Saturday, March 3, 2012

How Can God Use A "Depraved Genre"?

I was recently asked this question for an upcoming interview I did with Credo Magazine. (Check them out here. It's a new online mag and the first few issues have been really good) I've been asked this question many times over the years. And it definitely didn't start with me or hip-hop. It's a question that has been asked for centuries. At its essence, Christians genuinely struggle with how a believer in Jesus Christ can use something that has long been associated with evil (such as hip-hop) and attempt to glorify God with it? If one were to attempt an in-depth answer, enough could be written to fill the pages of a thick book. But for those out there who may struggle to answer this succinctly, I gave the following brief answer. I hope it's helpful.

Credo Mag: In the past you have been criticized for redeeming such a “depraved genre” as hip-hop. What is your response to this criticism?

SL: To those who say, "How can you take that thing that is used for evil and glorify God with it?" My two word answer is "The Cross." The central act of redemptive history involved God Himself doing that very thing! (See 1 Cor. 1:18-25)

My longer response to that particular criticism is usually to simply re-phrase the objection. I would say something like, "Are you saying that you have a problem with me taking a medium that has been used to blaspheme God and using it instead as a medium to praise and exalt God's holy name, proclaim His glorious gospel, speak biblical truth and magnify the infinite worth of the Lord Jesus Christ?"  

Arguments against "depraved genres" are ultimately arguments against redemption itself, because depraved genres are the products of depraved human beings- who need redemption. (In fact, "depraved genre" is a misnomer because it's ascribing moral value to a medium, which by definition is morally neutral until informed by content.) Once God has redeemed a person, it's fitting for the Christian to take the "genres" or vehicles  (such as books, cameras, canvasses, the internet, language, musical forms, etc.) that he or she once used for evil and now use them to promote the glory of God. Those who make the objection (especially as they use the internet to do so) are often unaware that they themselves use "depraved genres" all the time.

grace and peace,
shai

28 comments:

Tadd Winter said...

Shai,

This is a great answer! I praise God that Hip-Hop is being redeemed. Before Christ I hated Hip-Hop and wrote it off as something less than music. Then I got saved, and though reluctant, listened to the Atonement and realized I never hated the medium, I just hated the overly negative and debaucherous themes that dominate secular Hip-Hop.

Today, if my iPod is not playing a John MacArthur sermon, it is playing either Atonement or Attributes. Hip-Hop stands along with the Hymns as the deepest and most theologically sound music that a Saint can listen to. Also more-so than other genres Hip-Hop reveals more of your men's time and dedication in Scripture, because of the deeper theological truths that you cover.

God is certainly glorified through your hard work and dedication.

I pray you and your family are doing wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I feel that it has been given negative connotations because of the most common usage of said medium. It can truly be used to glorify God as is evidenced by your use of the medium and others. Many people out there use hip hop (like most other things) to glorify self. However, it has been obvious that you can use hip hop to point others to God.

matt said...

I always enjoy your passion for Truth! Continue on as a good soldier :)

Soli Deo Gloria

TheologicaCrucis said...

That's what I been tryin' to tell 'em! ;)

For those who have never heard Christ exalting Hip-Hop, the thought does sound like a contradiction in terms.

When I first met my wife she was a new believer. I asked her what kind of music she liked and she sheepishly admitted to liking Hip-Hop. I gave her the Solus Christus Project and she loved it. Though at first she did say it was weird. She kept thinking at any moment she would hear a curse word fly out of your mouth, having listened to 'depraved' Hip-Hop for so long.

So much more I could say, but I do want to thank you for using your gifts to build up God's people. The Lord has used you to help me and others sing and make melody to the Lord with our hearts (and it adds to the effect with subs in the back;).

Jermaine Studwell said...

No doubt. I agree Shai. All things were made for the Glory of God. ALL THINGS. We just kinda throw our preferences on things outside of scripture that man is his sin has perverted. Its a natural thing we do. The Word does not explicitly forbid this genre or any other for that matter. From Rap to Rock to Bluegrass, as long as it glorifies God, its from the Holy Spirit. funnily enough I know many Christians who think quite contrary to this, especially with blogs like this (http://www.exministries.com/vision/truth/). Lets continue to let our light shine and Glorify our Father which is in Heaven, (as well as explain to others why and how this is pleasing to the Lord if done for and through HIM!) Good Post:)

Jonathan George said...

Hey shai(keeping the tradition of lower casing your name. :) )

I think your answer is great and its definitely made me think about other mediums. But i question the medium of say mma(mix martial art) or boxing. It's a sport and the goal is to defeat an opponent until they can no longer continue to fight.

