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Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: What Defines Rap?

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 my third question to Shai.

Scott-thumb-300x300Shai, would you consider either of the following examples rap? If so, how would you distinguish rap from poetry recitation? If you would not consider them rap, what would need to change with these examples in order for them to be rap? In other words, what are the essential elements of rap that distinguish it from other art forms?

Shai_Bio-300x300Thanks for the question, Scott. I wouldn’t consider either of your examples to be rap. The reason why is the structure of the lyrics. Rap, simply put, is rhythmic poetry. One essential element of rap is that it is written in such a way that it coincides rhythmically with a consistent drum pattern. Those patterns may vary, but the consistency should be there. Even in rap that’s done a cappella, the trained ear can hear what it would sound like if the beat was actually there. With the example you gave, lines 1 and 2 could fit a particular pattern, but lines 3 and following don’t fit that same rhythmic pattern. By way of analogy, it would like writing a hymn where the first stanza was written in Common Meter (8,6,8,6) and the second stanza in 11,11,11,11.

Now, there is some avante-garde Hip-hop out there where artists deviate from conventional structures, but even then, it’s done with intentionality and precision. I didn’t get the sense that the writer of that poem had a rhythmic backdrop in mind when it was written. The examples you provided would fall more into the category of Spoken Word in my opinion. Spoken Word artists have more freedom than rap artists in that they aren’t restricted to Hip-hop drum patterns. Spoken Word tends to be more loosely structured.

You might then want to know what the difference is between the examples you listed and the rap I did that you linked to in an earlier post. In that video, I did a portion of a song that was originally written & performed over a beat. Taking the beat away doesn’t make it cease to be rap. It’s just an a cappella rap. That’s because there’s a particular rhythmic structure in the way I wrote it that makes it Hip-hop and would differentiate it from either Spoken Word or other forms of poetry.

I would also add that within Hip-hop, there’s great diversity in terms of how songs are performed vocally (We call it “delivery”). There are some rappers who use aggressive deliveries, others who use laid-back, monotone deliveries, and a whole range in between. But it’s all rap. It’s a common error to assume that all rap is aggressive and “angry” rather than understanding that aggressive rap, while common, is just one of a plethora of styles within rap. Most people outside of Hip-hop culture (including those sympathetic to it) don’t have categories for other kinds of rap. For a few examples, here’s a children’s story I didHere’s a (fantastic) song of repentance and lament for sin by Timothy Brindle, and here’s a song encouraging stay at home mothers by Benjamin the Esquire.

All of these are examples of rap. What makes them rap is the rhythmic structure of the lyrics, not the vocal tone, per se.

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Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

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

102 Responses to Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: What Defines Rap?

  1. Steven says:

    I love the first track Shai linked to. A beautiful analogy of the Doctrine of Imputation in that song. I would like to hear Scott’s critique of that particular song.

  2. Martin says:

    More examples of non-aggressive HHH. Now I am still wondering if this is good art but if someone wants to say it’s sinful they need to look for another reason than rap being aggressive (which, again, is anyways not sinful by itself). Good answer by Shai that clarifies what rap is.

  3. Samuel Nathan says:

    I am curious. I have seen in Scott’s posts, as well as in the comments that music is a “universal language” of sorts, and that the emotions it conveys can be interpreted regardless of culture. If this is the case, why is there so much differing opinion over what it conveys? If rap is so “universally” aggressive, why are there people who think otherwise?

    I can’t help but think folks on both sides of this argument are misconstruing what music is capable of, into an absolute quality. While music _can_ cross cultural boundaries, doesn’t mean it is always unrestricted by them. Is that a fair assessment?

  4. Martin says:

    Samuel, I think it’s ‘all of the above’. This article by Steven Davies: http://www.unige.ch/emotionalpowerofmusic/conference/Davies.doc‎ suggests there are inherent/universal musical meanings. Yet, there clearly is also cultural conditioning that will often override the more universal meanings. This is where some suggest (I think, correctly) that we need to be educated to distinguish what is good (in the same sense as Heb 5:14) and without being exposed to various musical styles and purposely engaging with them, we will end up being unable to make good judgments (I don’t mean that in Rajesh’s sense that we need to be ‘filled by the Spirit’ to make such judgments). We will always be biased one way or another; the question here is whether it is better to be biased towards ‘better’ art – which again presumes there are objective criteria to make such an assessment and that all art is not created equal.

  5. Doug says:

    Why do I hear sinful music in the second audio?

  6. Samuel Nathan says:

    Martin, the link you posted appears to be broken, I was unable to view it. If you find another one, I am curious to read it.

    I think I agree with your opinion, especially in regard to Heb 5:14, but what do you mean by “‘better’ music”? Is that referring to an aesthetic quality of good and bad music, or moral quality?

  7. J says:

    Scott, dude, why can’t you just leave well enough alone man?!! The man is gifted by God with an amazing gift and lyrics that are more theologically rich than some hymns. Not to mention the popular praise choruses that have one verse and repeat the same chorus 100 times. If you don’t like rap, don’t listen to it! Come on bro.!!

  8. Martin says:

    Strange – seems something is being pasted into the link. Just delete the junk that comes after “.doc” and it will work.
    If you followed earlier posts, you will have noticed I cannot understand the claim that music without lyrics has moral significance. Neither do I mean ‘aesthetic’ as in ‘more beautiful’ since some art may be intentionally not beautiful, depending on what its aims are. What I mean is better in terms of artistic quality (correspondence of music and lyrics; complexity and artistic value, skill, etc.).

  9. Doug says:

    I’m interested in Scott’s take on groups such as Apologetix, who take secular songs and put Christian theology behind them. Is there any positivity or edification in doing something like that from Scott’s point of view? Now, obviously for something like that I see it more as entertainment than worship, but still, I’d be interested in his opinion, based on the ‘music can be immoral’ argument.

  10. Rajesh says:

    Martin,

    You say, “I cannot understand the claim that music without lyrics has moral significance”? Does this mean that you hold that Christians who play solely instrumental music as part of Christian worship (such as for preludes or offerings) are engaging in a non-moral activity? If I am understanding your statement correctly, then do you also hold that 1 Cor. 10:31 has no application to instrumental music that is played if there is no singing accompanying it?

    (These are not devious questions intended to trick or trap you in some ulterior way. I am interested in knowing exactly what you mean by your statement.)

  11. Samuel Nathan says:

    Rajesh, I think Martin’s point, at least in context of my dialogue with him as I understood it, was that music (the song/composition of notes without lyrics) has no intrinsic moral value. The act of playing and making music as it pertains to an individual is what would fall under the passage you mentioned. Correct me if I am wrong Martin, as I am still trying to understand everyone here.

    Rajesh, I am curious, would you agree with my first comment (8:37)?

  12. drfiddledd says:

    Rajeesh, I’d like to respond to your comment about instrumental music. Do you think there would be a difference between identical pieces of sacred instrumental music if they were played by 1) a Christian desiring to bring glory to God, 2) a Christian who was performing to show off their talent, or 3) an unsaved person who appreciated the beauty of the music itself?

    I believe that I Cor. 10:31 would apply to the musician and not to the music.

  13. Doug Merrill says:

    I have some questions as to whether Ted Geisel knew he was not writing poetry, he was writing rap. I’m curious if Shai would consider something rap if the initial author didn’t write it as rap, yet it fits his definition.

    Yo! I’m not down with the Green Eggs and Ham, Homey.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfEu-edQuyY

    Wha-what? How many fish?

  14. Rajesh says:

    Samuel,

    My interest in engaging people in these threads is focused on what they believe about what the Bible teaches. Your first comment has to do with various related things that I think are best addressed by other people in these threads who have devoted a lot of time to thinking about those things and want to engage others on those points.

  15. Rajesh says:

    drfiddledd,

    A Christian who does something with wrong motives is sinning so there is an important difference between scenarios 1 and 2. Paul rejoiced that Christ was preached even by people who had wrong motives (Philip. 1:15-18); Christians who play music to show off their talents will not be rewarded for that ministry.

