Poll: Does Christian Hip-Hop Harm the Gospel?

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Does Christian Hip-Hop Harm the Gospel?

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My friend and brother Nathan and I have had a short twitter discussion on whether Christian hip-hop harms the Gospel.

This issue came up in reference to Mark Dever’s recent interview with Christian rappers Shai Linne and Voice. I actually interviewed Christian hip-hop Artist Sho Baraka. Then, I attended the the Don’t Waste Your Life tour concert and posted a review. This should give the readers an idea of where I stand.

The verdict? I do not think Christian hip-hop harms the Gospel. However, Nathan believes that the medium of hip-hop music contradicts and is inconsistent with the message of the Gospel.

It seems that any style of music has the ability to be inconsistent with and contradict the Gospel.

What do you think? Love to know your answer above and explanation in the comments!

Mark

P.S. Nathan is a good friend and neighbor. Please do not be insulting toward him.

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tagged as , in Church Issues,Culture,Gospel,theology

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Douglas K. Adu-Boahen October 2, 2009 at 2:36 pm

I don’t see as something which would harm the Gospel message, considering once upon a time, many of the hymns we sing were set to the musical style of their times. What is important is that due reverence is given to the Lord and that such music encourages us to the mission which God has given us to do. (And yes, I like guys like Lecrae, shai linne, FLAME, etc)

2 carlgobelman October 2, 2009 at 2:48 pm

I think it depends. I’ve never been a fan of rap, but have advocated of content over form. With that said, there are a bunch of modern worship songs, gospel songs and contemporary Christian songs that have bad lyrics. Repetitive choruses endlessly repeated is not conducive to contemplative worship, but only generates an emotional response. If we let emotions run the train, we can end up in all sorts of bad places.

Now I would be opposed to any form of modern (i.e., concert-style) worship within the sphere of corporate worship in the church. These types of worship tend to focus more on the performers and less on God. There are right ways to worship God and wrong ways to worship God (again, in the context of corporate church worship). If we’re talking about listening to Christian hip-hop for personal entertainment, it’s a completely different story. I listen to CCM as well as secular rock, country and blues. I just like music. But if I’m going to worship God, I am much more discerning as to what I sing/listen to — content, style, mode, etc. all play a role.

3 Jason Smathers October 2, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Have you seen Paul Washer’s message to reformed rappers? He does give them some words of warning, but is also very supportive of their efforts.

Paul Washer’s message to reformed rappers

My opinion? I’m with Washer.

4 Douglas K. Adu-Boahen October 2, 2009 at 3:10 pm

A good friend of mine just pointed out something to me which I failed to consider as a downside in relation to the issue of rap and the Gospel. There is an inherent danger in that for some, rap becomes the tool for preaching the Gospel at the expense of the preaching of the Gospel. Yes, men like shai linne are quick to note that rap will never fully replace the preaching of the Gospel, but for many, it does, and when it does, it does damage to the Gospel cause, because in the end, people become attached to a musical form and not to the preached Word, which is what God is pleased to use to save souls.

Hope my rejoinder brings some clarity…

5 Mark Lamprecht October 2, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Brother, it seems that any tool we might use can get in the way. We are sinners and the means can definitely become the ends. Same thing a preacher might fight against if he becomes too ‘popular’.

6 JacobHall October 2, 2009 at 3:49 pm

The Gospel is more harmed by Avalon and Carmen than by hiphop. It’s interesting to note that usually people will say that they don’t believe peole simply listen to hiphop for the beat or music, but the words. Shouldn’t that now be weighed in on the discussion? Listen to what they are saying and advocating. If you show me a CCM band that is as deep and sound as Shai Linne and Flame and thr reach records guys I will gladly listen tothem as well.

