Anti-Rap panelist doubles-down on his position

The evangelical blogosphere has been having an intramural spat about the propriety of reformed rap. It’s been hard to miss, so I’m not going to rehearse each turn of the debate. The whole thing started, however, with a panel discussion at the NCFIC “Worship of God Conference” in which several of the panelists said that Christian rap falls short of Christian faithfulness. You can read a round-up of the whole brouhaha from Joe Carter.

Today, one of the panelists Scot Aniol has responded to critics in long form. While he affirms the Christian commitment and good intentions of Christian rap artists, he doubles-down on his argument that rap is an aesthetic form that falls short of Christian faithfulness. It is irredeemable in his view. Here’s a bit from his argument:

I fully understand that most readers will not agree with what I say below; my point is not to persuade with this post, it is simply to clarify my short comments on the panel. And I fully understand that if you like Christian rap, you will probably be offended by my comments. However, I would urge you to actually engage the arguments rather than calling me names or insisting that I don’t have any right to believe what I do. Please respectfully critique my arguments…

Since we believe that the Bible is inerrant, and since it is our supreme authority, by its own examples, Scripture itself places limits on contemporary aesthetic presentations of doctrine. In other words, some contemporary attempts to “modernize” aesthetic forms go beyond the limits of legitimate contextualization because they are not faithful to the original.

Aniol is attempting to dial back the rhetoric that was expressed during the panel discussion and to put his argument on a biblical foundation. I’ll leave it to readers to decide if he is convincing. You can read the rest of his argument here.

For my part, I appreciate that Aniol is trying to ground his view in scripture and not in individual preference. I also agree that form is not value neutral and that beauty has an objective standard. Nevertheless, I don’t think his case against rap is persuasive. The rap form is not the moral equivalent of yelling at one’s wife, as Aniol has it. Aniol has still failed to show how the form itself somehow cuts against scriptural verities. Simply citing its origin in sinful human culture is not an argument. All music and art emerge from that context. Aniol must engage the form itself and show how it undermines biblical truth. What is it about rhyming words rhythmically that is somehow sinful? I don’t think Aniol has shown us that yet. Also, what does Aniol do with scriptural examples in which words are arranged in rhythmic and even rhyming patterns?

59 Responses to Anti-Rap panelist doubles-down on his position

  1. Jonathan Nida December 2, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    I’d like some examples of Scriptural limits on contemporary aesthetic presentations of doctrine. His “in other words” is not really a clarification until you understand what he means by the sentence that precedes it.

  2. Lucas Knisely December 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    Even if you grant his premise, which is a stretch, every form of music we use in worship was at one time considered too “worldly”. He’s just being a selective and inconsistent legalist.

  3. Jesse Lofton December 2, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    Eh…The attempt to clarify is less than clarifying. Essentially, Christian rap is not aesthetically appropriate because he is not satisfied by it (?) – unless there is a Scriptural basis for rap specifically being irredeemable as a genre. Of course there isn’t. In our communities, there is an entire culture built around and within the rap aesthetic. I’m thankful that artists like Lecrae can faithfully and effectively contextualize the Gospel into that culture. That is a skill I do not have, but definitely can enjoy from the outside.

  4. Miles Morrison December 2, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

    You’re exactly right Denny, he hasn’t really shown any reasoning for why “rhyming words rhythmically” goes against Scripture. Ultimately, I think we’re seeing that in his mind rap may not be distinguishable from sin, but that’s no different than people who believe the same thing about rock music. I was honestly hopeful that there might be some repentance from some of these guys, it’s too bad to see him just trying to fortify his position and escape criticism. On one hand, I’ve been glad to see the swift and clear response from across the spectrum, but on the other hand, I hate that this has received so much attention. At best these guys are misguided and legalistic, but I have a hard time believing there isn’t some level of racism in their disgust in rap/hiphop culture. Preference is one thing, but calling it unclean? Feel like these guys need an Acts 10 type vision to wake up.

    • Lauren Bertrand December 3, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

      Miles, I’d agree with your assessment that Aniol’s singling out of rap/hip-hop comes across as thinly veiled racism…except that, by virtue of his excluding rock music from his vitriol, it would appear that Scriptural rock is acceptable. But rock ‘n roll owes just as much to Delta blues and fast gospel as well, so it’s a genre we can trace to African-American traditions just as easily as hip-hop. So he probably just is fabricating a scriptural reason for his opposition in order to disguise his personal preference.

      • Esther O'Reilly December 5, 2013 at 10:56 am #

        I don’t know, my impression was that they dismissed rock and roll as obviously sinful. They said “I’m not JUST talking about rock and roll,” thereby implying, “Rock and roll is so obviously bad we don’t even need to debate it here.”

  5. Hermonta Godwin December 2, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    Denny,
    If beauty has an objective standard, then one will be able to grade some items as less beautiful than others and not be guilty of cultural prejudice.
    Next, I think his use of Paul rejecting certain types of speech as being inconsistent with the Gospel was brilliant. Those on the pro- Christian rap side, seem to wish to respond to Paul – “But Paul, why don’t you just redeem that type of speech” Paul seems to be saying that such was irredeemable.

