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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?

Scott-thumb-300x300While 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:

  1. Is this form appropriate for its context or lyrical content?
  2. 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.

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Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian 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.

49 Responses to Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: Example of Sinful Music

  1. first, if you’re saying Christian death metal is sin, then why are you debating with a hip hop artist?

    second, i love Christian death metal!

  2. Scott —

    As a fan of this debate and of your answer, above, I have a follow-up:

    In the 1950’s, the kind of music we now take for granted as “worship” was received widely in conservative church circles in the same way you are receiving Death Metal. The tempo, the sensual beat, the kind of arrangement all pointed (in their minds) to something not fit for worship — maybe not fit for use.

    How do we know that we are not merely xenophobes (or worse) when we condemn forms like Death Metal or, as in this debate, Rap?

  3. I firmly believe that if there is serious debate about whether some particular type of music is suitable or not we should not use it in the church. I believe that is the only way to end the worship war. It is preferable in my opinion to ask some to limit their freedom than to ask some to violate their conscience. So after this debate is over and the two sides still disagree what should we do?

  4. Oh, you’re having trouble finding metal without lyrics? Let me help you out:
    Here’s August Burns Red’s “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” (appropriate to the season, too!) Note the way the one guitar raises its pure sound and familiar tune over the musical “chaos,” giving us a pretty awesome picture of the coming of Emmanuel.

    And since I love that song, here’s another metal version, this one by Theocracy (also, there’s lyrics this time):

    Again, note the way in which the various musical elements interact with each other. It almost sounds like a war, a battle between “chaos” (although obviously even the chaos is meticulously ordered) and harmony. And while we like to remember the peace of Christmas, we would do well to remember the spiritual battle which precipitates that peace

    Now, let’s break down your actual arguments:

    First things first: Your statement that “the way in which the lyrics are sung is part of the music” may well be true for a particular subset of metal. However, it means that the MUSIC ITSELF, the particular arrangement of notes and sounds, is untouched by any and all arguments which include references to lyrics.

    Now, to your actual arguments: First, some of the “sinful attributes” you ascribe to it aren’t even sinful in and of themselves. “Sensuality,” “anger,” even “division” are not sinful in every circumstance, and to treat them as such is ignorant at best. We see sensuality in Songs of Solomon, we see anger in Jesus cleansing the temple, we see division in Paul telling the Judaizers to “cut themselves off.” Once again, context, intent, and result are what do the heavy lifting here and determine whether they are sinful…and you need quite a bit more than an isolated clip of music to get all of that.

    Also: How in the world can you say, in good conscience, that music on its own can communicate “orgies” or “rivalries”? You don’t even offer any argument for it at all, you just assert it as though it was some kind of self-evident fact. I only hope that even people who agree with your general premise will see that your statements here are utterly and completely baseless.

    Second: Again, you offer no arguments, just statements that wish were facts. I do not find this music “earsplitting” or “ugly.” I didn’t even hear any distortion (and even if there was, is “distorting a sound” now a sin?). And if it is “harsh,” there are lots of things that are harsh that are not sinful. I’d imagine that Job’s voice was fairly harsh when he lay in the dust, contemplating his dead children, and said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

    And as for its positive attributes: You again offer no arguments whatsoever: These arguments-that-are-actually-just-statements rely on your earlier arguments-that-are-actually-just-statements. In listening to those two songs I linked above (and I’ll be listening to them a lot in the coming days), I DO feel a sense of strife that I don’t get from the hymn itself. Yet the strife is there, as the coming king does battle with the prince of the world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air. In this, we see that the music is indeed true: it portrays a truth. It expresses joy in the coming of the king, it expresses self-control in the meticulous precision of the guitar, it proclaims the coming of Goodness incarnate…

    Or, you know, orgies maybe. Sure.

    Third: This is just a rehash of your previous non-arguments, so I’ll just refer you back to my previous arguments.

    Fourth: Now here, you actually have a point. That is the right thing to look at. Taking EVERYTHING into account—style of music, intended context, lyrical tone and content—we can finally address whether a particular musical composition does justice to God’s truth and beauty. And I’m not going to try to defend the examples that you posted, because with some of those particular examples, I agree with you. I don’t think the lyrical content, musical content, and context mesh together to produce good art that communicates godly truth to us.

    You ALMOST succeed in arguing that a few specific examples of Christian metal are inappropriate (even then, I think you would need to listen to each song in its entirety and examine the lyrics). But you completely fail to explain why the musical style as a whole is evil.

  5. I was typing up a response and hit delete when i read Mackman’s! I hate death metal, but it is just preference. His comments were dead on and expresses the frustrations many of us have with the answers given in these debates.

    I’ll just add that I personally would appreciate sticking to the genre at hand which is rap or hip/hop.

  6. Revelation 7:9-10…
    9 After this I looked, and behold, great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

    The focus of the worship is of the Lamb and His Salvation. The nations (ethnos..ethnicity), the different tribes (which indeed would included different culture variations of this tribes), peoples and languages. Shouting the praise of the Lamb.