Also, look at the model of church planting put forward by bluprint church and reach records vs tomlin hall and giglio at PCC. I’ll take the Bluprint model anyday of the week. The Church dictates the artists schedule not the other way around…

7 kevin griggs October 2, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Stepping out here–I think it could but only when the content contradicts the content of the gospel does hip hop bring harm. I think about Psalm 150 with all the musical instruments with which the Psalmist commands his readers to praise the Lord. I’m sure the trumpet, lute, harp, tambourine, strings, and pipe, sounding cymbals, and even “loud clashing symbols” were used to praise the Lord. However, I would also think those same instruments were used just north of Israel and across the desert to the east of Israel, played with similar style and measure, but used for the praise of pagan gods. So I’m not going to knock a “style” of music because it uses computers and keyboards to generate music if the content reflects the glory of the gospel.
Okay, I’m sitting back down-

8 Name October 2, 2009 at 8:55 pm

“harm the gospel”? Really? Something can do that?

9 Dan Smith October 3, 2009 at 10:28 am

You can take any form of artistic expression (outside of pornography of course) and make it gospel-centered. It’s just a reality. We’ve got ex-convicts preaching, alcoholics taking up offering, and the like. Nothing is unable to be used by God. In fact, a repentant porn addict can be useful, so in some ways, absolutely nothing is invaluable.

The problem I see, and how I can agree with Nathan, is that an artist cannot be flippant…wavering between the world’s hip-hop and God’s hip-hop. If one does waver, then the witness is blown and blown hard. Yet this can happen at any place with any form of expression.

10 John October 3, 2009 at 11:40 am

I would find it hard to say that any style of music would harm the Gospel. I have my own personal preferences of styles, instruments, etc., but it’s a personal style, not ‘right or wrong’. The most important part are the words. I have heard enough ‘praise choruses’ with either bad or little theology, as well as modern hymns that are the same. If you want people to have the words implant in the mind, then have good words and a tune that will stick with you, whatever that ‘tune’ may be.

11 Aaron Armstrong October 3, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Do I think hip hop is harmful to the gospel? Not in the least, and I don’t particularly like hip hop, Christian or otherwise (although Lecrae’s “Send Me” live at Mars Hill is pretty great–perhaps because the band is playing “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin).

I do think that hip hop culture, just like rock culture, can be harmful to Christian witness, but that’s an entirely different thing.

I think that we have to look at communication: Can the gospel be clearly articulated and understood through hip hop? Country & Western? Rock and/or Roll? If so, great.

12 threegirldad October 3, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Douglas wrote: many of the hymns we sing were set to the musical style of their times

Could you provide some examples?

13 nickkennicott October 3, 2009 at 7:16 pm

The vast majority of the Christian Hip Hop that I have heard is 100 times more biblically sound than most of what passes for “Christian” music on the radio today. I don’t think musical style has anything to do with whether or not it is an appropriate means to proclaim the gospel.

14 phillip October 4, 2009 at 9:51 pm

I answered “It could” because it is a genre of music. What I am wondering is will you have a poll for Christian Contemporary, Southern Gospel, etc? Why is hip hop always singled out? The genre is vehicle which can be used to present Christ.

15 Micah October 5, 2009 at 8:08 pm
16 Mark Lamprecht October 6, 2009 at 8:08 am

Here are two articles that critique Dever’s interview with Shai Linne Can Rap be Christian? The Presuppositions and Some Thoughts on Two Sincere Christian Rappers.

I have not had a chance to read through them all the way yet, but it is worth thinking through and considering what is said.

17 tylerrecker October 6, 2009 at 8:45 am

I did a series of posts called “Thinking Biblically About Hip-hop” at indoxanated.wordpress.com .

William “The Ambassador” Branch wrote his master’s thesis on the subject. In turn, that was the theme of his album “The Thesis”.

18 Rhology October 6, 2009 at 10:16 am

It depends entirely on the lyrical content. This whole “some styles of music are closer to Hell than to Heaven based entirely on their sound” thing is in my judgment very nearly baseless.
Shai Linne > T-Bone just as Cædmon’s Call > Avalon.

19 Mark Lamprecht October 6, 2009 at 10:56 am

If anyone would like to read the series on hip-hop they are, in order:
Thinking Biblically About Hip-hop (part 1)
Thinking Biblically About Hip-hop (part 2)
Thinking Biblically About Hip-hop (part 3)
Thinking Biblically About Hip-hop (part 4)

Thanks, Tyler

20 Mark Lamprecht October 6, 2009 at 11:04 am

Phillip said

Why is hip hop always singled out?

