Recent Posts
Jon Pratt and Emmanuel Malone We welcome back Emmanuel Malone as he answers three more [more]
Our task as churches is to make disciples, and this happens when we use the [more]
The discussion of beauty among Christians is often stymied before it starts. Some of this [more]
Jon Pratt In the most recent Nick of Time essay, Kevin Bauder introduced the subject [more]
Every church has as its mission the making of disciples, but how does that happen? [more]

Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: What Defines Rap? (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 third answer and his reply.

Scott-thumb-300x300Thanks, Shai. I think this helps to move the conversation to the central issues and clarifies some things that I think are important to this discussion.

Your answer confirmed my own observation and study over the past several years, namely, that particular kinds of rhythmic accompaniment is a key element of what distinguishes rap from other poetic forms.

Now here’s why I wanted to move this direction: In your answer to my last question, you suggested that what made rap well-suited to Christian subjects was its high word count and aesthetic elements like internal rhyme and complex structure.

All of these characteristics are, of course, admirable, but you have now acknowledged the very point I made in my last rebuttal: these characteristics don’t define rap. They could just as easily describe a sonnet or my example poem. No one who objects to rap does so on the basis of its high word count and internal rhyme.

Rather, those who question the fittingness of rap to Christian sentiments do so, at least partially, on the basis of the element you identified as the essence of rap: specific kinds of rhythmic accompaniment, which they believe reflect behavior ill-fitted to God’s holy truth.

Your explanation and interaction with the examples given reveals the centrality of the beat for rap. The example I gave was deliberately read to deemphasize a regular rhythm in favor of natural syllabic stress. And you’re correct, that poem does not have a regular poetic meter or rhythm.

But neither does most of the rap lyrics I’ve studied. Take this passage for example:

At first we snubbed Him,
Now His vessels of mercy love Him.
Your highest thought is infinitely unworthy of Him.
Beyond vocabulary His actions vary,
His wrath is scary
All His adversaries are imaginary.

There is no regular pattern of meter of rhythm to this passage (it switches freely between iambs and anapaests), as is true of many rap lyrics (and my example). So in order to fit the lyrics to a steady drum beat, you have to adjust your cadence to align the strong and weak syllables. This is something that takes an impressive amount of skill and memorization, and also one of the reasons that rap isn’t a corporate form.

I say all this to emphasize the fact that what makes rap what it is has little to do with the lyrics themselves and more with particular performance characteristics that define rap. Even with a mashup that uses classical music, there’s always a hip hop beat added.

Now here’s the point: when you remove particular elements that are essential to the form—in this case the beat—the message changes.

Back to your performance of “Spread his Fame.” You may have written it as a rap, you may have a hip-hop beat in mind as you perform, and every one listening may assume an underlying hip-hop beat as well, but when you remove the accompaniment and change your vocal tone (because “it can distract us from the most important thing“), what you are expressing changes. In other words, there is a significant difference between what the following two videos communicate in how the performances shape the propositional content of the lyrics:

Same words, same performer, same intent, two very different performances with two different products.

When we’re talking about music, we’re not talking about words and notes on a page; we’re talking about moral human performance.

And that’s what I am primarily concerned about: how do particular styles of music and performance shape God’s truth? Are they presenting that truth in appropriate ways, or to they trivialize and demean the truth?

And so this brings us back to my previous question: what makes lyrics performed over a hip-hop beat particularly fitting for communicating God’s holy truth?


Thanks for your rebuttal, Scott. Let me address a few of your points. After quoting a few lines from my song “Spread His Fame”, you said:

“There is no regular pattern of meter of rhythm to this passage…This is something that takes an impressive amount of skill and memorization, and also one of the reasons that rap isn’t a corporate form.”

In Hip-hop generally speaking, the regular pattern isn’t in the words, at least not in the same way as in hymns. The beat is what’s constant, and the rapper has freedom for rhythmic variation in the writing. There is much more freedom in Hip-hop than in other poetic forms, which allows for the increased word count that I’ve argued is one of the things that makes some styles of Hip-hop particularly useful for communicating certain Biblical truths.

As far as it not being a corporate form, I disagree. I’ve been to many rap concerts where thousands of people knew every single word to the songs. The skill and memorization needed to repeat every lyric of the songs wasn’t a barrier at all- at least not for people who spoke the “language” of that cultural context.

You gave examples of my doing the same song in different ways. You followed that by saying:  “Same words, same performer, same intent, two very different performances with two different products.”

Of course the performances were different. The song was re-contextualized for different settings. One of the settings was cross-cultural, with many in attendance who lacked familiarity with the genre of Hip-hop. There were people in that congregation who were 70-plus years old and had never heard Hip-hop music or interacted with anyone from Hip-hop culture. But they loved the Lord Jesus and could say “Amen” when I referred to Christ as the beautiful and blessed Son and bragged about His supremacy. I sought to serve them by removing any obstacle that would prevent them from engaging with the truth I was communicating and by making the lyrics as understandable as possible. If my cadence or the beat would prevent the crowd from understanding me, I’d make drastic adjustments if necessary. I have no problem doing that for the sake of the gospel. That’s simply an application of the principle communicated in 1 Cor. 14:16-17. By contrast, in the performance with the beat behind it, it was a Hip-hop crowd. They didn’t need me to “translate”, as it were. Because they were cultural insiders, I could easily communicate with them in our common understood “dialect”.

Scott, we’re in agreement that the manner in which music is communicated can both affect how it’s received as well as “shape the propositional content of the lyrics”, as you say. I have a background in theater. One of the great things about watching different productions of the same play is that you’re getting the same script with a completely different take on it. The same words coming out of the mouths of different actors (or even the same actors on a different night) can take on a completely different meaning, depending on how they perform them. This is also true with music. It’s one of the reasons why people write new tunes for traditional hymn texts. Consider the following four versions of the hymn “Come Ye Sinners”.

Version 1

Version 2

Version 3

Version 4

Same lyrics, same author, four very different performances with four different products. I see that as a good thing, because different musical expressions can help bring out nuances in the lyrics that others may not do as well. If I’m reading you correctly, where we differ is that you would ascribe inherent moral value to the music apart from the words and I would not. It seems like you’re saying that version 4 above may be holy and version 2 might be unholy, based on the musical elements that accompany the lyrics. I see no biblical warrant for that kind of thinking.

As to your question about why Hip-hop is appropriate, my answer remains the same. As far as music by Christians is concerned, the biblical stress is on content, not style. So the main question to ask of Christian music in any genre is whether or not the lyrics conform to the truth of God’s Word. All other considerations are secondary.

Series NavigationPreviousNext
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.

144 Responses to Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: What Defines Rap? (Rebuttal)

  1. Actually version 4 and 2 would be unholy and 1 and 3 would be holy if I had to guess for Scott’s position.

  2. Every popular music form today has African roots and/or influences. Whatever channel you select on the radio; it comes from or is heavily influenced by Africa.

    Jazz – Africa
    Blues – Africa
    Bluegrass – Africa
    Rock and Roll (metal/punk/pop) – Africa
    Country – Africa
    Rap – Africa

    Some have said that because they argue against Christian Metal or Contemporary Christian Music, they are above any racial/cultural bias. This is simply not the case. Metal is a direct descendant of Rock, which is a direct descendant of Africa. CCM is just a reflection of popular music (which all comes from or is influenced by African music). I see racial/cultural biases in my own life. We all deal with these issues. Cultural assimilations are hard to see and break out of. It is easy to think the way we were raised and do things is right and others are wrong. The Gospel and the Scriptures are the only objective standard that frees us from our subjective cultural assimilations.

    Below are some quotes from simple Wikipedia searches.

    Jazz is a music genre that originated at the beginning of the 20th Century, arguably earlier, within the African-American communities of the Southern United States. Its roots lie in the combining by African-Americans of certain European harmony and form elements, with their existing African-based music. Its African musical basis is evident in its use of blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation and the swing note.

    Ethnomusicologist Gerhard Kubik traces the roots of many of the elements that were to develop into the blues back to the African continent, the “cradle of the blues”. African American work songs were an important precursor to the modern blues; these included the songs sung by laborers like stevedores and roustabouts, and the field hollers and “shouts” of slaves. Characteristics of blues music were present prior to the creation of the modern blues, and are common to most styles of African American music. The earliest blues-like music was a “functional expression, rendered in a call-and-response style without accompaniment or harmony and unbounded by the formality of any particular musical structure”.

    The roots of bluegrass reach back to the music brought to America by immigrants in the early 1600s, including dance music and ballads from Ireland, Scotland and England, as well as African American gospel music and blues. In fact, slaves from Africa brought the design idea for the banjo–an instrument now integral to the bluegrass sound. Black musicians infused characteristics of the blues to the mix, and in a development that was key to shaping the bluegrass sound.

    Rock and roll emerged as a defined musical style in the United States in the early to mid-1950s. It derived most directly from the rhythm and blues music of the 1940s, which itself developed from earlier blues, boogie woogie, jazz and swing music, and was also influenced by gospel, country and western, and traditional folk music. “Rock ‘n’ roll was an inevitable outgrowth of the social and musical interactions between blacks and whites in the South and Southwest. Its roots are a complex tangle. Bedrock black church music influenced blues, rural blues influenced white folk song and the black popular music of the Northern ghettos, blues and black pop influenced jazz, and so on. But the single most important process was the influence of black music on white.”

    As the rise of rock and roll music is often credited as having begun with 1940s American blues, and with so many genres having branched off from rock – the myriad subgenres of heavy metal, punk rock, pop music and many more – it can be argued that African music has been at the root of a very significant portion of all recent popular or vernacular music.

    Country music is often erroneously thought of as solely the creation of European Americans. However, a great deal of style—and of course, the banjo, a major instrument in most early American folk songs—came from African Americans. One of the reasons country music was created by African Americans, as well as European Americans, is because blacks and whites in rural communities in the south often worked and played together.

  3. I disagree with Shai here, and think he makes an erroneous argument. He keeps assuming that there is no inherent morality or inherent communication in music, but that lyrics are the main thing. Music is a super language, brother Shai, and it is in grave error to deny that.

  4. Reuben, what did Shai’s music in the second video communicate that was sinful? I’m not talking about causing emotions, I’m asking what it communicated that was sinful. That is the crux of the argument. Neither Scott nor anyone else has shown that yet. Until someone can specifically point to something that is sinful in the music, there will be a great many that say that music is not inherently moral/immoral apart from lyrics. Did Shai’s adding music change the message of the song? No, as Shai said it was simply “re-contexualized for different settings.” We get it that it is not what trips your trigger (it’s not really my thing either), but what is it that is sinful about the music itself? That is what has been and still is missing from Scott’s analysis.

  5. “And that’s what I am primarily concerned about: how do particular styles of music and performance shape God’s truth? Are they presenting that truth in appropriate ways, or do they trivialize and demean the truth?”

    Answer: music forms from, or heavily influence from, Africa trivialize and demean the truth.

    (see previous post on music forms from or heavily influenced from Africa)

  6. For those of you that have been following all the conversations of Scott and Shai and the corresponding post from the cheap seats:

    Question: How can Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto #2 be presented as some sort of “gold standard” for figure skaters despite obvious questionable cultural assimilations?

    Answer: It is not from Africa

    Question: How can Gioachino Rossini’s William Tell Overture be presented as an example of an example of music that does not promote swaying seductively despite obvious questionable cultural assimilations?

    Answer: It is not from Africa

    Question: How can Chinese guzheng music be presented as holy (under any reasonable definition of the word) when it is birth from pagans and promotes pagan worship?

    Answer: It is not from Africa

  7. “One of the reasons country music was created by African Americans, as well as European Americans, is because blacks and whites in rural communities in the south often worked and played together.”

    I don’t have a real well worked out theology on common grace. I guess it could be debated and I could learn a lot more about than I know now. But, I am wondering if this is one of the best cases for common grace I have seen in a while. The natural man, apart from the redeeming work of God, normally moves from community to isolation. C.S. Lewis’ description of the “grey town” in The Great Divorce is a good illustration of this.

    Here, in the birth place of Country music, (The South – which is also credited for the birthplace of Jazz, Blues and as an influence on Rock and Roll), a place that is some-sort of an epicenter (for lack of better word) for cultural war in America, we see cultures that should be separating, coming together. On the other hand in discussing the inherent sinfulness of African music, we see Christians, who should be “in Christ” and moving from isolation to community, separating. The end of the Christian story is glorified community, not moving toward isolation.

  8. And I guess this is as good of a time as any to round out all my thoughts on this. I am losing faith on the benefits of this discussion. I plan to sign off while reserving the right to jump back in.

    What is different about music?

    The bible never addresses any of the standards of music that are being debated. Yes, there are hundreds of laws and directions and instructions describing many areas of life and worship. While many of these areas are what we would consider cultural, we have no comments on or objective standards of music. Music is there from the beginning and takes center stage in many stories.

    Abraham was a pagan. He came from a pagan culture. Israel was the smallest of all nations. They had no influence on their neighbor’s culture (including music). Are we saying that for thousands of years, no one (Israelite, pagan, or Christian) played any sinful music remotely resembling our discussion while God was revealing himself and his standards in Scripture? We know that the cultures around Israel (OT) and the Church (NT) were just as sinful as our worst today. Is it reasonable to assume no one (stiff-necked Israelite, pagan or rebellious Christian) never abused music in any of the standards we are discussing?

    What is different about music?

    Please, will some expert on music and/or the law and/or something please help me understand?

  9. All the African irony aside, what puzzles me is that Shai seems to put those four examples of ‘Come Ye Sinners’ on one and the same level. That an artist of his calibre does not understand that this is nonsensical surprises me – I would have assumed he would have thought about these things more deeply.

    Not believing in the sinfulness of music, neither do I believe all music is created equal, nor that all music can be used equally well to express the same ideas and feelings. So to return to the theme of ‘religious affections’ as represented in music, I would suggest the following brief critique for the four versions:

    Version 1: Probably the most ‘neutral’ representation of the lyrics with the original music, and without instrumentation – just some choir accompaniment (may be a synthesizer or simply a reverb effect). It can be understood clearly and communicates the original lyrical intent well as far as I can hear. There is some intensity and urgency while attempting to represent the beauty of what God is like and what He offers the sinner. Of course the singing is artistic and draws attention to the performer. I guess I would simply prefer it to be sung by a congregation, rather than by a single interpreter.

    Version 2: Indelible Grace has butchered the hymn by putting it to a country sound. The casual and laid-back, entertaining sound is unfit for the profound lyrics that call to repentance. As such, the music takes away the urgency and intent of the lyrics. It becomes a tiger without teeth. The form here changes the meaning of the lyrics completely and makes them of none effect by using a feel-good sound that is unsuitable to convey any sense of awe or a realization of the importance of what the lyrics are trying to say to the sinner. A call to repentance is thus turned into pure entertainment.

    Version 3: The choral performance is artistically well done and sounds impressive, yet the effect of the polyphony stresses the artistic aspect of the arrangement to the detriment of its content. Although the content can still be understood it is less clear than in Version 1 or when we would sing it ourselves. As such, this version also takes away from the original intent. Maybe polyphony would be better in a hymn that seeks to glorify God than in one that seeks to call sinners to repentance.

    Version 4: The soft-rock form not only debilitates but I would say annihilates the lyrical intent. Not only are the lyrics harder to understand (especially those sung by the female voice), they are also subdued and overpowered by the strong musical impact of this arrangement. The music conveys a sense of elation, flying, or maybe standing on a high mountain looking down – an exhilaration that works directly on the senses and although beautiful, leads the listener away from the lyrics that become secondary to what else goes on. The song becomes a building of sound addressed to the senses rather than a message to the sinner. It is a bad choice to convey the lyrics artistically well.

    So these are CERTAINLY NOT simply four ways of expressing the same truth from a different angle. Really, there is ONE truth in the lyrics and the music will either emphasize this truth, debilitate, or possibly, negate it (or drown it).

    This takes me to Scott’s examples of Shai’s song the second of which is indeed very different from the first, which is part of a corporate worship setting. On the first, I would say that Shai’s talent is impressive but that I would not want to teach this way even if I could. It puts him and his skill in the center, rather than emphasizing the message. And the way he speaks, being assertive and ‘bragging’ may be well-intended but does not convey the right affections to God – rather, it boasts without providing a strong foundation. It then becomes superficial because it merely creates a momentary feeling of pride as a rallying call does but does not provide the substance to maintain this attitude. Maybe it would work to re-emphasize a sermon around the same theme.

    The second example is indeed very different from the first, and does not appear to be in a worship setting but a concert. I disagree stongly this is simply a different dialect but otherwise means the same thing. Or let me reword: this combination of music and words does not communicate the intent/meaning of the lyrics equally well. So Scott is right on this one: the second example does not convey even the feelings the first does, given it sounds more like he wants to say as many words per second as he can rather than trying to convey how awesome God is. If you want to convey that, you need to look for a completely different way of doing so. It should be one that is not as repetitive and in a frenzy as this one and also one that directs the listener away from the performer towards God. This is a textbook example for bad art (sorry – but Gal 4:16). And I know Shai can do much better!

    To end, the main question to ask of Christian music in any genre is NOT (despite Shai’s assertion) ONLY whether or not the lyrics conform to the truth of God’s Word. All other considerations are NOT secondary, given certain styles can make the content secondary to the music, or change the content so that it no longer achieves the intended goal.

  10. It seems like this really has to do with two things, and the “holy/unholy” language is simply obscuring these main points. Scott seems to object to hip-hop on two grounds: 1) it cannot be utilized in all congregational settings, and 2) it does not reflect a reverential posture. This seems to be the two primary issues, and so I think perhaps instead of holy/unholy, sacred/secular better reflects this discussion. While holy and sacred mean roughly the same thing, sacred also carries the connotation of being fitting or appropriate in a worship setting, more than holy.

    Scott’s position is understandable, but I do think this comes down to cultural preference; hip-hop is generally not something that can be followed in many congregational settings (due to age, culture, etc.). Hence, in wisdom Shai’s mode of delivery changed. However, the inappropriateness of hip-hop in the former setting did not exclude its appropriateness in the latter setting, a setting that arguably had a different reverential tone (different, but no less reverent). In the former video, Shai’s mode of delivery reflected the culturally-determined tone of reverence. The latter video was no less reverent, no less passionate. Hence, it was no less holy, though perhaps it does not fit into the European categories of sacred music.

  11. “a setting that arguably had a different reverential tone (different, but no less reverent). In the former video, Shai’s mode of delivery reflected the culturally-determined tone of reverence.”

    Sorry, can’t concur. The second one has no reverence whatsoever. This is what I meant with previous comments on sub-cultures: you cannot redefine what reverence means in the larger (Western) culture by baptizing whatever you wish as ‘reverent’ in your sub-culture, calling it a dialect. This simply won’t fly. Reverence is not reverence just because you say so. It’s possibly culturally determined, but not sub-culturally. In Western culture, what Shai did in the second video is not to be confounded with reverence. Please!

  12. Wayne,

    I have read through all your comments on this post and many others. You do not have the biblical data straight. You say, “Israel was the smallest of all nations. They had no influence on their neighbor’s culture (including music).”

    What you are not factoring into your assessment is that Israel was the only people who knew the true God. Abraham came to know the true God and also met Melchizedek, who a godly king and priest of the most High God. Abraham was not merely at the mercy of the pagan culture all around him.

    Also, at various times in their history, the Israelites ruled over a much larger area than they do today. The Israelites had a tremendous influence on all the nations wherever they went. Moreover, people from all over the ancient world came to hear the wisdom that God gave to Solomon. There is no reason to exclude divinely given wisdom about music from what they learned from Solomon.

    You also say, “Are we saying that for thousands of years, no one (Israelite, pagan, or Christian) played any sinful music remotely resembling our discussion while God was revealing himself and his standards in Scripture? We know that the cultures around Israel (OT) and the Church (NT) were just as sinful as our worst today. Is it reasonable to assume no one (stiff-necked Israelite, pagan or rebellious Christian) never abused music in any of the standards we are discussing?”

    The Bible has plenty to say about people producing sinful music, both by pagans and His own people. Exodus 32 records singing by demon-influenced people who were engaging in syncretistic worship of Yahweh that included idolatrous eating, drinking, and playing, including immorality and wicked dancing. These people were so wickedly out of control that even their enemies were ashamed of them. In the middle of this profoundly sordid account, the Holy Spirit provides a two-verse record specifically about how their singing sounded to two leaders of God’s people from a distance.

    It is ludicrous to say that in the middle of all the other evil that they were doing, their singing was still neutral or even godly. These demon-influenced people were certainly not filled with the Spirit, so we know that their singing in their feast to the Lord was not acceptable to Him.

    Many other passages speak of people producing ungodly music, including Ps. 69:12; Eccl. 7:5; Isaiah 5:11-12; 23:15-16; Amos 5:23; 6:5; Daniel 3 and others. It simply is not true that the Bible does not have anything to say about people producing ungodly music.

  13. Martin,

    While Come Ye Sinners does call sinners to come to Jesus, and hence to repentance, the emphasis is not on sin/wrath, but rather on God’s bounty for the wretched.

