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Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: Can Music Be Sinful? (Rebuttal)

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

Shai_Bio-300x300Thanks for your answer, Scott. I want to interact with a few of your points. In describing what music is, you said:

“Music is not a thing; music is an action. Specifically, music is an action of moral human agents. While God created the “stuff” of music (sound, pitch, rhythm, timbre, etc.), moral human agents create songs.”

I don’t want to spend too much time on the distinction you’re making here. I agree that the making of music is a human activity. But my question was about the final product, so to speak. By way of analogy, one could speak of the activity of painting, as well as the actual paintings themselves. I’m speaking of the latter. Recorded music, the kind used in Hip-hop, is indeed a “thing”, in that sense. We agree that human beings are moral agents accountable to God for our activities. But the byproducts themselves are not moral agents. Paintings and chairs and knives and recordings will not have to stand before God on judgment day. But the people who made them will. That’s an important distinction that must be made. You said:

“Yes, I believe that music, apart from lyrics, can be sinful in and of itself.”

I wholeheartedly disagree and I believe Scripture clearly refutes that notion. A few relevant texts:

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4-5 )

“I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself…” (Romans 14:14)

Those are amazing statements coming from the Apostle Paul, a Jewish man who was familiar with the many old covenant dietary restrictions. The key phrase in Romans 14:14? “in itself”. Paul is saying that food doesn’t have inherent moral value. The heart of the one eating it determines how God views the act, not the food 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. Finally, here’s my summary of 3 points you made:

  1. Scripture at least implies that music communicates.
  2. Scripture says that human communication must be evaluated
  3. What Scripture says about communication must be applied to music

Can you clarify what you mean by “music communicates”? If you mean that music is a tool that can aid in the expression of human emotion, I agree. Most of the Scriptures you mentioned indicate that. But I would argue that how people respond to music is culturally conditioned and not universal. This very debate is evidence of that. I look forward to your response.

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

First, saying music is a “thing” is like saying tone of voice is a “thing.” They’re not; they are human communication, and human communication is always moral. I didn’t say that the “byproducts” are moral agents; I said that the communication of moral agents is moral, and since music is communication, music is moral. Sounds are “things.” But once I begin to, as you say, arrange those sounds into words, sentences, thoughts, and tones of voice, I am now communicating, and that is moral.

Second, no, music is not a “tool” of communication; it is communication. Again, music’s connection with vocal tone is instructive: tone of voice is not just a tool of communication; it is part of the communication itself. How I say something to my children, my wife, my boss, or my God is just as important as what I say to them because how I say something is part of the communication. This is why the Bible commands that we speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15); “in love” refers not just to what we say, but also how we say it. This is why God commands us to worship reverently (Heb 12:28); reverence refers not just to the words we say in worship or even the object of our worship; it addresses how we worship.

Another biblical illustration of Paul’s concern over how we communicate is 1 Corinthians 2:1-5:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul contrasts two different ways of communicating the gospel: with “lofty speech” or “in weakness and in fear and much trembling.” I won’t make any more of this at this point than to say that Paul is indicating that how we communicate something is significant and must be evaluated as to its worth and appropriateness.

Third, you are making a very common category error in these discussions. I agree completely, of course, that whatever God creates is good. God created music. God created meat. These things are good.

But God did not create rap. People did. For that matter, God did not create Gregorian chant, German chorales, Appalachian folk tunes, country western, jazz, or rock ‘n’ roll. People did. And because these are all human communication, they are moral.

It is very dangerous to ascribe to God something that he did not make.

Communication is categorically different than something like food, and thus the passages you cited are not directly applicable. They are applicable only if someone were to argue that the very act of making music is immoral. If someone said that, I would agree with you that since God created music, music is good, and therefore we must not call something evil that God created.

In the context of the passages you cited, which is Mosaic dietary restrictions, the Law did not restrict those things because they were inherently sinful; that’s Paul’s point. So the categories you are using in your argument are these:

Meat   =   Rap

That is mistaken, rather, here are more equivalent categories:

Meat   =   Music
Spoiled meat   =   Forms of music that communicate in an immoral way
Healthy meat   =   Forms of music that communicate in a wholesome way

To summarize, what we communicate is important, and how we communicate it is equally important. Music is the how we communicate something.

Now, of course, none of this proves that rap or any other kind of music is immoral; that is not my point. I would simply insist that since music is communication, we must be willing to carefully and critically judge music itself to determine how it communicates, and we must then actively apply what Scripture says about communication to our musical communication.

Next: My first question Shai.

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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.

66 Responses to Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: Can Music Be Sinful? (Rebuttal)

  1. Thank you brothers for these words. i appreciate both of you. I would challenge Scott on his reply though, that you may be committing a genetic fallacy here. It seems that you are automatically assuming that rap is evil, because it has been used for evil before. You are equating the “thing” with how it has been used by people. A commonly used example of this is saying that the Volkswagon Beetle is an evil car because it was first used by Hitler’s army. I think we would generally agree that the Volkswagon Beetle is not an evil car, even though it has been used by evil men. The same goes for most things. Just because rap music has been used for evil by evil men, does not at all make rap music itself inherently evil. I think Shai makes a good point when he says “Paintings and chairs and knives and recordings will not have to stand before God on judgment day. But the people who made them will.” And Scott, I appreciate your statement there at the end when you make it evident that you are not implying that rap music is immoral, but let’s remember that your statements from the panel may lead us to think otherwise. I appreciate the clarification, and I certainly agree with you that music is the “how” we communicate. However, I would assert that Reformed Rap Music is a wonderful way to communicate that men that men like Shai have God-given ability in. I believe he reaches an audience that men like you and I would have more difficulty reaching. Again, thank you both for your good words.

    In Christ,

    Mitchell Aldridge

  2. As those who comment on here we should follow the example of those having the debate about the substance of the arguments/ideas (here’s hoping it will turn out better on this string :-)

    I believe the crux of the matter is to offer an agreed-upon paradigm for our thoughts so that we can be on the same page when we evaluate something. Al Wolters offers that paradigm in Creation Regained: Structure and Direction.
    Note that the paradigm does not provide the answers; it only provides a mechanism by which to understand where answers are coming from and why those answers are proffered.

    Therefore, instead of lambasting someone for being a legalist, pharisee, worldly et. al., one must first seek to understand the conclusions that are drawn due to differences in one’s placement of things in this paradigm (by the way one may very well be worldly or a pharisee because of the way they live their lives based upon faulty thinking and placement of things in this paradigm).

    To illustrate:
    The question here is what is structural (inherently of God’s creative design) and what is directional (conforming toward God’s creative design or conforming to human perversion away from God’s created design due to the Fall).

    From my understanding of conservatives:
    Structural = music
    Directional = particular musical communication (and genres display tendencies that can be legitimately categorized to some extent as to what that communication is doing/correlates with to some degree of objectivity cf.

