fundamental meaning of either the text or the form, any more than one could easily perform “Girlfriend in a Coma” set to Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal.” To use “pious and humble” hip-hop lyrics would be to ignore or denigrate “the musical vocabulary of hip-hop,” since it is a style “more at home with a confident swagger than with receptive poverty of spirit.”

    Or this one: Southern gospel, like country music, can explore sin, but it typically does so from the point of view of an individual having made bad decisions, more in grief than in rage or defiance. If country and gospel music are in the company of psalms of lament, hip-hop is in the territory of psalms of imprecation (compare Psalm 58′s “Break the teeth in their mouths, O God” with 50 Cent’s “If you got a glass jaw, you should watch your mouth, ’cause I’ll break your face”).

    Or this: Christian hip-hop boasts, yes, but it seems to be using the medium to do exactly what Paul did: “boasting” in his accomplishments only to throw them all aside and “boast” instead in the Cross.

    … and Fitzgerald’s reply, much along the lines we have heard before in comments here: not all rap is created equal :-)

    http://www.patrolmag.com/2013/05/01/jonathan-d-fitzgerald/yo-thats-wack-christianity-todays-hip-hop-cover-story-is-an-embarrassing-disaster/

    Doug Wilson answered on the original panel discussion but when I was trying to find his post, it seemed off-line. Here’s the cashed version: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:uOUlPZ3H6HMJ:dougwils.com/s7-engaging-the-culture/rap-tide.html&hl=en&strip=1

  51. Rajesh says:

    Martin,

    Just because Moore and Wilson (and probably many others) assert that Christian hip-hop is fitting for “the territory of psalms of imprecation” does not make it so. Do these people have any objective biblical evidence about what form of music the psalmists were using when they sang the psalms of imprecation so that they can say that Christian hip-hop is appropriate for ministering those truths inspired by the Holy Spirit?

    Obviously, they do not have any such evidence, so this is purely their opinion and does not amount to any kind of objective evidence that establishes the legitimacy of Christian hip-hop.

  52. Rick says:

    Wow, Alan! I’m apparently the lying “village idiot” that displays “faux peril.” If the attitude in your post reflects those of spiritually mature Christians, then I choose to remain a “village idiot.”

    My post was not a faux peril about being crippled with fear. That was the state I was in due to the erroneous and false teaching about syncopated backbeats, music killing plants, and other such nonsense. Then when you ask questions (since the arguments make no sense), you quickly get the picture that you’re too immature to understand. When you ask about Scripture that teaches the morality of music, you get eisegesis and terrible hermeneutics. What does this teach kids? That they are not spiritually mature enough to understand Scripture, so why should they even try? Why even read Scripture? Some expert somewhere will tell you what music is good and what music isn’t since no one else in the church is spiritually mature enough to read between the lines of Scripture.

    I don’t want my kids or the kids I work with to be exposed to such terrible teaching and resulting fear. Scripture should be upheld as the authority rather than what “I think.” BTW, if these things are so obvious to everyone then it should be easy for you to point out what in a song is immoral. Pick one of Shai’s songs and show us the specific elements of the music that are sinful.

  53. Alan says:

    Rick,

    Have you read Scott’s books?

  54. Ronnie says:

    Hey Rajesh,

    You stated:
    “Yes, I do believe that mature spiritually minded believers who are filled with the Spirit can listen to instrumental music pieces and know that they are sinful by hearing them without knowing anything about the “context for [their] creation.”

    Are you one of those “mature spiritually minded believers who are filled with the Spirit” that can do this?

    Ronnie

  55. Nick says:

    Thank you Rick. I for one appreciate the straightforwardness of what you wrote. I don’t question that Alan, et al, hear sex, anger, whatever in rap or rock. But I guess some of us that don’t hear such things will not get the courtesy of the same treatment. I guess neither Chinese believers will get such courtesy, because of course, just like us, they will not get it. But hey, I hear those folks have more important things to worry about like being thrown in jail for their faith. That’s not such a bad company if you ask me.

    Maybe they can teach us something about spiritual maturity instead?

  56. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    How about you stop focusing on me and focus instead on what the Bible says about music? To answer your question, God expects that every believer over time to become mature and be filled with the Spirt (Heb. 5; Eph. 5; etc.). Whether or not I or anyone else is such a believer is up to us to choose to immerse ourselves in all that God says in Scripture. When all of the Scripture is not brought to bear on the positions that we take, we cannot be discerning to the extent that God wants us to be.

    Being filled with the Spirit is not something that is automatically true of every believer just because he is a believer, and it is not true of any believer all the time. To the extent that any of us refuses to accept all that God says about a subject, we will not be spiritually minded about that subject.

    I believe that many of the positions taken on the music issues stem from lack of knowledge and/or philosophical rejection of biblical teaching about music and other related issues. I am still learning more about what God teaches about the music; based on what I understand to this point, I reject the rock and other music that I immersed myself in for many years before I was a believer.

  57. Rajesh says:

    To clarify what I said in my first paragraph, being filled with the Spirit is something that God commands be true of every believer all the time, but spiritual maturity only comes over an extended period of time.

  58. Ronnie says:

    You stated:
    “How about you stop focusing on me and focus instead on what the Bible says about music? To answer your question, God expects that every believer over time to become mature and be filled with the Spirt (Heb. 5; Eph. 5; etc.). Whether or not I or anyone else is such a believer is up to us to choose to immerse ourselves in all that God says in Scripture. When all of the Scripture is not brought to bear on the positions that we take, we cannot be discerning to the extent that God wants us to be.”

    I’m not trying to make this about you, but trying to understand. You posted some music that you said was an example of “holy” music. Since the discussion is about music being inherently sinful or not, I asked if you would know “holy” music if you heard it for the first time and was not familiar with its creation. You stated it was possible based on some biblical principles, but didn’t want to divulge at the time. If you wanted to focus on what the Bible says about music that would have been the perfect time to do it, but you chose not to. You also stated mature and spirit filled Christians could determine if music was sinful by listening to it without any context of its creation. So I naturally asked if you were one of them. Not sure why you didn’t answer the question directly. I’ve been a Christian for a while and I know a lot of Christians that I consider mature and spirit filled, but none of them claim they can determine the sinfulness of music as you stated. So I’m trying to understand.

    You stated:
    “Being filled with the Spirit is not something that is automatically true of every believer just because he is a believer, and it is not true of any believer all the time. To the extent that any of us refuses to accept all that God says about a subject, we will not be spiritually minded about that subject.”

    So if being filled with the Spirit is “not true of any believer all the time” and you stated being filled with the spirit was one of the conditions for determining the sinfulness of music can you only make the determination during the period when you are filled or one instance of being filled grants the ability for perpetuity? BTW, I don’t think anyone here is refusing to accept all that God is saying about the subject do you?

    You stated:
    I believe that many of the positions taken on the music issues stem from lack of knowledge and/or philosophical rejection of biblical teaching about music and other related issues. I am still learning more about what God teaches about the music; based on what I understand to this point, I reject the rock and other music that I immersed myself in for many years before I was a believer.

    Well maybe you will enlighten us about what the Bible’s teaching on music, because I don’t see that much. Yes, it is mentioned a lot in worshipping and praising God, but I don’t see anything about how to determine what tunes are evil.

  59. Adam says:

    Alan,

    You’ve stated:

    “Most of the commenters here have sold out to that. I think that most, using feigned incredulity, know that they’re doing it. It is simply justifying their actions….”

    “I don’t believe that the people reading here don’t get it. I don’t believe any of the above do not get it. Everyone here knows this. I add one caveat — consciences become so salved or seared that they lose capacity to warn.”

    “And I believe people reading this know what I’m talking about.”

    “Music has inherent meaning and as human communication it can be morally, inherently good or bad. This is agreed upon by the experts. I know it is agreed upon by the readers here too, but they can’t admit it, because they don’t want their music judged.”

    You appear to be calling all those who disagree with Scott–and you–liars. If I have misinterpreted you, then by all means correct me, but that is exactly how it comes across. With respect, all of the above comes across as very arrogant.

    It seems to me that, when someone takes the position that Martin, Nick, myself, and others, take, you have three options in possible response:

    1. Dismiss our testimony out of hand with claims that our consciences are seared, or something similar. You appear to do this above.

    2. Dismiss our testimony by accusing us of being liars. You also appear to do this above.

    3. Accept our testimony as truthful.

    It is clear to me that you are unwilling to simply accept what we say as truthful. Though I believe I understand why this is, it is disturbing to me that your position forces you to a priori dismiss any counter evidence. You have stacked the deck in your favor.

    As an example: you could post a link to a rap video and say that you hear anger and rebellion in it. Well and good; I haven’t seen anybody in this discussion reject such testimony. Then one of us who disagree with you could listen to the very same music, and conclude that we don’t hear anger and rebellion in it. But you cannot accept this testimony, because the claim you are making is universal, and a single piece of counter-evidence would appear to be very damaging to your case. So you dismiss our account, either by calling us liars (which you appeared to do above), or by claiming to know that our consciences have been seared (which you also appeared to do above), or something similar.

    In short, you are refusing to accept any opposing evidence. I find this troubling.

  60. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    Deuteronomy 9:21 was dismissed by at least one person in one of these threads as figurative language because it did not fit their philosophical preconceptions. The text says that the Golden Calf was a sinful thing. If that text is taken at face value, as I believe it should, it refutes a foundational viewpoint that many in this discussion hold.

    But, we have already gone round and round on that point.

    I knew why you asked what you asked in your previous remarks, and I tried to answer in a way that would not lead me into a further discussion of some of my specific views (for the reason I explained earlier).that have not been addressed either in the debate or in the threads so far.

    You mentioned the possibility that I might be able to offer some illumination. Many CCM advocates use 1 Tim. 4:3-5 to support their views. Here is my treatment of a passage that shows that many have misapplied or misunderstood how that text and another often-used text would apply to the music debates: http://apeopleforhisname.org/2014/01/why-2-kings-438-41-shows-that-1-timothy-43-5-and-617-do-not-automatically-justify-ccm/

    How about reading this treatment to see if it sheds any light for you about why I think that many people (including me) can assess music as being sinful?

  61. Ronnie says:

    Hey Rajesh,

    You stated:
    Deuteronomy 9:21 was dismissed by at least one person in one of these threads as figurative language because it did not fit their philosophical preconceptions. The text says that the Golden Calf was a sinful thing. If that text is taken at face value, as I believe it should, it refutes a foundational viewpoint that many in this discussion hold.But, we have already gone round and round on that point.”

    Yes, we have went around on it. But what I would suggest to you is that it is sinful for you to impute motives to those that don’t accept your interpretation. It seems whenever someone disagrees with your interpretation it is because of “philosophical preconceptions” or something similar. Also I assume by “… text is taken at face value …” you mean in a wooden literal sense? Well, that is not a good hermeneutic. Wooden literal is not a default choice, but context always drive what is the face value of the text. As a matter of fact when interacting with the CCM position below you are not taking the text at face value, but trying to understand its intended meaning.

    You stated:
    “I knew why you asked what you asked in your previous remarks, and I tried to answer in a way that would not lead me into a further discussion of some of my specific views (for the reason I explained earlier).that have not been addressed either in the debate or in the threads so far.”

    I don’t know why the issue not being addressed in this debate gives you pause from discussing your views since you don’t seem to have much pause about issuing judgments that Christians are sinning by listening/creating certain types of music.

    You state:
    “You mentioned the possibility that I might be able to offer some illumination. Many CCM advocates use 1 Tim. 4:3-5 to support their views. Here is my treatment of a passage that shows that many have misapplied or misunderstood how that text and another often-used text would apply to the music debates: http://apeopleforhisname.org/2014/01/why-2-kings-438-41-shows-that-1-timothy-43-5-and-617-do-not-automatically-justify-ccm/
    How about reading this treatment to see if it sheds any light for you about why I think that many people (including me) can assess music as being sinful?”

    Thanks for the link. I did read your thoughts on this matter. First, let me say I’m not a fan of CCM, because I don’t think most of it is theologically sound. Second, I don’t think your post comes close to proving your case. In your post you are equivocating on the word “good”. The Biblical issue with food is not a biological one (i.e. is the food poisonous or healthy for you), but instead does it make one unclean/defiled. So under the New Covenant when the Scriptures speak of all food being good for you it is not talking about the food being healthy or non-poisonous, but instead the food does not make you unclean/defiled by eating it. Likewise, the argument would follow for music in that it doesn’t make you unclean/defiled/sinful.

  62. Cheryl says:

    I have a question. I sometimes put on ‘baby lullaby radio’ on to help put my baby to sleep. I have noticed that there have been many 1980′s rock songs converted to lullabies (Jammy Jams). Are these sinful to listen to? What if I am from a newer generation and didn’t know the original songs?

  63. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    Thanks for getting back to me. I do not think that I imputed any sinful motive when I said that the person who rejected the literal interpretation of Deut. 9:31 did so because of philosophical preconceptions. He said that he did not consider this verse a philosophical statement and that we had to apply common sense and logic to determining what this text says. That’s what I meant by “philosophical preconceptions.”

