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HHH, Calvinism and R.A.T.S. – The Heart of the Issue (An Apology)

Originally, this began as a blogpost response to Greg’s comments in the first post on this subject about 2 weeks ago. It’s expanded a bit.


Thanks for your comments. King Neb (whom I almost never agree with) raises a few good points here.

As a music educator, I just spent time with my students today demonstrating to them that music can be used to manipulate, cajole and influence mood, attitude and such. In fact, I actually completed an activity on this very topic earlier today with my general music students to get them to think more about what the music is trying to influence them to do than just whether or not they like it.

I had some down tempo underground house music play
from blue six during class one day a few weeks ago and asked students what they thought of the music and how it made them feel. Most thought it was ‘boring’, ‘relaxing’ or ‘smooth’ and ‘felt like it was going to put me to sleep’. This is from students who live and breathe R & B music and more of the vulgar varieties of rap on the air today.

Most older hymns are based on generally accepted musical rules from the classical and romantic periods….all western. I believe we’re trained to accept certain types of motions and moods with certain types of beats, rhythms and such. We’re ‘programmed’ into it from birth. And there’s a certain degree of additional cultural ‘programming’ that happens in each subculture and era with whatever the dominant musicform is there.

So my kids, trained and programmed to associate certain things and feelings with R & B and Hip-Hop, are thrown off a bit with other forms of music which aren’t dominant in their lives (hence the comments). This phenomena lies at the center of musical preferences and choices – even in believers. That’s why hymns are sung and played differently at churches where the population is predominantly black versus your white OPC or Reformed Baptist Church in the midwest or in a suburban or rural area singing the same hymns.

Related to this, I have spent a bit of time studying some of the varying musicforms in parts of Western Africa. Some of the same rhythmic patterns and motifs used in African drumming AND Hip Hop elicit two different types of moods and reactions depending on who’s listening to them.

My pastor visited a few countries (Rawanda, Kenya, Zambia and a one or two others) last year. On the video of one service he taped, the beat played by the drummers was similar to something you’d find in some R & B music in America- but these people were united with their voices and hands upraised, singing praises to God. There was no ‘showboating’ where one person tried to ‘outdance’ another during the music, there was no individualism (everyone doing their own thing), but everyone was united and reverent.

This is the point where I believe many of the posters on your page erred. While the music does communicate a certain emotive reaction, the reaction is based on the cultural programming that has been embedded. Thus, one man hears minor chords in a song and thinks and feels ‘sad’, while a Russian or Jewish person feels happy. One misuses things that God provided for good use to bring glory to Him by using it to convey sexual, hedonistic and violent messages, another group us another group uses it to bring glory to the Creator.

Abraham Kuyper said (barely 120 years ago) “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!'” (I love that quote). Combined with the cultural mandate to both fill the earth and bring it under subjection (Gen. 1:28-29), and I think we, as believers, have a very good grounds for seeking to bring ALL THINGS under the Lordship of Christ – entertainment, food, discussions on sexuality and much more. Unfortunately, more often than not, western white missionaries (and white Christians in general) have a tendency to not only bring the gospel message but their culture as shaped by the gospel message in with them and impose this modified culture as the Biblical norm. And anything else that clashes with this cultural expression is deemed unbiblical.

Some black Christians (and others) understand this, hence the charge sometimes leveled against our white brethren as being ‘elitist’. Some do not, and view their lively cultural expressions of worship (hands upraised, rocking, clapping, etc… none of which are forbidden in scripture and are regularly found in OT worship literature) as being ‘correct’ while their poor, white, “stiff” brethren are in ‘dead churches’ where ‘they don’t allow the Spirit to move’.