    I am not aware that Scripture makes clear what happens when that same music is played by an unbeliever who appreciates the music itself. There are some passages that might be suggestive, but I will have to think to see if there are any passages that would relate more directly.

  16. Alan says:

    Unless you have been involved with the art, you really can’t judge. This particular variety is Afghan and desert, both beautiful and passionate. Only haters couldn’t see his potential. He has a feel for his craft like I have not seen from other artists.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlfgPCmOO7w

    There is sheer jubilation arising from him, authentic and organic.

    Doug Merrill,

    The two young artists you featured in your link took a liberty, eating, and elevated it with their rage and intensity. My mouth now runs over with this new super food. I had refused what should have been received with thanksgiving. I no longer abstain, but am nourished up. Goodbye swiss chard. Hello green eggs.

  17. Samuel Nathan says:

    Rajesh,

    Believe it or not, I share the same desire. However, since I am coming from a different viewpoint, and I haven’t actively been engaged in the discussion I am seeking to understand the foundation upon which your stance is built. Before we get into hermeneutics, I need to understand your a priori logic so I can fairly and justly engage in discussion. I seek truth, not to prove a point. Spo

    Also, I believe it is possible to have biblical discussion without quoting the Bible every other sentence as God is not the author of confusion, and is a God of reason.

  18. Rajesh says:

    That’s fine, Samuel. I’m not sure what you are asking for when you say that you want to understand my “a priori logic.” I believe that the Bible supersedes human philosophy, reason, and logic, and where there is an apparent conflict, philosophy, reason, and logic must be submitted to all that God says. If you want more specifics about what I believe concerning music, I have written many articles that you can access on my blog.

    In brief, I do not believe that music without lyrics is neutral or amoral, and I do not believe that all instrumental music is inherently moral. I also do not believe that God created any musical styles, and I believe that music is not just an action. I also reject the view that music is only about human emotions.

  19. drfiddledd says:

    Rajeesh,

    Thank you for your answer but my question was about the music. Did it become sinful when the performer had a sinful attitude?

  20. Martin says:

    I LOVED the arm pit music!! Should be on ‘Afghan Idol’ for sure :-)

    Rajesh, my Dec 4 post on http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-culture/discussion-about-christian-rap-with-shai-linne-can-music-be-sinful/ pretty much explains my approach, as well as some other interactions I had with you and others in previous threads. I certainly agree with you that any activity has moral significance. I would agree that music making is morally significant, as is any use of music.

    I also agree that music (with or without lyrics) will take on such significance when used in a specific context (I gave the example of gay or otherwise inappropriate funeral music, which I believe originally came from Macman). Yet, where we part ways is when you say instrumental music itself is moral or immoral. Music does not communicate propositionally, so for example if you hear ‘anger’, you would still not be able to tell if it might be anger directed towards you, something or someone else, or if such musical meaning is simply a device to represent feelings that are suitable for a situation (incl. a movie scene) or specific lyrics.

    Missing such clear communication or a context, music alone does not have determined moral significance. Important to see is that a composition can take on EITHER moral OR immoral connotations, as all things can. It is not ALWAYS one or the other. Morality ONLY comes in when we provide specific context and when music is activity (part of communication), but not when it is an artifact, such as sheets or a recording.

  21. I’m glad Shai Linne thoroughly explained what rap is, and to reply to Doug’s question about whether or not what those two kids did is considered rap, as a rapper I would say yes, yes it was rap. I thought what these kids did was pretty cool and it definitely fits Shai’s description of what rap is. Even the original writing style is equivalent to East-Coast multiple syllabic rhyming. Nonetheless, I’m honestly still waiting for someone to show me what in a rap song makes it sinful. I listened to all three of the songs Shai posted and heard nothing sinful about them. If there was something sinful about them or if there were sinful elements about that, please someone show me because this whole “music apart from lyrics is intrinsically sinful” argument is confusing and simply does not hold weight.

  22. Although I would have to add that Doug’s first example, the one where the guys were rapping Green Eggs and Ham, would be considered wack (poorly done rap music) but rap music nonetheless.

  23. Rajesh says:

    drfiddledd,

    (Please not that my name has one “e” and not 2.)

    Based on the interactions that I am having with various people, I believe that I need to go back to studying the Bible more to answer your question as biblically as I can. I will get back to you about your question.

  24. Rajesh says:

    Martin,

    Thanks for getting back to me and explaining your position further. Your additional explanation gives me some good material to study carefully and examine biblically.

  25. Doug Merrill says:

    There we have it…conclusive evidence that rap originated not from reggae roots on the streets of New York, but flowing from the pen of Dr. Seuss. Little did I know as a kid that Horton, Thidwick, Sylvester McMonkey McBean, et. al. were purveyors of hip-hop.

    All kidding aside, I think it illustrates how woefully deficient Shai’s definition of rap actually is. Furthermore, a number of people on previous threads in this series have decried the usage of the appeal to authority, thereby nullifying any attempt to view Shai’s or any other rapper’s opinion of their own craft as authoritative.

  26. Okay, if Shai or any other rapper’s opinion of rap cannot be used here and since you say that Shai’s definition of rap is “woefully deficient,” do you have another definition? If Shai’s definition of rap music is wrong and/or cluttered with his own bias, what would be a better definition for the art form?

  27. Doug,

    If Shai or any other rapper’s opinion of rap cannot be used here and since you say that Shai’s definition of rap is “woefully deficient,” do you have another definition? If Shai’s definition of rap music is wrong and/or cluttered with his own bias, what would be a better definition for the art form?

  28. Doug Merrill says:

    Kelsey,

    Fantastic question. There are a number of people who pooh-poohed the appeal to authority when considering what artists, producers, communications experts and others have had to say about what rock, rap and other musical styles communicate and represent. My only point is that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If we can’t consult them as knowledgeable experts in their respective fields, how can we do the same with Shai? It’s entirely inconsistent.

    Now, if one side of this debate relents and allows in expert testimony regarding what various musical styles communicate, I might give some weight to Shai’s opinion.

    Having said that, I still view the definition of rap as “rhythmic poetry” as deficient. Rhythmic poetry has been written for centuries without being considered rap. Shai goes on to say, “One essential element of rap is that it is written in such a way that it coincides rhythmically with a consistent drum pattern.” Does that mean that Edward Perronet was writing HHH when he penned the words to “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name” or Matthew Bridges when he wrote “Crown Him With Many Crowns”? Both songs are “rhythmic poetry” that coincide with a consistent drum pattern.

    Furthermore, Shai declared Scott’s two examples as not rap, because they didn’t possess consistent meter; yet, when listening to a number of examples – including examples posted by Shai – there are times within the songs that the meter changes.

  29. Doug,

    I see what you’re saying. If we define rap as “rhythmic poetry” and agree that rap has to be written in a way so that it flows with a drum beat then we’d be putting people who predate “rappers” into the same category. Although I have an honest question, what’s wrong with that?

    If you ask anyone who has studied the origins of rap, they would not only say it came out of the Bronx (or Queens, New York depending on who you ask), they would also say that rap has it’s roots in Ancient West African story telling. These storytellers, or better known as Griots, would tell stories in poetic forms all the while rhythmically coinciding with a consistent drum pattern. I say all of that to make this point: the art form of rap—namely, to articulate ideas, worldviews, stories etc, in poetic form while rhythmically coinciding with a consistent drum beat—isn’t new at all. It seems like West African Griots were doing it and hymn writers were doing it as well, It has simply taken on different forms,

    But again I still have Shai’s definition of rap in the forefront of my mind. If I am completely wrong for saying that rap is “rhythmic poetry,” then what is the correct definition of rap?

    Also with you’re comment about listening to rap songs that have meter changes in them, are you referring to Shai and other rapper’s switching up the rhythmic pattern in their lyrics or the actual meter changes in the beat?

  30. Wayne says:

    Although I have an honest question, what’s wrong with that?

    I think there’s a group of folks who say that if we call it rap, we are not supposed to have anything to do with anymore.