    You assert that “wooden literal is not a default choice” but that interpretation has to be driven by context. I disagree with your hermeneutic and believe that the default choice is to take Scripture literally unless there is compelling basis in the context for not doing so. I find no basis in the context of Deuteronomy 9 or Exodus 32 that requires that we take the statement in a figurative sense.

    I also do not think that the larger Scriptural context provides any compelling basis for having to take this statement as figurative language. But, I hope that this is enough about that discussion to explain what I wrote.

    Concerning the second part of your reply, I have already explained my reticence as much as I believe is appropriate, so I will not be discussing that further.

    Thanks for reading my article and critiquing it. I am going to consider your critique thoroughly to see what merit it may have. I can say that it is ironic that you charged me with “equivocating on the word ‘good.’” The dictionary definition of “equivocate” is “to use equivocal terms in order to deceive or mislead; be purposely ambiguous.” I most certainly did not write what I wrote to mislead anyone intentionally.

    I wrote what I wrote because it was what I believed the text was saying. In light of what you pointed out, which I did not think enough about because I was focusing only on the broad statements in 1 Tim. 4:3b-5 and not on the preceding verses, I will go back and restudy the passage to see if your critique is valid or not and respond accordingly.

  64. Ronnie says:

    Hey Cheryl,

    Good question, but of course you are sinning. I would suggest not listening to any music until it is verified by one of the few that can hear a tune and tell you if it is sinful. Maybe they can come up with an app that we can play all music through. If the music is sinful it will not play or it automatically removes the evil notes and replace them with good godly notes.

  65. drfiddledd says:

    Dear Cheryl,

    According to some, in order to discern between good and evil you need spiritual maturity which involves training over a long period of time. Lacking that, I guess they would suggest that you simply do what your leaders tell you to do. Personally, I’ve never been much of a one for the magisterium model of church leadership.

    IMO, if your conscience is at peace and your baby is sleeping, be thankful. Remember, as a child of God, the Holy Spirit who dwells within you, is the One who convicts of sin..

  66. Ronnie says:

    Hey Rajesh,

    You stated:
    Thanks for reading my article and critiquing it. I am going to consider your critique thoroughly to see what merit it may have. I can say that it is ironic that you charged me with “equivocating on the word ‘good.’” The dictionary definition of “equivocate” is “to use equivocal terms in order to deceive or mislead; be purposely ambiguous.” I most certainly did not write what I wrote to mislead anyone intentionally.

    I’m sorry, I didn’t mean “equivocation” in the sense of purposely trying to mislead or deceive. I was using equivocation in the sense of a logical fallacy. It would be similar if I said you were making a straw man argument. You can google and find many examples of the fallacy of equivocation, but here is one: http://www.logicalfallacies.info/ambiguity/equivocation/ . We all commit logical fallacies in our reasoning so I was not imputing any sinful motives to your work.

    You stated:
    “I wrote what I wrote because it was what I believed the text was saying. In light of what you pointed out, which I did not think enough about because I was focusing only on the broad statements in 1 Tim. 4:3b-5 and not on the preceding verses, I will go back and restudy the passage to see if your critique is valid or not and respond accordingly.”

    I understand. I would add that the issue of food in the NT is constant struggle for the Jews, because of the dietary restrictions they had under the Old Covenant. Therefore, this issue is addressed numerous times in the NT, and we have discussed some of the instances, but there are more. In each case it is dealing with food restrictions from previous Old Covenant restrictions to the New Covenant liberty. This one of the areas of discontinuity between the Old and New Covenant.

  67. Rajesh says:

    No problem, Ronnie. Thanks for clarifying your remarks. I’ll get back to you about the article after I am done studying the passage thoroughly.

  68. William says:

    You guys really know how to set up your own straw men, don’t you.

    No, it does not take an all-wise expert to discern what music means. That’s why Dr. Aniol has refrained from a strictly musicological analysis, which I’m sure he could handle.

    What he has said all along is that all it takes is someone willing to observe reality, just like we all can tell what constitutes a proud look or a rude tone of voice.

    Allen is right in what he said above. Everyone knows what music means; you just don’t want to admit it because you like it.

    You all sound like my teenage son trying to convince me that his disrespectful attitude is not really disrespectful.

  69. Ronnie says:

    Hey William,

    You stated:
    “What he has said all along is that all it takes is someone willing to observe reality, just like we all can tell what constitutes a proud look or a rude tone of voice.
    Allen is right in what he said above. Everyone knows what music means; you just don’t want to admit it because you like it.”

    So if I provide you with instrumental music you can tell without knowing anything about its origin if it is sinful or not?

  70. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    After giving it more thought, I think that the best way to handle your critique of my article’s validity would be to move that discussion to the comments on my post instead of multiplying comments on Scott’s site about a matter that is related to what Scott and Shai talked about on this post but not that directly. If you agree, please post your earlier critique in a comment on my article on my blog and we can go from there.

    Moving it there would also provide other readers who come only to my blog to read that article with the chance to benefit from our further and fuller discussion of the issue that you have raised.

    Thanks.

    Rajesh

  71. drfiddledd says:

    Is this what you meant by a straw man? This is what Rajeesh said earlier:

    ” Let me also add that God wants Christians to heed instruction from their leaders.

    Spiritual maturity involves training over a long period of time in discerning between good and evil. According to Scripture, one part of obtaining such discernment is to allow spiritual leaders to disciple you.”

    Then you say that “Everyone knows what music means”.

    So is musical discernment the result of spiritual maturity over a long period of time or is it common knowledge ?

  72. Rick says:

    It’s amazing how it is so obvious to so many people yet no one can say what is sinful in a song. This should be easy for you if it is so obvious. Do what we expected Scott to do…pick one of Shai Linne’s songs and tell us what is sinful in the music. If music can be inherently evil, tell us what is inherently evil in one of his songs. We’ll make it easy on you and even let you pick the song rather than selecting one for you.

  73. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    If the approach that I suggested earlier is not acceptable to you, would it be ok for me to quote this part of your critique in an update so that I can inform my readers of your concern and my intent to address it thoroughly:

    “The Biblical issue with food is not a biological one (i.e. is the food poisonous or healthy for you), but instead does it make one unclean/defiled. So under the New Covenant when the Scriptures speak of all food being good for you it is not talking about the food being healthy or non-poisonous, but instead the food does not make you unclean/defiled by eating it. Likewise, the argument would follow for music in that it doesn’t make you unclean/defiled/sinful.”

    Thanks.

    Rajesh

  74. Ronnie says:

    Hey drfiddledd,

    You asked:
    “So is musical discernment the result of spiritual maturity over a long period of time or is it common knowledge ?”

    Don’t know if I would call it a straw man, but it is an inconsistent argument it seems. Either way the argument is problematic. First, if the real answer is spiritual maturity over a long period of time then it doesn’t make sense, because the Scriptures never present sin as an issue that you have to figure out over long period of time by gaining spiritual maturity. Sin is more objective than that otherwise how can God count it as sin against the immature? Second, if the claim is that it is common knowledge than that is a bold claim to expect those with no musical background to hear instrumental music and evaluate it for sinfulness. As a matter of fact I’m sure if we got a group of those that claim to have the ability to detect sinfulness in music and gave them music they were not familiar with we would not get the same results.

  75. Ronnie says:

    Hey Rajesh,

    I’m fine with either approach.

    Ronnie

  76. Ronnie says:

    Rick stated:
    “It’s amazing how it is so obvious to so many people yet no one can say what is sinful in a song. This should be easy for you if it is so obvious. Do what we expected Scott to do…pick one of Shai Linne’s songs and tell us what is sinful in the music. If music can be inherently evil, tell us what is inherently evil in one of his songs. We’ll make it easy on you and even let you pick the song rather than selecting one for you.”

    Yes!

  77. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    Thanks. If you want to be involved in discussing the matter further back and forth, your commenting on my post would be better. If not, I will quote the part that I selected above and respond to it (maybe in another post). Or, you could wait until I put my discussion up and then decide if you want to interact further or not.

    Thanks.

    Rajesh

  78. Alan says:

    I can’t remember who said what, but I scrolled down through. I’ve been clear. It is a will problem, not a intellect problem. I’m saying you know. Whatever God wants us to know, we can know. I believe He wants us to know this, so I believe we know it. So when you say you don’t know, does that mean you are lying? At some point, yes. After lying to one’s self for awhile, then it turns into someone deceived, but not thinking he’s lying anymore. This is delusion. There is a biblical basis for thinking what I’m saying. It’s characteristic of postmodernism not to be able to know anything. It’s also how men are ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.

    People here won’t admit the obvious. The obvious being to start that music has inherent meaning, is human communication, which can be moral or immoral. Where we’re at is about musical meaning, for which no one has refuted Scott.

    Rick won’t answer the question whether he’s read Scott’s books. If he read his books, he knows Scott doesn’t use the plants argument, but that’s a straw man anyway, because the worst teacher doesn’t buttress anything on how plants react to music. It’s also a red herring, because it is beside the point.

    Adam, I don’t hear opposing evidence. Can you give me one example? Denying someone else’s evidence or mocking it isn’t evidence. One side says anything goes. The other side, says no, here’s why. The one side answers, I don’t get it. I say, I don’t believe you. You say, “You’re calling me a liar?”

    Priceless was Nick feeling sorry for persecuted Chinese Christians who won’t know they’ve got bad guzheng music? Where did that come from? Does Nick know of Chinese Christians being persecuted for guzheng music? That gets a belly laugh.

  79. Ronnie says:

    Rajesh,

    OK, I will respond to the post.

  80. Rajesh says:

    Thanks, Ronnie. In the meantime, I put the selected quote at the bottom of the post. When you have made your comment, I’ll probably delete that update.

  81. Ronnie says:

    Hey Alan,

    You stated:
    “I can’t remember who said what, but I scrolled down through. I’ve been clear. It is a will problem, not a intellect problem. I’m saying you know. Whatever God wants us to know, we can know. I believe He wants us to know this, so I believe we know it. So when you say you don’t know, does that mean you are lying? At some point, yes. After lying to one’s self for awhile, then it turns into someone deceived, but not thinking he’s lying anymore. This is delusion. There is a biblical basis for thinking what I’m saying. It’s characteristic of postmodernism not to be able to know anything. It’s also how men are ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.”

    Wow!! Watch this.
    Those who believe music is inherently evil have a pride problem. They know they have no real objective proof, but they don’t want to admit they are wrong. Is this sin? Yes, pride is a sin. Is this being legalistic to go beyond the Scriptures to condemn others of sin? Yes, being a legalist is a sin. So when you become so proud and can’t admit you are wrong you become just like the Pharisees that Jesus and the Apostles dealt with. There is a biblical bases for this, as Jesus and the Apostles dealt with the legalistic Jews who rather than admit their errors continue to judge others based on their own traditions instead of the Scriptures.

    See how simple that is? Nothing but assertions.

  82. Wayne says:

    “Does Nick know of Chinese Christians being persecuted for guzheng music? That gets a belly laugh.”

    If I understand correctly, Alan, you point to the inherent sinfulness in Chinese guzheng music and then not understand (laugh at) a reasonable question on the fact that Chinese Christians base there hymns on sinful music?

    Do we care more for the Christians in America that base their music on sinful music than the Christians in China that do the same?

  83. Alan says:

    Ronnie,

    You are absolutely correct. Those are baseless assertions. I completely agree. They show that not only do you not get the music issue, but you also don’t know what legalism is or what the application of scripture is. The Bible doesn’t tell us that abortion is wrong, so if anyone preaches against that, according to your type of handling of the Bible, they would be adding to the Bible. You also can’t oppose crack pipes. All legalism. All Pharisaical. Again, this is the influence of postmodernism. So, I appreciate your admitting that up front. With you continuing along those lines, we might be able to play some pick up basketball or ski, but we won’t be able to fellowship.

  84. Wayne says:

    Alan,

    We are all talking past each other. You say music has inherent meaning, is human communication, and can be moral or immoral.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with that sentence. What Ronnie, “others”, and I don’t get is a blanket condemnation of Shai Linne’s music. I don’t think it is unreasonable for us to ask you to explain your assertions.

    What would be so hard to take one (any) of Shai’s song and show us what you say is so obvious for all of us to see?

  85. Nick says:

    Alan,

    No, they don’t get persecuted for hearing guzhen music. They get persecuted because the only way they can meet legally is through the state sponsored church, and just like the Scottish Covenanters many refuse to go along with the state’s charade. Sorry, but I really thought that was common knowledge, but I guess it isn’t. Maybe you guys should learn about believers in other cultures… Perhaps things wouldn’t be so obvious if you did.

    Furthermore, my point was that while those believers may have some problems in their theology, in the realms of ethics they have proven they are willingto pay the ultimate price. They likely have more important things in their mind than trivialities over music styles.

    You may think I’m a teenager… I wish I could go back in time, but wiser. Over 20 years ago I made up my mind to not discuss my music choices with those hostile, because the argument invariably leads to nowhere. But when I heard the mess that occurred over the panelists comments in the NCFIC conference, I wanted to say something. Why? Because I attend a family integrated church, and I didn’t like the charge of racism.

