Mohler: "people who would argue about the unworthiness of rap music often think of Bach as the quintessential Christian musician"

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Mohler: "people who would argue about the unworthiness of rap music often think of Bach as the quintessential Christian musician"

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Pragmatism

Having grown up on the south side of Chicago and now ministering just north of Detroit for nearly 30 years, I can appreciate the racial sensitiveness being expressed. Our church sponsors nine “Boys and Girls Bible Clubs” in Detroit proper and the surrounding communities. We work with many black students, teachers, and leaders. Our clubs have great success in the varied ethnic environments that surround our church. In all of our clubs we use conservative, traditional hymns and Christian songs. None of our constituents misunderstand our songs, the lyrics, the beautiful melodies, or the stories taught. It is simply not true that one must borrow from the hip hop genre to communicate to the black community. Since that genre from the beginning has been closely associated with the worst elements of criminal violence, gang identification, sexual indulgence, misogynist attitudes, and unbridled passions as much of the rock industry has done for decades, I think it best in the spirit of Philippians 4:8 to use a worship expression that is free from those elements.

Pastor Mike Harding

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Mike Harding wrote:

Mike Harding wrote:

 Since that genre from the beginning has been closely associated with the worst elements of criminal violence, gang identification, sexual indulgence, misogynist attitudes, and unbridled passions as much of the rock industry has done for decades, I think it best in the spirit of Philippians 4:8 to use a worship expression that is free from those elements.

Actually, the beginnings of hip-hop and rap, going back to the late 1970's and 1980's did not have the worst elements that you describe.  Maybe some sexual indulgences but hardly any of the other. In fact, much of the music dealt with certain social/economic issues and the music was created to be an alternative to violence and criminal activity.  It was in the early 1990's when hip-hop was marketed more mainstream and became much more commercial that the criminal violence, gang identification, even more and more sexual indulgences, misogynist attitudes, and etc...., took the genre down a path of depravity that you describe. Even in the 1990's there were many hip-hop artists that did not embrace the elements you describe, but they did not get the commercial exposure because sex and violence sells, and the gatekeepers within the record labels pushed the depraved and shallow elements because it was making so much money.        

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Urban ministry & rap

I appreciate the work Mike's church is doing in Detroit. Yet I wonder if "clubs" done in these areas are an accurate measurement of the impact of music. I also wonder if there are church plants in Detroit which have found a way to incorporate elements of rap. If so, I'd like to hear from them.

I'm not a rap connoisseur and don't listen to it regularly, mostly because it's not part of my culture. I have listened to some Reformed Rap from Shai Linne and others and have found some of it interesting and refreshing. I loved his song on prosperity preachers. This past summer our church did an outreach with an African American church. Rap was part of that and communicated in that venue better than Bach ever could. It can be a powerful medium for the gospel.

With the men on the panel the opinions were fairly predictable. I am looking forward to the discussion between Scott Aniol and Shai Linne who charitably disagree and yet are able to treat each other fully as brothers in Christ without the righterism exhibited by some who feel they know what's best, not only for their own geographically/demographically limited, culturally bound and conditioned viewpoints, but know best for others as well. Once they ride the high horse on this they leave behind a lot of manure and aren't taken seriously. I'm with Thabiti Anywabwile that "I wish the video had been left in the obscurity it deserves." But I'm glad that he and others are responding. It's revealing. 

Steve Davis

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Interesting take

I thought this was a really good rebuttal article, and wanted to share some of it.

http://www.mikedcosper.com/home/creation-culture-redemption-and-hip-hop-...

In a conversation like this, we are quick to say things like, "these guys don't get culture," and I think that's true. But if we stop there, it's probably too generous. Not only do they not get culture, they don't get creation.  Culture and creation are inextricably linked, and to talk about one is to talk about the other. 

Culture is what happens when image bearers live and work in creation. We were made when God took dust, shaped it, breathed life into it, and it became something new. That's both our origin story, and the origin story of everything we've made: trees and rocks become homes; petroleum products, plastics and metals become cars and iPhones. Culture is image bearers playing and working in creation. 

After all, what is music? The most rudimentary definition is that it's sound arranged in time, and clearly both sound and time are God's ideas. He made creation so that it hums and buzzes and resonates. He wasn't surprised when Stradivarius found a violin hiding in a maple tree, or when Leo Fender found a Telecaster in a block of ash, and he wasn't surprised when DJ Grandmaster Flash (amongst others) started mixing vinyl records and beats to give birth to Hip Hop. Even the idea of sampling is derivative of the Creator's imagination: have you ever heard sound echo in a canyon? 

To dismiss these cultural artifacts as evil is to give the devil far more credit than he's due. He's never made anything, he's only corrupted. Human handiwork, too, is always and only derivative; we haven't so much invented as we've discovered.  We are merely "Thinking God's thoughts after him," as Johannes Kepler once said. God is the first musician, the first inventor, the brains behind it all, including hip hop. He is the greatest DJ in history. The Providential Producer of every good thing...

Culture is the milieu that emerges when lots of image bearers start playing and working with creation, and in a fallen world, it's always a mixed bag of glory and tragedy. It's glorious because humanity is glorious. We are shockingly imaginative, capable of great compassion and generosity. It's tragic because we're blind and broken, capable of hatefulness, selfishness, murder and exploitation. 

Wisdom recognizes that all cultures are just such a mixed bag. This is just as true of Western European post-reformation culture as it is of medieval culture, contemporary middle Eastern culture, and contemporary Hip Hop Culture. Each has their idols. Each has their glimpses of glory. Each has a way of showing off the beauty of creation. And each one desperately needs the purifying power of the gospel. 

