I was very troubled by this video clip of a panel that discussed the question: “What about Reformed Rap?” And I have to be honest, the more times I have watched it the more troubled I get that Christian brothers would speak the way they do about the Reformed Hip Hop movement. Three things in particular stuck out about this panel:
1) Sufficiency of Scripture – The most disappointing and ironic part of the discussion was that the scriptures were hardly mentioned. Now, the panelists spoke often of the sufficiency of scripture and its implications for musical worship. However, only once did a panelist make a passing quote of a scripture and never was a passage or reference explicitly mentioned. In fact, the panelist who posted the video clip on his blog spoke the most of sufficiency but he never mentioned a scripture. It’s extremely disappointing that a group of men that advocate the sufficiency of the scriptures so harshly critiques this genre without consulting the scriptures to do so.
2) The Implication that the Bible exhorts or endorses certain styles while condemning others – Several times it is alluded to that there are styles (in particular Hip Hop was mentioned) that are not “honoring to God” or they are distracting. Now to be sure there are certain things that would probably be tough to sing corporately, but this panel was ruling this genre out altogether. I believe the onus must be on these panelists to argue that the Bible commends or endorses a certain style and rules out other ones. For instance the Bible often mentions music and musical instruments, some that seem to imply there is quite a bit of beat to them (though we weren’t there so we cant know) in places like Psalm 150:3-6 which states, “Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” In addition, David commends this in 1 Chronicles 15:16, “David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy.” These are just a few of the many biblical texts that mention music and musical instruments without making a comment on styles. Again the onus is on these panelists to make a compelling argument from the scriptures as to why certain styles are out of bounds and if they are going to make this argument they need to at least use some scriptures to do so. Instead to bolster their arguments they make assumptions that the beats of rap songs distract from the message. In addition, they seek to bolster their argument by saying a good musical genre for the Christian should be memorable and rap fails at this. I think this argument actually works against what they are trying to argue because rap (due to the beats) is very memorable which is why I know of parents who use Christian hip hop to catechize their children because it is so memorable and rich theologically. Finally, some of the panelists use the cultural milieu that Hip Hop came out of to argue against Reformed Rap. A couple of quotes from Ed Stetzer’s Calling for Contextualization, Part 7 to address this argument and its irony:
“Of course I think it’s kind of strange to say, “I don’t believe in engaging culture or contextualization” while wearing a suit that became popular 50 years ago, singing music that became popular 100 years ago on an instrument that became popular 300 years ago on furniture that became popular 600 years ago.”
“Much of what you do in your worship was controversial or considered too far at some point in the past. Just music alone is enough to help you think through some of the issues. Can we sing songs not in the psalter? What about musical instruments? That was hotly debated a few hundred years ago, and of course, many Christians were against it. And once you okay musical instruments, which ones are acceptable? Reading how the church has handled the issue of culture historically will help you think through your own church and culture issues (and music is just one easy to see example).”
3) The Assumptions and accusations about the motives and intentions of Reformed Rappers – Finally, and probably the saddest aspect of this panel, are the assumptions and accusations made about the intents of the hearts and motives of reformed rappers. They are called cowards, those who capitulate to the World, attention seekers, and those who seek to serve their own flesh. This aspect of the panel was very discouraging and almost enraging as these brothers slandered brothers by making assumptions about their hearts and their motives. Though it is clear that are times to judge fruits, these panelists should consider the warnings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 that pertain to judging hearts and motives: “In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” It is disheartening to see that not one of the panelists thought these assumptions and accusations were out of bounds!
My hope is that my reformed rapping brothers will keep on rapping and giving the church rich theological songs that exalt Christ, edify the saints, and engage unbelievers. And my hope is that there will be more conversations on this topic where light instead of heat rule the day. And most of all I hope the scriptures are central to those conversations and not on the periphery.
Note: There will be a follow up post to this blog from Brian Davis who is a Christian hip Hop artist named God’s Servant. Brian is currently a church-planting intern with us at Imago Dei and is planning to plant in Philadelphia. In addition, Brian completed the internship at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
And to get a taste of some Christian Hip Hop check out his song, Worthy is the Lamb
By Nathan Akin
Southern Baptists were given a great gift in the Conservative Resurgence (CR) as we reaffirmed our commitment to Sola Scriptura. We were taught in the Resurgence an absolute commitment to the inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of the Scriptures. We are indebted to men like Patterson, Pressler, Criswell, Rogers, Vines, and many more for this work. This work is a grace gift to us younger SBC’ers, one that we dare not miss. There are many observable benefits of the CR. One of the most apparent is that there are 6 SBC Seminaries that affirm the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Scriptures.
I believe the CR has directly led to trends and current debates in Baptist life that some may view as curses and others as blessings. However, I see these trends and debates as the outworking of treating the Word of God as inerrant, sufficient, and authoritative. I would like to bring up three of these, though I believe there are others. The architects of the CR may or may not necessarily love all of these trends, but I believe these are directly linked to these leaders passing on a confidence that the Scriptures are sufficient! I believe we should be thankful for these current trends and debates when viewed through the lens of the debates we might be having had the CR never taken place.