  31. Lotus says:

    I think Wayne hits the nail on its head. The reality is that rap lyrics are rhythmic poetry. Defining Rap music would also include defining those things that distinguish Hip Hop music from the music that accompanies most traditional hymns whose lyrics are also mostly rhythmic poetry.

  32. I think another question needs to be asked, what is the building block of rap? Is it the lyrics or the music accompanying the lyrics? If we say the building block of rap music is the lyrics, then the definition of rap is rhythmic poetry “written in such a way that it coincides rhythmically with a consistent drum pattern.” If we say that the building block of rap music is the actual beat then we need a whole new definition. In all reality, Shai is correct in his definition of rap because the main focus of rap is its lyrics not the beat behind it. What I am assuming is that Doug and anyone else who feels like Shai’s definition is incorrect, thinks that the building block of rap music is the beat itself.

  33. Wayne says:

    Maybe it has something to do with how your clothes fit, how you wear a hat, how close you stand to the mic, and then hand, head, and body motions.

  34. And if we take a look at the musicological distinction of rap music, we’d see that every snare drum, every kick drum, and every instrument used in the production of the instrumental is uniquely put together so that the rapper can switch his “flow.” In other words, each instrument is put together so that if the rapper decides to rap in one rhythmic pattern on one part of the beat, he/she can also decide to rap to another rhythmic pattern on another part of the beat.

  35. Lotus says:

    If we define rap music in terms of “how your clothes fit, how you wear a hat, how close you stand to the mic, and then hand, head, and body motions” we are no longer talking about music but the culture where the music is part of the social norm. At the core of this debate is whether or not such a culture as we are observing (whether as cultural insiders or outsiders) is acceptable for Christians. How is this any different from Nathaniel saying “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

  36. Why are we talkin about cultural aspects of Hip-Hop? I thought this was a discussion about whether or not rap music apart from it’s lyrics is inherently sinful.

  37. Wayne says:

    Kelsey… Great question!

  38. Wayne says:

    Kelsey, I am just continuing the conversation from the last 4-5 post on the last question in the conversation between Scott and Shai. It seems like a relevant observation (cultural aspects), but may not be.

  39. Josh says:

    Please don’t misconstrue this as a pragmatic argument, but I would like to ask: what exactly does a missionary do when he goes to other cultures and evangelizes people? Does he bring an organ and hymn book with him? Or does he simply allow them to take the instruments and music styles they’ve used and turn them over to glorify God through song and praise? Particularly for countries, unlike ours, in which there are not a wide variety of musical perspectives but rather one or maybe two major genres. If you go to an African tribe and all they use is a drum and they make beats in ancestral praise and idolatry, do you then take the drums from them since they have a negative cultural association and forbid them to drum in that way even if they are now trying to praise the one true God? I don’t think I’d find the scriptural arguments against African drumming to the glory of the one true God compelling at all. I think the only reason this discussion even has traction is because in the U.S. we have a wide range of options available.

  40. Wayne says:

    Josh,

    Some ideas: do the African drum beats cause people to move in certain ways? I think this is a core objection to some. Maybe if the local tribal music from other continents don’t cause you to move in certain ways, then maybe it is ok. I take it that you are arguing that music can be redeemed (to which I would agree).

    In the US, we have a melting pot of many cultures. Which I believe is a good thing. But is hard for all of us sometimes if not all the time. It is very natural to be drawn to and prefer your own culture. The wide range of cultures in the US may be a small picture of Heaven when every tribe and every people group sings a new song. Of course, the picture we have in the US is tainted with sin that none of us is fully glorified from this side of heaven.

    I’m a white male, born and bread in Mississippi. When I start to think I am past all cultural discriminations, a blind spot seems to be exposed in some way.

  41. Wayne says:

    Born and bred… No bread involved, ha!

  42. Nick says:

    Josh, I think you have a good argument, but to make it stronger, I would make it clear the tribe only has one musical genre (with drum beats) which they use for all of life (including, but not restricted to idolatry). For if the one musical genre is restricted only to idolatry, then one could argue there is such a strong association to idolatrous practices with it, that it should be forbidden (not because the beat is inherently sinful, but because of the association). However, if it is used for all of life, then it is just their music and it can acquire different meanings in their mind.

  43. Josh says:

    Wayne, my comment was referring to the people within that cultural context. So, an African who has just been converted and now wants to worship Yahweh musically with the only thing he has and knows — the drum that was previously used to create beats to his ancestors. I think it’s preposterous to even suggest that he might be sinning.

  44. Josh says:

    Nick, you raise a good question but I think Scripture addresses that in 1 Cor 8. The food was sacrificed to idols and had that strong idolatrous association. Yet Paul calls the one who is hesitant the weaker brother. Of course Paul says that we should not be stumbling blocks to our weaker brothers, but that’s not the scope of this discussion. First it needs to be established that this music, previously offered to idols, can in fact be redeemed and “eaten” to the glory of God. Especially as we consider that Paul could have easily just said “go find something else to eat.”

  45. Wayne says:

    I agree with you Josh!

  46. Wayne,

    Ohh I get it, you were talking about stuff that Doug said was “inherently sinful” about rap music from the last post!

    And yeah, I pretty much co-sign everything that Josh said. It seems like those of us who are commenting right now agree that a beat is not inherently sinful but the intent of the person using it and how it is used is sinful?

  47. Nick says:

    Josh,

    I don’t believe the music is necessarily inherently sinful, so it may not even have to be “redeemed”, since there is nothing to redeem.

    But the weaker brother is precisely my concern. If the music was *only* used for idolatrous practices, then it stands to reason that everyone in *that culture* – not mine – would associate the music with Pagan worship and will only think of Pagan worship when singing it (including all the idolatrous practices that go with it such as sacrifices, demonic ideals, and perhaps even orgies). In fact, I believe an analogous thing is occurring in this debate which would explain why it is so “obvious” for some that rap is sinful.

    I don’t believe food is a good analogy because the food sacrificed to idols was not *only* used for idolatry. For example, they may have sacrificed a goat, but they could as well eat a goat in the same greco-roman culture without having to sacrifice it. I don’t see anything in the text that implies the the type of food sacrificed to idols could not have been killed for other purposes – in fact, the text implies just the opposite (which is why the person doesn’t know it is sacrificed until being told).

    Hence a better analogy with food would be a native music genre that is used for idolatry, love songs, proverbs, etc. In that case the music is not only used for idolatry, and hence one could conceive of many members of that society that would not necessarily find it a stumbling block.

    Otherwise, I would wait until the music would start to have other meanings before introducing it in worship.

    Music does have a meaning. But the meaning is always relative to its context — hence I am not convinced of universal meanings or inherent sinfulness. Yet I’m not willing to state that music does not have any meaning to me either. Does that make sense?

    It is like saying Chinese words have meaning. They definitely do – in the context of Chinese speakers. I wouldn’t want to use a Chinese curse word in that context in a worship service.

    Now, that doesn’t mean that same sound pattern is sinful to me (it would mean nothing to me – I could use it as an example of a funny sound without sinning). But it is sinful to them.

  48. drfiddledd says:

    Using analogy seems to be unconvincing. I have encountered some people who have been converted after spending most of their lives in mainline apostate protestant churches or Roman Catholic churches to whom 200 year old traditional hymnody is a reminder of their past religious experience.

  49. Josh says:

    Nick, I recognize that a certain type of music might have a certain connotation to you, and in that case you should not violate your conscience. But again, it cannot be stressed enough that this concept is outside the focus of the discussion. The question is whether or not music, in a vacuum, by itself, is inherently sinful. See, the reality is that if you take someone like my son, who has only ever heard rap in a biblical Reformed context, he has absolutely no concept of any idolatrous misuse of this genre. He would unequivocally associate this music with exulting the one true God and rightly handling His Word. So I really think the first step is to just discuss the music itself, not the perspective of each individual which will vary greatly. Just as for a newly converted Jew it would be unconscionable to eat meat sacrificed to idols, while for is it is no problem because it is just food.

  50. Ronnie says:

    Hey Rajesh,

    Was reading over the comments and I saw your question to Martin. I thought it was a good question so I wanted to respond.