Likewise, some white Christians like Piper realize that the elect, drawn from every tribe and nation, are not monolithic in their cultural expressions and ways of doing things anymore than they are Americans are monolithic in theirs – so it is easy for him to accept that God can and does use Holy Hip Hop to bring the gospel message into the ‘hood’….. so stepping out of one’s comfort zone of suburban white America and into a place where pants are baggy, hats hang low, gunshots pop off, different slang and sentence syntax are prevalent – doesn’t look so uncomfortable for him. Why ? Because he knows well that God is Sovereign over culture as well. And His desire is not to simply make ‘black versions’ of his cultural Christian experience, but to make Christians and disciple them.

A few people in the thread brought this point through well when one gentlemen said that although Hip Hop was not ‘his kind of music’, he could not help but rejoice because God obviously was using this man (Curtis) with sound theology (explicitly reformed) to convey the gospel message and the Sovereignty of God’s plan and purpose in salvation. This is a wonderful and marvelous attitude to take.

Now I focus on this as a ‘black and white’ issue because those are the two predominant groups being discussed here. In Christ, I believe there is more than enough ‘Romans 14’ room on the topic of musical preferences and cultural expression as long as it is done to and for the glory of God. So if God has chosen to use the very same tools that some use for evil (in this case, the music of Hip Hop) to communicate the gospel message and have some men come forward and lay their guns on the altar, crying in contrite repentance toward God and turning away from their former lifestyle…….

Let me hit a related side note for a minute.

There’s been much talk in the blogsphere (primarily) about a ‘reformed black movement’ that has arisen of late thanks to men like Anthony Carter and Ken Jones. I must stand in agreement with Xavier Pickett of Reformed Blacks of America where he says that becoming reformed simply doesn’t mean that we become ‘the black John Piper’ or ‘the black R.C. Sproul’. God made each one of us different for a reason and that reason is primarily to use our God-given cultures, minds, talents and such to praise God in accordance with scripture via whatever means He has gifted us to do so. Therefore, a black preacher may preach expositionally (which I believe is the proper scriptural model), but he is not required by scripture to do it exactly like R.C. Sproul, MacArthur, Machen or other fine men in the faith do. He may insert his personality and personal experiences just as these men have done in their sermons so that his life experience can become a part of his apologia for the gospel message. It is God who created his temperment and gave him his sharp mind and quick wit so that he is able to take every ‘black experience’ things and turn them into teachable moments in his sermons so his audience can readily grasp biblical concepts…. probably a lot quicker than they’d grasp some of R.C.’s greek and latin jokes (i.e. I knew a little greek…. he was a tailor. I had a hole in my pants, he said ‘Euripides ?’, I said yes, he said ‘okay, Eumenides’).

This also touches on another related issue: there’s no more segregated church pews, so why aren’t more black people who claim to love the same Lord we do, going to churches with sound theology ? This issue is multifaceted and I believe a large portion of the black churchgoing population is simply Arminian by default because most reformed denoms as a whole have never sought to reach into the black communities and establish relationships. Yes, there is the segregation issue and Weslyans and Landmark Baptists were the only ones who reached out to and spoke against slavery on a grand scale, but let’s sit that to the side for a moment.

Simply moving out of the way of the church doors and saying ‘come on in’ without being intentional about reaching out, seeking to build relationships and understanding as well as taking into account that your goal is not to ‘make them look like you’, but to point them to Christ, won’t get you much of a hearing – either in black churches or black communities where there are plenty of souls that need to be reached with the gospel message.

In other words, just as your missionaries would cautiously move into African countries and seek to understand the dominant culture, cultural norms of the people and such and not simply try to have them assimilate YOUR cultural norms (provided that theirs are not anti-biblical), you should seek to do the same when reaching into a sub-people group right here in the US where culture will be different than what you’re used to.

I hope I explained this all well.

All that said, the conclusion of my primary point: God has used HHH to reach men and women in the body with edifying teaching, reached out to many in neighborhoods where most presbyterian churches would only be content to stay in their reformed huddle ‘us four, no more, shut the door’ and brought people to Himself by the foolishness of someone choosing to take Romans 3:12-24 and exposit it over a nice beat.