    From my understanding of for lack of a better word progressives (you can give me a better label/more pleasing label if you wish):
    Structural = Music and its particular communication (including all genres)
    Directional = motives and intentions of one’s personal heart

    The debate can move forward by critiquing the objective placement of the ideas in this paradigm (rather than attacking people and calling them pharisees and legalists et al. – which of course they may in fact be based upon a faulty placement of things in the paradigm – but that does not help forward the conversation at all now does it).

  3. Lots of talk that all comes down to Scott thinking the medium of rap music is evil and Shai thinking it’s not.

    I’ve never once sensed any evil from Shai’s rap and others. And thank God that He looks at the inside not the outside.

    This whole thing is a silly waste of time to distract believers from getting the gospel to the nonbelievers. Let’s quit wasting time and move on.

  4. Scott,
    invention and creation are two different things; invention is taking something preexisting and fashioning it into a new usage…creation is starting with nothing and making something exist. without getting too philosophical about essence and existence, those who took music and ‘invented’ rap music didn’t create it because the potential for it to be arranged into whats known as ‘rap’ or ‘hip-hop’ was already there essentially, so God must have created it that way. while the humans might have fashioned it, God is the Creator, and this is an important distinction.

    ^^Brett, this is not a silly waste of time, otherwise why would you be posting anything? this is a conversation had among Christians to help clarify positions FOR THE SAKE OF ministry to nonbelievers and ministry among believers. your logic could be used to say prayer or study is a waste of time since while your doing it, nonbelievers arent hearing the gospel. and none of us believe that.

  5. Thank you both for this discussion. Scott, I think that when you say that God created music, but He did not create rap, gregorian chants, etc. that you are taking subcategories and making them distinct categories. I agree that God created music, but I would say that different forms of music are just that – forms of music, not completely different categories that someone other than God created, as I believe you are trying to convey. Thus, rap was indeed created by God. At the least, the possibility of it was created, and humans did not create it but found it, as it were. And I do believe that the two passages that shai cited are applicable to all created things, even though in the moment they might have been speaking of a particular thing. God bless!

  6. >>>”…saying music is a “thing” is like saying tone of voice is a “thing.” They’re not; they are human communication, and human communication is always moral.”

    A tone of voice is still a thing. Communication is a thing (that’s why the part of speech is a noun). Communicating is an action (that’s why it is a verb). Responding to or heeding communication is an action (once again…a verb).

    Regarding vocal tone, it should be noted that the specific tone of voice in and of itself (a thing) is not what is condemned. What is condemned or enjoined is the intent behind the tone (love or respect). Also, how we communicate that intent is very much culturally bound. To me, this debate seems to circle around someone from one culture trying to tell someone else (who ministers in a different culture) that they must bend their vocal tone that communicates respect in urban and current American culture to that which communicates respect in a traditional WASP culture.

    Finally, communicating is good or bad based on the intent of the encoder or the response of the receptor. Intent in communicating can be lost from encoder to receptor. The morality does not exist within a line of written or recorded communication (noun=thing) apart from the intent or response (action) of people on either end.

  7. Brett,
    I understand the frustration that you seem to be feeling. It would be nice if we could just all get along – someday we will.
    However, there are two problems with what you expressed:
    1) Pragmatism: The End does not justify the means in a Christian Worldview. Therefore, it is illegitimate to say “For the sake of evangelism, let’s just ____________.” Evangelism must fit within the bounds of other Biblical principles.
    2) Assuming your Conclusion (an illegitimate form of circular reasoning):
    It seem that you simply assume the progressive position on the structure and direction paradigm (correct me if you want to see another label – but see my above post on structure and direction for definition). i.e. you assume that there is nothing moral about this/that it is amoral so let’s not waste our time on this. But that is the very question at hand here. Is it a moral or amoral issue.
    And this makes a big difference. If it is in fact a moral issue (and progressives illegitimately place fallen directional human communication as if it is God’s structured design) then people can legitimately be called worldly for living their lives in accordance to fallenness. And God does care about our holiness and sanctification. But if it is in fact an amoral issue (and conservatives illegitimately place genres of human communication in the fallen direction category rather than the created structural category), then people can legitimately be called legalists.
    This conversation is important because we are to admonish one another, correct, teach the teachable, build up, help the weak….iron sharpening iron. It is important that both sides recognize why we differ b/c we both value truth and holiness (I hope) even though we differ in applications based upon the understanding of where to place things in the paradigm.

  8. Scott S. and Anthony Emerson,
    I need tighter argument before I’m convinced to place human developed (“discovered”) genres into God’s inherently created order of the world. There seems to be a giant leap being made here. You need to bridge that gap to convince me of your conclusion. Can’t humans “discover” perversions of God’s created order?

    My question to you based upon the quotation of 1 Tim 4:4-5.
    How is that verse correlated in your systematic theology of the Fall/the perversion of God’s structures? Certainly there are things to be rejected by the time it gets to mankind’s end-product. To me that verse is much like a proverb – true in principle without giving all the caveats. God has given us all things for our enjoyment…but systematic theology warns me that what God intended for our enjoyment in creation has been perverted and fallen. One can’t just take the general principle and run with it ignoring the rest of systematic theology’s warnings about things that we should avoid participating in (cf. Eph 5).

    I still see a distinction between God-created natural resources/natural abilities and mankind’s creative cultivation of those resources/natural abilities that can either be in a direction that conforms with God’s good creation or perverts God’s good creation.

  9. Christian hip hop was how I learned what justification was. no. Most churches don’t use hip hop in worship, even most churches with these rappers. I don’t think they would argue that it’s a great form of music for a worship service. But I listened to Christian hip hop right after I got saved. I had no idea who the artists were but the words of the gospel through the music literally brought me to tears time and time again. Christian hip hop was the medium God used to introduce me to sound theology and the DEEP riches and joys of the gospel.

    By the way, I’m a 21 year old white male from a town with a population of 75, 30 minutes away from a grocery store. I was 14 in a home that didn’t attend church. Once someone gave me the gospel, Christian hip hop was introduced to me and helped introduce my heart again, to the riches of the gospel. I kept pushing away reformed theology but the SCRIPTURES introduced through hip hop changed my heart.

    No, I was not following a movement or people. And I wasn’t being influenced by hip hop. But hip hop was the means to share the scriptures with me and then I went to the sufficient scriptures to grow.

    Hip hop is simply a means of communication. A fork isn’t evil if a man made it to kill…Maybe it’s wrong to use in that context, but hip hop has helped to influence my life and change my life, not through a celebrity, but by the scriptures and being pointed to God. All glory to God.

  10. Man, I really can’t help but feel all Acts 15ish with the way this entire discourse has played out over the last several days.

  11. it must be embarrassing to Scott when Shai keeps schooling him in his own page.

