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Music

Why so much Rap is Reformed

Evangelist Ray Comfort once said of Rap, "I love hearing it...end." He's not alone. Many Christians don’t think much of Rap, partly because as musical form it just doesn't appeal to them, but also because of its association with thugs and pimps and gangsters who seem to dominate this music form. There is a reason these slimy sorts gravitate towards Rap music: in it’s barest form Rap requires less musical ability than some other genres. You don’t need to sing, or play a musical instrument; the performer only has to rhyme in rhythm. Of course, Rap isn’t always so stripped down, and it can involve all sorts of instruments. But what sets it apart – it’s focus on the verbal over the musical – is also what makes it appealing to thugs whose creativity only extends to the many words they can rhyme with "ho". But there’s also a reason that Rap is a favorite form for many thoughtful, insightful, and very Reformed artists. It’s because this musically sparse medium gives primacy to the word. Christian pop is sometimes mocked as “7-11” music (because it's said to have the same 7 words repeated 11 times in a row) but Reformed rap is lyrically dense, and some artists have made use of this words-focus to see just how deep a song can go. For example, Reformed rapper, Shai Linne has a song titled The Hypostatic Union, about how Jesus became a man. Here’s a small excerpt: Can you truly understand fallen man's dilemma? See, only a human can substitute for human lives But only God can take the wrath of God and survive. See the humanly unsolvable obstacle? With God all is plausible, nothing's impossible. True haters'll fight it but the story is certain Two natures united in one glorious person Jesus, the God-Man, official soul reaper The hypostatic union – it gets no deeper Grammy winning artist Lecrae is another example of this Reformed Rap presence. In Just Like You he begins by noting in his rebellion he didn’t want to be like God, but wanted to be God – like Adam and Eve, he refused to listen, and wanted to replace God. But in this, the last verse, he tells the story of his repentance. I wanna be like you in every way, So if I gotta die everyday Unworthy sacrifice But the least I can do is give the most of me Because being just like you is what I'm s'pose to be They said you came for the lame, I'm the lamest I made a mess, but you say you'll erase it, I'll take it They say you came for the lame, I'm the lamest I broke my life, but you say you'll replace it, I'll take it. There’s a reason thugs like Rap. But this same words-focus is also the reason why Rap is an effective musical medium for a serious exploration of God’s greatness. Below are a few examples of just how serious, and how deep that exploration can be. Even to those who think Rap sounds like noise, there's something below that's bound to impress. Here is some of the very best of Reformed Rap. On beauty The first example here might technically be a "spoken word piece" but it is the opening track of rapper Shai Linne's album The Attributes of God (and is accompanied by music). It features his wife Blair Linne. Listen to this – really hear the words – and see if you don't tear up, even if just a bit. Beautiful indeed. https://youtu.be/1kY9In41R1A On fighting complacency In the next example, Reformed rapper Tedashii samples from a sermon by John Piper to send a message to all of us who are too comfortable with our sins. https://youtu.be/vs1Sq7M7cIU On tackling temptation Like Tedashii's Make War, 116 Clique's Temptation is "battle music" - an appeal, particularly to young men, to get serious about living their life to Christ, no matter the cost. Whether you like Rap or not, who can help but be impressed with the message being sent? https://youtu.be/cb9zwjtmRbA On standing with God when it really, really isn't popular One last example: Bizzle put out a song to respond to two Grammy-awarding winning secular rappers, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, after they released Same Love, which promoted homosexuality and gay marriage. Bizzle's song used the same backing beat as Same Love, but presented God's thoughts on sexuality. It garnered quite the heated attention! Bizzle ended up getting death threats but he didn't back down. https://youtu.be/V9KQ4_uH1RA...