I see nothing in the RPW (which I agree is Biblical) that forbids a lot of what folks who hold to it says that it does. By that, I mean that a lot of what people say the RPW forbids is mostly based on cultural expression, not Biblical prohibition.

I once had a gentleman on one message board tell me, for example, that he prefers more ‘worshipful instruments’ such as the organ. What makes an organ more worshipful than a piano or acoustic guitar ? Cultural preference and experience have grown to have him associate organ with worship and guitar with rock band. So if a guitar would be a distraction for him, then he shouldn’t listen to worship music which has guitars until he is more spiritually mature and able to separate the cultural conditioning from the instrument of the expression of worship.

So if a guitar would be a distraction for him, then he shouldn’t listen to worship music which has guitars until he is more spiritually mature and able to separate the cultural conditioning from the instrument of the expression of worship. Likewise, the man who is tempted to simply admire the complex harmonic structure of organ music instead of the God who created the organ may be better off singing acapella if this is a distraction from his focus being placed on the true and living God as the music plays. Idols can exist even in what we consider ‘purer’ reformed traditions.

These things said, those who claim that rap music in and of itself is inherently evil will have to do more than simply provide genetic arguments, since many other things they utilize daily (including the internet) have been used for the same purposes as rap music. People associate the internet, for example, more with spam, porn, entertainment and sexual predators than with it being a tool for spreading the gospel. But the same genetic fallacy argument that says rap is inherently evil because of what it is primarily known for can be used to destroy the very credibility of an argument posted on the internet.

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth ?”

“Come and see.”

Thus endeth my major negative apologia for Holy Hip Hop. I hope I have presented my points clearly to you.

I will now present the positive side of the issue – the music.

I invite you to visit ‘s blog, Reformation Theology. A recent post comments on shai linne’s song Justified, which is a exposition of Romans 3:12-24.

I think his lyrics speak for themselves.

Let’s set the context, I promise you – it’s not complex

So far, Paul has been explaining why God’s vexed
Mad at us, His wrath is Just, we lack trust
Blasphemous, even though we know it’s hazardous
Chapter one, verses eighteen to thirty-two
He talked about our great schemes and the dirt we do
He said people refused to give God His due praise
Suppressing the truth in their wickedness, they’re ruthless

Therefore, God gave them over to their sinful ways
And because of nature, we have No Excuses!
Chapter Two’s for those who think they don’t fit in this category
They think they’re on the path to glory – Nope, wrath & fury
They point the guilty to hell, they’re swelled –

Lacking humility, even though they’re filthy as well
Needing more than a bath, Because like a greedy man who
Hoards his cash – in the same way, they’re storing up wrath
For the day when God’s righteous judgment is revealed
And all see (that) their sin debt’s an infinite amount
When no secret word, thought or deed will remain concealed

Before God, to whom we must give account
That’s why…

It feels so good to be JUSTIFIED!
Either trust or die, you must decide
Stakes is high – make the right decision
For the Lamb whose life was given – Christ is risen


Verse 2
As we continue, the apostle Paul is a man on a mission
To convince you of hostile, fallen humanity’s condition
Learn what God disperses – “hurt your pride” verses
Romans 3:12: ‘All have turned aside, they’re worthless’

Bound by sin, a race of hopeless slaves
Verse 13: ‘Their throat is an open grave’
It says that ‘they use their tongues to deceive’
‘The poison of vipers is under their lips’
Look at Hip-Hop: that’s not a hard one to believe
Cats who run with their cliques with guns on their hips
Doesn’t it fit? Thugs found dead in clubs

Verse fifteen: ‘their feet are swift to shed blood’
Police end up deceased in mad hot zones
Verse seventeen: ‘the way of peace they have not known’
Everybody appears hard – despite the clear odds
Verse eighteen: bottom line – “Nobody fears God’
His Holy Word declares that we’re ALL lawbreakers, well

That’s the explanation for this planet’s confusion
If God didn’t intervene the fall would take us all to hell
But Praise the Lord! He granted a solution! And…

Verse 3
Verse 21 – God’s righteousness – He manifested it!

