“There are some who have no understanding to hear the truth of liberty and insist upon their goodness as means for salvation. These people you must resist, do the very opposite, and offend them boldly lest by their impious views they drag many with them into error. For the sake of the liberty of the faith do other things which they regarded as the greatest of sins….Use your freedom constantly and consistently in the sight of and despite the tyrants and the stubborn so that they also may learn that they are impious, that their laws and works are of no avail for righteousness, and that they had no right to set them up.”
Martin Luther “The Freedom of a Christian”
The title of this site is “Worthy of the Gospel.” Sometimes we have to defend the gospel even from well intentioned brothers in Christ when their perception of Law begins to deteriorate the beauty of the gospel.
Earlier this week, the Christian community on the internet was thrown into a tizzy when a panel of conservative men in an audience of conservative listeners decided to pontificate their prejudices on why Christian Rap is not acceptable for worship. (Video here)
While the moderator has come out and apologized for his actions and participation in this affront to the gospel (seen here), the words spoken by prominent leaders in the Church will still be used to position Christians against each other in something that is no more than a preference and at the very most on the fringes of
any concern that is genuinely attacking the Church of our day.
I will be honest. I am not a fan of rap in general and I never got on the bandwagon with Christian rap. But for the sake of the gospel, I will go down screaming to protect the grace of God.
Let’s analyze the panel discussion…
Many of the arguments these men used to attack Christian rap are similar, if not the very same, arguments used a hundred years ago to attack the forms of worship they would hold to as conservative. Although I don’t think rap will every become the conservative norm, the same could have been said a century ago about using a piano in a church service.
I understand the temptations of ‘speaking to the choir’ when surrounded by individuals who already agree with my prejudices in an environment where polarizing the argument is acceptable. It’s easy to imaging that these men feel free enough to speak their unfiltered mind in an atmosphere of ‘group think.’ I would hope that they wouldn’t use the same approach if the audience they were addressing were more diverse… but this is a major problem I have with the discussion itself. It used to be that you could say something completely foolish in a private setting among one’s peers and it would never go beyond that point to wreak havoc among the greater Christian community. While I think it is still wrong to speak one’s mind so carelessly even in private settings, it has become more of a prolific problem since the dawn of the digital age. Christians should not present their opinions of culture un-tempered and as equal with their perspectives of theology. That should be a no-brainer, but… If they still hold to their prejudices within their theological framework, I feel at ease calling them a legalist and separating myself from them.
It’s a pretty strong statement to suggest that someone’s preferences could be equated with legalism. When I was in college I had a professor teach that legalism is only legalism if it suggest that our salvation is in jeopardy based on an action. Ironically, that definition of legalism is legalistic. Legalism is any action that draws a line in the sand, to questions someone’s spirituality, where the Bible does not draw lines. It’s the log and the splinter problem. If all we are doing is pointing out someone’s unrighteousness, we are suggesting that their form or unrighteousness is different in nature and somehow worse than our own. But that’s a subject for another day. These men, on this panel, have said more than their opinion that rap is unhealthy philosophically for the structure of worship they hold so dear. They equated their own form of worship with righteousness and any other form with unrighteousness. All of our forms of worship are as filthy rags.
What this all comes to is the fact that we are not very good at differentiating our preferences from our principles and we need to be scolded any and every time we misconstrue that fact. The very essence of the gospel is at stake. We need to temper our opinions and be less antagonistic about where our brothers differ. The thing that should always be at our highest concern is the purity of the gospel. Any temptation to offer our own commentary of how that should be experienced apart from the explicit parameters of Scripture should be suppressed.
What should really concern the Christian community and the leaders who sat on this panel, is the way in which the community of believers have consumed this debate above greater needs facing the Church. It is evidence of our appetite for controversy rather than the meat of doctrine. It is proof of our cowardice to position ourselves against something benign when we don’t stand firm on the clear lines of Scripture with those outside the faith. I think this is a symptom of a much greater problem.
To see an overview of the opinions of the panelist and other prominent leaders, check out this layout from Joe Carter from the Gospel Coalition.
If you just want to be against the form of rap as a form of art, here is a much more balanced response to Christian rap from D. G. Hart.
Furthermore, Joel Beeke, one of the panelist, has also come forward with an apology.