The members of the panel want to highlight all that's wrong with Hip Hop culture, but they seem blind to their own culture's problematic history. (For instance, it includes Jim Crow.) Apart from the gospel, their culture too - their western European, classical, hierarchical culture – is filthy rags. 

Come to think of it, these men not only get creation and culture wrong, they seem to have misread the end of the story too. The saints of God don't gather around God's throne and sing "When the Role is Called Up Yonder" in English. Instead, the story ends with cacophony. With the greatest expression of multiculturalism the world has every known. "Every tribe tongue and nation" will be gathered around the throne, worshiping the Lamb. This isn't monoculture. 

But the panelists don't see it that way. Christian maturity, they argue, is to look more like them. To transition to more "culturally appropriate forms" for discussion about God...

...Second, if Hip Hop can't be separated from its cultural milieu, what other forms of communication are defiled and condemned? Did Wagner's sexual deviancy, antisemitism and German Uber-nationalism defile and condemn all classical music? Did Robert Maplethorpe's homosexual erotic photography defile and condemn all photography? Has porn ruined the whole internet? 

Again - we come back to the creational issue. Wagner's ideas are a corruption, but the things themselves - music, art, and media - remain useful. 

The truth is that any cultural artifact can become a stumbling block, like food sacrificed to idols was for some of the Church in Corinth. Perhaps, for the panelists' consciences, hip hop is too sensual. Maybe they watched one too many Digital Undeground video back in the day, and they can't hear a sampled kick drum without thinking lustful thoughts. If so, they are wise to avoid it - but that's a matter for their conscience, not a matter for their legislative authority...

Make no mistake about it: this is a gospel issue, plain and simple. I want to say this very carefully. Christian rap is not a gospel issue because Christians need to do it, but because their freedom to do it - their freedom to let the gospel take root in the soil of their culture and bear fruit in their communities, with their voices, sounds, and heart language, is something worth dying for. 

It's a gospel issue because what they demand - abandoning and replacing their culture with something more "appropriate" - is another gospel altogether. 

It's the reason Paul wrote the book of Galatians. It's the reason he rebuked the Judai[z]ers. To condemn a whole culture, to demand cultural conformity is to add on to the free, culture-renewing grace of Jesus and say, "Jesus plus our cultural norms." 

"Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?," Paul roared. Today, he might roar, "Foolish Euro-centric-classicists, who has bewitched you?" 

Ultimately, all six of these men start from the wrong place. They approach Hip Hop as suspicious outsiders who need to protect the church from its encroachment. They fail to start from creation, where all culture - including hip hop - has its roots. They fail to see the beautiful diversity of the church, where there is no Jew, Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, Slave, or Free. 

Hip Hop is the marriage of musical impulse - a creational gift - and technological impulse - also a creational gift, and ultimately, it was God's idea. To demean it as a cultural artifact is to demean his work, and to demean it as an expression of his church is to disparage the bride of Christ in the midst of their worship. 

It reminds us how easily old controversies can reemerge. It's guilt-by-association, cultural hierarchy nonsense that has been trumped about since Peter and Paul had their argument about dinner guests in Galatians 2:11-14 – an argument that Paul clearly won. Peter didn't want to be associated with Gentiles when a group of Jews joined the church at Antioch. Paul called this hypocrisy. Peter repented. Game over. Let's hope that happens here. 

I don't go quite as far as Cosper does, but he's made quite a few salient points on this subject, and has crystallized some of the random thoughts bouncing around in my head.  I appreciate his argument and think that we need to talk about music on a much deeper level than 'style' and 'sound'.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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Steve,

Steve,

 

Good to hear from you.  I just saw Dawn at the Bill Schroeder 60th anniversary last weekend.  It was great to see her and she updated me on the two churches you and John are planting.  I also spoke with the men from "Restore Detroit" a few weeks ago.  They are involved in church planting and are using some of the methods you mentioned.  Doran and others are planning on planting about 10 churches in Detroit proper over the next 15 years.  We discussed some of these issues together as fellow pastors. More than likely there will be different kinds of churches planted by various groups based on one's assessment of appropriate worship and other doctrinal issues such as cessationism and dispensational theology. I in good conscience could not use or endorse any form of the rock genre in worship.  I understand hip hop to be an extension of the rock genre with some very egregious baggage. Nevertheless, I do not question the heart and motives of the men from "Restore Detroit," only their methods.

Pastor Mike Harding

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Restore Church Detroit

Since I just discovered we were mentioned I'd thought I'd share a 6 minute video reflection a first time visitor of Restore (last Sunday) just created. Closer to the issue, you can watch a powerful spoken word, D'rusalem, composed & ministered by a Restore brother a few months ago. 

If Revelation 7:9-10 is a preview of eternal worship, I think a few may be a bit taken aback;) 

For the advance,

Mike

 

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Jay,

Jay,

I don't believe Mike Cosper fully understands the significant impact of the fall upon man's artistic expressions.  Cultural egalitarianism does not properly evaluate the influence of depravity and the counter-influence of common grace. God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness" (Gen 1:26). God, the creative genius, spoke all things into existence and then made man analogous to God. Like God, man is inventive, imaginative, creative and thus able to arrange and depict God’s world in an orderly way.