But that’s nothing new – it’s in the Old Testament
It belongs to those who put their faith in Christ
If you believe, you’re redeemed because He paid the price
We were hostages, but then He set us free from the bondage of sin –
So now we pay homage to Him
Verse 24: Divine gift – JUSTIFICATION!

The most important term in a Christian’s vocabulary
And most believers can’t define it – that’s frustrating
Cause understanding this helps us resist the adversary
Christ spilled His capillaries; that’s why our Savior can’t be Mary –
that’s a burden only the God-Man can carry!

In Justification:
God declares sinners to be righteous by GRACE ALONE through FAITH ALONE
in the finished work of CHRIST ALONE – He saves His own
He saves His own – Add anything to that, you’re in the danger zone!
At the cross, God treated Christ as if He lived my life (what?!?!)
I’m so perverted – that’s why He was broken and murdered

Through faith, God treats me like I lived the perfect life of Christ
Yo, I can’t earn it, and no I don’t deserve it, but…

You can hear the song here. You can follow along to the lyrics.

shai’s first CD, The Solus Christus Project is filled with things like this. :) Likewise, his labelmate at Lampmode Records, Timothy Brindle has released two CDs and the content is pretty explicit from the titles: The Great Awakening and Killing Sin.

And there are a host of other artists like CHRISTcentric, FLAME, Voice and others bearing truth to the gospel and solid theology. And the issue isn’t personality, entertainment or music sales (all of these guys have full time jobs and GIVE AWAY more CDs than they sell…..), but ministry. There are no body guards, but brothers come off the stage into the crowd and talk with the people. They pray, they live…. just like normal people.

And these men’s words, like smart bombs designed to break up concrete bunkers deep underground, have made headway into communities where the only ‘Christianity’ that most people know is the stuff you see on TBN. In fact, songs like ‘Faulty Doctrine’ by Timothy Brindle and ‘Cliches’ by CHRISTcentric have been responsible for helping to point believers away from Jakes, Meyer, Copeland, Hinn and other heretical teachers to solid Biblical and theological truth. God has used these things to point men and women in these communities to MacArthur, Piper and others with sound theology, but most importantly, to the scriptures.

As one of my favorite groups (Redeemed Thought – though they’re not reformed) says, their purpose is to edify the saints with sound teaching, evangelize the lost and glorify God in their lyrics.

Join me in rejoicing, brother. :) And I pray that one day some of the stiff-collared brethren over on SharperIron can do the same on this side of eternity.

(and I’m sorry for the brevity of the second portion of my apology here, but I lost my work and had to retype the tail end of it).

HHH, R.A.T.S., etc…. Part II – Enter The Shai Linne!

See, it’s God’s Sovereignty that I simply blogged here.

It’s God’s Sovereignty that brother shai got a chance to get his account approved over at SI’s message boards (by the way, hi Greg. I saw your comments, I’ll be responding shortly) before I did (perhaps the name ‘BlackCalvinist’ may have set people up to think I was coming into cause a ruckus! Honestly, I would’ve calmed down by then).

Shai’s response was gracious, eloquent and Biblical.

You can read it here. I’m glad he got it in right before the thread closed. Shame for the iggnant comment that followed in post #237….not realizing that scripture condemned elitism (James 2:1-9) just as quick as it does compromise (which actually has NOT been proven). It’s people like this guy that give the reformed faith a black eye.

Anyway, enough on that. I commend to everyone, shai’s most excellent post (again):
Yes, this is the link. Click anywhere on this sentence. You’ll be there soon. Real soon. Real real soon. Yes, you.


Holy Hip Hop, Calvinism, Word of Faith and R.A.T.S.

Curtis just performed at Piper’s church recently. (click on the link to see the video – HT: Justin Taylor).