    You asked of Martin:
    “You say, “I cannot understand the claim that music without lyrics has moral significance”? Does this mean that you hold that Christians who play solely instrumental music as part of Christian worship (such as for preludes or offerings) are engaging in a non-moral activity? If I am understanding your statement correctly, then do you also hold that 1 Cor. 10:31 has no application to instrumental music that is played if there is no singing accompanying it?”

    I would agree with Martin if we are talking about instrumental music being played as sample music in electronic store for you to evaluate the quality of a musical device. Now of course if you take the same music and have a man playing it in a romantic place as part of his attempt to seduce a young lady that he is not married to that changes thing. However, those scenarios shows that the music is not inherently moral or amoral by itself but can become either based on how it is used. So when you add a Christian playing in *worship* you have introduce more meaning and context to the use of the instrumental music. However, your adding of worship to the context I think helps to again validate that morality is not in the thing itself, but its usage. A better example is the Lord’s Supper. Is eating the bread used in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper wrong for a non-believer? Yes. Is eating that same bread at home with the family by a non-believer sinful? No. Once again this demonstrates the morality is not derived from the thing, but in the actions and thoughts of the individual and context in which they are using the thing.

  51. Ronnie says:

    Good post Josh.

  52. Nick says:

    Josh,

    I think you and I are in general agreement. I was merely trying to make the argument in your example stronger by removing the association part and just leaving the beat and the pagan origin in place.

    I in no way believe that music has the same association to everyone — which is why I don’t agree with Scott. But it seems to me the only way to explain why Scott and others are so adamant that rap is so “obviously” sinful is that it does have sinful associations to them (not me). So I am not so sure you can rule out associations from the conversation — you may get nowhere if you do — although I am getting nowhere by pointing that out either… So you may get nowhere either way! ;-)

    God bless,
    Nick

  53. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    I’m in the middle of studying a lot of Bible passages to try to fill out my understanding of various aspects of things that have been brought up in these threads, so I’m going to lay low for a while and just take in what others are saying. I’ll try to get back to you on your latest comments later on.

  54. Ronnie says:

    Hey Rajesh,

    I understand and may the Lord grant you wisdom and discernment in your study.

    Ronnie

  55. Alan says:

    I’ve never heard Paul Washer preach, but I just heard him several times with comments in this series:

    https://ncfic.org/blog/posts/the-family-that-worships-together-is-now-free-online

    Scott had linked to this. Are these the same Paul Washer? Are there two different Paul Washers? They both look very similar and have the same affected type of whispery tone, so I’m thinking, yes.

    I ask that, because what he said in that link, if it’s the same guy, is different than what he’s saying in this youtube. He’s also associating very, very closely with all the guys in the holy hip-hop session that spurred this debate. I DO NOT get how he could be the same guy, but perhaps he is.

    “There looking to prove that this was not a medium chosen by God.”

    I listened here and there to this sermon, not the whole thing. In the series that Scott linked to, Washer emphasized very, very much the regulative principle. He mentioned looking at Scripture before you lead worship. He mentioned the two worship leaders killed in scripture.

    Knowing scripture myself, I wonder some things as i consider the two Washers.

    One, isn’t preaching the gospel regulated by the NT. It is preached, not sung. The medium is preaching, not rapping. So on the gospel, it seems he’s going beyond what scripture regulates. Two, music is directed to God, not people. Several in the linked series mentioned that. This rap is directed to people. These are two violations, it seems, of the regulative principle that a Paul Washer said was wrong, and he mentioned men being killed for violating the regulative principle.

    Maybe someone who actually knows can help me here.

    This seems to be the norm in evangelicalism, the different water coming out of the same fountain.

  56. Rajesh says:

    drfiddledd,

    To answer your earlier question, if two believers play the same sacred instrumental music but one plays it with the wrong motives, I believe that the music does not become sinful because he plays it with the wrong motives. Because the music itself is good music, someone who plays the same music but does so with the wrong motives does not make the music sinful because he does not change the music itself by doing so.

  57. Rajesh says:

    Alan,

    What exactly do you mean when you say, “Music is directed to God, not people”?

  58. Alan says:

    Rajesh,

    Thanks for asking. The 90 plus times there is a direction of music in the Bible, it is always to God. There is a byproduct for people, but only if it is directed to God is it edifying to them. What I’m saying is that the music is an offering to God. I’m talking about the context of a church, not music outside of the corporate operations of a church.

  59. Rajesh says:

    Thanks for the explanation, Alan.

  60. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    In your comments on 1/9/14 (10:03), you say, “Morality is not in the thing itself, but its usage” (I’m only quoting the last part of a sentence). I’m not sure I’m following you. Elsewhere, you seem to have said often that all foods as well as all other things that God has created are inherently moral because God has created them. Here, you seem to be saying that the morality of a thing is not intrinsic to it, but depends on its usage. So, in your view, is all instrumental music inherently moral or not?

  61. Rick says:

    Alan said: “Thanks for asking. The 90 plus times there is a direction of music in the Bible, it is always to God. There is a byproduct for people, but only if it is directed to God is it edifying to them. What I’m saying is that the music is an offering to God. I’m talking about the context of a church, not music outside of the corporate operations of a church.”

    It seems there is a little more than a byproduct for the people. Eph. 5:19 says, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” It isn’t only to ourselves though….as you said we do sing to God and that verse goes on to say “singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord.” Likewise, Col. 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” This verse has the two-sided coin as well. Many Psalms (which of course are songs) are directed to people instead of to God. Psalm 100 comes to mind when tells people to make a joyful noise to the Lord. Certainly there are many Psalms that are to the Lord but many are directed at people.

    Perhaps your reference to a “byproduct for people” is the “speaking to yourselves” and “teaching and admonishing one another,” putting us more in agreement. However, the text of songs is not always directed specifically towards God.

  62. Rick,

    If you look at the Greek preposition, the idea is “speaking among yourselves.” In the company of believers, sing praise to God. Unbelievers don’t understand praise. At best, they see it and fear. Nowhere is the music directed to people in the Bible. Look it up yourself. I’m in no ways the first person to see this, but I have looked them all up myself.

  63. Ronnie says:

    Hey Rajesh,

    You stated:
    “In your comments on 1/9/14 (10:03), you say, “Morality is not in the thing itself, but its usage” (I’m only quoting the last part of a sentence). I’m not sure I’m following you. Elsewhere, you seem to have said often that all foods as well as all other things that God has created are inherently moral because God has created them. Here, you seem to be saying that the morality of a thing is not intrinsic to it, but depends on its usage. So, in your view, is all instrumental music inherently moral or not?”

    I don’t remember the context, but if I did I was probably being imprecise in this way. In one sense I was probably using “moral” as a synonym for “good”, in the sense of the Apostle Paul’s words that all things God created are “good”(i.e. moral in this sense). In the other sense when I said “Morality is not in the thing itself” I meant things are not inherently sinful or righteous as the same Apostle Paul says elsewhere when he speaking about the sign of circumcision and states “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing”.( 1 Cor. 7:19 )

  64. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    Something seems amiss in what you just said. Either everything created by God is inherently moral in the sense of righteous or it is not. Saying that it is not righteous, but it is good does not make sense.

    Circumcision is an action that leads to a state. Foods created by God are not actions.

    So, is instrumental music inherently righteous/good or not?

  65. Rick says:

    Kent, I’m not a Greek expert so I’ll defer to you on that, but how do you explain the Psalms. Flip through them and there are a number that speak to people rather than to God. Psalm 1, 2, 20, 24, 29, 33, 34, 37, 46, 47, 49, all seem to be speaking to someone other than God (I didn’t take the time to read all the way through but I’m sure there are more). Some of them seem to go back and forth between people and God (23, 32). It seems like songs were sung to the people (about God or an exhortation) and also to God.

    However, I’m not really sure why this matters anyway. Isn’t God pleased when we teach others about Him when we sing? I don’t understand the issue, but it seems like the Psalms don’t have this issue anyway unless I’m just missing something.