    It’s interesting that John highlights all these differences. Not just the difference of the term nations (ethnos) but with-in the ethnicity’s there are differences, tribes, and language. Why highlight the differences?

    Gods salvation will reach all different people groups and cultures. The Lamb is worthy to be praised by all these varied groups.

    Heaven will be filled with various ethnic worship, to highlight Gods hand to save. What the focus is when these people cried in a loud voice, was the Salvation of the Lamb. “Loud voice” Isn’t one language, it means great, important voice. Not same language. But they all with a great voice…Spoke of the Salvation of the Lamb.

    These reformed rappers are highlighting the Salvation of the Lamb, I sure hope it will be one of the many forms in which the Lamb is praised in heaven.

    To show the saving hand of the Lord has stepped into an American culture and saved a people group who was lost as any other culture in the world. And the redeemed of that culture will praise God.

  7. So Scott, based on my understanding of your teachings, would you or would you not make the same judgement about contemporary worship music (Tomlin, Getty, and Sovereign Grace, etc) as you would about the heavy metal examples you posted above? On another blog post on this site, you made the statement that “I am writing this (the specific blog post) for those who agree with me that pop/rock forms can never and should never be wedded to biblical truth.”

    I can almost go with you on the Heavy Metal argument. I think it’s distasteful and obnoxious personally. But I happen to know you apply this same line of judgement to all contemporary/pop genres of Christian music, not just heavy metal and/or hip-hop.

  8. Brother Drew,

    Now I have seen this passage used a number of times to apparently prove that alternate styles will/should be used in the worship of God. Although I am not in disagreement that God maybe adequately worshiped with various styles of music, I am wondering how this passage is relevant. The following questions will help me explore this:

    1. Although this is clear diversity of nationality, tribe, and language represented, what in the passage demonstrates a diversity of style of music?

    2. Assuming there is some exegetical basis for various styles to be represented, does this text indicate that ALL styles of music are represented? If there is such a indication, can you please identify it?

    Thank you for your time and thoughts.

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  9. Christian Markle,

    Question One.
    Rap music “Hip Hop music” was birthed from the Hip Hop (culture). I believe the text highlights the diversity of cultures. So in the culture of Hip Hop this would include their cultural music. Does it specifically mention music? No, does it make note of different cultures? Yes.

    Question Two.
    Piggy backing off the assumption of various styles. The styles that would be represented are the Redeemed “praising the Lamb for His Salvation”

    I believe the litmus test for “acceptable” “styles” would be what that the cultural music is praising…The Salvation of the Lord.

    Thanks for the response,
    Grace ,and Peace


  10. HAHA – Mackman, your music clips are invaluable for this discussion; keep them coming! It’s great to actually listen to a few examples to realize what we’re actually talking about.

    Welcome back, Christian – and good questions, as always.

    I must say that I would agree with Scott’s two points being important in evaluating music for Christian use, yet Mackman is right when he says there is still nothing on why a genre would be immoral by nature. Coming back to the example of soundtracks, I could imagine a good Christian composer using such music (or ‘noise’, if that is more accurate) to create or emphasize something, maybe along the lines Mackman indicated (to give a sense of chaos or lostness or unbearable pain or so). It is quite another question whether there is biblical messaging that goes with that, but then we’re back to the rule that music CAN be immoral, depending on the context. So, artifacts can be used for moral and immoral purposes – this is not new. Maybe (there may be exceptions) we can say combining death metal with Christian lyrics is indeed always immoral since it distorts the intended message but that does not make death metal immoral in itself, even if it sounds horrible to the educated ear (really, you need to be ‘educated’ to like it, I guess, since it isn’t meant to sound nice). See what Shai will reply to this…

  11. Bother Drew,

    Thank you for your reply. I have some follow-up questions:

    1. What category (“nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues”) would you place hip hop culture? Are cultures even in play here? (This possibly goes to one’s view of what a culture is and is not.)

    2. Are we not making a series of assumptions? a) That this passage is highlighting diverse cultures when it really says nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues. b) That this passage is dealing at all with music when it really says “cried with a loud voice, saying,” (it is not like John did not refer to singing elsewhere in the book (5:9; 14:3; 15:3) c) that this passage is dealing with musical style at all when that is simply not what is being said.

    I will need more help here to see what you are seeing. This passage is certainly speaking about the diversity people that will receive and rejoice in salvation. The passage is almost definitely offering us the immensity of such people in the phrase οχλος πολυς (“great multitude”). This passage is certainly communicating to us their energy and exuberance in regard to the salvation they have received. We can also see that these people are pure (clothed in white robes), and lots of other exegetically supportable observations. However, it seems to be a stretch to identify this as a multicultural (multi-ethnic yes, various languages, yes, but there is no indication of multi-cultural-ness here) or that music is even in play let alone styles of music. I am just not seeing this as relevant.