"God saw all that He had made; and behold it was very good" (1:31). The biblical basis for the production and enjoyment of artistic expression is simply that God declared it to be very good. All of His creation is very good including man’s sanctified creativity which is part of the image of God in man. When man sinned, however, by wanting to be God, his creative imagination was no longer perfect or holy, but instead was marred by sin. Apart from the grace of God, both common and saving, man no longer necessarily reflects the order, beauty, loveliness, or virtue of God and His creation in his artistic creations. Now we have the possibility of good art and bad art on a continuum. Man struggles to produce good art and music. We, therefore, must use the special revelation of God to interpret God’s general revelation in order to discern good artistic expression from bad artistic expression.

How can we judge good artistic expression from the bad? Good art is the work of man by which man uses his God-given creativity to produce artistic expressions for the enjoyment of man and the reflection of God which meet God’s standards of contemplation. Philippians 4:8 gives us a divinely inspired formula which authoritatively guides us when choosing those artistic expressions in the world which are conformable to the virtues of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Philippians 4:8 is unique in Pauline literature and is similar to Hellenistic moral literature. These six adjectives and two nouns are the objective standards by which we "take into account" these virtues in the world which are conformable to Christ. We are to examine, consider, evaluate, reflect upon, and take into account (logi,zesqe) the artistic expressions of man in the world and see if they are praiseworthy in the light of Christ and His Gospel message. Whatever is right for the Christian must be defined by God and His character. We are to "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thess 5:21-22).

Pastor Mike Harding

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A perhaps tangential question

If you don't think Bach was the quintessential Christian musician, who would you nominate for the role?

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Questions about Philippians 4:8

What is there about Philippians 4:8, either by itself or in its context, that makes it the biblical passage "which authoritatively guides us when choosing" "good art"?  On its face and in its context, the passage does not appear to be directed particularly to art.  Nor does it explicitly claim to be an exhaustive list of things to think on -- Paul doesn't say "and don't think on anything else." 

Also, are we ignoring the language "if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise"?  Mike Harding reads the verse as requiring that we not think on anything that is less than perfectly wholesome (to paraphrase the six adjectives and two nouns), but the actual phrasing of the verse seems to endorse thinking on things that are partially virtuous/praiseworthy.

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Detroit

Mike,

Good to hear about the bible clubs in Detroit! Where do they meet & what locaI churches are they part of?  I could not find a link on the FBC website about the bible clubs but would love to learn about them.

Thanks

Mike

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Rap?

What does rap music have to do with the Gospel? I also wasn't aware that "culture" was a relative ingredient in its presentation.

 

My observations on rap, since the year it made its appearance ( 1979 ):

 

1) Worldly, and more so than most other forms of music.

2) Appears to emphasize everything God's word stands against.

3) Gives the impression that it is an animalistic expression of music...raw, unadulterated in-your-face fill-in-the-blank stuff.

4) Born from a combination of beatnik, voodoo and other influences? Not sure.

5) Have been awaiting its demise since the year it first appeared ( 1979 )...given the current downward-spiral of morality, etc. I doubt it will happen in my lifetime.

 

I find myself automatically in agreement with those who reject "rap" as anything resembling true music, and IMO definitely not worthy of any consideration because of its obviously uplifting and edifying qualities...;)

 

 

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Mike

Hi Pastor Harding-

I'm not sure what yardstick you are using to define 'good'.  You say that we have the possibility of 'good' art and 'bad' art, and that man struggles to produce 'good' art and music.  I agree with you there.  Yet it seems as though the 'good' music or 'good' art is that which you define as 'good'.  Appealing to Phil. 4:8 doesn't work because for someone who is involved with rap/hip-hop music, that style of music is good, lovely, etc.  Stylistically, I'm not sure we can even define rap as a genre, let alone decree it in its entirety as being without "virtue or praise".

I'm not recommending that we adapt Eminem's "Survivor" rap song for churches - a cursory look at the lyrics will make it very clear that it fails the Phil. 4:8 test.  (I pick that song because it's the background music for the video of the popular Call of Duty: Ghosts game that was recently released.) But it fails because the lyrics are not pure, lovely, or of good report, not because I say it fails Phil. 4:8.

The same fallen culture that gives us Bach, Jazz and County gives us Rap/Hip-Hop.  So I'm not sure that appealing to the intrinsic value of any one given form of music and saying that this specific genre of music passes the Phil. 4:8 test and is therefore acceptable to God will really work.  Not when we're all sinners and we're all under the Curse.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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What Does God Get Out of Our Worship?

Christian Rap? No.

Our worship is not for ourselves, it is for God. We seek to please Him, not men (Gal 1:10). Instead of asking our children and spouses, "What did you get out of church today,?" we ought to be asking, "What did God get out of church today?"

Every part of our corporate worship, the dress, the music, the preaching and the prayer, says something very definitive to God about how seriously we take corporate worship. That being the case, we should consider why we use the kind of music we do in church. Is our motive to please ourselves or the lost community round about us, or is our motivation to please God? What is the driving force behind the selection of a particular musical genre? It had better be the desire to please God. Once we allow this perspective to shape our thinking, then in my experience, this entire issue becomes quite clear. The notion that we must be "relevant" becomes irrelevant. Our whole perspective on worship, beyond just music, will change.

Therefore . . .

