Recent Posts
“We aren’t speaking anymore.” “My sin is too big for God to forgive.” Have [more]
Kevin T. Bauder As you receive In the Nick of Time this week, I will [more]
Man’s first son, he tilled the ground, but God had no regard. A fallen [more]
Kevin T. Bauder As we have seen, 2 Corinthians 11:4 refers to “another Jesus, whom [more]
James 4:5 is one of the most difficult texts in the NT to translate and [more]

Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: Introduction

Over the next couple of weeks, Shai Linne (bio) and I will have a public discussion about Christian rap here on this site. I am grateful that Shai has asked to have this discussion. He and I spoke on the phone Saturday, we got know each other a bit, and we prayed together. I was encouraged by his desire to understand where I am coming from, his humility, and his evident love for Christ, his truth, and his Church. I share his desire to understand more fully his position, to correct where I have misrepresented him and others, and to dialogue about these matters with respect.

The discussion will take the following format: we both will ask each other five questions, beginning with Shai and alternating between us. The questions (or series of questions) will be limited to around 250 words; each answer will be limited to around 500 words. After the ten questions are completed, we will each give a 500-750 word closing statement.

Our desire with this discussion is to fully understand each other’s positions. It is not likely that either of us will persuade the other. But we hope to model a grace-filled conversation in which each of us truly listens and responds with respect.

Scott-thumb-300x300I’d like to start by highlighting where Shai and I agree. During our recent phone conversation, Shai and I marveled at how close we were in many key areas, and I think it is important to reflect on those as we begin a discussion about our disagreements.

First, both Shai and I are wretched sinners saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I am happy to call Shai my brother in Christ. Because of that shared faith, I believe that we enjoy Christian fellowship. Our disagreements in some areas might preclude cooperating on all levels, but this does not mean that we cannot call each other “brother” and rejoice together in the gospel. Likewise, both of use recognize that we are accepted by God fully upon the merits of Christ, and no amount of holy living or “correct music” could earn any favor with God since whatever we do is stained by sin.

Second, both Shai and I believe that the truth of the gospel is what is ultimately most important. In fact, I believe it is that love for the gospel that motivates both of us to have this discussion. Shai is understandably concerned that my position may evidence legalism and may lead to disunity in the Church. I am concerned that particular ways of communicating the gospel demean the gospel. And it is our shared love for the gospel that motivate us to have this discussion with grace and respect.

Third, both Shai and I are committed to making disciples of all nations. Each of us desires to proclaim the gospel boldly to as many people as possible. Each of us desires to take new converts and teach them all that God has commanded us. And both of us have a deep love for Christ’s church and a longing to see our churches grow.

Fourth, both Shai and I have a high regard for Scripture and believe it to be our supreme authority. To say that either of us holds our view because we do not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture would be a straw man. We are both striving to actively apply the principles and precepts of the Word of God to our lives and ministries.

Finally, both Shai and I believe that Christians must be holy, must fervently follow God’s commands, and must do all for the glory of God. We may disagree on some definitions and how this kind of life will look, but our hearts and motives are in the same place.

Differences between Shai and I will be apparent as we discuss this issue of music, but since we agree in so many essential areas, I look forward to having a discussion that is gracious and respectful.

Here are Shai’s opening remarks:

linneFirst, I want to thank Scott for his willingness to engage in this discussion, as well as for hosting it on his blog. I’m hopeful that the Lord will use the fallout from the NCFIC panel discussion for His glory and the strengthening of His church. As Scott mentioned, I do think it’s important to highlight where we agree. It’s easy to come at discussions like this with an adversarial stance. I don’t see Scott as my adversary or my enemy. He’s my brother in Christ. In fact we have a common adversary- the devil- who would love to use situations like this to sow seeds of discord and disunity. Lord willing, this discussion will be evidence that we’re not unaware of Satan’s schemes (2 Cor. 2:11).