    Now to be fair the particular article posted does not go into the ins and outs of whether rap is consistent with the Gospel, it usefulness is in changing the claims before us from “Every form is okay to use in gospel proclamation to there are some that are good and there are some that are bad, and we need to decide which form fits into which category.”

    Also Dr. Aniol has written a fairly thorough intro into his thoughts on rap , here – http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-music/can-rap-be-christian-no/

  6. Shaun David December 2, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    This does nothing to strengthen his arguments, at all. I’d beg to know who and what his sources are regarding Hip-Hop/Rap aesthetic and culture. In his comments, his fellow panelists comments, and in his response he continues to beat the dead horse regarding the connection to sexuality and violence that Hip-Hop/Rap experiences. The final panelist to give his opinion on the matter offered up country western complete with a southern draw and sheepish grin while the audience had themselves a knowing chuckle. I would ask how that style skates by despite it’s connection to sexuality, drunkenness, and destruction of property? It truly is a case of “look and act like we do and all will be right”. A quick scan of Aniol’s Twitter field yields a few pictures of sacred harp singing and symphonies. It’s nothing more than exactly what Mike Cosper asserted in his response.

    His call for everyone to engage his arguments and not resort to name calling is laughable. Several pastors and theologians have engaged his arguments and offered up scriptural evidence for their position. None of them resorted to name calling. The fact remains: they are misinformed, misguided, and ungracious in their assessments of the art form being used to communicate the gospel.

    • Chris Ames December 2, 2013 at 11:52 pm #

      Shaun,

      You may have laughed prematurely! Read the comments under his previous posts for examples of name-calling. He’s not directing that comment toward pastors or theologians.

      • Shaun David December 3, 2013 at 10:27 am #

        I didn’t say I was laughing, I said it was laughable; which is to say, ludicrous. I’d have to disagree, though, because I think his post is in response to the number of well-respected pastors and theologians in the Reformed tribe that have come out against the comments of this panel, and in favor of Reformed hip-hop artists. And those individuals did not resort to petty comment-section name calling. Had it not been for the groundswell of respected voices lending their support over the Internet, for one, the likelihood of such a post being written by Aniol drops dramatically. Furthermore, I would hate to believe he would find it necessary to respond with such a lengthly post to what amounts to petty name-calling in the comment section, which is standard fare on the Internet. If that’s the case, then he’s playing down to the lowest common denominator of the Internet. Although, that should not be surprising given that his opinion regarding hip-hop is also very misguided as well.

  7. James Harold Thomas December 2, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

    I’d recommend Doug Wilson’s latest post on the subject where he gives some pastoral advice to the reformed rappers.

    http://dougwils.com/s7-engaging-the-culture/dear-xyz.html

    • Denny Burk December 2, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

      Yeah, I think he has some really wise advice in there. Thanks!

    • Tim Hawkins December 2, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

      I really liked Doug Wilson’s open letter. It made me wish that he’d engage everyone in a like manner. His influence would grow exponentially, in my opinion, if he did.

      • Esther O'Reilly December 3, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

        Are you THE Tim Hawkins??

  8. Bill Gernenz December 2, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    Anoil’s argument appears to hinge on the correlation with rap and the “lofty speech” and to his credit he alludes to musical genre from his culture that also concern him (though I am greatly interested in specifics at that point — would, say Chris Tomlin be too “rock” or “country” of “mainstream”?). His parallel however is a hard sell. Paul’s primary argument is not against the FORM of rhetoric (which Paul is using in the letter), but against the lofty superiority of the philosophers who practice rhetoric from a position of self-assumed authority. The rest of the context makes it clear as the opposite of “lofty speech” is not crude speech or base speech or unrefined rhetoric, but the CONTENT of the cross, which is seen as foolishness.

    I agree that method is not neutral but when discussing what methods may be out of bounds there must be much charity and that is the most disconcerting element of this whole debate — not necessarily from the panelists (though yes, in varying degrees from them) — but from those who are using this as a springboard to vehemently and self-righteously and arrogantly attack brothers and sisters in Christ. Even if their arguments are valid (and I don’t believe they are), they should be presenting them in a much more gracious manner. The discussions on various threads in many comment threads is disheartening to say the least.

    It seems to me that this debate could benefit more from 1 Cor. 3 & 4 then it has from 1 Cor. 2:
    “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men [or their cultures or musical preferences(?)]. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 Cor 2:18-23)

  9. Timothy J. Trudeau (@rocdomz) December 2, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    Thanks for weighing in. I haven’t found the energy to add responses to the NCFIC “apology” nor Scott’s post that you linked to. Plus I think the original letter still covers the same points that continue to come up post panel. Lastly, I agree with your assessment. Thanks.

  10. James Bradshaw December 3, 2013 at 12:27 am #

    Despite my liberal theology, I lean conservative when it comes to church aesthetics and music. Any respectable worship service will entail a sermon that touches upon the nature of existence, the meaning of our lives and our ultimate purpose, and as such, we should treat this time with the gravity and respect it deserves.