Music, News

U2 shows us how love can hurt

It’s been quite a week for U2. In the space of just four days, the Irish rock band took public stands in favor of homosexuality, transsexuality, and abortion. On May 1st the group tweeted their support for legalizing abortion in their native land. They told their 1.5 million Twitter followers that they wanted to “Repeal the 8th” which is the amendment to the Irish constitution that protects the unborn. Three days later they released the video to their song Love is bigger than anything in its way. More than three dozen people are shown, all in brief clips, and what’s most noticeable is the fashion choices made, particularly among the gentlemen. One man is wearing a bra, another a corset with thigh high boots. Many of these men have lipstick, pink shirts, pink pants, or a pink backpack. Among the women are some who look to be men dressed as women. Lest anyone think this all just a case of unique fashion choices, the video also includes shots of lesbian and gay couples kissing. We wouldn’t expect different from most any other rock band, but this is U2. The group has never publicly identified itself as Christian, but their songs contain dozens and dozens of biblical references, including 40, which is based on Psalm 40 and Psalm 6. And the lead singer, Bono, has professed to be a Christian, publicly talking about his family’s prayers, and noting that they regularly read Scripture. In an interview with music journalist Michka Assayas he gave a decent explanation of the atonement: “The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled. It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.” So it was to the surprise and disappointment of Christian fans that the band is ignoring God’s prohibitions against murder and homosexuality and is encouraging their fan-base to do likewise. Bono has often spoken of God as being love. Now it seems, he thinks love is God. What’s the difference? When we understand that God is love, then we are willing and even eager to submit to His wisdom and direction. Then we know that it isn’t loving to encourage behaviors He forbids. We understand that His restrictions protect us, in much the same way that a loving parent’s rules protect their children. Why does God forbid homosexuality (and abortion too)? Because as our Maker and our Father He knows this isn't good for us. But for Bono and his band, “love is bigger than anything in its way.” Are God’s commandments standing in the way of you and the same-sex partner you crave? Well, U2 wants you to know that love is bigger than God. But pursuing love while running from God isn’t going to bring anyone happiness. Oh, sure, rebellion can make us happy for a time. So can drugs, sex, and fame. But it doesn’t take long for the meaninglessness to become evident. In a strange turn, this brokenness is even evident in the video for U2’s latest song. More than three dozen lesbians, homosexuals, and transgender men and women dancing, hugging, and kissing. U2 is trying to tell us that this is love worth celebrating… so why does everyone look so miserable? Yes Bono, God is love. But love as a replacement for God? That’s going to be misery....