    Scripture calls sinners two ways: offering a gift, or offering punishment if sinners do not heed the call. Jonathan Edwards is well known to do the latter, and we do need to do the latter. But I don’t read that in Come Ye Sinners as an emphasis.

    It rather seems to be coming from someone who experienced Jesus’ sweet love and wants to offer it.

    Which is perhaps what Indelible Grace was thinking by putting the song to that tune.

    As for your impression of Shai’s second example… this goes back to what I told you yesterday. You hear different things than what I hear on that song (and others). It seems to me Shai wanted to enjoy how awesome God is in that setting — to brag about Him. Don’t know why that would be OK without music, but wrong with music.

    I agree with Shai the music can help communicate different nuances in the lyrics, depending on: (a) different music, and (b) different audiences. The latter part (b) is what you missed in your assessment of Shai’s concert performance. You are not the intended audience, as he clearly indicated. This is why, for the first example, he said “If my cadence or the beat would prevent the crowd from understanding me, I’d make drastic adjustments if necessary”.

    Great example of why this discussion will not reach an agreement. But I am learning from it, that’s why I have stayed around to read for this long (even after being called a liar and more subtly a postmodern).

    God bless,


  14. Nick, upon reading all the lyrics of ‘Come Ye Sinners’ I can confirm that repentance IS the topic of this hymn. Yes, it’s an invitation, not a threat, yet the theme does not lend itself to country (for the reasons I laid out above).

    Yes, the second example, I submit, is objectively inappropriate. You disagree, and I agree we have not come far enough to agree. But we need to get there, as I mentioned yesterday.

    I did not miss ‘the latter part’ but clearly engaged with this assertion by stating that sub-cultural definitions cannot trump cultural definitions. I take this as a given but of course, if you have some counter-examples…

    Being called a postmodern isn’t an insult these days, is it?

  15. Martin, please explain to me how Shai’s posture wasn’t reverent at all? I saw nothing but lifting up the name of Christ and I never saw him try to give glory to himself so please show me how Hip-Hop as a whole and Shai’s posture wasn’t in reverence for God.

  16. I am honestly confused as to how anyone thinks Shai’s performance in the video is anything close to reverent – especially when you observe the gyrating, semi-grinding motions that he engages in (:30 – :37). Is that how we approach a holy God? By engaging in movement that simulates sexual intercourse?

    Call me crazy, but for some reason, I don’t think Isaiah was shucking and jiving when he said, “Here am I, Lord. Send me.”

  17. Kelsey, would you speak to the President of the USA or the Queen anyhow similar to what Shai was doing there if you wanted to show respect and reverence to their functions? I don’t think so. Even if you think about writing a play where someone sings to a king reverently, you won’t use a rap song – it’s the wrong choice artistically. What Shai does in that video may be good entertainment for rap fans but it’s not considered reverent in Western culture (and I’m quite sure, also not in Eastern culture, btw). I don’t mean to judge his motives or intent here but am speaking about the outward image he’s projecting. So even if he wants to be reverent, he isn’t by cultural standards.

  18. Martin, Where did Shai addresses God in those lyrics? I thought he was addressing people.
    Perhaps you think you must always be solemn when talking to people about God. In which case I suppose the only proper place to teach about God is at church, and not in everyday life…. Which sounds very R2K’ish to me. Scott’s habit of quoting R2K proponents has not been lost on me, and I’m starting to wonder…

  19. The beauty is that this is about a specific song with specific lyrics. I do NOT say that you need to be solemn when talking about God. What I AM saying is that when you talk about God’s holiness and the Saviour who reigns, the beautiful and blessed Son etc. – that requires music and posture fit for the purpose. Even that is too generalized: really, the exact lyrics Shai uses have a specific meaning and require music fit for them to support this meaning. Video 2 does not provide such fitness.

  20. Martin,
    Do you believe it is proper for a construction worker, while he is working and dirty, or for a person who cleans, while he cleans up poop, to talk to his coworkers about God’s holiness? Is that unfitting? Will God be offended by it?

    I’m not pulling your leg with these questions. The questions are deliberate. It is likely this is another example of where philosophy is impacting application.

    Do you know who John Frame is? You may want to read his view on the regulative principle:

    You can also search for Scott’s response in this website, which is instructive.

    For the record, I’ve been influenced by Frame in many areas of my thinking.

    If we had to always talk about God as if His full glory were in front of us, we would not be singing or preaching standing at church. We would not talk to Him like if he were some puny president. We would be lying on the floor with our faces stuck to the ground. Nothing less than that would do. But we are not required to do that in Scripture – hence we can stand and sit, and even have our children with us.

  21. first of all doug….excuse my grammar. its late.
    second off, only you see sexual intercourse in those movements. if that isn’t a biased assessment, then i’m sure you frequently accuse the mailman of doing the same, with the way he sort of “shimmys” his way to your mailbox. come on bro. unacceptable. ignorant. and borderline promiscuous to make that suggestion. why are you reading sexuality into something where it isnt there. very inappropriate and accusatory towards a brother. in fact, shai is not approaching God here and this isnt corporate worship. he is speaking of the truth of God. but he is not approaching him. if shai is engaged in worship, based only on the fact that he is speaking of God….then you are also engaged in the same act right now (as you are speaking of God) and I would argue that the sad thing is that you do not realize that in this regard you have been much more irreverent. No shai is not intending on simulating sexual movements. “intent doesn’t matter.” fine…. he also, LITERALLY, PHYSICALLY is not making sexual movements. But you have spoken coarsely, ignorantly, and with irreverence …while speaking of God ( with an audience, same as shai ). By your own standards you have failed. Thankfully, I don’t believe them to be biblical standards. Just your standards. Sorry for my “tone.” I don’t intend on being mean-spirited… but I do take your comments seriously.

  22. @ doug (continued) I think I understand it all now. You, and him, and everyone else on the one side of this thing just don’t understand “redeemed.” Anything that can be traced back to sinful behavior is bad, according to you. It’s quite sad really. Not only is it sad, but I believe it is a mark of an immature believer. You said a simple side to side movement was wrong, in a sexual way… and yet when you threw your hand out in front of your face, in frustration, and said “the heck with it,” while trying to build a shed in your backyard… or when you woke up and stretched, i could say “that looked like a punch. That resembled a violent motion associated with murder.” I’m sure I could watch you for a day and find “sexual movements” if I had a sick mind. That may be sexual to you… but not only is it not sexual to me….it simply not sexual, in the literal objective sense. the irony is that everything can be traced back to sin. If you really believe christian rap is wrong, all instrumentals are wrong. period. and you know what? im not some liberal…. i dont like the way music is used in worship. so im actually open to the argument that instrumentals are distracting and therefore wrong…but lets be consistent. This author doesnt like rap, but probably listens to CCM which i would argue is much more irreverent, not just with its corny music, but worse off, with the words. This sounds like “thinking themselves to be wise they became fools,” arguing about instrumentals all while ignoring the words. He used that weird Asian music as an example of morally good music and YET IT WAS ASSOCIATED WITH A PAGAN RELIGION!!!! IT WAS THE DEFINITION OF UNHOLY! All dancing can be associated back to sin. Dancing, we can all agree, is very common among demonic and pagan parties and rituals…. and yet, we see dancing for God as being common for worship. Certainly Hollywood is satanic. So I hope the writer of this doesnt have a television, or go to movies EVER. Or else it would prove he is a hypocrite, limited by bias, who says your cultural nuances are bad, but his are acceptable. He prolly has watched a movie in the last year, and may say that some movies are redemptive…BUT ALL OF HOLLYWOOD WAS BIRTHED IN SIN, UNQUESTIONABLY. Therefore by his logic, not just some of this artform of film is bad….all would be bad. I’m pretty sure the internet would be bad too. Heck, maybe even typing. I’m gonna go sit in the corner now, not sleep, not eat, not type, and certainly not dare play any music or accidentally move my hips in a way that could be deemed suggestive…. or maybe I’ll just eat drink and sleep to the glory of God, with thanks.

  23. @martin….thanks for that distinction on what you meant by reverence in western culture. i understand now, and think its a good point, even though im on the other side of the argument.

  24. Martin,

    I would have to agree with Nick here, you can’t possibly judge Shai’s posture and not judge your own or anyone else’s posture when speaking about the Lord. If we treated God as if He revealed himself to us in full glory then we wouldn’t even be upright speaking about him or speaking to him, we would have our faces and knees to the ground in reverence. Since we don’t always do that, why are we looking to much into Shai’s posture?

    and Doug, to be honest, you’re taking it a little too far with the “sexual” movements in Shai’s movements. I honestly never saw any of that until you pointed it out. Those movements are what rappers do when they rap. I don’t know why but it doesn’t have any intrinsic meaning or value. It’s actually unintentional and if you pointed it out to Shai and ask him about it he probably would tell you that he never even noticed he was making those movements. It’s the same when a singer is swaying or moving their hands when singing or when a instrumentalist moves to melody of their music. Should we consider their movements sinful and irreverent as well?

  25. @Martin — While I would agree with you that all of the musical examples in this article, both Scott’s and Shai’s, show a different level of fitness for the purpose, I wonder if your oft-used examples of the President or the Queen are really apropos, or if they simply demonstrate our own American cultural thinking and how we may (mis)apply it to how we should behave before God.

    Since American culture comes out of the British (very reserved) culture, we have certain ideas how human leaders are to be respected. However, in applying these ideas to God, I wonder if we don’t make two errors: 1. God is really not the same as any human leader, and 2. God has already given us multiple examples how humans act in response to him, and they aren’t really equivalent to the current way of thinking you express in your example.

    We see reactions to God in scripture that range from falling on one’s face to the ground, to dancing, to leaping, to rolling on the ground in sackcloth and ashes, to lifting holy hands, to shouting in praise, to great public wailing, and probably others I’m not thinking of. In our way of thinking, pretty much none of these would be appropriate for the President or the Queen, so I wonder how much use those two personages really are for the purpose of determining how we should act toward God, publicly or privately. In other words, is reverence and respect always (or even mostly) equal to solemnity and reservedness? Many of us would like to think so, but I don’t believe that way of thinking has the right of it when the object of our actions is God and not a human.

    My musical choices definitely seem much more like yours and Scott’s than the country, rock or hip-hop examples, but I am curious how much of that is due to training, upbringing, and the sub-culture surrounding me, rather than because of what is actually true and right. I certainly don’t think Scott has proved his case, and argument-wise, though I believe there is some objective beauty and that music can never be “neutral,” I seem to have more in common with the those arguing that music is not evil of itself, but I still think something important is being overlooked by both sides — I just don’t happen to know what that is, or if it is something we can even truly know.

  26. Quite some activity last night – since I live on the eastern part of the continent, I usually sleep while you’re all typing :-)
    The Queen example is meant as a lower limit when comparing our attitude towards God – and surely a good example as to what our culture deems reverent. Interestingly, many who meet the Queen are first instructed on etiquette and manners since good behaviour in the presence of dignities can no longer be presupposed. So I don’t consider musical training an impediment but in my mind, it is the only way to ever come to agreement on this topic, as on others that are not always defined by simple rules, such as ethics.

    Of course we have access to His throne and whether our clothes are ripped or dirty does not matter (unless, however, we mean to represent Him in corporate worship or such occasions where dress is taken as a sign of respect). The worker witnessing to his colleagues is a different category, however. What his occupation is, is irrelevant but still needs to use language that is adequate to what he is saying. If he were to curse and use dirty language to try and express ideas about God’s holiness, that would be inadequate and might even negate what he intends to communicate.
    I have read Frame’s book ‘Worship in Spirit and Truth’ but am not sure why you (Nick) bring up the regulatory principle again since I did not refer to it nor appeal to it.

    “If we had to always talk about God as if His full glory were in front of us, we would not be singing or preaching standing at church.”
    Obviously. But has anyone here made such a groundless claim? I meant to explain this in my previous post, i.e. I was not generalizing in my assessment but I was ‘specializing’ – i.e. I suggested that Shai’s rap does not support the propositional content of the lyrics he is singing. I mean THESE SPECIFIC LYRICS, not ANY lyrics about God – generalizing from what I wrote will necessarily lead to wrong conclusions. If we are talking about a song with a different subject, we need to start from scratch since the things I wrote may no longer apply. But if you talk about the attributes and holiness of God, yes, you should accompany that with music that is unequivocally related to reverence in the larger culture you’re working in.

  27. Martin,
    My point with Frame’s view was that worship is for all of life. From that perspective, reverence takes far more flexibility in its meaning that you seem to give it.

    I don’t see your point about Shai’s specific lyrics. It is talking about God. I don’t see why talking about one of God’s attributes versus another has anything to do with the “degree of reverence” (for lack of a better term).

    At any rate, like I said before, I don’t think we are going to agree on this one (or a lot of other things related to this subject). To you it is irreverent, and I believe you. Obviously to Shai it isn’t.

  28. BTW, I don’t equate music with dirty language. Perhaps that’s our difference.

    If you had said music is irreverent because it is not solemn enough, then I would reply as I have replied already.

    If you say the music is irreverent because it is like dirty language — well, there is no excuse for dirty language in any area of life. So to me that’s like saying the music is inherently sinful, which I don’t believe it is.

    At any rate, I give you the last word. I don’t want to go on and on with these points…

  29. Nick, I meant to imply that form (musical style) is important, just as there is form in HOW we speak. I was giving our imaginary worked a lot of credit here; he may be used to speaking such language and if he’s a new Christian, he may not have learned yet to avoid it fully. This may take away from the impact of what he’s saying but I didn’t mean to equate that to sin. What I am arguing, and have for the last weeks, is appropriateness of musical form to go with specific lyrics. Using profane language would also be inappropriate for witnessing.

    Shai’s rap (#2) may be appropriate if he’s angry with God and wants to vent some of this. I do not see that we always have to be reverent when speaking of God, even if this may be so when we talk about Him during worship. Outside worship, other contexts can be thought of that do not require a reverent attitude. For example, we could discuss about God in a group in a normal tone without trying to be reverent or irreverent. A theological talk about the aseity of God may not have to be reverent; it just needs to be factual and sober. Rather than expanding the meaning of reverence to all kinds of life situations, I would prefer to keep a narrow definition and simply say reverence is not always required.

    Finally, we could discuss whether Shai was irreverent but I don’t see that he was intentionally reverent, as would be appropriate for the lyrics he used. There is cultural consensus around this, even if we can disagree on some details. I refer back to my film music example from an earlier post. We understand quite well what music conveys and there is a film music industry that uses this consensus to enhance the power of visual images and spoken words by appropriate music. The existence of the term ‘appropriate’ in this context and that such an industry can operate successfully proves there are universals in musical meaning.

  30. Kelsey, I mostly agree with you when you say, “Those movements are what rappers do when they rap…if you pointed it out to Shai and ask him about it he probably would tell you that he never even noticed he was making those movements.” Rock, Hip-hop, and other pop performers do these movements, because that is what the beat suggests that they do – wittingly or unwittingly. It is conducive to it. It just naturally fits.

    It seems that we’ve lost a bit of perspective and history here. Why did pastors and others (regenerate and unregenerate) consider Elvis Presley and his performances vulgar? Because of the suggestive hip movements. From Look magazine in 1956: “But Presley is mostly nightmare. On-stage, his gyrations, his nose wiping, his leers are vulgar. When asked about the sex element in his act, he answers without blinking his big brown eyes: “Ah don’t see anything wrong with it. Ah just act the way ah feel.”

    It just came natural to him. Why? Because the music naturally supported it. It was conducive to it – just like the music was conducive to Shai’s movement.

    Are we really going to look at the history of pop music and deny that one of its inherent attributes is its sexuality? Why are music videos, VH-1, MTV, etc. so popular and ubiquitous and why are many of them suggestive at best and pornographic at worst? Because the music supports it. It naturally fits – it makes sense. Music videos aren’t a case of someone producing a video and then finding music that fits. They are recordings to which someone choreographs the video. Suggestive/sensual/sexual videos are paired with suggestive/sensual/sexual music.

    I’m at a loss when I see/hear/read people who are in complete denial of this. This is basic stuff. The world has no problem admitting the link. They just disagree with what level is appropriate; hence the Miley Cyrus “twerking” controversy. Was it appropriate? No. Why did she do it? Because it fit the song. The music (not necessarily the words) communicated lust and unbridled sexuality – her actions and the resultant video were simply along for the ride.

  31. “Why are music videos, VH-1, MTV, etc. so popular and ubiquitous and why are many of them suggestive at best and pornographic at worst? Because the music supports it.”
    That’s about like saying the fork made me fat! They cannot stand in front of a holy God and say “the music made me do it!” The reason they are suggestive and pornographic is because the people are in need of a Savior!! No one can seriously compare Shai’s music to what you are talking about.

  32. Thank you Rick,

    We cannot say “the music made me do it” because that pretty much removes any accountability for our actions. When we stand before God, He will hold us accountable for our actions.


    I’m a rapper and also listen to Christian Hip-Hop regularly. Most of my music is slow, calm, and reflective but every once and a while I’ll listen to a Christian rap song that’s a little bit more upbeat and the lyrics are centered around rejoicing in Christ. Does it make me want to dance and rejoice in the Lord? Yes. Is there anything wrong with dancing and rejoicing in the Lord? Absolutely not, we are told in Scripture to rejoice. Does the music suggest that I should start bumpin’ and gridin’? No, the song is talking about the goodness of Christ, why would I start doing that?. The music doesn’t make me or anyone else do anything, it’s a choice to dance in a provocative way. The reason why Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, and any other female twerk to Hip-Hop music is not because the music made them do it or that the music suggested that they needed to twerk to it in order to be in sync with what the instrumental was communicating. They themselves chose to twerk to that music. Like Rick said, they are suggestive and pornographic because they are in need of a Savior just like the rest of us are.

    *as a side-note to add to what you said about Miley Cyrus’ twerking controversy. If you’re referring to what she did on stage at MTV’s VMA awards with Robin Thicke, then I would have to say that the instrumental in and of itself did not communicate lust and unbridled sexuality. The song she twerked to was Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” I’ve heard the song in it’s entirety and the lyrics mainly communicated lust, not the instrumental.

  33. I don’t expect anyone here to admit anything about music that they don’t. I would be amazed if someone did. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen — just very highly unlikely. There are some out there who will be persuaded, but I don’t think it will in the comment section and that’s probably not what this is about.

    I watched both videos, the two different versions, above of Shai Linne’s rapping. First, by his own admission, he changed up what he did for the audience, not for God. The audience was sovereign in the choice of style. Worship, on the other hand, recognizes who God is and gives Him what He wants. Shai Linne recognized who his audience was and gave it what it wanted — complete opposite of worship — and at a root level, where the problem is. Now, in answer to that, he might say that the style is irrelevant to God. God doesn’t care how the music is communicated, the relativistic, neutrality of beauty, so if its your preference, your taste, all the better. The music means nothing, which is, of course, why it is so non-controversial.

    Second, people here say that in version two he’s dancing around out of rejoicing. If that’s the case, then why does his hand move and his hips move to the rhythm of the percussion? How does hip thrusting relate to rejoicing? Some might say hip-thrusting is too strong language, but it’s what I see at 1:50 and on for awhile. Now, again, I understand a type of percussion that encourages hip movement — so do secular rockers and rappers. They just don’t have a problem admitting it, because they don’t see this hip thrusting to the beat as being wrong. They are just hips, which are neutral. And it is just movement, which is neutral. His hips are moving to the beat, to the rhythm of the percussion, but that is just spontaneous rejoicing like when David entered Jerusalem with entrance of the ark of the covenant. The music has nothing to do with the hip movement. Does God want hip movement to the rhythm of percussion? Is that quality acceptable to God? Is that worship? Is that respectful to God? Are those movements in fitting with the God of the Bible? Are they ordinate affections? Are they physical? In what way?

    I know I’m not going to recognize this as worship. I know I’m not going to see it as arising from something spiritual, from truth about God. Wayne would say that this is because of something to do with Africa. The people are filled with latent racism. Race, last time I checked, relates to skin color. The race charge might scare people in this culture, because no one wants to be called a racist, or be thought to be a racist. I’m going to say that Wayne is pretty preoccupied with race, obsessing about race in a way that he can’t see anything without seeing skin color in it. I feel sorry for him. It’s a horrible way to have to live, not befitting of biblical Christianity. If I was going to go deep in theorizing about history, I would say it goes back to the tower of Babel, and spread out from there. Some worshiped the true God. Most worshiped and served the creature. When you look at Corinth (in Greece), the mystery religion borrowed ecstasy, a physical condition, to fool people about a false state of spirituality. That still works today.

  34. Rick,

    Are you seriously denying that the process of making a music video starts with the music and that the producers of said music video work to produce a product that fits the music? I completely understand that these people are in complete bondage to sin and in need of a Savior, which is precisely why they use suggestive/sensual/sexual visuals to accompany suggestive/sensual/sexual audio.

    Your charge that I’m accusing the music of making people sin is a red herring. You’re not engaging the argument. The argument is that certain music is conducive to certain actions, because the music is communicating the exact same behavior. It fits. It’s the reason that marching bands don’t bump and grind while they’re playing Semper Fidelis (of course, now having said that, someone is going to find an obscure reference to some marching band boogying while playing a march straight and present that as conclusive evidence that march music is conducive to lewd behavior, all the while ignoring the mountains of evidence that shows how rock, hip-hop and their derivatives fit the patterns of sensual behavior).

