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It’s entirely possible you live in a twitter circle completely independent of my own. If that’s the case, you might have missed something of a internet-age equivalent of strong rebuke of several men participating in a National Center for Family Integrated Churches panel discussion. The segment making the rounds includes a question about holy hip hop and whether it’s appropriate. The panelists shared what can only be described as statements of escalating idiocy and implicit (at least) cultural superiority. Following the NCFIC panel segment on Christian/Reformed hip hop, a number of thoughtful brothers responded. If you missed any of it, here’s a round-up:

Mike Cosper, “Creation, Culture, Redemption and Hip-Hop

Ligon Duncan, “The Hip Hop Hullabaloo

Carl and Karen Ellis, “A Letter to Our Young Brothers and Sisters

Paige Patterson, “The Rap on Rap

Owen Strachan, “Did a NCFIC Panel Really Say That Reformed Rappers Are ‘Disobedient Cowards’?

Urban Gospel Mission, “The Gospel and Rap

Doug Wilson, “Rap Tide

Brian Davis (a.k.a. God’s Servant), “Death Rattle or Life Preserver? An Appeal to the NCFIC Panelists

Jonathan Akin, “Christian Hip Hop, the Sufficiency of Scripture and Judging the Heart

Who did I miss?

A few reactions:

1. As I tweeted:



It’s always tricky knowing when to bring attention to stuff like this. On the one hand, you don’t want to highlight it any more than it would otherwise be highlighted–especially if its influence is limited. On the other hand, such comments are never okay and always need correction and confrontation on behalf of those who are influenced and those who say such things. We need to be redemptive without furthering sinful things. A difficult balance.

2. It’s good to see our white brothers take up arms so decisively against fellow white men in defense and confirmation of the truth.

I’m glad that many of the brothers who responded didn’t fall into the trap of thinking, Well… this is a hip hop thing. I don’t need to get involved. It wasn’t a hip hop thing. It was, as many have put it, a conversation riddled with notions of superiority and inferiority, which has a long and troubled history across ethnic lines. It’s good to see good men stand up for what’s good.


3. I’m glad for the restraint shown by the men who were the target of these comments.

Honestly, I held my breath hoping none of the brothers and sisters in Christian hip hop would respond. I even counseled a couple not to. For two reasons. First, my mama always taught me that some things coming from the apparently prejudiced just don’t deserve an answer. She’d say, “Don’t dignify or legitimize that mess with your response.” Part of me felt like any response longer than a tweet gave too much attention to something that should have been dismissed without further thought. Knowing when to leave rubbish in the bin is a great life skill.

But, secondly, and more importantly, I worried that a strong response from an African American would only further cement the stereotypes already in play and shift the conversation from these sinful remarks to the brothers who had been attacked. How easy it would have been for someone to say, “See? They’re angry black men. It’s the culture. It’s rap. They just proved it.” Never mind they had been maliciously slandered as cowards. Some would turn their self-defense into an indictment and their just cause would have been lost without being heard.

Blame-shifting also occurs by painting the offenders as “intelligent” or “thinking” while painting the attacked as “emotional” and “hurt.” To say you were “hurt” by these things makes one look soft, weak, and unable to “intelligently engage the argument” on a “non-emotional” level. As if there weren’t plenty of emotion displayed on that panel and as if Black men are one roiling ball of emotion. Think of the NFL’s old notion that Black quarterback were “athletic” but they weren’t “smart” or “thinking” QBs like the white guys. That kind of thinking was on display here, making African American hip hop artists “too sensitive” and too likely to cry “racism” too often. This is a trick bag, too. The fact that some brothers were legitimately hurt isn’t the problem; it’s the effect. The problem was the sinful slander, malicious misrepresentation and mob mentality displayed on the panel. The focus needed to stay there, and I’m glad it did–facilitated in part by the restraint of those demeaned and the speaking up of those who weren’t.

4. Finally, we need to be careful about extending labels in conversations like this.

A lot of the twitterati quickly called that panel a “group of old Reformed white guys.” Now many of those words fit. But I don’t know about the label “Reformed.” I’m certain Beeke sees himself in that category. I don’t know about the others. Prior to the video I’d never heard of them. Now, I’m not the gatekeeper on who is “Reformed” and who is not. There are others fighting for that job. But it does seem to me that the label gets tossed around almost indiscriminately. It’s almost become a synonym for “evangelical,” which has long lost definitional coherence, in my opinion.

