Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Proving the Music Issue in the Worship War: Is there Holy Hip Hop? pt. 2

It's never a good time for a lot of things, but I've stepped into this hip-hop manure pile anyway, and it has been enlightening.  I did not know the gooey depths of difference between me (us) and evangelicals.  They are living in their own universe on this, which isn't God's.  They come from a position of neutrality.  It's no wonder we have homosexual marriage taking hold.  Aesthetic neutrality or relativism already went down the slope.  It's just got belief and practice tethered to it.  You might be thinking about Obamacare, but overall, this is worse for the nation.

Before I continue a basic synopsis or summary of an argument against rap, which will serve against rock or grunge or country western too, I want to hand out the award to the worst of the bad:  Albert Mohler.  No one knows better, so no one is more responsible.  Many others are more like Eve, who seem more deceived by the serpent, but Mohler is Adam, not in the deception.  He still eats the fruit, but he knows what he's doing.  The best call for why Adam ate is also why Mohler takes a bite -- it looks to him like it will work out the best if he does.  Does it matter why?  Not so much, except perhaps as a warning.  Two Southern Baptist seminary presidents must weigh in for "holy hip hop." Paige Patterson got out front and Mohler grabbed that apple while there were still bites to be had. Mohler has joined the "nothing means anything" crowd.  Congratulations.  Good luck with that.  See where that brings you.  He's chained himself to the Good Ship Pragmatism on his way to the Bermuda Triangle.

Mohler was thinking about thinking about rap.  If he could have only stopped himself at thinking about thinking about thinking about rap, and said, "Don't think about that!"  He couldn't stop there.  He had to move to thinking about thinking about it.  It did still keep him from actually thinking about it, which would have nauseated him, but just thinking about thinking allowed the damage to be done.  Thinking about thinking is like waking up and smelling the coffee, and not drinking the coffee.  "I smelled it; it's all good!"  I love the French Roast!  Did you drink it?  No, but it's all good.

First Paragraph.  Mohler said the topic changed to "rap and the Gospel."  I'm all over this topic and no one is talking about the Gospel. I recognize that makes it sound more impressive, but it's talk only about rap.  Then he said that the panel discussed whether rap was worthy of "evangelicals and the Gospel."  Wrong again.  They didn't mention evangelicals or the gospel in any of their answers.  Not a good start.

His next paragraph should have ended his thinking.  Here it is:

I recognize the arguments made by the panelists. I am tempted to make them myself. In fact, I have made them myself … in my head. I know the arguments well. Form matters when it comes to music, and the form of music is not incidental to the meaning communicated. The biblical vision of music grows out of the union of the good, the beautiful, and the true in the very being of God. That union of the transcendentals means that Christians should seek only those musical expressions that best combine the good, the beautiful, and the true.

I wish one of the panelists had made that argument.  None of them did, but it is a good, clinching argument.  His essay should shortly come to a close, rejecting rap.  Pretty much every rap music supporter disagrees with that argument in his head.  Mohler said that was their, the panelists', argument.  It wasn't their argument.  They didn't make it.  But he said they did.  I'll leave it to you, what that is.  Maybe he just wanted to make the better argument and then give them credit.  I don't know.  It just wasn't true or beautiful.

He illustrates his argument, next paragraph, #3, with Bach.  Bach did what Mohler argued in his 2nd paragraph, but not exactly Mozart or Beethoven.  Mozart had a corrupted worldview that affected his music.  The rap argument says that all worldviews are corrupt and so is all music until you add Christian words and that's how it becomes Christian music.  I really didn't know their argument until this week, one of the bonuses.  But Mohler is saying that Bach had a Christian worldview and Christian music.  Mozart was close, but still off.  And then he writes concerning Beethoven:

Beethoven’s pantheism and Enlightenment sensibilities do not ruin his music, but they do make his incredible music rather inaccessible for Christian worship.

So Bach, yes.  Beethoven, no.  Bach can be used for worship, but not Beethoven, because of his bad worldview.  Spoiler alert.  Rap is fine.  Beethoven is not.  Beethoven had a bad worldview and that will spoil someone's music.  Rap has a, um, well, um, good worldview?  Well, no.  Um.  Is that a flock of ducks out that window!?!?!?!

The number one reason this works as an argument:  Albert Mohler has a photographic memory.  And something else.  Have you seen his presidential robe?  The medallion?  Did I mention the memory?

Next paragraph.  Bravo Bach.  The man.