Shared expenses and Southern Baptist State Conventions
In our previous post (SBC Loyalty?) we focused mainly on our generation, but this post speaks more to the generation before us. It would seem that there is a lack of transparency when it comes to allocating the CP dollars that ma and pa Southern Baptist are sacrificially giving, specifically in terms of shared expenses between the state conventions and the SBC. Since the inception of the CP, “the SBC recognized its obligation to compensate the state conventions for their partnership in promoting the entire Cooperative Program.” There are questions that need to be asked: (1) Are we being transparent about where CP money is going and (2) What are legitimate shared expenses?
The recent impulse has been to see state conventions move to a 50/50 split for CP funds. Our fear is that this category of “shared expenses” is being used to mask the fact that some state conventions are not moving towards more for the SBC and less for the state convention. This fear in many ways is being confirmed by the numbers. State conventions designated 9.2 million dollars as shared expenses in 2011, but that has risen 116% over the last two years to 19.9 million dollars being designated as shared expenses in 2013. Over the last two years we have seen an increase from only 4 state conventions that separated out shared expenses as a separate line item from the percent of funds kept in state to 17 state conventions. In many ways these budget categories of shared expenses make it look like conventions are moving closer to or have achieved a 50/50 split when it’s not actually happening.
Our grandfather was a deacon in a cooperating Southern Baptist Church. He was a blue collar worker who gave generously and sacrificially in cooperation with other likeminded churches so they could send more missionaries, plants more churches, and train more gospel ministers together than they could apart. This giving allowed the Foreign Mission Board (now IMB) to send missionaries to unreached and underserved peoples around the world. This giving allowed the Home Mission Board (now NAMB) to plant churches throughout the US, and this giving allowed for young men to get a great seminary education at a discounted price. All of this giving was to propagate the gospel locally, nationally, and internationally.
I was approached recently with the question of how one stays “Christian” in Seminary. Essentially, the issue centers on how one maintains a vibrant life as a developing disciple, maturing into the image of our King. One of the most difficult aspects of formal theological education is the tendency to view Christianity clinically. Like research students in a science lab, every verse, doctrine, practice, and person can become an object of cold observation. We can all see the dangers that come with this mentality, and it’s not far off from every seminarian, for as we know, knowledge puffs up. There is a tendency in us all to become arrogant and cold Gnostics (believing we have special knowledge that others need to get a piece of) as we learn deep truths about our God.
I am neither brilliant nor especially gifted, but I’m confident that the heart of my approach is thoroughly biblical. The key to staying “Christian” in seminary is found in the local church. The local church is God’s chosen vehicle by which disciples will be made of all nations, including maturing disciples in seminary. So, the key relationship for spiritual maturity and accountability during seminary is not the seminary, it is that ALL seminary students would be vital, accountable, and identifiable members of a local church.
I say this for 2 Reasons:
1) We all need Godly leaders who are accountable for our souls. Hebrews 13:17 comes to mind immediately. We all need godly Elders/Pastors who are giving an account for our souls (this is a mentality of pastoral leadership that must be primary, perhaps even more primary than preaching). For the most part, we recognize this need, but sin keeps us from embracing it. We all struggle with submission (even the word strikes fear) to leaders who can speak directly into our lives and if need be discipline us. But if we recognize that discipline is an act of love (any level of discipline, not just “excommunication” but discipline that takes place every day as we rebuke and encourage one another) that is intended to protect us from running head first into sin that will destroy us and as an act that will conform us to the image of His Son, then we welcome it. And if we are going to continue to grow and not see the Bible or our Christian life as a textbook or assignment we all need godly leaders that will one day stand before the throne and give an account for our growth in grace and truth.
2) We all need a place where we are accountable. We all need iron on iron relationships. Like the pointing out of the unknown piece of food on our face, CJ Mahaney so helpfully states, we need others to show us our blind, sinful patterns. We all have sin in our lives that needs to be addressed and it won’t be without someone pointing it out to us. If we are going to do this in seminary, we need a people with whom we are covenanted, who will encourage us with the evidences of grace they see in our lives and will rebuke us when they see sin. We need to be accountable to someone (both Elders and fellow brothers and sisters), and we must be identifiable. By identifiable, I mean we are a part of what is going on in the life of the church, not just a Sunday attender, for we only stay vibrant in our faith as we serve and exercise gifts in the local church. This doesn’t mean just preaching (almost all seminarians believe they have the gift of teaching). This means, as one professor recently shared with me, developing our “hands and knees” gifts. We should never think we are called to lead/teach in local church without also being those that can wash feet.
In addition, part of this accountability is that we all need a place where we are working out what we are learning in the classroom. Just as a doctor doesn’t go straight from books to surgery (nor would you want him to), a pastor doesn’t go from books to shepherding. He needs time to serve in a local context where the academic presses up against everyday life; where truth becomes flesh.
I really don’t think I have much to add to this conversation, and I don’t think anything I have said is earth shaking. I just know in my own life I experienced a significant time of rebellion, and that whole time of rebellion was a period where I was disconnected from the community of faith. I thought I could live the Christian life in isolation and I was wrong. We weren’t created that way. If we are going to be vibrant, maturing disciples during our seminary days, we will not let the seminary (and chapel) substitute for the local church. It would seem impossible that we could be growing as Christ’s disciples and at the same time be rejecting or minimizing the bride that He pursued and purchased.
[This article was written at the request of my friends at Desiring God, in connection with this series.]
Switch to our mobile site