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  12. Martin,

    I’m glad someone appreciates them! If we’re trying to judge the genre as a whole, I feel like we should have some examples from someone who DOES enjoy the occasional metal song.

    I appreciate the point you made concerning a soundtrack. I was thinking something similar myself about how (most) Christians don’t condemn the short stories of Flannery O’Connor, even though they depict the fallenness of the world in pretty vivid detail. The music itself, the arrangement of notes, is not immoral and can be used for good or ill.

    Concerning your point about Death Metal (as opposed to the more generic “Metal”) being always unsuitable for Christian music: That is a definite possibility, depending on how broadly or narrowly we define it (although I speak as someone with very limited experience with that particular genre). The guttural, indecipherable screaming, in particular, is what makes me question it’s appropriateness in most contexts.

    In fact, I have another song (surprise surprise!) that perfectly captures both what I ENJOY about metal, and what I abhor about it.

    Skies Over Bethany: O Come O Come Emmanuel

    It starts out absolutely beautifully, with an almost orchestral rendition to the tune of “Carol of the Bells.” Then it transitions into some equally beautiful singing of the first two stanzas of “Emmanuel”. The tone of the singing perfectly captures the longing, the agonizing anticipation inherent in the song. I could listen to those two stanzas forever at this time of the year.

    But at the end of the second stanza, we have a small hiccup: A guttural screaming accompanying the singing. It grates on me. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t serve a larger purpose. It’s screaming for the sake of screaming, and I hate that it messes up what had been such an amazing song.

    The screaming continues, and they scream an entire stanza. I hate it. I hate that stanza. I don’t understand why they did it. It doesn’t fit the music, and it doesn’t fit the context, and it doesn’t fit the message.

    And then, at 2:50, it transitions into a section of music that’s almost frantic in its intensity. And after a few seconds, he screams again, just a few words: “Oh come, oh come, oh come.” And THAT scream, although it sounds similar to the other screaming, is different. It’s a moment of honest, painful longing, a moment of agonizing pleading for Emmanuel to come.

    This one song, in my opinion, captures everything that is beautiful and ugly about metal. It demonstrates what can be done with Metal that is good and beautiful…and it demonstrates what can be done with Metal that is inappropriate, that doesn’t fit, that might even be sinful (I use “sinful” here not in the sense of active disobedience, but in the sense of missing the mark).

  13. For Drew and others: one ideas before posting an argument would be to see if it has already dealt with on RA – a simple search with Google Site Search or the integrated search function does miracles in this respect!

    On Paul contextualizing the gospel in Athens (Mackman):

    Race, culture & Revelation 7 (Drew):

    Worship wars throughout history (Frank Turk):

    Scott also generously links to previous articles in his new posts above. Most of the arguments I’ve seen so far have already been addressed in previous years.

    This does not mean these articles are the last word but neither should any of us assume that there are no existing attempts at replies to arguments that have been around for a while. Taking these into account would move this conversation forward a little faster since we don’t have to repeat what has already been said on this blog.

  14. Question: If the Bible doesn’t explicitly mention something by name, is it by default okay? Does not the Word of God call us to be discerning saints?

    Given that the Bible is authoritative on all matters of which it speaks, and that it speaks to all matters, then may our hearts be to discern -in its principles and precepts- that which is well-pleasing in His sight.

    I am burdened by the argument that music is amoral, and has no moral message of its own. Music is often underestimated and often speaks louder than words, as it has the amazing ability to stir us on every level – spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and yes, even physically.

    Lucifer himself was created with extraordinary musical talent. And to believe that music is somehow amoral and untainted by the fall is naive. Satan is a master at perverting God’s design, which should cause us to at least question the cultural norms of our society, including its musical forms.

    I believe that Scott’s answer is not: Here is chapter and verse- specifically mentioning every single musical genre- as much as it is a call to discernment. I hope we would at least agree that we must be discerning saints about every area of life!

    Well done, Scott.

    Eze_44:23 And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.

  15. Christain Markle

    I think I already answered you about the verse specifically mentioning music…
    ” that this passage is dealing with musical style at all when that is simply not what is being said.”

    When I stated…”So in the culture of Hip Hop this would include their cultural music. Does it specifically mention music? No, does it make note of different cultures? Yes”

    In your 1st question you stated…”This possibly goes to one’s view of what a culture is and is not.”

    Yes, I believe that is a true. and I am sure we differ on that as well.

    Grace and Peace


  16. Martin,

    Thank you for the link. To Scott’s views on ethnos.

    Never intended to slow the discussion. Just was throwing in my 2 cents.

    Grace and Peace


  17. Reuben,

    Nobody here is making that “God didn’t say anything, so it doesn’t apply” argument. If you want to engage in discernment, you can do so by engaging my thoughts on it (should be 10th or 11th down from the top).

    Scott makes several assertions about Metal as a genre, very few of which he can back up. Engage with me on that, please, instead of addressing straw-man arguments that nobody here is making.