Paragraph 5 is where Mohler gets surreal.  He takes a shortcut through Scottish peat bogs about five feet deep.  What I'm saying is that he's hard to follow.  You get bogged down.  Bach used music rejected by the elites, but understood by the culture of his day.  Jarring pedal sequences to his organ toccatas, very physical, probably enough to kill certain plant life, at least frogs in kettles, but I might be mixing my metaphors.  Later we hear Mohler doesn't understand hip-hop or rap, but somehow he brings in jarring, physical pedal action on the organ -- like slam dancing on the bench.  Rap?  Shmap?Don't understand it.  Oops, was that the inside voice becoming an outside voice?  Bach was borrowing from unworthy musical sources.  Now, this was from the perspective of these unnamed elites.  Today we have elites that are trying to get rid of today's Bachs, the reformed hip-hoppers, who also have borrowed from unworthy musical sources.  Borrow might not be the right term.  They've taken up residence in those musical sources.  Just enough ambiguity for deniability.

Elites -- the panelists and cultural fundamentalists.

Bach -- LeCrae and Shai Linne.

Unworthy musical sources -- Snoop Dog and Jay Z.

If you like Bach, then you understand who else you need to like.  Today's Bach.  I just don't like his argument because I don't like rap, but that's just my inside voice becoming an outside voice.  That should cover it.  My nostrils are barely above the peat.

I really can't stick with his argument further, left behind in the Peat bog.   I can honestly say I don't at all get the next two paragraphs, because they don't follow from where he started.  Bach is his preference.  I thought he was perfection of truth, goodness, and beauty?  His theology of music won't allow him to make these arguments outside, the ones he's just written outside, so he's just going to keep them in his mind.  Too late for that.  But his theology of music won't let him take the argument outside of his brain.  What's this theology of music?  Don't know.  He doesn't say.  It stops him, however, from making that inward voice becoming an outward voice.  This is what the panelists were unable to do, sort of like George W. Bush sometimes as president.  They misunderestimated the damage of the inward voice becoming an outward voice.  (My hand is raised.)  "Is your post an outward voice?"  Good time for the inward voice to take charge.

Mohler wants rappers to do what Bach did.  It's not Mohler's music -- no, no, no no, uh-uh -- but he wants them to take their music.  Their music.  Not his.  And make it work like Bach did.  He won't be able to evaluate whether they've succeeded, because he just doesn't get it, doesn't understand it.  I don't know if he doesn't get because he's elite or because he's a commoner.  Or perhaps he's just a commoner from the wrong century.  He'll leave the heavy lifting of understanding rap music to people that do understand it.  Imagine him throwing the car keys to his jr. higher.  Does he not get rap because it's elite?  It's virtuoso, by his account?  Nevertheless, from his place of blissful ignorance, he's just happy that so many good things can happen through rap's words.  Deep sigh.  Back to his Bach, sans the jarring, physicality of well-stricken organ pedals.

So he releases the Kraken, the sea monster of Greek mythology, doing whatever it does, because he can't really evaluate it.  No Perseus.  Be warmed and filled.  He's smelled the coffee.  The Bach is playing again.  The sirens blocking out the screams.  Enrollment is up.  Everything's just fine in Mohler land.  Everywhere else?  Not so good.


Bill Hardecker said...

Is that a flock of ducks...ha! No, it's the universal school of Evanjellifish, but you can't see them bec. they're invisible.
Good series. I also read your comments at Aniol's RA blog. Bravo, there, also.
One cultural critic aptly said: the medium is the message. And that is why rock, rap, et al. are inadequet to communicate the Gospel message.
1. God said to preach it.
2. The gospel message is about sacrifice, rock/pop music and all its various art forms, are about selfishness (polar opposites).
3. You mix the sacred with wordliness, you get contradiction and confusion none of which reflects the God of the Bible.

d4v34x said...

I thought the most important failure in Mohler's article was his refusal to distinguish between a preference and a judgement. As you say, a man as intelligent and thoughtful as he is has no real excuse.

Ken Lengel said...


I agree with your assessment of Mohler. It seems that there is a large group within fundamentalism that is now promoting an improper view of questionable things. While I know that fundamentalism has become about essentials/non-essentials in many circles, it now appears to be that anything that is "non-essential" is a matter of conscience. However, I think there is definitely a difference between questionable things and defendable, biblical positions from Scriptures. In addition, it does not have to be something by which we judge other people, as God is the judge of each of us. However, biblical standards should be taught and not written off as non-essentials, a matter of conscience or preference.