Praise God for Curtis’ ministry. Curtis Allen, aka Voice ( ) is a HHH artist (Holy Hip Hop aka Christian Rap).

While someone posted the video over on HCR, I decided to follow the very eyecatching ‘What’s Wrong With This Picture ?’ link at the bottom of Justin’s Blog over to the Sharper Iron boards. I’ve been meaning to join SI for a while now (for good reasons), but today this post really ticked me off into wanting to join simply to vent.

One person at HCR read through the thread and said that he thought that some the guys at SI who hated rap music were either borderline racist or already there.

My response (which turned into a vent):

It’s not so much racist as they are just underexposed and culture-centric.

One thing that SOME Calvinists and WoFers have in common is that there’s a tendency to only fellowship (I mean extended time, conferences, visiting churches, etc…) with those who believe as we do.

So some charismatics never hearing of Calvinism, the reformation, etc… come from the fact that they’ve never been to anything other than the family of churches they fellowship with, they only listen to or read books from Paula White, Creflo, Jakes, Noel Jones, Myles Munroe, Mr. ‘Word-Of-God-Is-His-Sperm’, etc…. they don’t know anything else outside of this. They may know other denoms exist…but they know little to nothing about them except ‘they dead churches! they don’t let the Spirit move!’ or some other drivel.

Likewise, there are some reformed folk (especially in some of the micro-presbyterian denominations) live in a similar huddle. The only people they read are the ‘good’ old dead guys and they may read one or two modern authors, all of whom are reformed, and that’s it. They learn what others believe second-hand from the people they read who do critiques of other viewpoints. Some of them (in case you didn’t notice) HATE Piper (or pretty close) and are the cold, sour, stiff, starched-collar folks you’ve heard about. In fact, some will divide over the SMALLEST point of doctrine and spend page after page arguing over it (infralapsarianism vs supralapsarianism for example). Some HATE anything remotely modern and believe that ‘mature Christianity’ looks like a quiet, 1646 presbyterian church, practicing exclusive psalmody, standing still, no rocking, no powerpoint, they treat the word ’emotions’ like a four letter word….etc….

I call it a case of RATS (Reformed Arrogance and Theological Snobbery).

They have no concept of Christianity outside of the small 15-20 member church they’ve been a member of for 30 years that hasn’t grown beyond that and the people they read about. A lot of them would be EXTREMELY uncomfortable in anything other than that. There’s not very much OUTREACH (as opposed to men like Piper, Spurgeon, Sproul, MacArthur) or heavy thought of outreach. Plenty thought on how to keep the sheep well educated on the faith and growing in holiness, but not much on evangelism or community events.

Similarly to the way i say that WoF doesn’t preach well in impoverished countries, I try to point out as often as possible to folk like this: we have brethren who are reformed soteriologically in Africa who use drums and dance as a part of their worship service. The RPW (regulative principle of worship) is Biblical, BUT the implementation of it in Western Culture is not THE only way it can be done. That’s why John Frame disagrees with you (see Frame’s book Worship in Spirit and Truth). And I’ll tell them in a heartbeat (which I’m going to do as soon as I get home and confirm my registration) – everyone with a criticism on here needs to shut up if you’re not willing to step into SE D.C., Philly, Baltimore, smack dab in the middle of the hood, put up a platform and a microphone and preach. How DARE you simply spit this GARBAGE on this board and criticize the work of a brother (and I’m talking of both Piper AND Curtis) who have made it their MISSION to get into unreached people groups while all you do is sit back in your micropresbyterian huddle content to read Calvin’s Institutes, Hodge and others and let your mind grow fat and your heart grow cold! HYPOCRITES!!!!

I did register for SI, but there were several encouraging (and well thought out) posts in the thread which responded to the cultural elitism of other folks in the thread:

What’s wrong is that this man represents one of millions of people of all races in our inner cities who are not reached with the Gospel. Instead, they are hurting and alone. How will they believe unless someone tells them? Who will tell them if those who have the Good News are sitting around talking about what is “wrong” with musical style?

