Monday, June 25, 2007

Hip-hop...for...Christ?

In keeping with my last post about Christians being saved to praise, I wanted to apply that idea to the realm of Holy Hip-hop. Over the years, Holy hip-hop has received a great deal of criticism from within the church. Alot of it is deserved, as much of the Hip-hop music that claims to be Christian is neither edifying or glorifying to God. I'll speak more on that in another post. In response to the criticism, Christian hip-hop artists have usually given one or more of these defenses:

1. It's of God because God is using it and people are getting saved and discipled through the music
2. It's of God because we're reaching a group of people (the Hip hop generation) with Scriptural truth who would not receive it otherwise
3. It's of God because Hip-hop is such a global phenomenon that it would be unwise not to use it as a pipeline for the gospel

I would dismiss #2 immediately because the Word of God (and the gospel contained in it) is sufficient in and of itself and does not need music or anything else to make it more effective. This defense also fails to take into account both the deadness of humanity in sin and the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. #1 and #3 both have elements of truth to them, but neither is a good defense for using a form of music if it could be demonstrated biblically that Hip-hop is inherently sinful. The end does not justify the means IF the means is sinful. To argue that it does would be pragmatism. My arguments for the use of rap in evangelism and the edification of God's people are grounded, not in pragmatism, but rather what I believe to be a biblical understanding of Christ and Culture. Consider the following passage:

"Sing to the LORD a new song, His praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the habitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the LORD, and declare his praise in the coastlands." (Isaiah 42:10-12)

From the context of this passage, we see that God's chosen servant- identified as The Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament- came on a mission to accomplish a number of things. This included bringing forth justice in the earth (vs. 4-5), being a light to the gentiles(vs. 6), opening the eyes of the blind and setting prisoners free (vs. 7). These things were fulfilled in the life, death, resurrection and ultimately the second coming of Christ. And we see the purpose of this work in the text above. God saves people so that we might praise Him for it with new songs, tell others about Him and glorify His name. From the cities to the villages, from the desert to the seas, from the mountains to the coastlands, the name of our glorious Lord is to be praised!


God the Father loves His Son so much that He determined to give Jesus a redeemed humanity from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev. 5:9). The Lord Jesus Christ is so infinitely glorious that He has determined to be adored and praised in EVERY language. He determined to have a witness to His wondrous works in a multiplicity of cultural contexts. The culture of Hip-hop- of which rap is an element- is simply one of those contexts. At its best, Holy hip-hop is a Christ-centered, doctrinally sound, gospel proclaiming, artistically excellent cultural expression that magnifies the worth and greatness of the Triune God.

One of the main principles in Scripture is the idea of unity in diversity (See Ephesians 4:4-7, 1 Corinthians 12:4-26). Same Lord, different styles. Same Spirit, different gifts. Same faith, different languages. Same message, different methods. And on and on. What's sad is that we often want to convert people in order to make them look like US instead of like Jesus. But when we do this we are failing to recognize that our Lord is much too glorious to restrict Him to one cultural expression.

God the Father is so impressed with Christ that He chose to save Africans in bondage in America, who might praise Him with what has evolved into the gospel-style music we know today. The Father is so impressed with Christ that He chose to save Europeans who would praise Him with unbelievable classical sounds, like J.S. Bach. And He didn't stop there. He chose to save people from China, Indonesia, Sudan, Australia, Alaska, Poland and The Bronx- all with their unique, God-given expressions. This is because, just as a jewel is multifaceted, each of those cultures displays a unique facet of the radiance of Christ that would be missing if it weren't represented. And Hip-hop culture is no exception.

grace and peace,
shai

4 comments:

Andrew Travis Pantazi said...

shai, I really appreciate not only your glorifying music but your posts explaining why you use music. I appreciate this post and your Sharper Iron post that showed how humility and love should be the response to confusion and anger in the Church to show that Francis Schaeffer was right when he said the unity of the Church is the final apologetic.
God bless,
andrew travis pantazi

shai said...

andrew,

Thanks for your words of encouragement. I agree w/ the Schaeffer quote. I've found that Christian unity is established and promoted as we focus in on the person and work of Christ. True believers who disagree on secondary issues should rejoice together in the main things- what Paul was referring to in 1 Corinthians 1:3-4. Also, in our zeal for truth we can sometimes forget that Christian love is the distinguishing mark of a genuine work of the Holy Spirit. Ok, I'll stop before I ramble any further. lol. Thanks for reading my blog!

grace and peace,
shai

Vikki said...

I'm loving your blog and wish you would post more often, but I know you have a life! (smile)

Fettered to the mercy seat -mg said...

It is awesome to see Reformed rappers that want to see the gospel preached. For all of you who may not agree with the style being used, can you rejoice that Christ is preached(Phil. 1:18)? Praise the LORD and fight the good fight of faith,Shai!