I want to “amen” what Scott said about our areas of agreement. I believe this is crucial to setting the proper context for this conversation. Without question, the single most important thing about Scott and I is that we are united to Christ by faith in His life, death and resurrection. Because of God’s grace, we are both new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). Though we have differences in culture and background, we have both been reconciled to God in one body through the cross of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:16). What unites us is infinitely more powerful and precious than anything that could divide us. Because of what Christ has accomplished, at a fundamental level, I have more in common with Scott than I do with someone from Hip-hop culture who doesn’t know Jesus. Scott is my family in a way that transcends what’s even true of my blood relatives who are not Christians. Not only is there a fundamental unity, but we also have strong theological unity, even beyond the essentials of the Christian faith.

I’ve been very public about my commitments, but for those who are reading who may not be familiar, let me highlight a few.

1. I am committed to the glory of God as seen in the absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things. I believe that this universe and everything in it exists for the singular purpose of ultimately bringing God the maximum amount of glory, according to His infinite wisdom (Rom. 11:33-36). Scott shares this commitment.

2. I am committed to the proclamation of the gospel as God’s appointed means to reconcile sinners to Himself. I don’t believe that people are saved by good music, clever speech or excellent art. The gospel and the gospel alone is the power of God for salvation to all who believe (Rom. 1:16). Scott shares this commitment.

3. I am committed to the sufficiency of the Scriptures to govern Christians individually and the Church corporately in all areas of faith and practice. In areas of disagreement between Christians, the Bible is our final authority. I resist arguments that are grounded in pragmatism, personal preference or the wisdom of man, if it is in conflict with the plain teaching of Scripture. While I’m thankful for godly traditions, even they must bow to the Sacred Text. So when brothers have a conflict regarding particular practices, it won’t be long before you hear me quote Isaiah 8:20 “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” Scott shares this commitment.

The first question and response will be posted tomorrow.

Series NavigationNext

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.

39 Responses to Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: Introduction

  1. Amen! I look forward to finally hearing from two Christians who can grow from “listening” to each other and still come out on the other side loving each other for the sake of Christ and His church (as a Godly example to the unbelieving world).

  2. I’m glad that shai is doing the defense of using Rap for the Glory of God because he doesn’t take the pragmatic approach that it’s good because people get saved from it. There has already been a bunch of wasted dialogue arguing that point because it just a detour from the main theological issues.

    Praise God for His Son and His Holy Spirit allowing these conversations to be done in unity and love!

  3. Thank you for the thought, time and grace expressed in these opening statements. I will look forward to the following interaction to be “good to the use of edifying that it may minister grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  4. Great to see this – am looking forward to your discussion. At the same time, sad I did not post this earlier: I must leave the topics and questions to the two of you but wanted to at least make some suggestions as to what would be good to discuss:

    1) Is there a ‘Cultural Mandate’ in the Bible and if so, what does that mean for each of you? Does it, for example, include redeeming cultural elements that did not emanate from a God-centered community? Why or why not?

    2) How do you see Rom 12:1-2 and related scriptures? What is meant by ‘the world’, are we purely talking about sinful activity here or also cultural activity that may be ‘vain’ or ‘not profitable’? How does separation/holiness fit in with this discussion for each of you?

    3) Form – content – style – lyrics: please state your position on whether form or style are neutral in respect to content or whether you think that form defines/shapes content in music, and why.

    4) Please state exactly what you are referring to when discussing rap and hip-hop:
    a) corporate worship (I think you both might agree it is not a good style to be used in this context)
    b) teaching Christians biblical truth
    c) reaching the unsaved who are in the hip-hop/rap culture with the Gospel (evangelization)
    d) entertainment and exercising the musical profession (to earn money)
    e) artistic expression and dealing with social discontent, which I understand to be the origins of this style
    Which of those, if any, could Christians engage in without breaching biblical principles?

    5) (Sorry Scott but I really like this one) Is Christian hip-hop
    a) good art (I mean, when it’s done well)
    b) bad art (always, because of its incompatibility with the Christian message)
    c) sin?

    Hope this is useful in some way and am happy about what we can learn from your discussion (both the WHAT and the HOW)!!