I will share an example from my own personal walk with God. I was saved for 5 years, and a part of a Bible believing church, that accepted believers using CCM in their own lives, but not the church life. When I became an independent Baptist, I was taught good biblical principles on things like dress, music, etc. Noone judged me for not being like them, but they encouraged me to consider God's holiness and how I chose to live my life before Him. As a fan of CCM at that time, I went to work one day when we were permitted on a Friday to listen via headphones to our own music. Someone heard the music coming from headset, and asked if they could listen. This person was someone who I had been witnessing to. The next thing she said to me changed my life. She had a weird look on her face, so I asked her, sheepishly, what did she think? She replied, "I didn't know a guy like you [A bible-believing Christian who had a testimony for Christ] listened to music like this." Her words cut straight to my heart. Here I was trying to be a good testimony of my salvation, and my music choice was a shock to her. I must say, it was NOT in a good sense, but almost in a hypocritical one.

I think this is what people who are saved and travel in their own little worlds and circles tend to forget. As we live among the lost, and if we have a testimony of separation unto God before them, they will find it hypocritical that we listen to such music. It's a weak faith that believes we need the world's music to lead others to Christ.

It's kind of arrogant, IMO, that some believers think they have liberty to listen to and support such unholy music genres and have the blessing of God, because they are not convicted in their conscience that it is wrong. I wanted to learn how to be holy. I wanted my life to match what I believed from God's Word regarding my testimony. It's why I became an Independent Baptist. I saw people, who at various stages were trying to live a good testimony, all with their own struggles. We never succombed to accept things because they were too hard, too popular in other circles, or too peculiar from the world. We strove to be holy, period. In addition, pastors can teach standards that promote a sound testimony without judging those who are growing spiritually. Without it, I don't know where I would be. The testimony of those who share the truth in love, is far greater, than a bad testimony to the world because of a weak faith and an arrogant sense of liberty.


Anonymous said...

I dare say you would have a very hard time finding someone who "likes" rock, pop, hip-hop, country, etc. more than I do. This stuff was my life before I came to Christ; and I tried very hard to retain it as part of my life after I came to Christ in the form of CCM. About ten years ago, I realized that I was fighting a losing battle. There was no way I could continue to try and reconcile what I knew rock/rap/country inherently was with what I was learning about my holy Savior.

Even today when I go into a store and I hear my old favorites, it's all I can do to keep from singing them. I would really, really love it if I was wrong about this, but I'm not. In fact, neither are all of the dozens of rock/pop artists themselves when over and over and over they have told us what the nature of this music is and what it was meant to be used for. They tell us in interviews and in many of the songs. For example, Huey Lewis in "The Heart of Rock 'n Roll" told us that "It's still that same old backbeat rhythm, that really, really drives 'em wild." Alannah Myles in her 1990 hit "Black Velvet" told us that rock music was "...a new religion that will bring ya to your knees." I could give literally hundreds more.

I realize that some have already attempted to skillfully discard this reasoning as an "old and tired" argument. It's old because it comes from the Bible and people who want to hang onto their worldly music are "tired" of hearing about it. It comes from the Bible because the Bible tells us to "prove all things; hold fast that which is good". When we "prove" rock/rap music by examining what it really is, it fails the test. In my flesh, I'd love to be proven wrong.

Perhaps what is the saddest thing about this is the constant use of evangelism to try and excuse worldliness. I have heard that line so many times. "How are you going to reach people...? Most of the people who have told me that do much to get the gospel out, but they bring it out of their arsenal to use as a stick to beat back any who would question. (Note the constant mention of "Gospel" in Mohler's article.)

Kent, I've done a message on the nature of rock music that has a few insights you maybe haven't considered. Let me know if your interested and I can send it to you. Keep up the good work!


The Preacher said...

Ken Lengel wrote:

"The testimony of those who share the truth in love, is far greater, than a bad testimony to the world because of a weak faith and an arrogant sense of liberty."

That sentence says it all and is one of the best comprehensive synopsis I have read.

Well done.

Bobby said...

With his article Mohler definitely gets me thinking about thinking about pandering.

Lou Martuneac said...


This latest from Mohler should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed his string of ecumenical compromises and questionable decisions over the past 10+ years. This is far from his first such foray, and it certainly will not be his last.


Lou Martuneac said...


Last night I set up a link from my article on this subject to your excellent work on the issue here. Hoping to guide many readers to your article.


Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks. If you say its worldly, they'll ask why, and then you've got to explain why. They still won't accept it usually, but that's how it works.


Yes, good one. His info about Beethoven was no preference, but that's because he understands the medium. He doesn't know rap, and in his ignorance, he says, go to it. That's my throw the car keys to your junior higher metaphor. By the way, not understanding it is a total copout. What's not to understand.


send me the sermon. I would be appreciative -- send it to, betbapt AT flash DOT net


He applies his genius to pragmatism. I think that despite the conservative resurgence, in the long run the SBC would have been better off with liberalism than this quasi-milquetoast-worldly "conservativism." That occurred to me just today. I might post on it.



Kent Brandenburg said...


I agree.