    It’s why pop musicians shimmy, thrust, bump, grind, twerk.

    It’s why classical opera singers (and I’m no fan of opera) don’t as a whole…even though the opera (or portions of it) may include lewd subject material.

    Is pornography only visual? Or can it be communicated audibly? The Scriptures address what we let in via the ear-gate much more than what we let in via the eye-gate. Is your position (and the position of others like-minded) really that music can’t communicate anger, rage, sensuality, lust, etc?

  35. Kelsey, I viewed the video and I don’t have a problem with his posture or body movement. I listened to it and couldn’t understand quite a bit of what he said, but other than that, no issues.

  36. I have been following this discussion all along and have been in agreement with Scott. There is one distinction, though, that has not been made. It seems to be assumed that worship IS music and that music IS worship. Worship is in the heart. IF, in our hearts, we view God with a right understanding of his attributes and of his truth, our expressions will rightly reflect those attributes and truth and so when others see our outward worship, they will be seeing a testimony of who God is.

  37. Doug, not engaging your argument? I was engaging your argument and it most definitely was not a red herring. Saying the fork made me fat is exactly like your argument that the music made me twerk! And no, I do not think that music can communicate in the manner that puts sinful lusts in your mind and heart. It takes context in order to do that. I ask once again to do what we thought Scott was going to do….take one of Shai’s songs and tell us what elements of the music make it sinful. If you can’t identify what is sin then I question your accusations.

    You accuse me of using a red herring, but isn’t that what you are doing when you talk about Miley twerking when we are having a discussion about Shai’s music? You show your ignorance when you say his music causes sexual thrusting….absolutely preposterous and ridiculous. The culture of rap and hip/hop is so foreign to you.

    I had the great pleasure of attending Passion 2014 this weekend….just walked back in from the final service. I feel pretty certain that every bit of the music there was something that you would classify as something that would promote sexual movements. I had this conversation in mind the whole weekend and did not see one person doing this…not one!! There was more sincere praise of God in those services than I have seen in 100 services that are “hymn/piano/organ only and don’t even think about doing anything different.” No sex or any such nonsense. Just 20,000 people singing about God’s grace and mercy on a sinful people…terrible stuff!

    It is a very serious thing for you to accuse a fellow Christian of sin, yet there hasn’t been one shred of evidence that the music itself is sinful. You have talked about Miley twerking and somehow that is supposed to be the same as Shai’s music. If you don’t like it, that is not a problem. But to force your preferences on someone else and tell them that they are sinning if they don’t agree is simply wrong (and there is only one group accusing someone of sinning).

  38. thank you, jesse b. i agree. i have also been following this discussion and have yet to see this point made: worship has nothing to do with the music style we chose; it has all to do with how we live. in this Scriptures, there are examples of people worshiping God and it wasn’t talking about music. men fell on their faces, prostrate. I’ve read an article worthy of reading on the website: guided by truth. in it, it entails what worship really is. The following paragraph is from that website.

    The Zodhiates Complete Word Study Dictionary defines worship in this passage as:

    “proskuneo; To worship, do obeisance, show respect, fall or prostate before…In the NT, generally, to do reverence or homage to someone, usually be kneeling or prostrating oneself before him…Of God, used in an absolute sense…meaning he worshiped leaning upon the top of his staff…with the words expressing prostration.”

    John 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

  39. also saying “shucking” and “jiving” is ridiculous because that didn’t happen in the video. these two different cultures will never understand each other and it’s sickening to see it go on like this with these insane comments. no one is addressing the real issue here: WORSHIP IS NOT MUSIC! WORSHIP IS NOT A STYLE! WORSHIP IS OUR WAY OF LIVING OUR LIVES BEFORE GOD. maybe if i wrote in all caps, i’ll be recognized.

  40. Rick, saying that certain music is conducive to certain actions is very different than saying that the music causes the actions. I’m not sure why this is confusing to you, but somehow you’re totally missing the point.

  41. One more thing…I never made the argument that the music made anyone do anything, twerk or otherwise. Saying that I did is dishonest at best and is changing the argument to suit one’s needs.

    That’s a red herring.

  42. Doug, lots of music that you would deem to be good music can also be conducive to certain actions as well. I could take the tune to When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, play it on the piano and make it conducive to sensuality with the right words and the right environment. Operatic pieces have been played in movies in very sensual scenes. It’s not the music that is conducive to certain actions but our hearts.

    Hope you have a blessed Lord’s day!

  43. Rick,

    If you change the words and environment but play the same tune, you have not made the tune conducive to sensuality; you have made the resulting song and its performance sensual because of the sensuality of the words and of the environment.

  44. Glenda…..its not even that musical STYLE is worship. Worship is a response to God from the heart. However, a persons outward expression, whether it be music, dress, or overall behavior is a reflection of what is going on in their heart, their view of what they think about who God is and what that person sees as a right way to approach a Holy God.

  45. i agree but to a certain degree. if music didn’t exist, wouldn’t our lives be the number one way to worship God? i believe our outward expression of worship has nothing to do with music and that is why i am so confused about this debate.

  46. Right, as believers are told in Romans 12:1-2. But because it is a simple reality that people choose to express themselves (nevermind worship) with dress, overall behavior, language, and music……that expression needs to be done according to how God has said in His word….and everyone expresses their view in their own way, not according to how God has said. When it comes to expressing worship, and in light of the age we live in today, it is vitally important to make sure that our views, expressions, and lives line up with what scripture says, in order to be the most Christ like testimony we can. Also, the only manual we have on how to worship God, is the Bible. All of our preconcieved ideas need to be put aside so that God can be glorified. When our preferences or ideas are throw into the mix, the testimony of Christ is diminished.

  47. Agreed, all of our outward expressions must line-up with what the Bible says glorifies God but can anyone please give me a thorough and biblical look at how expressing oneself with Hip-Hop music is sinful? Can someone please show me how an instrumental in and of itself can be intrinsically sinful? No one has yet to sufficiently answer this question. Rick has asked this on previous posts but no answer as well

  48. It’s similar to the English language. Everyone has the same individual letters to write with. I have and “e” so I write “love”. Someone else has the same “e” yet they write “hate”. It is obvious the two different thoughts that each person has. Music NOTES are that building block and the NOTES have no moral attachments. The way that the NOTES are put together are what creates the moral attachments.

    EXAMPLE: I don’t know the age of anyone on here, but the song Happy Birthday is quite innocuous and non offensive. No one will even fault the writer for the lyrics he chose. There is a video of Marylin Monroe singing Happy Birthday to president JFK. She sung the same lyrics, and with the same melody. The WAY that she was performing the sing was undeniably sensual. Any guy that sees that video, will agree, I believe. There is no way that she ONLY meant Happy Birthday.

    Of course, there is music that is fitting for the lyrics, but the lyrics and the music aren’t the only element that has to line up. The WAY it is sung conveys a message too.

  49. Each and every song can be debated, and that would probably be an unending debate since everyone has a different preference and view on things. But music that is intended to be used to express what is in the heart ( and not only the messages of the music, lyrics, and performance need to match), but the truth of who God is needs to be conveyed in a right and accurate way according to His word.

  50. Okay and Hip-Hop music(in it’s lyrics, instrumental, and how it is performed) cannot be used to express heartfelt worship? I honestly beg to differ because I’ve been able to worship the Lord at a Reach Records (Christian Hip-Hop Record label) Unashamed concert. The music, lyrics and performance were of no distraction to me and anyone else who was worshiping the Lord at the conference. But if I’m wrong please show me how Hip-Hop music (lyrics, instrumental and how it is performed) cannot be used to express heartfelt worship and what music style should be and can be used to express heartfelt worship

  51. Glenda,

    According to Ephesians 5:18-19, music that pleases God is the result of Spirit-filling. God commands every righteous person to worship Him musically (Ps. 33:1-5). Someday, all the world will worship Him musically (Ps. 96:1; 98:4-6). Music is an absolutely essential aspect of human worship of the true and living God.

  52. Kelsey,

    I am not aware that anyone has said that any instrument is sinful in and of itself. What music humans produce with an instrument may or may not be sinful, but the instrument itself is not intrinsically sinful.

  53. I’m not saying it can’t. What I am saying is that is an accurate expression of how that believer chooses to approach a Holy God. (BTW…don’t think I am trying to judge anyone’s motives……only God knows a persons motives) All I am saying is that the expression that we choose to use for representing our view of who God is and how to worship Him, needs to be matched up to scripture.

    EXAMPLE: In Leviticus 10:1-2 is the account of Nadab and Abihu. Upon approaching God for worship, they offered Him “strange fire”, a way to express their worship to God which I’m sure they saw as beautiful and right. However, the Lord “…commanded them not” to approach Him in this way and of course we see in verse 2, the drastic consequences for this approach.

    An earlier example: in Genesis 4:2-5, are the sacrifices of Cain and Abel. Verse 2 tells us that Abel was a keeper of the sheep and Cain, a tiller of the ground. At the end of this passage, the Lord had respect unto Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. There was a certain way to approach the Lord and Cain did not follow that instruction. Hebrews clues us in on the reason WHY Abel’s offering was accepted and “…a more excellent sacrifice. .” It is the heart attitude? of any offering or worship, that the Lord is concerned about. Also, just another verse simply noting this fact is 1 Samuel 16:7 “For yhe Lord seeth NOT as man seeth…the Lord looketh on the heart.”

    Hip Hop and rap are not appropiate expressions of worship to the Lord because it is not condoned in Scripture and that is what this discussion by Scott and Shai is about. As for the heart of Hip Hop artists or rappers, I can’t judge that and don’t intend to. Only God knows the heart.

    Also, I hope I don’t seem like im “yelling” I use all caps to emphasize the word, not to “yell”

  54. Jesse,

    According to 1 John 3:12, Cain was “of that wicked one,” which shows that he never was a believer, and “his own works were evil.”

  55. Not only are they not condoned in Scripture, but they are inappropiate for a host of other reasons. Don’t take that wrong either…..rap and hip hop are not directly in Scripture (Scripture doesn’t say “thou shalt not use rap or hip hop”) but some of the musical elements/foundations used in rap and hip hop are derived from forbidden principles found in Scripture.

  56. Jesse B,

    I follow you’re point and can agree that there most definitely a specific way we are to approach a Holy God but I want to bring up something you said:

    “but some of the musical elements/foundations used in rap and hip-hop are derived from forbidden principles found in Scripture”

    Can you please expound upon that statement?


    I never said that an instrument is inherently sinful, I meant can someone please show me how, as Jesse B put it, “the musical elements/foundations used in rap and hip-hop are derived from forbidden principles found in scripture?” How do the elements/foundations in rap music make the musical art form inherently sinful?

    I know this is why Shai and Scott are having this discussion but to be honest this discussion seems to be on a rabbit trail and has lost it’s main focus.

  57. Kelsey,

    Scripture testifies of itself that God has inspired it that we might “be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Because music that is acceptable to God is an essential good work for believers, a genuine belief in the sufficiency of Scripture demands that we believe that the Bible gives us the essential information that we need to produce music that pleases God. Do you believe in the sufficiency of Scripture?

    If you do, your task is to study all that the Bible teaches about music, worship, and other subjects to see what God teaches us. When you do such a study, you discover that God has not given us specific details about musical elements that go into making music that is acceptable to God.

    His not giving us that information means that there are other considerations that He knows are more important than such musical details, and heeding those considerations takes care of such details. So, I believe that asking people to explain to you what musical specifics make certain types of music wrong is not the right place to start for knowing what music pleases God and what music does not.

    Rather, we must first receive larger principles that God gives us such as not being conformed to the world, not walking in the counsel of the godly, not learning the way of the heathen, and not having any fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.

  58. Thank you Rajesh. That is where I was headed. Very well put. In the last paragraph, you say “not walking in the counsel of the godly”……I believe you mean ungodly. :-)

    I was also going to address 2 Corinthians 6:17 “Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate…” I find it very hard to make a distinction between what a secular looke like and a what a christian concert looks like. Simply looking a picture of the 2 concerts, is simply undistorted. Part of the believers testimony before the world is too be distinctly different from the world and its ways. Im sure you may know believers that do not drink (or maybe you yourself had to decline an invite to the bar) and have had co workers ask them if they want to go get a drink, yet as a believer they wont. That alone is a testimony for Christ.
    God is a Holy God and1 Peter 1:15-16 is a command to be Holy because God is Holy. This is only possible through the diligent study of God’s Word (the transforming of our minds in Romans 12:2) because in 2 Peter 1:3 he has “…given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him…” when we know how to approach sucha Holy God, as Rajesh said above, taking heed to those truths will take care of the smaller issues.

    I strive to make that distinction as clear as possible. Choosing to express the way we view God needs to be right and accurate to who God is and what he has said and when and if, by the Lord’s gracious power, done rightly and accurately, our testimony WILL be different simply because of the nature of who God is.

  59. Thank you Rajesh for your comment, I appreciate it. I do agree that we are to test what God says in the Scriptures for ourselves. I’ve constantly looked at the Scriptures mentioned in this comment section and in the prior posts from Scott arguing that rap music in inherently sinful and cannot be used to worship the Lord. I’ve been studying even before that because this argument is not new but is simply evidence of believers beating a dead horse. I do agree that the larger principles that you mentioned above such as not being conformed to the world, not walking in the counsel of the ungodly, not learning the way of the heathen, and not having fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness are the principles that we must judge rap music made by Christians against.

    However, I wholehearted disagree that rap music is inherently sinful and cannot be used by Christians to worship God and preach the glories of Christ. From looking and studying these principles in Scripture I see nothing wrong with using rap music for the glory of God. If there is something that I missed I’d be willing to forfeit my position and accept correction. Until then, I will continue to use the gift that God gave me to write poetry in a rhythmical form to reach people who speak the language of rap and show them Christ.

  60. Thank you Rajesh for your comment, I appreciate it. I do agree that we are to test what God says in the Scriptures for ourselves. I’ve constantly looked at the Scriptures mentioned in this comment section and in the prior posts from Scott arguing that rap music in inherently sinful and cannot be used to worship the Lord. I’ve been studying even before that because this argument is not new but is simply evidence of believers beating a dead horse. I do agree that the larger principles that you mentioned above such as not being conformed to the world, not walking in the counsel of the ungodly, not learning the way of the heathen, and not having fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness are the principles that we must judge rap music made by Christians against.

    However, I wholehearted disagree that rap music is inherently sinful and cannot be used by Christians to worship God and preach the glories of Christ. From looking and studying these principles in Scripture I see nothing wrong with using rap music for the glory of God. If there is something that I missed I’d be willing to forfeit my position and accept correction. Until then, I will continue to use the gift that God gave me to write poetry in a rhythmical form to reach people who speak the language of rap and show them Christ.

  61. Kelsey,

    I appreciate your openness to learning from Scripture. I believe that Scripture makes clear that the view that all music without words is inherently neutral is false. In addition to the link that I posted in my previous reply to Jesse, here are two other articles for you to consider carefully:

  62. One last thing, I want to use this song by Lecrae called “Tell The World” I saw this song performed live in concert and saw a sweet worshipful song unto the Lord. The song itself has a tone of gratitude and humility. It also has a rejoicing tone to it. Lecrae is addressing the Lord and showing his gratitude for saving him and now wants to be a “billboard” for Christ sharing the love of Christ. Lyrically and musically this song presents a heart attitude of reverence for God and a desire to take on the cause of Christ.

    Here is the song itself and the live performance so that you all can test his posture and see if it is either irreverent or reverent (keep in mind that Lecrae is also address the people at this conference in this video) If this song is inherently sinful simply because it is Hip-Hop and the musical foundation of Hip-Hop is evil and ungodly, please show me lyrically, musically and biblically. I’ve tested this song to everything I know in regards to the underlying principles set in Scripture concerning how we should judge music and still have not found any error. If I am wrong, please show me.

  63. Or how about this song from Lecrae called Background. Same concept as the last one in regards to humility and reverence for God. Here’s the song and live performance as well. Again If this is sinful or his posture is sinful please show me.

  64. this will clear up what i am saying about worship. please read the following section from an article titled “praise vs worship” the website is enjoy!!!

    “There is a difference between Praising the Lord and Worshiping Him. Lets take the subject of Praise:

    Ps 9:11
    Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings.
    Ps 33:2
    Praise the Lord with harp, sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.
    Is 42:12
    Let them give glory unto the Lord, and declare his praise in the islands.
    Heb 13:15
    By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, this is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.
    According to the above, Praise consists of song, music, words, and we are to do this consistently, even when it is a sacrifice.
    At times, when we’re having a rough time it can indeed be difficult to rejoice in what is taking place. But as we study the word of God, we know that everything is happening for a reason and that reason is for our growth and the Lord’s glory! (Rom 8:28)
    According to the Word of God, the Lord inhabits the praises of His children.
    Ps 22:3
    But thou art holy, o holy that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
    Wow what a promise! When we offer praises to the Lord, His spirit fills each word and His power goes forth. See this next verse:
    2 Chr 20:22
    And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.
    These armies being stopped by the Lord, are pointing us in the direction of the enemy as he sets traps for us. As we praise the Lord we will walk in His power and protection.

    Lets take a look at Worship:
    1 Chr 16:29
    Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord our maker.
    Ps 95:6
    O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.
    Ps 96:9
    O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.

    According to this, worship is not singing and such; but it is an action taken in acknowledging the Lord as our LORD.

    According to the Greek dictionary:
    Praise (aineo) to speak in praise of, to praise.
    Praise (humneo) “to sing, to laud, sing to the praise of”
    Praise (exomologeo) “will I give praise”; “I will confess”.

    Worship (proskuneo) “to make obeisance, do reverence to” used as of an act of homage or reverence to God.

    Worship (latreuo) “to serve, to render religious service or homage”; to worship (by the Spirit of God) “to worship (God in Spirit).

    Worship goes beyond praise; it is an act of bowing down and honoring the Lord God. Worship is also an act, for example in our daily work: we serve others as a way of worshiping the Lord. Our very life should be an act of worship.”

    it speaks for itself…rajesh. the Scriptures you cited all said “praise” not worship

  65. As was said earlier, Scripture does not mention rap specifically, but there are elemental principles in the Bible that are forbidden. In my previous comment, I mention 2 Cor. 6:17. If a believer truely desires to change THEIR view in exchange of what the Bible says……the doctrine of seperation (and there are many other verses, not just that one) would be enough for changing their music preference. The only prefernce that I am concerned pabout is the Lord’s. In that same comment, I mention holiness, as found in 1 Peter 1:15-16. Another verse that specifically speaks of holy worship Psalms 29:2.

    Other priciples, again no specific genre is mentioned, are found in:

    Ex. 32:17 – Music can sound like the noise of war
    Psalm 69:12 – the song of the drunkards
    Eccl. 7:5 – the song of fools
    Lam. 3:14 – the song of derision
    Job 35:13 – the song of vanity (the context is talking about a song starting in verse 10)
    Isaiah 23:15-16 – the song of an harlot

    There is a difference made in the Bible between these and the songs of the temple in Amos 8:3 and the songs of the Lord In 2 Chron. 29:27

    it is up to the believer to discern which of todays genre falls into these catorgories, but it is clear what genre fits where.

  66. Kelsey,

    For more clarification in the elemental principles I referred to, from Scott’s view, (which is also Biblical) go to and then “resources” then listen to his Theology of Worship messages. I listened to them last week and they confirmed what I had concluded in my studies, although I did learn a lot as well.

    BTW, I agree with Rajesh and am thankful that you want to search out the Scriptures.

  67. Rajesh said: “If you change the words and environment but play the same tune, you have not made the tune conducive to sensuality; you have made the resulting song and its performance sensual because of the sensuality of the words and of the environment”
    I think we are talking semantics here, but either way I believe you are proving my point that it is not the music that is inherently sinful.

    Jesse B. said: “It’s similar to the English language. Everyone has the same individual letters to write with. I have and “e” so I write “love”. Someone else has the same “e” yet they write “hate”. It is obvious the two different thoughts that each person has. Music NOTES are that building block and the NOTES have no moral attachments. The way that the NOTES are put together are what creates the moral attachments.”
    So take one of Shai’s songs and tell us what the music itself says that is either moral or immoral. In other words, tell us how the notes were put together in a sinful manner. I know you won’t be able to do that so your argument kind of breaks down when put into practice. The big problem with your theory is that we can actually read and understand words. Music is somewhat more relative in that someone will hear anger in rap when others in that culture would think that is a ridiculous thought! You attempted to illustrate your theory by pointing to Marilyn Monroe singing happy birthday. However, it isn’t the music that was wrong but it was Marilyn Monroe’s performance that was wrong. If it actually was the music that was sensual, I could sing that exact same song and JFK would have still seen it as sensual….don’t think that would be the case though!!!