    Thus, I find it difficult to relate to services filled with rock and roll or country music … the cultural connotations are too powerful: I feel as if I should be drinking a beer or dancing a ho-down. Something that reflects the solemnity and weight of these things seems more appropriate, something like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbIiuMxG2Y0

    However, I’m reluctant to call rap and country worship music “inappropriate”. What doesn’t resonate for me may, in fact, impact someone deeply. I don’t think there’s an objective measure about these things. Rather, it seems we can only go by the general needs of the congregation as a whole (which is often based on geography and demographics).

    • Chris Ryan December 5, 2013 at 12:36 am #

      I think I’m with you, James. Personally I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Christian worship & I have a hard time removing the pop cultural element from either Christian rock or Christian rap. Its ultimately too distracting for me. But just b/cs its distracting for me doesn’t mean its either inappropriate or sinful.

      There are Christians who genuinely believe that no form of singing other than what Christ himself may have sang is legitimate, and so they sing nothing but Psalms to harps–but I’m not one of those Christians.

  11. Ben Wright December 3, 2013 at 2:38 am #

    If you look at any genre of music, it will undoubtedly have been used at some point to promote immoral behavior. Modern day worship music has very deep roots in rock, R&B, pop, and more. All of these genres have been used to glorify drug use, illicit sex, and many other things that we as Christians would find offensive. But we use that same form of music to worship Christ.
    God created everything good, including music. He made humans to be creative and express ourselves through different forms of music. He also made us different, and we will each gravitate towards different forms of music. Hip-hop is no less evil than any other genre.
    If Scot Aniol’s main problem with Christian hip-hop is that hip-hop as a genre is aggressively worldly, than it seems to me he is inconsistent. Most movies are full of ungodliness, so should Christians boycott all movies? Most music is secular, so should we completely reject all forms of music? It is impossible to hold his view consistently.
    The challenge for us as believers is to use the tools and gifts God has given us (hip-hop included) to glorify Him.

  12. Collin Garbarino December 3, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    It seems to me that most of the people commenting above me either did not read his article or did not read it with a charitable spirit. He makes some interesting points that call for more than a dismissive response.

    That being said, I don’t necessarily agree with him.

    That being said, perhaps participants should nuance the discussion to distinguish between that which is acceptable to God and that which is acceptable in corporate worship. The first category would include much more variety.

    • buddyglass December 3, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

      “…distinguish between that which is acceptable to God and that which is acceptable in corporate worship. The first category would include much more variety.”

      Basically, this. Corporate worship is intended to be participatory. It’s hard to “rap along with” someone. It’s not hard to “sing along with” someone (or multiple someones in the form of a choir). Though, I get the sense that the anti-rap folks aren’t just saying it’s not acceptable for a worship setting. Their indictment seems to be more broad.

  13. Ian Shaw December 3, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    I would agree^^^ with Collin. I believe there is a difference to what is pleasing/acceptable to God and what is acceptable within corporate worship with others.

    I must not be “hip” as I don’t listen to a lot of it. I have people telling me I’m missing out on guys like Lacrae, etc., but I’m just not into it (other than occasionally throwing an old ‘Grits’ CD in).

    I’ll stick to my Christian ska that makes me feel old…..

  14. Sam Hendrickson December 3, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    The notion that “every form of music” we use was once considered worldly is a bit over the top, as is labeling Bro. Scott an “inconsistent legalist.” It does seem that in the venue itself, and in his followup, Aniol means to measure his words. Maybe others will do the same here? I’m not holding my breath. Whether you buy his argument remains to be seen. Some of the remarks here are perhaps as well-placed as “Only Siths deal in absolutes.”

  15. Esther O'Reilly December 3, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    Honestly, I’m not too impressed by the “In Defense” responses. Many seem like very shallow, knee-jerk “You’re racist!” remarks. Also, speaking as a singer, a musician, and a songwriter whose musical tastes run the gamut of styles, I will put my musical pennies in the hat and say that rap is not good music. In fact, it’s debatable whether it qualifies as “music” at all. It is certainly an objectively inferior art form to the hymn, the opera, etc. I believe in glorifying God with excellence. Even if we avoid the whole socio-political-theological third rail in all this, the aesthetic elephant in the room remains.

  16. Ian Shaw December 3, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    Esther,

    I also am a school/college trained instrumentalist (trombone) who occasionally plays with praise & worship on Sunday mornings. While I can appreciate and respect the craft that is ‘Rap” or “hip-hop”, I admit I have a hard time considering it as music, when I hold people such as Holst, Bach, Verdi, Sousa, etc. as true master musicians/composers.

    However, we should (try as we fail often) glorify God in all we do. If you can hold to Biblical truths and the Gospel in a rap/hip-hop setting and spread the word as we are called to do, I can’t come out and say that it’s wrong. Whether you can consider it worship music in a traditiional church setting, I think that’s the true debate.

    • Esther O'Reilly December 3, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

      I guess I would say “Define wrong.” I don’t think Christian rappers are sinning, but I do believe they’re wasting what musical talents they have on a bad art form. And that’s unfortunate and to be criticized even if it’s not a sin, and even if their intentions are good.