Ought I to regard these guys as “Reformed”? I don’t know. There’s nothing in the video to warrant that association apart from some vague references to the regulative principle, itself a debated issue. Or, more sharply, ought I to regard these men as “brothers”? Again, there’s nothing in the video to commend that either. They certainly don’t seem to see me and the hip hop brothers and sisters I love as brethren. Maybe there needs to be more first principle discussion before we start trying to critique hip hop.

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98 thoughts on “A Round-Up of the Holy Hip Hop Squabble”

  1. Rachael Starke says:

    Thanks for adding your voice, Thabiti. I had such a visceral reaction of anger and offense at this because this kind of gospel-less fundamentalism and (to borrow Mike Cosper’s phrase) cultural elitism/racism is what I was raised in. It drove me away from God as a teenager, not toward Him. In His grace, God pursued me anyway, but the spiritual scars linger.

    I am somewhat familiar with the NCFIC and its somewhat overlapping linkages with Vision Forum. Many in my area have fallen sway to the extreme legalism of both movements. It’s interesting that this incident comes just weeks after the shuttering of VisionForum due to personal moral failings on the part of its leader. I was grieved for him personally, but not for the closing of a so-called Reformed ministry that was dividing churches and really advocating old-school fundamentalism and dominionism. It seems now with this incident God really is answering the prayers of many and exposing the gospel-less legalism, pride and cultural racism of this larger movement.

    1. Vaclav Vasil says:

      Rachael, I know exactly what you’re saying…why can’t we just get along, since we all love and serve the same Lord Jesus, who loves us equally, with all the diversity of races, cultures, gifts and preferences. I guess all we have to listen to is A-Capella Psalms and hymns now? Is there an issue in what color of underwear we wear, as well? I like all kinds of music, colors, foods, people… Didn’t God make variety? Didn’t he make us in his image, to be creative? Reformed rap is awesome, because the rappers love Jesus, because Jesus is worthy of our praise! May our patient Lord help us to take the motto attributed to forefathers in the faith the Moravian missionaries of the 1700s, “IN ESSENTIALS UNITY, IN NON-ESSENTIALS LIBERTY, IN ALL THINGS CHARITY (LOVE).”

  2. Mike Waters says:


    Yes, I am a white Reformed guy. The church I pastor is a part of the FIC. I am also an enthusiastic hip hopper. We’ve had Timothy Brindle out twice to preach and rap. May I suggest a few things…

    1. Let us make this less of a white/black thing and more of an ignorant thing. There are white rappers and black Christians who equally appose this music.

    2. We must be careful in the language we use. To say that there was nothing in the comments to commend their profession of Christianity is uncharitable at best. Surely you must be familiar with at least Beeke and Morecraft. Both have been faithful men of God for far longer than you and I. Regardless, “love believes all things,” and I suggest that men speaking at an FIC conference (which by the way is a Reformed Baptist group, though not all were baptists), should receive the judgment of charity.

    3. I too was offended by much (most) of what they said, yet, some of it I believe was necessary. There are those within Christina hip hop (not as much reformed), who need to consider what is cultural and what is Scriptural. I trust you agree, that the behavior of some, have left us open to some just criticism.

    We need to be able to address our critics with humility and love, rising above their harshness, ignorance, and even meanness.

    I trust you will receive this post in the spirit I intend it (that, is with love and appreciation for all that you do).

    Peace and grace,

    Mike Waters
    Heritage RBC

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Mike,

      Grace, love and peace to you in Christ Jesus our Lord.

      Thanks for stopping by and for taking the time to be both interested in this topic and to comment on it. I’m grateful you would invest in this way. A few responses…

      1. A thing can be both an “ignorant thing” and a “black/white thing.” In fact, ignorance seems to have most often and most virulently shown itself on “black/white things.” That’s what racism is… ignorance attached to skin color.

      2. So what did you find in that segment’s comments that commended their profession of Christ as Lord and Christians as brothers?

      As I said in the post, the only man I know or had heard of on that panel was Beeke. He begins his comments with, “I agree with everything these men have said.” Now, I’ve been on enough panels to know that sometimes one says that without really meaning you agree with everything. But given the forceful and sinful character of the responses, I expected more from Beeke than a “these guys grew up with this stuff and we should be patient as we lead them away from it,” which was an implicit endorsement of the most fundamental flaw in the discussion–god-honoring hip hop doesn’t glorify God. The most charitable thing I can say in Beeke’s defense–and I’m speculating with the charity you think I should use–is that he got caught off guard with the comments, was out of his depth on the subject, and either in the fear of man or unable to muster the words failed to challenge the most repugnant aspects of the previous comments.

