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Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: How Hip-hop is an appropriate medium for communicating God’s truth (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 this page or on the right hand side of this post. This is my rebuttal to Shai’s recent answer and his reply.

Scott-thumb-300x300Thanks for your explanation, Shai. A couple thoughts in response.

First, I want to affirm that the propositional content of Christian rap is often much better than most gospel songs, CCM, praise choruses, or other Christian pop songs. People who have read me know that I object to those kinds of songs just as much (and, really, more often) than I do Christian rap.

Second, I want to point out that you did not “prove” that rap is a fitting and appropriate medium for communicating God’s holy truth and his worship in any different a way than I have explained why I believe it is not fitting. We both applied Scripture to our assessment of the form. I think that’s important to acknowledge.

Third, you reduced your definition of rap to high word count, internal rhyme, and complex structure. These are qualities of good poetry, to be sure, but with respect, you may as well have been describing a sonnet.

In other words, you really didn’t defend what makes rap what it is.

I’d like to use your own example to illustrate this point.

I want to point out a couple things here: First, I enthusiastically applaud what you did in this video. You recited a poem exalting Jesus Christ. (I’m also very thankful for the clear presentation of the gospel you gave in the second part of the video.)

But was that rap? If that is rap, then let me go on record that I’m fully in favor of that kind of rap. Many have asked what truly redeeming rap would look like, and I’d say that’s it!

But I would submit that what you did in that video is not rap. Would it be rap if you recited that poem while Bach’s “Praise be to You, Jesus Christ” was playing in the background?

No, rap is not just many words rhythmically strung together with internal rhyme. I certainly don’t object to those characteristics, but that’s not what makes rap what it is. Rap includes those characteristics, but it also includes particular kinds of musical accompaniment, performance style, vocal tone, etc.

And, from your own words in this video, I think you recognize this. You explain why you stopped your concert to do what you did:

You hear a lot of music, you see a lot of lights… and it can get rowdy… And I’m going to be honest with you. Sometimes it’s hard, because these things, these lights, and stuff like that, as good as it is, sometimes it can be a distraction. And it can distract us from the most important thing. We do not want to leave here tonight without proclaiming what the Scripture calls of most importance, and it’s simply this…

Based on the defense of rap you provided, I wonder why you felt it was necessary to stop rapping and present the gospel in this way. Isn’t rap well-suited to that kind of proclamation?

You see, the same kinds of things you cited as distractions are what really set apart rap as distinct from poetic, rhyming proclamation, and they are the same kinds of things I believe are ill-fitted to gospel proclamation.

Finally, you claimed that Watts, Toplady, and Newton “couldn’t begin to fathom” the “beauty and complexity in the structure” of Christian Hip-Hop. I would say two things in response:

First, not only could they fathom it, they far exceed it. Great hymn writers of the Christian tradition utilize internal rhyme (like rap) and a wealth of other poetic and structural devices including consonance, assonance, modulation, alliteration, anadiplosis, anaphora, antanaclasis, antistrophe, epanadiplosis, epizeuxis, mesodiplosis, tautology, chiasmus, climax, antithesis, paradox, allegory, metaphor, metonymy, similie, synecdoche, apostrophe, hyperbole, personification, and more (these are just the ones I teach in my hymnology class; any good hymnology textbook will describe many more devices hymn writers use). Hymn writers use these devices because the purpose of Christian poetry (and music) is not just to express truth; their purpose is to grip the imagination and shape the affections with that truth.

Second, you are comparing what you have admitted is not a congregational song form (rap) with hymns intended to be sung by a congregation. Even with the many rich poetic and structural devices they employ, good hymn writers hold back from too much complexity so that people can join in singing.

If you want to compare what you consider a complex poetic presentation of truth with something equivalent in the Christian tradition, try the poetry of George Herbert (like this on prayer), John Milton (like this on Christ’s birth), or John Donne (like this on God’s forgiveness).

Shai_Bio-300x300Scott, you said:

“I want to point out that you did not “prove” that rap is a fitting and appropriate medium for communicating God’s holy truth and his worship in any different a way than I have explained why I believe it is not fitting.”

Brother, the burden of proof is not on me to demonstrate rap’s worthiness as a medium. I simply showed that Christian Hip-hop can and does in many cases honor what Scripture explicitly commands and exemplifies concerning the church’s music. I can go to Scripture and objectively analyze whether or not a CHH song is giving praise and thanks to God or telling of His salvation, etc. Those are clear, explicit commands. If a song meets that criteria, the burden of proof is on the person who rejects that God-praising, God-thanking, salvation-telling song on the basis of something that is not explicit in Scripture. Let’s talk about the video you posted. You said:

“I enthusiastically applaud what you did in this video. You recited a poem exalting Jesus Christ…But I would submit that what you did in that video is not rap. Would it be rap if you recited that poem while Bach’s “Praise be to You, Jesus Christ” was playing in the background?”

Scott, I say this with all due respect, brother. You seem very knowledgeable about certain things. Your Ph.D. indicates that you’re obviously educated. But when it comes to Hip-hop, you are ignorant. You don’t know what you’re talking about, brother. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being ignorant. We’re all ignorant about many things. It’s why schools, textbooks, online classes and cross-cultural friendships exist. But refusal to acknowledge that ignorance and then make statements like the one you made above? That’s inexcusable. You (as a cultural outsider and obviously ignorant about Hip-hop) would submit that what I did in the video wasn’t rap? Really?! Well, I, as one who grew up in Hip-hop culture, studied the culture, will soon release my sixth Hip-hop album and write raps for a living- including that one- I would submit that it absolutely is rap. I wrote it as a rap and performed it as a rap. And yes, it would still be a rap with Bach behind it. In Hip-hop culture, we have a term for that kind of thing. It’s called a Mash-up. Happens all the time.

But do you see what you did? You came to this conversation with a presupposition (rap is an unworthy vehicle to communicate God’s truth). You heard me exalt Jesus in a rap and enthusiastically applauded it. But because of your presupposition, you reasoned that it can’t be a rap. Would you accept that kind of reasoning from one of your students? Imagine a freshman student came to you and says “Hymns can’t glorify God.” You play “And Can It Be” for them and they applaud it, saying  “Yeah, that was good, but it wasn’t a hymn. It can’t be a hymn because hymns can’t glorify God.” How would you respond to that? You said:

“You explain why you stopped your concert to do what you did: Based on the defense of rap you provided, I wonder why you felt it was necessary to stop rapping and present the gospel in this way. Isn’t rap well-suited to that kind of proclamation?”

Anyone who has been to one of my concerts knows that I use the music as a platform for gospel presentation. At some point in each of my concerts, I stop the music and take time to give the gospel. That would be the case regardless of what genre of music I did. I never said that rap should replace gospel proclamation. As good a tool as rap is, it’s limited just like every other form. Like all art for the church, it’s meant to point to and not distract from or supplant the preaching of Christ. You said:

“Finally, you claimed that Watts, Toplady, and Newton “couldn’t begin to fathom” the “beauty and complexity in the structure” of Christian Hip-Hop. I would say two things in response: First, not only could they fathom it, they far exceed it”

I’ve studied both forms. Newton is one of my historical heroes and I have his complete works with every hymn he ever wrote in it. You have no idea whether his poetry “far exceeds” the best lyricism in Hip-hop because of your ignorance of Hip-hop. So we can’t have that debate just yet.

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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.

72 Responses to Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: How Hip-hop is an appropriate medium for communicating God’s truth (Rebuttal)

  1. Scott’s question is dodged again by a simple statement: “the burden of proof is not on me to demonstrate rap’s worthiness as a medium.” If the medium is acceptable and fitting for proclaiming God’s Word, than Shai can and should offer musicological proof. As Christians, we should be ready and willing to prove that our actions and forms of communication (not just lyrical content and motivation) are pure and uncorrupt.

  2. Lucius, look back in this series. Shai specifically asked Scott for the musicological proof that Scott said was there. If you look back, you will see that Scott was the one that dodged that question.

  3. I have tried to follow this discussion and have appreciated the tone. It is obvious that these men live in two very different worlds which color their perspectives. I am reminded of what Paul Hiebert one of my Trinity professors said about culture. “People in different cultures do not live in the same world with different labels attached to it, but in radically different worlds.” For Scott to tell Shai that what he did was not rap reveals the world Scott lives in.