    Jesse B. said: “Hip Hop and rap are not appropiate expressions of worship to the Lord because it is not condoned in Scripture and that is what this discussion by Scott and Shai is about.”
    Surely you don’t mean that something must be specifically condoned in Scripture in order for it to be an appropriate expression of worship. So what style of music is condoned in Scripture?
    You later said: “Don’t take that wrong either…..rap and hip hop are not directly in Scripture (Scripture doesn’t say “thou shalt not use rap or hip hop”) but some of the musical elements/foundations used in rap and hip hop are derived from forbidden principles found in Scripture.”
    Please tell us what musical elements in rap and hip/hop are derived from forbidden principles in Scripture. Please be specific.

    Rajesh said: “If you do, your task is to study all that the Bible teaches about music, worship, and other subjects to see what God teaches us. When you do such a study, you discover that God has not given us specific details about musical elements that go into making music that is acceptable to God.
    His not giving us that information means that there are other considerations that He knows are more important than such musical details, and heeding those considerations takes care of such details.”
    Don’t assume that those of us on this side of the issue haven’t done exactly the study you are talking about. I for one have and I noticed what you did, that “God has not given us specific details about musical elements that go into making music that is acceptable to God.” I am certain that we agree on the “other considerations that He knows are more important than such musical details….” However, we differ on the application of those other considerations. I am firmly convinced that the differences in application boil down to one thing….differences in culture (which essentially means different preferences). Have any of you attempted to understand that culture? Have you listened to any more than a snippet of these songs? Rap is not my thing but I purchased Shai’s Attributes of God album…..I’m blown away by the depth of those songs. I have no doubt that God is certainly honored by what Shai is doing. Others here may not be so certain, but it is a serious thing for anyone to accuse him of sinning when you can’t even say how his music is sinful!

    Jesse B. said: “I was also going to address 2 Corinthians 6:17 “Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate…” I find it very hard to make a distinction between what a secular looke like and a what a christian concert looks like. Simply looking a picture of the 2 concerts, is simply undistorted.”
    That verse (nor does the passage it is referencing in Isaiah) isn’t speaking about the way we look. This passage has been distorted by so many (think Amish). There are many more unsaved and sinning people in the world wearing suits than there are wearing jeans a tshirt and sporting dreadlocks. Should we stop wearing suits (actually I’m all for doing away with suits!!!)? We should be separate in that we should not partake in the sin in which they are partaking. The Corinthians were allowing false teachers in and were in some cases worshipping idols with unbelievers. Furthermore, they had allowed a person to remain in the church that was in an incestuous relationship. These are the things Paul was concerned about in the Corinthian church. It wasn’t that he was concerned that they looked like the Corinthians!! He was concerned that they were partaking in the sin of the Corinthians. I haven’t ever been to one of Shai’s concerts, but I have been to multiple concerts that I’m sure wouldn’t be on your approved list of music. There is a marked difference between these concerts and secular concerts. I was at Passion 2014 this past weekend and there is no way an unbeliever would have equated their music with the music of the unredeemed! I would imagine Shai’s concerts would likewise be just as “different.”

  68. Glenda,

    You said, “WORSHIP IS NOT MUSIC! WORSHIP IS NOT A STYLE! WORSHIP IS OUR WAY OF LIVING OUR LIVES BEFORE GOD.” So, when a person plays music to relax or sings while doing chores, is that not part of his way of living his life before God? On what grounds, do you exclude a person’s musical activities from being part of his “way of living [his] life before God”? I am not following your reasoning about this point.

  69. Rick,

    I do not think that we are just talking semantics. If somebody takes “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and keeps all the words the same but plays it as a death metal song, I would say what he is playing is wrong in spite of the words being good.

    Concerning culture, the Bible is very clear that there were many cultures that God’s people were not to learn anything from, so Scripture does not support a view that cultural differences are merely and necessarily only differences in preferences.

  70. Rajesh, we are still missing what elements of even death metal are inherently sinful. I don’t like it, in fact I despise it but I fail to see where Scripture points to a style of music as sinful.

    I agree that Scripture does point to some cultures that Christians should not mimic due to their sinfulness. However, Revelation 7 talks about people from every tribe, peoples, and languages that will be standing in front of the throne praising God. I don’t think it is insignificant that John points out these differences. They look and speak differently and I’m sure they also have different mannerisms and methods. Everyone in heaven doesn’t turn into a white, suburban living, western music listening people. The culture I am talking about is even less distinct than the one Revelation 7 mentions.

    Also, didn’t the Jews historically consider themselves better than the Gentiles and found them despicable in many ways? Didn’t Paul have to fight this tension in the church…and even with Peter? I agree that Scripture doesn’t say that “cultural differences are merely and necessarily only differences in preferences.” However, it certainly doesn’t state that the cultural differences are all sinful either. Rather, more times than not it will say to get over your preconceived issues (think Peter/Paul issue, eating meat, etc.) and get along with your brother.

    Rajesh, I haven’t said it before, but I really appreciate your candor in these discussions! It is refreshing.

  71. Rick,

    You are welcome. Thanks for the feedback.

    If we were living in a world that only consisted of people, God, and good angels, this discussion would be far different. As it is, Scripture makes plain that believers have a whole horde of evil supernatural enemies who are our true enemies.

    When sinful humans tell us repeatedly that they have crafted specific styles of music for specifically evil purposes, the believer must take what they say at face value. When many of them also say that their music is ultimately sourced in supernatural evil influences upon them, we must not dismiss what they say.

    Believers are not obligated to explain in detail why the evil practices of evil people are evil, especially when those very people tell you that they have not even come up with what they are doing–they have been moved by something outside of them to produce the music that they have.

    So, based on clear biblical teaching, believers who want to use things produced by wicked people influenced by fallen spirits have the burden of proof of explaining why what these people say and do is not evil when they themselves say that it is. Such believers must also explain why we are free to disobey what God unambiguously commands us to do in such cases: “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11).

    In case you might not have seen this link earlier, here’s an article that I wrote recently that fleshes all these ideas out:

    About Revelation 7:9, Scott has already addressed that recently. He pointed out that all these people are identically dressed: “clothed in white robes.” Furthermore, Scripture shows us what happens to people’s ways when God truly saves them: the demoniac was instantly transformed from being a wild man who ran around naked and repeatedly mutilated himself to being a man who was “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” (Mark 5:15).

    There are many testimonies of people who were openly evil before salvation whose lives were transformed, including their moving completely out of rock music. Although I was not outwardly living wickedly in that way before I was saved, I, too, was transformed when God saved me and moved me from immersion in rock and other music to immersion in godly music about which there is no question whether it is acceptable to God or not.

    Moreover, Scripture is not silent concerning styles of music that are sinful: So, I believe that we have very good reasons to reject various styles of music that have ungodly sources.

  72. so we must all stop and drop our traditions on how we praise God in our services. we must kick out pianos, keyboards, electric guitars, and other instruments we use as modern day musicians. we must pick up lyres, tambourines (which keeps a beat), and lutes. horns are also acceptable. God has told us in the Scriptures that these are acceptable instruments to praise Him with, but all i hear is opinions of what should be heard in services. who are we to say that hip hop should or should not be in a service? who are we to judge these people? if we really want to get Biblical, how about we do our services acappella?
    The hip hop artists fit this passage to a tee:
    “Colossians 3:16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
    “In the New Testament, music is a means of teaching God’s word and used in thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:18f; Colossians 3:16). ”

  73. since we have examples of using certain types of instruments in services in the Scripture, if none of you who are saying it is wrong are using these instruments, you are just as guilty as the hip hop artists are. there are examples of clapping and dancing as well. and as far as gesturing goes, there were no inappropriate gesturing in any video i have seen of these brothers; they are expressing themselves with their hands. we are instructed to clap our hands and we can lift our hands.

  74. Rajesh said: “So, based on clear biblical teaching, believers who want to use things produced by wicked people influenced by fallen spirits have the burden of proof of explaining why what these people say and do is not evil when they themselves say that it is. “
    Actually no, the burden of proof is on you. If you accuse us of sinning, then you must show how we are sinning. I agree that those people you are talking about may be producing music in order to sin. However, Shai is not doing those songs. He isn’t performing in the manner that they perform and he certainly isn’t singing their lyrics. The premise of this whole argument at the beginning was as Scott said….music can be sinful apart from the lyrics. I have searched Scripture and do not see this as a viable argument from Scripture. So if you do and you say we are sinning, then it is your burden to prove that it is sin. So take one of Shai’s songs and tell us what elements of the music are sinful.

    Concerning Revelation 7, I do understand that they were dressed the same and singing the same song. However, John found it necessary to point out their differences. They were certainly different when they were on earth. Truthfully though, that wasn’t even the type of culture I was first addressing. When I say that it boils down to one culture not understanding another, it can be as simple as one church having old hymns only and one church having old hymns and some newer hymns…and they might even be on screen. These two churches have different cultures and there are probably some that snub their noses at the other church because they believe what they are doing is wrong. This happens all the time yet there is nothing wrong with either one. It is just that the older hymn only people are so engrained in their culture that anything slightly different is foreign to them. Unfortunately, some people view a different culture as wrong when it is simply a different way. Scripture dictates sin, not our feelings.

    Yes, I agree that lives change and people are transformed when they are saved. I recently read Curtis “Voice” Allen’s book entitled “Does God Listen to Rap?” He gives his testimony at the beginning of the book. He was a rapper that was heavily involved in all the wrong things. When he was saved, his life changed and he started using his talent for God by spreading His message through rap/hip/hop. The music radically changes and there isn’t an unregenerate person that would say Shai’s or Allen’s music is the same as what they had been doing. Perhaps it isn’t the change you require, but I would imagine they are more concerned with what God requires.

    Concerning styles of music…I read the article which you posted. However, Scripture is still very silent about what the style sounds like! I agree that the song of a harlot, drunkard, and a fool is wrong. You can’t tell me that Shai’s music is ever going to be confused with the songs of any of these. If you say it is then you must have been listening to something else. They would never sing what he sings. I’m sure you are saying that his music sounds like theirs. So how do I identify what the song of a harlot, drunkard, and a fool sounds like apart from lyrics and the environment of these people? There is no way you can because Scripture doesn’t have a headphone jack in the side of it so you can listen to the music. Now you can certainly identify their songs with the lyrics and the environment, but once again, how you equate that with Shai’s songs are beyond me. It doesn’t come out of Scripture.

  75. Rick is right, if you say a group of people are sinning you must show us how we are sinning. He and I have been asking for someone to take one of Shai Linne’s songs and tell us what elements of his music is inherently sinful. I’ve even posted two Lecrae songs so that we’re not just focusing on Shai Linne but another Christian rap artist, yet I haven’t seen anyone comment and tell me how the musical elements of those two songs are inherently sinful.

    To be honest, I question the validity and Scriptural basis for arguing that music without lyrics is inherently sinful. Yes the Bible talks about the song of a harlot, drunkard, and fool but like Rick said you can only identify what those songs sound like based on the lyrics and the context in which the song is sung in. If there is a musicological way to identify what the song of a harlot, drunkard, and fool sounds like apart for it’s lyrics and context please show us.

  76. With all due respect and love to brother Shai, and not in the least bit questioning his intentions or motives, I believe it is utterly ridiculous to speak of hip hop in terms of “language”. It is NOT a “language”. And comparing hip hop to a “culture” is erroneous. It is NOT a culture. No one filling out an important government or career form writes “hip hop” in the ethnicity, race or native language line. No one is born into a “hip hop” family (the same way one is born into a Jewish, Mexican or Italian family) where the primary language spoken is “rap”. There are no “hip hop” towns or communities in the same manner as there are Chinatowns or Little Tokyos. (And no, predominantly African-American communities don’t count, as not everyone there is a hip hop fan…in fact, many black people extremely dislike hip hop because of its encouraging racial stereotypes and criminal behavior).

    Hip hop is neither a culture nor a language. It is a subculture within Western culture. And here in Western culture, the last time I checked, the primary language spoken is English. When speaking to an avid hip hop fan, I don’t need a translator. We can understand each other just fine. I don’t need to use words like “dope” and “tight” (which have horribly wicked and perverted origins) to be understood by him. And neither do I have to even play his music for him to listen to me. I’ve been evangelizing for years on the streets, and NOT ONCE has a person been turned away because I don’t like the same music he does, or belong to the same subculture as him. The Gospel is the power of God to salvation; it is the foolishness of preaching that saves, one does not need to resort to gimmicks to be heard and to be effective.

    Hence, Shai’s arguments are wrong and his use of 1 Cor.14:16-17 is an entire misapplication of the passage. He could have at least used 1 Cor.9 to support giving up one’s liberties in order to not be a stumbling block to others.

  77. cul·ture
    noun \ˈkəl-chər\

    : the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time

    : a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.

    : a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)

    It is simply a group of people that think alike or have the same “ways of life.” Don’t make it difficult, Aaron. You are absolutely correct though that you can speak English and don’t have to play music to reach or teach any of the people in that culture (or subculture as you said). No one is saying any different. In fact, unless I’m mistaken I don’t believe anyone even said anything about using Shai’s music for evangelizing. In my opinion, his music is actually better as a teaching tool for people that are already Christians.

  78. In response to Kelsey Ogbewe, I would say that Lecrae’s video “Background” looks hypocritical. Throughout the video, he claims to want Christ to be the center of attention, and himself to be merely in the “background”…but the whole video is centered on Lecrae. He is center-stage, the lights flashing around him, attention entirely focused on him, the giant screen filming him as he raps. This is an excellent example of how the great majority of Christian contemporary music claims to represent and point to Christ while doing the very opposite.

    Often in these concerts (where many people come to hear the artists themselves and not to meet/worship God), the artist will apparently point to Jesus repeatedly and very enthusiastically, and may say something like, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
    But what often comes across is not “Behold the Lamb of God!” but, rather, “LOOK AT ME SAYING, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!'”.

    Performance, attitude, mannerisms, rhythms, tone, props, lights, etc. are all important factors that must be examined in a worship song. Shai Linne even admitted that these things can be a distraction. We must take these things into account when discerning whether a particular song is really Christ-centered or not. It’s not just about the lyrics.

  79. I have to concur with Aaaron – and thought he same when I saw the video.
    Of course this problem is not specific to hip hop but to most popular music where one or a group of artists are center stage. The audience will automatically look to the start more than to what he sings about, even if they may resonate with the intent. The form of a concert will always put the limelight on the performer. No way out of that, really.

  80. Aaron, would you same that what you pointed out regarding the concert experience can also be said about the conference experience where the focus is on the speakers? These speakers are usually popular preachers, pastors and scholars who “may say something like, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!'”

  81. Good point, Lotus. There definitely is a celebrity culture among Christians as well in terms of putting certain popular preachers on a pedestal. Guess that’s what Paul was preaching against when people claimed, I am of Apollos etc. I see the difference in that this is BY DESIGN in popular music but happens against intentions in a preaching context. What we should recognize is that there sadly is a strong influence on Christianity from celebrity culture that we should work against.

  82.   I understand everyone’s frustration, trust me.  But one benefit from these discussions is to point fellow believers to the Word of God.  Every aspect can be debated til we blue in the face.  the issue is not so much with the music, although that is a big issue, and in response to Kelsey…..I believe Scott is getting to the actual music part.  But the issue is more of the heart, and with doctrines that are so clearly explained in Scripture.  Also, when those doctrines, and what the Bible says about music, and a host of other issues are compared in the whole context of Jeremiah 17:9 stating that our hearts are decietfully wicked and so OUR views (though we might think they are Biblical) need to be examined according to the Bible, realizing a believer needs to be in constant for wisdom from God (James 1:5) and humility ( 1 Peter 5:6-8)   (By the way, I picked Jer. 17:9 out but there are verses all throughout scripture stating the bent towatds sin that our flesh has)   In regards to the music itself, here is a link to a great resource–   Please don’t take this as me saying in a nice way to “look for yourself”, because I know I dont have all the answers but God does and I am simply trying to point others to God.  

  83. Aaron,

    I think you’re going way too far by calling his posture hypocritical. What about Pastors, teachers, etc? They are preaching the Word of God saying “Behold, the Lamb of God” while standing in front of an audience, sometimes with lights around them (take a look at Passion 2013 when John Piper preached, it’s the same conference and venue that those two Lecrae songs were in).

    What about worship leaders? Aren’t they in front of people saying “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Also, are you 100% certain that people go to concerts to just hear the artist themselves and not to worship God and be in fellowship with fellow believers? I’m not sure it’s a good thing to make such a blanket statement like that. That may be true for some but may not be true for others.

    To say that Lecrae’s posture is hypocritical is an unfair assessment. To say that Lecrae’s posture is hypocritical because he was center stage, the lights were focused on him, he was standing before an audience, and the camera was focused on him makes absolutely no sense at all. Like I mentioned earlier, John Piper spoke at this exact same conference and venue that Lecrae’s performance was in. Aaron, if I used you’re same reasoning I would have to say that John Piper’s posture was hypocritical as well because he was center stage, the lights were focused on him, he was standing in front of an audience, and the camera was focused on him all while saying “Behold the Lamb of God!”

  84. Kelsey, the difference is that Piper did not perform in the sense that Lecrae or any other artist does. Preaching is not (or at least, should not be) a performance – otherwise we’re left the realm of orthopraxy. The fact that performers also tend to preach (or interject calls for worship or give short pep-talks referring to biblical themes in-between songs) is simply what all artists do to put on a good show and should not be confused with actual preaching. I can see a clear difference between the two. A preacher is not an artist.

  85. Rick,

    You say, “Shai is not doing those songs. He isn’t performing in the manner that they perform and he certainly isn’t singing their lyrics.” The people that I’m referring to aren’t talking about their lyrics or manner of performance. They talk about their instrumental music itself as what they have designed and used to promote their wicked ends.

    You say that you do not see from Scripture that the position that music can be sinful apart from the lyrics is a viable position. You then say that we have to analyze Shai’s songs and explain what elements of the music are sinful.

    First Samuel 16:14-23 shows that music without lyrics is not neutral. David’s instrumental music expelled an evil spirit from Saul that was afflicting him. The whole emphasis of the inspired depiction of that account focuses explicitly on the playing of a musical instrument and there is no mention of any singing. David’s instrumental music was not neutral; it was a powerful force for spiritual good!

    This passage also shows that the whole discussion of music from a strictly human standpoint is sorely lacking. David’s instrumental music had a powerful effect on an evil spirit, and we are at war with evil spirits continuously.

    Many rock musicians have testified in various ways that their music is sourced in evil supernatural influences upon them. Christians have no business going near any such demonically sourced music that was designed so that the instrumental aspects of the music itself would promote evil. Believing what Scripture teaches about the infernal activities of evil spirits, we are obligated from Scripture to reject such instrumental music (Eph. 5:11).

    I reject the insistent demand for musicological explanations when Scripture plainly shows that instrumental music has effects in the spiritual realm on both man and other spirit beings. God has not explained to us how such things work in the spiritual realm, and I believe that such knowledge is either entirely incomprehensible to humans (John 3:8) or it is an aspect of the workings of God’s universe about which He has withheld information from us for His own inscrutable purposes (Deut. 29:29).

  86. Thanks for your reply Rajesh. Concerning the I Samuel passage, there are several issues with your assessment. First, no one disputes that music can affect your emotions…it can and most certainly does. In fact, even paint can affect your emotions. I worked for a man in high school that painted his entire restaurant orange because a psychologist did a study saying that color makes people happy and encourages them to buy more. Is paint moral as well? Anyway, music is emotional. However, the fallacy is when you begin to assign morality to the emotions. A good example of the issue is when you (or others here) see the music behind rap as expressing anger when that is not what most in that culture feel when they hear the same music. If music communicated in a definitive manner to where there was no question as to the meaning (like words do) then you would have a point. But let’s assume you are correct…tell me what the music behind one of Shai’s songs communicates that is sinful (BTW, several people have said Scott will get to this…if you cannot identify what elements of the music apart from lyrics make it sinful, isn’t that a problem?).

    Second, no one has any idea what David was playing. This is where the logical leap comes into play. People on your side of the musical issue point to this passage and say exactly what you said, that music is moral. Then there is a massive logical leap where they start assuming that David was playing music that they have in their current church service. The fact is that we don’t have the first clue what he was playing or how he was playing it. So in order to use this passage as an argument about music, you would have to be able to point to know what he was playing….for all we know, he may have been rapping.

    Third, since we don’t know what he was playing, I have to ask if this same exact thing has ever happened to me when I have been deeply troubled. If so, what was I listening to at the time? I can tell you that I have experienced times when I wrongfully over-worry about many things. This has happened very recently and music is a tremendous tool to pick me back out of that mire that I roll around in. The music I listen to would certainly be on your “no way” list. So I can attest that music is a tremendous tool to get me focused back on God and uplift my spirits. If the music I listen to does the same thing as what happened in I Samuel yet you say it is sinful, then there is a problem somewhere. If the style of music is that sinful and is that important, don’t you think God would have given us a means of identifying it?

    Fourth, I have always viewed this argument from the I Samual chapter as bordering on idolatry. What or whom has the power to expel evil spirits? God or His Word has that power. Are we really ready to assign music that kind of power? You rightfully state that “we are at war with evil spirits continuously.” I’m assuming you had Ephesians 6:12 in mind: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” This is the passage about the whole armor of God with which we do battle against this spiritual wickedness. We don’t put on the breastplate of piano playing or the helmet of hymns. That is the kind of power you are assigning to music. Only God and His truth, righteousness, salvation, etc. can quench those fiery darts. As I said, this whole argument really borders on idolatry when we lift our preferences of music up and set them equal with the power of God…and yes that can go both ways!!!!