  66. Ronnie says:

    Hi Rajesh

    You stated:
    “Something seems amiss in what you just said. Either everything created by God is inherently moral in the sense of righteous or it is not. Saying that it is not righteous, but it is good does not make sense.
    Circumcision is an action that leads to a state. Foods created by God are not actions.
    So, is instrumental music inherently righteous/good or not?”

    Rajesh, the same word can be used with different nuances/senses and that is what I was doing. But let me be clear in reference to your question, things are not inherently sinful or righteous. However, and this is the other way I may have used good( I’m not even sure of the context ), I may say a thing is “good” for something, by that I don’t mean it has a positive value (righteousness) before God.

  67. Alan says:

    Rick,

    Could you show me one instance where a psalm says the song is to be directed TO men?

    I know that God said that he wanted the ark carried on poles, but I don’t know how it would hurt to put it on the back of a cart. I know that God said wait for Samuel to make the offering, but I don’t know how it would hurt to do it early and have Saul do it. That’s how the regulative principle works, Rick. God says do it that way, and silence doesn’t mean permission.

    If there was a verse, and not what you wrote in your comment, you would have given it to me. I recognize that Psalm 2, speaking to rebellious kings, says, Kiss the Son lest He be angry. But that, that psalm, is sung to God. God gave us those psalms to sing to Him, which is why it says that every time. God gave the psalter for God’s people to sing to Him.

    Oh, I don’t know. Who cares.

  68. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    If I’m understanding you correctly, you are actually saying that instrumental music is inherently neutral, which is quite different from saying that it is inherently good/moral/righteous. Here is what Shai said in his first rebuttal to Scott, who took the position that music apart from lyrics could be inherently sinful in and of itself:

    “You yourself said, “God created the ‘stuff’ of music (sound, pitch, rhythm, timbre, etc.)”. Agreed. Music is simply the result of human beings arranging that “stuff” that God created. Can it be arranged with evil intent? Sure. And the person who does that will have to give an account for it. But no matter how evil a musician’s intentions, he doesn’t have the power to transform something that God created and called good into something inherently sinful.” http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-music/discussion-about-christian-rap-with-shai-linne-can-music-be-sinful-rebuttal/

    When Shai says, “God created and called good,” and contrasts it with “something inherently sinful,” it is clear that Shai is asserting that when God created the stuff of music, He created it as something that is good in the sense of it being the opposite of being inherently sinful.

    He is not asserting here that music apart from lyrics is just “good ‘for something'” (your phrase) because he is saying the opposite would be to make it into something inherently sinful. Shai, therefore, is not claiming that what God created was neither inherently sinful nor righteous–he is claiming that it is inherently good in the sense of it being moral/righteous/good.

    So, supporters of Christian hip-hop cannot have it both ways. If what God created is neither inherently sinful nor inherently righteous (= neutral), then a claim that all instrumental musical styles are fit for Christian ministry is not automatically true; the person who says that a given style is fit for Christian ministry then has to prove that style (of instrumental music alone apart from words) is fit for Christian ministry. According to what has been demanded of those of us who take the opposite view, such proof also must come from the Bible itself.

    So, is your view different from Shai’s? If not, what is your proof from Scripture itself that rap music (apart from the lyrics) is fit for Christian ministry?

  69. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    By the way, just so there is no confusion about my last post, I do not believe that God “created” instrumental musical styles. I was reflecting what some people argue to defend their views about music.

  70. Ronnie says:

    Hey Rajesh,

    You stated:
    “If I’m understanding you correctly, you are actually saying that instrumental music is inherently neutral, which is quite different from saying that it is inherently good/moral/righteous. Here is what Shai said in his first rebuttal to Scott, who took the position that music apart from lyrics could be inherently sinful in and of itself:”

    Yes, I believe things are neutral, that is not moral in the sense of having positive or negative moral value.

    You stated quoting Shai:
    “You yourself said, “God created the ‘stuff’ of music (sound, pitch, rhythm, timbre, etc.)”. Agreed. Music is simply the result of human beings arranging that “stuff” that God created. Can it be arranged with evil intent? Sure. And the person who does that will have to give an account for it. But no matter how evil a musician’s intentions, he doesn’t have the power to transform something that God created and called good into something inherently sinful.” http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-music/discussion-about-christian-rap-with-shai-linne-can-music-be-sinful-rebuttal/

    Your comment on the above:
    “When Shai says, “God created and called good,” and contrasts it with “something inherently sinful,” it is clear that Shai is asserting that when God created the stuff of music, He created it as something that is good in the sense of it being the opposite of being inherently sinful.”

    I think Shai and I are on the same page and you are misreading him. When I read Shai speaking of “God created and called good” he is speaking of what he mentioned previously as the “stuff of music(sound, pitch, rhythm, timbre, etc.)”. In this case this “stuff” would be neutral in a moral sense, but good in reference to God created purpose. We should all affirm goodness in that sense, because the Genesis text is clear God created things and called them good, but I doubt if you could find any Biblical scholar/theologian that would affirm that this means moral good in the sense of positive righteousness. Even Scott is not arguing that which is why he argues for music as “communication” and not a thing. So when Shai contrast “created good” to “inherently sinful” it is not an opposite comparison. He is comparing good in the neutral created sense vs sinful in a negative moral sense. This is a valid comparison, because what he means is that man cannot transform something that God didn’t create inherently sinful to be inherently sinful.

    I think part of the problem here is that you keep wanting “good” to be morally righteousness or morally sinful, but the word good has a wider meaning than that and therefore when individuals attempt to apply inherent sinfulness to things it is right to point out that it was created “good” in the neutral sense.

    You stated:
    “He is not asserting here that music apart from lyrics is just “good ‘for something’” (your phrase) because he is saying the opposite would be to make it into something inherently sinful. Shai, therefore, is not claiming that what God created was neither inherently sinful nor righteous–he is claiming that it is inherently good in the sense of it being moral/righteous/good.”

    No, I don’t think that is what he is doing as I pointed out above. It is not an opposite comparison. If we put “things” on a scale it would look like this:

    morally evil ——— neutral ———— morally good

    God creating things and calling them “good” is not speaking of a moral goodness, but good in the sense of pleasing or approving for the purpose in which it was created, and those things always fall in the “neutral” state above. However, it is a valid critique against those who claim things are inherently evil to point out that they were created good(i.e. pleasing to God for His purpose ) and they cannot be transformed to be inherently sinful by human.

    You stated:
    “So, supporters of Christian hip-hop cannot have it both ways. If what God created is neither inherently sinful nor inherently righteous (= neutral), then a claim that all instrumental musical styles are fit for Christian ministry is not automatically true; the person who says that a given style is fit for Christian ministry then has to prove that style (of instrumental music alone apart from words) is fit for Christian ministry. According to what has been demanded of those of us who take the opposite view, such proof also must come from the Bible itself.”

    I think the onus would be on you to prove it is not fit, because you are making the charge against them that it is sinful. What I take the Christian Rappers to be saying, is that Rap is not inherently sinful and our actions are not sinful. On the contrary we are glorifying God with our thoughts, words, and deeds. We see nothing in the Scriptures that condemn what we are doing and therefore based on biblical principle of liberty we can use Rap, but if you believe we are in sin then show us from the Scriptures how. Suppose I say you, prove to me from Scripture that the internet is fit for Christian ministry? How would you do it? Or suppose I say to you that using a seminary to prepare for Christian ministry is sinful wouldn’t you expect me to prove how it is sinful?

    You stated:
    “So, is your view different from Shai’s? If not, what is your proof from Scripture itself that rap music (apart from the lyrics) is fit for Christian ministry?”

    No, I don’t believe my view is different from Shai’s. We have liberty in those things that are not condemned by Scripture as sinful. Since Rap/Internet is not condemned as sinful then we have the liberty to use it. The onus is on you, if you are accusing someone of a sinful behavior to show how it is sinful.

  71. Rajesh says:

    Thanks for your explanation, Ronnie. I do not think that your distinction between “good” that means neutral in a created sense vs. “good” in a positive moral sense stands up to full biblical scrutiny and can be legitimately maintained in Genesis 1. I’ll explain why after I check to see what commentators and theologians say to see if anyone else makes such a distinction.