Interesting question. There are times when it really does seem this way. I wonder if hip-hop is singled out more than other mediums whether they be musical or otherwise.

21 Bill October 6, 2009 at 11:04 am

Thanks for putting this topic out there for discussion. I for one listen to “christian” hip-hop. I think discernment is key here. As someone that lived most of my youth and young adult life influenced by secular rap, I am grateful that God has given us brothers like Shai Linne, Lecrea, Trip Lee, Flame etc…. Their music leads me to worship Christ, not my flesh like secular rap did. For the record, there is some rap out there that is under the “christian” label that is not glorifing God at all, hence the need for discernment. Thanks again Mark.

22 frankturk October 6, 2009 at 12:42 pm

[BUZZ]

Someone on the internet is wrong.

http://centuri0n.blogspot.com/2009/10/rap-and-bad-art-1.html

23 Mark Lamprecht October 6, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Now Frank aka centuri0n is chiming in on the topic Rap and Bad Art (1)

Another interesting post is James White’s from when he met up with “LeCrae, Tedashi and the rest of the guys.” Dr. White met up with them when they were, as he said, “ministering” in Phoenix.

Interesting discussion.

24 frankturk October 6, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Do you have any idea how much it hurts to disagree with Mark Dever AND James White AND HereIBlog?

25 Logan Paschke October 7, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Frank that’s why you don’t have a book deal yet.

lol

26 Mark Lamprecht October 10, 2009 at 12:17 am

I would just like to add something about the rap music via the piano and organ to this discussion from a 9Marks article on contextualization. According to the article, the musical tools of the piano and organ were not for Christian music during worship or otherwise. This seems to run along the lines of the same objections some have to rap music due to its origin.

The music we sing is based on a totally different tonality from that of the ancient Mediterranean world, and it uses very different instruments. (The piano was not invented until the modern era, and the organ was originally a Roman circus instrument, considered unfit for Christian worship.) Our music would have sounded strange and unpleasant to them, and vice versa. (It should be noted that all Christian music, at some point, has been “contemporary Christian music,” and that even the most traditional songs today were probably regarded as risqué by somebody when they first came out!)[emphasis mine]

Source: Putting Contextualization in its Place

27 kelvin October 30, 2009 at 9:37 am

by listening to shai linne i was introduced to preachers such as A.W. Tozer, A.W. Pink, Charles Spurgeon. Also John Piper & Paul Washer among others. I attended a church for many years that was caught up in the health wealth and prosperity message. I had never heard of doctrines such as the depravity of man, repentence from sin, unconditional election, justification or the truth of the gospel untill God, by His grace and Spirit, had started a regenerating work in my heart through the wonderful preaching of His word, by using these depraved, wretched, yet humble preachers i had mentioned. All this began by listening to a song by reformed rapper shai linne called The Mission.

john 3:8 “The wind blows where it wills; and though you hear its sound, yet you neither know where it come from nor where its going: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit”.

28 Mark Lamprecht October 30, 2009 at 9:55 am

Kelvin, thanks for sharing how hip-hop brought you to solid theology and out of the prosperity teachings. I appreciate it.

29 julius mickel November 14, 2009 at 1:35 pm

I was looking for something, and I stumbled here, yet I post because I was just in a discussion about this on another blog: Here are some of my reasonings for holding that Christian Hip-Hop is fruitful and why others don’t think so:
For what it’s worth, I’d have to argue that the critiques I’ve seen have always been biased because of cultural differences. When someone points out the errors of someone like Driscoll because of vulgarity then I say amen or when contemporary (even hymns) contain weak if not herectical lyrics or the artists are merely doing ‘crossover’ music then I’d say amen to censure of such (yet the way to argue against Christian Hip-hop has to take a unique form that isn’t used when exposing other art forms, that to me is suspect). It’s simply a style of music, different people are moved different ways, the argument about how the music moves people is ridiculous. Rather we should commend such men that they are living holy lives, reaching their community, and are incredibly sound- this is what has caused a brother like Paul Washer to speak so highly of such men (as he spoke about the incredible HUNGER of the people attending such conf..)I just love the fact that he just doesn’t fit into the typical southern mold. Admittedly unless one is within such a culture it will probably look odd and I’m suprised (delightfully so) by the leaders who have looked beyond such (media influenced)stereotypes and have embraced these ministers!