    I understand that you “reject the insistent demand for musicological explanations….” I know my constant asking is getting annoying but I am hoping someone will see the issue. That issue is that people are saying that the music can be sinful in and of itself apart from the lyrics. Then they make a logical leap assuming that their music is the one that is NOT sinful (even though Scripture doesn’t tell you what music). Then they cannot even tell you why a particular arranging of notes becomes sinful versus arranging them another way, but their music is certainly not sinful. So in order to solve this, you could simply point out the musicological explanations and show us where Scripture points this out. We agree that the whole context (lyrics plus environment plus actions plus music) can be sinful. I even agree that your music (apart from the lyrics) is not sinful in and of itself. The difference is that you (and others) are saying a particular type of music apart from the lyrics can be sinful. All we are saying is please tell us how to identify such music and show us from Scripture how those elements are sinful.

  87. Thanks Rick for reiterating the call for musicology, despite Rajesh claiming we will never know…
    I’ve been busy the better part of the day collating an essay on this issue:

    It’s too long to simply post here, which is why I put it on my own blog. You could comment there but I’d prefer you do it here so we stay within our little community. It was hard to find anything pertaining to hip hop but after some searching I found a good essay that I based my evaluation on – needless to say, I don’t conclude it’s sinful but am sure I stepped on many peoples’ (everyone’s?) toes anyways. I am not dogmatic about what I wrote but this is what I can see with the light I have. If there is someone who can shed more light on some areas, be my guest.

    I didn’t expect to find what I found especially on Lecrae – I did not discuss Shai much but it’s anyways not my goal to discuss artists but rather, HHH as an art.

    … and sorry for interrupting the great interaction above!

  88. Rick,

    Your vehement response is telling about your approach to Scripture. The Holy Spirit inspired this passage for our profit for doctrine, etc. (2 Tim. 3:16-17). He inspired the passage to read exactly the way that He wanted it to.

    This passage is not about primarily about human emotions, so your first paragraph is beside the point. Your second paragraph is irrelevant to establishing a crucial biblical truth: music without words is not neutral.

    Your third paragraph is also irrelevant because this passage has an explicit focus on how the instrumental music of a godly man who had the Spirit on him delivered a man from spiritual affliction caused by an evil spirit, not just emotional trouble.

    Your fourth paragraph is revealing about your overall theology. God gave us this passage for our good and His glory. A theology that does not account for all that God has given us in Scripture is a defective theology.

    God is the One who has shown us what He did through the instrumental music ministry of a man whom He anointed with the Spirit. If God had wanted to support your theology, the passage would have read that David came and sang the word of God to Saul, and God delivered him from the evil spirit through David’s singing of the words of God.

    The text, however, does not read that way. The text indisputably emphasizes the instrumental music produced by a man whom God anointed with the Spirit and how that instrumental music delivered another man from affliction caused by an evil spirit. A sound theology must take this passage and passages such as Ephesians 6 and account for them all.

    To say that accounting for the explicit teaching of this passage is bordering on idolatry is a ludicrous assessment. On the contrary, those who refuse to take the passage seriously precisely as God has framed the account are the ones whose approach to Scripture is lacking.

    Furthermore, this is not the only passage that shows the powerful moral effects of instrumental music. Second Kings 3:15 shows that the instrumental playing of a minstrel brought the hand of God on a man of God: 2 Kings 3:15 “But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.”

    You can try to make this again about emotion, but there is no evidence in the text that this passage is about the emotions of Elisha. God responded powerfully and positively to the instrumental music ministered to this man of God and put His hand on him.

    In conclusion, your response has not offered anything that changes the force of 1 Samuel 16:14-23 (and other passages such as 2 Kings 3:15) for establishing that music without words is not neutral and instrumental music is not just about human emotions.

  89. Rick said,

    “It is simply a group of people that think alike or have the same “ways of life.” Don’t make it difficult, Aaron.”

    No, actually hip hop is not a culture in the strict anthropological sense of the term, used to refer to groups with common ancestry that share common practices and values. It is more accurately referred to as a “subculture”. But no need to tangle ourselves in an etymological debate.

    Regarless of your point of view of the term in question, we can both agree that hip hop certainly is NOT an ethnic culture, which was actually what I was trying to get across. More than once (in this debate and in other debates) Shai has compared hip hop to an ethnic culture and ethnic languages. Sorry, but the comparison completely fails, for the reasons already given.

  90. Martin,

    I agree preaching is not the same as a performance. But I do have a problem with what you said. You said “the fact that performers also tend to preach (or interject calls for worship or give short pep-talks referring to biblical themes in-between songs) is simply what all artists do to put on a good show and should not be confused with actual preaching.”

    Might I ask how do you know that these artists truly aren’t trying to preach the Gospel and why can we not take what they’re doing as actual preaching? To say that their referring to biblical themes in between songs is simply what all artists do to put on a good show is an unfair generalization as well. I think you’re statement assumes the motives of a whole group of people.

    Also, Aaron’s reasoning was that Lecrae’s posture was hypocritical because he was in the spotlight, the camera was focused on him, he was center stage, he was in front of an audience of people all the while he was saying “Behold the Lamb of God!” John Piper had the same thing happening to him which is why I asked, shouldn’t we consider his posture as hypocritical? Aaron’s reasoning was not that Lecrae’s posture was hypocritical because he’s an artist and performing a song is different from preaching therefore preachers are not hypocritical. But let’s take some of the worship leaders at this conference as another example. Shouldn’t their posture be considered hypocritical as well? What they’re doing could be considered performance even though the intent is to point people to worship Christ.

  91. There is always that danger, Kelsey, but a worship leader usually does not remain in the spotlight; he leads the worship and during that time, the ‘spotlight’ should be on the congregation.
    Yes, I see the comments about preaching in-between was a shot from the hip; what I meant was that the images are alike: a Christian artist may talk about God in-between songs and another may talk about something else, crack a joke, or even tell a sad story. Outwardly, it looks similar and in substance, both are a show people pay to come and see. So since it’s part of entertainment, there’s a big difference to preaching, as far as I can see.
    I did not mean to assume anything about the performers’ motives.

  92. Rajesh, I certainly did not intend to send a vehement response. If it came across that way I sincerely apologize. I am not at home right now but will come back later with a couple comments. Once again, please accept my apologies if I was wrong. I would encourage you though to go deal with my comments rather than just saying they are irrelevant.

  93. No problem, Rick. I understand where you were going with your comments and will give them careful thought.

  94. Let me start by once again apologizing for my prior post if it came across as vehement. That was not my intent at all. In fact, I have been thrilled that we have been able to discuss these things without getting upset with each other and I hope that continues.

    Let me first address Martin’s post. Thanks for doing that research. I haven’t read it yet but certainly will. I want to continue addressing Rajesh’s comments right now though while it is fresh on my mind (plus it is already 12:34 in the morning and I have to work tomorrow!!).

    Rajesh, I would like to start by going back to I Samuel and addressing some more points on this passage. I will then go back to your post. The thing I love about these discussions is that it should drive us back to Scripture. So I went back and studied the passage out some more and I’m even more convinced that utilizing this passage as an argument for the morality of music is fallacious…and I believe I’m in good company.

    Since I am sure that many reading all of this may just dismiss what I have to say (since we have been going back and forth so much and they may be tiring of my questions), I consulted a couple commentaries on this passage to see if I was off-base. In other words, I wanted to see if commentators agree that music is moral and that David was playing moral music which caused the evil spirit to go away. I also wanted to see if they believed the point of the passage was to teach us about music. If not, what is the point of the passage because as you said, all Scripture is profitable? I certainly believe that even if you didn’t believe so from my prior post. Anyway, I’m going to quote some commentators so that you are hearing from someone other than me. I encourage you to go read the full context to make sure I’m not just “proof texting” from commentaries (admittedly, I read the commentaries on this particular text and not the entire context of the full passages or books).

    I read both Matthew Henry and John Gill on this passage. I’d go to others but it is late!!! It is interesting that Matthew Henry essentially thinks it was a silly idea for Saul’s attendants to go get David to play rather than going to get Samuel the prophet. Henry states:
    “How much better friends had they been to him if they had advised him, since the evil spirit was from the Lord, to give all diligence to make his peace with God by true repentance, to send for Samuel to pray with him and to intercede with God for him! then might he not only have had some present relief, but the good Spirit would have returned to him. But their project is to make him merry, and so cure him. Many whose consciences are convinced and startled are for ever ruined by such methods as these, which drown all care of the soul in the delights of sense. Yet Saul’s servants did not amiss to send for music as a help to cheer up the spirits, if they had but withal sent for a prophet to give him good counsel. How much better friends had they been to him if they had advised him, since the evil spirit was from the Lord, to give all diligence to make his peace with God by true repentance, to send for Samuel to pray with him and to intercede with God for him! then might he not only have had some present relief, but the good Spirit would have returned to him. But their project is to make him merry, and so cure him. Many whose consciences are convinced and startled are for ever ruined by such methods as these, which drown all care of the soul in the delights of sense. Yet Saul’s servants did not amiss to send for music as a help to cheer up the spirits, if they had but withal sent for a prophet to give him good counsel.”

    Henry then goes on to where he has an opportunity to address the morality of music or whether the music simply affects our emotions. He states:
    “Music has a natural tendency to compose and exhilarate the mind, when it is disturbed and saddened. Elisha used it for the calming of his spirits, 2Ki_3:15. On some it has a greater influence and effect than on others, and, probably, Saul was one of those. Not that it charmed the evil spirit, but it made his spirit sedate, and allayed those tumults of the animal spirits by which the devil had advantage against him. The beams of the sun (it is the learned Bochart’s comparison) cannot be cut with a sword, quenched with water, or blown out with wind, but, by closing the window-shutters, they may be kept out of the chamber. Music cannot work upon the devil, but it may shut up the passages by which he has access to the mind.”

    It doesn’t appear that he is stating that some music is moral and some is immoral. He seems to intimate that it affects your emotions to calm the spirits. In fact, he says that it has a greater influence on some than others and more explicitly states that “Music cannot work upon the devil.” So I gather the following from Matthew Henry: 1) he believes music affects the emotions to cheer us up, and does not appear to assign morality (or immorality) to music 2) he does not believe music has any effect on the devil or spirits 3) Saul would have been much better off if he had reconciled to God rather than listening to music.

    John Gill notes that the word “evil” in front of spirit is not in the original Hebrew:
    “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul,…. See 1Sa_16:14 though the word evil is not in the text here; wherefore Abarbinel thinks that this here was the Spirit of God, which stirred up in him thoughts of divine things, put him in mind of what God had said, that he had rejected him from being king, and had rent the kingdom from him; and this filled him with grief and trouble, and he became melancholy:”
    I will say that I personally believe that it was an evil spirit because of I Samuel 18 (I’ll get to that in a minute). It is interesting though that Gill keeps using the word melancholy (sad and pensive) when referring to Saul’s fits.

    Concerning the effects of music on Saul, Gill states:
    “music being a means of cheering the spirits, and removing melancholy and gloomy apprehensions of things, and so of restoring to better health of body and disposition of mind; and that music has such an effect on the bodies and minds of men is certain from observation and experience in all ages. Music has been found to be medicine to various diseases, not only for the curing of the bite of vipers, and of the tarantula, but for easing the pains of the sciatica, and for helping persons labouring under the disorders of the frenzy (k); and Pythagoras used to compose the mind, and remove the perturbations of it, by the use of the harp (l), the thing here advised to.”
    He believes music cheers you up (emotions) and I agree as well. He however does not assign any morality (or immorality) to music. Similar to Henry, he believes it has an effect on us such that it can cheer us when we are melancholy. It is interesting though that both Henry and Gill state that Josephus says that David accompanied the playing of music with the singing of hymns and psalms. True or not, we cannot know for certain. If I had to bet on it, I would imagine David was singing along.

    I continued reading in I Samuel and came across something even more interesting that I didn’t even think about before. In I Samuel 18, we have the same scene as we do in chapter 16. Saul is once again plagued by the spirit (this time “evil” does seem to be in the Hebrew) and David is playing for him again. However, there is a very different outcome…this time Saul throws his spear at David and tries to kill him. This has to make you ask what this shows about the music. If we believe chapter 16 is a passage that is intended to teach us about music then you would seem to need to believe the same thing about chapter 18. Was David playing immoral music in chapter 18? We certainly do not know what he was playing so I don’t think we can make that assumption. The better assumption is that he was playing something similar to what he had played in chapter 16. In other words, why would we say that music was the powerful thing that ran the spirit off in chapter 16 but now it has lost its power….that wouldn’t seem to make sense if it is not about emotions but about the sinfulness or holiness of music. It just brings up a lot of questions, and I think problems, with arguing for the morality of music from this passage.

    So what do Henry and Gill believes is the point of chapter 16? What can we learn from this chapter? Is it providentially placed here for us to learn about music or does it have another purpose? Both Henry and Gill mention that David was providentially brought to the palace to increase his fame and credit at court. In other words, it was preparation for when he would become king. I heard a message this past weekend about the fact that it was 20 years from the time that David was anointed and the time he sat on the throne. This passage seems to be telling us about how God was preparing David. Could it have a dual meaning? Sure, but based on what I have studied and what I’ve read from commentators as well, I don’t think there was any intent in I Samuel to teach us about what music we should and should not use and listen to.

    Now, concerning your post, I’ll try to somehow address your points and encourage you to think about a few points from my prior post. You summarily dismissed my first paragraph because you said the passage is not about human emotions. Gill and Henry seem to believe so and I concur. So how do you address my questions in the first paragraph? The color of orange seems to have somewhat of the same effect as music has on our spirits. Is paint moral? How do you explain how some see anger in music where others don’t?

    You also dismissed my second paragraph as well because you state music without words is not neutral. But I think my second paragraph had a very important question. Since we don’t know what David was playing, how is it that you determine your music is moral and how do we know what other music isn’t? That is why I say it is a logical leap because there is a missing link between your assertion of music being moral and what music is moral.

    My third paragraph was declared to be irrelevant as well because you state that the music was what delivered him from the evil spirit. Both Gill and Henry seem to disagree so I feel like I’m in pretty good company. If you concur (and I understand that you may not), how do you explain that some people can listen to music such as Shai’s and have their spirits lifted? I do believe music can affect your emotions (I would think you agree with that) but I don’t believe it has the power over sin and darkness that is being assigned to it on this thread.

    Concerning my fourth paragraph, it sounds as if you believe that I think I Samuel is worthless. That couldn’t be further from the truth. However, I may misunderstand. My point in the paragraph was that I believe we assign way more power to music than the passage intends. Why wouldn’t the disciples have just played music for the people when they weren’t able to cast out demons in the New Testament? Why don’t we just play music instead of evangelizing since it is that powerful? I mean, if it can drive the devil and demons away then we simply don’t need Scripture or even God! I know that is NOT what you are saying, however that is exactly where this argument can go if we believe even music apart from lyrics has power over the devil. God has given us weapons for this war we are in but I’m certainly not going to attack the devil with a tune. I would imagine you may have thought the idolatry comment was the vehement part. However, assigning that kind of power to music essentially scoots God out of the way and places music in His place since it obviously has power over the devil. That is why I said this argument can sometimes border on idolatry.

    You then go on and seem to misunderstand what I was saying (or maybe I misstated). You seem to think that I was saying David came and sang to Saul and that is what helped Saul. I don’t think I mentioned anything about David singing until this post when I stated that Gill and Henry both said that Josephus stated that David was singing. My point in my prior post was that David’s playing, to put it simply, cheered Saul up and brought him out of his doldrums. Henry and Gill seem to agree. Can our mindset allow Satan to attack us and can simply getting our mind off us those things that drag us down actually lift us up? I think so. I honestly don’t really know how it worked in that passage but I am in good company when I say that I do not believe the music had the power over the evil spirit. If it did, then why didn’t it work 2 chapters later?

    You continue by stating that I refuse to take the passage seriously. I assure you that I do. I have studied this passage on multiple occasions. I have read multiple books that hold the same position you do and they all seem to state what you are stating about I Samuel. That has only driven me back to the passage. I simply don’t believe God intended for this to be a teaching on the morality of music (see above for the reasons to that).

    It is way too late for me to dig into your reference of II Kings 3. Without even looking at it though, you still have a missing link. Once again, let’s assume your assessment of II Kings is true and it proves the morality of music…how do you make the connection between this teaching and your music that you deem to be morally good? In other words, how do we identify that music (remember that the argument is that music apart from lyrics can be inherently sinful)?

    In conclusion (finally), I still do not see that Scripture teaches the morality of music apart from the lyrics. Even if it did, you are still missing how to identify morally good music and what music is sinful. There is a logical leap from “the Bible says music can be sinful” to “my music is not sinful.” I don’t believe you actually can identify that music and I don’t believe Scott can either. I’ll illustrate what I mean….I went to the same school where you went to seminary. Of course, BJ has very strict rules on music. However, you can’t even get a consensus from the faculty about what music is good and what isn’t. We had our dorm supervisor ok certain music yet the dean of men said it was wrong music. If the opinion of what music is good and what music is bad varies among those that agree on the morality of music, then there must be a real problem since we can’t identify what music is sinful and what music is moral. (I only use BJ as an example as this same issue exists among many, maybe all, people that hold that music is moral).

    If you made it this far, thank you for your patience!

  95. Rick,

    Thanks for your comments and interaction. I, too, have to work this morning, so I cannot possibly respond to all that you have said.

    Although I have profited many times previously from Henry and Gill, for various reasons, I think that there are deficiencies in their works. If they did not think about the relevance of 1 Samuel 16 to the morality of music issues, it may very well stem from the fact that the view that music is neutral/amoral is a recent formulation and was not something that they faced in their day.

    I understand that larger things than music are going on in the passage, including God’s beginning to exalt David, etc. At the same time, the Spirit framed the passage with an explicit emphasis on instrumental music that must not be minimized. By far, David is the most important sacred musician mentioned in Scripture, and the importance of his music on this occasion is on that basis additionally not an incidental aspect of that passage.

    I am very aware of the concerns that you have with my understanding of the passage, especially about how to apply it to our circumstances. Nonetheless, I refuse to allow issues about application misinform basic exegesis and exposition of the passage. We can discuss modern relevance after establishing the basic force of the passage.

    Briefly, as you know, man is much more than an emotional being. When an evil spirit afflicts a man, there is no reason to limit the affliction to merely an emotional effect. Saul was afflicted in multiple ways, including emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

    I do not think that I asserted that the music acted independently of the work of God. What I am saying is that God used David’s music to relieve Saul of affliction caused by an evil spirit.

    Whether or not David sang to Saul, the Spirit chose to highlight David’s playing and did not mention singing. The Spirit did so for a reason, and we must account for why He did so.

    Concerning what happened on later occasions, I have addressed that here (, so I will refer you to that article. I’ll respond more later, as time allows.

  96. Great post Nick – admire your patience in going through this all (as well as Rajesh’s persistence).
    I wanted to take this opportunity to point you to a helpful resource on your, say, incredulity that there are universals in musical meaning. It’s a 4-hour lecture by Ken Myers:

    Now I realize I already put something on your plate, as did Rajesh, so if you want to cut it short, just listen to Part 3 of the series, where he gets into the nitty-gritty of form and content.

  97. As I was reading Rajesh’s explanation, I was thinking of two situations here:
    1) David’s music was moral and it was through the music that the evil spirit was made to leave (Rajesh’s assertion).
    2) David’s playing was obviously moral (since it is activity) but the music was neutral (Neil’s assertion). God used David in this instance and confirmed His anointing on David by commanding the spirit to leave as David played. The music itself thus had no real power apart from the special intervention of God during David’s play, meant to confirm that God was with him over and above King Saul.

    Based on the fact that the evil spirit reoccurs in both 1.Sam 18 and 19, it seems logical to assume that Saul’s state has something to do with the spirit’s activity each time, i.e. his state of mind was indeed caused by the spirit. Granting that, as Rajesh explains, there were events in-between that further confirmed God’s anointing on David (and increased Saul’s anger and jealousy), this cannot fully account for the fact that the music no longer had the desired effect on these occasions. The way I see it, the same thing is happening each time: God wants Saul to see that He has chosen David and wants Saul to accept that decision, and repent and be saved. Yet, each time Saul refuses to repent. Instead, he hardens himself. I can’t help drawing a parallel to Pharaoh and the ten plagues here: God repeatedly gave Pharaoh room for repentance but as he refused, things got tougher and Pharaoh’s heart hardened more and more. The same seems to be happening to Saul in 1. Samuel. If that is so, the three instances in chapters 16, 18 and 19 are really no different: each time, God wants to bring Saul to accept that David is His anointed. As Saul refuses, God piles up more evidence, which is replicated by Saul hardening more each time, culminating in the javelin incidents and then his persecution of David with his entire army.