  17. Lucas Knisely December 3, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    Sam, I assure you that if you study the history of worship within the church you’ll find that pianos, organs, and the bar songs which many hymns were sung to were all controversial points in the history of the church. Depending on your age and history in the church you may even remember how controversial guitars and drum sets were just within the last 20 years.

    The biggest mistake critics of rap are making is thinking that asserting an opinion is the same as making an argument. Just because you think that rap is “not good music” or isn’t “glorifying God with excellence” doesn’t mean you’ve actually shown, from reason and Scripture, that is objectively true of rap. I can say that hymns are “not good music” (I actually really enjoy hymns), but that doesn’t mean it’s factual, it’s just an opinion.

    People really need to heed Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Matthew 15 about elevating man’s traditions to being equal with the commands of God. Your view of a given music style is not equal to God’s word, and leveraging passages about worship being excellent as if they somehow support your opinion is reckless eisegesis.

    Here’s the uncomfortable reality for most of the people criticizing, dismissing, and denouncing rap. You’re allowing a cultural-ethno-geocentric bias to keep you from having enough grace for a style of music outside of your taste and context. This undermines a Gospel for all peoples and is a poor representation of a gracious Father who calls us to love our enemies. If we are to love our enemies, how much more should we love our brothers and sisters and have the grace to allow for musical differences?

    Think of the variety of music styles across the globe, and you’re going to single out rap as “not good music” and “not glorifying to God”? Expect the charge of racist when you single out a style of music that’s history and context is culturally derived from a specific race. If the shoe were on the other foot, and black churches were saying that rap and gospel were the only appropriate forms of music, you’d start to understand why racism is a legitimate accusation.

    • Sam Hendrickson December 3, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

      I had not advocated for one stance or other. My concerns were the phenomenally loose use of the ad hominem of “legalist”, and the common, but essentially unprovable “all” in reference to the use of or progress of church music. But, meh. As to issues like “bar music” I refer the reader to the link provided below–it seems even Luther still had some concern for what was fitting for worship, not for the bierstube or brauhaus.

      In Paul’s letters he gives the sense that “good” music is that in which all Christians (“brethren”) can participate. An emphasis in Ephesians 5 is that his readers would together be singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (the verbs in vv. 19–20, along with the participles, along with the pronouns are plural). The same notion is expressed in Col 3. To chalk up the concern for propriety in worship music to preference or “taste” is to miss the point for many Christians. Some musical styles connote an uncomfortable connectivity to the way of the world for some people. To dismiss their concern as only having to do with “taste” or similar (or racism) is to miss a very important pastoral point–corporate worship must be designed to help all Christians present at the time do their highest calling–worship the Almighty One with a clear conscience. There may be some who feel they can do so with rap/rock/whatever, but the church gathered is about just that–the church gathered. The leaders in the church, and the church must work to help each other worship. Otherwise, in some known sense, it is a fail. (We fail in unknown ways every time we worship, but if we know we have sin, we must deal with it). Grace.

      • Lucas Knisely December 4, 2013 at 1:56 am #

        Applying passages about the corporate worship of the church to the genre of rap isn’t a fair jump. Taken to its logical end, it would mean that any genre or song that doesn’t lend itself to corporate singing isn’t “good” (that’s basically all music not written for corporate singing). So your argument ultimately means that Paul considers all music bad unless it is fitting for corporate worship. I know this is not the argument you are making, but its where it leads if you use those passages as a measure for music being “good”.

        Having concern for worship within the church is one thing (that’s what Paul was writing about). Dismissing an entire genre based on subjective opinion is another (I know you aren’t doing that). One could easily argue that given the right context, certain rap and hip-hop songs could be used as worship songs just like some heavier faster rock style songs are used in various churches and settings.

        Again, the problem here is that the assumption is, “rap = bad music” (some here have just baldly stated it as fact), and that assumption is an opinion on which the entire position and discussion is based. If one of these guys on the panel had said this about any other genre that has become common place in the church very few would accept or defend it. And your point about Luther actually furthers my point. Luther isn’t infallible and he, like Aniol and the others that agree with him, had opinions about music, and ultimately those opinions fell by the way side with time. Why? Because they weren’t the words that will not pass away.

        The fact that so many are accepting and defending this is so discouraging. Racial and cultural divides are so subversive and unseen, we rarely know they are there. If someone said, “I’ve studied music and I’m a musician, and country music is just bad and doesn’t glorify God” everyone would see this assertion for what it is: an opinion. But when the same statement is made about a genre less accessible to our culture and context, many just nod in agreement.

        When I stood in the Southern Baptist Seminary chapel and watched Shai Linne rap and proclaim truth I couldn’t help but think the Gospel was on full display. Here’s a black man who in the past would not have been welcome in the chapel of a Southern Baptist institution, displaying his gifts and talents in a God focused, Christ glorifying, Gospel proclaiming way. The wall of hostility came down and one who was once far off had been brought near. Dismissing and denouncing Christian rappers is anti-Gospel. It is antithetical to the dividing wall between races and cultures being destroyed by the all encompassing unifying power of the Gospel. When we build up walls between races, cultures, and contexts, we deny the Gospel that unifies us.