  5. BTW, wonder if you can disable comments on your conversation with Shai. This means separating the comments others may have and relegating them to a parallel thread so your own conversation can stay focused and does not extend over half a mile after the second day :-)

  6. I’m very excited for this discussion brothers, and grateful for each of you taking the time out of your busy schedules to orchestrate it. I am looking forward to how it sharpens my own thinking on issues of music and culture.


  7. Martin,

    I agree with Brian’s interpretation of Romans 12:2/Worldly

    “These panelists attempt to demerit the offering of Christian Hip-Hop artists by arguing how “worldly” these rappers are, that they’re desiring to draw attention to themselves (even if the lyrics are admittedly drawing attention to the person and work of Christ), disobedient cowards, immature in their faith and, by way of implication, untaught by the Word of God. Yet surprisingly, they have no Scriptural support to make such confident assertions, and they actually abuse the only passage(s) that they use. One brother referenced Romans 12:2 (which is a classic prooftext for these flimsy accusations). A plain reading of the rest of the chapter dissolves the very premise of such improper use. Paul is not concerned with if the readers look like Romans in form, but rather he seems concerned that they act like Christians by faith. This is just one of many examples of such brothers making statements that may sound biblical, but lack sound biblicism.

    Maybe it would be good here to look at a couple passages that actually do deal with “worldliness” and deeds of the flesh. Now we would all agree that the bible is clear that we are to put to death what is earthly in us (As Colossians 3:5 words it), yet what are these earthly things? The list we find in Colossians 3:5, 8-9 plainly tell us what these earthly things are!

    “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Col. 3:5-10 ESV)

    It seems to me that the things Paul is here telling us to put to death and put off are the very things that the wrath of God is coming on; ungodliness. These are things that do not reflect the character of God; the very things that actually go against the good rule of our God and King. So Paul here is arguing that if we have been raised with Christ we should not sin–because that goes against our profession and our identity as being hidden with Christ in God. But notice the list of earthly things: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, covetousness, anger, wrath malice, slander, obscene talk and lying! These are sins because the deeds of the flesh are rebellion against the law of God. But friends, also notice what is not in the list. Even when Paul is using clothing imagery to communicate being in Christ (the put off, and put on language Col. 3:9-10) he doesn’t actually EVER mention clothing! This surely would have been the perfect time for Paul to fill us in on God’s dress code for maturity. However, it seems to me that the dress code God is concerned with is not of articles of clothing but the attire of the heart. Our obedience is not in our fabrics and our linens but only our faith working through love (Gal. 5:6).

    This is why, I believe, as he goes on to talk about what we are to “put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved”, we get more apparel of faith rather than “biblically” driven cultural taboos. Instead of being told to put on button-ups and caps facing straight forward, we are told to put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Instead of being told what musical style to use, we are told what songs to use: psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Even in Galatians 5, we are struck with how obvious the deeds of the flesh are–not how open for interpretation they are! ”Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” (Gal. 5:19-21 ESV, emphasis added) The way the panelists were interacting with the biblical language of feeding the flesh and being worldly, it seems they would add beats, earrings and rapping right to the list! Yet clearly friends, God is not outlining music styles and non-sinful cultural expressions. Rather, He is outlining sin and rebellious acts, warning that those who do such things, “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21 ESV). To use the language of this text to demonize any culture is a horrible use of the Bible and seeks to imprison those whom the gospel has set free. When speaking on loving the world and indulging the flesh, the bible is not talking about neutral cultural preferences, but rather walking and indulging in sin against God. It is quite understandable why the opposing arguments are not presented from biblical exposition, but always from the random application of “biblical” pejoratives. I think this is because their arguments aren’t based on exposition at all. It is precisely because of a high view of Scripture and our commitment to its sufficiency that we not only reject these accusations as unbiblical, but we are concerned at the freedom with which Christian leaders are permitted to make such outrageous statements disguised as theologically anchored critiques. We are completely open to correction and critique from any Christian seeking to rightly apply God’s Word, but make no mistake- we do require a chapter and verse in context.”