    So I defended all the panelists against that charge in Doug Wilson’s blog. I also suggested to Scott at the beginning of this debate to get the charge of racism out of the way by critiquing heavy metal. Why? Because I had already heard many of the same nonsense arguments 20 years ago, and I know most metal bands are not Black.

    And so I would defend your right, Alan, to believe what you believe without having to be called racist. I don’t believe you are.

    I do find it ironic that for people who pontificate about “rude” music, you guys sure use a lot of adhominens and insults. Did the sin of rudeness stop at music, or does it extend to what you write? With the exception of Rajesh — I disagree with him but as far as I can recall he has behaved like a gentleman. Besides, I much rather be called spiritually immature than a liar. Them fighting words.

    God bless,
    Nick

  86. Wayne says:

    And the only thing that is obvious to me is that the vast majority of “sinful” music has ties to Africa. I have no idea what it means to say that. I will stop short of making assumptions.

  87. Wayne says:

    Nick, I like the idea of looking at heavy metal to get the charge of racism out of the way. It is a short hop skip and a jump from heavy metal to rock to Africa.

  88. Wayne says:

    I think this is a wise statement: “Maybe you guys should learn about believers in other cultures… Perhaps things wouldn’t be so obvious if you did.” I think that is a more accurate way of describing what I am trying to say.

  89. Rick says:

    Alan, you said,
    “Rick won’t answer the question whether he’s read Scott’s books. If he read his books, he knows Scott doesn’t use the plants argument, but that’s a straw man anyway, because the worst teacher doesn’t buttress anything on how plants react to music. It’s also a red herring, because it is beside the point.”

    First, I didn’t know you asked if I had read his books. No, I haven’t though I have read a lot of his articles on this site. However, I have read several other books from your side of the fence. Others have tried to rescue me from my obviously errant views and have given me books to read on the subject. Sadly, I found them to be based on eisegesis and terrible hermeneutics….much like I see here. In fact, out of all the books I’ve read on this issue, only one has been from the viewpoint that music cannot be inherently sinful in and of itself. So no, I have not read his books and don’t plan on spending the money to rehash what I have already read. If you want to send me a complimentary copy though, I’d be happy to read it!

    Since you decided to call me out for not answering your question, I’ll call you out as well. Earlier tonight I posted the following:
    “It’s amazing how it is so obvious to so many people yet no one can say what is sinful in a song. This should be easy for you if it is so obvious. Do what we expected Scott to do…pick one of Shai Linne’s songs and tell us what is sinful in the music. If music can be inherently evil, tell us what is inherently evil in one of his songs. We’ll make it easy on you and even let you pick the song rather than selecting one for you.”

    So how about it? Are you up to it? Can you pick out one of his songs and tell us what is inherently sinful about it?

    Sincerely,
    The Village Idiot [embracing the title!!]

  90. Wayne says:

    Rick, I think Alan is more comfortable throwing bombs over enemy lines than engaging.

  91. Nick says:

    Rick — “the village idiot” I love it! I was a little somber, but that one really made me smile.

    I think I’m going to start calling myself “Nick The Postmodern”.
    But it doesn’t sound as cool as yours because while intended as an insult, postmodernism is nevertheless hip nowadays.

  92. Rick says:

    Wayne, I’m afraid you are right.

  93. Rick says:

    I’ll share the title! You can be Village Idiot #2

  94. Wayne says:

    Alan,

    Abortion? Crack? I have no doubt that Ronnie can give a clear and biblical answer on why these are sinful. You keep repeating the same thing but have not given a clear and biblical argument.

  95. Nick says:

    I’ll take you up on that!

  96. Alan says:

    Well Wayne, the standard the Ronnie is using, while you answer for him, is the same for abortion and crack and those kinds of issues, as it is for judging music. There is no explicit command against. So Ronnie is a legalist by his own fake standard if he’s against abortion and crack. It reminds me of something I heard Robert George from Princeton say in a lecture on ethics — selective relativism. He says that about the modern college campus. The students are not consistent in their relativism. Today’s postmoderns find absolutes selectively and deny them selectively — they are selectively relativist. That is their view of the world. That’s what I hear here.

    For instance, you Wayne, can find something wrong with the Chinese guzheng music, because it is convenient to find it for this argument, but you’re selectively not the same on African/Western forms, like hip and hop. It’s selective relativism.

  97. Adam says:

    Alan, you said:

    “Adam, I don’t hear opposing evidence. Can you give me one example? Denying someone else’s evidence or mocking it isn’t evidence. One side says anything goes. The other side, says no, here’s why. The one side answers, I don’t get it. I say, I don’t believe you. You say, “You’re calling me a liar?””

    Our opposing evidence is simply that we don’t hear the things you say we do. You clarified in your comment that you are indeed calling us liars. I find it truly disturbing that you’re so quick to accuse brethren like that. If we disagree with you, we’re postmodernist liars, and that’s it. It’s not a way of discussing the issue; rather, it very much appears to be a method of silencing the opposition.

    You won’t field difficult questions. Indeed, you have been asked multiple times to analyze one of Shai Linne’s songs. As far as I can tell, you have simply ignored the repeated requests. So has anyone else who agrees with Scott. I find this unwillingness extremely telling.

    Regarding evidence: where is yours? You say you don’t hear opposing evidence. That’s interesting, because quite literally the only thing you have argued the whole time here is, “It’s obvious, and you all know it.” And we’re not providing evidence? This is incredible to me.

    Tell me, what evidence could we provide that you would accept, since our testimony is clearly unacceptable?

  98. Wayne says:

    “For instance, you Wayne, can find something wrong with the Chinese guzheng music, because it is convenient to find it for this argument, but you’re selectively not the same on African/Western forms, like hip and hop. It’s selective relativism.”

    Alan, with that statement, I wonder if you have not read some of my earlier post, or if I have not made my arguments in earlier post entirely clear. In the previous post where Scott presented Chinese guzheng music as holy, I responded to you and Josh’s statement on the absurdity and inconsistency of the neutrality position. (Wayne says: December 28, 2013 at 5:38 pm)

    I clearly stated that I believe the only way to arrive at a morally good or evil judgment on art (music included), we have to tie it to man. Then I said I don’t understand when people argue that we can’t talk of redeeming art because the Bible does not talk of redeeming things, only people. Either we tie art to man, or keep them separated.

    My statement based on this was that it is as difficult to find a good man apart from the redeeming work of God as it is to find good art apart from the redeeming work of God.

    In case I did not make it clear, I was arguing that maybe a neutral position of music was not correct and instead, all music (like all man) is totally depraved. In other words, lump them all together, they are all inherently evil apart from the redeeming work of God. Again to be clear, HHH is inherently evil, as is Chinese guzheng music, as is (fill in the blank).

    To reiterate that point, on January 3, 2014 at 4:59 pm, I wrote: Yes, Chinese guzheng music has pagan roots and themes and is a horrible example of “holy” music (under any definition of “holy”). I believe a NEW Chinese guzheng song can be played on this side of Heaven. (pointing back to the Revelation verse I posted). In other words, just as I believe an inherent evil HHH song can be played to the Glory of God this side of Heaven.

    Now, I can see problems with the argument that all music in inherently evil. And, I see merits to the argument that all music is neutral. Some have presented a biblical and reasonable argument for it. In fact, I did on December 31, 2013 at 11:41 am when I said that maybe music acts in some of the same ways as the law itself. I wrote: “If I have lust in my heart and a HHH song brings thoughts of lust to my mind, then the same is true of HHH as the law. It produces in me all kinds of lust. If I struggle with Eastern thoughts and am drawn to emptying my mind in meditation, then the Chinese Zither music produces evil thoughts in me.” Again, in case I did not make it clear, I am putting HHH and Chinese guzheng (Zither) music squarely in the same boat.

    Honestly, for someone to say that I have selectively pointed out the evils of one and not the other is beyond me. Again, maybe you did not read those posts or either I did not make my argument clear. I hope this will clear up either case.

  99. Wayne says:

    Therefore, Alan, since your previous post was based on my “selective relativism”, I don’t see the merits of answering any of your questions in the post.

  100. Ronnie says:

    Hey Alan,

    You stated:
    “You are abslutely correct. Those are baseless assertions. I completely agree.

    Read Proverbs 26:5

    You stated:
    “The Bible doesn’t tell us that abortion is wrong, so if anyone preaches against that, according to your type of handling of the Bible, they would be adding to the Bible.” You also can’t oppose crack pipes.

    No one believes the bible has to explicitly list everything for it to be a sin. So if abortion is murder, and the Scriptures condemn murder then you have your answer. The same is true of crack. It puts one in the state where you are no longer in control of yourself, such as drunkenness and therefore sin( Gal. 5:19-21) However, in the case of a genre of music there is no such principle, unless you are willing to demonstrate there is.

    You stated:
    “All legalism. All Pharisaical. Again, this is the influence of postmodernism.”

    Legalism is the going beyond the Scriptures to come up with laws and commandments to bind the conscience of other believers. This is what the Pharisees was doing and also what you are doing as you have yet to offer a biblical argument claiming certain genre of music is sinful.

  101. Doug says:

    Reading these threads, here’s my interpretation: All music is sinful. It is made by sinful man, played by instruments which have been used in sinful ways, which are played by sinful men. We can’t worship God with any music because it is ALL inherently sinful. And let’s not even begin to look at the heart of man that has made the instruments, that wrote the music, that sings without perfect pitch. If, in playing music, may God forbid I play an incorrect note, because that automatically leads me to sin and makes the music immoral.
    See what happens when we look at things without the Gospel? My principle (and I believe the Biblical principle, not rule) is that all things are to be done in decency and in order (I Corinthians 14). This covers two aspects. Decency (Heart issue) and Order (Structure of the action). I don’t think that you can necessarily discredit one without the other. Christian lyrics (Heart) with music that is just a bunch of notes (no order), is not able to be edifying. Just like secular lyrics (Heart) with the most melodious music (order) is not edifying. BUT when we have Lyrics that have a high Christology (Heart), with structure (order), THEN I believe that we have an item that can be used by God to edify.
    Personal preferences aside (in regards to music), this is what I see in many of the gray areas.

  102. theDave says:

    If we equate music with photography and we know that photographing porn is wrong, what is the musical equivalent of “photographing porn”? And why?

    Can we get specific in the whats and whys of musical notation being evil? Is there such a thing? And where is the line that can be crossed?

    Scott does not come close to explaining this.

    Here’s the thing about music – music helps you indulge in different emotions like sadness, triumphalism, happiness, anger and the list could go on and on. Too much of any one of these emotions can become a sin.

    What type of emotion does hip-hop encourage?

    I think that even a type of music that we would consider godly can help us indulge in an emotion to a point of sin.

    Yes, I said it.

    The problem I see with Scott’s philosophy is, he begins with Scripture (a good thing) but somewhere along the line of his logic, huge holes with points of his logic are missed. To such a degree that the conclusions, however noble, are really a reflection of 1) his personal tastes 2) Not true biblical applications.

    Aniol’s philosophy comes down to two things:

    1) Musical-Gnosticism
    2) Man’s opinion

    Mike Reeves shares some good insight about music:

    http://www.theologynetwork.org/theology-of-everything/starting-out/theology-in-music.htm

  103. Doug Merrill says:

    Ronnie,

    I think you’re missing Alan’s point. He’s applying Proverbs 26:5 in his response to you and others. How are you going to definitively prove that abortion is murder without understanding the science behind the miracle of life? Biblical principles can be applied, yet that’s exactly the same approach that Scott has taken and apparently, that’s not good enough.

    Furthermore, I doubt that you could authoritatively say that using crack universally puts one in a state in which one is no longer in control of oneself. I’m sure that there are people who by constant usage and exposure to crack aren’t as susceptible to its control. They need more and more of it to hit that high and have become somewhat desensitized to it — interestingly, much the same as can happen with how music communicates certain things.

  104. URL says:

    … [Trackback]

    [...] Read More: religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-music/discussion-about-christian-rap-with-shai-linne-example-of-holy-music-rebuttal/ [...]

  105. Rajesh says:

    Doug (who commented at 11:34am),

    The word “decently” in 1 Cor. 14:40 does not refer to the heart in the way that you explain. The Greek word concerns what is fitting or proper.

    If I am understanding properly what you are saying, your explanation has more correctly to do with content than heart. A high Christology in lyrics, however, does not guarantee that the heart of the person is what it should be. Paul speaks of people who preach Christ “of envy and strife . . . of contention, not sincerely” (Philip. 1:15-17). Christ also warns of people who have preached in His name but they were lawless people (Matt. 7:22-23) People with wrong motives can still sing lyrics that communicate a high Christology..

  106. Wayne says:

    The process we are going through to “test” things (assertions) between bible believing Christians is a good thing. It is a “means” by which the Church is being washed by the word. I am making a huge assumption here, but as long as we are all bible believing Christians – who believe the bible is the word of God (not only that it contains the word of God) and is the final authority to test – then this should be a healthy process.

    So Doug, to your point, if there is any doubt about abortion or crack; maybe someone should put together a panel to speak out of the evils of abortion and crack. If afterwards, there is an outcry among bible believing Christians, then we may need to go through this process of testing the assertion of the evils of abortion and crack.

    I pray there will be someone who can make a CASE based on biblical arguments against abortion and crack.