      I don’t know the other men. Love does “believe all things,” but also does not rejoice in wrongdoing. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. And we heart a lot about folks’ hearts on this subject. Enough to make me ask again, what did you hear that commends their profession of Christ as Lord and Christian rappers as brothers?

      3. If some folks are beyond the pale, they need to be named, charged and engaged. “The behavior of some” doesn’t begin to justify any of the vitriol that came from that panel. I didn’t find any of the comments credible or worthy of ministers of Christ.

      I appreciate your spirit and I appreciate your caring enough to engage. On balance, though, I think you should rebuke the original transgressions more sharply.


      1. Mike Waters says:

        P Thabiti,

        Thanks for your kind response.

        I know Beeke personally very well, as I attended Puritan Theological seminary, and would not say he’s racist. In fact nothing he said in the 11 minute video would indicate he was. My question is, can a Christian (white/black), be totally against Christian Rock or Rap and not be racist? I think we would both agree that’s possible.

        Bottom line, dear brother, I feel rather awkward defending these men, as I mentioned above, their words were offensive and foolish.

        I’m playing Beautiful Eulogy’s latest record as I prepare my morning message, and it is simply warming my heart!

        Peace and grace,


        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Hi Mike,

          Glad you’re enjoying Beautiful Eulogy, one of the most creative musical groups I can think of today.

          Three quick replies:
          1. Anyone defending these men should feel awkward because those comments were, as you note, indefensible.

          2. “Can a Christian (white/black) be totally against Christian Rock or Rap and not be a racist?” Absolutely. In the same way it’s totally possible to say things that reveal racist assumptions/thinking and not be a racist. I had to re-read my post and my earlier to comment to be certain, but I don’t think I called any of these men “racists.” As for Beeke, his first comment was to identify himself with “everything that has been said.” I’m perfectly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt by assuming he meant that in a less than literal way. But if that’s true, he needs to now distance himself from anything he found offensive and unwarranted in the statements given prior to his comment.

          3. On the strength of John 13:34-35 I question whether they acted in love that becomes disciples and minister, or treated parts of Christ’s church as brothers. And I think that’s a fair question in light of the comments proudly excerpted and posted by conference organizers/participants. I’m sure that a wider angle lens on their lives would reveal things that commend them–in Beeke’s case (the only one I know), I’m sure much. But not in this video. I raised it as sharply as I did because I think the comments deserve the sharpest rebuke and I hope genuine repentance and displays of Christian love would be forthcoming.

          The Lord bless you ministry today, brother!

          1. Daniel S. says:

            Greetings, brothers in the Lord!

            Let me state beforehand: Yes, those comments are really to be condemned (not the men that uttered them, though). I love listening to groups like Beautiful Eulogy, but I believe what they do right exemplifies in a good way what others don’t and what should be carefully examined. E.g. When Lecrae in his song “High” has a purposeful club-like sound, that’s one thing (and I would understand that some would have reservations about supporting that, myself included). That the female rapper in the chorus sounds very sensual, to say the least, is more than unfortunate. In this case, the delivery completely undermines the actual lyrics. This is the kind of stuff we should be cautious about, I believe, before accepting all Reformed Rap as good.

  3. GT says:

    How is it racism when these “old white men” would also reject all CCM (mostly white hipsters) and a large swatch of “traditional” music from the gospel song era (also written by all white people)?

    I find it ironic that the only racial issue brought up was when these men were charged as racists using the term “old white men” (or something similar).

    I wonder how many of the opponents of these brothers have actually read anything by someone against the contemporary music movement, such as “Worship in Song” by panelist Scott Aniol or John Makujina’s “Measuring the Music”? How about you, brother Thabiti? Have you read either of these works?

    Do you believe it is possible for the cultural expressions to be affected by sin, both in their production and in our evaluation of them? Is that even entertained as a possibility? Is there anything in our cultural expressions that is not worthy of God? If so, how would we know that?

    Until we stop the namecalling (which was probably worse in the responses), and deal with actual issues, we won’t get far. If we want repentance, let it begin by those who charged these men with racism when there is no indication from these video that it had anything to do with race. Let us decry the kind of responses that attack these brothers as ignorant until you have actually evaluated their contributions to the topic.

    1. Thabiti says:

      Hi GT,

      Thanks for engaging this conversation. I’m sorry I missed your question to me in your comment above, and I see you’ve asked one question a number of times later in the thread. Let me offer a couple quick replies. And, again, I’m sorry to have overlooked your question until now.