    As Andrew Walls wrote, the gospel is the liberator of culture but can also become the culture’s prisoner. We are conditioned by culture. Yet we fail to see how much our culture has conditioned us and biases us toward different yet legitimate expressions of gospel faithfulness. We are all prisoners of our culture to some extent. Recognizing that goes a long way in our relationships with others.

  4. And there it is. The naked, bald statement that Scott knows more about rap, and what rap is and is not, then a person who raps for a living.

    “This can’t be rap, because I have already decided that rap is sinful. This can’t be rap, because REAL rap has all this stuff that I hate.

    This can’t be rap, because then I would have been wrong, and I’d have to apologize for my ignorance.”

    I expected better.

  5. Could this be a simple misunderstanding? If Scott was simply saying that this was not MUSIC (the topic of our discussion) then maybe he was right? It seems to me he defines rap (music) as the spoken lyrics + musical accompaniment + both in very typical styles which define rap. So what Shai was doing is restricting it to the lyrical element only, which would belong more into the realm of poetry than music.

    So far, so good – yet, if the music was added, would it change the lyrics so much that we would have a very different result? Not sure. The words were very clear and I think nobody would mistake them for a hymn text since the rap style can be very clearly distinguished. If Scott applauds what Shai did here it almost seems to me that the so-called ‘redemption’ can be achieved – at least if the accompanying music is… well, we still have to figure that one out. Guess I have to re-read the other threads on rap again to see if there’s anything there to help.

  6. I appreciate the fact that this conversation is still happening and is still civil in tone, however frustrated one or both parties are probably starting to get with the other. It seems that Shai is fluent in both sides of the artistic debate, having grown up in a hip-hop culture *and* immersed himself in the great hymnwriters of the past. And I know for a fact that Scott is deeply immersed in the works of those same men. I wonder, though, if Scott has done any serious first-hand study of hip-hop as a genre and a culture, or even spent enough time around the genre to have even the most basic, first-hand, anecdotal experience? There aren’t many other ways to explain how a suburban WASP can unironically tell a rapper that his rap wasn’t rap.

  7. I can sympathize with Scott’s predicament. The first time my wife and I heard rap was Shai Linne’s “Jesus is Alive”. My first reaction was one of joy at a different way of expressing the simple and powerful truth of the resurrection and I’ll admit that I thought, “This can’t be rap. I liked it.” My wife, the classical musician, considered it an interesting form of poetry that, while not being something she liked, was not any more offensive than polka, C and W, or Southern Gospel, which she doesn’t like.
    As to the music distracting from the message, in nearly 40 years of ministry I’ve seen some soloists, choirs, cantatas, and instrumentalists in conservative venues do a fair job of overshadowing the intended message with their over-the-top performances.

  8. Mackman,

    Your comments are pretty disingenuous. Have you already made up your mind before you ever entered this debate? You’re also putting words in Scott’s mouth, and that is unhelpful to the debate. There is a tone of scorn here, which is distracting and unwholesome.

  9. I’m putting words in Scott’s mouth?

    He flat-out said that what Shai did was not rap. He began by saying “if it is…”, but then he immediately followed with several reasons why it couldn’t be rap: Reasons that he didn’t argue, that he didn’t support, that he acted were self-evident even though they weren’t.

    I came into this debate ready to hear an actual debate. I didn’t come in to hear Scott tell a hip-hop artist what was and was not hip-hop, without any argument to back it up. I didn’t come into the debate to hear Scott re-define rap FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE of allowing him to keep the blanket statement “all rap is inherently sinful.”

    He needs to back down, apologize for making that blanket statement, admit that some rap is glorifying to God, and THEN we can move on. But persisting in deliberate ignorance just to not have to admit your error? THAT is what is distracting and unwholesome.

  10. Many times genre lines are similar to national/ethnic boundaries. By which I mean the actual lines on the map. Take the serb/croat boundaries of the Bosnian region. Sure there are official lines, but not everyone agrees about what and whom should be where.

    I’d say the case is similar for Slam/Spoken Word/Hip Hop, which are similar in ways and mutually influential and of which given artifacts may be classified in one as easily as another.

    I think it’s fair to say that “All praise to the name . . .” shares enough distinctives with Spoken Word/Slam that one might make a good case for that classification, especially for purposes of locating it in the greater artistic world. Genre lines simply are blurry at genre edges.

  11. My point being that I don’t think Scott’s purpose here was to say, “It can’t be rap because I approve of it and I don’t approve of rap.”

    And I’m fine with calling it rap (in fact I think a couple of the locutions are more like rap than other poetry) as well as saying I approve of the “acapella rap” style in general (while holding reservations as to some individual locutions).

    As an hypothetical aside, though, I wonder if all rap fans everywhere would accept this as true rap, and, if they didn’t, would they be as highly sarcasticized (neologism, yo!) as Scott has here?

  12. David,

    I believe they would be as highly sarcasticized if, as Scott did, they claimed it wasn’t rap without offering any arguments or support for it.

    Also, a quick internet search shows that acapella rap is, indeed, a thing among secular artists whose names I vaguely recognize.

    The point that Shai was making was bigger than that, though. Scott’s comment reveals not just ignorance of what rap is, but the arrogance to act as though that ignorance entitled him to judge what is and is not rap.

    Scott also shows his hand when he claims that rap inherently includes a certain “performance style, [and] vocal tone.” It shows that this entire time, he’s been working with a definition of rap that includes explicitly sinful elements IN THE DEFINITION. He’s not just claiming that rap is sinful, he’s trying to modify the definition of rap to put that sin into the definition itself.

    It’s like saying “Ostriches aren’t birds, because all birds can fly.” You don’t get to just make up definitions and requirements because they fit your argument.

  13. Like Scott, I have no issues with the “acapella rap” in this video. However, is there such a thing as “acapella rap?” If there is, then we need to differentiate it from the conventional rap that the genre’s originators and secular purveyors claim must be accompanied with an acoustic beat.

    According to Kurtis Blow, the world’s first commercially-successful rapper:

    – Rap is talking in rhyme to the rhythm of a beat.

    – Hip-hop is a culture, a way of life for a society of people who identify, love, and cherish rap, break dancing, DJing, and graffiti.

    Is the genre’s first commercially-successful star wrong? If so, we have a new debate, don’t we?

  14. Amen Mackman! What is ironic about this whole discussion is that if anything is sinful, it is not rap, but Scott’s action. There is a reason the Scriptures warn us about be quick to judge, and if we do it should be a righteous judgement. Scott and the other panelist’s, who are leaders in the church, made some very serious public charges against fellow Christians. One would think if you are going to make those kinds of pronouncements in public you would have strong biblical basis and arguments to back them up. It seems as if Scott the understand the basics about making logical and consistent arguments. He just keeps asserting things as if they are self-evidently true, because he believes it.

  15. According to Kurtis Blow, the world’s first commercially-successful rapper:

    – Rap is talking in rhyme to the rhythm of a beat.

    So cheerleading, eenie meanie minie mo, and the multiplication tables I learned as a first grader (1976) are all rap. Got it.

  16. David, let’s check our sarcasm, please. We know what Blow is talking about here. My question is whether or not his definition is sustainable all these years after the genre’s invention.

  17. So what you’re saying is there are further defining elements to rap. I agree.

    I apologize for using sarcasm (or, more technically, irony, but that can also be a fine distinction). I honestly didn’t see it as over the line, and truly didn’t mean to offend.

  18. Thank you, David – I wasn’t personally offended, but since emotions get pretty high on this topic, I think pursuing as neutral a tone as possible is the most beneficial.

    What about the second part of Blow’s definition of rap – in particular, the anti-social graffiti reference?

    Believe me – I don’t know of anybody who opposes rap who WANTS to oppose it – but the way the genre is presented by its fans and purveyors in the commercial music world, you have to admit that Linne’s video here is starkly different.

  19. I don’t know if Blow’s definition is still def . . er, I mean viable, across the board. It would be like holding trying to contain what Foo Fighters do in a definition of rock articulated by Elvis Presley.

    Blow spoke for himself and I’m sure much of what came after, but probably not all. I once had a roomate (white) who was into rap pretty heavily, but other than wearing cooler clothes than me he didn’t act much differently (i.e sell drugs or spray graffitti). So its become bigger and broader than what it was to Blow, certainly.

  20. The burden of proof is most definitely on Shai to prove rap’s “worthiness as a medium.” That’s what Ephesians 5:8-10, Romans 12:1-2, Philippians 1:9-11 are all about.