    What Ronnie, Village Idiot #1, Village Idiot #2, others, myself and recently theDave is saying is that we do not see a biblical argument for Scott’s assertions. Personally, I feel that calling other Christians out as being in sin is a pretty serious assertion.

    There are variations of our questions to seek biblical arguments. By far, the easiest way to “prove” your case is to take a song by Shai (your pick) and lead us through it. Please show us what is so obvious for our sakes. Or, just clearly state how you know what music is inherently evil.

    Repeating assertions is not an argument.

  107. Ronnie says:

    Hey Doug,

    You stated:
    “I think you’re missing Alan’s point. He’s applying Proverbs 26:5 in his response to you and others. How are you going to definitively prove that abortion is murder without understanding the science behind the miracle of life? Biblical principles can be applied, yet that’s exactly the same approach that Scott has taken and apparently, that’s not good enough.”

    If that is Alan’s point then it is not in contention. No one is denying biblical principles can be applied in different scenarios. I’m saying the principle that sin is in things is antithetical to Scriptures, and the contrary principal is valid. I think Scott may agree with this which is why he goes on to argue that music is not a “thing”, but communication. In one sense we can say music is communication, but in another sense it is also a thing (i.e. sound). But lets say we stick with communication. The same principle still applies that communication is not inherently sinful, it depends on what and how something communicated. So if we take that a step further and ask is communication in the form of rap music inherently sinful? Well, the principle has already been established that music is not inherently sinful so the burden is definitely on Scott and other proponents of this view to establish the biblical principal that communication via rap music is an exception to the principal of general communication, and therefore inherently sinful. Scott has given one answer by saying rap music promotes sinful emotions (e.g. anger, aggressiveness), but that has been soundly refuted because those emotions are not inherently sinful and all rap music doesn’t promote those emotions. Only someone with little knowledge of rap music would make that superficial argument. So we have been pleading with the proponents of “rap music is inherently evil” to tell us how they know that by hearing rap music. We got nothing, but obfuscation. If you hold that view maybe you can tell us. What is it about rap music that you know it is inherently sinful. Also don’t mention the already refuted arguments unless you show how the critiques are not valid.

    You stated:
    “Furthermore, I doubt that you could authoritatively say that using crack universally puts one in a state in which one is no longer in control of oneself. I’m sure that there are people who by constant usage and exposure to crack aren’t as susceptible to its control. They need more and more of it to hit that high and have become somewhat desensitized to it — interestingly, much the same as can happen with how music communicates certain things.”

    Well I’m no authority on the effects of crack cocaine. So if it can be shown that crack does not put one in a state where they are no longer in control of their mind, then I would say it is not inherently sinful. For example, some form of crack maybe used for a good purpose. However, there are other issues that must be dealt with in reference to crack. For example, crack is addictive and causes physical harm. The addictive nature causes one to forgo other biblical responsibilities to church, families and friends. Also it is against the law. So if it could be shown that the use of crack violates none of those things then I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Likewise, if you could show that Rap Music violates any of these things then I would say it is sinful, albeit not inherently sinful.

  108. Ronnie says:

    Wayne said:
    “So Doug, to your point, if there is any doubt about abortion or crack; maybe someone should put together a panel to speak out of the evils of abortion and crack. If afterwards, there is an outcry among bible believing Christians, then we may need to go through this process of testing the assertion of the evils of abortion and crack.

    What Ronnie, Village Idiot #1, Village Idiot #2, others, myself and recently theDave is saying is that we do not see a biblical argument for Scott’s assertions. Personally, I feel that calling other Christians out as being in sin is a pretty serious assertion.”

    Right on, right on, right on!

  109. Curtis says:

    Just flat out say that you don’t like Christian hip-hop music because of whatever biases you have; to me your argument does not make sense, you are targeting one form of musical expression and calling it ungodly. What about other genres… is it safe to say that you judge Christian rock, country, praise and worship, etc… By the same standard?

  110. Alan says:

    Ronnie or Wayne,

    How do you know that crack cocaine causes you not to be in control of yourself? Where does the Bible say that?

    Everyone,

    Adam agrees that no one here is providing evidence against inherent meaning in music. Scott is winning.

    Everyone again,

    You want specific evidence against particular forms of music or a particular song. I don’t mind giving that, and I know Scott doesn’t. This is Scott’s blog and I think I should assume that he’ll get that done. It’s not where we’re at in the debate here. They’re not done. So don’t get ahead of yourselves. What difference would that make if people here won’t agree on some of the most fundamental points leading up to that? At the same time, when he finally does say why, I’m pretty sure people will say, “The Bible doesn’t say that.”

    Where this group is at is that anything the Bible doesn’t say is explicitly wrong, actually mention by name, is actually permissible. That’s also a defense of crack cocaine and many, many other practices, but I’d like to, for simplicity sake, keep it to that one, crack cocaine. This group is in utter hypocrisy, total hypocrisy, if it does not support crack cocaine — legalists and Pharisees by its own definitions.

    I’m engaging, Wayne, see.

  111. Cheryl says:

    So, hip hop music that beautifully and passionately worships Jesus as our Lord and Savior is evil because you are not convinced that one can get high off crack? I thought the argument easy confusing before, but now I am completely lost. This is just getting silly.

  112. Cheryl says:

    …was confusing….auto spell check I guess… :)

  113. Rick says:

    Actually Alan, we are past the point when Scott had a chance to tell us how music is inherently evil. Remember back when he gave the example of the death metal? He said, “This music is incompatible with Christianity for a few reasons. First, it expresses impurity, sensuality, enmity, strife, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, orgies, and things like these (Gal 5:19-21). There are musicological ways to explain this, but I don’t even think that is necessary to determine what this music means since at its most basic level, music relates to common human experience.”

    In the rebuttal, Shai said, “I absolutely want to hear the musicological way to explain how drums, electric guitars, bass and keys in themselves can express the things in Galatians 5:19-21.” Scott said, “First, I recognize how frustrated you must feel with my answers. But let me try to illustrate why the kind of “proof” you are looking for is beyond what even Scripture demands for making wise decisions about our conduct.” He then went on to duck, dodge, and speak like a seasoned politician…many words that didn’t answer the question. This whole thing started with hip hop and whether it could be holy, yet no one has looked at hip hop and told us how the music itself is inherently evil.

    So since Scott wouldn’t tackle giving anyone the musicology behind the sinfulness of hip hop, since it is obvious to you why music can be inherently sinful, and since you said, “You want specific evidence against particular forms of music or a particular song. I don’t mind giving that…” How about picking one of Shai Linne’s songs and demonstrating how the music itself is inherently evil. You said you would leave it to Scott but he obviously has decided not to. If it truly is sinful, it is extremely important for us to know what elements are sinful. Please pick a song and explain.

  114. Ronnie says:

    Alan,

    You stated:
    “How do you know that crack cocaine causes you not to be in control of yourself? Where does the Bible say that?”

    How do you know you are not on the planet Mars? Where does the Bible say that you are not?

  115. Alan says:

    Ronnie,

    i understand why you won’t answer. It’s not a sin to go to the planet Mars. The Bible doesn’t say so. I wouldn’t be able to breathe, so I’ll pass. But I would join you there with a space suit and a coffee backpack. However, it also doesn’t say it is a sin to smoke crack. So again, how do you know that crack cocaine causes you not to be in control of yourself? I just can’t get anyone to give me a specific answer here. Without that specific answer from the Bible, I don’t know how I’m supposed to know? I want someone to answer this, and no one will answer it, won’t tell me what’s wrong with it.

    Cheryl,

    What is worship? Interested in your definition. What verse in the Bible do you use to judge silliness? You’re saying this is silly. Is it sinful to be silly? Where does the Bible define silliness? Looking for a biblical answer. I beautifully and passionately ask this of you.

  116. Alan says:

    I’m looking for engagement, but I guess people here don’t want to engage.

  117. Adam says:

    Alan,

    You said, “Adam agrees that no one here is providing evidence against inherent meaning in music.”

    That was not what I intended to say. I notice you didn’t answer any of my questions, namely:

    1. What is your evidence? I have seen literally none from you; only repeated assertions that it’s obvious and that we’re denying it for our own selfish motives.

    2. What evidence could we provide that you would accept?

    You continue to make condescending comments about our unwillingness to engage, when it very much appears to be you who is the one that is unwilling.

    You also stated, “You want specific evidence against particular forms of music or a particular song. I don’t mind giving that, and I know Scott doesn’t. This is Scott’s blog and I think I should assume that he’ll get that done. It’s not where we’re at in the debate here.”

    This is flatly incorrect. I don’t know if you have been following the entire conversation, but we have most certainly reached and passed this point. Scott was asked for evidence of sinful music and dodged the question, avoiding giving the very evidence that Shai asked for. I would encourage you to read the exchange up til now if you have not already. If you have, I would strongly encourage you to just answer the question. Your, and others, repeated refusal to do so does not help your case.

  118. Ronnie says:

    Alan

    How do you know it is not a sin to go to the planet Mars? How do you know you won’t be able to breathe?

    BTW, I gave you an answer. Here it is again from above:

    “Well I’m no authority on the effects of crack cocaine. So if it can be shown that crack does not put one in a state where they are no longer in control of their mind, then I would say it is not inherently sinful. For example, some form of crack maybe used for a good purpose. However, there are other issues that must be dealt with in reference to crack. For example, crack is addictive and causes physical harm. The addictive nature causes one to forgo other biblical responsibilities to church, families and friends. Also it is against the law. So if it could be shown that the use of crack violates none of those things then I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Likewise, if you could show that Rap Music violates any of these things then I would say it is sinful, albeit not inherently sinful. It is a sin because it is against the law of the land, though it is not “

    Your turn to provide an answer as to how you know rap music is sinful or do you prefer to play games?

  119. Alan says:

    Adam,

    Do you have a verse against condescension? What makes you think I’m condescending? Do you have a verse that tells you what condescension is? In that order. What is a verse against condescension, that talks about condescension? How do I know if I’m condescending? And if I am condescending, where does it say that’s a sin? If there isn’t a verse, aren’t you going beyond scripture, as a legalist and a Pharisee? I need engagement.

    I’ve already said that I am glad to give evidence, but I think we should let Scott take this debate where and how and when he wants to take it. I don’t think he’s done yet, and I’m willing to wait for that. In the meantime, you’ve said I’m condescending, and I want to know how you know what that is, from the Bible, and then from the Bible, what is wrong with that?

    I mean all of this. Please tell me.

  120. Adam says:

    Alan,

    I’m going to bow out of this conversation. It seems clear that we’re not getting anywhere. I appreciate the interaction, for what it’s worth.

  121. Alan says:

    Ronnie,

    You make these statements that crack is addictive and that it causes physical harm. Where is that in the Bible? Where is your biblical evidence for this? You are talking beyond what is written in the Bible. Unless I’m wrong, you haven’t said anything from the Bible about crack cocaine. Please inform.

  122. Alan says:

    Adam,

    So you can call someone condescending and provide no biblical evidence of what condescension is or why it is wrong? So you bow out, making an unbiblical claim? What am I supposed to think of that? Unless you can tell me what it is, from a verse, how can you judge? You make yourself a judge, don’t you, like a Pharisee?

  123. Alan says:

    The commenters here are the ones setting up sole scripture as direct statements in scripture. I’m using your standard. I’m not playing a game. You don’t like what I’m doing, but why should I make an application of scripture to rap or hip-hop or anything, if that’s where sole scripture is? It’s your standard. I’d say you don’t like a taste of your own medicine, which is the height of hypocrisy. If I’m supposed to take your instruction about someone judges music, why can’t you take the same manner of judging silliness, crack cocaine usage, and condescension?

    I’m very serious here.

  124. Adam says:

    Alan,

    I really don’t want to continue the conversation at this point. Think of my “unbiblical claim” what you will. I will let the others participate, if they so desire; they appear to have more patience than I. I am content, in light of Scripture and prayer, of the position I have taken on this issue. I wish you well, and I pray that this discussion will proceed with grace for the edification of all involved. (That sounds cliched and forced, but it is sincere.)

  125. Alan says:

    Adam,

    So you’re not engaging? I’ll take that as, you make baseless, Pharisaical claims to put down other well meaning Christians, who enjoy the beauty and passion of the English language, and then just take off when you’re done, unless they bow and agree with you. You can’t provide evidence to the contrary, so you take off, without answering. I was looking for a verse, and you didn’t have one, so you’ll leave it at that. I get it. I guess if you enjoy that kind of thing, that’s up to you. I will say it’s better than a trip to Mars, or the sun. But I’m choosing to remain patient.

  126. Rick says:

    If anyone is undecided on this issue, I have asked people for years the same question I have been asking of Alan and all that believe music is inherently sinful. I’ve asked them to take a song and tell us what elements in the music are inherently sinful. In other words, what makes certain music (apart from lyrics) sinful and other music good. I have never had someone take music and show what is inherently sinful in the music itself apart from lyrics. I have read multiple books on the topic and I have never seen where any of the experts have ever explained it either. Perhaps Scott has in one of his books. If so, I may actually take Alan’s advice and read it.