    Scott’s doing a great job of mixing a bunch of nice-sounding, conservative-baptist catch phrases defend his horribly unbiblical and God-dishonoring position. to take something that God created and designed through man, and attribute it to evil is a “slap in God’s face”!

  12. It seems like Scott wants to have his cake and eat it too. Here’s what I mean. Scott wants us to think that Rap music, or various other musical genres are evil in and of themselves. But then he says in the panel discussion that we know that rap is evil because of the cultural milieu from which it comes. Which is it? Is rap evil because of the cultural background it comes from or is it evil in and of itself apart from any cultural association? Of course, Scott will answer that rap is used by evil men to express evil things because the genre inherently expresses evil. But that is circular reasoning. Either it is fundamentally evil, which Scott will have to prove from Scripture, which I don’t think he can do, or Shai is right that our reaction to music is culturally conditioned. Scott, you can’t tell us it’s objectively wrong and then point to the cultural background as proof that it is objectively wrong.

  13. Thanks PhilT – a helpful summary of the issue.

    “Meat = Music
    Spoiled meat = Forms of music that communicate in an immoral way
    Healthy meat = Forms of music that communicate in a wholesome way”

    Yet, is anyone going to say that spoiled meat is sinful? It is unhealthy, for sure, but not sinful. I agree the first verse Shai quoted is out of place but the meat issue seems rather relevant, since it illustrates an example of something that is meant for evil but even then not seen as such by Paul. Only when our action of eating such meat takes on moral connotations (weaker brothers present) we should curtail its use.

    In any case, I still find it hard to see that form/style communicates by itself. We can agree that is SHAPES communication, but without lyrics there is NO communication but at the most some association with emotions. Propositional communication, which as far as I can see is only possible when lyrics are involved, is morally relevant. But then I get back to my argument that it depends on the situation, i.e. how and when the propositional content is combined with musical form, resulting in its ultimate message and expression. But whether there is immorality here does not depend on the form but on the combination of form with content, and further, the situation where the communication occurs.

    Again my question: if rap is combined with a biblical message and we come to see that the form used does make the message less effective or distorts it, rather than emphasizing it, are we speaking of sinful activity here or simply bad choices made by the artist?

  14. “…since God created music, music is good, and therefore we must not call something evil that God created.”

    “Now, of course, none of this proves that rap or any other kind of music is immoral; that is not my point.”

    Then what is your point Mr. Scott about rap?

  15. Seriously Shai (love your music!!) why are you even on this debate? What did paul advise young timothy about such arguments? The heart is Desperately wicked Above ALL things. Everything is a heart issue, redirecting it to anything else is simply deception. I enjoy my meat, my drink, my music all because of My Salvation. Freedom baby!! Thank you Jesus!

  16. Ben:

    I respect what Shai is doing here immensely. He has the liberty to do what he’s doing musically, and yet he’s willing to engage someone who imports their sub-culture on top of the Gospel. That’s how Paul dealt with Peter…and I would say that my respect for Shai has quadrupled because of his willingness to engage this way.

  17. This is pretty amazing if you ask me. Scott doesn’t seem to have a category for things that are morally neutral, that is neither good nor evil in and of themselves. Everything for him must be one of the other regardless of the intent of the human. So far example he says the following:

    “… and human communication is always moral.”

    Human communication is always moral? Does he mean by that good or evil? So if I speak to someone and say, “Hi”, that must good or evil? Communication is not always moral or immoral and neither are actions.
    But this line of reasoning is clearly refuted by the Scriptures themselves.

    Galatians 5:6
    For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

    So here is a human action that the Apostle says count for nothing. It literally has no value before God one way or the other, but what counts is the intent of the individual. So could likewise paraphrase the Apostle and say:

    For in Christ Jesus neither rap or country music has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

  18. PhilT,

    I completely agree, but I must admit it is saddening to see someone in Scott’s position reason as he does because of the influence he has over others.

  19. Scott is totally missing culture in his evaluation of the music. I hope he realizes that his is missing that element. Do not different cultures around the world use different facial expressions and vocal tones to communicate different things than that of white upper middle class american reformed christians? Forms of communication are NOT absolute across the world or even within the U.S. There is a thing called Culture. Also some invented things don’t have redeemable qualities but that doesn’t make them sinful in and of themselves. If I have a Gun that can only kill good people not animals or enemies, the gun in not sinful in and of itself.The inventors heart is what is accountable not the gun. While the gun may have no redeeming qualities it is not sining on its own therefore it is not sinful in and of itself. To be sinful you need to be an understand conscience soul created in the image of God. Rap music while often used to communicate sinful ideas, is not an un-redemable form because of the fact that it’s communication form is Cultural. That is to say that the rap beats and tone of voice of the rap music communicates something totally different to me than it dose to you. Because I AM IN A DIFFERENT CULTURE. Shai’s music in particular lifts my heart in excitement to worship the lord in spirit and in truth. It is ok and probably good for the diversity of the church that people don’t like christian rap music, it clearly doesn’t edify Scott because it’s cultural form of communication is more of a stumbling block when transferred to his own cultural communication. But it is not ok to call it sinful or universally un-redeemable because then you become a cultural elitist even if your not trying to. That is to say that when you call a form of communication sinful or universally un-redeemable that’s content is God Glorifying and biblically sound you are saying that your cultural form off communication is more holly than other cultural forms of communication. And we know this is wrong because the bible says that people from every tribe and nation will be represented in heaven. I doubt that every tribe and nation means that the whole world is accountable to the cultural communication standards of Scott and the other panelist.

  20. First, let me say that this format is THE format by which such debates should be raised…not through soundbites or blogging third parties. Hopefully other debates that have raged in the blogosphere (ahem Driscoll, cough MacArthur) could be handled similarly.

    That said, I’m not entirely sure both sides are debating the same thing. If we are asking if reformed rap is worship, I’d have to agree that it is not. But, I also don’t think that’s the point…just look at what Shai is doing with his music. He’s not creating an “urban” version of Hillsong…rather he is teaching, lyrically, theology.

    So, the debate could easily be, “is rap appropriate for worship?” Probably not, as it’s almost impossible to do corporately. But, “is it a valid art form for the communication if the gospel and doctrine?” Sure.

    Does rap have cultural baggage? Yes. If possible, should not our goal be to redeem that which has been corrupted?

    Finally, are we arguing that communication must be judged on the intent of the author, or the response of the audience. The later smacks of postmodernism, while the former forces us into a solid hermeneutic. If we judge reformed rap by authorial intent, within its cultural context…I believe we will find it quite redeeming. If we judge it outside of the authors intention, by the standards of a distant culture, we do violence to it…and open up the door to engaging all communication, including sacred Scripture, to the same flawed interpretive methodology.

  21. Excellent points James. I have defended the rappers, but like you I don’t believe rap should be used in worship.

  22. Let me invite readers to participate in a thought experiment that might be helpful in seeing the distinction between “thing” and “act/expression/communication”:

    Can you conceive of an invented device or object of which any use as intended by the maker is inherently sinful? True, touching it does not make one “sinful,” and it is not a piece of “sin” sitting there on the shelf. But to use it as it was designed to be used would be wrong. Can you imagine such a “thing”?