    • Esther O'Reilly December 4, 2013 at 9:09 am #

      “Here’s the uncomfortable reality for most of the people criticizing, dismissing, and denouncing rap. You’re allowing a cultural-ethno-geocentric bias to keep you from having enough grace for a style of music outside of your taste and context.”

      Actually Lucas, the truth is that’s what YOU are doing. The rest of us, believe it or not, are articulating a consistent ethic of art. I understand the kind of men on that panel very well, and I know that they were making statements like this long before rap music ever came along. They were applying it to extremely “white” forms of music like heavy metal. The really hard-core types were uncomfortable with “Jingle Bells.” It was the style of the music that they objected to, not the skin color of the people performing it. They’re evaluating rap with the exact same standards. Even on the panel discussion you heard them strongly criticizing “7/11” worship songs, which are widely derided as an extremely “white-bread” CCM phenomenon. Rap music just happens to be bound up with sensitive racial and cultural issues, which is causing everyone ELSE to become biased and belligerent. The rest of us are being fair and consistent.

      • Lucas Knisely December 4, 2013 at 11:38 am #

        If they have problems with metal, it’s a similar bias and my point still stands. Rejecting music styles simply because of taste while attempting to leverage scripture in support of it is eisegesis. Careful exegesis and applying NT standards of mercy over judgement and grace for cultural differences would allow for heavy metal and rap. You can’t objectively argue that styles and forms of music are bad, especially when it seems like the only genres falling into that are ones outside of middle to late age white suburbia. James 2 says show no partiality, and that is exactly what we are doing. Showing partiality to music styles and genres we like, while rejecting those we don’t. It’s just a coincidence they claim styles outside of their setting and context are the ones that are “bad”?

        You said, “It was the style of the music that they objected to, not the skin color of the people.” Which means you’ve kind of missed my point. You can’t reject an art expression of a culture without essentially rejecting that culture. If they were saying this about African tribal chants that have been written by African converts, people would say, “You’re rejecting them and their culture.”

        Everyone gets all in a tizzy when someone mentions race, but the fact of the matter is, a distaste for rap coming from middle to late age white men isn’t as simple as some objective form of art ethic. It has to do with a cultural and racial divide that lends them to disliking the genre. This doesn’t mean they are cross burning members of the KKK, it means they, like all of us, have presuppositions rooted in cultural norms we’ve grown up with. They have grown up with styles and genres that seem “normal” or “good” to them, and rejecting styles and genres outside of that is rooted and flows from racial and cultural differences, not from Scripture. Again, this is ultimately anti-Gospel and lacks grace.

        • Esther O'Reilly December 4, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

          No, you’re the one missing my point. You were claiming that they rejected the music because of a racist bias. I’m pointing out that the EXACT SAME arguments they were using against rap were and are being used by them to apply to many different genres which have no connection to racial issues. Is the epistemological significance of this wholly lost on you?

          And I’m sorry, but no, music isn’t subjective. There are objective standards of beauty, complexity, depth and other things we can apply to distinguish one song or genre from another. You’re falling into the old trap of relativism here.

          Furthermore, I happen to be neither old, nor middle-aged, nor male, and for all you know I may not even be white. In fact, maybe I don’t even agree with everything these guys would say about rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and similar music forms. Maybe I actually rotate the rock and roll on my ipod more often than anything else. In other words, maybe I don’t fit into your little box. But, newsflash: Sometimes you don’t have to fit into a preconceived box to find merit in a person’s opinion.

          • Lucas Knisely December 4, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

            Esther,

            First, they can use the same arguments against rap as well as other genres. That doesn’t change the fact that they are conveniently picking genres outside of their context and culture, and deeming them not “good music”. This means, by default, there is a taste bias beneath the criticism. I never said this was a “racist bias”, I’ve said it is a racial, cultural, contextual bias. I’m being far more nuanced than you repackaging what I’ve said into “racist bias”. Racist bias sounds like I’m just resorting to name calling: “They are just racists”. That is not what I’ve been saying. I said, “It has to do with a cultural and racial divide that lends them to disliking the genre.” This is true even with metal. If you’re disconnected from the culture and context of metal music, you are going to be predisposed to have a distaste for it.

            Second, the debate about objective standards for beauty is a good one to have. Especially since people removed from the culture and context of the genre are attempting to apply those standards. I’ll give you an example of why this is problematic. Let’s say I hear a song from an African tribe, and it has strange rhythms and tempos that make it difficult for me to sing along. I could critique this song from ignorance and say it’s a bad song. But, if I came from the culture and context in which the song was written I would have a better understanding of how to sing it because it would be more accessible to me, and I would also understand the tradition and historical influence that may touch down on what initially seemed like bad qualities. That is the problem with your “objective standards of beauty”.

            Lastly, I never said anything about your age or race. I just pointed out the glaring problem with a group of middle aged white guys talking about how heavy metal and rap aren’t good musical genres. If a group of black guys were sitting around talking about how objectively bad country music is, we’d all want to point on the obvious problem with that.

            • Hermonta Godwin December 4, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

              Lucas,
              It seems that you are supporting the view that there are no objective standards of beauty and that all standards are culturally relative. If one is condemning a culture other than one’s native one, then one is going too far? Such is crazy talk. One doesnt need to know the tradition as to why a hypothetical culture values treachery in order to condemn such. There is a similarity with standards of beauty.