    If no one in my entire life has been able to explain how music apart from lyrics is sinful, and if none of the books I have read have been able to explain it, and (most importantly) Scripture doesn’t address it, then I have to wonder why it is such a mountain to die on for so many people.

    Folks, read your history. Every single time some new form of music has been introduced in the church, there has been a group that has scowled and screamed. It happened when musical instruments were introduced, when some started singing songs that were not the Psalms, when singing was given back to the congregation after the Dark Ages, when people started wanting something other than the Gregorian chant, when Isaac Watts and others started writing hymns, when the Gospel song movement started, when contemporary Christian music showed up, and now with hip hop. The arguments change but the result is the same. Satan is laughing his head off and it is utterly sickening.

    This has become THE most important thing in the church to so many people. There was a teen that went to our church when he was a child, and I saw him years after his family left. Our church has pretty much been a hymn only church. He asked how the church was, and then the very next thing he asked was if our music was still conservative. Really?! Is that what is most important?? This is what kids are being taught in too many places. It doesn’t matter whether the church believes Scripture, it doesn’t matter whether we are doctrinal, and it doesn’t matter about anything else as long as our music is “approved.” Yep, Satan loves it.

  127. Ronnie says:

    Alan,

    You stated:
    “You make these statements that crack is addictive and that it causes physical harm. Where is that in the Bible? Where is your biblical evidence for this? You are talking beyond what is written in the Bible. Unless I’m wrong, you haven’t said anything from the Bible about crack cocaine. Please inform.”

    Surprisingly you left out the definitive point as to why I said it was wrong, because it is against the law of the land per Romans 13:1-5. Now no one is arguing a explicit verse must be present against everything, but principles and “good and necessary consequences” maybe derived from Scripture as I have just done. So don’t setup a straw man, we are no asking for a specific verse that says rap music is wrong, we are asking you for the proof that is derived from Scripture. Do you have answer or do you prefer to charge others for sin and not provide a biblical reason for doing so?

  128. Rick says:

    At the risk of being criticized by Alan, I think I’ll probably take Adam’s cue as well and leave this conversation. I kinda feel like the conversation is as unprofitable as some of the things Paul was warning Timothy about in his first letter to him: 1Ti 1:4 “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.” It’s just not profitable any longer.

  129. Alan says:

    Rick,

    If the music is not a hill to die on, then I think that we could all agree with music that is not wrong, is not sinful. Would you be willing to use music in worship that everyone agrees is not sinful, for the sake of unity? Or do you require people who think it is sinful, to just accept it? Since it isn’t a hill to die on, I would assume that you would be willing to give up whatever you like for the sake of unity.

    Scripture doesn’t say crack cocaine is wrong, so why do we have to put so many people on a guilt trip about that? It seems like these things, like crack cocaine, and such, are used to cause disunity and a false guilt outside of scripture. New things come along like crack, that are not in the Bible, and people set up these artificial standards to say that they’re wrong. You can see that through history, if you read your history.

    What history are you talking about? History can be used in so many different ways, depending upon what point of view you want to defend. I teach history and have for years. Did you notice that Scott talked history in his post? Did you interact and engage with that?

    Where is this THE most important thing? Can you name one church where it is THE most important thing? I would assume you have evidence for this. Did you ask this young person if it was THE most important thing. This comment section is crowded with people, a majority so, that differ from Scott. It seems they think it is very, very important. What’s with that?

  130. Alan says:

    Rick,

    I guess you don’t want to engage. You seem to be making this VERY VERY big.

    Ronnie,

    Place where crack cocaine is not illegal, would it be unsinful to use crack cocaine there? The Bible doesn’t say it’s wrong. There are places in the world where drug use is legal everywhere. Would it be biblical to use it there, since the Bible says nothing about it? You are arguing that since it is illegal in the United States, that’s what makes it unbiblical?

  131. Ronnie says:

    Ronnie,

    Alan,

    You stated:
    “Place where crack cocaine is not illegal, would it be unsinful to use crack cocaine there?”

    Would it be “unsinful”? Crack cocaine is not sinful in and of itself like I have said before. It is sinful if it leads to a violation of one of the other biblical principals. So if you could use crack cocaine in a place where it is not against the law and you remain in control of your mind and faculties then it is not sinful.

    You stated:
    “The Bible doesn’t say it’s wrong. There are places in the world where drug use is legal everywhere.”

    Yeah, drug use is legal here. What do you think they give you in the hospital.

    You stated:
    “Would it be biblical to use it there, since the Bible says nothing about it? You are arguing that since it is illegal in the United States, that’s what makes it unbiblical?”

    Already answer the first part of your question above. Yes, in the U.S. it is unbiblical per Romans 13. I can’t specifically speak for other countries since I don’t know there laws.

    Now can you tell me why rap music is sinful? You are running out of excuses for not answering.

  132. Doug Merrill says:

    Interesting that those who appear to appreciate the “in-your-face” communication style of rap/HHH, those who justify it based on being appropriate for deprecation find Alan’s style of argumentation (direct/bold/”in-your-face”/polemic) a little too extreme for their tastes. Does that not smack of hypocrisy? Why is it OK as a musical style, yet inappropriate when someone using a direct communication style exposes fundamental flaws in their reasoning? He has pinpointed and exposed the pragmatism within your philosophy using a communication style that many of you have gone on record of supporting. Why do you object now?

    A number of commenters have posted in favor of Christian rap/HHH because it demonstrates how “no emotion is inherently evil.” After all, Jesus overthrew the tables of the moneychangers in the temple. However, as pointed out eloquently by Michael Riley above (and conveniently overlooked/ignored by many), anger is not an emotion that should characterize the believer – at least I haven’t found it in Galatians 5:22-23 as one of the fruit of the Spirit. I do find “wrath” (KJV) and “fits of anger” (ESV) in verse 20 of the same passage. This is nothing but prooftexting to justify listening to a musical style that communicates anger, aggression, rage, etc.

    Ronnie, regarding the usage of crack and it being illegal: Although that wasn’t the main thrust of your argument earlier, yet it now is because of inconsistencies within it. Let’s delve into current events. Colorado has legalized marijuana for recreational use and other states are looking to do the same. In the past (in another culture), it was used to get high, but now, many of those who use it claim they aren’t addicted to it and just use it to take the edge off. They claim they are in complete control at all times. If you oppose the recreational (or medicinal) use of marijuana, wouldn’t you be doing it on purely cultural and extra-Biblical grounds?

  133. Ronnie says:

    You stated:
    “Ronnie, regarding the usage of crack and it being illegal: Although that wasn’t the main thrust of your argument earlier, yet it now is because of inconsistencies within it. Let’s delve into current events. Colorado has legalized marijuana for recreational use and other states are looking to do the same. In the past (in another culture), it was used to get high, but now, many of those who use it claim they aren’t addicted to it and just use it to take the edge off. They claim they are in complete control at all times. If you oppose the recreational (or medicinal) use of marijuana, wouldn’t you be doing it on purely cultural and extra-Biblical grounds?”

    I don’t consider marijuana inherently evil, just like I don’t consider wine inherently evil. The misuse of wine(i.e. drunkenness which causes one to lose control of faculties ) is sinful. Likewise the misuse of marijuana is sinful. What is inconsistent about that? Let me ask you, do you consider it evil?

  134. Ronnie says:

    Doug,

    I don’t believe people have a problem with Alan’s in your face style of argument, but instead he makes no argument, nor does he answer question. I have answered his question and I’ve answered your questions so when will one of you guys stand up and behave like Christians and answer on what biblical basis are you accusing fellow Christians of committing sin?

    It is almost as if you guys are taking this as some kind of mental exercise without considering the very serious accusations that you are making against brothers and sisters in Christ. One would think you would want to go the extra mile to show that your accusation is biblical based, instead of all the cat and mouse games that are being played.

  135. Alan says:

    Ronnie,

    Let me get this straight. If crack cocaine is legal, you believe that it isn’t sinful to use it recreationally? I personally don’t know of a crack hospital or medical usage. But is it permissible, minus the illegality, for a Christian to enjoy crack cocaine? When I say permissible, I mean, not sinful? And I’m talking recreationally, so that we don’t have to take that tangent.

    Here’s another one. Is it sinful for a child to call his dad for no apparent reason a dunce, a bozo, or a jerk? Can you give me a verse for that?

  136. Doug Merrill says:

    I do, because of its ability to cloud the mind and assert control over the individual (despite what the recreational users say). I tend to shy away from painkillers more powerful than ibuprofen for that purpose.

    I appreciate the candor in your response. Based on that, am I right in believing that you, if presented the opportunity, would vote in favor or legalizing it for recreational purposes?

  137. Alan says:

    Ronnie,

    Is there anything in the Bible that prohibits me from calling people in the comment section here village idiots?

  138. Alan says:

    Everyone,

    Certain people are not engaging me, when they have made assertions that are beyond what is written in the Bible, violating their own understanding of sola scriptura. They have become silent on the subject now. I noticed that Cheryl, who determined something was silly, had no Bible reason for it being silly or no Bible definition of silly. She just judged, willy-nilly, something to be silly. What makes something “silly,” biblically? Still waiting on that.

    I thought of another one. It might even be closer to home. Is it wrong to act like a gangster? Where does the Bible tells us how a gangster acts? Where does the Bible tell us what a gangster is?

    And last here, I promise, Lord-willing, that before the discussion with Shai Linne and Scott is over, that I will tell you what I think is wrong with certain types of music. I’ve actually already done that here with the example that Scott gave, so it’s not as though I’m avoiding the subject.

    By the way, I want you to know that I’m enjoying engaging with you guys.

  139. Nick says:

    Doug Merrill,

    A couple of comments.

    First, not everyone hears rap as angry. I know you do. I know others do. But several of us have pointed out it doesn’t sound in your face, arrogant, or angry to us. You may not want to believe us, but at least do us the courtesy of hearing what we are saying. We are not being inconsistent because we don’t hear rap as rude, arrogant or angry.

    Second, many reformed people don’t believe alcohol use is inherently evil. I know some of you from the fundamentalist side probably do (I was raised that way), but don’t assume others do.

    So what is the sin the Bible explicitly prohibits? Drunkenness. And if it can be demonstrated that crack use causes effects that are not significantly differentfrom drunkenness, then crack use is sinful. But if not, unless there is another biblical reason one could come up with, many of us would be willing to say it is not sinful. So we are being consistent.

    One could look under the microscope at the chemicals involved, and determine whether they can impair the mind or not. It is also fairly easy to see when someone behaves like a drunk.

    Do you have the same science backing up your claim that all forms of rap must sound angry to everyone? What are you going to look in the blood for that? How do you determine the meaning of a musical piece under a microscope? Have you analyzed the behavior of all who listen to Christian rap to see if they become more violent while listening to it?

    In short, it seems like you base your assertion on the way it sounds to you. And therefore you assume it must sound that way to everyone else.

    Even Alan, unwillingly, said the same thing. For when he said the Chinese will not get Alan analysis of their music, why is that? Because he knows full well they don’t hear what he hears in their music. I don’t doubt he hears it. Just like I don’t doubt they don’t.

    God bless,

    Nick the village idiot #2

  140. Doug Merrill says:

    Nick, anger is a predominant characteristic of rap/HHH. At the very least, if you’re not going to call it anger, call it an in-your-face, aggressive mode of communication. I took the time to do some investigative listening (and watching) and picked some “songs” at random for grins and giggles. Artists evaluated here includes those held up as icons within the HHH movement by some on this and other threads.

    Beautiful Eulogy: Not sure of the title

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gz09EF4obYQ

    Note the driving, monotone beat; the in-your-face position of the mouth to the mic; the incessant, stilted finger-jabbing; the head bobbing. What does all that communicate? Kinda makes the reference in the song to “the peace that passes all understanding” a farce.

    Lecrae: Confessions

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFVV5SXqqrA

    This song is not as aggressive, but its focus is different. Several ladies in gowns that I would consider immodest, cleavage showing – fits the beat of the song…musically, it would have made sense for them to engage in dancing in a suggestive manner, instead of ballroom dancing. Again, the word farce comes to mind.

    Trip Lee: The Invasion

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruDmidiLxQM

    Irreverent lyrics – Jesus is the “hero.” Much of the lyrics are unintelligible to a first-time listener. Back to the same aggressive jabbing, monotone, although not as in-your-face as the first song.

    Timothy Brindle: The Great Exchange

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYNKL0Vi7XY

    Have to move to the end of the video (about 21:30). More aggressive finger-pointing, hand jabbing, head-bobbing and more gesticulation. Angry tone, in-your-face positioning of the mic as he engages in this “act of worship.”

    Bonus video: Hip-hologetics 2013. More anger, more aggression, more finger-pointing, hand-jabbing. This is Christ-honoring? This is a demonstration of the fruits of the Spirit?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_ZYH-QeBpI

    Bonus Video 2: Anchor by Beautiful Eulogy

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuh7yj0nvAY

    They “perform” the song. Have a live vocalist, who arrives to a rousing cheer. During the opening vocal, the lead looks like he’s under the influence. His head is bobbing, he’s physically agitated, yet it’s not in time to the music. During the rap portion, the song is anything but soft, loving and beautiful. More angry gestures, rapid-fire words, angry tone. During the “performance,” a number of audience members can’t help themselves as they bob and weave, gesticulate aggressively, etc.