    I suspect you can, and Scott is saying it is likewise possible to make works of art that posess this “property”. Enough similar works of art over time and you have a genre.

  23. Zachary Rohman : Thank you for sharing that portion of your testimony! Not to take away from Shai’s well-thought arguments, but actual testimony can bring a uniquely fresh perspective on this issue.

  24. David,

    You stated:

    “Can you conceive of an invented device or object of which any use as intended by the maker is inherently sinful? True, touching it does not make one “sinful,” and it is not a piece of “sin” sitting there on the shelf. But to use it as it was designed to be used would be wrong. Can you imagine such a “thing”?”

    Are you saying rap was invented for a sinful purposes and Christian Rappers are using it for the sinful purpose in which it was invented?

  25. Those who desire to defend rap appear to be assuming two things in the realm of ideas and at least one thing in the the area of epistemology. In the area of epistemology they appear to believe that we are right to know what we know by personal experience (good feeling, sense of good effect) thus we have people defending a activity because of how they have personally learned from it. It must be good, because it was good for me.

    Now in the realm of ideas they appear to miss the idea that all they say about any “thing” must also be true of the “thing” called communication. God certainly created communication and thus all communication must be good (or at least neither good or bad). Does anyone see the problem with this (Exodus 20:7,16; Matthew 7:15-16; Ephesians 4:29)?

    The second thing in the area of ideas is that they appear to assume that music by it self holds no meaning; it is an inanimate object that does nothing…communicates nothing. It (music) is simply a tool to communicate. I suggest that the illustrations of VW bugs are relevant only to the extent that VW bugs have Nazi laden meaning. Paul makes the argument in I Corinthians 10 for those who will understand (v 15) that although the objects of worship are of the created order they have meaning assigned to them by their use in the temple. How that meaning is assigned whether by human convention or some inherent way matters not at this point, but to have meaning demands discernment of morality, (truthfulness, corruption etc)

    These three ideas (assumptions) have consequences. I think they are bad ideas and they will have bad consequences.

  26. David,

    In theory, I could say if a device was invented for evil and it is only used for that evil purpose then of course it is wrong. But even if you disregard what the device was created for the point is what you use it for. So if a device was created for a good purpose and you use it for an evil purpose then it is wrong. The point being, your intended usage not the device itself.

    Do you have an example of something that fits this scenario?

  27. David:

    >>>”Enough similar works of art over time and you have a genre.”

    Assumption 1: That this “property” you describe not only exists, but is inherent in the thing itself and not culturally transitive in meaning and/or significance.

    Assumption 2: That all things must or should be used in the way they were intended.

    Assumption 3: That Satan can use people under his influence can force Christians out of entire segments of the arts.

    Assumption 4: That genres of art which fall under this critique are monolithic in their evil intent property and are monolithic in their evil use, and that they should stay that way.

  28. Ronnie,

    The notion is that the construction of the device limits any feasible use to only that for which it is designed.


    I hope you’ve been well. You’re taking this much farther than I have intended. Let’s stick with an “in theory” here. I’ll let the primary parties do the argumentation.

    (Having said that I’ll respond to your number 2 above. Re: “entire segment”; surely you’d agree that some entire segments of the arts are actually pretty small niches.)

  29. Oh, and Ronnie, check the wiki article on “choke pear”. WARNING: descriptions of torture included there.

    Not a perfect example, but helpful, even if it was “never really even a thing.”

  30. Christ Crucified. That is what the music is teaching, in a bold straightforward clear way.

    It is reaching orphans, as we are commanded to do as Christians.

    And yet reformed Christians are standing trying to stand in the way, based on complicated arguments based on whether music is a ‘thing,’ and whether the ‘stuff’ of music is all together a ‘thing.’ What about the people hearing the gospel for the first time? What about them? I guess those of us who don’t understand the philosophy behind whether music versus a painting is a thing because it communicates a message are in trouble. Or maybe it’s just confusing arguments trying to hide the cultural disconnect.

    If you truly believe in God’s sovereignty, I would be afraid to take a stand against something that God is using to reach people. If indeed this music is inherently evil, than he will convict hearts about it in his grace. But, if the music is not inherently evil, you are using your energy to prevent the spread of the Gospel.

    What about the people hearing the Gospel?

  31. David,

    You stated:
    “Oh, and Ronnie, check the wiki article on “choke pear”. WARNING: descriptions of torture included there.
    Not a perfect example, but helpful, even if it was “never really even a thing.”

    Yes, but the evil is still not the thing but the act of torture. For example, I could use that device for a good purpose in defending a child from an attacking wild animal. Likewise, I could use water, which is good, to torture you. So it is not the thing that is evil, but the intent of the person.

  32. Agreed. The evil is not “in” the thing. It won’t rub off on you if you happen to brush against it. But at the same time the thing is an expression of intention, even of a bent perhaps. It is downright creepy to me how ornate some of them are. Twisted. I saw an actual one in a museum once and I was creeped out for a looooong time.

    As for water, it has many good (and unforced) uses. The pear might be forced into beneficial uses; I did say it wasn’t a perfect example.

    But I don’t guess you’d get too far with that thing against any animal larger than a mouse. :)

  33. Christian:

    >>>”In the area of epistemology [those who desire to defend rap] appear to believe that we are right to know what we know by personal experience”

    Nope. Not at all. We know truth based on the revelation of God. Without God, there would be no ground for knowing truth. This is a convenient way to avoid wrestling with the issues at hand, but it is not accurate. We both submit to the same truth, but the cultural baggage we bring with each other (like the Jew/Gentile baggage of the First Century) causes unnecessary division.

    >>>”in the realm of ideas [those who desire to defend rap] appear to miss the idea that all they say about any “thing” must also be true of the “thing” called communication.”

    Nope. I fully recognize that the thing which is communication is a thing, while the act of communicating is an action. And we have to be able to understand the difference between the verb and the noun. I’d be happy to handle the passages you’ve listed. Exodus – Communication is a thing (think: tool) that can be used to make God out to be less than he is. Don’t do this action (passage is an imperative). Matthew – I don’t know exactly what you had in mind here, but the concept of fruit in Scripture doesn’t refer to literal things called fruit, but actions…deeds. Jesus says that you can tell who a person is by how they really behave. Ephesians – The command in the passage is regarding what we do — the action of letting out words (Gk: ekporeuomai). That action must not result in tearing down or devaluing, but in building up. So Ephesians has everything to do with action and aim behind the action and not the thing of communication itself (hence the way that the ESV translates: “corrupting communication” versus “corrupt communication”). In conclusion: the instrumentality of communication is well illustrated in James 3:9. The tongue is the thing that creates communication. What we do with that instrument makes all the difference (cursing or blessing). God cares about our actions. Our actions happen to utilize things that God has created either for good or for ill. Please explain how this approach to actions and things is inconsistent with biblical ethics.

