Christianity Today, July/August, 2013. Judging by the content and enthusiasm of this letter to the editor, it seems that the people over at Christianity Today think that the gospel needs hip-hop. If the gospel needs hip-hop, that is news to the New Testament. Strictly speaking, the gospel needs nothing but God. Since, however, God has instituted means for the communication of the gospel, we may say that the gospel needs those means. “How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10.14.) Nobody but a complete foreigner to the interpretation of Scripture will assert that this ‘preacher’ who is needed includes the hip-hop artist. The New Testament gives us dynamic examples of what a preacher is in the four narratives and in the book of Acts. There is no song, no music, and certainly no hip-hopping in any New Testament account of multitudes being converted. The gospel, then, does not need music or song, much less hip-hop.
Music and song are appendages to the gospel. The ‘spiritual songs’ commended for use among converts must convey truth ‘in all wisdom’ and be sung in a spirit of ‘submission’ and ‘fear of God’ (Ephesians 5.19-21; Colossians 3.16.) Hip-hop, like most of today’s contemporary Church music, is antichristian. We know this because of its lack of wisdom, submission, and godly fear. Now that kind of New Testament news hurts a lot of people. But it is the truth no matter how many conversions and bouts of edification are attributed to hip-hop and contemporary Church music.
I will show, now, the lack of wisdom, submission, and fear of God in contemporary Church music by examining the music and artist mentioned in the letter. I could do this in regard to other genres and others artists. But the subject here is hip-hop and a man called Lecrae. Okay, Mr. Lecrae, let’s check out one of your popular songs: ‘Church Clothes.’ Does this song convey truth ‘in all wisdom’? One has only to read the comments below the youtube video of this song to see the proof that the song lacks wisdom. So many of the comments down there are about what this song might be about. What point is Mr. Lecrae trying to get across? If the point were clear, the debates would be about whether the point is valid or not. But since the point is unclear, the debate is about what the song is about. Whatever truth Lecrae is attempting to point out must not be conveyed ‘in all wisdom.’ The problem is not that the people looking and listening do not discern spiritual matters. The problem is that Mr. Lecrae communicates in a confusing manner. Taking a passage from the song that is clear, do we find wisdom? Here are some lyrics from the song: “I walked in the church with a snapback, and they tellin me that that’s a ‘nono’? That’s backwards, and I lack words, for these actors called pastors…I don’t wanna face no scrutiny.” A ‘snapback’ is street-slang for ‘cap.’ Is it a ‘nono’ to wear a cap in a church? It is a nono in 1 Corinthians 11.4, which verse is part of a passage that forms part of the rule for worship in the churches of God. Now pastors might want you take your snapback off for the wrong reason because they may be no more educated in the word of God than Lecrae is. Wearing your snapback in a church is, nevertheless, wrong. Mr. Lecrae doesn’t want to face any ‘scrutiny.’ How is a Christian supposed to ‘prove all things’ in order to ‘hold fast that which is good’ (1 Thessalonians 5.21) if he doesn’t scrutinize Lecrae’s lyrics? Lecrae’s lyrics not only lack wisdom, but they renounce the scrutiny that Christians are commanded to apply. And this is unwise. Next, is Mr. Lecrae’s video done in a spirit of submission and godly fear? Singing about sacred matters in a muscle shirt while standing beside a pulpit is not submissive to God’s people, and it is rebellious and irreverent to God. The same rebellious attitude that confronts us in secular rappers confronts us here in the person of Lecrae. The man sings, walks, and gestures in a spirit of defiance, dissent, and bitterness. No godliness appears in his manners or demeanor at all in this video. Aggression and confrontation are inherent in the rap art form, says Drake, another popular rapper (CBC’s Q, October 17th, 2013.)
The gospel does not need hip-hop because God has not ordained it as a means of grace, and hip-hop is not conveyed in wisdom, submission, and godly fear. Hip-hop, as an instrument of grace, is unbiblical, unlovely, misleading, and sure to fail. It may be as rude an object as the jawbone of an ass. But unlike that famous jawbone, it will slay no sinner down. It will convict no one who is proud of sinning. And conviction of sin must be, if anything is, a necessary factor in salvation coming to pass through the gospel of Jesus Christ.