How does one glorify God in that? I know your not a speaker for boxers but I would be curious your thoughts on that? I know they can glorify him how they live there life and have opportunity to reach people in a world that may not have the gospel but its hard to imagine for me to fight a person and tell them Jesus loves you. :)

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU,THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! WELL SAID. I NEEDED AN ANSWER LIKE THIS.

iamsmithiam said...

Nails held our Lord on the cross. I wonder if these critics have a problem using them in the construction of churches.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't have put it any better. I think the zealousness against using hip hop for the gospel is misguided and potentially self righteousness. On a personal level, I have learned more sound doctrine through lyrical theology than any other outlet. I do believe that music shouldn't be the end in and of itself to learn theology, but it is a platform to present biblical truth which can be heard and than checked to see if it is truth or not by examining the Word of God itself. Blessing

Anonymous said...

Sir,

I am working on an article about this very thing over at www.pulpit-pimps.org. I have a non-scientific survey going and people are commenting as well.

Thank you for the article. It is both timely and useful. When I post, will, with your permission, make sure I link to this article.

BTW - I really like the music. More than that, I admire the way you are able to put together a gospel message and say more in four minutes than most of the pimps say in five hours.

BTW 2 - Martyrs was outstanding.

sam said...

SL, I completely agree and support your efforts and the efforts of all the Christian hip hop artists. Music today is still the strongest outreach tool for the youth, social media a very close second. I have personally seen the reaction of kids who hear the beats, but are more profoundly impacted by the strong biblical truth's that reveal God's plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. This genre has more impact than people think, especially for those of us who are out on the streets discipling and doing life with these kids.

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." 1 Cor 15:58.

Much love,
sam, servant of the gospel
savingsinners.org

Chris Fincher said...

Powerful article... Never really thought that the attack on using a depraved genre to promote the Gospel is actually an attack on redemption... Good stuff!

shai said...

Thanks for all your comments!

@Anonymous- You're welcome to link to this post.

@Jonathan- I think something like MMA would be in a different category altogether. In that case, you're talking about a specific vocation, rather than a medium. As far as your question, I have a hard time seeing how things like MMA and UFC don't violate the spirit of the many Scriptures that speak against violence. I've heard arguments, but haven't found them convincing. Thanks again for your comment.

grace and peace,
shai

njeri masharia said...

Wow these are good thoughts, I just have one question can this same answer apply to those who use a tune/beats that was once recorded as a secular song? Thanks.

BerlinerinPoet said...

True story! There is no such thing as a depraved genre...just depraved people.

Peter aka Copywrite said...

great answer, Shai. This seems like a common sense and obvious answer but some people king of over look the obvious. "Are those twins related?"

Anonymous said...

Hi Shai,
I wonder if you've ever had any interaction w/ the fellows from EX Ministries?

kaye herbert said...

shai,
thanks for explaining this so well. i get asked this a lot by my family and people who find out (and are usually surprised) that i like (holy)hip hop. i am going to share this on fb and hopefully stir up some good discussions.

in a similar vein to what jonathan asked, i am curious as to what you would say about christians doing yoga as a form of exercise. there is actually a form of 'christian yoga' in which you meditate on scriptures. i know yoga has deeply pagan roots and there is much division on this topic. i have done it in the past and it was highly beneficial to my health. so far i have landed on conclusion that if i am not doing it with any intention of worshiping any other god/nature then it should be fine. my previous life before Jesus redeemed me was a pagan one, and since He continues to place me in relationships to share the gospel with people who are like the old me. i could see taking a yoga class to help me meet non christians whose mindset and struggle i can understand from my wicked past.
i know you are probably no yogi, but i'd love to hear your thoughts!
thanks so much for your time!
shalom,
kaye

Peter said...

SHAI!

I have a burning question for you. Would you please post your lyrics to "More Random Thoughts"? I can hear a good 90% of it b/c you enunciate well, but I want that 10% (yeah, I made the numbers up ... but the sentiment is legit lol)

Anonymous said...

First: "Evil" is subjective, and therefore open to interpretation by and from all viewpoints and opinions.

Second: Why do people "need redemption", as quoted in your last paragraph? Just because you need redemption, doesn't mean the guy across the street shares your sentiment.

Just food for though.

Kevin the Levite said...

Amen!!!! I believe, and know that God can use Hip-Hop as a way to glorify Himself! I also liked the answer of yours when asked 'how can Hip-Hop glorify God' and you said 'The Cross'. I never really thought of it that way but I always knew He can be glorified by this genre because of its effects on me and others, I have never heard so much theology excpet from Christian music like yours, Stephen the Levite, Timothy Brindle, Hazakim, etc... in my life and have really gotten closer to God and learned a lot!!! I also never have listened to such deep reflections from a human being about God and life except through Christian Hip-Hop!