  34. Scott,

    You said “Second, no, music is not a “tool” of communication; it is communication. Again, music’s connection with vocal tone is instructive: tone of voice is not just a tool of communication; it is part of the communication itself. How I say something to my children, my wife, my boss, or my God is just as important as what I say to them because how I say something is part of the communication.”

    As a musician, composer and music educator (band director at the secondary level 13 years, 5 years choral director in secondary schools, 2 years as Asst. Director at the college level) and a DJ (since 1991, spinning multiple genres of music including hip-hop, house and others) our understanding of WHAT is being communicated by music IS directly influenced by culture, as Shai has rightly pointed out to you in his question.

    Typically, in western music, we’re taught that major keys are used to convey happiness and that minor keys are used to convey sadness, anger, etc… These things are conditioned and function of the culture we are raised in. Russian music circa the late 1800’s and prior to WWI (and even a lot of it afterward) are all pitched in minor keys….and as interpreted by the average Russian listener from that era, the up tempo, minor key with tambourine, clapping and some drum of some sort (similar to some Jewish celebration music) would be that these songs were meant to communicate joy and happiness.

    From my years as a church musician in non-reformed churches (choir director, praise and worship team leader and as a musician in several bands/combos), I know that one can be conditioned to have certain responses to certain styles of music as well.

    Key word – conditioned.

    It is not inherent to the music itself. You have to be trained into it. This is why our African brothers and sisters’ whose music is similar to house music (in fact, a large bit of house music has purposely borrowed from African culture and an entire sub-genre called drum and bass has emerged, but that’s beside the point) is not viewed nor reacted to as negative, mean, angry, etc…. by the listener in Africa.

    These observations all to say….you are (unconsciously perhaps) using your own personal reactions to these (and maybe the reactions of people around you who feel the same as you do) as the measuring stick of what is ‘good, noble, true and praiseworthy’ when scripture itself does no such thing.

    This is not to say you may not have some legitimate concerns, but to point out that sometimes our own cultural bias can be ignored or bypassed without critical examination to see if it is legitimate….even if that examination makes us uncomfortable.

    By the way, my background is not for bragging purposes, but for you to understand the perspective I’m coming from (not simply as an aficionado and supporter and consumer, but also, in some cases, as a producer and participant).

    Grace and peace brother.

    Kerry aka BlackCalvinist

  35. ^^^ “BlackCalvinist” hits the nail squarely on the head.

    To add:

    I was truly surprise to read this statement of Scott’s, “”Yes, I believe that music, apart from lyrics, can be sinful in and of itself” The idea that individual notes or tones can be sinful is borderline silly to me.

    For example: Let’s say that in BillyBob’s culture high pitched tones and fast speech are characterized as ‘good’. Anything else is ‘evil’. BillyBob deems that anyone speaking in other tones and speeds are committing sin against God. What happens then when BillyBob becomes a missionary to a country where lower tones and slower speech are the norm? Better yet, what if he moves to a country where tones are inseparable from the vernacular, such as in China where several distinct tones are used in every syllable they utter? (Change the tone and the meaning of the word completely changes)

    This illustration is just to emphasize the influence that culture has on each one of us. Some people are raised to believe that piano or organ are the only instruments that should be used in worship. But to say that drums or harps can’t be used, or are sinful is out of place. The same is true for tone or tempo. You may prefer one, but there is not a Biblical basis for declaring a specific tone as sinful and other tones as good. Tones, tempo, notes, etc, in and of themselves, are no more sinful than this pad of paper sitting on my desk.

    Looking forward to further dialogue.

  36. PhilT:

    Those that are engaging the scriptures are demonstrating a value of revelation, but not all the commenters are using this as their basis for knowing that rap is good. I would encourage you to re-read the comments on your own.

    Regarding your other comments: We should not confuse communication as a category (distinct from the category of “thought” or the category “exercise”) and various kinds of communication (corrupt communication, swearing, blessing, false teaching). Communication as a category is certainly useful for good or ill. James 3:9 offers various kinds of communication: Blessing and cursing. These are moral categories. Communication that is taking God’s name in vain is also a moral category. Communication that is corrupt is a moral category; and that which is edifying is also moral. The ability to speak leaves us with the choice to speak good or to speak or evil or as Proverbs says “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Therefore every act of communication produces good or evil results (which are things as well). The product (fruit) of a false teacher teaching his false doctrine (activity) is false teaching (noun). Both are wrong; both are moral categories. The product of a blasphemer blaspheming (verb) is his blasphemy (noun) both are wrong and both moral. Even the ESV’s translation of Ephesians 4:29 supports this. The noun is communication (λόγος) the adjective, σαπρός, (the ESV changes it to a participle in the English) modifies this noun. The description of the kind of communication not to proceed out of ones mouth is the kind that is corrupt/corrupting (σαπρός which means “bad or unwholesome to the extent of being harmful, bad, evil, unwholesome” – from William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 913.) These are potential moral qualities of communication. At this point I am at a loss for how to state it better, and I am off to an appointment.

    Happy thinking/discussing everyone!

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  37. Tone of voice cannot be moral. Nor can a sentence. If they were, it would follow that certain sentences were always evil, or always good, which is absurd.

    If I lose my temper over something inconsequential and yell at my wife in a loud, angry tone with the intent of hurting her, then I am sinning.

    However, it does not follow in the slightest that a loud, angry tone is in and of itself evil, because Jesus likely used the exact same tone when clearing the temple of the money-changers.

    If tone were moral in and of itself, then Jesus would be sinning by using it. However, it seems clear that the morality has to do with the communication *as a whole*, and not with any one part of it.

    You likewise say that sentences are communication, and thus moral. But that can’t be true either.

    Because when a Westboro Baptist screams at a homosexual, asking him how he can expect not to burn in hell, he is sinning. And yet Jesus asked the Pharisees the same question, without sinning.

    You attempt to clarify by saying that these things are “part” of communication, but that doesn’t help your argument: it destroys it. Because it’s all the parts together that make up communication, and it is only once that communication is complete that a moral judgment can be made. The parts, in and of themselves, are effectively meaningless.

    It is like saying that screws are evil, for they were made to make gas chambers. The parts are neutral: It is only when it is complete that a judgement can be made.

    Words are not enough to make the judgment, for the same words can be used for righteousness or sin. Tone is not enough to make the judgment, for the same tone can be used for righteousness or sin. That means that in and of themselves, tone and words are useless in judging the morality of communication. To say anything else is to make Christ a sinner for being angry and speaking harsh words.

    Honestly, I feel like I’m missing something. Can anyone explain this to me?

  38. Scott said…

    “Yes, I believe that music, apart from lyrics, can be sinful in and of itself.”