  72. Rick says:

    Alan:
    “If there was a verse, and not what you wrote in your comment, you would have given it to me. I recognize that Psalm 2, speaking to rebellious kings, says, Kiss the Son lest He be angry. But that, that psalm, is sung to God. God gave us those psalms to sing to Him, which is why it says that every time. God gave the psalter for God’s people to sing to Him.

    Oh, I don’t know. Who cares”

    First, I’m not sure why you have to be so critical….

    Second, I gave you several Psalms that are addressed to someone other than God. Yes, technically they are still sung as an offering to God but they aren’t directed to Him. Perhaps we are talking semantics. And yes, I don’t think this really matters. If God can be pleased with preaching directed to people I’m pretty sure He can be pleased with it when it is set to music as well.

  73. Ronnie says:

    Hey Rajesh,

    So can you show me biblical me why the internet is fit for Christian Ministry? BTW, all you have to do is check a Hebrew Lexicon for the different usages of the word “good”.

    Ronnie

  74. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    We are not discussing the internet and its use, so I’m not going to go there. Thanks for the reference. I already know that the word “good” can be used in different ways; the issue is does it use in one or more places signify what you are saying it does, and if it did, what that would mean for other doctrines of Scripture.

    Rajesh

  75. Ronnie says:

    Hey Rajesh,

    You stated:
    “We are not discussing the internet and its use, so I’m not going to go there.”
    I know we are not discussing the internet, but it is an analogous argument. It demonstrates that your point is not based on sound and consistent reasoning. So the question is, is the internet fit for Christian ministry? If so, can you prove it from Scripture?

    You stated:
    “Thanks for the reference. I already know that the word “good” can be used in different ways; the issue is does it use in one or more places signify what you are saying it does, and if it did, what that would mean for other doctrines of Scripture.”

    Yeah, but since you already stated: “Ronnie. I do not think that your distinction between “good” that means neutral in a created sense vs. “good” in a positive moral sense stands up to full biblical scrutiny and can be legitimately maintained in Genesis 1.”

    Then I assumed you were saying there is a positive moral sense to the word in the Genesis 1 and the Lexicon will help to establish that point.

  76. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    Yes, I know it is somewhat of an analogous argument. My point is that I’m not interested in putting in the time to work through all the facets that would need to be discussed to answer that specific question. I think that there is already plenty of stuff that is more pertinent to discuss. Perhaps, one of the other people would like to discuss that subject with you.

    As you know, the lexical meaning(s) of a word is/are only part of establishing the significance of a word. All I was saying is that I am aware of using Hebrew lexicons, etc. to study a passage.

    Because of the weekend, I do not have access to very many resources. I’m very interesting in getting a good feel for what the exegetical commentators have to say about this matter, so it will probably be at least Monday afternoon/evening before I get back to you on what I find in the literature.

  77. Alan says:

    SAMPLES OF 90 plus times direction of song declared or taught. Always TO GOD.

    Judges 5:3: ” I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel.”
    Psalm 7:17: “I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.”
    Psalm 9:2: “I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.”
    Psalm 30:12: “To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God,”
    Psalm 104:33: ” I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.”
    Exodus 15:1: ” I will sing unto the LORD”
    1 Chronicles 16:9: “Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works.”
    1 Chronicles 16:23: “Sing unto the LORD.”
    Psalm 13:6: ” I will sing unto the LORD”
    Psalm 30:4: “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his”
    Psalm 33:2: “Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.”
    Psalm 33:3: “Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.”
    Psalm 57:9: “I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations.”
    Psalm 68:4: “Sing unto God, sing praises to his name.”
    Isaiah 12:5: “Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things”
    Isaiah 42:10: “Sing unto the LORD a new song”

    SAMPLES OF ALL TIMES singing is unto men or song unto men:

    So what do we decide to do? Sing to men. And justify it in lots of different ways even though there isn’t one example of it. Not one. God says do this every time. But no, we’re going to do something else. Is there any wonder that we’ve gone wrong?

    When men become the audience of the music, the nature of the music changes to fit what men want to hear. This is the crucial issue in this, and why singing to men must be defended so vehemently.

  78. Steven says:

    So we get it, Alan believes singing Happy Birthday to his kids is a sin.

  79. Rajesh says:

    Steven,

    Alan already said earlier that he is talking about music in a sacred context: “I’m talking about the context of a church, not music outside of the corporate operations of a church.” (1/10/14; 2:44)

  80. Steven says:

    I thought it was established that we were talking about music for general listening not church worship. I agree that Worship music in church should be “vertical” not “horizontal”.

    But if one decides to use his gift to address the nations, I don’t see any reason why not

  81. Alan says:

    Steven,

    You’d never guess it, because it isn’t so obvious, BUUUUUT I don’t think it’s wrong to sing happy birthday to my kids!!!!!! Yippppeeee!!! Successful parenting now in my future. Oh my. Just can’t stop smiling.

    But that was an interesting observation and thought to pause to consider. Well worth it. Very much added.

    Now, can you show me the verse, a verse, any verse that says that singing is a gift that God gave to address the nations? I looked at the list of spiritual gifts in 1 Cor 12 and Rom 12 and couldn’t find it.

    I know it says preach the gospel. Preach. But maybe I missed something?

  82. Steven says:

    Alan, while we one is Glorifying God in singing they are told to address the nations in Psalms 96:1-4:

    “1Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! 2Sing to the LORD, bless His name; tell of His salvation from day to day. 3Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! 4For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.”

    In verse 1 and 3 we see The object of our songs: God Himself vertically and the gentile nations horizontally.

  83. Rick says:

    Steven, I gave him a list a little while ago but he evidently didn’t like that list. For some reason the church can’t be addressed with a song even though God is the subject and the Psalms did the same thing.

    And why is he so angry? And why is it wrong when someone thinks hip hop songs sound angry but it is ok in a comment section? Alan, lighten up dude…we’re on the same team!

  84. Alan says:

    Rick,

    So you don’t like a certain tone when it is directed to you, but when it is directed toward God, anything goes? Help me here. You get porterhouse and God gets chopped liver? I’ve already picked up on that, but it’s better if we get it out in the open.

    Steven,

    How blessed to dwell together in unity. We both agree, sing to God, declare to nations. Yes! Now go, my friend, and obey that biblical instruction.

  85. If we are not to make music that is directed to people to show them God, then lets get rid of all our music. Including the stuff you all listen to on your iPods.

  86. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    Having examined a number of theology books and many commentaries on Genesis, I did not find anyone who takes “good” in reference to God’s creation as meaning neutral in some sort of created, non-moral sense. Furthermore, Genesis 1:31 is all-encompassing concerning God’s creation and the word “good” is intensified with the word “very” to signify that everything God created was very good.

    What Genesis 1:31 says applies across-the-board to everything God created. He did not create angels or humans as neutral beings who would merely fulfill His created purposes for them; He created them as holy beings. Because everything that God created was “very good”, including humans and angels, all of God’s creation was very good, both morally and from the standpoint of fulfilling God’s purposes for its creation.

    I find no evidence that supports your view that “good” concerning the things that God created means what you say it does. Genesis 1:31 is all-encompassing concerning everything God created, and it says that everything was created “very good,” which signifies good in every sense.

    There are many other biblical bases for rejecting your view about the neutrality of what God created, but Genesis 1:31 by itself is enough for me to know that your view is untenable.

  87. Ronnie says:

    Rajesh,

    Would you mind sharing what theological books and commentaries you are talking about and what they said “good” meant?

    Thanks,
    Ronnie

  88. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    I looked at the Genesis volume in several commentary sets, such as Expositor’s, NAC, Keil-Delitzsch, NICOT, Barnes, Tyndale OTC (and others) as well the treatment of Genesis in several commentary sets that do not treat books separately, such as the Bible Knowledge Commentary. I also looked at a few single volume commentaries on Genesis, such as the one by Waltke. I also looked at the theologies by Erickson, Strong, Berkhof, Culver, and Reymond (I think). (This might sound like a lot, but I did not have a lot of time to do this search, so its possible that I may have missed something in some of these.)