    Furthermore, I’m not sure that we can take Shai’s word that it is rap. We’ve been admonished by some on here to avoid the appeal to authority when referencing music industry insiders as a source of information.

  21. It is very obvious that Scott is ignorant of rap and the culture backing it. Most people in the world are ignorant when it comes to rap. I personally commend him that he praised Shai for what he did in the video: “I enthusiastically applaud what you did in this video.” That is progress, I think! So if what he did in the video is ok (using only words), we then go full circle back to one of the original statements that Scott had made: “I believe that music, apart from lyrics, can be sinful in and of itself.” We are still missing an explanation of how the music itself is sinful. Scott never fully explained that other than making general statements from Scripture and then utilizing presuppositions to irrationally apply the verses to music. So if the lyrics are ok apart from the music, we need to know how to identify music that is inherently sinful and music that is not inherently sinful. We have heard enough about a culture of violence and anger and how the music somehow represents that…but that certainly depends on the cultural background of the individual listening. Scott needs to address what makes music inherently evil or holy and it should address the music itself rather than the culture…after all, he said from the outset that music apart from lyrics can be sinful in and of itself. For me, that is what I am missing in this whole series.

  22. Mr. Merrill, I think I actually agree with you that it may be somewhat hypocritical to throw out the testimony of the other industry participants and use only Shai’s (I would not agree though that what they say makes the music itself inherently sinful). Perhaps that shows us that each one is speaking about their own subset or even their own music and we should not broad-brush any genre. That means Christians should evaluate each song individually, which I believe is a good thing to do. However, that seems to be the exact opposite of what the men on the panel and what Scott have done.

  23. Rick, I would also not argue on the basis of what the industry insiders say alone either. But it is worthy to take note – 1) they had no theological ax to grind when they made statements about rock music throughout the years. 2) those statements have been confirmed by those who evaluated culture (see Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind) 3) the weight/number of industry insiders who have commented about it. 4) the very term rock ‘n’ roll was coined by someone in reference to sexual intercourse.

    Now, let’s add to the argument. As Ryan Martin pointed out in one of his comments yesterday before his post was removed, certain musical styles are conducive to certain behaviors – I’ll even go as far as to say certain movements.

    Why is it that NBA dance teams aren’t grooving to the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” or Strauss’ waltzes? Why didn’t Miley Cyrus twerk to “Hoedown” by Copland or the “Theme from Jurassic Park”? Why do MTV hip-hop (and other pop music) videos show young ladies in various stages of undress moving seductively to the beat of the music?

    When I’ve listened to some of the hip-hop and rap music (not rap poetry, if there is such a thing – I could turn “Green Eggs and Ham” into “rap” by reading it a certain way – yo) examples from Shai and Lecrae, I find myself asking the question – could we move those scantily clad females from the MTV music video seamlessly into the HHH performances without missing a beat?

    I believe the answer to that question is a resounding YES. If that is the case, what does that say about that style of music as a method of communication?

  24. My question after reading up until this point is this: Is Scott saying he’s obliged to throw out the letter with the envelop regardless of the message? It appears that lyrics performed acapella (call it spoken word, slam, rap or poetry)can be evaluated based on their content but rap music as a genre is not acceptable regardless of the lyrical content. If this is the case then my next question would be to explain that the music of rap that define the genre is not acceptable. But then we would be back to the very question Shai posed Scott that has gone unanswered. As a proponent of the use of rap music as a medium for proclaiming the Gospel, I am actually very eager to hear Scott’s explanation, not to be combative but because I am eager to to serve the Lord faithful. I am praying that this is not just an issue of musical preferences.

  25. I pray through this conversation that God would be glorified and that the church would be strengthened. Let this not be a divider of people, but a time of reflection and prayer as they struggle with this.

  26. @Doug Merrill – based on the content of the lyrics, and the intent of the artists, the scantily clad women would look very hypocritical in comparison. A beat is not inherently sinful, but actions done that you’re speaking of are. Instruments do not sin; people do. With most of the songs that have these sins on display, the lyrics also reflect that same thing, focusing on sex, wealth and pride.

  27. I agree that Scott failed here, but IMO he’s failing in an attempt to be generous, to accept what he thinks he can accept, to be gracious. Myself, I think it’s silly. Scott is being silly. I think it’s a false idea of grace, but a popular notion of it. It also seems to be a debate technique, where he is trying to show that Shai Linne himself thinks that rapping can be a problem. Again. Fail. I don’t get how Scott doesn’t see what Shai Linne is doing in the sample video is not rapping. You take away the background music, the drums, the scratching, whatever background, the “mash-up,” and you still have rapping happening. It is extraordinary, I agree, because those other ingredients are usually there, but it’s still rap without all the bells and whistles.

    It is the same bad poetry, Dr. Seuss style, done in sing songy fashion with an angry edge to it. That might sound derogatory, but how can you judge my expression. I have less edge than rappers have. Rappers should be proud of my edge if rap is acceptable. And even if I’m edgy, how can anyone judge that to be bad, when they don’t judge that to be bad or don’t judge at all. I’ve heard rappers call it Dr. Seuss themselves. I understand that now people think that is an art form, just like they think that certain types of modern art are an artform. Jesus on velvet is artform. Jesus, looking like spilled paint on a concrete wall is an artform. Jesus with pain splattered angrily in the dirt is an artform. If you say that you don’t “get it,” then there is something culturally wrong with you, the judge. It’s where we’re at now, giving someone a trophy for participation.

    It is a bad reading of bad poetry. It’s definitely not an encouragement to write good poetry, if we are going to say it’s acceptable. I apologize to the great poets for diminishing their poetry with anyone’s acceptance of this. If I was instructing someone in how to read poetry, I’d say, “Don’t do it like this,” and I could use Shai Linne’s video as a demonstration track. He is stating truth, but he’s not making truth more beautiful with the rhymes he’s using. It’s more like someone is good at rhyming, which isn’t that hard to do — just get a rhyming words book — I own one. It is a skill to be able to come up with some rhymes. Some people, I’m sure, can’t do it. Surely some won’t take the time to do it. I wish more people would stop. As far as a standard of poetry — it is a degradation. All the rap that I have ever heard is that way with varied degrees of the same basic ingredient. I would say that Shai Linne’s is superior to others, but that doesn’t speak well of them. Some is more angry, but all of it has anger, all of it has that edge. You can dismiss this, but you do it at your own peril, and at everyone else’s peril. Say goodbye to actual beauty for this beauty in the eye of the beholder.

    One extra, Scott should have known it was rap because of the hand gesture. Now don’t get me wrong. I think it’s rap without the raised hand, doing the edgy, angry jabs, about chin level. Imagine talking to your wife and children that way for any extended period of time. Should they wonder or should they think that’s good? Are we really supposed to understand why someone doesn’t take his hand down during that communication? Someone might say, “You’ve got to understand the artform to get the gesticulation. Even if you have a PhD in music phonology, you don’t get it unless you’re there with it.” This might be art imitating life or life imitating art — I don’t know. I would be disappointed if I got what it is about. It’s the tradition. It’s part of the genre. Whatever. I think gestures can have a fine purpose in communication. I would teach no one, no one, to gesture like that. Approach, stroke, return. This is approach, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke. Stroke is too light a word.

    And I’m really only beginning. I’m guessing a lack of tolerance is coming. People may not like my edginess. One word: hypocrisy.

  28. Doug, you ask, “I would also not argue on the basis of what the industry insiders say alone either. But it is worthy to take note.” Based on that, we should also take note of what the resident industry insider (Shai Linne) says about his music, should we not?

    Concerning dancing, that is a whole other topic that you have opened up there. Why do they dance the way they do? They are unregenerate! Is it the music that made them strip down to near nothing and start doing things that are sexually explicit? That is all designed before they step on stage…before the music. Plain and simply, they do those things because they don’t know Christ!!

    “…could we move those scantily clad females from the MTV music video seamlessly into the HHH performances without missing a beat?” You could put scantily clad females into their performances (but it certainly would be out of place). That is not the correct question. Are they putting scantily clad females into their performances? I haven’t been to a Shai Linne concert but I feel safe in saying that he would never let that happen. You have shown that unregenerate people do that all the time, but you haven’t shown that the music itself makes a person do these things.

    When you hear his music, you may think about those dancers. I would strongly urge you to not listen to his music. However, there are many other people that think that is the strangest thing in the world that someone would associate scantily clad women with Shai’s music. They don’t think about those things when they hear his music. The music isn’t doing that…my position in Christ determines how I react to that music.