But the answer you said was truly a home-hitter. The Cross was for the 'damned' but yet Jesus died on it to glorify the Father. Continue glorifying the Triune God!!!

Grace and peace to you from the Triune God, Soli Deo Gloria!!!! By the way, I'm a big fan of your music and of Timothy Brindle's!!!!

peace, Kevin Vasquez.

Unknown said...

Hey shai, we know that EX Ministries has been against using hip hop and they stake their existence on that. More recently the JSM (Jimmy Swaggart Ministries) network has come out against it. I cannot help be see the bias and at times self-righteous vibes that come with arguments against using Hip Hop. Demonizing any culture/medium/object is almost too easy because humans are inherently sinful and are the ones who use and shape culture/medium/objects. So sin associated with culture/medium/objects is there because of the sin in us.

I wonder have you had any conversations with folks from these camps? In my experience with people who are against the church using Hip Hop, they rarely have any experience with someone who actually uses the medium in a manner that glorifies God. I usually tell them to look up The Atonement and now TAOG. Usually doing that research changes their perspective. So I wonder if direct contact with you would change the perspective of the ministries who go out of their way to demonize Hip Hop.

canuhearmenow said...

Good question

Shanelle J said...

Wow! Finally a great response, both intellectual and scriptural. It's funny how we are quick to condemn things because we don't understand it or do not try to. I would never dare say that God the giver of life and gifts will give us something that we cannot use for the furtherance of His kingdom, in the likes of, Christian Rap, The entire artform of Hip Hop when so many lives have been transformed. We tend to forget that everyone learns differently- some visual and some audibly, "What's good for the goose is not good for the gander" so what may suit my taste may not suit you at all- does not mean I have to tell you "away with yours no!". God uses us in varying ministries that's why we are all different body parts as Romans 12 states in the first place! We can't all be the head or the feet! Soli Deo Gloria! Pray that hearts and minds be open & if not God be praised anyway! The gospel will reach who it is intended for!

modrums said...

Hey Guys,

I used to skeptical regarding "Holy Hip Hop" / Reggae, Rock etc because I too was of the view that it was something that could not be redeemed. However, I have since come to the view that it never needed redemption as a genre (Rap, Reggae, Calypso, Classical, Jazz etc) is amoral by nature and it is only the lyrics and the intent of the author that can can be judged from a moral standpoint. That said I have found the work of shai, da truth, lacrae, and a few others very enlightening and edifying in my christian walk.

My challenge however is the culture that may surround a particular genre which (the culture) itself is not amoral. So for example in the parts of the Caribbean there is the dub culture which has aspects of illegal drugs, vulgarity and violence... - much in the same way there is the Hip Hop culture which has its own vices (vulgarity, filthy language, violence, drugs...). I think the issue which G. Craige Lewis and some others have is with the culture and not with any particular genre (I have watched quite a few of his DVDs). Actually even the term depraved genre would be a misnomer as depravity is a moral judgement.

To tell the truth, without some diversity in christian music it'd become quite boring, and I'm quite glad for the work you guys do.

Anonymous said...

My two favorite kinds of music are old hymns and gospel rap, for the very reason that they both are jam packed full of so much correct theology. Shai's music has helped me understand Reformed Theology and the Sovereignty of God. God is really using him in a big way, which is awesome. God bless Shai Linne.

sola5comix.wordpress.com

Wanda Matamela said...

Truly speaking. The omnis is the most powerful praise song I've ever heard. Scripture after scripture word for word. The lord Jesus surely is praised. Knowledge based on creation. The depth of the see. The sun to burn. Proverb 15:11. These are just segment on this song. I love what you guys Do. This is the gospel of Jesus.

Anonymous said...

This is just another thinking. Easy to say. Do we realize that generation by generation...because of that way of thinking, Christians are diminishing? When can't make a stand of what is right and wrong, adapting almost everything into Christianity...what makes us different than the secular world? My concern is the amount of flesh movement in the beat, the dance, loudness, the hypes, adrenaline pumps up, fashion, behaviour...anything related to the fleshy kind. I've seen almost every music genre flashing our youth away, out from the church. It is the music that brings them into secular lifestyle. We have them in the church mostly only up to seventeen years old, then once they are in college, they started leaving church and go for secular world...I hope we consider to read Dan Lucarini's book "Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement" Shalom.