    Given the music did NOT work on the spirit in the other two incidences although the latter is clearly mentioned as the cause of Saul’s spiritual state, it seems obvious that God removed Saul’s opportunity to repent and allowed him to harden his heart more and more. The power to liberate was therefore not in the music but in God’s sovereign decision to set Saul free in David’s presence. There is then no need to see David’s music as moral. Since there are no other instances of music being used this way in the Bible (as Neil already pointed out), the scales clearly tilt against the idea that there was some property inherent in the music that helped Saul against the spirit. It was a unique situation caused by God, not the music.

  98. Martin,

    The last couple of sentences in you’re last response actually answered the questions I’ve had about using the event with David and Saul in 1 Samuel as biblical evidence that music can inherently sinful or inherently good. Even though I never asked the question, thank you for answering it for me.

    You said, “The power to liberate was therefore not in the music but in God’s sovereign decision to set Saul free in David’s presence. There is then no need to see David’s music as moral. Since there are no other instances of music being used this way in the Bible (as Neil already pointed out), the scales clearly tilt against the idea that there was some property inherent in the music that helped Saul against the spirit. It was a unique situation caused by God, not the music.”

    I’m not sure if you yourself hold to this thought process but if you do it is something you and I both can agree on.

    I’ve always thought that the evil spirit left Saul not because of something that was in the music David played but because God decided to relieve Saul of that evil spirit when in the presence of David. Also, I was confused because it seemed like people were creating a theology of music that articulated that music has inherently sinful or inherently righteous qualities based upon that one instance in Scripture. It confused me because there aren’t any other instances of this happening and I thought that it was just a unique situation caused by God, sort of like when Peter’s shadow in the book of Acts healed people. There isn’t a doctrine or theology that I know of that’s rooted in Scripture and states that our shadows can heal people of sickness. It was just a unique event caused by God, not the shadow itself.

    Overall, I guess my next question is, since it seems like the instances with David and Saul in 1 Samuel cannot be used as biblical proof that music is inherently sinful or inherently good, is there any other passages that would do a better job?

    Also, Martin thank you for responding to my last comment.

    I definitely understand that there’s a difference between preaching and a music performance. I also understand that you did not mean to assume someone’s personal motives, no offense was taken there. The only reason why I brought up Lecrae’s performance was that I wanted to compare what people had to say about his posture and Shai’s posture. I simply did not understand why some were saying that Shai’s posture was sinful. After posting the two Lecrae videos and hearing Aaron’s opinion, I now do not understand why Lecrae’s posture was hypocritical. I posted another video before Lecrae’s performances of another Christian rapper named Eshon Burgundy and asked about his posture. Someone had commented saying that his posture was completely okay, yet he had the spotlight on him, the camera was focused on him, he was in front of an audience all the while saying “Behold, the Lamb of God!” So overall, I’m just confused.

  99. Martin, I still haven’t had a chance to go through your info on your blog that you posted but will certainly get to it. I wanted to say that your assessment of I Samuel was very clear and well put. Kudos to you!

    I also wanted to say that I appreciate Kelsey. I don’t know if any of you have clicked on his name and gone to his blog, but he is only 18 years old! He is wise beyond his years, and if holy hip hop creates a thinker like him, then I am all for it! Kudos to you as well!

  100. Martin, Rick, and Kelsey,

    I am preparing a thoroughly researched and carefully presented explanation of why the interpretation that Martin presented (1/22 1:03 pm) and Rick and Kelsey have commended is not sound. I may have it ready late this evening; if not, it may be tomorrow afternoon or evening before I will have enough time to finish it.

  101. Martin, I read through your article and have made a lot of comments concerning specific points. It will take me a while to put that into a clear response. I do want to say though that I believe you mischaracterized Lecrae greatly, so I’m glad you linked to your sources where possible. The article where most of the quotes came from will give you a much different view of him if you read the entire thing. You reference to him saying he doesn’t want to be associated with the title of Christian. Lecrae actually said: “I remember when Eminem, I forgot the song [“My Dad’s Gone Crazy”], but he was like, “I’d rather be a *********** [expletive] gospel rapper.” I remember how that resonates through the culture. Like, “Man, that scene is wack.” The craft is frowned upon and it seems wack. So, for me, it’s more the presupposition of what that is and I don’t wanna be associated.” So he doesn’t want to be seen as the world understands (presupposes) a Christian. In reading the entire article, he doesn’t shy away from being a Christian and makes no bones about it. Here are a couple paragraphs of the article for better context:

    “In the last year or so, your name has begun to cross over into more mainstream hip-hop circles. How has that changed what’s been going on with your movement?
    I think more people are aware of what I’m doing. If anything, it’s made me be a little more intentional about addressing broader issues. Sometimes, as a Christian, you tend to talk about things that are only applicable within the Church or within the Christian community, instead of addressing a lot of elephants in the room that people who don’t go to church or have issues with the Church want addressed. Or just regular life stuff. I don’t always have to talk about me reading the bible or something along those lines. I do the same regular life things that most people do. More than anything, my message and mission has always been to give hope and inspiration and to see people transform.

    Someone who isn’t a Christian or maybe is but isn’t religious, what would draw them to your music?
    If somebody’s not rocking with what I believe, at the end of the day, I’m very passionate about the craft and the art. I’m gonna make sure I put out good art. I think anybody who loves hip-hop is gonna say, “I can’t deny: this is good hip-hop.” And that’s my whole reach records crew. We not gonna just put out something and say, “Well, because we believe in Jesus you should buy this;” we want it to be good art. On top of that, I can articulate some things that a lot people is like, “Okay, I can get that picture.” Plus, it’s just me right alongside what Brand Nubian has been doing, what Wu-Tang has done, what Lupe does—drop gems of faith in their music. You can rock with it or not.”

    I don’t expect everyone to agree with the way he goes about this, but he certainly isn’t trying to get away from the title of Christian.

    Also, part of your article talked about Jesus’ call to freely give what we have received…in other words, he shouldn’t sell his music if he is trying to evangelize. There are issues with this assertion outside of the application to Lecrae but for now I’ll just address Lecrae. In asking him about the release of Church Clothes, he said: “I didn’t want them to have to one, pay for the music to experience it or test it out….” I don’t know the manner in which he released it, but apparently you could go listen to it without a payment going to him.

    There are certainly points of the article where many will disagree with his methods, but I think he was mischaracterized in your article. Please don’t mistake this as an accusation that you intentionally did this, but the context certainly clears up some of the many questions I had as I read your article. In addition, I believe it refutes some of the points you made. I would encourage everyone to go read the article to get the full context:

  102. Thanks for the time to read the article and comment on it, Rick.
    I’d be pleased to get any other feedback you may be able to give, especially on the core section about semiotics.

    To respond to the above, I can assure you that I DID read the entire interview with Lecrae. I certainly did not mean to say that Lecrae no longer wants to be (or be called) a Christian. What I DID mean to say, however, is that he does not want his music to be called HHH or Christian or gospel rap. This is actually confirmed by what your wrote above, given he now says he is looking at other topics than only traditionally or openly Christian ones. As such, he is crossing over to the mainstream of rap, leaving the HHH arena.

    I actually greet this move as a good decision, and this will now allow him to have much more fitting lyrics for the songs he writes. I think U2 think just like him – they make commercial, high-quality popular art that is finding good reception among both Christians and non-Christians. There is no talk of evangelization there. They simply take up issues in their songs that they think are relevant. Great! Then they go on and do good with the pile of money they are making. Fantastic! I wish Lecrae all the best and hope he can follow their lead.

    My point was, however, that this means we can no longer speak of HHH since there no longer is a separate category of ‘Christianized’ rap. So the entire argument that has been made repeatedly in this discussion, i.e. that the lyrics sanctify the music, falls apart
    (of course I think this is a moot argument since there is nothing to sanctify anyways). Yet, if Lecrae’s music becomes just ‘good art’ then it will be indistinguishable from other ‘good art’ in the hip hop scene, and the idea that it does NOT express the values and worldview of that community will be impossible to defend. From his other comments I tried to show that his worldview is indeed either worldly or at best, that of an immature Christian.

    About the ‘freely give’ comment, I had seen this remark about him giving away music for free, which is why I wrote it the way I did: “Some artists may give away some of their music for free but still, they live off sales to both the converted and the unconverted if evangelism is their aim.”

  103. Martin,

    [In keeping with what I said earlier, I’m posting this response on Friday night around 11pm (ET). But, I am not sure when you will see it.]

    You wrote,

    “God used David in this instance and confirmed His anointing on David by commanding the spirit to leave as David played. The music itself thus had no real power apart from the special intervention of God during David’s play, meant to confirm that God was with him over and above King Saul.
    Based on the fact that the evil spirit reoccurs in both 1.Sam 18 and 19, it seems logical to assume that Saul’s state has something to do with the spirit’s activity each time, i.e. his state of mind was indeed caused by the spirit. Granting that, as Rajesh explains, there were events in-between that further confirmed God’s anointing on David (and increased Saul’s anger and jealousy), this cannot fully account for the fact that the music no longer had the desired effect on these occasions. The way I see it, the same thing is happening each time: God wants Saul to see that He has chosen David and wants Saul to accept that decision, and repent and be saved. Yet, each time Saul refuses to repent. Instead, he hardens himself.”

    You have wrongly analyzed the passage. Had Saul had any idea that David was God’s anointed through David’s ministry recorded to him in 16:14-23, Saul would have tried to kill him long before what we read of his trying to do so in 18:11. In fact, we read that Saul “loved him greatly” at this point.

    So, you misread the passages when you say, “there were events in-between that further confirmed God’s anointing on David (and increased Saul’s anger and jealousy).” Saul’s anger and jealousy were not increased by the intervening events (from 1 Samuel 16:23 to 1 Sam. 18:10) because there is no evidence that he had any anger or jealousy toward David prior to 18:8ff.

    Furthermore, five more problems with your handling of this passage show further that your analysis is not sound.

    1. David is the premier sacred musician mentioned in Scripture. First Samuel 16:14-23 is not just an account of how God began to exalt David as His anointed future ruler over His people Israel; God was also commencing David’s special ministry of music for the glory of God.

    In fact, in the inspired record of his last words (2 Sam. 23:1-7), David refers to himself as “the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam. 23:1). In David’s own mind, his role as the sweet musician of God’s people was a singularly important aspect of his own self-conception.

    First Samuel 16:14-23 records the commencing of that special role, and David’s playing the harp was no minor facet of this account. Numerous passages confirm that his being a sacred instrumentalist was a crucial part of his contribution to the cause of Yahweh.

    Furthermore, your interpretation does not explain why God acted only when David played; why didn’t God do it through David’s merely arriving in the presence of Saul or through his praying or through his singing or through his speaking the words of God to Saul instead of his playing the harp?

    Your interpretation also does not account for the strong emphasis on David’s being skilled as a harpist to bring about the relief from spiritual affliction (16:16, 17, 18). In fact, Saul’s response to his servant’s suggestion is to command them to bring him “a man who can play well” (16:17). Holladay’s Hebrew Lexicon says about the verb forms used here: “d) w. inf. or fin. vb. = adv.: w. nagg¢n play beautifully Is 2316, l®nagg¢n 1S 1617;”

    If his music was only incidental to what happened, why does the Spirit record a repeated emphasis on his skillfulness at playing music?

    2. Your interpretation does not account for the confident expectation of Saul’s servants concerning what would relieve Saul of his spirit-caused affliction. Somehow, they had certainty that harp music ministered by a skillful harpist would do so (1 Sam. 16:16). If what happened on this occasion was a unique working of God only minimally related to David’s playing music, and had never happened before in Israel’s history, the servants’ confidence is left unexplained.

    The text does not have even a hint that they were merely throwing out some off-the-cuff suggestion of something they thought might somehow work. We do not read that they said something like this: “Sire, an evil spirit is afflicting thee. Perhaps, thou shouldest try sending for a skillful harp player. Who knows, maybe listening to harp music might help. It’s worth giving a shot, your Majesty. Thou hast nothing to lose by trying it.”

    No, Saul’s servants were confident that he would be relieved of his affliction by hearing instrumental harp music played by a skillful musician. They were confident because they knew that others had previously experienced hearing such harp music and being relieved by it from such demonically caused affliction.

    3. You have wrongly understood this passage as recording a one-time exceptional event: (Martin- “three instances in chapters 16, 18, 19” [meaning that chapter 16 records a single instance]; Kelsey – “it was just a unique event caused by God”). You may have gotten this incorrect understanding from reading the KJV in a sense that it was not intended to be taken: “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.”

    a) A careful examination of the Hebrew text of 1 Sam. 16:23 shows that this verse is not recording a unique event that happened only once. The Hebrew text has a beyth preposition with an infinitive construct (Bi|h•yôt) preceded by a waw perfect verb and followed by three more waw perfect forms, which signify that the actions were repeated each time that the evil spirit came upon Saul.

    b) Many major modern translations reflect correctly the Hebrew grammar and syntax in this verse by rendering the beyth preposition rightly as “whenever”: “So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul” (NAU); “So whenever the spirit from God would come upon Saul (NET); “Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul” (NIV); “And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul (NKJ); see also the ESV and CSB.

    Each of these modern versions correctly translates the verse as communicating that whenever the evil spirit would come on Saul, David would take the harp . . . and the evil spirit would depart.

    c) The Septuagint, an early Greek translation of the Hebrew text, confirms the proper understanding that the verse records multiple occasions when David’s playing delivered Saul from demonic affliction. It has a contemporaneous time present infinitive (en tō einai) followed by four imperfect indicative verbs (elambanen, epsallen, anepsuchen, aphistato), which signifies ongoing action either on a continuous basis or on a repetitive basis. Because we know thus that the spirit was repeatedly departing from him (its continuously departing would make no sense), we know that all the verbs are signifying repetitive action on multiple occasions.

    d) This interpretation and translation is explicitly and conclusively confirmed by 1 Samuel 18:10, which shows that David had played to relieve Saul on numerous other times prior to the instance recorded in that verse: 1Sa 18:10 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand.

    The Hebrew text confirms that David was ministering to Saul on an ongoing basis with his harp to relieve him of that affliction (keyom beyom). Many modern translations pick this up: NAU 1Sa 18:10 while David was playing the harp with his hand, as usual; NIV 1Sa 18:10 while David was playing the harp, as he usually did; NKJ 1Sa 18:10 So David played music with his hand, as at other times; ESV 1Sa 18:10 while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. CSB 1Sa 18:10 David was playing the harp as usual.

    The Reina Valera, a Spanish translation that predates the KJV, also confirms this reading: R60 1Sa 18:10 David tocaba con su mano como los otros días; and this modern Spanish translation of the Hebrew text does the same: LBA 1Sa 18:10 mientras David tocaba el arpa con su mano como de costumbre.

    Based on the Hebrew and Greek texts of both 1 Sam. 16:23 and 18:10, it is clear that 1 Sam. 16:23 is not recording a one-time unique deliverance of Saul by David’s playing his harp on that first occasion. You have wrongly assessed what took place on this occasion as a special working of God only minimally related to the music in the sense of the music being an incidental feature of the sovereign one-time working of God to deliver Saul from his affliction caused by an evil spirit.

    The Holy Spirit has framed this account in such a way that the explicit emphasis is on David’s playing the harp as the means by which Saul was delivered repeatedly from his affliction. Scripture thus shows that David played the harp to relieve Saul on many occasions, and the evil spirit departed on each occasion as a result of God’s use of David’s Spirit-empowered music.

    4. The latter accounts that supposedly show the ineffectuality of the music to deliver Saul do not show that it never was the music in the first place. Just as the preaching of the Word does not profit all its hearers but only profits those who have ears to hear, so Saul’s radically changed disposition toward David prevented him from receiving the benefit of the music, as he had enjoyed before.

    I have personally experienced on more than occasion when someone has ministered musically so that their music blessed many other people, but it did not bless me because there was an unresolved issue between the person(s) ministering the music and me. The same has also been true regarding the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. In both settings, it was not that the music or the ministry of the Word lacked effectuality on those occasions—the differing outcome was due to the problem that I had with those who were ministering to me.

    5. The text provides no evidence that God removed Saul’s opportunity to repent, as Martin asserts. Rather, Saul hardened himself against David and God and thereby forfeited the spiritual benefit that he would have received (had he had a right mindset toward David and God) from the music produced by a Spirit-empowered man of God.

    In conclusion, 1 Samuel 16:14-23 certainly stresses that it was God’s use of David’s skillful playing of the harp on multiple occasions to deliver him from horrible affliction caused by an evil spirit. David’s instrumental music was thus a powerful force for spiritual good—it was not neutral.

  104. Martin, I’m finally getting back with you! I’m not so much going to try and make this a cohesive post with an overall thought pattern, rather I’m just going to put some comments down concerning some of your points. I’ll just go straight through it in order and comment.

    In your introduction, you state how semiotics is an emerging discipline. I believe Rajesh said something similar in another post as well. I have to wonder why this is a new discipline. Admittedly, I know very little about it. The question that came up upon reading your comment and thinking back to Rajesh’s is, if music has been around since Adam why are we just now figuring out that there are elements in music that are sinful. If music can be sinful apart from lyrics, are we to believe that music just started being moral/immoral in the last 50 years? There was discussion about the song of a harlot and of fools and of drunkards. You would think this wouldn’t be a new discipline if music has been around forever. Do we see anyone in history looking at semiotics (even if they didn’t call it that) and detailing out elements of music that are inherently sinful? If we don’t see that in the years before the advent of rock and roll then I have to wonder why.

    You state how semiotics is not an exact science since people cannot agree 100% on associating specific musical compositions with certain emotions. First thing that pops out here is the word “emotions.” This is what most of us are saying that music deals with ….the emotions. In other words, it can express happiness, sadness, anger, etc. If you want to call that communication, that is fine but it has to do with the emotions and not any specific communication as in talking. Secondly, I agree that you will never get people to agree 100% on what emotion music is expressing. What is anger to one person is not to another. One may see sensual elements when another doesn’t. This isn’t due to any deficiency in one person over another or any lack of training but is affected by the person’s environment and culture. If they can’t nail down a specific communication (even in emotions, much less explicit communications) in music then how can we say there are specific elements that are sinful?

    You later stated, “The other problem with discussing HHH is that people identify with their music preferences. This is the case with all popular music, and discussing the appropriateness of music therefore becomes almost impossible since any such attempt is taken as a personal attack on someone’s tastes.”
    This is not always the case and is, in fact, not my case. I’m asserting that Hip Hop is not inherently sinful apart from lyrics. However, hip hop is not my musical preference. I have actually started listening to it because of the incredible lyrics by people like Shai Linne, but I do not enjoy the hip hop side of it and would much rather listen to Chris Tomlin singing these lyrics than Shai Linne! I also grew up in the culture that see music as inherently moral/immoral and am the music director at a church that is nearly hymn only. So my background and preferences are not hip hop yet I’m asserting that hip hop is not inherently evil….I do this based off of what I see in Scripture (or perhaps I should say don’t see in Scripture).

    Now, getting to the semiotics, you quoted Stougaard from page 67. I could not help but notice how many times the word “feeling” was used in this paragraph…I counted 8 times. Webster defines feeling as an emotional state or reaction. I agree that music can affect our emotions. However, the emotion that is affected is determined by our preconceptions and our culture. In other words, I don’t believe that you can say a specific element universally expresses a specific emotion. That is clearly evident by the multitude of reactions to Scott’s analysis of Shai’s song in his latest post.

    Furthermore, these elements and the emotions they affect are not inherently sinful. As we have discussed at length in multiple threads, anger is not necessarily wrong and happiness is not necessarily right either. You referenced a laid-back attitude. I may not fully understand what you mean by that, but I don’t see that as sinful either in the way in which it is expressed in the article. I may not understand what is meant though. However, what Stougaard sees as “laid-back” is not going to be universally seen as “laid-back” to everyone else.

    You comment on the speed at which some rap and hip hop communicate and state that “it is obvious that the speed is not conducive to communication.” I wouldn’t make such a statement. It may not be conducive to you and I but I am amazed at what is grasped by those that listen to it all the time. During the summer, we take our kids to work in a camp for a week. I heard some of the guys at this camp rapping some of these fast sections from some of the artists in HHH. I was amazed at how they could get those lyrics in. They also knew what the lyrics were saying. So it may not be conducive to communicating with those unfamiliar with the genre but that is not universal. Also, as I have listened to some of Shai’s songs, I have found that hearing what he says is actually easier than some of the songs that I normally listen to simply because it is more of a talking than a singing. However, when he is moving quickly as in the song you linked to, it also makes me want to get the lyrics and see what he is saying, which just drives me further into the awesome lyrics. I’ll end this paragraph by saying also that communicating in the speed they do is not sinful either, so I’m wondering why this is even an issue.

    In this same section much is said about focusing on the individual and individual ideas. I agree that this is wrong. The real question is whether this is applicable to HHH. I think this is erroneously applied (not necessarily by you but in the comments) to guys like Shai simply because he is not in a suit standing behind a pulpit when he sings. In other words, someone holding a mic, walking around on stage and rapping is so foreign to many people and they erroneously say that the performer is looking to glorify himself. The same accusations have been lobbed at those in CCM. I just do not see that in the artists at the concerts I have been to. I’m sure there are some, but we can’t take a problem with a subset and apply it wholeheartedly to an entirely different subset.