      1. You asked if I’ve read any of the panelists, especially “Worship in Song” by Scott Aniol or “Measuring Music” by John Makujina. No. I have not. Nor have I read any of their other works. As I stated in an earlier comment, apart from Joel Beeke (who I respect, who’s work I have read and greatly profited by, and with whom I’ve published and shared platforms), I don’t know any of these men either personally or by their writing.

      “Do you believe it is possible for the cultural expressions to be affected by sin, both in their production and in our evaluation of them?” My answer would be an unqualified “yes.” Not only is it possible, it is actually impossible for it not to be.

      How would we know that? All human cultural productions are either tainted by sin in their production or in their use. There’s nothing that is good that can’t be twisted by sin. It’s important that we begin by acknowledging the antithesis between the world and God. Otherwise we run the risk of thinking any cultural production or culture is pristine or superior.

      Which brings me to a question you ask later of another participant: “do you believe all cultures are equal?” Yes. All cultures are equally fallen. Is the practice of abortion in the United States more or less egregious than the practice of child sacrifice in Old Testament pagan cultures? Is the corruption of power in ancient Rome more or less sinful than the corruption of power in the U.S. presidency?

      I think we could draw some distinctions in the examples I use above. But I think they’d be distinctions of degree, not kind. The fact is, all human culture–being produced by fallen humanity in a fallen world–shares a fundamental fallenness and hostility to God. All human cultures are equally debased. And, all human cultures are capable of sublime beauty, reason and good. That’s because–though fallen–we still bear the image and likeness of God. In this way all cultures are equal, too.

      Any distinguishing we might do will likely be highly affected by our own limitations as creatures (we can’t handle all the data) and our own preferences (we’re all “bent” toward/away from something we like/dislike). In other words, we’re not neutral evaluators. Our judgments are fallen, too.

      Praise God for His indescribable grace!

  4. Mark N. says:

    Hello Thabiti,

    Your point “we need to be careful about extending labels in conversations like this” is very important and I would like to expand on it a bit.

    I feel many of the things said in the video to be out-of-line. And yet, I’m grieved when I see some of the responses to it. In fact, many of the responses seem to be also quite out of line.

    An example: The “old white guys” label. Setting aside the “white” part of it, the “old” part is disturbing to me (even as a somewhat young person myself). To dismiss what the panelists were saying because they are “old” is wrong on so many levels. 1) It’s clearly wrong–not all the panelists were old. 2) Even if they were old, it seems to me that that has no bearing on the wrongness or rightness of what they said. 3) Those who say this seem to have the underlining presupposition that old people are not able or allowed to speak into the lives and cultures of those who are younger–which seems to militate the very instructions about age relations in the NT.

    Of course, being grieved at this sort of “ageism” is not at all to, in turn, condone what was said in the panel. It is wrong and needs to be corrected.

    Anyways, I always appreciate your thoughts and perspectives, and that’s all I have to say for now.

    God bless you, my brother,
    ~Mark (from Canada–It was a pleasure to hear your speak at the Carey Conference a few years ago)

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for joining the conversation, friend. I’m grateful you’d take the time to do so.

      I’m not aware of what responses to the video are “quite out of line.” Everything I’ve seen has been quite gracious.

      I agree with you about how problematic “old white guys” is. You raise three good points.

      But, I don’t think the panelists were dismissed. Dismissing them is what I was inclined to do. But nearly all the responses I linked to in the post were thoughtful engagements with what they said. Some of them quite long and careful. If anything, the responses indicate that the men were not dismissed–even if they spoke in sweeping and dismissive ways about a whole group of artists.

      I pray things in Canada are well. I greatly enjoyed our time at the Carey Conference. Grace and peace,


  5. Ian says:

    I thought the panel’s comments were very hurtful. I have also not found most of the rebuttals very helpful(though I’m inclined to sympathize with those who took the first blow). I particularly thought that the comment about Christian rappers being “cowards” was over the top and the elders of his church should have a talk with him and a public apology is in order.

    I was surprised by your questioning whether the members of the panel are actually Christians. I’ve come to expect more from you from your writings. I get your technical point that they never said as much in the clip, but you know they are pastors in bible believing churches…is that not enough to give them the benefit of the doubt?