  • We shouldn't dress for church in a T-shirt and ripped jeans. It says something, both to God and the congregation, about our attitude towards worship.
  • We shouldn't have strobe lights complete with rock/rap/hip-hop music in corporate worship; we are borrowing distinctly un-Godly genres to worship our God with. Take your lyrics, which may be very God-honoring, and set them to a somber tune appropriate for our Holy God!
  • We shouldn't preach in a T-shirt and ripped jeans; see above. 
  • Our prayer shouldn't be "me-centered." It should be God-entered. Instead of always coming to God with petitions like He is a cosmic Santa, perhaps we should include praise, thanksgiving and confession in our individual and corporate prayer, along with petitions

This argument over music (and worship in general) will continue for a long time; remember the infamous NIU thread from this past Summer?! I expect that many people here have made up their minds, but I only ask you to consider what the motivation is to change the musical style in your church and outreach ministries.

 

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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Mike,

Mike,

 

Great to hear from you again.  Enjoyed meeting you at our church planing meeting.  Our church runs nine clubs in the public schools. Each club team consists of about five members. We meet for about 30 weeks per year in each club.  Ben Michalek, my pastoral assistant, is putting together a list for you of our clubs, other Detroit clubs, and public schools in the adoption program.  Boys and Girls Bible Clubs are looking for more people to run Bible Clubs in Detroit.  Ben's number is 248.764.0054.

Pastor Mike Harding

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Fleshing it out

I will try to reformat this. I am having a difficult time printing the Greek font.

Pastor Mike Harding

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Tyler, 

Tyler, 

I am one of the pastors of a church where Hip-Hop is occasionally used within the worship service.  Ripped Jeans? I've never seen it happen in a hip-hop church (I've visited a few) Come to think of it, out of the dozens of Christian Hip-Hop concerts that I've been to, I've never, ever seen an artist dress the way that you've described.  Maybe a t-shirt and baggy pants (not saggin though) with a snap-back hat, but even the T-shirt matching the hat and shoes has a dressy, sharpness to it.   What would be appropriate dress for worship?  Do we go back to the age of the 1940's-1950's where people even wore suits to baseball games?  Therefore, because it was the culture back then, it made sense to dress up in a suit and tie to go to church.   

A somber tune?  Who's to say that Rap can't be somber? One of our joys this past Easter was baptizing a single mother that is now a Grandma that had been a drug addict for over 20 years.  Her addiction was so powerful that when her children were young, she used to sell Christmas presents meant for her children that she received from Toys for Tots and other Christmas Charities to the pawn shop and then blow all the money on drugs.  A few years ago, her oldest son, DD, a gang-banger in our neighborhood came to know Christ and his life radically changed.  He introduced his mother to Christ as well and she's been clean from her addiction ever since.  On Easter, he co-wrote and rapped a beautiful testimony in the genre of Hip-Hop that described what God did in his life and his mother's.  He didn't glorify himself through the song, it was all about Jesus.  It beautifully described II Corinthians 5:17 in a way that was uplifting to God.  

I've never seen prayer among Christian Hip-Hop artists focus on themselves.

Tyler, in my opinion you have grossly stereotyped Christian Rap and Hip-Hop.  I am stunned by the lack of inaccurate information that gets around about something that most fundamentalists know little or nothing about.    

 

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Fleshing it out

Jay, the following is a very brief application of the six adjectives and two summary nouns in Phil 4:8.  According to Phil 4:9 Paul's intent appears to be the presenting of a  paradigm on how to use this world without abusing this world in ministry.  These are excellent rubrics to follow when making decisions as to how we minister in a sin-cursed world.  I can handle differences of application, but I am highly suspicious of those who would simply dismiss the passage and circumvent its legitimate application to ministry.
 

I. Good Music Must be True (avlhqh,j—true, truthful, honest; real, genuine)

Truth and truthfulness are the first standards by which we are to judge an artistic work. In secular pop culture many songs croon about the pleasures of one-night stands and sinful relationships while ignoring God’s moral viewpoint of those relationships and the tragic consequences of guilt, illegitimate births, abortion, divorce, violence and the welfare state. We must remember that the so-called "real world" is not the temporal one which will be judged by God and burned with fire, but is the eternal one where we strive for God’s ideal in the present age and will experience in its maturity during the age to come. Truth is what God has said or would say about any fact in the universe.

Truth and truthfulness are particularly necessary in sacred music. Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth." We must not communicate in our musical lyrics that man is his own ultimate savior as he arrogantly decides whether or not he will open the door of his heart to a weak and powerless "Jesus". It is God who ultimately opens hearts and illumines human minds, drawing men and women to His Son through the Gospel and the effectual work of the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:1-4).

A common deception in sacred music is the "easy love" syndrome. Love is described by many Christian artists in every possible way except as obedience to God: "If you love me, you will keep My commandments" (Jn 14:15). Such a shallow and varied understanding of God’s love leads to marital unfaithfulness and emotional sentimentality which has plagued the Christian music industry in particular and the Christian Church in general. Theologian, Alva McClain, once defined biblical love as "That quality in God which moves Him to give of Himself and His gifts to creatures made in His own image – to give sacrificially, eternally, righteously, and unconditionally, without regard as to merit or response." You seldom hear of Christian love sung in those kinds of terms today on the typical Christian radio station.

II. Good Music Must be Honorable (semno,j— noble, of good character, honorable, worthy, respectable)

Good music goes beyond mediocrity. It has outstanding musical qualities. It is well-crafted, polished, inspiring the hearts of its listeners to noble character and affections. The opposite of nobility and honor is to be shallow, banal, simplistic, and trivial. Too often Christian music aims for the lowest common denominator in a hedonistic pop culture resulting in the loss of aesthetic beauty.