    If I am remembering correctly, at least one (maybe KD or Barnes), said something to the effect that the word should be taken with as robust a meaning as possible.

    I did not find that any of the sources that I looked at used the word “neutral” in any of the treatments that I examined. Most of the sources did not really discuss in detail what the word “good” meant.

    For example, here is what Berkhof says,

    “His rest was as the rest of the artist, after He has completed His masterpiece, and now gazes upon it with profound admiration and delight, and finds perfect satisfaction in the contemplation of His production. ‘And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.’ It answered the purpose of God and corresponded to the divine ideal. Hence God rejoices in His creation, for in it He recognizes the reflection of His glorious perfections. His radiant countenance shines upon it and is productive of showers of blessing” (157).

    Strong was the only one I found who said something that you might see as providing some support your view, but I do not believe that it does:

    “At its first creation, the world was good in two senses: first, as free from moral evil,–sin being a later addition, the work, not of God, but of created spirits; secondly, as adapted to beneficient ends, –for example, the revelation of God’s perfection, and the probation and happiness of intelligent and obedient creatures” (402).

    Strong does not say that everything that God created was neutral, that is neither morally good nor morally bad.

    He does say that the world was free from moral evil. On the other hand, he does not explicitly affirm that everything was morally good, either, so you could take his explanation as supporting your view on that basis. Whether he believed that freedom from moral evil equals neutrality or moral goodness is therefore debatable.

    His treatment was not really an exposition of the verse with all its ramifications, and he does not deal with the fact that 1:31 refers comprehensively to all that God created and what the ramification of taking good to mean what you say it means would mean for all of creation in the manner that I discussed in my earlier comment.

    Apparently, the understanding of “good” as neutral, etc. that you support is not something that the sources that I consulted have examined much at all from the perspective that you are. I’m not claiming that no one anywhere supports the understanding that you have; I just did not find anything in the sources that I looked at that I thought affirmed clearly the neutrality view. If you know of sources that do, please let me know what they are.

  89. Ronnie says:

    Hey Rajesh,

    I have not been arguing that “good” in the Genesis narrative means “morally neutral”. My point is that “good” does not have a moral meaning to it in those verses, either positive or negative because things are not moral, that is they are neutral. The reason I referred you to the Lexicon is because it gives you the possible definition of “good” in those verses. So God looked at his creation and said it was good, meaning for the purpose it was created. Here is a quote from above where I said basically the same thing.

    “In this case this “stuff” would be neutral in a moral sense, but good in reference to God created purpose. We should all affirm goodness in that sense, because the Genesis text is clear God created things and called them good, but I doubt if you could find any Biblical scholar/theologian that would affirm that this means moral good in the sense of positive righteousness.”

    So above you see I’m things are neutral in the moral sense but “… good in reference to God created purpose.”

    Ronnie

  90. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    You say that you are not arguing that “good” means morally neutral in the Genesis narrative, but then you say, “My point is that ‘good’ does not have a moral meaning to it in those verses . . . they are neutral.” How are you in effect not saying exactly what you say you are not saying?

    Anyway, there is no way that “good” in Genesis 1:31 means “morally neutral” or anything like that, neither for angels, people, animals, or things. Anything God creates is not morally neutral; it is morally good.

    I talked about this with two of my seminary friends. They asked me how saying things are morally neutral helps make your case. I started to answer, but then I realized that I really do not see how it does.

    Whether you say that God created musical tones as morally good or morally neutral, it does not follow that manmade combinations of them are also morally good (or morally neutral). Once you introduce an action by a moral agent on an entity, both the action and the end-product necessarily has morality to it.

  91. Rajesh says:

    To clarify what I just said: Whether you say that God created musical tones as morally good or morally neutral, it does not necessarily follow that manmade combinations of them are also morally good (or morally neutral). Once you introduce an action by a moral agent that combines or acts in other ways on various entities, such as musical tones, both the action and the end-product necessarily are either moral or immoral.

  92. Ronnie says:

    Rajesh,

    You stated:
    “You say that you are not arguing that “good” means morally neutral in the Genesis narrative, but then you say, “My point is that ‘good’ does not have a moral meaning to it in those verses . . . they are neutral.” How are you in effect not saying exactly what you say you are not saying?
    Anyway, there is no way that “good” in Genesis 1:31 means “morally neutral” or anything like that, neither for angels, people, animals, or things. Anything God creates is not morally neutral; it is morally good.”

    Rajesh, I think we are reaching the end of the rope on this. The language defines the meaning of the word. “Good” in the creation narrative is not communicating moral goodness. Can you find a lexicon, theologian, or scholar that says so? If not, then the issue is not one of intellectual understanding but will and humility, you want to hold on to something that is not supported by text or anyone for that matter. Like I said previously you are way out on a limb, even farther out than Scott’s position by believing all things are either evil or righteous. Why do you think Angels and humans are judged by God but not animals, trees, water, and other things? Because the latter are not moral beings. In your world, the male lion that kills the cubs of another male will have to answer for that moral evil one day, right?

    You stated:
    “I talked about this with two of my seminary friends. They asked me how saying things are morally neutral helps make your case. I started to answer, but then I realized that I really do not see how it does.
    Whether you say that God created musical tones as morally good or morally neutral, it does not follow that manmade combinations of them are also morally good (or morally neutral). Once you introduce an action by a moral agent on an entity, both the action and the end-product necessarily has morality to it.”

    How does it help my case? If things are not moral, then man’s creation of additional things by combination of things does not transform the new things into something moral. Man doesn’t have that power to make something that God created as not moral into something that is moral. I’m surprised that we have been going around and around about this.

    This debate should be about the actions of rappers and not things such as beats, tone, etc. But even when talking about the actions you don’t have much of a case if you want to argue it is inherently evil. What I believe is more sinful are the false charges made against groups of brothers and sisters in Christ with no objective proof from the Scriptures. I can build a stronger case from Scripture that you are the one who is sin for your charges without biblical proof than the one that you are offering. At first I thought people would see how weak their accusations were and start to be more cautious and nuanced in making such serious charges against so many brothers and sisters, but I’m coming to the conclusion that for many there is something more going on than an intellectual position based on understanding of the Scriptures. May God have mercy on us all.

  93. Wayne says:

    “May God have mercy on us all.”

    Amen

  94. Rajesh says:

    Ronnie,

    You have misunderstood what I mean when I say that things are either good or sinful. Of course, I do not hold that things are moral beings. How you could think that I hold that is beyond my comprehension.

    Just so you are clear, let me clearly state what I believe. When I say things are sinful, I mean that either they are something that God never wanted to be made because of their inherent sinfulness or that they have sinful effects on moral beings or both.

    I have argued before and still maintain that a certain style of photographs of children made by unspeakably wicked people are inherently wicked objects. Although the materials that compose the photographs are not wicked because God created them, they have been put together by humans to produce an object that is inherently wicked. These photographs are not wicked just from the standpoint of what effect they might have on someone who sees them. They are wicked because they depict that child in a way that God has not authorized for anyone to depict or see in any circumstance ever. Nor has He authorized anyone in any way to produce or pose for such photographs.

    Furthermore, Scripture does show that God judges even inanimate objects because of how humans have sinfully used them or the sinful meaning that humans have invested them with: Exodus 12:12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. Notice that God said that He would not just judge the Egyptians but also their gods.

    God also commanded Gideon to “throw down” the altar of Baal that his father had built and cut down the grove that was by it (Judg. 6:25).

    Moreover, when the Philistines took the ark of God and put it in the house of their idol, the idol was fallen on its face the next morning When they repositioned their idol, the next morning it was again fallen on its face and its head and both the palms of his hands were cut off (1 Sam. 5:2-5). God then plagued the Philistines fiercely (1 Sam. 5:5-6), which led them to testify, “The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us: for his hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god” (1 Sam. 5:7). These pagans understood from the supernatural abasement of their idol that had taken place that God was judging not just them but also their idol that they thought was their god.

