Friday, December 12, 2008

Q & A Fridays #4- Would Spurgeon Approve of Rap?


This week, I have 2 questions related to one of my heroes in the faith, Charles Spurgeon. Those of you who have Storiez know that one of the songs is a biographical sketch of his life. I did that song because I wanted to point people who listen to our music to the saints that God has used to help sharpen and shape the lyrics in the songs. Spurgeon has definitely done this for me. What draws me to Spurgeon's writing is the rare combination of graces that were at work in his life. What I mean by that is the combination of theological depth, bold proclamation of truth, warm- hearted, pastoral concern for souls and a poetic flair in his writing. Each one of those things resonates with me. (The lyricist in me is convinced that Spurgeon would have been a great emcee!) It's rare to find all of those things at work in one person. On top of that, he had a great sense of humor! The God who sovereignly disperses gifts according to His good pleasure saw fit to pour gifts into Spurgeon and the Church is still reaping the benefits to this day. With that said, here are the questions:

Berry said:

"Saw that you like Spurgeon...What's your favorite writing of his and why?"

Hmmm...My answer may change, but at this point I would have to say Lectures To My Students. I love Lectures because it's like sitting in the room with one of the greatest preachers in Church history and gleaning wisdom from him. It's different from his other writings in that it's a little more informal and he deals with practical things related to ministry. His sense of humor really comes through also. The chapters on The Minister's Self-Watch and The Preacher's Private Prayer are worth the price of the book in my opinion. Another favorite of mine is called The Practice of Praise, published by Whitaker House. It looks to be a collection of Spurgeon's sermons that deal with worship and prayer. Excellent stuff. Btw, thanks for the recommendations! The one on Gethsemene was amazing.

For Spurgeon question #2, Anonymous asked:

"Did you know he preached to 10,000 plus members for over 20 yrs without the use of musical instruments in his church? My question is: Do you think he would approve of this "holy" hip-hop thing you're doing?"

Yes, my friend, I have heard about Spurgeon's views on instrumentation. Your second question is interesting. Bear with me as I attempt to answer it. If I could travel back to 1856 and have a conversation with Spurgeon:

Before talking about the "holy hip-hop thing" I do, I would first talk to him about the Lord Jesus Christ, who made me the "holy hip-hopper" that I am. This, my friend, is because the music I do is simply an extension of who I am. And so, before letting Spurgeon hear my music, I would first talk to him about the greatness of the thrice holy triune Jehovah who sits in the heavens and does all that pleases Him for the glory of His great name. I would speak concerning the preciousness, inerrancy, sufficiency and sweetness of the Scriptures, which have made me wise unto salvation.

Then I would speak about that great salvation and how I was once dead in my sins- a blasphemous, prideful hater of God and His people who was comfortable in my rebellion against God and gloried in my shame. I would mention that I wanted nothing to do with God and would have willingly and justly perished eternally in hell under God's righteous wrath had He not intervened. Then, assuming I was able to keep from weeping, I would speak concerning the mysterious, haunting beauty of sovereign electing grace. I would talk about the new birth that the Holy Spirit miraculously worked in me. I wouldn't leave out the wonder of my Savior's redeeming love. I would make explicit references to Calvary and my Lord's bleeding, dying, sacrificial love for a wretch like me. It would be difficult for me to resist speaking of the brilliance and unparalled wisdom and justice of God seen in the reality of Christ's perfect righteousness imputed to sinners by faith alone.

I would talk about the change that God has made in my life and how the glorious resurrection of our Lord corresponds to my being raised to newness of life and the new affections that come along with it. I would talk about my longings for God, cravings for holiness and my Spirit-given love for His person and works. At that point, I would have to confess that I have not progressed in Christ-likeness nearly as much as I would like to and that there is still more idols to smash, sin to kill and self to die to in my life. But then I would quickly mention the confidence I have that the risen Lord through the Holy Spirit will complete what He started in me and safely bring me home to glory where I will worship Christ for eternity, which is the deepest longing of my soul.

Only then might I mention that I am attempting to use the gifts that the Lord has graciously given me for His glory as I communicate the above truths in a context much different than 19th century London. At that point, I would tell him that the Africans who were enslaved in America in his day had children and grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. By the surprising grace of God, some of those great-great grandchildren were redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, in mighty fulfilment of Psalm 145:4.