  18. Mackman,

    Based upon the paradigm of Structure (Creational Norms of God’s Design) and Direction (Uses of God’s Creation either conforming to His norms due to redemption or disobeying those norms due to the Fall) from Wolter’s book Creation Regained ( that I mentioned earlier (on this string: I would respond to you this way:

    In his chapter on discerning Structure and Direction (Ch. 5 p. 93), Wolters argues that “Structure implies that in some sense every circumstance or condition participates in the creational possibilities God holds out to his creatures in his law. Nothing moves or exists or develops except in response to God’s creational demands. God’s ordinances make themselves felt in even the most perverse human distortion. As a result some element in every situation is worth preserving.”

    Therefore, one may be correct in pointing out and identifying creational structure within, for example, the metal or rap music genre (e.g. God-given emotions such as anger – assuming for sake of argument that it is indeed a righteous anger; rhythm/rhyme in rap…). I don’t have any problem with preserving some element of rhyme/rhythm nor some element of the musical expression of righteous anger.

    But identifying a creational element in something does not automatically justify it or demonstrate that it is conforming to God’s creational norm as it ought.

    Wolters goes on to say in that same paragraph: “Conversely, everything in reality falls within the scope of religious direction: everything that exists is susceptible to sinful distortion and is in need of religious renewal….both the created order and human perversion or renewal are present…”

    Therefore, the question becomes whether the creational element has been somehow used in a fallen direction. Is there a perversion of the USE of that creational element and is that perversion at a fundamental level of that genre?

    For example, one may say that using the emotion of anger is utilized in order to communicate some biblical truth. But that is not enough to justify it. HOW is it communicating that biblical truth?

    To reflect upon Phil 4:8, one must not just consider something and say “Well, it reflects reality (it expresses truth) – therefore, it passes the Biblical command.” One must go further and consider whether that thing also reflects purity and loveliness…

    Perhaps a clearer example would be in another aesthetic category of movies. A movie may recount the true historical event and reflect upon that true historical event from the right worldview perspective (that evil was present and ought to be looked upon negatively). But it may present it in such a manner that is so detailed and gratuitously explicit (e.g. nudity…) that it violates the purity test. The communication of truth is not the end of the story/only litmus test.

    Back to the music. A classical genre of music can express the same emotions (creational) that you mentioned in your post – like a triumphing army vanquishing an enemy (cf. listen to some great soundtracks by John Williams) and yet expresses those same emotions in an entirely different manner than metal ever will.

    Now Scott could probably identify the musical reasons for the differences in communication here better than I ever could. My point is that one can’t simply point to a creational element and declare something good. One must evaluate HOW the creational element is being utilized – not just in communicating something that is true, but also in HOW it communicates that truth – in a pure and lovely manner.

    One’s presuppositions from his understanding of
    1. Biblical commands about communication
    2. Musical realities of communication (objective techniques to communicate subjective emotions/responses)

    will determine whether one places a particular musical genre or song into the category of fallen direction or conforming direction to God’s creational norms.

  19. Kevin:

    First of all, I think you have drastically mis-read my post. I’m not declaring it good in all contexts. I’m merely fighting for the possibility that it CAN be good in SOME contexts. In fact, I think you must have missed my last paragraph, where I conceded that given the communication as a whole–the context, the musical content, the lyrical content, etc–the songs Scott used were probably inappropriate (see my first post for a better explanation).

    Scott, on the other hand, is the one implying that the anger displayed is grounds enough for calling it evil. He says it is incompatible with Christianity for, among other reasons,expressing anger, sensuality, etc. He finds fault with Metal for expressing things which are not, and have never been, sinful in and of themselves.

    That is where he is wrong, and where he betrays his crucial error. He’s not talking about context or intent: For him, any music which expresses anger in any capacity is incompatible with Christianity…which is a blatantly false idea.

    You haven’t addressed any of my arguments. Throughout your post you ASSUME that the music of Metal is impure, that it’s unlovely, that it’s perverted, that it’s communicating in an unbliblical fashion. But why? Give me arguments, not assumptions or statements disguised as arguments.

  20. Drew,

    I realized that you admitted that music is not mentioned in the passage, but even if culture is somehow included (which I contend is is not), it is specifically refers to people (ὄχλος – multitude), of (ἐκ) various categories (of which you appear to believe includes cultures). If one of the categories includes the idea of culture (which has not been demonstrated yet, thus my question as to which of the four categories is the idea of culture found), this would still not establish the relevance of this passage to styles of music. These people were out of (ἐκ) these categories. There is nothing to say what they brought with them from these these categories (ie their style of music).

    Furthermore, the issue of this passage being relevant music or not is further rendered questionable in that the communication that the multitudes offer is not musical; it is spoken. So could you please help me see how this passage helps our discussion about music?

    I rejoice in the multi-ethnic nature of salvation, but this passage nor such rejoicing is a commentary on the cultures/styles of music of each of the ethnic groups that will be represented in heaven.