    I do have an honest question for you though. I grew up in the drug culture. I grew up listening to classic/hard rock music. After becoming a Christian (at age 20) I really didn’t want anything to do with that music…even of the Christian variety. Looking back I realize much of this was out of a fear I would end up back were I was. As I’ve grown older in years and in the Lord I’ve soften and wouldn’t have a problem listening to that music. Oddly I actually would prefer to listen to Lecrae or Shai Linne now precisely because that style of music doesn’t remind me of my former life.

    Now if this panel had been asked what their take on Christian hard rock was I suspect their answer would have been very similar (also a sign this has little to do with race). If they slammed hard rock I might disagree, but I would recognize that there are some legitimate issues being raised. Do you see anything in their point? Can you sympathize at all with were they are coming from?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Ian,

      Thanks for the comments, brother, and for the push back it contains. My reply to an early comment is what I’d say to your second paragraph:

      On the strength of John 13:34-35 I question whether they acted in love that becomes disciples and minister, or treated parts of Christ’s church as brothers. And I think that’s a fair question in light of the comments proudly excerpted and posted by conference organizers/participants. I’m sure that a wider angle lens on their lives would reveal things that commend them–in Beeke’s case (the only one I know), I’m sure much. But not in this video. I raised it as sharply as I did because I think the comments deserve the sharpest rebuke and I hope genuine repentance and displays of Christian love would be forthcoming.

      As for whether I see anything in their point… what was their point? What issues were being raised? Where were they coming from?

      There have been plenty of learned and thoughtful engagements about what constitutes appropriate worship in the gathered setting. I still think Give Praise to God helpfully and thoughtfully works out the regulative principle for Christian worship.

      But this was nowhere near thoughtful, constructive or helpful. The points raised were mostly ad hominem attacks against the culture out of which rap emerges and the rappers themselves. When someone actually makes a point worth considering, I’d be happy to engage it, though I think a great number of artists would be better equipped to do so.

      Now, I think I know what you mean. Certain music forms can actually be spiritually unhelpful if they tempt us toward sin and unwise behavior. That’s a good point to consider and one I think has merit. It’s something that often comes up when pastoring new converts. But ultimately it’s a matter of using your freedom in a way that doesn’t enslave to sin or cause stumbling or fail to edify.

      What, in my opinion, makes this a racially charged discussion is the fact that panelists went to “culture” in such a charged way without, as you do, zooming out to make their comments applicable to fallen human culture as such. I understand the question was about hip hop, but hip hop is simply one cultural musical expression among all the others. That context is vital if we’re going to avoid getting entangled in discussions of racism or cultural supremacy. And even if we wish to avoid such entanglements, we still ought to identify and reject the sentiments along the way.

      Grace and peace,

      1. Ian says:

        Thanks for your response. I see what you mean about the panel’s point not being clear. I may be projecting onto them my own arguments. I’ll leave it to them to clarify their position. I think the link below brings a near perfect balance between firmness and grace in response to the panel.

        As a side note, I have a great deal of respect for you. I really enjoy your writing. Keep up the good work. Bless you brother.

  6. Pete says:

    In response to GT, Ian, etc., it’s really no defense to point out that these fellows may also disapprove of rock music. It should be noted that fundamentalist critiques of rock music have always been rooted in the very same European ethnocentric assumptions displayed by the panelists in this discussion. These fundamentalists have quite correctly identified African-American culture at the root of rock, blues and most of the other influences that have shaped popular American music during the last 50-100 years, as any semi-perceptive student of American pop culture can attest. And they have always been frightened by that association. Remember the early 80s scare-mongering craze that identified any and all syncopation as the devil’s music, originating around “Satanist” fires in Africa, therefore rendering it unfit for worship? It’s impossible to ignore that backstory when these fellows talk about “the beat” in this context.

    1. Ian says:

      The people I grew up with would be very surprised to learn that heavy metal is linked to African-American culture considering that most of them where unabashedly racist. I think you are displaying your own set of cultural ignorance if you think the men on that panel would disapprove of rock music because it is associated with African-American culture.

      It may be true that some will see all rock and roll as stemming from “African” music, but come on no one has made that argument for a long time. People may have disparaged Elvis for playing “black” music, but I’ve never heard a single person make the same argument against Ozzy Osbourne.

      Is it really such a stretch to think their problem with rock music is more due to the association with rebellion and drugs rather than any racial issues? Is it so hard for you to believe that someone might see a problem with Hip Hop because it is associated with drugs and violence rather than skin color. I don’t know your back story. If you have suffered from racism I’m sorry, but be careful that you don’t let that taint your view of everyone.