              Next, if a group of black guys critiqued country music, their race could be noted, but at the end of the day, there arguments must carry the weight of deciding if their critique is proper. The same thing is the case here.

              • Lucas Knisely December 5, 2013 at 10:15 am #

                My point was not that there are no objective standards of beauty, but that you need to understand the genre in a more robust way before you can properly apply them. My example of the African tribe song put that on full display (at least I thought). The standards become an easy way to smuggle in taste and bias, especially when a person’s culture and context lend them to a predisposition of distaste. Re-read some of the comments made here. People openly admit to not enjoying rap right before claiming is just isn’t “good music” or even music at all.

                And I didn’t say the group of black men were “critiquing country”, I said they were dismissing it as objectively bad. I mean, some here are basically repackaging and making what the panelists said a whole lot nicer than it really was. The one guy called reformed rappers “disobedient cowards”. That isn’t applying an objective standard of beauty. It’s a blatant betrayal of his own bias. And the link below to Owen Strachan’s blog shows just how far reaching the bias goes. The same guy that called them disobedient cowards has been quoted as saying that jazz is “infantile” and “sloppy”. It is not surprising that he has a pattern of taking aim at genres outside of his culture and context and labeling them as inferior and bad.

                • Esther O'Reilly December 5, 2013 at 10:58 am #

                  But even if we agree that it’s silly and exaggerated to call jazz/ragtime sloppy and infantile, isn’t a stopped clock right twice a day? I think we should examine whether or not the comments actually made about rap music have truth to them or not. There are lots of people who say wildly off things but whom I can agree with on one specific point, or two points.

            • Esther O'Reilly December 5, 2013 at 11:02 am #

              Okay, but you’re still implying that cultural context is what makes a piece of music good or bad. Are you really saying that heavy metal music is just as beautiful, just as musical and of just as high a quality as a folk song or a hymn simply because there are people out there who like it? That may not be your position, but it’s how it sounds.

              • Lucas Knisely December 5, 2013 at 11:20 am #

                I’m not implying that cultural context is what makes a piece of music good or bad. I’m saying that understanding the genre in it’s context and it being more accessible to a person makes qualities that may seem bad at first blush actually meet standards you apply for beauty.

                Heavy metal music is actually quite complex. Bands like Dream Theater, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and others craft incredibly dynamic songs with lengthy scores of very technical music that, if slowed down and played on different instruments, would be very similar to classical pieces. I only know this because I’ve listened to a lot of it and watched guys from the genre talk about how they write music. Again, you’re kind of proving my point. Because heavy metal doesn’t sound the same as folk and hymns, you just assume it isn’t as beautiful.

                Again, just because it’s close in proximity doesn’t mean you actually understand the culture and context from which it flows. The African tribal song that sounds off tempo is the example I’m going to keep coming back to. Rap is essentially that. A style of music that sounds strange and different because it comes from a different culture.

                And you’re defense of the guy being like a stopped watch doesn’t get much traction because his comments about jazz and ragtime display a pattern of dismissing musical genres outside of his culture and context. He is doing the same with rap. Dressing it up in musical critique doesn’t change that.

                • Esther O'Reilly December 5, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

                  But can’t somebody say something true for the wrong reasons? Also, this doesn’t apply to Bortkin but I saw several other panelists specifically criticizing music within their culture. Didn’t the one panelist say that he didn’t like some of the hymns in the book his own church uses because they sound like “funeral dirges?” That same guy also said that he thought pretty tunes you could “waltz to” might be inappropriate for worship. That even goes beyond what sounds nice to the ear and gets into deeper questions of tone-setting.

              • Lucas Knisely December 5, 2013 at 11:21 am #

                And for the record, this is one of the most enjoyable exchanges I’ve had in an internet discussion!

  18. Judd Rumley December 3, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    Denny

    Side note – Love your book!

    Thanks for your thoughts – I’ll just add to your wise words

    EVERYTHING after the fall has a sinful origin. It is to be redeemed (to whatever degree we can). I may be wrong (it happens a lot) but weren’t some of our great hymn tunes pub songs? Can you just hear the debate back then?

    Yo, rap ain’t bad, if it’s been cleansed
    Rhymes are good, if washed from sins
    I learn a great deal, almost everyday
    I even learn, from Trip and Lacrae

    Plus it is hard to workout to MWS (though he’s good too!)

    Word

    • Denny Burk December 4, 2013 at 12:04 am #

      Thanks, Judd! Great to hear from you!

  19. Andre du Toit December 4, 2013 at 4:32 am #

    After being confronted with the music of a specifically unsavoury character in church, and upon raising the issue, was told that “God made music” and all music is therefore good.

    This started me off on a search to evaluate this. Is it merely a case of “personal taste” or are there objective measures ? I was biased as my view was that to qualify as music suitable to honour the Lord, it should be in line with whatever guidelines we can find in Scripture, and also express the “fear of the Lord”

    The following Scripture seems to be quite relevant
    Gal 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
    Gal 5:20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
    Gal 5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
    Gal 5:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
    Gal 5:24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

    These are then objective measures on which to base an evaluation of music. Does evidence support the view that rap, rock&roll etc typically lead to “works of the flesh” or is typical of fruit of the spirit?

