Monday, May 9, 2011

Why Do An Album on God's Attributes?


"Christianity today is man-centered, not God-centered. God is made to wait patiently, even respectfully, on the whims of men. The image of God currently popular is that of a distracted Father, struggling in heartbroken desperation to get people to accept a Saviour of whom they feel no need and in whom they have very little interest. To persuade these self-sufficient souls to respond to His generous offers God will do almost anything, even using salesmanship methods and talking down to them in the chummiest way imaginable. This view of things is, of course, a kind of religious romanticism which, while it often uses flattering and sometimes embarrassing terms in praise of God, manages nevertheless to make man the star of the show." (A.W. Tozer Man: The Dwelling Place of God)


As the time approaches for my new album The Attributes of God to be released, I wanted to share with you about why I did it. This idea has actually been in the works for years. Those of you who have been following my music for a while know that on Grassroots Vol. 1, there was a song with myself and Timothy Brindle entitled The Holiness of God. That song was supposed to be included on the Attributes album that Tim and I were working on. The song Humility of Christ, which appeared on Tim's classic 2005 release Killing Sin, was also supposed to be on the project. When Tim stepped away from public ministry in 2006, the project was shelved. As time went on, it wasn't clear whether or not Tim would be returning. In the same way that I was burdened to do an album on The Atonement in 2007, I began to feel burdened in 2010 to do an album on God's character. Since Tim wasn't back yet, I moved forward with it as a solo project. Thankfully, Tim has returned, and we were able to include him on a few of the songs as we got near completion of the project.

So why was I so heavily burdened to do this project? The answer may be surprising to some, but here's why I did it:

Because A Lot of Christian Music Is Not Actually About God

I don't mean for this to sound harsh or overly critical, but have any of you noticed that the vast majority of music that would fall into the category of "Christian" is not actually about God Himself? I think this is particularly the case with Christian Hip-hop, but it can be seen in other genres as well. How can I say this? Well, most of the music I hear is more about US and our response to God, but not God Himself. Don't get me wrong. There's a place for music that deals with our response to God, but when that is the overwhelming majority of the music, we slowly begin to distort the truth about who the God is that we're supposedly responding to. The Tozer quote above was written over 50 years ago, but could have been written yesterday. Our culture is extremely narcissistic and man-centered, and it seems that much of Christian music has followed suit. The Bible, however, is radically God-centered, and I believe that a radically God-centered worldview should be reflected in the songs we write. Because of our man-centered tendencies, the songs we sing about God usually deal with the things we like about Him (which are usually the things that directly benefit us the most), such as His love, mercy and forgiveness, etc. These things are glorious and we should write songs about them. However, if that's all we talk about, we create an incomplete and deficient view of God, which is not in line with His self-revelation.

So, for instance, when was the last time you heard a contemporary song that echoed the ancient songs of David about the righteousness and justice of God (Ps. 11:7)? Which Christian hit on Billboard sings along with Nahum that God is "jealous, avenging and wrathful" (Nahum 1:2-3)? Who is producing songs that speak to God's sovereign rule over His creation (Ps. 2, 115)? Can you direct me to a popular song that celebrates God's omniscience along with Hannah (1 Sam. 2:3)? God's eternality along with Moses (Psalm 90:2)? God's judgments along with Miriam (Ex. 15:21)? These things are often spoken of in Scripture, particularly in the context of Biblical songs, yet they tend to be largely missing from our songs today. That's not to say that no one is doing it. God has raised up an increasing number of songwriters who are expounding on His character. But when something so foundational and essential has been so under-done, it becomes important for others to step to the plate and contribute. The Attributes of God album is simply my attempt at one such contribution.

grace and peace,
shai

32 comments:

Deanna said...

Absolutely agreed.

Josh Gilchrist said...

Knowledge of the Holy is a book that has impacted me a ton. I love studying God's attributes, and I love listening to your music. I am very excited to hear the combination.

God bless.

Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Danny said...

When will the album be released? Looking forward to it!