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  21. Excellent response above Mackman. As I said previously it is discouraging that Scott can’t see how fallacious and weak his arguments are. Nevertheless he keeps plugging away trying to prove some forms of music are inherently evil.

  22. Mackman,

    I agree that I have presuppositions (what you call assumptions) that have not been fully argued (but that does not mean that what I have said is no argument at all – it is a very important line of thinking that at least sets the stage for us to be on the same page of thinking as we evaluate the issue).

    First, I would argue that it is valid to reject a whole genre since genre is simply a human means of categorizing musical tendencies or identifiable similarities that are shared in fundamental and overarching ways (Again, Scott could probably do a better job at defining it than I can). In other words, using the structure and direction paradigm, if I presuppose that something is demonstrating a fallen direction of communication, then if the same “perversion” is repeated and similar in a whole bunch of songs (that we as humans see as similar enough to group together b/c of those shared characteristics), that genre can be (at least in a generalized way) legitimately rejected.

    Now of course, you want to know why I presuppose what I do about the genre of metal or rap….

    I’m not sure I can give you a pat answer that will be satisfying enough for you, but it is based upon what I broadly stated above:
    1. Biblical commands about communication
    2. Musical realities of communication (objective techniques to communicate subjective emotions/responses)

    I would pinpoint my problem with the genres in the objective techniques that are being used to communicate the subjective emotions/responses.

    I’m not sure if you used a strawman about what Scott is trying to say so I’ll let Scott defend himself. I’m pretty sure Scott does not have a problem with at least some of the emotions you mentioned so I don’t think he would have an inherent problem with the emotions being expressed in music in some way.

    Again, I think some of the emotions you mentioned can be expressed perfectly fine in classical music for instance but not in metal. Therefore, I pinpoint the distinction not on which emotion is being expressed but in HOW those emotions are being expressed (and I do think that some emotions are out of bounds in 99.9% of contexts if not 100% like sensuality – depending upon how that word is defined).

    I know that my argumentation has not run its full course back to the nub (exactly what is wrong with the HOW in metal or other genres), but I’m out of time b/c I have to leave now. But I will think about how to explain it all the way back to that nub and try to get back to you.

    Thanks for your civil responses to me as we discuss the issue.

  23. If Scott “does not have a problem” with the emotions that I mentioned, then why did he specifically mention them as evidence that Metal was inherently sinful?

    Also, you’ll have to be more specific: What emotions are almost always out of bounds? Sensual music, for example, is perfectly at home in the bedroom of a married couple, meaning that music which expresses sensuality isn’t inherently sinful JUST because it expresses sensuality. Note that it certainly CAN be sinful, like if it’s purpose is to incite lust: But that brings CONTEXT and INTENT into it, which Scott adamantly claims have nothing to do with it (after all, that’s his whole claim: That divorced from context and intent, music can be inherently sinful).

    You left off right at the interesting part! Indeed, that’s the ONLY part that matters. And if you don’t want to continue the discussion over such an inefficient forum, I’d be more than happy to talk by email or even instant message (my email is in my blog profile, reachable by clicking on my name).

  24. Christian Markle

    “I rejoice in the multi-ethnic nature of salvation, but this passage nor such rejoicing is a commentary on the cultures/styles of music of each of the ethnic groups that will be represented in heaven.”

    Are you saying that people of different cultures/ethnicities will not worship God from their cultural variations. All the worship of the Triune God will sound and look the same? I believe if it was just national identity, language,John would have stopped the list of people praising God with ἔθνος (ethnos), γλῶσσα (tongue). That would cover everyone, but he doesn’t stop there, he include tribe/kind and peoples which to me indicate the differences even in ethnicities.

    Why? This multi-ethnic worship…I believe it maximizes the Glory of Gods Salvation.

    If worship becomes homogenize in heaven. How would sound…Hymn styles? Classical music style? Bag pipes? Only lyres, and harps?


    Grace and Peace

  25. Made it back home so I can continue the line of thought.

    I presuppose that music (structure) is communication (direction) and genres are particular communication (direction) – objective communication to the subjective emotions. Some communication can reflect God’s character and some communication reflects the Fall (direction).

    Emotions can be considered part of structure (from my understanding) but note Wolters’ quotes above that indicate the whole of God’s creation – those things that are creational – are also subject to fallen direction (everything has been tainted by the fall). Now if emotions are subject to fallen direction then musical communication which correlates with those emotions could do so in an unfallen or in a fallen manner (i.e. one should be able to identify musical communication forms that reflect and correlate with an unfallen manner of communicating those emotions and one should be able to identify musical communication forms that reflect and correlate with a fallen manner of communicating those emotions. What is fallen is the emotions and the communication itself (which fits with what Wolters seems to argue in his paradigm – the creational thing itself becomes perverted from God’s original design/creational norms. Thus, context is secondary to what a thing is by nature.). My application is that metal fits the bill for fallen (though I’m not a musical expert so I’m only able to speak in philosophical generalities from my practical discernment not from technical musical expertise – which I think is perfectly fine to do so. There are many areas in life where one’s practical discernment is correct and sufficient even though he can’t explain all the ins and outs like an expert could.). I would contend that both the context in which someone uses those emotions and the emotions themselves can be corrupted (it’s a both/and situation avoiding the either/or fallacy). In other words the emotional communication fits certain contexts because the very nature of the emotional communication correlates with that context. The context isn’t determinative (if that’s a word) of the rightness/wrongness of the emotions/musical communication. Instead, the rightness/wrongness of the emotions/musical communication is determinative of contexts – if any – in which it can be used.