  29. @Alan – No, not hypocrisy. Listen to Triune Praise and Triune Praise Remix by Shai Linne. Listen to Prayin for You by Lecrae. Listen to just about anything by Trip Lee. You’ll notice the one thing that you say is integral to hip hop is missing there: edginess. (There’s many other examples, but I felt that pool was sufficient).

  30. Alan, is lousy poetry sinful? Seems to me you are making a category mistake. Is there such a thing as perfect poetry? Or do people learn, as they acquire knowledge, how to it better? Of course, the Lord can make perfect anything, but the Lord doesn’t need to learn anything, and we do.

    BTW, do you talk to your wife or children singing, or even reading poetry all day long? If so, then either that’s an amazing gift you have, or your wife and children have an amazing gift of patience. Shai never claimed to talk to his wife or kid rapping, but apparently you think that should be a standard to think whether something is good music or not.

  31. Rick, we certainly should, but we shouldn’t use it to bash Scott over the head with it either as though that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, especially those who adamantly rejected the appeal to authority argument previously.

    My point concerning the music, Rick, is that it is conducive to ungodly behavior. It not only condones it, it supports it. You misunderstood my questions – I’m not asking why they dance the way they do, I’m asking why it’s only certain genres of music to which they choose to dance. Why aren’t they swaying seductively to the William Tell Overture or “Bring Him Home”?

    I’ll answer the question – because those styles of music don’t fit – they wouldn’t make sense. It would look like a parody of something and it would fall apart.

    “Is it the music that made them strip down to near nothing and start doing things that are sexually explicit? That is all designed before they step on stage…before the music.”

    I have to ask you, brother, to think those thoughts through. These are music videos we’re talking about. In this case, the music comes first. Everything else is in support of the music. The style of dress, the choreography of the movements all rise and fall with the music. Think about it – If MTV had a 1/2 hour program of Sousa marches, do you think you’d see scantily clad women dancing suggestively?

    A great visual example of this is during the Winter Olympics. Watch the figure skating competition. Watch the movements of the skaters – do they change based on the music that’s being played? I’ll make a bold statement here – the more suggestive movements will not occur during Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2.

    Finally, have to disagree with you Rick. The question isn’t are HHH performers incorporating them into performances…the question is, “Is the music performed by HHH and other CCM artists conducive to that behavior?” If that’s the case, the Christian needs to treat it just like any other work of darkness.

  32. Mike Bowman,

    It was easy to find in what you referenced. I listened to all of them and they are all similar enough to say they’re the same. I’m not saying they’re not different, but not enough to depart from the characteristic. Anyone with any perception will hear the anger/edginess of this form in the talking. I can understand that someone who hears it a lot will begin to think of “less angry” as not angry. If my dad yelled at me all the time, something less might seem calm.


    First, is that the biblical standard of worship — it isn’t sinful? If scripture says worship him in the beauty of his holiness, and you don’t, is that sinful? If it says, think on what is lovely, and you don’t is that sinful? Is disobedience to God sinful? This is where the yellow ribbon for participation comes in. Rewarding bad as good is a lie. Is a lie sin? Ugliness is out there, but when we associate it with God, is that a sin? If we don’t love God with heart, soul, and mind is that sin?

    Truth, goodness, and beauty are transcendentals. When you make beauty subjective, you trivialize beauty, you offer God your lawn gnomes, you do the same to truth and goodness. The damage is subtle and incalculable.

    The talking to your wife is a lesser to greater argument. He’s supposedly talking to God. He’s worshiping. Is this acceptable demeanor? The fact that a wife doesn’t want it is illustrative. I wouldn’t sing to God like I sing to my wife. And she doesn’t want that non-stop anger/edgy. This is easy to understand, but for some — it is conveniently lost on them.

  33. @Doug Merrill,

    You have made some great points, and argued well sir. One area where I feel your thought process really breaks down is with the insistence that Rap/Hip-Hop is a natural area for the scantily clad women to cavort, as apposed to other genres.

    While that |may| be true in this age, from even watching some oldie films with my folks in years past we were faced with fast-forwarding through great orchestral themes as a lack of clothing or propriety were displayed.

    This, unfortunately, causes your argument to break down in my opinion. Shucks, just turn on Hallmark around Christmas for some DCMs(Dumb Christmas Movies) and you’d be convinced that light orchestra causes people to kiss and have long chats under the stars.

    Best wishes,

  34. Alan,

    >> If scripture says worship him in the beauty of his holiness, and you don’t, is that sinful?

    Ah, I see. So you think Shai’s poetry is ugly, and that therefore he is being disrespectful to God by using ugly poetry. Only but the best poetry is acceptable to God. That’s what that verse means, right Alan?

    Are you sure God isn’t talking about spiritual beauty — after all, the verse does mention holiness, right? Are you sure holiness doesn’t have its own intrinsic beauty? Nah, that couldn’t be. It has to be aesthetic beauty — the verse means “beauty AND holiness”. It is irrelevant that the verse says “beauty OF his holiness”, right?

    So a kid’s poem is not acceptable to God, right? I guess not. I had better tell my children to not write anything about God. No essays about God — that would be utterly disrespectful to Him. Heck, my children shouldn’t pray to God either — their prayers are not perfectly beautiful. After all, prayer is worship. Oh no! I just realized my own prayers are not perfectly beautiful either… I’d better only repeat the Lord’s prayer, like a Roman Catholic, since I don’t know how to make a perfectly beautiful prayer — otherwise I would show disrespect to Him.

    And that makes me think… How do you know your poetry is the best poetry? The only way one would know for sure, would be to use the Psalms, since they are inspired and hence infallible. They cannot be sinful by definition. But here is the problem — the poetic structure of the Psalms only happens in Hebrew, not in the translations. Even if the translations tried to approach it, they couldn’t, because it is virtually impossible to translate poetry and at the same time be as accurate as possible in the translation. You can’t have both — no matter what language you are translating from/to.

    So what are you left with? Do you have a piece of poetry that you can say it is infallibly inspired, so that we can all sing it and not offend the Lord? If not, how do you know it is perfectly beautiful, so that it doesn’t offend the Lord?

    After all, if the Lord is offended by ugliness, and not by what comes from the heart (Mark 7:20-23), then you had better be sure you have an infallibly inspired beautiful poem, song, or prayer. Otherwise, how can you prove it is not sinful?

    Isn’t the standard that you have to prove your worship is not sinful? If that’s the standard, how do you prove perfect beauty without it being at the same time infallibly inspired beauty?

    God bless,


  35. Nick, I’ll paraphrase a moderately well-known critic here in response your overreaction to Alan.

    The work of children and simpletons is not to be judged the same way as (would-be?) artists who put forward their work for use by the visible church. And even in the works of the former, inferiority should not be applauded.

  36. Nick, I’ll paraphrase a moderately well-known critic in response to what I believe is your overreaction to Alan.

    >The work of children and simpletons is in a different category of criticisms than that of those (would-be) artists who put forward their work for use by the visible church. And even in the work of the former folk, inferiority should not be encouraged.<

  37. On the same token, someone who precisely tries to pick out anger in voices on a regular basis can find anger where it does not exist.

    I have experienced great anger and great kindness, and by God’s grace, my ability to recognize these haven’t diminished. Nonetheless, we’re discussing something based purely on perception, so this conversation will go nowhere, lest our perception changes.

  38. Sam,

    I appreciate your comment. Unfortunately, it appears I may not have done a great job of expressing myself clearly. You are correct that a particular style of music may not guarantee an association with specific dress or behavior standards. But that’s not my entire argument.

    My argument opposed to co-opting certain musical styles is multi-layered: it is first built on what I know about God and how he expects me to live according to his word. That knowledge is then further expanded by the appeal to authority as mentioned earlier. That contribution helps build a base about what I know about certain styles of music. Then I add to that the argument that you addressed above. There are plenty of additional layers that I haven’t even come close to addressing yet.

    My request in this is that you address the whole argument. Yes, there are some scenes that I’d fast-forward over as well, even though the music may meet my standards. Does that mean that the music is no good? Well, let’s go back to square one. What does the appeal to authority say? Was it originally conceived and named after sexual intercourse? Do its proprietors state that it’s all about sex and rebellion? If so, I’d consider the entire weight of evidence and probably have a problem with it.

    Again, there are other arguments that can be made. Just looking to build slowly, line upon line…

  39. Sorry for the astericks…. I’m writing from my own f*eld

    Shai Linne’s rebuttal is spot on. This was rap. (I grew up in the hip-hop culture).