    This fits Phil 4:8?

  141. Steven says:

    Dave thank you for taking the time to critique some songs.

    May I ask:

    Why are these sins(I’m assuming since you believe they are wrong that they must be sins):
    -a driving, monotone beat;
    -the in-your-face position of the mouth to the mic;
    -the incessant, stilted finger-jabbing(You mean like pastors, but without the Bible)
    -the head bobbing.

    Finally, you said “the peace that passes all understanding” a farce,

    When the NT talks about Peace, what is peace?

    It sounds like your definition of Peace differs from scripture so I just want to make sure.

    For the record many within the Christian Hip Hop community rebuked Lecrae for having women show cleavage in that video. I’m not(nor is Shai) a defender of everything a Christian rap artist does as good. But we must not generalize.

    Thanks again for your critique.

  142. Ronnie says:

    Hey Doug,

    You stated:
    “I do, because of its ability to cloud the mind and assert control over the individual (despite what the recreational users say). I tend to shy away from painkillers more powerful than ibuprofen for that purpose.”

    Does using any amount cloud the mind and assert control over the individual? Or is it more like wine and other prescription drugs that can be used in moderation without those sinful effects? Not having research the issue I don’t know the answers to those questions. I would also add if you are ever seriously injured and need surgery then you will be taking more than just ibuprofen. With that being said, in general I agree with your principle as I have also stated something similar above, but my lack of knowledgeable on the effects of marijuana prevents me from calling it sinful in that regard.

    You stated:
    “I appreciate the candor in your response. Based on that, am I right in believing that you, if presented the opportunity, would vote in favor or legalizing it for recreational purposes?

    No, probably not. Here is why. I make a distinction between calling something inherently a sin, which I’m not in the position to do for marijuana vs voting for laws that I think practically benefit society. I’m open to change my position if presented with compelling information, but I believe the recreational use of marijuana will have a negative impact on the society. So my voting against it would not be because I consider it a sin any more than my voting against driving at whatever speed you desire is a sin, but for practical reasons.

    But this gets us back to the real issue at hand. On what basis is rap music inherently sinful? I noticed you posted your evaluation of some rap above but I had already prepared this so I will still post it and interact with your evaluation in another post.

  143. Wayne says:

    Doug, I appreciate your evaluation of several songs there. Alan, I appreciate your consistent argument, even if it meant arguing against Scott because of his song selection.

  144. Ronnie says:

    Hey Doug,

    Thanks for your listing those songs and offering a critique of them. A lot of my questions would be similar to what Steven has posted above so I want repeat them, but instead offer a more general response.

    First, there is nothing inherently sinful in any of those things that you mentioned. Second, even if one or all those things were inherently sinful you must show that those things are a sine qua non of rap music otherwise the statement that Christian Rap is inherently sinful is fallacious. Finally that leaves you with two major burdens. 1) You must prove that those tones, actions, and emotions are always sinful and 2) there is no such thing as Christian Rap without those things. Otherwise, you need to adjust your accusation so that you are not guilty of falsely slandering the brethren of committing sin.

    Soli Deo Gloria,
    Ronnie

  145. Doug Merrill says:

    Steven,

    Do I consider all the things mentioned sins when taken on an individual basis? Of course not! But this music is presented as one package and must be evaluated as such. It’s one of the reasons I’m thankful for Youtube and music videos, because, if honest, they portray visually what the music is communicating audibly.

    Start with the louder, more aggressive songs. Here are the elements I found almost universally.

    * Overly loud vocal
    * Words explode out of the mouth at a fast tempo
    * Aggressive (at the least) if not angry tone
    * Mic pulled up within millimeters of the mouth/face
    * Emphatic, repetitive, aggressive hand gestures, many times including finger-pointing
    * In some cases, heads bob up and down

    If any of you observed from a distance a conversation between two individuals where you could hear the volume and tone of the voices (as in what’s portrayed above), but not make out the words and you could see one person standing within inches of the other, making emphatic hand gestures (you know the kind – “Wha-what?” “Yo, yo, yo,”) repeatedly getting in the face of the other individual, what other reasonable conclusion would you come to than that one person is upset/angry with the other?

    As far as peace in the NT is concerned, it can have a number of definitions…some of them include calmness, stillness, assurance. Let’s just say that I doubt that when Jesus commanded the storm, “Peace, Be still,” he wasn’t looking for the sea to take on the attitude of a HHH concert. The very idea of someone being in my face talking about “the peace that passes all understanding” in an aggressive tone is ludicrous at best.

    Lastly, regarding Lecrae’s usage of immodestly clothed women in “Confessions.” Are you saying that is limited to that one song? Did I just stumble on it out of the blue? Or, if I listened/watched more of his material on Youtube, would I find more immodesty? Fortunately, that’s easy enough to determine. Killa, Just Like You, Strung Out. Just a couple of examples.

    At what point, with the mountain of evidence regarding the communication styles used by HHH artists, do we stop this charade and just take it for what it is? I’m afraid Alan is spot-on with his posts. Opinions are set due to years of exposure and desensitization. It is what it is – we like what we like and we’ll defend it to the death regardless of the evidence.

  146. Steven says:

    Thanks for your reply Doug.

    Just a quick observation. You said,

    “Here are the elements I found almost universally.

    * Overly loud vocal
    * Words explode out of the mouth at a fast tempo
    * Aggressive (at the least) if not angry tone
    * Mic pulled up within millimeters of the mouth/face
    * Emphatic, repetitive, aggressive hand gestures, many times including finger-pointing
    * In some cases, heads bob up and down”

    I’ve witnessed many of the same elements from Preachers, especially IFB Preachers. Seems hypocritical to me.

  147. Doug Merrill says:

    Ronnie,

    I’ve already addressed some of your points in the previous post. Having said that:

    * I’ll reiterate – musical communication includes all elements, both vocal and visual. It is a communication style being evaluated and the tendency by some to want to focus on individual aspects instead of the entire product is frustrating because it borders on the juvenile. This is behavior I would expect from my children during their teen years.

    * You present the false choice fallacy. Convenient for you, but not an appropriate arguing device. I don’t need to prove that the tones, actions and emotions are always sinful. You’ve either not read Michael Riley’s post much earlier or my comments on it. The question is, is the behavior communicated by a song and/or a musical genre what should characterize the Christian’s life? Does it indicate behavior in line with the fruit of the Spirit that shows I am under the Spirit’s control?

    * In my limited exposure to HHH/Christian rap, I haven’t encountered anything other than what I’ve documented above – nothing that would be remotely fitting for the child of God. I suppose I could spend every waking hour listening to every single HHH song ever composed to determine definitively that the entire musical genre is not part of the “things that are excellent” (Phil 1:9-11), but I don’t have that kind of time and frankly, that request is unfortunately juvenile. There has to come a moment in time when in the conquest to find the handful of HHH songs that comport with Biblical principles, we realize that we’re wading through too much trash.

  148. Doug Merrill says:

    Steven,

    I’ve been in IFB/Bible churches all my life and have experienced that maybe a couple of times in 35+ years. And you know what? I’d consider it wrong if I heard that as a communication style from the pulpit, if that is what characterizes the man’s preaching. By no means, however, would I say that it characterizes all things IFB,

    That accusation is a straw man and smacks of desperation. It also smacks of getting the mote out of another’s eye, while ignoring the beam in your own. This is not the behavior of maturity on display.

  149. Nick says:

    Doug Merill,

    “Anger is a predominant characteristic of rap” — Of Christian rap? I don’t hear that being a predominant characteristic in Christian rap. I hear all types of songs in the genre — just like I can hear all types of songs in any other genre. Some are angry, some are fun, some are even reflective.

    You said to listen to the whole package, including the music videos! Well, that’s very different from claiming that rap, without lyrics, as a genre, is inherently sinful, isn’t it? While there may be some things wrong in the videos, most people watch a video in their mp3 player (most people don’t have the time to watch a video and say work). It seems you are now changing the subject. Scott is definitely not talking about videos (even if he may agree with you).

    Nevertheless, you go on to lists some things that make the songs angry:

    1. Loud. Yes, some modern music is loud. I don’t have a problem with that, nor do I find in it a sign of aggressiveness or anger. Just like I don’t have a sanctified dial for music volume control. It is a preference.

    2. Words in a fast tempo. That is rap, generally speaking. It doesn’t mean anger. In fact, you can hear “fun” rap in reggaeton (a music genre that mixes rap and reggae — I think it is a hispanic music genre based on its name), which is dance music. It is the type of dance music that will make little sense if it were not “fun” or “happy” sounding and it always sounded angry.

    3. Aggressive tone. Again, I don’t hear that in many rap songs. Fast — yes. Aggressive, as in anger? I don’t hear it in many rap songs. Aggressive as assertive? Yes, and I find nothing wrong with that. There is a difference. And even then, I don’t hear that assertiveness in all rap songs.

    4. “In your face positioning of the mic”. Sorry, but what does that have to do with anything? It doesn’t mean anything to me. What does the positioning of the mic has to do with the tone of the music or the content of the music? So if I position the mic to close to my mouth while singing a lullaby, is that wrong?

    5. “aggressive finger-pointing, hand jabbing, head-bobbing”. That is part of rap culture, and it doesn’t necessarily mean aggressiveness, just like someone moving his head to the beat of a metal song doesn’t mean he is angry. You may want to ask the person moving whether they actually feel angry.

    For example, hispanic people, in general, like to move their hands a lot when they speak. Is that a sign of anger? Or is it a sign of different people acting differently in different cultures?

    I do see you don’t interpret cultural cues the same way I do. And that’s quite alright — nothing wrong with that.

    I do agree that it is very unlikely you will ever see any of Shai’s songs as good. And I can see perhaps better now why you find it so “obvious” that rap is evil. So I don’t expect us to agree. But I do hope you can at least consider that other people don’t read/hear/see/listen the same things you do in rap.

    In summary, I don’t deny some Christian rap songs sound angry. Some Christian rap songs are meant to sound angry because of their contents. I just don’t see that throughout the whole genre as you do (I definitely don’t see that generally in Shai’s songs). Like other genres, I hear different rap songs mean different things and have different moods — which is one of the things Shai talks about in today’s post.

    God bless,

    Nick

    PS. For the record, I do agree there are problems with some Christian artists, where they could (a) use women indecently clothed in their videos, or (b) have lyrics that don’t reflect good theology, or some other issue. I am certainly not claiming that all “Christian” rap is good just because it is “Christian” — those other issues can happen, and do happen. That is perhaps why Scott is having this conversation with Shai, because he is one of the best out there in terms of being consistently Christian. The issue is whether rap is inherently sinful so that even what Shai is doing is sinful.

  150. Josh says:

    Michael Riley-

    You said “Third, even though we definitely need to allow that a variety of emotions have a place in the life of the believer, it is also the case that some emotions should *characterize* his life. I don’t think this is debatable. For instance, this Sunday I’m preaching 1 Timothy 3:1-7, the qualifications of the overseer. Among these, he is not to be contentious, not to be violent, but to be gentle, and self-controlled, and sober-minded. In other words, certain “emotions” are to be his dominant characteristics.

    This is why (returning the one of Martin’s earlier comments) I think this question of rap, etc., is relevant for all of life, and not merely corporate worship. Even if we say that rap is fitting for prophetic denunciation and the like, if our daily listening is characterized by such things, is that fitting with what the standard life of the believer is to be?”

    You make a great point about balance and priority in the life of the believer. Having said that, none of that is relevant to the discussion. Balance and priority are not what is being discussed. I happily agree with you that if someone is solely interested in a “discernment ministry” of calling out false teachers etc etc, then there is an imbalance in his life. But again, the issue of “balance” is not what is being discussed here. For the sake of argument, you can simply assume that I or anyone else is only listening to 1 rap song every 10 years (or whatever division you would deem to be a proper balance, according to the analogy of listening to rap as a type of polemic).

    Thanks,

    Josh

  151. Ronnie says:

    Hey Doug,

    Thanks for the response. You didn’t have to repeat yourself I would have referred to your response above, but thanks.

    You stated:
    * I’ll reiterate – musical communication includes all elements, both vocal and visual. It is a communication style being evaluated and the tendency by some to want to focus on individual aspects instead of the entire product is frustrating because it borders on the juvenile. This is behavior I would expect from my children during their teen years.

    Perceptions are always interesting. I’m sure many see the opposite perceptions, but I don’t want to dwell on that, but instead interact with the substance of your points. So I can agree that musical communication *may* include both vocal and visual, but what if there are not visuals? You do know that a small percentage of HH raps are put to video for the visual effect, right? So without the visual is HH still inherently sinful?

    You stated:
    * You present the false choice fallacy. Convenient for you, but not an appropriate arguing device. I don’t need to prove that the tones, actions and emotions are always sinful. You’ve either not read Michael Riley’s post much earlier or my comments on it. The question is, is the behavior communicated by a song and/or a musical genre what should characterize the Christian’s life? Does it indicate behavior in line with the fruit of the Spirit that shows I am under the Spirit’s control?