Does anyone else feel a little sad about threads like this?


Chris said:


I don’t think rap is appropriate for worship. I think it lacks the reverence that Scripture requires of worship (Heb. 12:28-29) and is not consistent with God’s character or with our new life in Christ.

Does that make me highminded? Do I need to repent?

I’m not Joe, but Hebrews 12:28-29 is in the context of Hebrews the Epistle. The whole thrust of the book is about Christ, the superiority of Christ, and the utter insufficiency of the God-ordained, God-prescribed worship of the Old Covenant now that Christ is our Great High Priest. I think it is mistaken to use the “acceptable worship” in this verse to defend any style whatsoever. The worship spoken of throughout the whole of Hebrews is the saving worship available through the Christ the Sacrifice and Priest. It is not referring to a worship service or even a lifestyle.

It is also noteworthy that if the God-prescribed accroutements of worship (Hebrews 9) were, even in the Old Dispensation, insufficient to cleanse the conscience even though commanded, then how much more inadequate are the styles and traditions of our worship? The fact of the matter remains that whenever we worship congregationally or individually there is priestly worship that is concurrently taking precedence. Thus, we pray and sing in Jesus’ Name and with all boldness because He is our active High Priest. He is (present tense) interceding for us. We are (present tense) covered by His blood, cleansed by His blood, and, though the sacrifice has been once for all slain, it is (present tense) being received up in Glory.

This is relevent to our music and all of our efforts to praise God. I didn’t like the rap, but I couldn’t help but rejoice that very likely it was done in heart-felt response to the saving work of Christ, offered in Christ’s Name and, though it had many faults, was acceptable to God out of sheer grace. In the same way I trust my singing of an old anthem next Sunday will be acceptable to God.

“Reverence,” on the other hand, could apply in that it is attitudinal and subservient. But then you would have to prove, first, that Allen’s rap was in direct disobedience to the will of God, therefore knowingly “trampling on the blood of Christ” and, second, that his spirit was jocular and irreverent.

On the first, no one has done yet. On the second, no one is able. For even if it were to be eventually proved that to rap is an egregious sin against known revelation, it cannot be proved that Allen did this with that knowledge and without sincere heart-felt worship.

You are confused that a man who has such a high view of God would sit on the front row of the church and allow that music. Maybe it is because a high view of God comes with a proportionately low view of man. When that happens the difference between Mt. Everest and an ant-hill seem trivial when one feels the length to the sun.

Maybe. I don’t know. Just pondering.

I don’t see you as high-minded because you said, “I don’t think rap is appropriate for worship. I think it lacks reverence…” I think that it is generous of you to use provisional language there, minus the dogmatism of “thus saith the Lord.” I’m glad you said “think.” Did you mean that?

Therefore, though I am not Joe, I would suggest that you are not high-minded. Maybe wrong, but definitely not high-minded!

along with:

I think the question may be: “Is music done in this style is always wrong, regardless of lyrical content?” Curtis Allen was asked to do a number (OK – is that a reference to a hymnal?) at our church – I think the reaction was probably similar to what BBC had. It sure was different (as I recall, he did his song called “Divide and Conquer”). Most of conversations I heard afterword went something like: ‘Well, rap is not my thing, but we are excited to see the gospel being presented to a potential target audience that is largely unreached with the gospel.” Does it cheapen the gospel? John Piper certainly didn’t think so, I don’t think I do either.

and my favorite:

[An evangelical pastor allowing a Christian to speak (with a beat) his testimony of being rescued from spiritual death]

…is being condemned by…

[a thread on a fundamentalist blog which tolerates rape jokes, as long as they’re making a point about the man’s music]

I think there’s a beam in someone’s eye.

Prayerfully, some of these folk will grow in their view of the entire body of Christ one day and realize that we weren’t meant to look monolithic in expression.