    In my search I looked at the fields of music, education, psychiatry, neurology, physiology, botany, the comments made by artists in these genres, and lastly obtained the views from the persecuted church.

    Based on this, I came to the conclusion that some types of music would not be ideal to say the very least , and as a worst case scenario used by Satan (he is a music boffin and would surely put this to good use.)

    This is not to say that Christian people using rap are “of the devil”, but the type of “music” are not conducive to convey the Christian message. I listened to Lecrae’s testimony. It is beautiful and is consistent with a real conversion.

    Some people argue that music is “amoral”. It will become clear from research that this is unfounded and not supported by evidence.

    Another important issue is that “good” words cannot “sanitize” worldly music as the music itself has a message, irrespective of the words.

    The question of “relevancy” is sometimes raised. The following quote by AW Tozer addresses this:
    “If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation it must be by other means than any now being used. …… he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom.”

    And lastly the philosopher and writer C. S. Lewis noted in “The ScrewTape Letters”,
    “Indeed the safest road to Hell is a gradual one the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” (The Screwtape Letters, (Time Incorporated, New York, 1961), C. S. Lewis, p. 39)

    I would encourage every person interested in this topic to do their own, objective research.

  20. Sam Hendrickson December 4, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    Hi Lucas,
    Last remark. Could it not be that some critiquing this are good-willed, non-racially motivated Christians, seeking God’s glory in worship, and may even be right in some respects? Not everything one presents as worship or proclamation is necessarily God-pleasing, regardless of sincerity, craftsmanship, cultural context, or content. But critiquing someone’s worship or proclamation vehicle is the third rail today. You said “expect the racist label” (a form of petitio principii BTW). Some might say, “expect that some who study theology and even hymnology and musicology will critique it, or some might see it as being conscience-troubling—without racial bias. (I am not defending those who dismiss it out of hand). You labeled Aniol as a “legalist”, so do you now know enough of him to make such a bold claim about him, and even then imply that he is a “racist?” Quickly crying “racism” (now a cultural norm) is a “he said”/ “he said” situation. It feels like the preacher who yells louder, pounds the pulpit harder when his point is weakest. BTW, I am a friend of Scott, and we do not agree on everything in this discussion. I have one of the other panelists as a professor, and he is a pastor. His church and seminary under his leadership and vision reaches out to every kind and all kinds of people, and he meets and knows these people with a genuine, self-sacrificing Christian love. As he attempts extemporaneously in a dais situation with 30 seconds to say something profound, can his character be summed up with even so much as an implied “racism?” Really? What of assuming other Christians are good-willed and Spirit-indwelt? What of the difficult matter of trying to speak your mind and say something meaningful on short-notice? Some of the comments directed at him sound, umm, I dunno “dismissive.” Also, I have a guess there are African-American pastors and theologs who share similar views as Aniol—what of their motivations?

    Last, I mentioned corporate worship because the conference was about corporate worship and is the context of most of Aniol’s arguments in the meta. So it is apropos to highlight these. I do not agree with reduction ad absurdum regarding the use of these texts—I am not sure you can get there, mebbe yes, mebbe no. The passages I listed do help in terms of giving something objective to hold onto when dealing with the issue in the local church–which is where the rubber hits the road (and is the telos of most of Aniol’s writing.) It is not descriptive language but is proscriptive in feel and sense, and thus has specific and general application of some sort. My memories of Aniol’s writing in general on this topic (he has written much) is that he generally aims at the corporate aspect—hence my reference to Eph & Col. (BTW, not everyone is convinced that other popular genres are appropriate for worship—some have even written well-argued books about it.)

    So, Grace.

    BTW the link I tried to put in on “bar music” is: httpCOLON//www.patheosDOTcom/blogs/geneveith/2010/09/luthers-bar-tunes/ . There may be music that comes from bars, but likely not Luther’s music.

  21. Jason McGrath December 4, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    I respect Aniol, and I appreciate Denny’s respectful disagreement. I appreciate some of Aniol’s concerns even though I cannot follow him to his very specific conclusions on style. I am often unpersuaded, though I can easily see where he’s coming from. For those who seriously hold that form is not value neutral, can we say it’s really easy to draw lines? My lines are different than Aniol’s, but I recognize that he’s wrestling with how to be faithful in this area. God knows if he’s doing something other than that.

    For those tempted to see racism in Aniol’s comments, I would like to share that I am very white, and have been on the receiving end of sharp criticism from those of Aniol’s stripe for using forms that I think would be considered “white” or race-neutral(?) forms. Let’s not go this direction with regard to motives if we have more charitable and gracious options. Options like this––they actually believe Scripture leads them to their conclusions.

    That being said, the panel discussion highlights the need for care when we declare “The Lord has spoken definitely on this.” It’s frustrating when it looks like Scripture is being stretched to enforce a conservative music code. And I consider myself pretty conservative.