    Well, I think that’s probably as far as I can try to explain my understanding. Thanks for cordially listening to my attempt to explain it as well as I am able. It may not be satisfying enough to you. At least I hope you understand the sincere convictions of those who hold to a conservative position (Rom 14:23).

  26. Drew,

    One of my main reasons for engaging in this ongoing conversation about music/worship is to engage in the ideas that are being espoused. Some of them are bad ideas. My concern is not primarily about rap/hip hop music. I am more concerned that the ideas that are used to support/reject such worship be sound. You (and others I have read) appear to assume things about Revelation 7:9 that are not apparent in the text. I decided to explore this to see what was the basis of such assumptions. It may be that I have missed something that is not obvious in the text. However, if what is being assumed really is not there, then promoting such absent ideas from this scripture is more dangerous than hip hop music or over-conservative music.

    What I think about what type of worship will be offered in heaven is not something I have revealed. I am concerned instead with one passage and whether that particular passage which is being purported to teach that every culture will sing their own style of music in heaven. I would like to know what precisely demonstrates this in the text. You keep pushing me to dig deeper into the passage, and I keep arriving at the same conclusion.

    It appears that the repetitive words/categories suggests to you that culture is in scope. It further appears that you extrapolate from this that this culture (presumed to come from the words φυλή and λαός) comes along with the people. What I mean is you appear to believe that this passage declares that these people bring their culture (assuming culture is even in the scope of these words) “with” them. But the pronoun used before this list is the word ἐκ, which means “out of/from”. John is not telling us that they take their ethnicity, race/family, culture (λαός seems the best fit for your argument) , language with them, but they come out of these things. The phrase indicates the diverse source of the multitude. The same list is given a total of 4x in Revelation (5:9; 7:9; 11:9; 14:6). It seems that John uses this list to emphasize the diversity of the group, not to indicate any diversity of cultural expression.

    Let me suggest that at least one cultural artifact has explicitly not been retained by these people…their cultural clothing. They have a new and unified cultural expression in how they dress — white robes. They also have a new and unified message distinct from their previous identity — the Gospel.

    I am pointing this out because if indeed God has revealed to us that we will worship God based on our present ethnic cultural identity, these are not the texts where that is revealed. The scripture (Rev 7:9) is explicitly saying these people are “out from” every category listed. Nothing is stated about what they bring “with” them, and one thing that is clearly (from this text) missing in their cultural expression is their diverse clothing. Furthermore, Revelation 5:9 states they are redeemed out of these four categories. The word “redeemed” (ἀγοράζω) with the pronoun ἐκ (out of) further diminishes any indication that John is explicitly telling us they retain anything from their past cultural identity. With these texts we have more reason to believe we do not retain our cultural identity than that we retain it. When properly exgegeted they actually support the opposite of what you want to believe. Admittedly, they do not negate the possibility of retention of cultural diversity in heaven.

    I welcome the thought that God enjoys diversity of worship; that sounds great to me, but I need a good text to base this on. You may be convinced that God desires to glorify His name with diverse kinds of worship, but this is not a good text (esp. coupled with Rev 5:9-10) to support this assertion. It certainly cannot be saying that ALL cultural expressions of worship are valid. This is just not supportable from this text, unless I am missing something.

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  27. Christian Markle

    The out from reference doesn’t mean the are saved from their cultural. The are saved from their sin. It doesn’t mean they don’t bring cultural variations as well.

    You stated in a previous post “We can also see that these people are pure (clothed in white robes), and lots of other exegetically supportable observations.”… 1st you say the white robes were referencing their purity and now your using it as prof of no cultural variety

    Obviously you know my stance of worship offered in heaven and I may be completely wrong when I get there and worship our Lord and Savior.

    What is your view of worship in heaven? You didn’t address my question.

    Grace and Peace


  28. Kevin,

    Even if you can only give this debate five minutes of your time, I ask you to listen to this.

    It’s a metal rendition of Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel. It has no lyrics, so they won’t get in the way of the discussion.

    Without talking about “Metal” as a genre, without talking about how angry and distorted and orgiastic that “Metal” as a whole is (Scott’s words, not yours or mine), tell me how, in particular, this song is displaying fallen qualities of any kind.

    That’s all I ask. If “Metal,” as a genre, really does “reflect and correlate with a fallen manner of communicating those emotions”, then it should be fairly easy to pick out those fallen emotions.