    On the contrary my friend. If you are claiming HH is inherently sinful because of the tones, actions, and emotions they yes you would need to prove that, otherwise I can say your communication on the internet is inherently sinful because of your tone in some posts, and I don’t have to prove it. We could all go around charging each with sin for everything we disagree with and never have to prove it. However, if you are making a different argument, which is the genre of HH is not *typically* in line with the Christian life or does not indicate behavior in line with the fruit of the Spirit, that is a different argument to make and different one from the inherently sinful claims of Scott. Maybe the latter claim can be defended to some extent especially in secular HH, but I’m not sure how generally it can be imputed to the Christian Rappers, but it is at least not on the face of it absurd.

    You stated:
    * In my limited exposure to HHH/Christian rap, I haven’t encountered anything other than what I’ve documented above – nothing that would be remotely fitting for the child of God.

    First of all, you have not offered any proofs from Scripture that any of your points above are inherently sinful. You have just asserted they are, and I presume because they go against your perception of how Christians should behave based on your subjective culture. It is definitely not based on a biblical culture of how believers behaved. For example you stated in the first critique:

    “Note the driving, monotone beat; the in-your-face position of the mouth to the mic; the incessant, stilted finger-jabbing; the head bobbing. What does all that communicate? Kinda makes the reference in the song to “the peace that passes all understanding” a farce.”

    Are you serious? A “driving, monotone beat”???? The “in-your-face position of the mouth to the mic”???? “Stilted finger-jabbing”??? “Head bobbing”??? How in the world do you get sinful out of a driving monotone beat and those other things? I think I know. You are a slave to the culture in which you know and live and worse you have now equated your culture with what it is to behave as a Christian. What is also disappointing is the out of context proof texting that takes place to justify imputing sin to your brothers and sisters in Christ. “The peace that passes all understanding” says nothing about a driving monotone beat in a song or how someone holds a mic or someone or someone’s mannerism when singing a song. This peace is in reference to making your petitions to God for whatever ails you in this life and being satisfied in God’s care. All you to do to see how superficial this kind of critique is, is read the Psalms which is the hymn book in the Scriptures? I haven’t heard much in Christian rap that comes close to the aggressive tone you find in the Psalms.

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

    Psalm 7:6
    Arise, LORD, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice.
    Do you think if you sing the above over piano played softly with a gentle and sweet voice that makes it all good? Do you think that is the intention of the Psalm and I could pull out hundreds of verses like this, but not only that have not read what our Lord did in the temple with the whip? Did he not have this “peace that passes all understanding”?

    You stated:
    “I suppose I could spend every waking hour listening to every single HHH song ever composed to determine definitively that the entire musical genre is not part of the “things that are excellent” (Phil 1:9-11), but I don’t have that kind of time and frankly, that request is unfortunately juvenile. There has to come a moment in time when in the conquest to find the handful of HHH songs that comport with Biblical principles, we realize that we’re wading through too much trash.”

    You use bold and harsh language with an out of context Scriptural reference to try and support the shaky foundation that you are on. Do you consider football to be sinful and no Christian should participate in or watch? It is aggressive, loud, in your face, inflicts bodily harm, supports many pagan institutions, promotes many evil causes, promotes scantily dress women, and more. Do you watch football? Do you play? Do you condemn it? If no, why not? As a matter of fact do you consider your tone to be Christian? It is fairly aggressive and in your face?

  152. Wayne says:

    Doug Merrill,

    I will agree, I think there are aggressive tones in HH/rap music. Through most of this conversation over the past few days/weeks, I considered the pro-Scott viewpoint as the viewpoint of the “weaker brother”. Maybe I’m the weaker brother. Maybe I have further to go in my sanctification. Maybe sometimes it seems like I’m going backwards.

    Sure, there are many moments of love, joy, and peace. But there are many moments of struggle. My desire to live a Godly life is often faced with hatred of the sin that clings to me so easily. There is a violent desire to use whatever means necessary to rid myself of sin. These are real emotions. These are not sinful emotions. These are good emotions.

    If we were to rid ourselves of all aggression/hatred/violence, we would not reflect what is in the bible or the nature of God. I agree with Ronnie, what the heck do you do with all the imprecatory Psalms? Would you say hundreds of verses and some of the entire Psalms? Are we really supposed to sing or pray those things today? I’m not sure I can answer that.

    Yes, Hip Hop/Rap apart from the redeeming work of God is not very commendable. I have argued that it is inherently evil in this post a couple of times. (Ronnie and I probably disagree on that point). I have also argued why I think it is proper to talk in terms of it being redeemed.

    I will also confess that I’m not much of a HH fan. In fact, up until I was introduced to Shai Linne’s Attributes of God album, I would say that I definitely was not a fan. But Shai (and others) have captured a part of the Christian walk that is left out of other forms of music. Shai struck a good chord in my heart that needed striking.

    Believe it or not, for me, even the unredeemed HH does not stir up lust in my heart. I could try to shine a favorable light on that and say that it was because of my holiness in this area. It is not. It is because the whole culture of unredeemed HH is not attractive to me because it is not my culture. I just do not respond to it. It is certainly not because I have put lustful thoughts behind me. I know the next time I hear Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2, I will have thoughts of Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch. Marilyn Monroe along with Rachmaninov remind me that I have a long FIGHT (aggression) against lustful thoughts.

  153. Jared says:

    So, this is a little late, but after reading some of the comments and following this discussion, I think something can be added – I’m of the opinion that rap can be a great medium for the Christian message. Others have gotten at what I get at here. I wrote about this for a class a little before the NCFIC thing happened, but I think it is applicable here.

    http://tulipdrivenlife.blogspot.com/2013/12/beauty-and-rap-music-necessity-to-use.html

  154. Martin says:

    Hi Jared,
    Thanks for writing the article, but it would be better if you had taken into account some of the discussion in this and previous threads. As it is, I can’t help thinking that it is just one more assertion without, however, providing better arguments.

    “The medium and the message often do not mix, leaving the music fragmented and incoherent, thus not fully reflective of God’s glory.”
    Good start but you don’t really go further than we have come in the above discussion over past weeks.

    “just as Paul used the concept of the unknown God and quoted pagan philosophers in Acts 17:28 in order to reach the men of Athens.”
    Sorry, neither Paul nor the apostles at Pentecost were singing. They were all speaking and preaching. So the BIG question is whether music should even be used to communicate the gospel to the unsaved. Some psalms certainly tell us to do so but that does not mean we should do so by singing. What I mean to say is that your parallels are not really parallels that can be used without further-going exegesis (and even then…).

    “God is by nature a God of beauty, thus Christians should make beautiful music.”
    Oversimplification. You are not clear as to whether you write about worship or music in general. Mind you, our discussion here is NOT about worship but is more general. As such, the above statement is obviously wrong. Christians should create good art to honour God but not all music must necessarily be beautiful. If I write film music for a horrible scene, I won’t use beautiful music but something that reflects the horror of what’s happening, to give just one example. Forcing Christians to only write beautiful music would mean excluding us from large chunks of artistic activity which should really be dominated or at least influenced by Christians.

    ” the sound of the music must harmonize with the content of the lyrics. There is room for variety here, but the key element is fit-ness.”
    Very good (and I agree). What are criteria to determine such fitness?

    “It is not fitting to communicate the gentleness of God with screaming death metal, as the harshness of the music does not harmonize with the sweetness of the content.”
    So can we use it to communicate the wrath of God, as some hold? Is death metal beautiful?

    “The beat and meter [of rap] allow for easy memorization and a basic understanding of these weighty matters.”
    We have often heard that many people do not have the skills to sing rap. So, of how much value, then, is the idea of memorization in this genre if people are unable to sing along?

    “For hip-hop to be an art form that glorifies God as a whole instead of simply a teaching or exhortative tool, however, the music must be fitting and beautiful.”
    Please demonstrate that and also define what is beautiful hip-hop. Is beautiful hip-hop still hip-hop in the original sense?

    “A striking example of this is Beautiful Eulogy’s self-titled track.”
    Is this a beautiful rap song? Why or why not?

    “Propaganda’s controversial “Precious Puritans” uses a dissonant cello and harsh sounds to push its message of the dangers of putting men on a pedestal.”
    But you’re actually saying this is beautiful?

    You seem to imply that the examples you used are all fitting songs where lyrics and music are combined well. I disagree. Question is, how do we decide that based on objective criteria?

  155. Nick says:

    Martin,

    Just for the record, when you say “the big question is whether singing should be used to communicate the gospel to the unsaved”, you seem to beg several questions. I know the issue has been brought up by others before, and I think the same questions have been begged.

    1. We are not talking of rap in the context of worship, yet what you bring up is perilously close to the regulative principle. Namely, if it is not explicitly commanded, it is forbidden. Yet traditionally the regulative principle has been applied in the context of congregational worship.

    2. While I am Reformed soteriologically, I don’t hold to the regulative principle. If I’m not mistaken both Shai and Scott are not reformed with respect to baptism (are credobaptists — I am as well), which likely means there is a great diversity of generally conservative believers in this discussion. All that to say it is likely others don’t hold to the regulative principle as well (I know Scott does, but I wonder if Shai does). This is perhaps why there’s so much argumentation about the burden of proof – the regulative principle turns the burden of proof on its head. So it makes a difference whether you hold to it or not.

    3. What is essential to the salvation of someone is coming in contact with the Word of God (and of course the Holy Spirit opening the eyes of the elect). Whether they do so through listening to preaching, reading the Bible directly, reading a tract, conversing with a friend, viewing a Christian movie, listening to a hymn, or even an angel or dream, it is still the power of the Spirit through the message of the Word that changes hearts. Of course, you could argue all of that is correct but that it doesn’t mean some of the means should not be forbidden since they are not explicitly commanded. Which takes us back to #1 and #2.

    God bless,
    Nick

  156. Nick says:

    All that to say that perhaps the reason Jared did not think he had to prove it is proper to sing God’s message is simply because he doesn’t share the same presuppositions about the burden of proof that you do.

    I agree his piece is not going to convince Scott. But if you want people to prove all that you pointed out to everyone’s satisfaction… Well I hate to disappoint you, but it is not going to happen. Our pressupositions are too different, not to mention our cultural backgrounds.

  157. Martin says:

    Nick,

    1. Quite true. Once you leave the context of worship, the regulatory principle becomes more and more difficult to apply (and I’m not necessarily convinced it should even be applied to worship but the arguments for that are strong, notably the safety it brings and the freedom not to worship in forms – and styles? – that some are uncomfortable with). Once we get into evangelism, we know we are told to preach the gospel and be ‘living letters’. I agree it’s not obvious that anything else is forbidden although again, it seems ‘safer’ to stick to biblical examples, and singing the gospel to evangelize cannot be found in the Bible (outside the worship context). But neither did radio, television, or iTunes exist then. And so, when we get to life generally, the regulatory principle would mean we can’t use planes, trains, and automobiles. Apart from the Amish, I don’t know of any Christian group that would apply it to that degree.

    2. Yes and no. I would hesitate to use music as an evangelistic means (and I’m digressing from our topic here to answer this, since we were restricting ourselves to music in everyday use and as a teaching tool for Christians in our discussion above) for other reasons than the regulatory principle, i.e. syncretism and also the way music tends to change lyrical meanings. If we think of Händel’s Messiah or even The Miserables, there are certainly compositions that express Christian thinking well and may majorly impact the unsaved when they listen to such music. Reportedly, similar things may happen at Christian rock or hip-hop concerts. The question is, does this happen due to the songs or the usual preaching in-between the songs, and is an emotional atmosphere conducive to genuine conversions? Other concerns of mine relate to the selling of music to evangelize – should the gospel not be free? Anyways, it’s a discussion we should not get into here to stay on topic.

    3. God can work through a lot of errors and imperfections. So even if we work outside the biblical framework, God may still be able to use it for good. This does not mean, however, we should not strive to be as biblical as possible. Christian culture, including music, will at least occasionally also be enjoyed by non-Christians and may then contribute to their seeking God and be part of their pathway to salvation. Still, I don’t see it as automatic that art should be used for evangelization.

    As to the burden of proof, I’m not sure assigning it to one or the other side is due to our adopting the regulative or normative principle. Personally I think the burden of proof lies on BOTH sides: those who want to allow rap or even all musical styles must show that it does not take away from the message (as I would submit is the case in Duke Ellington’s attempt with his Sacred Concerts). I consider it an undeniable fact that there is good and bad music, and that musical styles are more or less suited to specific purposes. Those who want to forbid rap or other styles must show they are always incompatible with the Christian message, without exception.

    We never agree on some biblical doctrine either but still keep working at it to develop exegetical principles and deeper insight, critiquing each other and maintaining dialogue among Christians. We need to do the same here, looking for semiotic meanings (culturally determined and inherent in music) in musical styles in order to be able to make better judgments around musical styles that go beyond opinion or ‘cultural background’. To say we’ll never satisfy everyone is moot; this does not mean we should stop here.

  158. Nick says:

    Martin,

    Good comments, although there’s something that I disagree with which goes back to the main point I was trying to make.