  22. Shaun David December 4, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    I realize that Denny’s post is about Aniol’s response to the kerfluffle, but Owen Strachan posted this today in regards to the troublesome teachings and views of a few of Aniol’s fellow panelists. It’s word a read as it also begins to add more context to the men participating in this panel discussion and what shapes the opinions that they offer.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thoughtlife/2013/12/problematic-teaching-from-ncfic-hip-hop-panelists/

    • Lucas Knisely December 4, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

      Sadly this is not surprising at all. For those above who have been having a good back and forth with me, Esther, and Sam… this post from Owen Strachan is very relevant.

      • Esther O'Reilly December 4, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

        I love Strachan’s work in general and enjoy a lot of what he says on a variety of topics, but I was no less disappointed with his response than any of the others. It seems to be a peculiar blind spot that all TGC members share. When it comes down to it, this is about a branding clash between two very different styles of conservative Christianity. And while I appreciate what both bring to the table, I have to side with what seems to be considered the “underclass” in this particular debate.

      • Esther O'Reilly December 4, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

        However, I did take a look at this specific article you just referred to here, which is separate from the initial article he posted (the one where he says that “pianos and trombones didn’t fall from the sky”), and based only on that piece I agree with you that this additional information is very concerning.

      • Sam Hendrickson December 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

        Red herring.

      • Sam Hendrickson December 6, 2013 at 8:25 am #

        The links are a red herring because whatever “problematic” aspects some of the men there might have with their theology, philosophy, etc., , the question in regard to the OP is “so what?” Dumping these links is like how many of the old fundamentalists I know/have known operate. For them if someone is associated with “blank,” and “blank” is sinful or error, and if you are on the platform with the guy who teaches “blank” or he associates with ministries/leaders who teach “blank”, then you have now associated yourself with the error, and are guilty of not biblically separating from him, and so now “I have to separate from you.” There are obviously times to separate for the sake of truth and the Good News, but by dumping these links, and even by what Strachan is doing there is clearly the attempt to say “these are all guilty (of what we’re too polite to say) of something, because some are or one is guilty of something.”

        Get rid of the red herring, and frankly, stop the witch hunt…

        • Esther O'Reilly December 6, 2013 at 9:08 am #

          Sam I’m inclined to agree that Strachan jumped the gun. I feel I should post some comments from somebody who knows these men really well and believes that the “slavery” remarks in particular were taken out of context. The intention was not to affirm chattel slavery, or owning a person, but to point out the possible benefits of a penal forced labor system. Not the same thing, and in fact, the pastor has condemned chattel slavery:

          “I’ve heard Dr. Morecraft speak publicly on slavery, and I can tell you
          for absolute certainty that Mr. Strachan has not done his homework. Dr. Morecraft is a Theonomist; as such, he believes that a biblically-based system of penal slavery would be superior to the prison system. However, he believes that all race-based chattel slavery is evil; I have heard him publicly affirm this in person.”

          • Shaun David December 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

            What a relief– he’s only for a general form of slavery instead of race-based slavery. Whatever his belief of what a “biblically-based system of penal slavery” may be, it’s still a system of slavery. Theonomy ultimately relies Mosaic law, much of which is no longer applicable because of the reality of redemptive-history rendering some laws in the OT no longer appropriate or relevant at all. Christ’s coming, namely, regards them as no longer applicable, and Paul ultimately chips away at systems of slavery in Philemon. It’s hard to argue that were it not the broken, sinful nature of man, slavery wouldn’t even exist.

            Aside from that, Morecraft is addressing the treatment of slaves who were slaves because of their… race. Not because they were slaves under a penal system. Slavery is a dirty swine, and what Morecraft is trying to do in that video is put some lipstick on it.

            • Esther O'Reilly December 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

              So are you saying that it’s morally wrong to force men in prison to make license plates? Just wondering…

        • Shaun David December 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

          Say what you will, the fact is Aniol offers a shared opinion with others on the panel. He has affirmed that the cultural milieu of hip-hop is simply too great for Reformed hip-hop to serve as a pleasing means of Christian worship. And, Aniol also believes the aesthetic to be lacking and not in alignment with Paul’s teaching on how we are to communicate. Which is a stretch of a hermeneutic here because Aniol’s opinion is littered with his personal preferences and an incomplete understanding of hip-hop. For example: not all hip-hop is aggressive in it’s delivery. Another example: not all hip-hop seeks to bring attention to the one delivering the message. I could go on, but I’ll spare you for the sake of brevity.

          When a panel of men come together and hold common views on something such as this topic, the question then becomes one of what drives their thinking? And, therefore, that is why the links Strachan provides along with the comments highlighted are relevant to the topic at hand. It’s further context for how like-minded men may have arrived at such confused opinions.

          • Shaun David December 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

            Additionally, I’m out. Peace and grace.

  23. Shaun David December 4, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    And since I’m link dumping on Denny’s site (thanks for allowing it, Denny) I’ll also share this one from Challies that he posted today. This one actually features a humble apology from one of the panelists, Joel Beeke. Have a read.

    http://www.challies.com/articles/joel-beeke-christian-rap-and-public-apologies?utm_content=buffer09b89&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer

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