    It’s easy to talk in generic terms, because we can just leave out things that don’t quite fit. So let’s talk specifics. Take this one song and explain to me how it is correlating with and reflecting fallen emotions.

    I don’t want to be unnecessarily confrontational, but I do want to be clear: If you cannot do this, then your argument is utterly invalid. If just one metal song is alright, then the entire genre can’t be inherently sinful.

  29. Drew,

    A simple (yet likely unsatisfying) answer to your question regarding my view of worship in heaven is, it will be about God (Revelation 7:12,15) not about us. I suspect that there MAY be elements of worship that MAY represent something from our past, but I have no scriptural evidence to support such claims. What I do know is that much will be new, different, and better (Revelation 5:9-10; 7:15-17; 21:1-5, etc). Fortunately, by that time whatever is acceptable and appropriate will be obvious to all of us. If there is some form/style that is unacceptable, inappropriate, unholy, or profane; we will avoid that.

    In my attempt to pursue the possibility that Revelation 7:9-10 offers anything to us regarding the transfer of earthly cultures to heavenly worship, I am, admittedly, grasping at straws. I just do not see it. My opinion offered in the previous paragraph does not make it so and yours revealed in your posts just does not make it so. The Scriptures have to say it for it to be authoritative. Can you point to an exegetical reason in Revelation 7:9-10 (or any other passage) to support the following from your first post: “Heaven will be filled with various ethnic worship, to highlight Gods hand to save”? The passage (Revelation 7:9-10) talks about worship; the passage talks about the ethnic origin of those worshiping; the passage does not say that they worshiped based on their ethnicity that is a guess/assumption not apparent in the text. Maybe they do worship based on their ethnic styles I really do not know because text does not say so that to make it say it does is to twist what the text is saying. This is bad hermenuetics and is more dangerous ultimately than style of music.

    To clarify my thoughts about their robes: Their white robes may symbolize their purity but the fact that they ALL literally are wearing them indicates they are not wearing their cultural garb.

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  30. Christian Markle

    The reason I believe music may be part of their expression of worship is because it communicates verbally. Their voices were used, not that worship is limited to music only, but this whole discussion is about music.

    Maybe that’s not sufficient for your hermenuetics but that’s how I came to that thought. .

    But I do agree it(worship) will be better as all things will be, not just better but the best for the worship of God. Fellowship, service, food etc.

    Do you believe that we will consume food in heaven?

    Grace and Peace,


  31. Brother Drew,

    The following passages suggest that food will be consumed during the Kingdom/Millennial age (and possibly before): Luke 22:30; Revelation 19:5-10. There may be more passages that do not come to mind readily. Revelation 22:2 suggests that food/fruit will be available in the eternal state.

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  32. Christian Markle,

    Without a doubt I am sure you have been to weddings before. Enjoyed the bounty of the wedding feast.

    As believers we long for the Marriage of Christ and His Bride(The Church)
    Rev. 19:5-10

    This will indeed be the “party” for the ages! Every thought what this feast might include…Food wise?

    I sure hope for all the attendants and for the worship of our great God who provides this great feast we will feats on the best….

    You finish the thought

    Grace and Peace,


  33. Mackman,
    You complain I talk in generalities rather than take up a very specific evaluation of a particular piece of music.
    1. Read what I said about genres above
    2. Read this blog post:
    3. Understand An analogy
    I’m not sure how much you know about apologetic approaches (e.g. presuppositionalism vs. evidentialism). The evidentialist wants to convince people to examine the particulars of evidence in order to convince someone to accept a particular truth claim. The problem with that approach is that as long as someone views those particulars through worldview lenses that are faulty they will never properly interpret the evidence correctly. The presuppositionalist approach doesn’t ignore the particulars of evidence. But it demands that worldview lenses must change first before any examination of the particulars can be accurately assessed and interpreted. The universals of one’s philosophy must be established before the particulars can be evaluated.

    The same thing is true when one discusses music. It is fruitless to discuss and examine the particulars (the evidence) as long as we don’t agree on the universals (the philosophy – what you call generalities).

    Now, the debate could move forward to a profitable examination of one’s judgment on a particular song if they both agreed on the interpretive philosophy. But since we aren’t there yet (and probably never will be), we will never agree on interpreting the particular evidence.

    Hope that helps.

    And regardless of any ultimatums regarding juvenile claims like – you better respond or you don’t have an argument – ehmm – maybe I’ve already responded that which is adequate and don’t see it fruitful to try to continue to explain fundamental ideas anymore. Regardless of what you say in response to this it is unlikely that I will respond anymore.

  34. Specifics are necessary.

    Your argument is “The music displayed in Metal displays fallen emotions in a fallen way.”

    I say, “No, it doesn’t. I have a metal song that displays appropriate emotion that meshes very well with the musical style.”

    You say, “…”

    Where does that leave us? Doesn’t it seem as though we have to actually look at an example of Metal? Doesn’t it seem like the only way for you to actually support your arguments is to point out at least one concrete example?