    You said we need to show the music does not take away from the message. How can I show that to someone who: a) Insists in using the regulative principle for this conversation when I don’t even agree with the principle, b) Hears something in rap I don’t hear, c) Believes there are universal rules for music or aesthetics that I may not agree with, or d) all of the above? I agree we are to test everything by Scriptural standards, but if we don’t agree on what those standards are, how can I prove it to you?

    Isn’t that after all Scott’s point in “Philosophy vs Application”?

    Didn’t Mackman tried to show you some what you are asking for with Supertone’s “The Wilderness” song? How did that go? Did you or him at the end of the day ended up proving anything? Not as far as I recall. Why? Because you both heard two different things? Do you really believe you can prove to mackman that he heard wrong?

    God bless,
    Nick

  159. Martin says:

    a) I certainly don’t insist
    b) Cultural baggage may be a hindrance but maybe that could be overcome. We all need training to discern.
    c) If there are universal rules, you will need to agree. I think at some level we all know there are – take any Disney movie and you will notice how they use music. They pick and choose to exactly achieve the desired effect. ‘Robots’ (2005) is also a good example of a cartoon that makes use of appropriate music for various situations. What is missing is a methodology to spin this further into the subject of Christian music. Very little has been written specifically about rap, as far as I know.

    I already commented that I am not quite in agreement with Scott’s post. Sure, we didn’t get very far yet. I still hope that in a few years – once I am further down my neverending booklist – I may be in a better position than today to advance this subject beyond the above discussion. And who knows what’s still coming between Scott and Shai – although I’d agree that we should not set out hopes too high for now.

  160. Jared says:

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks for your response! First, I want to apologize for not reading through all of the comments on all of the posts. I scanned them for the most part but I do not mean to have a conversation you have already had. I guess I was more reacting to the presupposition that seems to be present that rap is musically incapable of pushing forward the Christian message – that it rather detracts from it. I also see those defending it not really engaging this point on a musical level, which is what I attempted to do in this paper, so I hoped it would add to the discussion, but if you have already seen arguments like this, I apologize for making you have the conversation again. If that is the case, feel free to let me know and I will be fine with that – I do not intend to waste anyone’s time and I do not think it prudent that I should spend my time on this if I am not really contributing to the conversation – so as I said, if this is all repeat, let me know.

    Second, I would like to make a disclaimer on the article that it was a paper written for a class and it had a word limit (I was one word under the limit) and thus many of your objections are things I thought through but things that we had covered in class discussion, reading, etc. – but I am more than happy to respond to your objections in more detail here.

    As far as your objection to my use of Acts 17:28, I agree with your comments to Nick that the regulative principle is difficult to apply outside of the context of worship (and I would say it really only applies to corporate worship). So if we aren’t applying the regulative principle, I don’t see a problem with using music for evangelistic/teaching purposes (note that I’m not simply advocating the use of rap for evangelistic purposes) as long as the music itself is made in such a way that it pushes forward the message the song is trying to communicate. Your objection to Nick was that music can change lyrical meanings. I agree completely, which is why the point I made in the paper was that the music itself might need to be modified or, as in the case of rap, made with more intentionality. If Paul used pagan philosophical language, I don’t see any problem with using music to communicate the Christian message as long as the music and the message are working together, that is, unless you want to apply the regulative principle here.

    As for your point about my oversimplification, I realize it is an oversimplification for the paper and this had to do with previous class discussions and word count. The point is, because God’s nature is beautiful, and we are to reflect God’s glory, then our music should be beautiful if it is to be good. Notice that the beginning of the paragraph you quoted, there was a qualifier – “If Christians want to do music well . . . ” – So the point is to say that if Christians want to make good art, it should be beautiful, since there is an objectiveness to beauty as it is grounded in the nature of God. However, understand what beauty means in this context.

    In trying to define beauty, I said that it begins with harmonizing complexity and fit-ness. You said to this point, “Very good (and I agree). What are criteria to determine such fitness?” I tried to give a few examples of what fit-ness does not look like, but if you agree, I don’t see the point of laboring to determine those criteria. In the context of this definition, your horror film score would actually have aspects of beauty since it would be fitting to its scene. I don’t know where I was saying that Christians must only make beautiful music, though I was saying good art must be beautiful, and Christians should make good art – though in this context I’ll admit beautiful is used in a broader way than most tend to use it. This is a bit beside the point though.

    I do think Christians should strive for fit-ness between the music and the lyrics, though I am not sure that this can turn into “immoral” music as Scott claims. I would think it turns more into bad art – which can become immoral if the song as a whole communicates something about God that is false. If the lyrics and the music don’t mesh, it doesn’t mean the song is communicating something about God that is false, rather it means that it is really not communicating anything meaningful and is just kind of noise at that point. If someone wanted to communicate the wrath of God with death metal, I think it could be done, but it would take a lot of intentionality to those making the music. A full album of death metal communicating the wrath of God might not be the best, so the band might want to consider using some other styles in communicating the full Christian message. This is again beside the point, which is that style does matter – which feeds into the point of the whole paper – that rap is a style that can musically push the message forward.

    You said, “We have often heard that many people do not have the skills to sing rap. So, of how much value, then, is the idea of memorization in this genre if people are unable to sing along?” This assertion is a bit of a sweeping generalization. There is a great diversity of music within the genre of rap. I would say that it would be beneficial to listen to the songs I gave as examples in the paper. Not all hip-hop takes an incredible amount of skill to follow or repeat. Many of the definitions that Shai gives in “Atonement Q&A” still help me remember the basics of these terms even though I could give a much more technical definition of each. This is what makes these types of songs good teaching tools.

    To your next point, I would say examples of that would be the ones I gave in the paper (Beautiful Eulogy’s “Beautiful Eulogy,” most of Shai Linne’s “Attributes of God” album, etc.). There’s a new one that I’ve heard that might be my favorite since I wrote my paper, “Instruments of Mercy” by Beautiful Eulogy. And yes, these are still hip-hop/rap.

    As far as Propaganda’s “Precious Puritans,” I would say, based on the definition of beauty in the paper, yes, it is beautiful since it is fitting and has elements of harmonizing complexity – though for the purposes of this discussion I don’t care to convince you that it is beautiful. I’m trying to convince you that it is an example where the content and the sound line up.

    The last thing you said: “You seem to imply that the examples you used are all fitting songs where lyrics and music are combined well. I disagree. Question is, how do we decide that based on objective criteria?”

    This is really the crux of it. Most of what has been said before this was more a critique on the paper and less a discussion about the topic. The basic assumption is that the lyrics of Christian hip-hop and the sound of hip-hop are not fitting and cannot be combined well. I’m trying to say otherwise and give examples.

    It would seem since no one on either side can really come up with the criteria for “holy/God-honoring/fitting” music – suggesting that there may still be a hint of cultural barrier or letting “what I like” and “what I don’t like” get in the way, it may be best to say what about these songs I’ve given is not fitting. It sounds like shifting the burden of proof, but I think on something like this I’ve made assertions and done a lot of work to back them up, so to just simply disagree would mean that someone claiming these things are not fitting would need show how they are not fitting. Mostly, all I hear is that rap has a constant drum beat to it, which a lot of music does, and I’m not exactly sure what makes that unfitting. I don’t want to get caught up in a battle over whether drum beats are inherently immoral, though that is what Scott seems to be implying, though I admit I could be reading him wrong.

    I would say, first of all, listen to the songs that have been given. If I say they are fitting and combined well, and you say they aren’t, in order to decide whether they are or not, we must have discussions about each particular song. I’m not sure either of us want to put in that much time here, though I’d be up for it if you really wanted to.

    What you said to Nick about the burden of proof is good I think and through this whole thing I am trying to show that rap can be done in such a way that it does not take away from the message. I am not trying to make a blanket statement, because there are many cases where the music of rap can take away from the message because they are not fitting. All I’m saying is that there are cases where this is not true and there is room for improvement as well.

    Anyways, I appreciate your response. It took a long time to write this, much longer than I intended to spend, so if the discussion isn’t going anywhere, I am repeating what others have said, or if what you and Nick talked about in the few posts before this apply and this really just isn’t helping anything, let me know. I’m just trying to honestly engage the conversation and move it forward.

  161. Jared says:

    Also, I just read through my post after it was posted, and I’m grammar Nazi-ing myself all over the place. Because it was so long I didn’t really proofread it, so forgive me for those few errors and run-on sentences haha.

  162. Nick says:

    Hi Jared,

    You may want to engage Martin in the latest thread if you really want to take the argument in that direction.

    For the record, while I do agree with some of what Martin says, I think I find myself more in disagreement than agreement. I don’t quite agree with universals with respect to music as you and Martin do, nor do I agree the burden of proof is on both sides. Above I was simply granting Martin his point for the sake of argument — that assuming I needed to prove it, I have no earthly idea how that would even be possible. But just like I don’t have to prove my eating habits, after having tested them by Scripture, to anyone, nor do I think I have to prove my music choices to anyone (after having myself tested them by Scripture).

    I do find interesting the idea of you and Martin taking the conversation in this direction… I still think neither one of you will get very far (because you and him hear music very differently, and even though both assume universals, yours and his will not be the same). But who knows, perhaps you will end up convincing him or viceversa!

    God bless,

    Nick

  163. Martin says:

    Yeah, that happens :-)
    Just a few points:

    “If Paul used pagan philosophical language, I don’t see any problem with using music to communicate the Christian message”
    Scott has commented a few weeks ago on this argument in a side-post to this discussion (also see my own and other comments below that post): http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-culture/acts-17-and-cultural-contextualization/

    “In trying to define beauty, I said that it begins with harmonizing complexity and fit-ness.”
    Yes, my critique was indeed based on your definition of beauty. I would strongly suggest NOT to redefine beauty (just like we should not redefine reverence as discussed on the next thread) since that must lead to misunderstandings. If you mean appropriateness, why not stick to that? One example is the not-beautiful music used in The Day After, once people start to come out of their atomic shelters in Kansas. You can see they are lost, hopeless, and erringly walking around – something that is well expressed by the accompanying music, which is unmelodious, without structure, almost a random hitting of various notes. If you include such music in your definition of beautiful you are actually destroying the idea of the ugly. So I was saying Christians who make good music (in the sense of appropriate to the task) will sometimes use ugliness purposefully – we should not restrict them to beauty in the common sense of the word. I guess this means we agree.

    “If the lyrics and the music don’t mesh, it doesn’t mean the song is communicating something about God that is false, rather it means that it is really not communicating anything meaningful and is just kind of noise at that point.”
    Possibly, but I expressed myself on that in the latest thread. I believe there are situations when it’s not just void of meaning but rather, can invert or pervert the meaning – such as CCM suggesting amorous (sensual) feelings towards God when it should be reverential love. I critiqued one of Shai’s examples in a similar way (the country song).

    “If someone wanted to communicate the wrath of God with death metal, I think it could be done”
    Maybe – not sure. Generally, death metal is probably better to express Satan’s wrath (or human mindless anger, for that matter) than God’s wrath. I may be wrong – since Shai has performed hip-hop that does not sound angry, so maybe it could be done.

    “This is what makes these types of songs good teaching tools.”
    I’d be careful about the teaching value. Admittedly, rap likes to be more controversial and is then more like the old (politically incorrect) hymns than modern CCM, which must dumb down theology to some common denominator that does not offend the targeted consumers. Yet, if I want to get into theology, I need more than memory rhymes and probably good old vocational teaching serves best in that context. Maybe rap is trying to take on too much if it promotes itself as a teaching tool.

    “I would say, first of all, listen to the songs that have been given.”
    I critiqued at least some of them in a previous discussion with Macman:
    http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-culture/discussion-about-christian-rap-with-shai-linne-how-does-rap-flavor-its-truth-content/ (starting Dec 9) and a few (mostly non-rap) in the latest post.

  164. Jared says:

    Martin,

    I would say that we do agree on appropriateness. I wasn’t necessarily trying to re-define beauty as much as I was trying to define what gives beauty its qualities. As I said about this paper, it was written for a class in which we discussed aesthetics and beauty and the concept of fit-ness plays into it. Either way, I’ll admit that is broader than how the term is commonly used. There is actually debate historically over what comprises beauty, so that is the context of where I was coming from with that.

    As far as the lyrics and the music not meshing, I would still take the same stance. Most CCM songs I know of suggest sensual feelings toward God lyrically, not as much musically, so I think that the lyrics may inform our understanding of the music on that front. I would certainly not say CCM music devoid of lyrics is immoral, though the music certainly can push the false understanding of who God is forward if the lyrics are headed there.

    Maybe the teaching thing is just helpful for me. I have a little over a year left in order to graduate with a theological studies degree so I can definitely give good technical definitions of terms, but Atonement Q&A has helped me keep the more compact definition of those weighty terms in my mind when explaining them. Maybe it’s just because I teach middle and high schoolers, but I think the teaching and memorization value is certainly present.

    As for the rest of your points, I seem to have some reading to do before I can respond appropriately. Given the time I would need to put into that and how long it takes me to think through all these things, that may or may not happen haha.

    I’ve enjoyed this discussion though! Thank you for your responses.

  165. […] what the listener feels. Rather, music carries meaning naturally based on its resemblance to “emotion characteristics in appearance.” In other words, music sounds like (and feels like) what emotion looks like (and feels […]

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