  8. Thank you, gentlemen, for handling this like brothers. It is good to see the body coming together after the falling out after the panel. I look forward to following along with you as you engage with each other. May God be glorified in this!

    In Christ,

    Mitchell Aldridge

  9. Thank you brothers for being examples! Godly conversations like this are necessary for the continued unity of the Body of Christ! Different cultures serving the same God is beautiful, but also provides the challenge of differing viewpoints. I believe this dialogue will definitely help to deter discord amongst the body concerning this issue! Thank you again, I will certainly be tuned in! God Speed!

  10. Question for both panelists:

    1. Is it biblically permissible to use Christian rap in a corporate worship service? Why or why not?

    Questions for Shai:

    1. Please explain the difference between rap and hip hop and then Christian rap and Holy Hip Hop.

    2. Is it ok for a Christian rap artist to rhyme to a beat that was used by a secular artist in a popular track?

    3. What is the chief end of Christian rap and Holy Hip Hop?


    1. How does one, who is against Christian rap and Holy Hip Hop engage a culture that is rooted in it?

    2. What are the proper forms of worship music? Can these forms be used in a corporate worship service?

    3. Why do you believe that Christian rap is not a music genre that can be used for godly worship?

  11. This post, from beginning to end, had the sweet fragrance of Jesus. I am encouraged. I hope this fragrance permeates the entire discussion. Thank you Scott and Shai. Grace and peace to you brothers.

  12. I want to remind everyone that Amazing Grace was a bar tune before it became a hymn. I also want to remind everyone that KLTY in Fort Worth has some very prosperty G*spel type filled lyrics that should have no place on a truly Chr*stian radio station.

  13. Please provide a source for your claim about Amazing Grace having been a bar tune (do you mean bar as in pub?).
    Wikipedia says, “The melody, “New Britain”, was first published in 1829 by Charles H. Spilman and Benjamin Shaw (Cincinnati). Unattributed to any composer, the melody combines two earlier melodies (“Gallaher” and “St. Mary”) and likely represents a confluence of oral traditions.”
    Even if these were sung in bars (the melody is not very gay and does not suggest such use), you would have to show how that would impact its use for Newton’s lyrics. Remember, there is no problem with using material that is not originally written for Christian use as long as it is suitable for such. I think we can all agree that the words and music of this hymn fit each other extremely well.

  14. does whichever genre/form/style of music being discussed have within it indicators of the nature of God? this is an important thought when considering music for worship. does the music image (show forth) God in its very nature? structure? creativity?

  15. This is outstanding. Many thanks to you both for your willingness to edify the church in this way.

  16. Amen to this! What a fruitful way to begin this discussion grounded in Christ with love and humility. This discussion will be in our prayers and we thank God to see how he is working through this!

  17. […] like a broken record. If you at all interested, you might at least appreciate the analysis. Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: Introduction | Conservative Christianity, Worship, C… The connectivity of links is weird but here are the other posts. Search: Shai Linne | […]

  18. Scott,
    The choice as to whether Reformed Rap should be used in the church or car or home is a worthwhile thing to consider. I believe first that your premise that conservative churches is to be the aim of the church is a fault one. I go to a traditional church, but that is not why I go or why I think anyone should to. Conservaive churches and conservative value will not save us or our culture. To be conservative is not the point of “being the church.”

  19. In their introductions, both Shai and Scott make the same grammatical error of using the first personal pronoun “I” instead of “me” at least once each when the personal pronoun is the object of a preposition and should be in the objective case (me), not the nominative case. For a rapper, this is not a big deal and folk poets sometimes have used this error to make their lyrics rhyme (e.g., in “Wayfaring Stranger”). For Scott as a seminary professor who should model grammatical speech, it deserves attention and should be corrected in formal presentations including debates.

    Specifically, they both do this in the phrase, “between Shai/Scott and I” when it should be “between Shai/Scott and me.”

Leave a Reply