    No one in this conversation would go to the field and tell a m*ss**nary what is sinful in their m*ss**n culture and what is not – because you would have no clue – you would truthfully be ignorant. In China, there are things that are considered rude that would be considered polite in America. You would be defaming the G*sp*l to un bel*evers if you acted more out of an American culture than a Chinese one. M*ss**logy taught at Scott’s school, where he teaches, teaches against this (my husband and I attended). We allow Scripture to filter the culture, not the culture filter the Scriptures of how it’s to be carried out – Dr. Eitel. In the 1800s m*ss**naries wrongly applied their culture as the way to carry out scripture instead of just teaching the scripture and allowing native p*stors to teach their c*ngr*gants what is g*dly living in their culture. Obvious things are sexual immorality, drunkenness, homosexuality, thieving and murder because those are directly taught about in scripture and are found as an evidence of man’s common morality (knowing right from wrong) in all cultures.

    But, I just keep finding that Scott’s musical culture is what he is using for the filter of Shai Linne’s musical culture, and not scripture. And not the musical culture found at the school he now teaches at but the one he previously attended, Bob Jones University in Greenville (this just so happens to be my hometown). And I don’t like their m*ss**logy because I find that it is un-b*blical – exemplified by witnessing their students in downtown Greenville with signs that said “God hates fags.” And also the students’ e*ang*list*c methods of screaming the G*sp*l at passerbys. This is what I see in this debate. It’s evidently tainted by wrong th**logy on Scott’s part (who is not an international m*****nary, but found as a long term p*stor in his own culture).

    This is a meat issue, brothers and sisters, nothing more. Now let’s get back to dying to ourselves every day and picking up our cr*ss that we may share the knowledge of the living, risen, breathing, and imm0rtal G d with those who are perishing.

  40. I have read all the post over the last few days and all the responses. I can honestly say that I have not seen anything as arrogant and unbiblical as Doug Merrill’s last paragraph on judging music.

  41. I’m honestly curious, Wayne. Which paragraph is the target of your ire? And what specifically is arrogant and un-Biblical about it?

  42. Doug,
    NBA cheerleaders are not really dancing the dance of Hip Hop music. They do use some Hip Hop tracks, R&B tracks, and mostly Pop tracks. Hip Hop dance is B-Boying aka breakdancing.

  43. Doug, you made a good point…ESPECIALLY in your last paragraph. Shouldn’t prudence cause us to at least want to examine what’s in the music? Is there anything in music?

    Several years ago, when my daughter was 5 or so, we went to Home Depot. While I was standing there in the aisle, looking at something, she began to sway those little hips of hers in a provocative style of dance to the music that was playing. I don’t remember the song, but it was an appropriate move to the song. We never play music like that in our home, but she intuitively knew how to move to it! I find it fascinating that music can and does move you! Needless to say, a quick, but kind fatherly rebuke was in order to put a stop to the seductive sway of my little girl :)

    To be fair, this was not rap music, but it illustrates, once again, the power and sway of music.

    Rick, I disagree when you say, “The music isn’t doing that…my position in Christ determines how I react to that music.”

    I certainly believe your position in Christ helps, but it doesn’t change what’s in the messaging of the music. Words don’t even change what’s in the messaging of the music. They might communicate another thought, but the music communicates its own thought as well…UNDOUBTEDLY. I suppose I haven’t understood why we would think to only “redeem” one half of the communication (the words) and not the other (the music). Perhaps it is because we can readily see the words, but we feel the music instead. Music must be spiritually discerned, and thus we must engage our hearts and minds to the Word of God, seeking the wisdom and prudence from above as we wrestle these things out.

    God bless you all–those who agree, those who disagree, Shai and Scott…(did I miss anyone?)

  44. Reuben, if what you say is true, then I am in desperate need of knowing how to identify what music is sinful and what music is not. Please tell me what to look for in the music that is sinful.

  45. @Rick – Unfortunately nobody will be able to tell you what music to classify as sinful because the only thing that has been argued at this point is that certain music makes people FEEL a certain way. Nevermind that it doesn’t make you feel that way or a million other christian men and women (young and old, black, white, yellow, etc.) feel that way, it makes them feel that way and thus it is sinful. Reuben mentions his daughter swaying her hips to a certain style of music. My 7 year old son was listening to Lecrae and started rolling his arms in circles (John Travolta 70s style) and then pointing at me and his mom like he was in a disco…minus hip switching and grinding. Not hardly, what I would consider to be twerking! shall we now render it harmless because my son didn’t gyrate? how about we consider a more propositional judgment besides how it makes us feel.

    This conversation has become tiresome in the sense that it feels like we are now digging at the bottom of a well to condemn a style of music that scripture gives no position to whatsoever. we claim that since we should worship God in the beauty of his holiness, that our music must meet some arbitrary group’s standard of beauty…(notice that the scripture is decribing God’s holiness as the beauty we are to worship in but I digress…). can we all just acknowledge that just because it doesn’t float my boat it doesn’t necessarily mean it is not a useful medium for someone else? can we acknowledge that maybe the reason we have to work so hard to pull from these texts positions arguing for styles of music is because scripture doesn’t actually speak to it? can we acknowledge that the Apostle Paul most likely was not referring to the newton’s and wesley’s hymnals when he was urging the church to sing their psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? we were created unique each of us. different preferences, different tastes, different giftings and talents for the grand purpose of allowing that difference and diversity to echo the glory of our beautiful savior and matchless God. can we just live with and say amen to that/

  46. It seems that some people have changed “the beauty of holiness” into the “holiness of beauty” and then give us their definition of beauty.

  47. “Brother, the burden of proof is not on me to demonstrate rap’s worthiness as a medium. I simply showed that Christian Hip-hop can and does in many cases honor what Scripture explicitly commands and exemplifies concerning the church’s music.”

    The Burden of Proof belongs to Scott, not to Shai Linne. One must understand the logical point being made between them. The contention is not that Shai is defending Rap (though he is) and Scott is not. The issue is that Scott is positively saying that Rap can be attested as wrong (positively speaking) from certain passages of Scripture, whereas Shai is saying no, you cannot determine from Scripture whether Rap is a sinful form.

    So Scott – Christian Rap is a bad media form for it is sinful. (though he cannot find explicit statements that say such) Scott uses Scripture passages and tries to argue his case.

    Shai – Christian Rap is not an issue in Scripture and so you cannot say whether it is or isn’t sinful. The only real issues is its lyrical content.

    Logically speaking Scott needs to prove his point.

  48. As much as we can, we each need to strip away culture, and preference, and look at PURPOSE when it comes to music.

    Then apply a metric incorporating the Fruit of the Spirit, which is how we demonstrate Christ’s Lordship of our lives. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

    Then remember that God not only sees what we do, but He looks at our heart.

  49. Brian, I know that. Just hoping someone might look at my question and realize that they actually have not and cannot do what I am asking. This is such dangerous teaching because so many pastors are telling their flock that the music they are listening to is sin when Scripture doesn’t even address it. So children are being taught that they must run to their pastor to see what is right and wrong instead of running to Scripture to see what is right and wrong. I have talked with Christians that say they cannot see in Scripture what their pastor sees but he must be right because he has been trained in Scripture. I struggled with this concept for years. Then I was encouraged by someone to study it out in Scripture (not in the books of those writing about the topic) to see what the Bible actually said and whether it agreed with the teaching of these men. It was very enlightening, and I was thankful for that encouragement to study it out for myself. I know men like Scott and others that have commented here mean well, but I consider it to be dangerous teaching (I’m sure the feeling is mutual).

  50. Doug, let me back up a bit. I was interested in your example of imagining the “movement” of figure skaters in the Winter Olympics, especially your statement on how the more suggestive movements would not occur during Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto #2. You go on to say how the music performed by HHH is “conductive to that behavior” and so the Christian should treat it as “any other work of darkness”. So, I can only assume in your opinion, Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto #2 is some sort of gold standard for a figure skaters.
    So I had to google Rachmaninov and then retired for the evening with it in mind paired with a Russian figure skater (Rachmaninov was Russian after all, so I thought it would be a good pairing). This was a mistake, because the Russian figure skater that popped up was Anna Semenovich. I would caution any not to google her. Also, Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2 popped up in the google search as being featured in The Seven Year Itch. Marilyn Monroe is wearing a tiger-skin dress and smoking a cigarette. Sherman reclines at the piano in a smoking jacket. (Can’t help at this point to picture Hugh Heffner). Marilyn says, “Rachmaninoff… It isn’t fair… Every time I hear it, I go to pieces… It shakes me, it quakes me. It makes me feel goose-pimply all over.” And I also learn that Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2 will be featured on the Fifty Shades of Grey Soundtrack along with Bach’s Concerto #3 and Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.