If Christian music fulfills its so-called mission of evangelism by adding salvific Christian cliches to poorly crafted music, then the very question of the quality of the music itself is ignored by Christian leaders today. The assumption is that the Lord has no aesthetic concern for excellence, beauty, loveliness, attractiveness, or an honorable reputation.

III. Good Music Must be Righteous and Just (di,kaioj—conforming to the standard, will, or character of God; upright, righteous, good; just, right; proper; fair, honest; innocent)

Much secular music today could not be considered righteous or just when it comes to social issues, egalitarianism, multi-culturalism, or environmentalism. Nature worship, the noble savage, the insightful street bum are all common themes in pop, rock, and modern country. Popular music in Western society usually reflects the wrong ideas of our culture, the unjust notion of calling good evil and evil good. Right from wrong is mitigated as relativism is propagated resulting in the graying of absolutes. We should not be surprised that suicidal music became very popular in the styles of grunge and metal.

IV   Good Music Must be Pure (a`gno,j —pure, holy; chaste; innocent)

Good music should promote purity in thought, word, and deed. The MTV video clearly demonstrates that most pop, rock, modern country is impure. Immodesty, sensuality, vulgarity, and brutality abound in the visual displays of these musical performances. The music videos embody a chaotic, fragmented view of God’s world where the moment is all that matters, and sex and death are what sell best. There is little portrayal of human relationships or the world as God would view them. Art communicates ideas through the mind to the affections and ideas have consequences. One famous secular musician defined MTV as "vulgarians entertaining barbarians."

V. Good Music Must be Beautiful (prosfilh —lovely, that which causes delight)

This concept applies to well-crafted, poetical lines and to the melody, arrangement, instrumentation, and performance of the piece of music. There has been a neglect of training young people, particularly young men, in music because we have a deep misconception about the true nature of beauty. Young men are well-trained today in a culture of blood, but they are largely ignorant regarding beauty, music, art, and literature. The word on the street is that aesthetic appreciation is at best "for sissies". However, beauty is beyond sugar and spice and everything nice. Beauty reflects both masculine and feminine qualities. Beauty is born of divine, almighty power. There would be no creation, no flowers, no birds, no mountains, no oceans and no stars were it not for the power of God’s voice calling them into existence and sustenance. Both the rose pedal and the mighty redwood were made and sustained by the beauty of God’s almighty imagination and creative power. The power of God’s voice was so great that the Israelites asked Moses to speak with them himself lest they die (Ex 20:19).

What makes a song lovely, delightful, and beautiful? Melody is the key to the beauty of a song. Arrangement, instrumentation, and performance follow the beauty of the melodic line. Great production cannot redeem a poorly crafted melody. A good melody is gripping and memorable so that it may be recalled for meditation. Beauty which is easily forgotten is not very beneficial.

Secondly, melody must be well crafted into a finished arrangement decently and in order according to the accepted principles of music theory and composition. It takes a great deal of musical skill and training to have dominion over the art of music and thereby produce songs that are lovely.

VI. Good Music Must be Admirable (eu;fhmoj —worthy of praise, commendable, with deference to the transcendent, out of respect for those of high status)

When the standard of Christian music becomes evangelism rather than excellence, then the art is no longer categorized as being good or bad, excellent or mediocre. Rather, it is simply categorized as being secular or sacred. Those who have an appreciation for good art and good music often lose respect for the Christian music world simply because Christian music sometimes lacks excellence in melody, craft, composition, and skillful performance. It is simply not admirable, worthy of praise or deferent to that which is transcendent. Admirable music stimulates one’s thoughts and emotions in edification and sanctification. It captures one’s attention in a positive and relevant way.

VII. Good Music Must be Virtuous (avreth, — moral excellence, goodness) and Worthy of Praise (e;painoj —commendation, approval; a praiseworthy thing)

These two terms summarize the six previous excellencies. Virtuous, praiseworthy music leads man toward God and an appreciation of His attributes. It communicates God’s view of the world as opposed to man’s view of the world. God’s Word provides the spectacles with which we can properly interpret God’s world and thereby accurately reflect the biblical world view in our artistic expressions and appreciation. Rather than pitting God’s Word against God’s World, we should reflect God’s World through the lenses of God’s Word.

In a materialistic universe paintings are mere collections of different molecules. Musical notes are merely different frequencies of sound. For the materialist there are no absolutes at all, no truth, no virtue, no right or wrong, no beauty or ugliness, because in a purely materialistic world there is no Creator. To a secular materialist a cesspool and a garbage dump are theoretically as lovely or unlovely as a rainbow and sunset. Only in a Christian world view can truth, beauty, loveliness, and laws be accounted for as reflections of the character of the God of the Bible.

On account of common and saving grace, both unbelievers and believers can produce good art. The distinction, however, is that good art produced by an unbeliever cannot be considered a good work. Nevertheless, the art itself can still be objectively good. Good works, however, must be done in faith for the glory of God. On the other hand, the believer may at times be deceived by the world in which he lives and actually produce art based on a non-Christian world view, thereby reflecting the meaninglessness, ugliness, and relativism so prevalent in a non-Christian world view. Those who constantly reiterate that artistic expression does not have moral influence over the affections, thoughts, ideas, and values of its audience fall into this category.

 

 

Christians should endeavor to produce good art which is also a good work (Col 3:23; 1 Cor 10:31). We need Christians that will work at their craft with intelligence, skill, beauty, creativity, and virtue. John Adams once said, "I must study politics and war that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy . . . in order to give their sons a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain." Adams knew that in a lawless and pagan society good art and good music do not flourish. Art is religion externalized— a reflection of the values, beliefs, and ideas of a culture. For this reason we must encourage Christian artists to achieve their calling with excellence and virtue.