I would tell him that the musical form he would have associated with "Negro spirituals" had birthed a number of genres of popular music and that one of its descendants- called hip-hop- is a genre that is in many ways ideal for memorably communicating large amounts of truth in a small amount of time. I would talk about a group of theologically minded, Christ-exalting artists that the Lord has raised up within this culture and that, in addition to being students of the Word, many of them regularly read the works of the same puritans that Spurgeon himself read.
I would then mention that they have leveraged this new form of music for the sake of the gospel and that there was as much- if not more- theological depth in one verse of some of these songs than some of the hymns that even he and his congregation were singing (I would tell him I only knew this because I own [and love] his hymnal :) I wouldn't neglect to mention that this same form of music is used by the world to communicate godlessness and filth and that many dear brothers and sisters in the church are concerned with whether or not Christians who were raised in that culture could (or should) use it for God's glory. Then I would shut up, concerned that sin wasn't absent from my many words.

Would Spurgeon approve? Because Spurgeon is merely a man, his approval wouldn't my main concern. It means nothing if Spurgeon applauds while the Lord Jesus boos. Similarly, Spurgeon (and anyone else) can frown all they want as long as my Lord is smiling. Nevertheless, my sneaking suspicion about Spurgeon is that He might answer me in the words of a sermon he preached on Psalm 71:14:

"The world sings. The millions have their songs. Many of them are so absurd and meaningless as to be unworthy of an idiot. Yet these things will be heard from men, and places will be thronged to listen to the stuff. Now, why should we- with the grand psalms we have of David, with the noble hymns of Cowper, Milton and Watts- why should we not sing as well as they? Let us sing the songs of Zion. They are as cheerful as Sodom's songs. Let us drown out the howling nonsense of Gomorrah with the melodies of the New Jerusalem" Charles Spurgeon- The Practice of Praise

Then I would play "Were You There" and "Triune Praise" :)

grace and peace,
shai

17 comments:

Da' Sciple said...

SHAI!! Good answer(s).

Spurgeon would probably nod his head in an very thoughtful "Amen" kinda way... and recite the lyrics

"Ashamed I bow because I see my face in the crowd"

Thanks for posting this. Check your email when you can - I wanna know if I can get somethin from you.

Ginger said...

Shai, I love your music, lyrics, and ministry. Thank you for doing what you do. Seriously, seriously. Words can't describe. I wish we could be friends here now, but at least I'll get to hang out with you in eternity worshipping God!!! Thanks homie. I own like all your albums.

Donald said...

Dawg.... I love your writings! I recently got 12 sermons on holiness by Spurgeon and I'm liking it! One day you'll right a book I think and I shall like to read it! I thank God for you brother. You are an encouragement! Not How do I liknk your blog to mine......

Purple Soapbox Admin said...

That would be interesting to go back in time and speak to the men of old who were examples of faith.

Whether man approves of anything doesn't matter in regard to God's standards that have been given in the Scriptures. Let God be true and every man a liar.

samurai said...

Mr Linne...

I found a link to a You Tube video of you preaching the gospel... thank you, thank you, thank you for taking that step and standing up...

right now i feel like a blabbering fool with all of the thoughts running through my mind... but i wanted to let you know that God used you in my life today... thank you brother...

Laura said...

Preach!

Thanks for your ministry, brother.

David and Angel said...

"Then I would play "Were You There" and "Triune Praise" :)"

... hilarious

:o)

barrywallace said...

I've just recently heard some of your music, and your lyrics are outstanding. I love Spurgeon, too. I'm still not sure he would approve of rap, but you sure would have made a gallant attempt at persuading him.

Saint Jakab said...

Shai, to explain that the way you just did would bring any believer to be a holy hip-hop fan.

The rapping that you do has never been about rap, it has always been about Jesus Christ.

I feel now like the terminology of rap, hip-hop, music aren't even fit to describe such a heavenly sound. I feel like its better to say that God is glorified through your lyrically-developed praiseworthy offering of love and trust with musical accompaniment.

I love the old hymns also. So, much about repentance and the actual gospel of Jesus Christ found in those songs.

Grace & Peace
+ Jakab +

Carvin H said...

Hi Shai I like your response "It means nothing if Spurgeon applauds while the Lord Jesus boos, Similarly (and anyone else) can frown all they want as long a my Lod is smiling."

Because I dont personally think Haddon would have approved primarly because he took quite a heavy stance on the concert I read a sermon of his, titled The Church's New Mission:
Entertaining the Masses? which criticised the concert. The sermon really shook me.
While the music you do is primarly lyrical theology and evangelism alot of the work is done in the concert hall.
A direct quote from that sermon... "The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them."... in another part he says... "The mission of amusements fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among the young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the church met them halfway, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment had been God's link in the chain of their conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts."

