Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Proving the Music Issue in the Worship War: Is there Holy Hip Hop? pt. 6

If you look at part five, which was posted yesterday, I have the links to parts one, two, three, and four, for your convenience.
I've covered several steps for arguing for the proper music for your edification, including your use in spiritual warfare.  God wants to be worshiped and He won't be worshiped with offerings He won't receive.  The point of the gospel is the glory of God.  God is seeking for true worshipers.  Those who say they're concerned for the gospel aren't truthful, or are at least badly deceived, if they disconnect the two.  And singing praises to God is vital to the worship.

About a week ago, I bought the kindle edition of rapper Curtis Allen's Does God Listen to Rap?  I appreciate that he would dispose himself to defend his practice with some theological explanation for what he does.  I mean that.  His book is being pushed by many well-known evangelicals.  Ligon Duncan, the president of a theological seminary, recommended it.  Prominent Southern Baptist pastor, Mark Dever, pushed it.  Perhaps the biggest evangelical blogger, Tim Challies, recommended it, as well as nearly as popular, Justin Taylor, at Between Two Worlds.  The book is interesting to read and there is much that can be learned by reading it.  Allen has far more background than most and presents a lot of information about rap that I'm sure you didn't know.  I am not certain that he represents the issue accurately, because the rap itself may have been even worse in the beginnings than how he presents, but we get his perspective, which was of interest.  He does make his defense from scripture.  He goes to passages, several of them.  He is actually far more gracious than one would expect from anyone on such an issue --- I have read some very bad attack type volumes on music, but he does come across like someone attempting to persuade.  You can read it and not feel offended personally by what he wrote.  At some point in the future, seeing that this is the definitive apologetic for "Christian rap," I'll do a full review.  I wasn't convinced by his arguments.

Allen's book is not a presentation of the purpose of music.  I believe he would have been helped greatly if he had started with the point of music.  With his starting with what read to be a defense of his rap music, I believe it sent him in the wrong direction, like what will often happen if someone starts a study with a point of view to defend.  It's better to be a blank page and then let the Bible send you where you need to go.  When he starts to justify rap music, he begins by saying that all music began in the world in the line of Cain with Jubal.  His fundamental argument is that all music started pagan and then godly men took it and used it for God's purposes.  That would be to say that there wasn't already music in heaven, before man began music.  We can see that angels do sing.  You can read that in Revelation, as they are some of who are doing the singing to God in Revelation 4 and 5.  The Words of God were settled in heaven before the foundation of the world, and those include the Psalms.  Man could ruin music, but he didn't create it.  That undermines Allen's entire book.  We are not to look for our music in the line of Cain.  We even know that the world's music, it's songs, not just the words, will cease in the end (see Revelation 17-18).

Another major aspect that he missed, that I don't remember his referring to one time -- he may of brushed across it, but I really don't recall his having done so -- is what music is in the Bible for God's people.  In these types' vindication of their music, they get it wrong because they don't start with the most fundamental biblical point.  Almost all, and I believe 90% plus of the music difficulty, can be traced to missing this one thing.  And this is my sixth point, that I wrote at the end of last post.

Six, Music as Praise or Worship is Directed to God and the Gospel Is Preached.

As Allen pointed out, unbelievers use music.  Jubal got the music going for the line of Cain.  This should not be the assumption that music started there.  How that section of Genesis 4 reads is that man, under the harmful effects of the curse, did things to alleviate his suffering.  His music was one of them.  Others have written about this.  I wrote about it in my book on music (1996).  Man wanted to survive without God and music was one way he did this.  His music was for himself.  Does anyone think that this wouldn't change the kind of music Jubal wrote?  One of the ways that Allen buttressed this point was by speculating that Moses and the children of Israel would have played Egyptian music, so that  must have been the accompanying music of the Song of Moses. Allen doesn't prove that at all.  There is a much stronger argument that a lot of the lifestyle of Israel was kept separate in Goshen, and that Moses himself by faith identified himself with the Israelite culture and not the Egyptian one (cf. Heb 11).  Allen doesn't mention anything about that.  Israel didn't take on the culture of the Egyptians.  They stayed separate.  That's obvious in the reading of Exodus.  For one, Israel remained monotheistic, while Egypt was polytheistic.

