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Can Rap be Christian? Believers and Depravity

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series

"Can Rap Be Christian"

Read more posts by using the Table of Contents in the right sidebar.

We’re discussing the issue of Christian rap this week in response to a recent interview by Mark Dever with Shai Linne and Curtis Allen.

Yesterday I dealt with some of the errant presuppositions that inform a position that says, “no musical form can be sinful in and of itself.” Later this week I’ll tackle the issue of rap itself.

In the mean time, I’d like to address a few objections to my first post. The first involves points I made about the total depravity of man. I argued that the doctrine of total depravity results in two important considerations:

  1. We cannot trust our preferences implicitly.
  2. Forms of human communication may be sinful.

An objection to these assertions with relation to Christian rap is this: It may be true that all people are born totally depraved, but aren’t believers freed from their depravity at conversion?

Some people will insist that although unbelievers are totally depraved, believers have been changed, their desires have been renewed, and they have the Holy Spirit to lead them in their judgments.

This is certainly the case. New creatures in Christ have made made new. They are no longer slaves to sin. The Holy Spirit indwells them.

Nevertheless, although believers have been delivered from the penalty and power of sin, they have not yet been delivered from the presence of sin. Even believers still struggle every day (every moment?) with the influences of remaining depravity. Perhaps one of the strongest biblical examples of this is Paul’s testimony in Romans 7:

Romans 7:15-25 “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

Even believers cannot fully trust their own judgments without clear guidance from God. True, the Holy Spirit indwells believers, but He does not somehow supernaturally lead them to right decisions. The Holy Spirit leads us through His Word and by giving us wisdom to rightly apply it to our lives. We must study it and apply its teachings to every situation in our lives, even our musical choices.

Further, when we are talking about something like rap, we are talking about a musical form clearly created by unbelievers in the midst of a sinful culture, so saving grace was not at all involved in the formation of the form. This is not true of some other forms of music or cultures. Some musical forms were created and nurtured in cultures more influenced by Christian values. This is why, as non-politically correct as it sounds, some cultures are better than others. The capacity of certain cultures for communicating the gospel depends upon the value systems within with those cultures were developed.

This does not in itself prove that rap is sinful (we’ll evaluate this claim later), but it should give us even more reason to carefully consider what the form communicates.

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Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

3 Responses to Can Rap be Christian? Believers and Depravity

  1. Scott:

    Elsewhere you have written on whether music should be a separation issue.

    You have reported on the growing trend of the “conservative” evangelicals (ce) toward embracing these worldly (RAP) music choices. IMO these worldly music choices are a natural partnership with their (Piper/Mahaney inspired) acceptance of the charismatic sign gifts being for today. Briefly, just how much does it take to necessitate separation from these so-called “conservative” evangelicals?

    I realize some pastors in IFB circles take an ecclesiastical separtationist stance over these things. However, many of the Reformed and young Reformed in IFB circles are not just ignoring the growing need to keep the “conservative” evangelicals at a safe distance, but instead are increasingly allowing for the issues above to instead encourage formalizing ties with and participating in cooperation with their methods of ministry.

    Last month I noted that Andy Naselli announced from his blog that he will be in a cooperative effort with The Gospel Coalition’s blogging, which includes perpetuating their views that include non-cessation of the charismatic sign gifts. Not a good sign, IMO.

    And of course, Sharper Iron continues its long history as a conduit for promoting the stars, fellowships and methods of ministry of the “conservative” evangelical community.

    Not good at all for the body of Christ when for the sake of unity with the ce men, some IFB men will tolerate and/or ignore their growing pattern of worldliness and aberrant views on the sign gifts.


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