    So, I put Rachmaninov into your formula for determining a particular style of music’s association or whatever… “Was it originally conceived and named after sexual intercourse? Do its proprietors state that it’s all about sex and rebellion? If so, I’d consider the entire weight of evidence and probably have a problem with it.” And I learn that Rachmaninov’s ancestors were Tatars and he was quite proud of that, in fact his name is Rahman (a Muslim name), and his 2nd and 3rd piano concerto has Middle Eastern themes. He himself believed his roots could be traced back to Genghis Khan. You can hear Middle Eastern themes not only in his Concerti, but his entire output, starting with his first large work, “Aleco”. In his “Corelli Variations”, whole sections are completely built on oriental motives. Supposedly he had an affair with the singer Nina Koshetz. Not to mention the numerous reports that Rachmaninov liked women “in black stockings”. By the way, I probably mishandled some of Rachmaninov song names above.

    Conversely, my limited repertoire of HHH consists largely of Shai Linne. So, I am trying to imagining a figure skater to the beats of Our God is In the Heavens (minus the words of course). I picked this song because it has elements of edginess to it (apart from the words). So instead of a beautiful Russian skater, probably because I can not run from all the racial profiling tendencies I have, all I can come up with is imagining a black woman from a “UN” Holy Hip Hop song (most likely from MTV). I mean I know there are black women figure skaters, but for whatever reason, I associate the Hip Hop with non-figure skating women. Again, I’m trying hard to fight any cultural elitism. And so I’m imagining a Hip Hop dancer that can’t skate very well and it is coming across like Elaine dancing on Seinfeld. It’s just not working for me.

  51. Rick,

    In answer to the question about knowing what music is sinful and what is not, here are some questions to ask yourself in the evaluation of the music you listen to. Fair enough to at least ask questions, right?

    1. Is the music leading me emotionally? Is it driven by emotion?
    2. Does it make me feel good in a questionable sense…i.e. Do I feel good, sappy, and in love with Jesus? Or would the feeling be more of bowing (at least figuratively) in humble reverence, adoring the Holy God?
    3. Does the music at all excite the flesh?
    4. Does the music stir my spirit to conviction of sin and move me to repentance?
    5. In what ways does this music express the truth of John 4:24 (worshipping God under the direction and influence of the Spirit of God, according to the truth of the Word of God)?
    6. Does the music make me feel like getting “rowdy”, or falling on my face before the Lord?
    7. If the music drives me to movement or dance, how is that being expressed?

    Rick, I don’t wish to portray myself as the gold standard of objectivity, or to say that you have to worship exactly as I worship or you are serving a false god. If I leave that impression in any way, forgive me! If I were saying that, that would be dangerous!

    But it is not dangerous to put music….any music…to a test. We should be proving all things to the best of our ability. We should be asking questions about it. We should desire to test the fruit. We should seek the direction of the Spirit of God, Who imparts His wisdom and counsel to us. We should desire to worship God, being under the direction of His Spirit, guided by the truth of His Word (and I’m assuming we DO want this).

    I did listen to “Lord of Patience”. Some here have been begging for a review of Shai’s music, but I’m not sure they really do want an honest-to goodness appraisal. It’s a challenge of sorts, and given some of the remarks being made, I don’t sense there is a genuineness in that challenge. I sense a hostility. If I do post my appraisal, it will be in love, and I hope received as such (whether or not you agree with it).

  52. About …the burden of proof is on you.. or you…or someone else…

    Folks, this is a debate. Both sides have to prove something.

  53. Wayne, I went back to Doug’s post on that and looked at one of the other pieces….William Tell Overture. “Why aren’t they swaying seductively to the William Tell Overture or “Bring Him Home”? ”

    From Wikipedia concerning the William Tell Overture, “Amongst the films which feature the overture prominently is Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange where the Finale is played during the fast motion orgy scene.”

  54. Reuben,

    The questions you pose are interesting ones. Here’s one of my own:

    If someone were to answer the 7 questions you ask differently than you would answer them, how could you tell whether the music was truly sinful or not? In other words, if you and I listened to “Lord of Patience” and we each came away with opposite answers to the questions you pose, how could we successfully determine whether or not the music was sinful? Would it be sinful for you but not for me? If so, doesn’t that completely overturn Scott’s entire argument that music is intrinsically sinful?

    In other words, I think you fail to recognize how enormously subjective the criteria you’ve set forth really are. And this is instructive, because it highlights the utter foolishness of Scott’s entire argument. Scott and others have been arguing over and over that the Bible offers clear, objective ethical direction about appropriate musical forms…and yet, anytime someone is pressed to provide concrete examples for how to discern good music from bad, they do one of either two things:

    A) They ignore or evade the challenge altogether


    B) They offer up a list of completely subjective criteria.

    This is the biggest problem with Scott’s argument here: it makes an abject MESS of THE ENTIRE PROJECT of biblical ethics.

    Over and over the challenge has been set forth, both in Shai’s arguments and in the comboxes these discussions: delineate clearly the precise point at which a particular beat or melody ceases to be godly and begins to be worldly. The unwillingness of ANYONE to address this point suggests either that the Bible makes no judgments about the ethics of specific musical forms, or else that even though it IS speaking about them, it’s not CLEAR as to what it’s saying. Such thinking makes a travesty of the doctrine of Scripture–what good are the ethical pronouncements of God’s Word if we can’t readily understand them? Frankly, it’s a desperately impoverished view of God that believes He can’t express His desires for His people any more clearly than that.

  55. Curtis,

    I’m not trying to get you to answer every question as I would…I’m trying to get you to see the need to even evaluate/ ask such questions. Is that such a bad idea…really? Is there room in the Christian walk for discernment with regards to music?

    It’s really not all about me, or whether you would answer as I would. But would you ask those questions (or come up with your own) of yourself?

    Regarding your comment:

    “Frankly, it’s a desperately impoverished view of God that believes He can’t express His desires for His people any more clearly than that.”

    Be careful about making such comments. Though the Word of God speaks to everything that concerns us, He DOES allow us to wrestle and grapple with things all the time, not just in music. And through the times of “wrestling”, may our faith be strengthened.


  56. @Doug Merrill

    You said:..’I find myself asking the question – could we move those scantily clad females from the MTV music video seamlessly into the HHH performances without missing a beat?

    I believe the answer to that question is a resounding YES. If that is the case, what does that say about that style of music as a method of communication?”

    I would say that we have to be mindful that there are different genres within rap music. Take for example Lecrae, who musically is more within the ‘Southern Hip Hop’ tradition where the beats/music is far more colorful, bombastic and rhythmatic. Then you take a person like Shai Linne, who more or less operates within the ‘East Coast’ style of rap, where the beat/music is FAR more minimalistic and usually takes a backseat to the lyricism, which usually always is the focal point. To your question, I do believe that certain GENRES within rap can lend itself to the sort of bodily gyrating that you will often see in secular rap videos. For example, if you take your average beat from a Lecrae song or any other Christian rap artist who is of that ‘Southern’ style (again, where the beats are of equal importance to the lyrics, and in some cases become the main focal point) and strip it of it’s lyrics and play it in a club, then it could possibly serve as a catalyst for the sort of gyrating you speak of. Whereas in the case of a Shai Linne (or someone who does that particular genre of rap) if you strip the lyrics away and play a Shai Linne instrumental in a club, the chances of people wanting to dance to that would be slim. At best you could get people nodding their heads. That style just doesn’t lend itself to that sort of thing (dancing, gyrating..etc etc).

    Of course, this in turn brings up an entire new discussion and that is: Are certain GENRES within rap better suited for expressing Christian truths than others (I personally think so, since some genres tend to be more distracting and beat based than others as I mentioned above).

    Anyway, I hope this at least in some way helped to clarify some things as I think people tend to paint rap with a broad brush, not understanding that it’s musically nuanced in a lot of ways.