Fellow Writer said...

AMEN! I am really excited about this project of yours. I am currently reading J.I Packer's Knowing God, and after that I'm reading A.W. Pink's Attributes of God...So that would explain why I'm really excited. The things these ministers talked about 50 years ago are pretty much still relevant even in this present day. I'm glad someone contemporary is making the effort to make that truth known. Remain Blessed.

shai said...

@Danny- Release date info coming soon.

Jonathan said...

Patiently waiting for this! I know it will be good. Say man, my brother and I can't get off your stuff. I'll listen to some other jams for a lil bit but I always find myself coming back to at The Atonement, Alone, Spurgeon, Dark Night of My Soul,My Portion, and Martyrs, amongst others. Contrary to the belief of the likes of Mr. Taylor and his Hottest Poppa issues, your reverence for God shines forth in your music. Praise God for that!

Jonathan said...

Patiently waiting for this! I know it will be good. Say man, my brother and I can't get off your stuff. I'll listen to some other jams for a lil bit but I always find myself coming back to at The Atonement, Alone, Spurgeon, Dark Night of My Soul,My Portion, and Martyrs, amongst others. Contrary to the belief of the likes of Mr. Taylor and his Hottest Poppa issues, your reverence for God shines forth in your music. Praise God for that!

dj lowrance said...

Great post shai, i cant wait for the release. Always been blessed by your ministry.

Nick Tanaka said...

Wasn't Megan supposed to be project coordinator to make sure all you artists were on the ball in writing for this? Haha Awright! I'm stoked for this album! Been waiting for this to drop since last year and I was sad that it didn't until last month! Read Attributes of God by A.W. Pink, taught thru it, & am discipling dudes using that book that you suggested to me 2 years ago! Thank you! May God-centeredness infect Hawaii through your ministry and the faithful ministers of the radically God-centered Gospel already here!

Tadd Winter said...

I totally agree Shai, that is why I really dislike the majority of "Christian music" because in the "Christian Rock" especially so many songs you could switch the name Jesus with the name of a girl and the song would still make sense, so their songs talking about love and they happen to say Jesus but they do not build a knowledge of God at all.

That is why I like Hymns and Holy Hip Hop.

Can't wait for the new Record.

Also amazing talk on Urban church plants, are your plans to become a pastor? If so do you expect to come of your music ministry?

I enjoyed your talk and can't wait to hear more!

Hayden said...

Amen brother!

These things too have been on my heart for quite some time. I'm encouraged to know I'm not alone in feeling convicted about this. I appreciate your heart, music and ministry, thanks so much! Soli Deo Gloria

Bernard Rosario said...

With a vision like this, the album will certainly be great. There are Filipinos waiting for it, Shai..

Adoption Mama said...

Can't wait for it to come out. Thanks for standing up and giving us quality music to worship by. You and Chris Tomlin are the best.

Anonymous said...

brother shai,

while i am a HUGE fan, stoked about your new project (and its purpose to exalt God), and broadly reformed/calvinistic, i am concerned about the "radical God-centeredness" language of the present popular reformed culture reflected in your article about the purpose of your project. Now i don't say these things to be argumentative, they are just observations i have had in recent years.

i am becoming convinced that much of our talk about "God-centeredness" is highly overstated and an unbalanced view of Scripture.

i believe this language is more of a reaction to two things: 1) a fading "seeker-sensitive/oriented" trend; and, primarily, 2) an absence of Reformed theology (language) among evangelicals. the result is an unnecessary and unfortunate antagonistism toward Christians who are striving (maybe in their own way) to honor Christ and glorify Him as much as their Reformed brothers. this also even results in an unnecessary/unbalanced antagonism toward humanity.

for the most part, this language/antagonism is inconsistent with itself and with Scripture. For instance, you said that:

"most of the music I hear is more about US and our response to God, but not God Himself...

