Guest Post by Brian Davis: Brian is a Christian Hip Hop Artist who goes by the name God’s Servant. Brian is currently a church-planting intern with at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh and is planning to plant in Philadelphia. Brian also completed the internship at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
Like many, I was shocked by the recently released panel from the NCFIC on “Reformed Rap”. I wanted to chime in on the dialogue and offer some thoughts- both as an individual that is sympathetic to the panelists’ theological bent, as well as one who is a Hip-hopper culturally. There seems to be a lack of people who identify with both worlds, so I figured I would cast my lot in the pile. I hope it is helpful to the conversation.
I do want to preface by saying that I think these brothers are probably very godly men. While I haven’t heard of all of them, I have heard of some of them and their reputations are those of men who love the Lord, His Word and His church. My response is aimed at interacting with the thoughts they shared, not to make statements about the men themselves. I am sure this video is not reflective of the state of their godliness or the best barometer at assessing their lives–lives which are probably marked with decades of faithfulness to our Lord. I want to honor these men in the Lord, thank them for caring about the glory of God and share my thoughts to hopefully aid in future discussion towards unity in the body.
With that being said, I can’t help but lament how careless these brothers were in their language, and how revealing it is of a cultural elitism that is far too welcomed in Christianity and made at home by some of our leaders. When speaking of Christian maturity, we do not bring up the prevalence of the fruit of the Spirit in peoples lives, or their rootedness in the Word of God and how firmly they cling to the gospel. Rather, we reference sideways hats, music styles and earrings, as if that is somehow a good measurement of maturity from God’s point of view? Where is that in the bible?! We would all do well to do as these brothers suggest- adhere to every word we find in Scripture to ensure our worship is acceptable to God. However, the converse of such an admonishment is that we must be equally careful not to add to God’s Word in our efforts for purity in worship. By neglecting the former we end up like Nadab and Abihu; by neglecting the latter we end up like the Pharisees.
In an attempt to respond to some of the principles presented in the panel, I thought I would take a slightly different approach. Rather than going argument for argument (there have been several responses done in that format), I thought I would select a few key issues surrounding the conversation and try to interact with them. It seems to me that the issue in this debate (which is no new debate at all) is the mishandling of the bible, the confusion surrounding culture and the clouding of the glory of God.
1. The Mishandling of the Bible
The words of the psalmist echo in my mind here, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your Word” (Psalm 119:9). What a comfort this is! The Bible is a blade to cut through all speculation with a two-sided edge. On the one edge, it cuts down the careless heart that recklessly wanders into the presence of a Holy God. On the other edge, it cuts away the legalistic heart that would require something of a worshipper that God does not require in His Word. Some of the biggest straw men arguments that I hear lobbied against Christian Hip-Hop accuses those within the culture with phrases like “worldliness”, fleshy/flesh feeding, carnal, immature, etc, Now, while this sounds very God honoring and considerate (and I believe the brothers who make these accusations intend to be), it lacks exegetical integrity and hermeneutical care as it rips biblical phrases out of their contexts and seeks to apply them in ways that cannot be biblically sustained. For instance, to insinuate, as this recent panel did, that Christian Hip Hop is bad because God doesn’t just care about what’s being said but how it is being said and that anyone who holds to the sufficiency of Scripture should agree… is quite simply, ridiculous.
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
Written by Jon Akin
My doctoral dissertation is on Proverbs, and I am currently preaching through the book. I often get asked about the best resources for Proverbs. There are many helpful resources for Proverbs, so here I try to list some that have been most helpful to me.
Recently, the Gospel Project hosted a panel at the SBC on “Christ-Centered Preaching” with Ed Stetzer, Trevin Wax, Eric Hankins, and Baptist21’s Jon Akin. You can listen to that discussion here.
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.
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