    In reference to the prior paragraph, you stated: “When communicating messaging focused on the Gospel of Christ, the individual should not be in the foreground but rather, the message and the listener, in order to maximize the clarity of what is communicated. The individual needs to step back and let the message take over.”
    Tell me how this is accomplished. It was said in one of the comments that Lecrae was at center stage, under the lights, on screen, and the attention was on him. Isn’t this what happens when someone gets up in church to sing a “special?” They get up, grab a mic (or stand in front of one), go center stage where the spotlights will be on them, and everyone’s focus on them. Could it be that the “focus on me” attitude is simply coming from the eye of the beholder instead of from the attitude of those on stage? I’d rather give a Christian brother the benefit of the doubt.

    Concerning the assertion that hip hop is exclusionary. Sure, a Christian shouldn’t be exclusionary to the extent that they are not in the world spreading seed. I’m trying to wrap my head around this one though. It is almost circular or a little warped reasoning to me. We shouldn’t be exclusionary and we should go into the whole world to preach the Gospel, yet we shouldn’t use a genre that may be able to get to those people that are exclusionary in the first place. Now I am not one that thinks music is a good evangelistic tool. But those that are saved that have been in that culture can certainly be disciple much easier with music they understand and relate to. In addition, I just don’t understand how a genre of music would identify me as exclusionary if I listen to it. Kind of a weird point to me but I may not fully understand either.

    Further down you said, “Whereas compelling is conducive to gospel-centered messaging, aggressiveness or laid-backness is not, as was already noted . More interesting are the other terms used here, such as poking, dissing, or boasting – maybe better terms to use for hip hop in general than aggressiveness, since clearly not all HHH songs sound aggressive.”
    I disagree. Aggressiveness can be very conducive to Gospel-centered messaging depending on the subject matter of the song. For example, one of Shai’s songs talks about the jealousy of God and the beginning gives the analogy of a man finding his wife cheating on him and the anger he experiences. Aggressiveness in this song helps communicate the adultery God sees when we put anything else in front of Him. Likewise, doesn’t an aggressive style fit with God being just? Regardless, even if music alone were able to communicate aggressiveness, is aggressiveness sinful? This last question is the crux of the matter. We can talk all day about the appropriateness of emotions in music but it really boils down to whether that emotion is sinful or not.
    “Again, anything that sounds like boasting or dissing is not a good choice for Christian music . We need to look for other styles that would project ideas such as grave, intense, urgent , or maybe glorious, depending on what the lyrics are.”
    What does boasting or dissing sound like in music? We are discussing music apart from lyrics and whether it can be sinful or not. I don’t know how you would express boasting or dissing without lyrics. And once again, boasting or dissing is not necessarily wrong….it depends on the object. If I boast in Christ, that is a good thing. If I diss on the devil, that is a good thing. If it is boasting in myself or dissing on someone else then it is not good but I still don’t know how you do that without lyrics.

    Concerning syncretism, I just don’t see this as much of an argument to anyone that has listened to HHH. You essentially admit this when you say, “Whereas nobody would assume this is also the case for HHH, the question remains whether consumers of HHH can fully shed this original association.” It sounds like the argument says that the two styles of music sound alike so people will associate bad things with HHH. Any associational issues (which I think is not as big of an issue in reality), in my opinion, go away when they hear the lyrics. Anyone immersed in secular hip hop sees an immediate difference as soon as they listen to HHH. There is no question that it is different. Of course this is my opinion but it is an informed decision based on conversations with others.

    “Crae and co. deliver music with a message without coming off preachy.“
    I can fully understand this. You can preach without being preachy. We’ve talked about the world’s perceptions of Christians. They see us as holding our big fat family Bibles ready to hit them over the head because they are not like us. Like it or not, they see guys like the “pastor” in NC that wanted to throw all the homosexuals into an electric fence and drop some food to them once in a while until they die out. Yes, they view us as preachy and don’t want to hear the message. You definitely can preach to them without being preachy. The method of doing this is probably different for everyone. So the edgy/cool music (you reference those terms in your paragraph) can be used as long as there is nothing inherently wrong with it and the lyrics and performance are compatible with Scripture (I know that is the debatable part). I see Paul as doing this in a manner of speaking. He referenced philosophers when speaking to others. He spoke in their centers where they met to discuss philosophy. It’s not a 1:1 comparison but he did try to relate to them in a manner in which they would understand. Once again, I am not one that thinks music is a good evangelization tool (it can work though), but I do see it as a tremendous edification tool for those that are saved and had been immersed in that culture. I understand though that many others have a different opinion. So please feel free to do it a different way. We need multiple ways of evangelizing and discipling since everyone is different and relates differently.

    Your conclusion had some really, and I mean really, broad-brushing statements that I won’t comment on other than pointing some of them out.
    “This being the case, HHH can justly be called bad art. This does not take away from the intent of the artists but does speak to their artistic training and lack of cultural and musical understanding.”
    “Certainly, many HHH artists are very talented, yet what they produce is juvenile art that speaks to a public that is either composed of juveniles or of those who prefer to remain juvenile.”
    “There is a risk that either HHH will not be understood as distinctly Christian by the surrounding culture or that Christians immersed in this subculture will adopt the ideas of the larger pagan community, thus leaving orthodoxy and drifting away from a sound biblical worldview and lifestyle.”

    To conclude (finally), semiotics seemed to only point out the emotions inherent in music. As I had stated in another post, there are emotions inherent in the color of paint for your restaurant but neither one can communicate explicitly. It cannot communicate in a manner that is inherently sinful or holy….it only affects the emotions (remember how much he used the word feel or feelings?). Semiotics also pointed to the culture surrounding hip hop and assumed the personality of secular hip hop (for lack of a better term) would be inherent in HHH (don’t like that term either!). I don’t see that happening. I feel like that analysis is coming from a bunch of older white guys that don’t understand the genre and have listened to a 10 second snippet of one song and are declaring themselves experts (sound familiar?). HHH is viewed as different than worldly hip hop. Lecrae illustrated this well in one of the articles you quoted. In it he said, “what’s funny is that in the Grammy’s, Christian music is the only music that is categorized off of content.” He is also being criticized for trying to get non-Christians to listen to his music. Doesn’t that imply that non-Christians see something different about him and his music? To summarize, it still has not been shown that there is something in music that is inherently moral/immoral. Secondly, the world views HHH as something different….why are we arguing differently?

    I do appreciate your thoughtful analysis and certainly see how you can come to a different conclusion than I do. However, I just don’t see any of this (semiotics) meshing with Scripture. Scripture does not address inherent evil in music nor do principles point to inherent evil. No one is able to point to an element of music and tell us how to identify music that is evil which would have to happen in order for us to keep from sinning in this manner. I’m sure I will be lambasted in a post or two with examples of where we draw the line on other items such as modesty and art, however there isn’t any question whether we should dress modestly or whether we should look at wicked things. However, realize that not all of us simply want to listen to whatever we want just so we can thumb our noses at everyone else. I truly want God to be pleased with my life and everything in it. I see this as an issue that has harmed many people because of the straining at gnats that creates rules that are not in Scripture. I understand it is done with every good intention by someone that also wants to please God with every fiber of their being. I don’t question your intention or Scott’s, but I believe this is a very harmful thing.

    Thank you for your patience with me and please understand my heart in this. We are fellow Christians seeking the same thing…hopefully it just drives us back into Scripture and study.

  105. Rick,

    I am confident that I have not made any comments concerning semiotics in relation to music. I am not sure what you are referring to about my previous comments.

    You also say,

    “The question that came up upon reading your comment and thinking back to Rajesh’s is, if music has been around since Adam why are we just now figuring out that there are elements in music that are sinful. If music can be sinful apart from lyrics, are we to believe that music just started being moral/immoral in the last 50 years?”

    Music did not just start being moral/immoral in the last 50 years. Until the CCM crowd came along, everyone said that music was either moral or immoral. It was the CCM crowd who fabricated the false view that music without lyrics is neutral, and they did it to justify their using instrumental music that even many in the world, including many of the producers of rock music themselves, said was evil.

  106. Rick, thanks for your engagement with my essay (which is about as long :-) but I was really surprised that you wrote it as if it was a reply to Scott and not to me. Since the very beginning of this discussion in early December, I have consistently held and defended the position that music is amoral – though not neutral in an artistic sense. I do not discuss morality in my essay, so I don’t know why you keep referring to that throughout your post as if it were central to what I wrote? I clearly stated I don’t think HHH is sinful at the end, so how is it possible you argue against that as if I did? I’m truly lost for words.

  107. Than you Rajesh – your detailed reply certainly deserves an answer.

    I think some of your points are very worthwhile, yet the question is what an overall appreciation of 1.Sam 16-18 etc. should result in. As to the charge that Saul would have killed David immediately, I think this does not take into account the gradual deterioration of Saul’s spiritual health. That he is getting worse over time transpires from the story, and indicates to me that he may have reacted differently earlier than later. We do not know at which point Saul knew that David has been anointed king by Samuel. I would agree with you that it is plausible that Saul did NOT know about this in chapter 16. Later, we see the deep friendship between David and Jonathan, where it is likely that Jonathan knew fairly early about this issue, but (in contrast to Saul) accepted it as of God. It is also possible that the issue was known by others than only Samuel and David’s brothers after some time. As a conclusion, I would suggest that Saul knew somewhere in-between chapter 16 and 18, with 18:8 being the last possible time that he knew. We should also note that Saul still ‘loved’ David even after 18:8 but it was a love-hate relationship. Sometimes, he would still recognize his love for David for a moment, but it would never last.

    Note, however, that I was talking about chapters 16, 18, and 19. Admittedly, I should have left 16 out but I think there is a progression from 18 to 19 at least, and beyond that as well. I still think the parallel to Pharaoh in Egypt has something to it, simply because there are so many instances where Saul could and should have repented: when he first had the spiritual trouble, then when he realized David (the one who was anointed to replace him) was a blessing to him (showing God’s grace even in the midst of judgment), when Jonathan embraced God’s verdict that also included his own right of succession, and then when David spared Saul’s life even though Saul kept persecuting him. Time after time, he failed and hardened his heart more – until the final judgment came. My main point was that God wanted to show His anointing on David, and He did so increasingly (the music that helped Saul, his victories in war, his friendship with Saul’s son, and his forgiving attitude even when he could have taken it out on Saul). I see a gradual increase here as well, or at least a demonstration of how God was with David in several different respects.

    To your other points:

    1) & 2) I see David’s music ministry as secondary to the account about is ascent to kingship in 1.Samuel. That it is also very important is no question, yet it is not central to the account we are discussing. Be that as it may, you also wrote that BOTH aspects can be found here, so the fact that his music ministry is also important doesn’t negate the fact that we are dealing with how he was prepared for his kingship through his experiences at Saul’s court apart from the musical aspects. Now you are emphasizing something special about David’s music ministry and that its morality had a positive effect but I am not accepting that it was a healing ministry or that his music was effecting Saul’s temporary relief through some inherent morality or any magic powers in this music. Let’s analyze 16:16 in this respect: I see three possibilities here as to why Saul’s councillors called for David:

    a) They believed the morality of music can drive away demons. Matthew Henry disagrees: “How much better friends had they been to him if they had advised him, since the evil spirit was from the Lord, to give all diligence to make his peace with God by true repentance, to send for Samuel to pray with him and to intercede with God for him! then might he not only have had some present relief, but the good Spirit would have returned to him. But their project is to make him merry, and so cure him… Music has a natural tendency to compose and exhilarate the mind, when it is disturbed and saddened. Elisha used it for the calming of his spirits, 2 Ki. 3:15. On some it has a greater influence and effect than on others, and, probably, Saul was one of those. Not that it charmed the evil spirit, but it made his spirit sedate, and allayed those tumults of the animal spirits by which the devil had advantage against him… Music cannot work upon the devil, but it may shut up the passages by which he has access to the mind.”
    As Rick already pointed out to you, there is no agreement among commentators with your thesis that the music itself had any direct power over the evil spirit. If morality drives away demons, they could have simply read out the Pentateuch, for example (to expand on the other examples you provided, which seem to work against your argument, not in favour). Many believe that music is spiritual, acting on body, mind, and the human spirit simultaneously. So it is the fact that music is used to soothe the soul, not that it is inherently moral.

    b) Consequently, it could have been a common belief that music was a means to alleviate spiritual afflictions. David Guzik writes, “In the past, Saul received the Spirit of the LORD in the presence of music (1 Samuel 10:10). Perhaps this is an effort to recreate that experience.” This, however, does not prove that the music has moral qualities. Rather, it seems to be aligned with today’s music therapy where music is consciously used to help with certain psychological ailments. We may all do this at home sometimes to enhance mood or create a specific atmosphere. It is also used in malls etc. to create a certain ambiance meant to make us feel better (and buy more stuff). So Scripture signifies that music has such a function, which is confirmed by modern research. Does that make it moral? If so, how?

    c) It could have been a prophecy, in the sense of them being used by God to indicate by which means Saul would find relief from his spiritual affliction. This would fit my original assertion that this was a one-time event orchestrated by God. Now in light of the above, I’d be inclined to give up this option. There is more than one instance in the Bible where music is used to catalyze positive spiritual events – we might include the music that was played at the inauguration of the temple later one as another example. Yet, we should also note that these were all occasions where the Holy Spirit acted, not where a demon spirit was to be driven away. So even if there were precedents, Saul’s advisors would have to have extrapolated here, maybe hoping that music would bring about a positive effect apart from God’s Spirit. We certainly don’t think we can conjure up the Holy Spirit with music, but music can be a powerful means to express right affections and maybe even to prepare or align hearts this way. Yet, we should not discount God’s sovereign intervention completely: surely, God was arranging this all = Saul’s affliction, the proposed remedy, and that David would be called to provide it. Technically, the proposed remedy may well NOT have worked, but God made sure it did (as in ‘medicus curat, Deus sanat’).

    Of course David would not have player music that represented immorality. But there is no need here to invoke any inherent morality to explain a soothing effect on Saul by music; we can still observe that today and it’s even put to commercial or other professional use.

    3) You are reading more into my initial post than I meant to express. Yes, I fully agree with you (and was aware of the fact) that David played regularly. When speaking about a unique event, I meant that this is the only passage in the Scriptures where music is used to drive away demons. Doctrine should be based on more than one reference, and I would submit that this occasion with David and Saul is a single reference, even if we are told David played many times. As a consequence, I hesitate to deduct from that that ‘righteous’ music has power to drive away demons.

    4) If the effect is one of relationship and not of musical quality, does your analogy about preaching not also imply that bad preaching can have a powerful effect if only the listener is disposed to hearing and God’s spirit anoints the message to him, however imperfectly it may have been delivered? But then you are putting the emphasis on God’s sovereign working again, and not on the skill of the speaker/musician, or the means of delivery. Does that not make your argument weaker?

    5) Certainly, David’s playing was morally good activity – this was never debated. It worked on several occasions but over time, Saul hardened himself more and more against God and also started to hat David as he realized David would take over his throne. I agree that Saul was given more occasions to repent even after this one, but as Pharaoh, he would not listen to the Spirit’s call and things got worse over time. As you wrote, it may have been his antagonism to David that made the playing inefficacious, or the demonic influence over Saul increased over time as God allowed this to happen due to Saul resisting the Spirit.

    There is no need, however, to invoke moral qualities in the music itself to explain any of this. 1. Samuel deals with David’s election and training to become a King, it tells us about how God dealt with Saul, giving him many opportunities to repent, and it also shows something of David’s music ministry. It does not, however, show that music is moral and that this accounts for its effect on demon-afflicted people.

  108. Martin,

    Thanks for getting back to me about this discussion. Rather than responding to the specifics of what you have written most recently, I think that it is more important for me to challenge your basic approach to Scripture.

    You write, “Doctrine should be based on more than one reference.” This statement is in direct contradiction to what the apostle Paul says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine . . .” (2 Tim. 3:16). Paul does not say, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine if the teaching of the passage is repeated by at least one other reference . . .” Until you accept this fundamental truth, you will never come to a right position on the music issue.

    Furthermore, because you exalt philosophy and logic above Scripture repeatedly, your understanding of divine truth will always fall far short because what God says is the ultimate authority in every matter, whether it lines up with one’s philosophy and logic or not. Your philosophical position that the production of music as an action is always either moral or immoral but music as the product of an action is always neutral is fallacious.

    In order to maintain your position, you have to read Scripture repeatedly through the lens that whenever something negative is said in Scripture about human music, the problem is always somewhere other than the music itself. How does Scripture itself teach you that this is true? If Scripture does not say this anywhere, and it certainly does not, what is your scriptural basis for holding this position?

    Although I do have several things to present in response to your latest comments about 1 Samuel 16-19 and its relevance for the music debates, it seems to me that continuing that discussion will be pointless until these bigger issues are addressed first.

  109. “This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” 2.Cor 13:1

    “the Lord is a God of knowledge.” 1.Sam 2:3

    And I liked this one:

    “The well-known prologue to John’s Gospel may be paraphrased, “In the beginning was Logic, and Logic was with God, and Logic was God…. In logic was life and the life was the light of men.”

    This paraphrase – in fact, this translation – may not only sound strange to devout ears, it may even sound obnoxious and offensive. But the shock only measures the devout person’s distance from the language and thought of the Greek New Testament. Why it is offensive to call Christ Logic, when it does not offend to call him a word, is hard to explain. But such is often the case. Even Augustine, because he insisted that God is truth, has been subjected to the anti-intellectualistic accusation of “reducing” God to a proposition. At any rate, the strong intellectualism of the word Logos is seen in its several possible translations: to wit, computation, (financial) accounts, esteem, proportion and (mathematical) ratio, explanation, theory or argument, principle or law, reason, formula, debate, narrative, speech, deliberation, discussion, oracle, sentence, and wisdom.

    Any translation of John 1:1 that obscures this emphasis on mind or reason is a bad translation. And if anyone complains that the idea of ratio or debate obscures the personality of the second person of the Trinity, he should alter his concept of personality. In the beginning, then, was Logic.”

    Since man is created in God’s image, logic is also part of how we can understand God and the things of His creation. God never tells us to follow blind faith based on some literalistic interpretation of the Bible. He would rather have us use our God-given faculties to apply reason to what He is trying to convey in His Word.

    You’re right, if you don’t think reason should be applied in interpreting Scripture, we’re at an insurmountable impasse.

  110. Martin,

    So, was Paul contradicting himself when he wrote 2 Tim. 3:16-17 after he had already written 2 Cor. 13:1? In context, 2 Cor. 13:1 is not teaching about what establishes doctrine for us.

    The NT had not even been fully written when Paul wrote 2 Cor. 13:1. If what you say that verse means is actually what it means, then any new revelation in the books of the Bible that were written after 2 Corinthians that was not already supported by at least one other passage in the Scripture that was already extant could not have been profitable for doctrine because that teaching would have been only found in one passage. There is no way 2 Cor. 13:1 was ever intended to be used the way that you are using it.

    Of course, I think reason must be applied to interpreting Scripture, but it must be subjected thoroughly to what Scripture says first. Do you have a scriptural basis for holding that music as the product of an action is always neutral? If so, what is it? Otherwise, when Scripture speaks negatively about human music production, there is no a priori basis to say that the people’s lyrics were bad, their motives were bad, the context was bad, the music overall was bad, but the instrumental music was neutral.

  111. Rajesh, of course Paul is referring to Deu 19:15, which was a law for criminal cases. The context is the sin found in one of their members’ life. Yet, many a Bible expositor has taken this rule as a prudent foundation for establishing doctrine as well. We’d do well to follow their example. Just taking an isolated scripture is not enough to establish doctrine; it needs to be in line with the rest of Scripture and based on more than just one incident to be sure it has wider validity. This is a principle based on Scripture, not a literal command in the Bible as to how we must interpret it.

    In terms of your second question, my scriptural basis would be the brazen serpent, which was initially ‘good’ but then ‘bad’ because it was turned into an idol. If the serpent was morally determined as good, why did it have to be destroyed? This example shows the morality of a thing depends on circumstance and their uses, not the thing itself. Logically, the thing then is neutral and only received moral significance through a positive or negative use. I argued that music in the strict sense of the word is a thing that can become part of human communication. As such, it is neutral until we can evaluate the morality of its use, which may be either moral or immoral, based on context.

  112. Haven’t been back on here in a few days, so I’m just seeing some of these posts. Rajesh, you didn’t say anything specifically about semiotics in particular but it was something about analyzing the elements of music as being a new discipline. It may have been on your website. I apologize if I misinterpreted. One thing you said does strike me though. You stated: “Until the CCM crowd came along, everyone said that music was either moral or immoral.” I have studied a lot of music history (particularly concerning hymns, where there have been a lot of controversy) and I have never run across anyone that said music could be moral or immoral. I’ve read multiple book from people that hold your stance as well and I don’t remember any historical examples being given. Can you give some examples from history where it was believed that the music itself apart from lyrics can be moral/immoral….not recent history since I believe this is a modern assertion?