But again its a very difficult question to ask and answer and might be unfair to his reputation and legacy to try answer simply because there is no way of really knowing how he would have taken to our "holy hip hop thing"

shai said...

Carvin,

I've read that article and I actually agree with the overall point he's making. I believe Spurgeon was safeguarding the sufficiency of preaching the gospel as God's appointed means for salvation. In doing so, he was rejecting the unbiblical, man-centered notion that we must provide amusements for unbelievers in order to win them to Christ. I agree wholeheartedly with Spurgeon on this point.

The point of what I do is not to "reach the masses" through Holy Hip-hop. Rather, I seek to glorify God by using the artistic gifts He's given me to direct people's attention to God's perfections and His glorious salvation in Christ. My leveraging of Hip-hop for the glory of God is rooted in what I believe to be a Biblical understanding of Christ and culture- not a pragmatic or "seeker friendly" approach to evangelism, which is what Spurgeon was correctly speaking out against.

That's not to say the music can't be or hasn't been used evangelistically, because it has. Whenever I perform, I try to use the attention-grabbing draw of rap as an opportunity to proclaim the gospel and call my listeners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. But I'll never view the concert as a replacement for the pulpit. Nor do I see it as indespensible for the spread of the Kingdom of God like the preached, exposited Word is.

grace and peace,
shai

Da' Sciple said...

"My leveraging of Hip-hop for the glory of God is rooted in what I believe to be a Biblical understanding of Christ and culture- not a pragmatic or "seeker friendly" approach to evangelism, which is what Spurgeon was correctly speaking out against."

Amen.

shai - I believe what you're doing is rooted in a Biblical understanding of Christ and culture as well. All of the men of sound doctrine from Spurgeon to Piper & Paul Washer agree totally.

Didn't Paul tell you that himself? Anyone interested should check the beginnings of this video out. I believe it can suffice as a modern representation to Spurgeons reaction to 'this "holy" hip-hop thing we're doing' since Paul Washer [imho] represents the same thing(s) Spurgeon did.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfdpFdZq7nA

grace and peace,

da 'sciple [the lower case blogger lololol]

Stevie Caballero said...

Hey Shai,
loved this post and great answers to those questions:)
this was my favorite part-

"Would Spurgeon approve? Because Spurgeon is merely a man, his approval wouldn't my main concern. It means nothing if Spurgeon applauds while the Lord Jesus boos. Similarly, Spurgeon (and anyone else) can frown all they want as long as my Lord is smiling."

So many times people try to get mans approval, less we forget this form of peer pressure through the Grace of God.
Thanks for sharing this insight on Spurgeon, i may have to pick up a few of his book one day:)

Love you brother and thanks again for spending time with our family, we were blessed in yours and Ants presence.
Grace and peace,
Steve Caballero

B. Kennedy said...

Spurgeon as a good emcee? Is it possible to rock the mic hard with a cigar in your mouth? ;)

But fantastic, godly response, Shai. Stay strong.

Steven said...

Shai,

I would not consider your music entertainment. I have been exposed to mega churches that use entertainment to try to reach the masses and feel they fall short of God's purpose for the Church. It is sad when people who do not know Chris can come to a Church Program and laugh and have a good time and then leave without being offended. Paul said the Cross is an offense. Not that we deliberately try to offend people but if the Gospel is being preached which Paul said is the power of God unto salvation then people would get offended and people would also get saved. It is an insult to the Gospel to have to use Entertainment to bring the message. Its like saying the message in itself is not enough. But we know that the message alone is the POWER OF GOD unto salvation period. I am all for having a good time and have a sense of humor but when it comes to the pulpit it is no place for entertainment. When big choirs and famous speakers become the focus and source of boasting there is a serious problem and unfortunately that is what most churches today are doing. I said it earlier and I will say it again, I have gotten more theology from your music then I have from my former pulpit. God have mercy.

Steve

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your music and your comments. I have a question. I recently spoke with a young black reformed brother who was struggling with the issue that one of the heroes of the reformed faith. Jonathan Edwards was a slave owner and he could not understand why he was so adored by so many while at the same time he was guilty of oppressing one who was made in God's Image?

You being young black and reformed, how would you answer him?

God Bless

Colin Skinner said...

To answer your question anonymous, first off, I have no idea. But, I would wonder if he was "oppressive." Just something to think about if you can't find info. on the net.