I’d beg for deeper searching and analysis into such a subject (as well as an honest heart-searching concerning the possibility of prejudice agaisnt such a group of people who look, dress, talk, and move different), because the same weak arguments could be pushed to denounce any form of artistic expression, as far as the ‘roots, origins’ are concerned such conclusions are the cause to overreactions to any instruments, or to ‘pagan’ holidays not to mention recreation (like cards) and sports.

The scope of Christian rap (due to the genre) covers more than any other style because it’s so varied (though that’s completely ignored-some strictly band instruments, some jazzy, some more digitalized, etc..). One album entirely centered on the atonement, another by various artists each song summarizing the pauline letters, another defending against the da vinci code, another on OWen’s killing sin, another on deliverance from masturbation, another from defending sola scriptura, another covering exegesis vs Eisegesis and the fruitful list goes on.
Yes there is much filth in secular Hip-Hop, as anything of man is tainted, twisted and abused: yet this is precisely why these artists (CHRISTIAN/REFORMED) are attacking these errors, the materialism, the sexuality, the immodesty, the violence, the pride, the rebellion, not to mention pointing out the errors of American christianity. In short Doctrine? CHECK, Life? CHECK, Fruit? CHECK. Give me any subject, even that which i love and I could critiqueit , give me homeschooling and I can point out the hypocrisy, the pride, the legalism, the elitism and yet I would denounce such as extremes while maintining that such a stigma against homeschoolers in general is unwarranted.

I maintain that this is cultural, that this is a matter of style and taste, no different then the other silly battles over style of music. Not comparable to ‘opinions’ over matters of biblical doctrine. Like all music and art these are a people who are expressing their beliefs and lifestyles through such and because of that, because of the environments surrounding such artists given their depraved minds they expressed wickedness (like all artists) and sure it can be LOT more aggressive because the volume of the wickedness in such places is louder (more easily seen) but for those that have been redeemed by the grace of God they also have expressed themselves (beliefs and lifestyles) through the same tools and so we have Christian rap, praise God for these living epistles!!!
grace and peace

30 Mark Lamprecht November 16, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Julius, thanks for your comments on Christian hip-hop. Your position is most likely how those of us who have no problem with this music approach the topic.

31 sterling November 22, 2009 at 11:47 pm

christian hiphop is the primary music genre to reach the youth of today. to be honest, traditional gospel music is mainly listened to by older people. we have to give the youth music they can relate to. you cant combat kanye west and 50cent with the traditonal songs. besides, the youth who decide to committ their musically talent to the lord should be able to present it to the world in whatever fashion they choose.

32 Mark Lamprecht November 23, 2009 at 10:07 am

I think we combat Kanye West and 50cent with the gospel not necessarily the style of music. Though I get what you’re saying. It would also seem that all Christian hip-hop is not equal, just like any musical style. Or, just like any preaching/teaching as some are more biblically grounded than others.

Appreciate your comment.

33 BigDeezy November 24, 2009 at 7:35 pm

I was just thinking about how I like suggesting different christian artists to people and I was faced with the fact that other than the “reformed rap” movement that has arose since Cross Movement, Reach Records, Lamp Mode, etc., I really wouldn’t want to suggest any else out of all genres. Christian rock you would be surprised to find the word God or Jesus most of the time, and somehow we can nitpick on gospel rap from maybe not being so upfront (I’ve heard it before). But men like Shai Linne, Voice, Christcentric (Evangel, Felix, Apologist) are basically giving more hard truth on their tracks than I’ve heard in many churches! And they are not heretical! But yes, there is the possibility for any one rapper to be heretical and water down the gospel so that would be the case for Christianity as a whole. These guys that ARE solid are great teaching vessels are a very sinfluenced generation upcoming. Praise to God for them.

34 JG November 29, 2009 at 5:10 pm

A few questions to consider: “Are these rappers glorifying God in their work?”, “Are their lyrics grounded in sound theology?”, “Are they connecting with and reaching people that may otherwise not have be reached?”, “Are these men and women living lives in line with what they preach and good Christian models in the public sphere?” If the answers to these questions are “yes,” there should be no problem. It seems to me that when people oppose Christian hip-hop, it stems more from cultural differences. But just because people dress, talk, and make music much different than one may be used to, does not mean they are not doing God’s work here on Earth. I say any medium anchored in Christ is an appropriate means to spreading the Gospel.