    “But God did not create rap. People did. For that matter, God did not create Gregorian chant, German chorales, Appalachian folk tunes, country western, jazz, or rock ‘n’ roll. People did. And because these are all human communication, they are moral.”

    Scott – I look forward to you providing us a comprehensive list of musical categories, your erudite verdict of which ones are moral and immoral, and your Scriptural justification for each. Thanks in advance.

  39. Christian:

    Perhaps I can simplify my argument in regard to communication in general. In order to communicate, one must speak or write or signal in order to convey an intended message. The action of conveying a message with particular intent is what is corrected in the passages at hand.

    Regarding Ephesians 4:29, I would suggest several items could be noted. First, that moral evaluation of the spoken word is not dealt with here in separation, but in conjunction with the speaking of that word. The concept of a word, a λόγος, is not on its own, but it is a proceeding-out word (see the main verb). And it is in the act of doing that communicating that the morality is engaged.

    Second, the adjective σαπρὸς is probably best with the gloss “harmful” (so O’Brien and Larkin with Louw-Nida). I would suggest that this definition places weight on intentionality not essential morality. For example, the word “cowardly” doesn’t harm on it’s own (it is not essentially immoral), but it must be spoken and intended in a particular way in order to impart harm (morality based on intentionality and usage). A thing cannot do an action of harming. So Paul wants us to scratch our heads and ask how in the world words (things) can harm (action), because he also wants us to ask how words (things) can benefit others (action). This leads me to the third point.

    Third, the adjective ἀγαθὸς connects with communication as well. But once again, is it the communication, the morphemes and sounds, that which bear the praise? No. The critique is totally with the intent. With this adjective, Paul adds a purpose statement (πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν) to clarify his argument (an opposite could be inferred with σαπρὸς as well). How do I know speech that is beneficial? It is intended to build up. Once again, the intentionality of the encoder is firmly in view.

    To sum up, I was using a pair of needle-nose pliers to hold a nut in place while putting together a chair. I distinctly remember thinking, “that was a really helpful tool.” I suppose that someone could take that same tool and use it to injure someone and the same helpful tool would become a harmful tool. The tool in and of itself never changed properties or moral status. It was simply used for a different purpose. The same can be said of our words or writing or singing. The helpfulness or harmfulness of our words is dependent on our aims. Are we speaking with a purpose of building up, or are we speaking with an intent of tearing down? According to Paul, this makes all the difference. And to apply this to the discussion at hand, the intent of the Reformed Rappers appears to be in order to build up the church. Their act of communication certainly measures up with this command.

  40. I like being the oldest guy around! I’ve been hearing the “evil music” argument for more than 50 years. I’ve heard it applied to Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Scott Joplin, George Gershwin, Stravinsky, Ravel, the Everly Brothers, the Beatles, the Platters, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams………… As the years passed, some of this music (along with those evil Disney movies I wasn’t allowed to attend) have been declared cleansed by the passage of time.

    BTW, it seems that one side in this debate is indeed, in affect, assigning the evil label to “things”.

  41. Shai’s Biblical “evidence” that certain music cannot be inherently sinful is unfortunately nothing more than prooftexting. Just as a musician can craft a composition using notes, dynamics, etc. an artist can use his talents and tools to create a work of art that is entirely inappropriate for the Christian to view. Would we say there’s nothing wrong with it because “nothing is unclean in itself”? I hope not!

    A cursory examination of most of Paul’s epistles reveal at least one acknowledgment or admonition that believers examine things and exercise discernment to determine if they are pleasing to God. A sampling:

    Romans 1:17-18 “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law.”

    Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

    Ephesians 5:8-10 “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.”

    Philippians 1:9-10 “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.”

    Colossians 1:9-10 “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

    1 Thessalonians 5:21 “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”

    Hebrews 5:12-14 “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

    It’s clear that Paul and writer of Hebrews are discussing things that we consider the gray things – things not specifically addressed by the Scriptures – otherwise, why would Paul have to pray for the Phillippian believers (and by extension, us) that the Christian would grow to understand what things do/don’t please God? It is Biblically on the proponent of something, whether rap or whatever else, to prove that it is acceptable to God. To this point, I haven’t heard any Biblical arguments. I’ve read arguments from pragmatism, arguments about redeeming culture (which is unBiblical), but I’ve yet to see the argument – from the Scriptures – that declares that the believer can use the profane or corrupt communication (Eph 4:29) to glorify God.

  42. Drfiddledd – I couldn’t agree more. I’m reminded how as a child, many in our church were forbidden to play UNO because CARDS were considers sinful (obviously drawing from the negative connotations given to them from gambling). My question for those in the discussion is would we assign an intrinsic moral value to a pack of UNO cards or does it just limit itself to art.

  43. PhilT,

    I again do not have enough time to flesh out my response fully, but I will attempt to summarize. Your exegesis reads into the text intent. I can see that intent is a part of the process, but the intent is not what Paul tells us to beware of. He tells us to not use a certain type of communication and to use different type of communication. The test of correct communication is not intent, but result or product. Did the communication harm (Louw-Nida’s full definition is “pertaining to that which is harmful in view of its being unwholesome and corrupting”) or did it help (three words/phrase are to determine this help)

    The three words/phrases are understood as follows: 1) good (ἀγαθός: meaning “positive moral qualities of the most general nature” again Louw-Nida); 2) useful for edifying (προς οικοδομην της χρειας lit. for building up in respect of need); 3) that it may minister grace to the hearer: with the purposeful goal of ministering grace to the hearer.

    Each of these has to do with result. Certainly right intent is critical to arriving at this result, but Paul does not leave us a simple concern with intent. There seems to be a proverb about the destination of good intentions, I cannot help but notice the irony of the fact that this whole discussion is precipitated by one the at now requests forgiveness despite the fact that his intentions were not to harm ( One should be careful to not judge motive, but how many would deny the harm done despite the claim of unintention. This line of thinking that communications morality hinges on intent seems a bit silly to me. Examples: 1) most people I know who use their Lord’s name in vain have no intention of harm, but it is still sin. 2) Jesus warns that idle words are to be judged (Matthew 12:6).

    No, Paul is calling us to do more than intend good, we are called to a much higher standard. We are called to actually discern and used the kind of communication that does good. The kind of good is the kind that actually is useful for edification and actually ministers grace to the hear. Just so one does not think that Paul asks too much I must point out that Paul does not demand that our communication actually works change in the other person; He only calls us to produce the kind of communication that is useful for that change and ministers grace in the moment so that change is possible. This starts with intent, but it produces a product which is either good (in a moral sense) or harmful (in a moral sense).

    A particular context and a particular communication (ie this post or the original panel discussion that precipitated this discussion) is right or wrong and should be evaluated on the basis not of intent, but on the usefulness of that communication to edify and the actual ministry of grace to those that hear. Some methods of communicating would not be useful for that effect (ie singing these previous paragraphs to the tune of row row row your boat; and/or using certain words that inflame rather than edify). My intent may be good, but my method would not meet the criteria of Ephesians 4:29.