  57. We Need A Little Signage In This Here Grocery Store:

    –Christianity. A Universe of Truth. One God. Worship corresponds to God.
    –Liberalism. A universe of truth and a multiverse of forms. One god. Worship corresponds to ethnic culture.
    –Post-Liberalism. Multiverses of truth, each with its own forms. One-ish god. Worship corresponds to sub-culture.
    –Soft Post-Modernism. A universal story and a multiverse of forms. One god-story. Worship corresponds to god-story-in-culture.
    –Hard Post-Modernism. A multiverse of stories and forms. Many god-stories. Worships correspond to god-stories-in-sub-cultures.

    It’s mostly good-natured, indeed, but you’re hollering across the aisles, dontcha’ know?

  58. Reuben,

    Maybe you failed to see something Curtis said (i.e., “Would it be sinful for you but not for me?”). I for one quite gladly would agree that music can be wrong for some and not others. I think most here would agree a person can be conditioned to associate some form of music with some sin, and hence that form of music becomes sinful for that person.

    It is absolutely right to ask the questions for myself. That doesn’t mean I am going to tell my brother he is sin for the way he answers the questions for himself, even if I arrive at different conclusions.

    Going back to your questions, I want to ask you something about two of them.

    >> 4. Does the music stir my spirit to conviction of sin and move me to repentance?
    >> 6. Does the music make me feel like getting “rowdy”, or falling on my face before the Lord?

    Maybe you did not express yourself correctly, but those are some high requirements for music alone (without lyrics). I don’t believe (in fact I know) there is no music style whatsoever that can fulfill them.

    As an example, I can’t give the music normally used in hymnals, without lyrics, to a Pagan, and expect the Holy Spirit to use that music alone to drive that Pagan to repentance and conviction of sin.

    The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to do that. The person would have to hear the Word of God either from the lyrics, or from reading the Bible, or something else.

    Now music can “help”, if that’s what you meant. But it can only help if there is a larger context (e.g., lyrics) to which it can lend its support. If there is no general context to support, then the music will do nothing for the spiritual state of that person. There is no such thing as Holy music that does not need the Word. But there is the Holy Word that does not need music.

    Which goes back to the point many have made before: the context of the music is by far and away the most important factor in determining what the music actually does and means for a person. Without that context, you may have some general feelings and impressions, but are not going to know what it means, nor what it is used for — at least not to the level of detail you expressed in #4 and #6.

    God bless,


  59. Nick,

    You said: As an example, I can’t give the music normally used in hymnals, without lyrics, to a Pagan, and expect the Holy Spirit to use that music alone to drive that Pagan to repentance and conviction of sin.

    The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to do that. The person would have to hear the Word of God either from the lyrics, or from reading the Bible, or something else.

    …to which I say: I agree!

    Regarding my questions, I could have been more clear. Take the whole context, words and all. Evaluate the words and the music.

    Thanks for asking. Hopefully that’s more clear.

  60. Reuben, thanks for answering! Let me address your questions:
    1. All music is emotional. Take When I Survey for example. The music accentuates the words of that great hymn. The music is designed to be slower and in a more contemplative (and even sad) manner so that the words mean so much more. So that music is playing on your emotions so that they accentuate the words. There is nothing sinful about emotion. You may say it is not “leading” or “driven” by the emotion in the music but it is a huge factor in the song! I don’t see any difference.
    2. So should we not feel in love with Jesus? Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind (Matt. 22:37). I’m sure you don’t disagree with that. He is my God and my Savior and I love Him so much that I fall down in humble reverence adoring Him. But this still doesn’t explain how music itself does that. It doesn’t and can’t.
    3. I grew up in a hymn and classical music only environment. Even when I stretched those boundaries, I can honestly say that I have NEVER had a song “excite the flesh.” It always took words or images to do that. If you believe music excites the flesh in order to make us sin, please explain how I can identify that music. But let’s assume you are correct for a second. What excites your flesh may not be what excites mine. So would your songs be wrong if they excite my flesh but not yours?
    4. Similar to the last point, I have NEVER had music itself (apart from lyrics) bring me to conviction of sin and bring me to repentance. It cannot happen. If so, please explain what in the music does this and how I can identify it so that I can use it in my ministry to others. Honestly think about this, why would we need Scripture if all we had to do was play music in the background and people magically repent of their sin? Do we really believe music has that kind of power? Only God has that power.
    5. I think you are getting somewhere with this one. In an actual worship service, the music accentuates what is being said and taught. I wouldn’t play Shai’s music in our church on Sunday because that is just not the culture of our church. The music would distract some from hearing the message. However, I’ve been in services where his music would be perfect for the culture of their church. That still does not mean that the music cannot be used for worshipping Him in spirit and in truth. Worship is an everyday thing and I can listen to Shai’s music while driving and worship God. The music (apart from lyrics) doesn’t cause me to worship but it certainly can help!
    6. I’m not quite sure what you mean by “rowdy” so I’m not sure my comments will be pertinent. The dictionary definition means noisy and disorderly. That is not necessarily sinful so you may need to explain. My daughter is noisy and disorderly when she gets on the piano but I wouldn’t say it is sinful. However, as I listen to music, there have been many times when I’ve wanted to fall on my face before the Lord, but I can’t remember one single time when it was a result of listening to music apart from lyrics.
    7. This perplexes me. If I catch myself tapping my foot to a song, does that mean the song is sinful? This happens quite often with hymns. I would imagine you are talking about sensual movements such as the example that was given of the little girl dancing. These examples are brought up as if the music itself is causing us to go sexually crazy and become promiscuous. Once again, please show me how to identify this music so I can be sure to stay away from it. What in the music causes us to do this?

    I do agree with you that music (like everything else) must be put to a test. In fact, I wholeheartedly agree with your next to last paragraph where you speak of putting music to the test. I do this every week quite extensively as I am the music director at our church….believe it or not, the musical culture of our church is one that is nearly exclusively hymns. There are many hymns that I will not use because I don’t think the music fits the occasion or message. That doesn’t mean the music is wrong but simply not appropriate at the time. The lyrics most definitely need to be tested and there are once again many hymns I will not use due to lyrics that are not Scriptural. So yes, music must be tested to see if it is Biblical, appropriate, and fitting. Yet that does not mean that music I do not use in our church is sinful because we do not deem it appropriate for our particular worship service.

    As I said in a previous post, this whole debate boils down to the argument I hear that the music apart from lyrics can be sinful in and of itself. That has not been shown to be true. If it is that powerful and manipulative and sinful, then we need to be able to identify the music and the parts of the music that are sinful. If we cannot do that and Scripture does not show us, then I have to ask why so many hold to that belief.

    I sincerely hope this doesn’t come across as sarcastic or vindictive or even poking fun. That certainly is not my intent but is often hard to convey.

  61. Reuben,

    You said,

    “It’s really not all about me, or whether you would answer as I would.”

    Of course it is! That’s *EXACTLY* what this is about, because that’s *EXACTLY* what *DISCERNMENT* is about! Look, if the Bible calls us to discern between different musical styles and genres and to use our discernment to judge some styles good and other styles bad, then the Bible is calling Christians to BE IN AGREEMENT about this. Since God’s Word isn’t relative (“homosexuality might be sinful for you but it isn’t sinful for me”), any call for Christians to collectively discern right from wrong and good from bad presupposes they’ll be in agreement about what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’.

    So here’s the problem, Reuben: why, when pressed to the issue, do you suddenly seem to feel compelled to back down? It seems that you’re implicitly conceding that Scott’s argument has been flawed from start to finish. He’s been arguing that properly employing biblical discernment ought to lead sound Christians to the conclusion that rap is inherently unsuitable as an art form for Christian expression. In other words, he’s been arguing that if Shai were exercising the biblical discipline of discernment properly, he’d repudiate his use of rap as an art form. If the questions you ask aren’t ones that Christians could objectively agree upon, then frankly they’re completely useless for the task of exercising discernment.

    So once more, you’re demonstrating exactly the problem I referred to earlier: you claim that there are clear biblical standards for discernment, but then when shown that the standards you set forth are desperately subjective and faulty, you back off from your claim (by arguing–again, incorrectly–that discernment isn’t something we should expect any real agreement on).

    So let me say it once more, more clearly:

    It should bother *EVERYONE* here that when pressed to delineate or defend the ethical imperatives of their aesthetic philosophies, proponents of Scott’s position either evade the challenge or back off once they attempt to address it. This is the very ESSENCE of Pharisaism.

  62. Reuben,

    You said,

    “Regarding my questions, I could have been more clear. Take the whole context, words and all. Evaluate the words and the music.”

    This puts you in agreement with Shai, and in disagreement with Scott, who has been arguing the entire time that Shai’s preferred style of music is unsuitable before God regardless of the content of his lyrics.