    Your arguments aren’t falsifiable. I can’t prove you wrong, because you won’t make any concrete claims.

    here’s the problem: I have no reason to believe that you have ever actually listened to Metal, aside from a 30-second clip of the worst stuff you could find. Your arguments sound fine in a vacuum, when told to people who (likewise) once half-heard a song that was probably Metal and didn’t like it.

    But when I look at your arguments, and I try to apply them to any particular song that I have in my itunes library, it doesn’t match up even a little bit. And I suspect that’s because in your mind, all metal sounds exactly like that one song that you heard one time, and while your argument might hold really well for that one song, it’s worthless in a larger context.

  35. Drew,

    First, I apologize for the delay in replying to your request regarding the Marriage feast of the Lamb.

    Second, regarding the subject of your question: If it were important for us to know in order to be “thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17), we would have been given a menu. Speculation on such things have a amazing way of be full of opinion and not of truth (Deuteronomy 29:29).

    Third, in answer to your question: I imagine that there will be delicacies that are unimaginable to the any human.

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  36. Hello,
    I’m very confused about what and who is a true Christian artist, if there is one. Can you lend me your expertise?
    Thank you,

  37. In my understanding, a Christian artist is an artist that is a Christian.
    This means it does not depend on what art he produces but on his faith and worldview. Christian art cannot be defined, so neither can a Christian artist be defined based on his art.

    In the context of this discussion, a Christian rapper is either
    a) a Christian producing non-Christian art (not a Christian artist in that sense) or
    b) a bad Christian artist or
    c) simply a Christian artist expressing himself in contemporary forms.

    Not sure this is of any help to you…

  38. Thank you for the reply. It did help some. I have another question. I will re word it basically. I know there are many Christian artists that are true Christian musicians that haven’t sold out to the music industry to gain fame. Many that I thought were Christian artists are more pagan or humanistic in their views and songs. I see they purposely avoid any songs glorifying God and more just inspirational songs. They are told to do this. It looks like they start off with the correct intentions and are tempted by all the producers that they have to do this, or leave out that in order to sell more and be less offensive to the audience. Obviously when we Christians follow God’s written word as he has given it to us, we seem to look radical or weird. They trade their Christian music which is supposed to glorify God but instead glorifies them with fame, record deals, music videos and concerts that sell out to thousands.
    I myself am guilty of this to fit in and be less offensive to non Christians. Something else I have read about in the last year is the music industry, and everything related to Hollywood and fame, is actually interwoven tightly with a cult if you will, called Illuminati.
    It’s referred to as an enlightenment, spiritual way, if you will. To make it easier and find a shorter list of who’s in or out, it was easier to search for celebrities or Christian artists that were NOT involved with this group. What are your professional and educated thoughts on this? I hope my questions were not overlapping and confusing.

  39. Hi Jennifer,
    Frankly, I hope others will chip in as well here. You bring up a significant aspect with ‘Christian music’ (which I don’t really think exists), which is the need to market art if one wants to be commercially successful. This is a completely different model than what we had in past centuries, when the church paid the artists, who would then not have to worry about offending non-Christians. With the open model we have now, there is a strong drive towards being more politically correct in order to maximize sales since individuals, not the church, decide which art creates how much revenue. In addition, the decisions of individuals are in turn influenced by marketing, which aims at maximizing profit and is agnostic of artistic quality or truth.

    So instead of the church having art made for its use to instruct believers biblically, we now have marketers decide what we should listen to and buy. Undoubtedly, this will have a negative impact on the content of such art if you measure it by biblical standards. We end up with songs which do not tackle difficult doctrinal or existential issues and tend to use stereotypical formulae that Christians of most denominations can agree on. This explains why so many of these songs sound the same and use almost identical, simple lyrics. I would say this is actually less the case for rap – the example we are discussing here – but rap artists such as LeCrae and others also migrate into sales to the non-Christian market, which will lead to their lyrics being less openly biblical (though not necessarily of lesser artistic value). There certainly is pressure from producers in this direction since they will make more money if their artists can serve a larger market.

    I see a strong conflict between the need to appeal to a mass market to sell music and the desire to remain biblcally authentic. One way out of this dilemma for churches is to use the music of past generations which was produced without this tension. Other than that, I recommend that larger churches or denominations commission artists to produce new music that fits their doctrinal and worship preferences. There may be a few artists that can survive despite these tensions and we could then use their art. Apart from that, we would do well to evaluate any art we use in worship (or listen to at home); some principles for doing so are laid out here on RA.

    I am not sure about the Illuminati thing. This is often brought up as a conspiracy theory but I have no evidence it’s true. Certainly, the commercial interests we are struggling with here are already enough of a concern. I am not an official contributor to this site, however, so maybe one of those posting here (or others who have commented) would also be able to reply.

  40. I think this post nailed it. the art that goes with christian death metal make you question the the music elements which makes death metal. most important that vocals are hard understand.

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