 

 

 

 

Pastor Mike Harding

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Joel

My post was about worship in general, with an emphasis on music. When I spoke about dress, I wasn't speaking about rap artists. When I spoke about prayer and preaching, I wasn't speaking about rap artists. I was speaking about our entire locus of worship (prayer, dress, music, preaching) in general and what our aim should be. My post was not a rant against rap music, nor was I attacking those who disagree with me. Behold my quote here, from my post:

Once we allow this perspective to shape our thinking, then in my experience, this entire issue becomes quite clear. The notion that we must be "relevant" becomes irrelevant. Our whole perspective on worship, beyond just music, will change.

I then proceeded with pertinent examples about how our entire focus of worship, encompassing preaching, dress, music and prayer, needs to be re-examined in light of this new perspective. You misread my entire post and missed the point.

God bless.

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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Tyler, 

Tyler, 

I am sorry that I misunderstood you.  You realize that you began your post with "Christian Rap? No" and then proceeded to give your view on worship?  I assumed that you were explaining the many reasons why you didn't approve of Christian Rap.....

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The same fallen culture that

The same fallen culture that gives us Bach, Jazz and County gives us Rap/Hip-Hop.

Hank Williams, Johann Sebastian, and Tupac came out of different cultures.  All were fallen, yes, but they were not the same. 

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Ciao

Like eschatology, any discussion of music on a blog forum will inevitably degenerate and become unprofitable. I weighed in against my better judgment, and I shall now bow out of this particular discussion. I am well aware that my opinion is a minority one, which some will erroneously attribute to my allegedly ignorant fundamentalist mindset. To each his own; let each man examine the purpose and aim of corporate worship and come to his own conclusions, prayerfully. Wish all you the best in your various ministries.

Arriverdeci

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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The same fallen culture that

The same fallen culture that gives us Bach, Jazz and County gives us Rap/Hip-Hop.

Hank Williams, Johann Sebastian, and Tupac came out of different cultures.  All were fallen, yes, but they were not the same. 

Yes, that's true, but if you're going to argue that music by Bach, Mozart, etc is intrinsically superior to those styles (as Aniol and others do), then the burden of proof falls on you to demonstrate why Bach, Mozart, etc escapes from the 'decay' of fallen humanity when none of the other styles I referenced do.  That's my whole point...saying that Bach or whomever is superior does not make it so.

Mike Harding - didn't have time to read your post, but will do so later.  Thanks for the reply.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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Insightful Article

My Personal Take on Rap and Hip-Hop as Worship Forms

Posted on December 4, 2013 by Mark Snoeberger

I’m finding myself somewhere between pity and embarrassment as I watch otherwise respectable middle-aged white men tripping over one another to be first in line insisting that they’re not racist because they’re OK with Reformed Rap and Holy Hip-Hop as valid worship forms. Not everyone is riding the wave (see esp. Darryl Hart’s comments here), but I’m definitely feeling inundated right now. How did we get here? Let me suggest three culprits:

  • Evangelicalism: In one sense I am forced to concede that I am an evangelical, because I affirm tenaciously the central tenets of the Gospel. But while evangelicalism is ever concerned about the practical success of the Gospel, the movement has never really been about the “central tenets” of anything (indeed, the admission standards to the Evangelical Theological Society have absolutely nothing to do with the evangel). Evangelicals place primary concern on horizontal interests (how to successfully connect with the people we need to reach and the people we need to keep). Whether people are properly catechized to live and worship in the right way is secondary to whether they are being touched by the Gospel.
  • Neo-Kuyperianism: There is nothing profane in culture, so everything in culture can and must be redeemed. We must eliminate explicitly sinful deeds, of course, but those are incidental intrusions into culture—the culture itself is a product of people in God’s image variously and creatively fulfilling the dominion mandate. Every culture is equally good or at the very least equally neutral. To affirm otherwise is racist, which is probably the worst possible label you can affix to an evangelical.
  • Celebrity: Christianity is, to a greater or lesser degree, publicly performed by celebrated individuals and subsequently experienced by worshippers in the form of personal admiration, pleasure, and ecstatic experience. Though these experiences may be felt in a group setting, the experience itself is individual, not corporate.

Since I am not a card-carrying evangelical, am not a Neo-Kuyperian at all, and am contemptuous of celebrities, every possible reason for embracing Reformed Rap and Holy Hip-Hop as a worship form disappears for me. Note the following:

