Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: Example of Sinful Music
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 second question to me.
Scott, in answering my previous question, you said, “Yes, I believe that music, apart from lyrics, can be sinful in and of itself.” and “the communication of moral agents is moral, and since music is communication, music is moral.”
Can you please provide an example of music apart from lyrics that is inherently sinful/immoral and explain why?
While there are many underlying presuppositions that inform my assessment of various musical forms, and thus I’m hesitant to answer this question without laying all those out, I’ll bite for the sake of our discussion!
Let me first reiterate that I believe there are two important questions when evaluating the propriety of a musical form:
- Is this form appropriate for its context or lyrical content?
- Does this music express sentiments that are incompatible with Christian living?
As I mentioned in my last rebuttal, I believe there are many cases a musical form fails the first question but not necessarily the second. For example, I believe that circus music is compatible with Christianity, but I don’t believe it is fitting for expressing Christian truth or worship.
However, I do believe that some musical forms would be wrong for a Christian because they express things the Bible condemns.
Here are examples of snippets from one musical form:
I will note that with a couple of these snippets there are “lyrics,” but (a) I can’t understand them (so they don’t factor into my assessment) and (b) the way in which the lyrics are sung is part of the music, so it actually contributes to my point.
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. This music sounds like what fits of anger feel like; it sounds like what enmity and strife look like. That is why this musical form was created; it was a natural expression of people who wanted to communicate chaos and rage.
Second, it is not true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise (Phil 4:8), nor does it express love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control (Gal 5:22-23). This music is purposefully distorted, harsh, ear-splitting, and ugly; it does not conform to the absolute standards of beauty rooted in the character of God and expressed in his Word and creation.
Third, this music is not holy (1 Pet 1:16); it is not conduct worthy of the gospel (Phil 1:27). It not what accords with sound doctrine; it does not express sober-mindedness, dignity, self-control, integrity, or sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us (Titus 2:1-2, 6-8).
Fourth, because of the intended context (Christian) and the lyrical content (God’s Word), this form of music disrespects God and demeans his truth, and thus fails both questions stated above. This music is well-suited to themes of death and demons, which reveals its incompatibility with Christianity on both levels.
So my question from this assessment would be this: if a Christian loves what is ugly, impure, chaotic, unholy, and unworthy of the gospel, what is that called? The Bible would call that sin.
Next: Shai’s rebuttal and my reply.
About Scott Aniol
Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.