With that being said I would suggest people check out artists such as Trip Lee, The Ambassidor, and Braille.

35 Mark Lamprecht November 30, 2009 at 10:14 am

JG, those are good questions. As far a I can tell those are the questions those of us who have no problem with this kind of hip-hop have asked. If you look above you will see that I had the privilege of interviewing Sho Baraka. He certainly has a solid theology as best I can tell.

Thanks for stopping by.

36 Lisa Ritcher March 12, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Amen to that!!!

37 Lawrence "L.G." Gilmer April 27, 2010 at 6:34 pm

I personally believe that Christian Hip-Hop does not in any way harm the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As an artist of the genre I believe it can reach where many types can’t go…alot of (Christian)People get saved and think that God is one dimentional when God can do ALL things! It’s not about the music, it’s about tha MESSAGE! We (Christians) need to stop judging and learn how to try tha Spirit by the Spirit…you would be surprised by what u find!

38 Darien Crawford October 6, 2010 at 3:57 am

Shouldn’t everything that we listen to be an act of worship! Why should we wait till Sunday to entertain “appropriate worship” songs! I mean, songs of worship started off with just voices, and not much rhythm, or rhyme! Should we cut out the piano and drums? The issue is not “Hip Hop”, the issue is your heart when hearing, or conveying the Gospel through Hip Hop!! God Bless you all. Crawford~

39 Don December 25, 2010 at 12:51 pm

While the Gospel is Truth and nothing can really “harm” the Truth, there are innumerable means of obscuring it and all are due to our sin. Gospel Truth = sound doctrine. In today’s morass of biblical teaching sound doctrine is the needle in the haystack. Just because Jesus, God, Word etc are mentioned, it qualifies as “Christian”. So Kanye sings Jesus Walks. Joel Osteen says Jesus. We must constantly define terminology no matter who is speaking. That takes work, so it’s really easy to slip something by and have it be accepted.

40 Nana Adwoa Forson March 22, 2012 at 7:51 am

God created music ; music has existed even before the foundation of the earth , the proof being that Lucifer was the minister of music in heaven. David played instruments, and wrote the psalms , and Solomon wrote songs…it is not music that is evil , but man having used evil lyrics, and beats that have been cursed by modern day practicing witches that are unpleasing to God ; this kind of music encourages people to defile themselves through greed, lust,envy , hate,etc. Christian rap however teaches, spreads the Gospel, and the love of Christ, and glorifies Him. God made music so I wouldn’t dare call any music that man has used for good (to worship the Lord,teach His people,spread His Gospel) an abomination. The rappers not only rap about Him, but live godly lives,lead their families as men of God, and are preachers,ministers,pastors,and etc. Ask the Lord to lead you to all truth ; ask Him to show you whether Christian rap is truly holy, and pleasing to Him. He will show you Himself.

41 Pedro Newberry May 12, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Are you kidding me? What a silly question. The style of a song, be it rock, metal, country, rap, or anything else is about as unimportant as anything can be. It’s the message, the lyrics that make any song praise the Lord. “Aint no way I’m gon change, cause this my lane, so let em know. I’m gon fan this fire to flames cause I’ve been saved”. Why do we waste so much time arguing with fellow Christians about the little nuances. Even Paul had nothing but good to say about those who preached only to condemn him. He said the Gospel of Jesus Christ is still being preached and that’s what matters. We Christians get so caught up in the little things, have we forgotten grace? Have we forgotten the legalism of the Pharisees? Spread the word, do it over coffee, do it in dance, do it with rap, do it in any way that does not bring shame to the name of Jesus. You want to reach a street kid that listens to Young Geezy? You’re not going to do it with Michael W. Smith. He’ll come to church and sit at home bouncing to Jay-Z because it’s his culture. Give him Lecrae, Thi’sl, PRo, Sho Baraka, Flame and he’ll bounce down the street spreading the gospel and bobbing his head.

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