    Sorry, that was not much a summary.

  44. Christian, what about the fact that Christian hip hop is well intended, and also well received by so many people? The language is edifying, it is in fact the gospel presented in poetry. I think I am missing something.

  45. Scott,

    When you stated that I Timothy 4:1-4 only applied to Mosaic dietary restrictions, I didn’t realize that marriage was part of that! Verse 3 also mentions that those that denied foods were denying marriage. Therefore, the context of that passage is broader, referring to cultural activities (including Mosaic dietary restrictions).

  46. Cr,

    It gets more difficult to have these conversations the longer they get. It may be that you were not able to read some of the previous postings on this thread or it may be that my intentions for engaging in this conversation are more clearly stated on a previous thread (each day there has been a new one). Due to these challenges I will reiterate that I am not as concerned about the final answer to the question of rap; I am more concerned about the ideas that lead to that final answer.

    Assertions have been made that music is a thing and that things cannot be good or bad only people can be. This I disagreed with. To the extent that a thing has meaning (which not all things do have meaning) they can be good or bad. This assertion others have not agreed with.

    I attempted to point out what appear to be me to be assumptions being made which included the apparent failure to see that all that is being said regarding music being a thing should also apply to communication being a thing. If all things (communication and music) cannot be evil, then how might one have warnings about right and wrong communication in the Bible? It seems that God treats various forms of the thing called communication as right or wrong. This opened a conversation about Ephesians 4:29. Which I presume you have read.

    Your comment regarding the good reception of certain music (its popularity) is not really one of the tests of Ephesians 4:29. The question of lyrics has been excluded from this conversation by the original post. Those supporting rap appear to believe that music apart from the lyrics ought not be under the tests of Ephesians 4:29. They appear to believe that there is no biblcal data to evaluate the thing call music or the thing called communication because they believe that all things are neither evil nor good. This to me is a bad idea with more ramifications than if rap is useful for Christian worship. Ironically ideas are things too and so it may be that my assertion that ideas can be bad (read: wrong) may not compute for some….but then this whole conversation is meaningless because my ideas are not wrong and their ideas are not wrong and there is no moral impact from them so we are wasting out time. Sounds like post modernism which I will no accuse any of those discussing this of having adopted, but this is the result of bad ideas…they take us places we do not intend to go.

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  47. Thanks for your response, I think the hip hop that glorifies man is wrong (as anything that glorifies man is wrong), but the hip hop that accurately glorifies God is good (as anything that glorifies God rightly is good). I believe that there is meaning to words, but if one is accurately glorifying God to a particular audience for a particular purpose, and it is received in that way, I don’t understand how it could be wrong.

    Particularly, how someone from outside that culture could feel the need to intervene and point out that they are communicating poorly to each other about the glory of God, however accurate their view of God may be, and however sincere their heart may be in the act of worshiping God.

  48. I believe that two specific Scriptures (1 Tim. 4:4-5; Rom. 14:14) that Shai cites in this post do not refute what he says that they do.I further believe that Deuteronomy 9:21 shows that man can take something inherently good that God has created and make something inherently sinful out of it and that this truth has important relevance to the debate about whether any instrumental music can be inherently immoral. I explain these points in my post:

    My desire is to promote as accurate an handling of Scripture as possible. I welcome comments on my post, but please be sure to make any comments in a way that glorifies God and edifies all who would read them.

  49. Rajesh, we have had a fairly detailed discussion about this in past threads – I’d love for you to engage with that. On Deu 9, this smacks of proof-texting. Moses may be referring to the calf as Israel’s sin, but it really is the visible proof of their sin, not the actual sin – which is always an action. This one scripture is certainly not enough to show otherwise, and even if there are others, common sense must not be excluded in exegesis.

    Just think about the so-called ‘sinful’ calf: did it incite Israel to sin? Yes. Now if you were to take the same calf and put it somewhere else, for example send it to the Beduins in Africa: would it incite them to sin? I think what they would have done is break it into pieces quickly and sell off the gold! Same if you put the same calf on Wall Street today: would anyone bow down to it to worship? I don’t think so. The calf itself is an artifact and has no power to make one sin – it’s what you decide to DO with it that can be sinful.

    Same for the things that have been said on the parallel thread – we need to realize that cultural artifacts and especially music do indeed represent culture and worldviews, but they are not the actions emanating from these worldviews, which can be sinful. The artifacts only depict potentially sinful ideas and actions but are not sinful themselves. Keeping these concepts separate will take us a long way in this discussion.

    For musical culture, I would say it is composed of
    a) lyrics
    b) musical form/style
    c) dress style
    d) performance styles, including the way of singing, body movements
    e) sub-cultural activities associated with the styles (e.g. the sex and drugs stereotype linked to rock ‘n roll – of course this is a simplification since not all who like rock will engage in such behaviour, and styles may lose certain associations as the years go by)
    f) maybe others, such as ethnic signifiers etc.

    Styles will be created to express the worldview of a specific sub-culture. In rap, that would have been the discharging of social discontent and sadly also the demeaning attitudes towards women etc. Christians using a style such as that with Christian messaging will replace the lyrics and (hopefully) also the morally bad lifestyle associations. They don’t always replace dress codes. So we have a partial replacement here and I would suggest this can lead to some incongruence between the lyrics and what the style best represents.

    Yet, my proposal is that we do NOT assign sinfulness to the musical style by itself, which is artistic expression but only to the COMBINATION of a-d above. So music can be part of a sinful lifestyle and then new Christians who come to Christ might want to abstain from this music just as an alcoholic would abstain from drinking – there is no biblical prohibition but prudence suggests a clean break.

    In other words, when Scott says culture is behaviour I would agree but music is not culture but an artifact emanating from culture. Yet, it is LINKED TO behaviour, as pointed out above. If Scott thinks that a style that helps to express or represent sinful behaviour is sinful itself, rather than a neutral representation (such as a Bible story about a morally wrong act) then I think he still needs to show that can be true. The style when detached from cultural behaviour is, as far as I understand, merely a means of representing behaviour, but not the behaviour itself.

    This thinking would free us from the idea that artifacts can per se be sinful, and see things in their proper context. When looking at a style or even a specific composition, we need to ask:
    a) is the style strongly associated with sinful behaviour and should therefore be shunned altogether?
    b) does this style express biblical truth well enough to be used or does it distort in a way that precludes its use (very controversial when we get to the details but I think a methodology is needed so we have a basis for discussion)

    Specific other questions come in when we want to use music in worship, such as whether all can sing it. Then there is a separate discussion around whether music should be used for evangelization – some thoughts on that in the recent thread on Paul in Athens:

    Just to say we have several issues here that need to be kept separate in our quest for truth in these matters.