  • Since I despise Christian celebrity, I cannot fathom how rap or hip-hop can find a place in public worship. At this point I am saying nothing about the credibility of the art forms in general, only that some forms are totally non-conducive to biblical worship (see, e.g., Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). Congregational rap does not and cannot exist. No rap exists other than celebrity rap.
  • Since I reject Neo-Kuyperianism emphatically, I do not define culture as neutral people in God’s image variously and creatively fulfilling the dominion mandate in neutral ways. At the very root of every depraved human culture (no discrimination here) lie elemental principles and philosophies that are woven into the very fabric of its cultural expressions (Col 2:8, 20). I do believe in common grace, and thus that all people are not equally evil or as evil as they can possibly be, but the fact remains that common grace often functions more as a brake on a runaway train than as the track on which the train runs. As such, (1) some cultural expressions are so hopelessly interlaced with depraved assumptions and associations that they are irredeemable (eating meat in a cultic context); (2) others are so closely connected with depraved assumptions and associations that they should be politely declined (eating meat that is perceived by pagan community itself to be evil), and (3) still others must be eaten (eating meat after it has been successfully extricated from depraved assumptions and associations so as to be profitable for the cause of Christ) (1 Cor 8–10). From where I live in a semi-rural suburb of Ann Arbor, the cultural forms of rap and hip-hop hover somewhere between (1) and (2). It is possible that my evaluation is wrong and that the evaluation of my own particular pagan community is likewise wrong, but I do not see how the use of these media could ever be justified in my context.
  • Since I do not self-identify primarily as an evangelical, my first question in matters of corporate worship is not a horizontal one (i.e., how can the gathered church successfully connect with the people it hopes to reach and the people it hopes to keep): a great many other questions precede this one, and none that impel me to use rap or hip-hop. That is not to say that I eschew evangelism or tear 1 Corinthians 9:19–23 from my Bible; however, (1) I do not see the context of this passage as one of worship, and (2) I find qualifications placed on the sentiment of this passage elsewhere in Scripture.

Is it possible that I am a self-deceived racist. I truly hope that this is not the case. I take solace in the fact that for 20 years I’ve been a fairly aggressive equal-opportunity critic (more so, I admit, than my colleagues, and at times more than has been wont—please see this as a personal reflection, not as an institutional one), and during those years my targets have overwhelmingly consisted of very white musical forms. In questioning the use of rap and hip-hop in worship I am not demeaning the race or tastes of those who embrace the forms, much less calling them “disobedient cowards” (which, by the way, was way out of line); instead, I am doing my best to make a biblically-informed judgment of the propriety of these forms in worship. And at the end of the day I don’t find a place for them.

Pastor Mike Harding

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Although he is clearly

Although he is clearly outside of Christian Hip-Hop and culture, I appreciate Mark’s insight to certain extent (even though I mostly disagree with him) because there is a grain of truth to his 3 culprits.  It should serve as a warning of what could happen to those of us that are utilizing Christian Hip-Hop and are ministering among the Hip-Hop culture if we were to make the horizontal primary above the worship of God, if we were to fully embrace a Neo-Kuyperian view of culture, and if we were to embrace a celebrity mentality.  The problem with Mark’s insight is that it hasn’t happened yet (maybe a little on the Neo-Kuyperianism)  Lets look at his 3 culprits.

 

 Evangelicalism that makes the horizontal of evangelism and edification trump the proper worship of God.  In all of our interactions with Christian Hip-Hop artists (which happens a lot because of our commonality of inner-city ministry and many are involved in church plants all over the cities of our nation) they are not only aware of the dangers of pragmatism and culture trumping the authority and sufficiency of scripture, there is an intentionality to make sure God is honored and valued above everything in worship.  Many of the artists were turned off by health and wealth COGIC churches in their neighborhood which they completely rejected.  Many have studied the regulative and the normative principles of worship.  Most are like Shai Linne in their approach,resisting “arguments that are grounded in pragmatism, personal preference or the wisdom of man, if it is in conflict with the plain teaching of Scripture.”  Therefore this culprit has not yet happened.

 

Neo-Kuyperianism.   Having lived in Grand Rapids in the shadow of Calvin College for 25+ years, I have first-hand experience with true Neo-Kuyperians.  Redeeming Culture is the over-riding motivation for most of the social work and Christian community development work that is being done by much of the Christian community in Grand Rapids, Holland, Muskegon, and etc…. I am blown away by how Neo-Kuyperians don’t seem to know how the gospel even applies to social work and community development.  As for those within Christian Hip-Hop? I do not deny that redeeming hip-hop culture is a desire of many. But to most of them, redeeming culture is the fruit of the gospel, (except for the minority Presbyterian wing of the group).  As lives transformed by the gospel of Christ, families change.  As families change, communities change, as communities change the culture changes.   As to Mark’s accusation that these Neo-Kuyperians believe that there is nothing profane in culture and that all cultures equally good or neutral, can you show me where that has been said?  Maybe I missed something.  Often times the conversations are along the lines of what Shai Linne states in his dialogue with Scot. A. http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-music/discussion-about-christian-rap-with-shai-linne-can-music-be-sinful-rebuttal/  

 

Celebrity-To make the claim that there is no possible way that rap or hip-hop can exists unless it is celebrity rap with a focus on the individual demonstrates the lack of interaction with those of us that incorporate Christian Hip-Hop into worship.  It operates like a special music, a testimony in song or as Scott A has stated in his book, “a musical offering.”  Whenever someone in our congregation has used hip-hop as an expression of worship in our church, we provide the lyrics on the screen. Some of the most powerful testimonies of how God radically changed a person’s life through the gospel is poetically captured within Hip-Hop at our church.   There are now songs within Hip-Hop were a verses are done in rap combined with a chorus sung by the congregation.  My question for Mark is, would he also then say that special music such as a vocal or instrumental solo has no place in the church? What about a solo leading into hymn or praise song?  If not, why not Christian Hip-Hop in the ways I described above?

I have more to say, I will hold back for now.......

 

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good art/bad art

Jay, 

I have followed your comments, and hope you won't mind if I offer some thoughts here.

The reason that we have to start with Phil 4:8 is that we must affirm with Paul the aesthetic that beauty, purity, truth, etc., can be objectively known. If there are things, (such as art), that are lovely, pure, truthful, and honorable, then there must be things that are not, and we can know the difference.  