    There is plenty of Biblical data to support the view that I and many others hold concerning the wicked objects that humans create. I understand that you and others disagree with our position, but it is nothing but mere assertion for you to suggest that you are the ones who want to deal with Scripture and we are interested in something other than Scripture in taking the positions that we take.

    In my opinion, a number of important biblical considerations concerning music and human use of music have not even been mentioned yet, let alone discussed thoroughly. As I said before, I believe that the discussion to date has been quite lacking.

    In the best interests of everyone involved, however, I think that it is best for us to end this discussion now and focus on whatever Scott and Shai may yet have to say.

    May the Lord be merciful to us sinners, and may He alone be exalted, even as He has promised it will be so (Is. 2:11).

  95. Randy says:

    Greetings to everyone involved in this discussion & those like me who have been reading from the outside for awhile. I am a white, married with children, 44 year-old member of a conservative SBC who does not fit within any demographic of those who are “supposed” to listen to any rap. I was blown away when I first observed the comments of the “esteemed” panel of the NCFIC, Dan Horn, Scott Aniol, Geoff Botkin, Joel Beeke, Jason Dohm, and Joe Morecraft. I have always held Dr. Beeke in high regard for his Puritan works (Puritan Theology, Doctrine for Life should be in every believer’s most read section) and I was pleased to read his heartfelt apology. I was not familiar with any other members, after background research I was glad.

    Fast forward, as a result of the meltdown from the comments, we have Shai & Scott dialoging about the issue of “reformed rap.” The conversation continues to go deeper & deeper down into the “rabbit hole” & we appear to be further from answering the question than when we first begun. I happen to be absolutely thankful for the “lyrical theology” that Shai Linne has offered to the world. If we take his work and hold it up to say, Philippians 4:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:22, Titus 2:7, it certainly passes the test. There is a reason why most Christian radio stations refuse to play his albums…and it’s not because of his ambiguity.

    If Scott proves that Shai’s work or any HHH is evil, sinful, etc., does he “win?” Is the Lord being glorified more through Shai’s scripture saturated lyrics or Scott’s theological treatise, or the hair splitting on the DB? Yes, my post is only an opinion, one of many & probably many more to come, but let us ask ourselves: Is this ministry of Shai Linne really that far out according to the Scriptures & is it so non-Scriptural that our Sovereign God can’t be honored by it & Him use it to His glory? Ultimately, we all will stand before the Righteous Judge and be perfectly held accountable, Scott, Shai, & myself, let us spend our time spreading the glorious Gospel to those who are in the very same predicament we once were…lost & dead in our sins.

    God bless each of you!

    Randy

  96. I want to add to my comment about how rap isn’t a new art form. The West African Griots were doing it and so were those hymn writers Doug mentioned. Here’s two examples of Christians using rap—defined as rhythmic poetry—from the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s. These examples were way before the art form of rap was founded in the 1970’s in New York.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zP4jCaBa1so#t=40

    This is Danny Kaye’s song Tongue Twisters and resembles what Emcee’s call multiple syllabic rhyming. This song was probably made in the ’20’s or ’30’s.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvoTT3t-Ois

    This next one is by a four-part harmony act called The Jubalaries and is called Noah. This song was put out in 1948 and while these guys start singing in the beginning, their verses resemble what Emcee’s call “sing-song rap.” Somewhat similar to the style that Drake or Andy Mineo has used.

    Bottom-line, there is nothing new under the sun. Rap as defined as rhythmic poetry has been used by many in different time periods across the board.

  97. Martin says:

    Kelsey – are you now saying any poetry spoken quickly is rap? I would not in my dreams associated what Danny Kaye does in the first example with rap?? If this is rap, we really haven’t come to a clear definition yet whatsoever.
    Same for the other example. I can hear a clear difference between this and what is called rap today. Maybe this was a predecessor? But I would exclude ‘Noah’ from a definition of rap, i.e. the above definition is way too vague and inclusive – and a better one remains elusive. I don’t mean for rap to be so exclusive but to include these examples is simply abusive! :-)

  98. Martin,

    I am not saying that poetry spoken quickly is rap, although that is one of the many different forms of rap. Some call it “chopping” and some call it “snapping.” But the flow is pretty much words rapped at a double-timed speed and mostly coincides with the fast snare drum beat within the main instrumental.

    Honestly, I would say the examples I posted are predecessors to what rap music sounds like now. Take Danny Kaye’s song as an example. Like I mentioned before, in rap today we have what’s called “chopping”–words rapped at a double-timed speed mainly coinciding with the rapid snare drum beat within the main instrumental. If you closely listen to Danny Kaye’s song he’s doing something that could be considered as a “building block” for what we call chopping in rap today. There is neither a snare drum beat nor are the words he’s saying as fast as rappers are today but the instrumental backdrop does change to aid his tongue twisting lyrics. This may not be rap as you see it today but the principle and foundation is there. That’s what I said in my earlier post. Rap as an art form (rhythmic poetry) is not new at all, it simply has grown and taken on different forms over the years. Today, it is mostly the rapid snare drum beat that helps rappers rap tongue twisting lyrics at an even faster rate than that of Danny Kaye.

    Although I will partially agree with your observation on The Jubalaires’ ‘Noah,’ it’s a little hard to “hear” rap in this one. But the verses, even though they are sung, still fits with the definition of rap as rhythmic poetry. Again, there are some mainstream rap artists that began adding melody to their verses while still rhythmically coinciding with the accompanying drum beat.

    I see what what you did with you’re last two sentences, good rhyme!

  99. Martin,

    I am not saying that poetry spoken quickly is rap, although that is one of the many different forms of rap. Some call it “chopping” and some call it “snapping.” But the flow is pretty much words rapped at a double-timed speed and mostly coincides with the fast snare drum beat within the main instrumental.

    Honestly, I would say the examples I posted are predecessors to what rap music sounds like now. Take Danny Kaye’s song as an example. Like I mentioned before, in rap today we have what’s called “chopping”–words rapped at a double-timed speed mainly coinciding with the rapid snare drum beat within the main instrumental. If you closely listen to Danny Kaye’s song he’s doing something that could be considered as a “building block” for what we call chopping in rap today. There is neither a snare drum beat nor are the words he’s saying as fast as rappers are today but the instrumental backdrop does change to aid his tongue twisting lyrics. This may not be rap as you see it today but the principle and foundation is there. That’s what I said in my earlier post. Rap as an art form (rhythmic poetry) is not new at all, it simply has grown and taken on different forms over the years. Today, it is mostly the rapid snare drum beat that helps rappers rap tongue twisting lyrics at an even faster rate than that of Danny Kaye.

    Although I will partially agree with your observation on The Jubalaires’ ‘Noah,’ it’s a little hard to “hear” rap in this one. But the verses, even though they are sung, still fits with the definition of rap as rhythmic poetry. Again, there are some mainstream rap artists that began adding melody to their verses while still rhythmically coinciding with the accompanying drum beat.

    I see what what you did with you’re last two sentences, good rhyme!

  100. drfiddledd says:

    After re-reading this lengthy and involved discussion may I propose a possible solution. Seeing that there is no simple way to Biblically prove what constitutes good and evil music, those who have questions about the matter should let those who’ve studied the matter make the determination for them.

  101. drfiddledd,

    These are just questions for clarification because I’m not too sure what you mean by you’re last sentence so please don’t take these as questions asked in anger. When you say “those who have questions about the matter should let those who’ve studied the matter make the determination for them” are you saying that we shouldn’t try to test the claim that music can be inherently good or evil against Scripture? Are you saying that we should take what someone who has studied the matter as truth and completely abide by it?

  102. drfiddledd says:

    What I’m saying regarding music (not lyrics) is this:
    -The Bible does not address what constitutes good and bad music in a direct and simple to understand manner.
    -Those who label certain types of music as good or bad, lacking a clear Biblical definition, usually do so by the indirect application of Biblical principles and the subjective application of terms like beauty.
    -There are some brethren who are concerned about “bad” music but lack a clear personal definition of what it is.
    -There are “experts” who are more than willing to make those determinations for them.

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