The Bible, however, is radically God-centered, and I believe that a radically God-centered worldview should be reflected in the songs we write.


but, i would argue that our responses to God and his benefits are always based on who God is, and we only know who God is from what He has done for US. So, it is not unscriptural for us to sing this way. Matter of fact response is why God made us! - "that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for him and find him" (Acts 17:27) And the Psalms are filled with response. Response to Him on the basis of who he is and what He has done for us is what God intends.

In fact God's glory is primarily manifested in His dealings with man, that is, in his love and compassion as well as His judgment toward sinners (see Exodus 34:6-7). When God says he will reveal his Name and then that Name is exalted primarily as mercy and compassion toward sinners, I'm not sure if that is as "radically God-centered" as we often state. The Father's sending of the Son was nding to the world was out love for the world. Grace and truth were revealed in Jesus Christ. Response to grace and mercy is a central theme of the NT. We see the book end of God's revealed glory in Rev 5:9-14 when the Father and the Son are worshipped because of what the Lamb has done for men.

God's glory is manifested in His activity toward man. i believe the popular songs we hear on Christian radio daily are very God centered for they point us to God and our need to respond to him, just as the Scriptures do. I believe what Reformed people are really after is a greater theological/biblical depth within the lyrics (and that mainly being lyrics with a "Reformed" orientation), not a more God-centered culture. Because God's glory is found in His dealings with man and grace to draw Him to himself in love...and from what I hear in popular Christian music (on the radio) are people touched by the glory of God in His grace in Christ and seeking to honor him for it.

Your thoughts?

From Your Struggling to Stay Reformed Friend...

Da Sciple said...

I feel so "loved" right now....

*Excited bro

BerlinerinPoet said...

Such a timely Tozer quote! I love it!
Can't wait to hear the new album. Good stuff! We actually just finished up a ladies bible study on the attributes of God, so I'm excited to hear it.

Robbie Gray said...

Here's the most Biblical (non Hip-hop) music that's out there right now. Love the commitment to the Lord Shai. Can't wait til you and Blair start mixin it up.


http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2yNkAU/www.thoroughbredchurch.com/tcc/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=48&Itemid=43

shawn said...

Reading your blogs is a treat, shai. When are we gonna get to peep a track homie!?? PTL that you and tim are back in it for His fame..

Julius Mickel said...

U hit it on the head shai,
of course Paul Washer's study (the one true God) is up there with the classics on the attributes. I think it's so necessary since people confuse 'faith' with vision, or an expectation, or a feeling etc rather then placing their hope in who God IS, hard to emulate, to worship, to present a God we are quite unfamiliar with.

Buyaah said...

AMEN!!!

Rene Garzona said...

Dude! I so needed to read this. Thanks Brother!

June Bug said...

Finally! Lol I was pleased to read that blog... I started rapping for God in 2006 not knowing it was being done so I'm not big on any major artist. But I do like your point of view, my younger brother has a record label called "One King Records" I encourage you to find him on facebook. And on his album there are a few tracks which I believe you would like. One called "Look a like" and "Undeniable" to name a few which in the first he talks about how not to worship false gods (Ex.20:4 and the latter talks about God work and miracles being proof of who He is. I can across this link from someone posting it on fb a "I support christian rap" group. And honestly this blogging thing isn't my thing, neither is reading posts other than my own or ppl I know, but the title was catchy and the blog was great. Plus if I want support w/ the things I plan to do in the near future I should ...NEED to do the same unto others. I will be looking forward to hearing your music and Lord willing get a chance to work w/ you in the near future. God bless you G.O.E. God Over Everything

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite studies ever was from A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Only after seeing the complete view of God, could I celebrate and worshiop Him in the trials as well as the triumphs. His complete character is missing in Christian circles, and I'm excited that you are bringing to light His attributes in album form. May it help many to come to know the One TRUE God!

IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL! said...