When you do read what the Bible says about the music of God and of His people, you find that all of it was directed to God -- all of it.  All.  Every time you have singing, song, sing, praise, and every kind of musical mention, it is directed to God.  That occurs dozens and dozens of times without exception.  There isn't anything more clear.  The purpose of Christian music is for worship of God.  It is all to be directed to Him.  That is the audience of God's music.  Allen didn't write anything about that.  Nothing.  Even in the two New Testament passages, Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19, the songs are directed to God.  To God.

This is where the whole idea of "gospel music" then arrives.  Music was confiscated by revivalists to use for evangelism.   Finney in his Lectures on Revivals, wrote one chapter on measures to promote revivals -- this is revivalism -- and he spends a good amount of space encouraging the use of music as a new measure for revival.  The idea was to use popular and emotional music to attract and allure the unbeliever toward a gospel decision.  Singing or songs are not a biblical gospel method.  Surely there are many ways to be a good testimony and a good example to lost people, to let your light shine before men.   A woman can through her chaste lifestyle have an impact toward the salvation of a lost husband (1 Peter 3:1-2).  However, the only method, planned means of someone being saved, the one chosen by God throughout scripture, is preaching (1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5).  The gospel is the means of salvation and preaching is the method for proclaiming it.

The argument for rap is built around the false premise of using some kind of music, if someone argues that rap is music, in order to accomplish a task that God designated for preaching.  God is glorified by a result through preaching.  Man is glorified through some other method.  That is an argument Paul is making in 1 Corinthians 1-2.  Allen makes his argument in a common evangelical manner, that is, Paul quoted a pagan poem in Acts 17 when he preached in Athens.  Yes.  When he preached.  He was still preaching, and we should consider how he used the poem.  The people in Athens were seeking for a God, whom they didn't know, like the woman at the well.  That is well illustrated in a pagan poem.  Paul wasn't attracting the unbelievers.  He wasn't contradicting himself (read 2 Corinthians 10-11) by using clever rhetoric to impress his hearers.  He was preaching.  The rhetoric, the world's methods, man's methods, detract.  They take away.  They don't help.  Someone may see more short-term results, but God isn't glorified through that.  He has chosen weakness to confound the wise.  Rap makes sense to a certain crowd to impact its own crowd.  This is not how God wants it to be done.  If someone doesn't like the sermon in preaching, do we accessorize it with rap?  No.  We diminish it.  And this is before we ever judge whether rap is appropriate, permissible, or right.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that theologians and pastors wouldn't be more critical of Allen's particular dealing with or use of scripture.  I guess I shouldn't wonder why they wouldn't put it through an exegetical or theological grid a little more.  Evangelicalism isn't so prone to do this anymore.  They are more likely to defend a method.  They are more likely to stay silent as a means of reaching "unity," and unity is the theology (I believe this is Mohler's theology of music, as mentioned in his rap defense -- concession to varied methods for the sake of "unity").

In a foundational away, in the most basic fashion, men go wrong, professing Christian go astray, with this basic point.  The music is offered to God.  It is worship.  It isn't evangelism.  Preaching the gospel is evangelism.  When the music is directed toward men in evangelism, there are two wrongs.  The music is going the wrong direction and the gospel is not being preached.  What men have done, as has been said so many times before here, is to fashion their own oxcarts of their own choosing.  They think they can improve upon God and it manifests a fundamental, underlying doctrinal problem.  It is a problem not just in the "Christian rap" world, but in almost all of evangelicalism and most of fundamentalism today.

More to Come

1 comment:

Ken Lengel said...


Outside of the book of Acts and Revelation, the epistles to the churches mention the concept of worship only 5 times.

Do you think our manner of "doing church" is a large reason why such battles are fought over music? So, if we attended church to hear the preaching of the Word and the teching of the Word alone, as well as the practice of the ordinances, I wonder how many would still show up to our services. I know the references in Colossians and Ephesians refer to spiritual songs, etc., but I just have to wonder if our focus on "worship" is one of the roots of our problem with music.

Thanks for your continued diligence on this topic!