    Martin, the end result of semiotics for Scott and the like is to take the “feeling” semiotics attempts to identify and make it into something that can be moral/immoral. Though you may not believe it is moral/immoral in and of itself (obviously I agree), that is the end result. Sorry if I assigned that belief to you, I shouldn’t have. BTW, I meant to reference a book that handles where you were going with your essay. I recently read “Does God Listen to Rap” by Curtis “Voice” Allen. He is the guy that caught a lot of grief, along with John Piper, for rapping in Piper’s church several years ago. In this book, he explains why he believes you can take hip hop, which came from sinful origins, and use it in a God-honoring way.

  113. Rajesh, I just read through your post, dated 1/24/14 at 10:08 pm, concerning further explanation of David playing the harp for Saul. Martin has handled it well so I won’t go any further with what I believe are deficiencies in your points, but let’s assume your analysis is spot-on. Can you explain how you get from David’s music to what music today has this kind of power? Apparently the music of hip/hop and rap are not this music but the music you both listen to and play is this type of music. So how are we to identify the music that David played and what music do we have today that fits this mold?

  114. Martin,

    Aside from whether you and I will ever agree on our music positions, which seems highly unlikely to me, I urge you not to misuse 2 Cor. 13:1 any more to teach something that it absolutely does not do. If you want a text that exemplifies (but does not mandate!) that a teaching in Scripture be stated in more than one place, 1 Timothy 5:18 is such a text. Paul cites both an OT passage and a NT passage as support for his teaching (5:17) about something that neither text is talking about directly in its context. This passage, however, also shows clearly that we must not dismiss even a single text in Scripture from having doctrinal value because Paul cites Deuteronomy 25:4, which is talking about not muzzling oxen!

    (This passage has important implications for how we are to approach the passages in Scripture about music, but I’ll save that for later.)

    Two clear examples from Jude show the grave danger of your approach to Scripture. Jude 9 provides inspired revelation about Satan disputing with Michael about the body of Moses, something about which we are not told anything about anywhere else in Scripture. It also teaches us how great respect even the archangel Michael displayed for Satan.

    Jude 14-15 provides revelation about Enoch, the first preacher in Scripture, and the vital message that he preached. We would never have known this information about him without this passage. The Spirit certainly inspired this text to profit us for doctrine in a number of ways, especially when we consider the issue of what message we are to proclaim if we are to please God in our walk with Him.

    I’ll get back to you about the brazen serpent at another time.

  115. Rick,

    Let me reply to your inquiry by asking you a series of questions: Are there any living beings today who know exactly what David’s instrumental music that God used to deliver Saul from demonic affliction sounded like? Are there any such beings who have a vested interested in defiling human worship as much as possible? Do we have any testimonies from humans who testify that they have been influenced by such beings to produce the kind of music that you favor? If we have such testimonies, what should the Christian response be to such testimonies?

    Answering these questions should make clear what approach I take to identifying what music that we have today is like David’s music and what music is not.

  116. Rajesh, I honestly do admire you for having a well thought out defense that you have gone to Scripture to develop. The problem I have with this step is that we are now letting people outside of the church determine what we do in the church.

  117. Thinking about this more, I wouldn’t think this would be your only criteria. Surely there is not someone that has given testimony to having been influenced by demons on every genre/style/etc. (other than what you use). Plus you then have issues about how to identify a particular song into a particular genre and whether someone’s testimony would apply. There would never be a concrete means of determining sinful music from holy music. Do you have other criteria?

  118. Rick,

    I do not see that heeding testimonies of people about demonic influence on them that led them to produce certain styles of music is “letting people outside of the church determine what we do in the church.” God commands us to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:11). The Bible does not provide us with an exhaustive listing of what things are sinful (Gal. 5:21), and I find no reason not to heed testimonies from people who say that they have been influenced by demons to do the sinful things that they do.

    Furthermore, when other musicians (who play the same styles as those who say they have been influenced by demons) themselves say that what they have designed musically has been designed specifically to promote evil purposes, there is no reason to reject their testimonies. Based on such testimonies, I reject all rock music as well as other genres that share important characteristics with rock music.

    As far as other criteria is concerned, I do not have any specific new info for you that many other people, including Scott, have not already presented as reasons for rejecting many styles of music (sensuality, association, etc.).

  119. The trouble I’m having is that you make it sound pretty black and white, but there are a lot of grey areas that are not that simple (genres that split off of others yet sound different, genres where there is no testimony of demon influence, widely varying opinions among those that hold your same belief, etc.). For example, I know people that hold to the morality of music apart from lyrics that differ on whether bluegrass is moral or immoral. Applying your criteria, I would first need to see if the creators of bluegrass testify that they were influenced by demons when they first played bluegrass. The other criteria that you refer to has more to do with associational issues more so than the music itself being moral. So based on your criteria, I’m not sure how one would determine if the music is moral/immoral outside of testimony from those that started the genre saying they were influenced by demons. That’s why I asked if there were other criteria.

  120. Martin,

    I have looked over the brazen serpent passages and your position regarding what they teach. Here’s my assessment of the passages and your take on them.

    Two OT passages (Num. 21:8-9; 2 Kings 18:4) and one NT passage (John 3:14-15) inform us about the brazen serpent. There is no indication that God ever intended the serpent itself to have any ongoing function beyond the immediate setting for which it was made.

    God commanded the making of the serpent, so we know that making it was a good thing. When the Israelites later perpetually offered incense to it, did their doing so make the serpent a bad thing?

    You think that Hezekiah’s destroying the brazen serpent (2 Kings 18:4) shows that the serpent itself became a bad thing. A comparison with three other situations does not support your view.

    1. The Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and put it in the temple of their god (1 Sam. 5:1-2). God punished them fiercely for doing so (1 Sam. 5:3-12). The Ark was eventually returned (1 Sam. 6), and there is no indication given that the Philistines’ misuse of the Ark as a tribute to their idol somehow made the Ark itself a bad thing. God did not direct His people to destroy the Ark because pagans had sinfully used it.

    2. Many pagans and sinful Israelites have worshiped the sun, moon, and other heavenly bodies (Deut. 4:19; 17:3; 2 Kings 23:5, 11; Job 31:26-28; Jer. 8:2; Ezek. 8:16). God created these bodies for human good (Gen. 1:14-18; Matt. 5:45). God has thus far not decreed, however, that they be destroyed because sinful humans have perpetually made them the objects of sinful worship. Sinful worship of God-made heavenly objects has not changed these objects into evil objects.

    3. Nebuchadnezzar took the holy vessels from the house of God and put them in the house of his gods (cf. Ezra 1:7). It is likely that he did so as a tribute to his thinking that his gods gave him victory over the people and God of Israel.
    Later, his grandson Belshazzar commanded that the gold and silver vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought so that he and others might use them to engage in a drunken idolatrous feast (Dan. 5:2-3). “They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone (Dan. 5:4).

    Clearly, Belshazzar used these holy vessel for idolatrous worship, and God judged him fiercely for doing so (Dan. 5:5-30; esp. 5:23). Did their using these vessels for idolatrous worship make the vessels evil things?

    At a later date, King Cyrus returned the holy vessels to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah (Ezra 1:7-11) and authorized that they be returned to the temple in Jerusalem and put in the house of God (Ezra 6:5). Even though, therefore, a wicked king had used these holy vessels for idolatrous worship, God did not demand that they be destroyed—in fact, they were returned to His house for proper use therein
    I conclude that this additional biblical data does not support your analysis and use of the accounts about the brazen serpent.

  121. Thanks Rajesh.

    “God commanded the making of the serpent, so we know that making it was a good thing.”
    We know making it was a good ACTIVITY.

    “When the Israelites later perpetually offered incense to it, did their doing so make the serpent a bad thing?”
    Of course not – which was my point. The serpent was destroyed not because it turned bad but because its USE by the Israelites had turned idolatrous. That’s why it was destroyed – to prevent any further abuse, not because its inherent qualities were changed. The case of the golden calf is somewhat different but only insofar as it was created with bad intent. Both artifacts were destroyed to prevent further misuse, not because they were inherently good or evil. A calf of gold is NOT evil, as we know from those used in the temple. The making of a golden calf for idolatrous purposes is, of course, evil. Tell me, how does the making of a golden calf (or a serpent, for that matter) determine moral qualities in that which was made? Is it God’s command? If so, are you saying that if I make a brazen serpent today without God’s explicit command, that serpent is morally bad? If I don’t know the intent with which something was made, how do I determine its moral quality?

    Is a hammer that was made in someone’s basement to commit a murder inherently evil and a hammer that was made in a factory to serve as a tool inherently good? If I only have the hammer, how can I tell the difference?

    Is alcohol a good thing (Eccl 10:19) or a bad thing (Prov 23:31)? Is honey morally good (Prov 24:13) or bad (Prov 27:25)? As you can see from these scriptures and the serpent example, it depends on its use, not intent or inherent qualities. If you say about alcohol, ‘it depends’ (on how much or on how you use it – e.g. for disinfection) then how could you also say it is either good or bad?

    Is a handgun morally good or bad?

    Is mercury (created by God but toxic) good or bad?

    Is bread good? What if it has fungus and is no longer good for consumption? Does it stay good or is it then bad?

    Were the locusts God sent over Egypt as a plague morally good or bad?

    Should fig trees that do not bear fruit outside the season (like the one Jesus cursed) be cut down because they are morally bad? Or if the tree was good, why was it cursed?

    If a church is rededicated to a mosque, does it remain morally good, and vice versa?

    Are plastic microbeads used in cosmetics morally good or bad (

    Are nails made for crucifixions good or bad? If they are morally bad, what damage do I do if I use such nails in home construction?

    Are candles sold in Catholic churches good or bad?

    Please explain to me what it depends on when something is morally bad. You wrote we know the serpent was good because God commanded it to be made. So if I intentionally make music to accompany depraved lyrics (and communicate a corrupt message in rebellion to God), does this make such music morally bad? Logically, then, when I use the same music to accompany biblical lyrics, my intent is good, and hence, also the music? You seem to imply that the misuse of the serpent did not make it bad, so the only determinant that remains is the intent with which it was originally made. If this is so, a) we can ‘redeem’ anything as along as we have good intentions in making it and b) we cannot always know whether something is good or bad unless we know the original intent. Please help me understand your methodology to determine the moral qualities of a thing, based on at least some of the above examples.

    To also reply to your critique of the ‘two witnesses’, I want to say that I partly agree, but still partly disagree. Of course there are single verses that convey information, such as the ones you cited, and can and should be used for teaching. Yet, the fact that Moses body was raised cannot be used to construct a DOCTRINE that, for example, all famous people mentioned in the Bible were also raised already. For any such deduction, we would need more than a single scripture (actually, other scriptures will show that only a very limited number of people were raised already). To take another example, you probably won’t teach that Jesus was three days in hell based on 1.Pet 3:19 (as some have done). There are some isolated verses that are difficult to understand and it would be preposterous to preach doctrine based on those. Maybe I didn’t explain what I mean by ‘doctrine’: not that you cannot preach truth using a single verse but that you should not deduct a doctrine (a generalized teaching) from an isolated verse without support from other verses and the Bible in general. Again, I agree the two-witness principle is not explicit in the Bible as applied to exegesis but it seems darn good advice to take from a principle mandated for judicial proceedings.

  122. Martin,

    We’ve already gone around and around on the golden calf. Since you brought it up again, I will reiterate that the problem with the golden calf was not just that it was created with bad intent. The calf was also evil because it was created in direct disobedience to a known and specific command of God. (People can and do make many things with bad intent for which there is no specific prohibition from God.)

    It was also evil because it was an object made in imitation of the idols of Egypt. Furthermore, it was not used in just “ordinary” idolatry—the Israelites used it to engage in syncretistic worship of Yahweh in a feast to the Lord.

    Yes, a calf made of gold is not necessarily evil; if I know that certain idolaters make calves that have specific appearances, making a calf similar to those specific calves is illegitimate.

    Anything that God has created is morally good. God has directed bees to make honey; honey is morally good. Prov. 25:27 does not show that honey is morally bad; excessive consumption of honey does not make it bad—people misuse it when they do so.

    It is also important to keep in mind that the world that we now live in is not the world as God first created it. The effects of the Fall have changed the universe drastically; so, for example, there are plants that are no longer good for food for man (2 Kings 4:38-41).

    Concerning bread, God gave the Israelites manna from heaven, which certainly was good. Does the fact that the manna spoiled mean that it was never good in the first place? When it spoiled, it was not the manna as God first gave it.

    In your response, you did not interact with any of the counterexamples that I gave, such as the Ark and the holy vessels. These were all morally good things created specifically by people commanded by God and empowered by God to do so. Human misuse of them did not make them morally evil.

    Instrumental music is not like any of these other things that you mention. Instrumental music is the product of human action, and is therefore inherently moral or immoral. It is not just the act of producing the music that has morality; the music produced also is either moral or immoral.

    Furthermore, instrumental music is ordered sound that is a form of energy that also transmits information that enters into the heart of the hearer. The morality of instrumental music, therefore, cannot be assessed in the same way that the morality of other things is.

    About formulating doctrine from a single passage, I still think that you are wrong. God does not have to reiterate something multiple times for it to be profitable for doctrine. Holding that position contradicts what Paul explicitly says in 2 Tim. 3:15-17.

    For example, without First Corinthians 11:27-34, we would not have any information about God’s judging many believers who take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. This passage is the only passage in Scripture that specifically teaches us that God chastens believers in this manner.

    Paul even teaches that many believers died in Corinth because they took the Lord’s Supper unworthily. We must formulate doctrine from this passage to warn believers that they are susceptible to serious bodily consequences for such perversion of this ordinance.

    (I did not follow what you are saying about Moses. I see no indication that the passage in Jude has anything to do with Moses’ body being raised.)

  123. Rick,

    I’m not claiming that I have everything figured out about all kinds of music. What I’ve shared with you are some of the key elements of the approach that I take to the major issues with certain styles of Christian music used in church, such as CCM.

    Scott and others have provided many additional considerations that are valuable in discerning more broadly what music is acceptable to God and what music is not. May God continue to teach us all how to discern between good and evil in the realm of musical styles.

  124. Rajesh,
    I did not refer to the other examples because they are analogous to the first one; my arguments apply to those in the same way as to the one I addressed.

    So here is how I understand your methodology:
    1) Anything God created is morally good.
    2) All human activity is morally relevant, hence all human creations made through such activity are also moral or immoral (the logic of this statement is, however, anything but obvious).
    3) Something that was created good and is subsequently spoiled was originally morally good but then no longer is.

    How do I apply this now? What about the plants which are no longer good for food? According to 3) they are immoral, right?

    What about alcohol? Alcohol is not created by God but by yeast, which God created with the ability to ferment sugars into alcohol. Does this then extend backwards, such that we can say alcohol is morally good (He directed bees to make honey and yeast to make alcohol)? Or is this a case of spoilage and therefore immoral?

    Then the handgun: say it’s created for self-defense. That is morally good, right? If it gets in the hands of a street gang to commit crimes, does it then remain good or become immoral? It seems not, since you also say honey remains good even if it is used in unhealthy quantities.

    What about the church built for worshiping God? I guess that would be morally good. If that is now ‘spoiled’ and becomes immoral through its use for non-Christian worship, how do you explain that some things can change their morality over time based on the situation? Or maybe you haven’t made your methodology clear enough. I would appreciate a step-by-step instruction so we can all see how to determine the morality of a man-made object.

    It appears the Catholic candles are also immoral, given they were made to assist the dead in purgatory. If I find such a candle at home, should I then bin it because it is immoral or can I rededicate it (e.g. by removing the red plastic casing) and then, after it is moralized (redeemed), use it for moral purposes?

    “The morality of instrumental music, therefore, cannot be assessed in the same way that the morality of other things is.”

    So, please also provide a clear methodology for judging the morality of music, as opposed to anything else (above). I believe one criterion would be whether the style used was originally created under demonic influence or for immoral purposes, correct? If that is so, also explain why such a criterion would apply. I believe Beethoven and Mozart were masons, but did they ‘invent’ any style or did they simply use a moral style to make music with immoral purposes? Or were their motivations pure and moral?

    It certainly was not lost on you that you are a lone ranger with respect to this position (that the morality of creative acts means products of such acts are either moral or immoral) – Scott does not argue that but instead claims that music is moral because it is human communication (action, not a thing). We seem to agree that MAKING music is action, as well as using it, but it is also a thing.

  125. Martin,

    Do you really need an explanation for why something created under demonic influence for immoral purposes would be evil?

  126. Martin,

    It seems absurd to me that you would be seriously asking why something created under demonic influence for immoral purposes would be evil. According to Scripture, demons are incorrigibly evil beings whose continuous aim is to destroy as many people as possible. Given that their aim is to defile whatever they can as much as they can, they undoubtedly lead humans whenever they can to sin in every way possible, including in their creative activities. When humans who have had such influence on them testify that the music that they have developed and played is sourced in demonic influences and that the music is demonic, there is no reason to deny the validity of their testimonies.

  127. Well Rajesh… are you seriously of the belief that an inanimate object that has no will or capacity to control anyone, can be immoral or moral? If you are talking about demonic influence, then it’s the demon who is immoral in his acts, not the object. Music certainly has a strong impact on humans, yet we can resist any such impact at will. But a thing can’t do anything and as such, must be considered amoral. But we’re going in circles… if you don’t have any methodology but only assertions, your ideas are of very limited value.

  128. Martin,

    As I said earlier, music is not the same as other objects because it is a form of energy that transmits information into the mind of the hearer and has effects on the hearer. So, even though music is not an animate object per se, it still is either moral or immoral depending on the effects that it has on the hearer.

    I reject your claim that people can resist any such impact of music at will. Your understanding of the effects of music does not account for how evil supernatural beings can influence humans without those humans having any knowledge of that influence.

    The Bible says that Satan moved David to sin against God by numbering the people. Since you talk so much about methodology and apparently know a lot of things that I do not, please give me detailed information step-by-step of how exactly Satan did this.

    Then also explain how Satan filled Ananias’ heart to lie to the Holy Spirit. Then also how Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in an instant of time.

    I could go on, but I hope you get the point. You make confident assertions about things that you do not have the ability to know, such as how supernatural beings communicate and what their communication sounds like.

    Scripture records a time when the Father spoke to Jesus and people said that it thundered. Humans only heard a loud sound, but actually there was specific communication going on between divine Persons. Scripture has other examples that also point to a flaw in your theology of sound.

    Music is ordered sound and how that sound communicates to supernatural beings is something that your view is seriously lacking. I think you need to go back to the Bible and let it and not philosophy determine your methodology to understanding music.

    Scripture repeatedly talks about the sounds of musical instruments and not just the act of playing the instrument. A theology of music that only examines music as an action is deficient.

  129. Rajesh, you are contradicting yourself. Are you saying it is demons who communicate evilly or are you attributing evil powers to the music itself?

    If any music does have no effect on the hearer, is it then amoral?

  130. Martin, I’m not contradicting myself. Based on passages such as John 12:28-29, Acts 22:9, 1 Cor. 13:1, and others, we are to understand that supernatural beings communicate in languages that humans do not understand unless God allows them to understand. When people do not understand, all they hear are loud, indistinct sounds, which they describe as thunder.

    So, based on this reality and other considerations, what I’m saying is that supernatural evil beings influence humans to produce music that communicates evilly and has evil effects without the humans understanding how that music is affecting them for evil and communicating evil ideas in the supernatural realm.

    If you have not already seen it, here’s something that I wrote earlier that might be helpful:

  131. Kelsey, bumped into this today, and maybe it explains better than I could what the difference between preaching and ‘being on stage’ is:

    Quote: Powerful preaching and Rock stars – In the UK, a rite of passage for teenagers is the rock festival. These are three day rock concerts with headline bands and supporting bands, staying in tents – usually they are a mud bath (The Stone roses at Glastonbury 1995 who will ever forget). The Welsh 18th century equivalent was the communion season which would last for a weekend. People would walk 30/50 miles to come and hear these men. The biggest name in the land was Daniel Rowland and he would headline communions when he was around, and supporting him would be Harris, Williams (Pantycelyn), Jones (Llangan) and others. These men were the rock stars of their day (not that you would know that by the dust jacket). Preaching was rock n roll, though of course there’s more to it than that. These men were gifted preachers. To read some of their sermons, see their attention to how the truth was presented so that it would reach out and grab their hearers by the scruff of the neck is remarkable. The Spirit used their preaching to the conversion of literally thousands. Preaching is a means of grace and greatly to be treasured, but I wonder if there was too much emphasis on preaching, so that in some ways it became an event in and of itself. Preaching is a means of grace – it is not grace itself, and it is troubling when the preacher is elevated to a position of great popularity, even celebrity. The fault is not wholly with the men themselves, but there is still danger for us today, such as those churches where the preacher is in his own view and the view of the congregation the only one who really matters. We have celebrity preachers in the reformed world and are our conferences sometimes are in danger of being a little like rock concerts without the sex, drink and drugs. There is preaching on preaching, there are countless books being produced on preaching – Spirit empowered preaching, applicatory preaching, the preaching of… (you name the figure in church history and there’ll be a book on his preaching). We long for powerful preaching which shakes the self confidence out of people, sears consciences and breaks hearts but there’s a warning that we can even turn a means of grace into an idol.


Leave a reply