Amen! I praise God for you and your biblical view(lyrical Theology) My heart grieves over most "so called Christian music" I pray for them because the lyrics are so weak and you really don't know who there singing about? God has used your music here on the streets of Nashville a lot, my wife and I share the gospel and we always take our boom box and play it while witnessing, Many people do stop, and we turn off the music and share Christ. We love the richness of the depth of the lyric's. I'm in my late 40's and listen to you, Timothy Brindle, and Stephen the Levite, I Praise God for all you men lifting up Christ. My wife and I share our faith by preaching Christ and using John MacArthurs lessons from his book on evangelism, and we witness way of the master, style. two question's I do have? In your song "As the hour grow's near" is the first man "Saved" or is he "lost"? the second question I have is, Where can I find Timothy Brindle's lyrics to both albums besides you tube? I have recently purchased both cd's.

Thank you brother Shai

Carson said...

Awesome to learn that Timothy Brindle's "The Humility of Christ" was part of the initial project. He absolutely killed it on that track. I have been incredibly blessed by that song. Amazing exposition of Christ and His humility in coming to save sinners. I am incredibly excited for "Attributes" to come out.

I was incredibly encouraged by "The Atonement", especially "The Cross"(which also has a bit from Tim's song!) and I look forward to your enjoying your gifts as a lyricist, Shai!

Beyond Zaphon said...

Thankyou for your ministry Mr Linne. I have been blessed, encouraged and challenged by your music. The man-centered theology of the day is unbiblical and truly arises from the "natural man". May God's grace enable us to more completely understand His Glory in the redemption of lost sinners from every tribe, tongue and nation.

alaaji said...

Hey Shawn, this may scratch your itch:

http://youtu.be/DVuCOAIY_o0

Can't wait for the new cd shai. I'm a big fan working for His glory in N. Africa!

Anonymous said...

I'm just as excited as the rest of the people on this blog.

Now, you set a very HIGH bar on the 'Holiness of God' track, so it is my hope that God will bring to completion this project He began through you a few years ago.

Also happy to see Tim restored back to his music ministry. You and Tim have no idea how much God uses your music ministry to impact the faith of the brethren like myself who are beyond the United States borders.

P.S: I've followed a bit of all this dislike towards your music, but remember - if the entire world loved your music ministry, then John 15:18-25 wouldn't be true for you, then we would have something biblically genuine to be concerned about.

Andrew said...

bro, thanks for shooting me the link. I've been so blessed by your labor since I met the Lord in '06. I'm hoping to use your Atonement album as some discipleship material this fall.

Grace and Peace!

Stix said...

Shai very well said. As an Christ-centered rapper myself, a few weeks ago I was told by a friend who claims salvation "There is only so much you can talk about God...you should talk about more..I think that echoes the need even believers have for thier ears to be tickled. Most christian music is in fact inspirational and not gospel. Keep doing what ur doing for the glory of the Lord and I look forward to picking up your project today! Heard you were in the DMV area for training. Welcome!

*Stix out*
Tunde "Stix" Ukwu
stix4jesus.com

Sola Scriptura Nathaniel said...

Dear Anonymous,

I like what you wrote, and as well, I have strong affinity for the concerns Shai Linne has expressed. Yes, people respond to God, and yes, they are limited to responding to God as they understand him (or "her," after the insistence of the youth director of Boone First Baptist Church, in 1991, where I served as an assistant to her, the youth director.

Surveys show that people have an increasing divergence from orthodox teachings, in their understanding of who God is. I read in a recent selections for my classes at seminary here at SEBTS that above 70 percent of Christians in one survey said that they believe God will redeem the lost who do not accept Jesus as their savior because they had never heard of him by the time they died. This is clearly not the God of Abraham, Isaac, Moses, and Jacob, of whom we read in the Bible.

Sorry, Shai Linne, but I will not be at your concert tonight. I wanted to bring my children and a neighbor (despite my antipathy to rap, which sounds like somebody talking to music in the background ... never quite ready to break free and sing in the freedom of his soul).

However, the starting time, 9:50 p.m., is too late for my burgeoning brood, past their bedtime. I hope you are well-received and enjoy your time here. I heard one "song" by you in our chapel after Mark Dever spoke.

Sincerely, Nathaniel Long