  63. Origins of William Tell Overture:

    As the composer of William Tell Overture, Gioachino Rossini’s mother Anna was twelve years younger than his father. It was not a great match, at least for Anna, but she was pregnant at the time and needed to give her baby a name. She married Giuseppe Rossini, even though he likely was not the biological father.

    Rossini’s father was sympathetic to the French Revolution and welcomed Napoleon’s troops when they arrived in northern Italy. He was often in prison. During the Reign of Terror, extreme efforts of de-Christianization ensued, including the imprisonment and massacre of priests and destruction of churches and religious images throughout France. The establishment of the Cult of Reason was the final step of radical de-Christianization. The persecution of the Church led to a counter-revolution known as the Revolt in the Vendée, whose suppression is considered by some to be the first modern genocide.

    During this time, Rossini was frequently left in the care of his aging grandmother, who had difficulty supervising the boy. The boy had three years of instruction in the playing of the harpsichord from Giuseppe Prinetti, who also owned a business selling beer.

    By the age of 21, Rossini had established himself as the idol of the Italian opera public and he earned a good wage and received a share from the gambling tables set in the theatre’s “ridotto”. Rossini was a good-looking, gregarious young man who was attracted to and by the ladies at a fairly early age. He was sexually active with young singers and later prostitutes. He soon became known as a womanizer. He fell in love with a singer named Isabelle Colbran who sang in his operas. They married, but he left her in 1837 as the composer began a serious relationship with the artists’ model Olympe Pélissier in Paris. By the time Rossini married Olympe, he suffered from the long term effects of Gonorrhea.
    Sources: Don Delauter and Wikipedia (random copying and pasting for full effect – of course I left out the good)

  64. Rick,

    1. I am not against emotions in music! I am against emotionally driven music on the grounds that it violates John 4:24. The danger is the flesh getting in the way of sound, Spirit-directed worship. We are all prone to exalt the flesh.
    2. I don’t disagree with Mt. 22:37! What I strongly disagree with is the flesh-exalting attitude that Jesus is more like a carnal lover to me, than King of Kings.
    3. If my songs excited your flesh, and you told me about it, I would want to take a much deeper look at my music!
    4. I agree with you that we need more than music for repentance. We don’t disagree on that point. Maybe our disagreement lies somewhere between how much you or I consider the words to have an impact on the music, and the music on the words. Or the synergy that they get when put together? And, whether or not music is amoral? Having said that, I believe music is powerful enough on its own to either minister to the spirit of the listener, or excite his flesh. But that power is increased by the words, just as the influence of the words has a greater effect (oftentimes) by setting it to music. This can happen, because music influences us on every level (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically). Just as it would not make sense to say that the words of a novel–good or bad– have no bearing on my thought process when I read them, so it is difficult to imagine music having no effect on the human heart. It does indeed.

    6. When I said “rowdy”, I was borrowing a word that Shai used in the accapella video clip above. It was interesting to me that he wanted to stop the music and lights and all because they are/ were “distractions”. Then he proceeded to preach a very powerful gospel message. I don’t know what “rowdy” looked like in that concert, but he recognized the need to set aside all the things that contributed to that rowdiness and let the Gospel stand alone. When I listened to it, it felt spiritually driven, not rowdy or overly emotional. Good for him. We can always talk about aesthetics and other contexts, but leaving that aside, I thought it was well done. (BTW, I don’t see him as my enemy folks, but as my brother in Christ. He has quite a boldness to preach the gospel…that is exemplary. Thank you, Shai, for that!)
    7. I speak of the sensual movements.

    So Rick, would you say that the only possible way a piece of music can be carnal, flesh-exalting, or lustful, is if it has lustful words to go along with it regardless of music? Or what would you say?

    BTW, we share something in common. I am music director at our small church as well. And yes, there are many hymns I won’t lead because the doctrine is what I call “sloppy”. I would also like to get into the Psalter more and teach psalm singing as well. My problem is that I did not grow up with the Psalter, so I’m going to have to learn how to sing the psalms. We may have a lot in common here in terms of how we choose church music.


  65. “The majority of emerging adults can express very well how people are shaped and bound by their personal subjective experiences. But most have great difficulty in grasping the idea that a reality that is objective to their own awareness or construction of it may exist that could have a significant bearing on their lives. In philosophical terms, most emerging adults functionally (meaning how they actually think and act, regardless of the theories they hold) are soft ontological antirealists and epistemological skeptics and perspectivalists – although few have any conscious idea what those terms mean. They seem to presuppose that they are simply imprisoned in their own subjective selves, limited to their biased interpretations of their own sense perceptions, unable to know the real truth of anything beyond themselves. They are de facto doubtful that an identifiable, objective, shared reality might exist across and around all people that can serve as a reliable reference point for rational deliberation and argument (…) This is not because they are dumb. It seems to be because they simply cannot, for whatever reason, believe in – or sometimes even conceive of – a given, objective truth, fact, reality, or nature of the world that is independent of their subjective self-experience and that in relation to which they and others might learn or be persuaded to change. Although none would put it in exactly this way, what emerging adults take to be reality ultimately seems to consist of a multitude of subjective but ultimately autonomous experiences. People are thus trying to communicate with each other in order to simply be able to get along and enjoy life as they see fit. Beyond that, anything truly objectively shared or common or real seems impossible to access.”
    Smith, Christian: Souls in Transition. Oxford University Press, 2009, p.45

    (I guess post-modernism really exists and has a significant impact on our society) When I heard this today, I could not help thinking that this also reflects our discussion here. We just don’t seem to agree there may be common standards in the specific field of musical expression and meaning. Now I agree with most here that we are still missing the tools and criteria to make well-founded decisions about musical styles (at least in this series of posts) but on the other hand, I prefer to believe these exist and we only have to find out what they are (Shai’s question about musicology – and probably also semiotics). Scott and others have started that by mentioning a few simple principles, such as that how you say ‘I love you’ to your wife will change the meaning of what you are actually saying, regardless of what the words by themselves mean. I think we need to keep on looking along these lines. Not forgetting cultural differences but also with a firm belief in truth and objective principles that God gave to judge and evaluate those harder-to-figure-out things like aesthetics, moral questions, and musical meaning.

    Just my two cents of encouragement…

    If we conclude by the end of this that we don’t know enough yet to get there, I guess we need volunteers to get into this fields and write books about it. Although Scott or others may be able to recommend some that already exist?

  66. Several years ago, I heard a proponent of private school education make a joke during a church meeting that people with a public school education can sometimes make valid contributions to how we think, and the things we think about. At the time, being a product of public education myself, I took offense to his quip. But as I’ve gotten older, and seen younger and younger generations enter the realm of post-college life, I think I’m seeing what this church leader was joking about – only he wasn’t really joking, was he?

    It seems as though there is something that has taken place in the organized socialization of new generations of Americans that has genuinely gutted the ability to be objective. Newer generations also seem to more quickly take personal offense at ideas that are contrary to their own. I have seen that in this feedback string, as emotions – and tempers – have flared while we’re supposed to all be advocating the same thing: God’s glory.

    On the surface, it’s easy to cast this in a racist – or, at least, racial – light. But I’m increasingly wondering if this isn’t a generational, educational phenomenon instead.

    May God liberate us from the boxes in which we live – and of which we may not even be aware!

  67. I do apologize for butting in again, but perhaps a few lines from Sagona Ha, the Seneca Chief (1811) will help. To a Protestant missionary:

    “Brother, We do not worship the Great Spirit as the white people do, but we believe the forms of worship are indifferent to the Great Spirit; it is the homage of a sincere heart that pleases him, and we worship him in this manner.”

    –Reprinted in Herald of Salvation [Universalist Mag.], Saturday, Feb. 26, 1825. Vol 2, no. 25, p. 197.

  68. Heh. So Shai is boxed into a corner with his own words and example, and instead of offering a logical argument, he resorts to name calling.

    It appears that Shai realizes he is losing this debate.

  69. I agree with Shai Linne the question at the beginning was avoided with another question. Which is not the solution to a discussion, seems more like a debate for Scott’s opinion on Christian Rap. The responses are aimed to Scott’s favor not because they are correct but because the question was never answered. A discussion leads to a solution or answer. The only answer given was

  70. Music can easily be center for one’s glory instead of sound in doctrine. If I was Shai I wouldn’t have bothered with it. It’s meaningless to debate views aimed at hate.

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