  50. Black Calvinist, you nailed it. My musical background is far below your educational and music experience. But,….. this I know, music on how it is presented is very powerful. I know you and anyone who has witness a large crowd at a secular or gospel music event, have seen what happens when this presentation is correct for the event. (in the pocket is the common phrase use) The crowd can’t help themselves. You absolutely nailed it with the term “CONDITION”. Depending on the cultural background we have been condition to respond to many things on cue, not just music. Just like many other things we come across in life, opinions will always be influence by perception and point of view. when we look at music through the eyes of science it is very mathematical and it has a physical force that can break crystal, and, a complete symphony can be written in binary codes for a synthesizer that would be very entertaining. This is it, if there is a group of people that can be exposed to hear the Gospel, by any means is ok, the most it can be is a catalyst. what should be kept in its proper perspective is this. 1. Good sound biblical training is very commendable. 2. Adhering to what you have learned, proclaiming, and living is good , but we all come short in one way are another. 3. above all know this, what is most important in the Christians life is to spread the good news of the Gospel. as it was with Lydia in the book of ACTS. (16:14), it is the Lord who opens the heart, we must present it at every chance, it is God who finishes. PHIL. 1:6.
    Have anyone ever given any thought to what if all the people who claim to love GOD, and what HIS SON JESUS did for us, would have the diligence and tenacity of the extremist Muslims. It seems that religions and cults that are designed by men have accomplished “ONE ACCORD” much better than most Christains.

  51. Martin,

    I would have responded sooner had I seen your latest comments earlier; somehow, I missed seeing this until a couple days ago. Sorry for the delay.

    I am amazed that you think that you can dismiss an explicit Bible statement by calling my citing it as simply “proof-texting”! The Golden Calf incident is so important to the history of God’s people that we are given info about it in six passages (Ex. 32; Deut. 9; Neh. 9; Ps. 106; Acts 7; 1 Cor. 10). God plainly wants us to learn much especially from His reports about that incident.

    You then go on to say that even if there are others, you would still hold to your view based on “common sense.”

    If the infallible Bible is not enough to teach us what is right, then having any other discussion seems worthless to me. You must subject what you think is “common sense” to the direct statements of God.

    The calf did not incite Israel to sin. They sinned when they demanded that it be made, they sinned when they made it, and they sinned after they made it. God says that anyone who makes an image for the purpose of worship sins and the images that they make are sinful objects.

    How other people respond to the image is immaterial; God says the image is sinful. Plus, Scripture attests that many unregenerate people suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1) and many have seared their consciences, so saying that some would not react the same way to something does not reliably show that the thing was not sinful.

    Consider that Acts 19:19 records that new believers burned their books about magic even though they were very valuable. They rightly understood that such objects need to be destroyed. The flow of thought to the next verse expresses God’s approval of what they did: “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed” (Acts 20:20).

    The books about magic were not neutral “cultural artifacts”; what the believers did with them shows that they believed that the books were wicked and needed to be destroyed. Both Deut. 9 and Exod. 32 thus show that objects created by people can be sinful, and God wants His people to get rid of any such objects from their midst.

    You obviously hold the opposite view, but do you have any biblical evidence to support your belief that “cultural artifacts” are inherently neutral? If you cannot show that you view is correct from Scripture, it is incumbent upon you as a believer to change your view to what the Bible shows to be true.

  52. Rajesh, I’m not sure what else to say that I didn’t already. I don’t see how you can take that one verse and build a doctrine onto it. The Bible sometimes speaks figuratively, and I am not sure you can take this verse and use it to deduct how we should think about objects.

    When the Bible say the sun goes down we all know this is not to be taken as a geocentric view – it’s language we still use today to describe an observation, not scientific terminology. Likewise, I do not believe that Deu 9 is philosophical terminology either.

    God has given us intelligence and we are to use logic as well as the Scriptures. Unless we are talking about miracles I think we need to combine our God-given ability to think logically with what the Scriptures say, and not make them say things that run counter common sense unless there is a clear reason to do so. In this instance, I don’t think the verse you keep quoting is meant to teach what you say it does. There is no conflict with the burning of books (or of Playboy Magazine, to refer back to an earlier thread you may never have read?), which is often indicated – not because the items themselves are morally bad but because wisdom commands their destruction since our uses of them is very likely to be sinful. Sorry, I’m sticking to the fact that only actions can be moral unless you can prove me wrong on that one, and this verse is no such proof.

    Merry Christmas to you all, Martin

  53. Martin,

    Thanks for the interaction. I think that we have reached an impasse that is not going to be resolved by further discussion.

    Hope you and everyone else will have a blessed Christmas season!

  54. My thought is ……. Christian rap glorifies Christ! Let me be specific, all the artist from Lampmode magnify Christ in their lyrics. I’m thankful to God for the rich theology that’s in the music. When I listen to Christian music I ask myself this question. “Does the music honor Christ? Is the music and lyrics scriptural? I’m 49 years old and am very selective with whom I listen to. It grieves me that most every Christian radio station plays music that has very little if any reference to Christ. Did you know that Christian radio has a rule called “JPR” (Jesus per minute) this is a rule that only allows the artist to use Jesus name only a few times per minute. How sad. I may be off topic with this discussion, my goal is to shed some light from a guy who started listening to Christian music back in 1977. Keith Green, Phil Keaggy, and Larry Norman were quite popular then. Phil Keaggy is still going strong. My final point is this. It comes down to the theology in the music. I have friends in Sunday school, their 2 boys teenagers love Christian rap, I asked if the listened to Shai Linne, Timothy Brindle, Stephen the Levite, and others? The replied “No” so I shared a variety of music with them and they didn’t like it all. It wasn’t the music they disliked but the lyrics. They said they preferred Toby Mac and other mainstream artist that were more fun in their lyrics. Theology matters! So many are caught up in the seeker sensitive movement where the majority of mainstream Christian music comes from. Thanks for letting me share

  55. There is one issue that seems pertinent here. According to the Bible, only God creates. If you will search through the Old Testament in Hebrew, you will find that the verb “create” is always used and only used with God. Only God creates. Humans make things out of what God has created, but we can not create anything. That is the sole ability of our creator. Scott said, “But God did not create rap. People did.” This statement is not totally biblically accurate, people made rap with what God had already created.

  56. Greg, I doubt that anyone would deny that in a strict usage of the word “create,” God is the only One who does so. But, I think that everybody also understands that “create” can be used in the sense of originating something using the raw materials that God created. So, I’m not seeing how bringing up this distinction helps resolve any of the issues under consideration.

  57. Shai states in the at the beginning  “I agree that the making of music is a human activity.” He then proceeds to state 1 Tim. 4:4 in defense for his type of music. That verse says plainly that everything GOD created is good and not to be rejected. Clearly, from other scriptures, human being can and do create evil. The use of 1 Tim. 4:4 is blatantly confounding what the Bible so clearly says.

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