Actually, rappers would not, and do not make the argument that the music in their performances is lovely, morally good or anything else from that list. First, there is little actual music in what they do. Second, like all those who speak in the general idiom of pop culture (i.e., rock music), they don't make the argument that what they do is morally good. They don't believe that there is such as thing as objectively knowable moral qualities, in their performances, or in any other. All of them are moral relativists with respect to music. Musical moral relativists, such as rappers and their fans, would say that what they like is good because they like it.

To your question, how do we know what is good (in music), I think we can begin by asserting that the medium as well as the message, the form as well as the content, must conform to the same standards, and those standards must come from Scripture. Let's keep in mind that rap is one of the rooms in the House of Rock. And when it comes to rock, the medium itself has very clear moral implications. As Time magazine put it, "In a sense, all rock is revolutionary. By its very beat and sound it has always implicitly rejected restraints and has celebrated freedom and sexuality."

I'm not going to rehearse all the details of this argument here. My point is that the intrinsic qualities of the medium of rap are well known, and they are subject to the same objective scrutiny as are the words. There is no mystery here. Defining "good" and "bad" is really not that difficult once we affirm that praiseworthy, excellent art has objective qualities rooted in creation that allow us to recognize them. For further help on this subject, I recommend, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes by Ken Myers.

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Basically every sentence of

You make some pretty far-reaching assumptions about Reformed Rappers. I don't think they would recognize themselves in your summary of their beliefs about music and theology.

You should read what Reformed rappers have to say about their music, theology, and philosophy. They are seeking to glorify God and they do believe that they can do it with their music. Many of them are very intentional and exact in their process and theology.

 

May Christ Be Magnified - Philippians 1:20 Todd Bowditch

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an apology from a panel-member

May Christ Be Magnified - Philippians 1:20 Todd Bowditch

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Yes, there have been two

Yes, there have been two apologies now from panel members. I guess they saw how misplaced their comments were.

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Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

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clarifying

Todd,

You misunderstood. Perhaps I should have been a little clearer that I was not referencing the Reformed rappers' theology and intentions, which are praiseworthy. No doubt they, like the non-Christian rappers whose style has influenced them, feel that rap "music" is a natural expression of their experience, and for that reason, it is good. I don't need to assume anything. The standard defense of the Reformed rappers is essentially the same as has always been made of pop cultures music styles: "The style (medium) is neither morally good or bad. It's good because I like it, or bcause it comes from my culture or because it is an effective vehicle for my words." This is essentially the position that Shai Linne is taking in his discussion with Scott Aniol.

The premise of that thinking should be graciously but firmly challenged. When Paul wrote Philippians 4:8, he did not say to think on those things that you feel or believe are pure, lovely, honorable, etc., but rather, those things that are pure, lovely and honorable. How can we make sense of what Paul wrote if we do not affirm that cultural expressions have intrinsic qualities that are good or bad in a moral sense that we can know? On what basis can we put musical style in a special category that shields it from any moral scrutiny? To be sure, judgments must be made humbly, carefully and on Biblical rather than strictly cultural grounds, which apparently was not done in the panel discussion at issue. 

The discussion going on between Linne and Aniol is a rare and welcome change from the way the topic of musical style is usually discussed. Both brothers are humble, articulate, careful, and serious about reading Scripture well. I l expect this discussion to shed a lot of light and little if any heat, and I look forward to reading it all the way through.

 

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You are still making pretty

You are still making pretty far-reaching assumptions.  Rappers such as Shai Linne and LeCrae have publicly stated the importance of making good art for the glory of God.  To play or perform skillfully for God's glory.  I have heard them in person give lectures.  Here is even one article where Shai Linne makes this case.  http://lyricaltheology.blogspot.com/2011/10/skills-or-message.html 

You have created a straw-man to argue against and misinterpreting Shai Linne rather than dealing with what he and others truly believe.  Just because you haven't heard them make certain arguments about the aesthetics of music doesn't mean they haven't made them.   

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Thanks for clarifying,

Thanks for clarifying, Stephen. However, I don't think that you've really developed your original statements.

You accused Reformed rappers of moral relativism...I understand that to be a direct result of post-modernism....nothing is right or wrong. That is very different from suggesting that objects do not have inherent morality.

I think it is dangerous to assume that objects have inherent morality (without context). For example, a gun is not a moral or immoral object. It takes on morality when used for good or evil. Similarly, I am hard pressed to find music being intrinsically moral. On what basis do we assign morality to a collection of auditory imports? The Hallelujah Chorus arouses certain feelings within modern western society. That collection of sounds did not conjure up the same emotions for Medieval Christianity or for Modern Chinese Christianity.

The problem with using Philippians 4:8 is that it doesn't solve anything. Philippians 4:8 does state that all things should glorify God through their purity, goodness, etc. Philippians 4:8 does not quantify that in any way. We are forced to make modern day applications of the principles of that passage. Paul most assuredly did not have American gospel songs (or even English hymns) in mind when he wrote this verse.

Principles are timeless; applications are culturally bound. That is the major breakdown in Aniol's paradigm. He does not make proper allowances for time and culture. Somewhat anachronistically, he assumes that standards of beauty (from his chronological and cultural context) are the same standards of beauty that Paul valued and God ordained. We all agree that music should have beauty and that it should be pleasing to God. But Aniol then conjures up a form of that beauty that fits his context.

May Christ Be Magnified - Philippians 1:20 Todd Bowditch