Music

Some thoughts on Christian Contemporary music

I’ve loved music all my life, so when I was approached to write about music, I was happy to oblige. I grew up listening to music at home, from classical music, to the marches of John Philip Sousa, to Buddy Holly and the Beach Boys, and finally to some of the giants of country music like Johnny Cash, Jimmy Rodgers, and Hank Snow. Those are some of the names I remember from my dad’s record collection. My taste in music has broadened over the years; while I’ve largely abandoned the world of popular music (which more than occasionally offends my Christian sensibilities, but almost always bores me), over the years I’ve found myself exploring the vast musical treasures that can be found in the worlds of jazz, classical, blues, world music, and elsewhere. But when it comes to popular Christian music, Black Gospel music from the 1950s and 60s used to be about as contemporary as I would get. Up until very recently, I’ve found myself repeatedly disappointed, and to be frank, disturbed, by the quality of the music that you’ll hear on Christian Contemporary radio. Why? Well, whereas from the 1930s to about the 1960s it was the music of the church that had a profound influence on the secular music industry, in the 1970s the trend was reversed. The music of the church once exerted a profound influence on the world. But in the past three decades, Christian music has done little more than imitate trends in popular music, rather than shaping them. Where’s the meat? The content of a lot of Christian Contemporary music is highly individualistic and largely divorced from the greater context of Scripture, and this poses a major problem when it comes to singing about the Lord Jesus. On a corporate level – as the body, the Church – we know and confess that the Lord Jesus has taken the Church to be His bride. The Church is the beloved of the Lord, and as a body, we live in this relationship of love with Him. He is the ultimate Husband, who gives His life for His Bride (Ephesians 5:25). The problem comes about when the corporate aspects of this relationship are forgotten, when the message becomes all about me, and my relationship with Jesus. What happens when Christian musicians do this? They go from praising the Lord Jesus, the Husband of His church, to singing a sanctified love song to Jesus, the greatest boyfriend you could ever imagine. Here’s a recent example, by Jamie Grace, called “Hold me”: Oo, I love the way you hold me, By my side you’ll always be You take each and every day, Make it special in some way. I love the way you hold me, In your arms I’ll always be You take each and every day, Make it special in some way I love you more than the words in my brain can express. I can’t imagine even loving you less. Lord, I love the way you hold me. There are a couple of problems with songs like this one, but the most serious one is this: apart from the word “Lord” in the final line of the chorus, the lyrics to this song are virtually indistinguishable from any other love song ever recorded. The song has little in the way of actual content; it’s solely about a feeling of being loved – but there’s so much missing! What’s the basis of this love? What’s the content of this love? What’s the context of this love? What kind of love is this anyway? As I mentioned earlier, until recently I have pretty much ignored Christian Contemporary music. Musically I find much of it boring, lacking in originality, pre-packaged, mass-marketed, appealing to the lowest common denominator. Lyrically, even where there isn’t overt false teaching, the messages are often shallow, effeminate, and cringe-inducing, to say the least. There are some gems out there, if you’re willing to look diligently enough. But like all “art” that’s produced to appeal to a mass market, there is all too often a tendency to tread worn paths, to follow trends, to “dumb it down.” In short, the motto that rules Contemporary Christian music too often seems to be, “Do what works,” and not necessarily, “Do what’s right.” A change is happening But over the past year, a couple of young men in my congregation have introduced me to another type of Contemporary Christian music; I hadn’t realized that this genre of music even existed, but when it was introduced to me, I found myself devouring it. And that music came from a surprising source – the American hip-hop culture. I was introduced to the music of men like Lecrae, Shai Linne, Tedashii, Timothy Brindle, Trip Lee, and Sho Baraka. And the more I listened to their songs, the more impressed I became. I had avoided Hip-hop and Rap music, since, as a genre, so much of its message is totally opposed to the Christian faith. When I thought of Rap music, I thought of musicians who reveled in wickedness, boasted of evil, and extolled the virtues of a godless lifestyle. But imagine my surprise when I heard songs like this one, “All-Consuming Fire,” from Shai Linne’s latest album, The Attributes of God: The Lord is speaking through His prophecies and all of His commands Unequalled in His qualities, He’s awesome and He’s grand He’s regal and His policies are gloriously planned He’s peeping the idolatry that’s all over the land How people in society ignore the Son of Man By seeking their autonomy, they are caught in a trance But He will put a stop to the evil and apostasy The devious hypocrisy, the fallenness of man We’re teaching you theology so y’all can understand According to His plans: the slaughter of the damned Unspeakable reality to fall into His hands No sequels, it’s finality and awful is the span No weeping or apologies, no sneakiness or bribery will keep the Lord from honoring His law and its demands We’re pieces of His pottery – He causes us to stand His people see Him properly – exalted is the Lamb! That’s just one example, but it’s indicative of Shai Linne’s lyrical output. It’s God-centered. It’s honest. It doesn’t shy away from the “hard truths” that the Christian message is filled with. It’s unashamedly theological, it’s got real depth to it, and it speaks prophetically to a world that needs to hear this message. Simply put, I would not hesitate to recommend any one of Shai Linne’s albums to Reformed, Christian people, young or old. Musically speaking, the style may not be your cup of tea; but there’s no denying the quality of the production, the originality of the musical accompaniment, and the centrality of God’s glory to the message of the lyrics. This is music that glorifies God and edifies His people. This first appeared under the title “Some thoughts on Contemporary Christian Music (Part 1).” Rev. Witteveen is a missionary who has served the Church in Canada and now Brazil....