      1. Pete says:

        “The people I grew up with would be very surprised to learn that heavy metal is linked to African-American culture considering that most of them where unabashedly racist.”

        I have no doubt they would be surprised. Remember, I qualified my pop cultural observation saying it would only be self-evident to at at least semi-perceptive observers of pop culture:)

        All joking aside, I’m not particularly interested in what any individual “man on the street” thinks or knows or observes, simply setting the opinions of these men within the context of a stream of fundamentalist thought that criticized even “light rock” as inappropriate for worship due to its syncopation.

        The core assumption at play here posits harmonic piano or organ or vocal music as inherently more spiritual than rhythmic music and that is indisputably laden with Euro-centric bias. So to return to the initial point I was trying to make, if these folks hate rock along with rap, it in no way clears them of Euro-centric bias. Rather, the Euro-centric bias is a key piece in both puzzles.

        From the last sentence it sounds like you’re assuming I’m black. I’m not, on the contrary I grew up in a classical Christian school that peddled this Euro-centrist ignorance ad nauseum, which is how I can recognize how it’s built in to the cultural frameworks these fellows are operating within.

        1. Ian says:

          I give, maybe my aversion to hard rock music is more related to my “European ethnocentric assumptions” than the fact that I question whether Christians should associate with a genre of music that is known for individuals biting the heads off of birds on stage. My bad.

      2. Pete says:

        P.S. Ozzy Osborne’s sound was an evolution of blues rock, which is what he started on. Blues rock, according to wikipedia, is a combination of blues, boogie-woogie and rock’n’roll. These are all cultural forms invented and pioneered by African-Americans. My point is not that Ozzy added nothing now, but rather that a fundamentalist critic in the 60s or 70s would clearly identify Ozzy’s milieu as “of African origin” and be disturbed by that, for a number of reasons

        1. Pete says:

          Oops, last sentence should be more clear: My point is not that Ozzy added nothing *new*, but rather that a *Euro-centric* fundamentalist critic in the 60s or 70s would clearly identify Ozzy’s musical milieu as “of African origin” and be disturbed by that – a disturbance that would for him go right along with his distaste for the heavy metal lifestyle, AND the anti-authoritarianism, AND Ozzy’s satanist gimmicks

    2. GT says:

      Pete, First, on what basis do you call them “European ethnocentric assumptions”? That’s a huge charge, and you skip right over it like it’s prima facie. You need to actually show that to be the case.

      Second, on what basis do you say they are scared of it? That’s the old “homophobic” line to describe those who are opposed to homosexuality. They might not be scared at all; they might believe it is sinful, and they might have good reasons for doing so.

      I don’t agree with these men on the panel, for the most part. But making baseless accusations is not a way to further the discussion. It is just as unChristian as calling these men cowards.

      So let me ask you these questions directly:

      Have you read Worship in Song by panelist Scott Aniol? If you haven’t, then how can you possibly know his objections? (Turns out you don’t, based on what you have said here).

      Do you believe it is possible for the cultural expressions to be affected by sin, both in their production and in our evaluation of them? Is that even entertained as a possibility? Is there anything in our cultural expressions that is not worthy of God? If so, how would we know that?

      Discussing the issue at this level will be much more productive than calling names.

  7. Greg Linscott says:


    As much as you might consider this to be a singling out of rap and black culture, I would observe that for at least one of the panelists who I know personally (and I imagine for more of them), they would have as just as much of a problem with styles that borrow from music forms more popular with “white folks,” from recent manifestations of rock (light or heavy) or country-western to the now nostalgic sounds of the Gaither Homecoming concerts (or even older). Agree with their conclusions or not, I think it is a mistake to assume that their opposition is limited only to rap.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Greg,

      Thanks for you input, friend. I don’t assume their evaluations would be limited to rap. The question was framed in terms of rap and I understand that they answered the question asked. But if they would have similar critiques with similar intensity of other forms, they would serve themselves well by putting their comments about rap in that context. If they’re saying the Gaithers are “worldly cowards” along with light/heavy rock and country artists, then that would be an interesting discussion. But so far, their comments were about rap and rap artists. That much we know. And having made their comments, they should give an account.


      1. Greg Linscott says:

        I think there will be more forthcoming. The panelist I know personally (Scott Aniol, the second one), posted this one his Facebook account yesterday:

        Just got off the phone with @ShaiLinne. Godly, humble Christian brother. I’m looking forward to some healthy discussion in the days ahead.

        I, for one, am eager to see what might come of their conversation.

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          I’m eager to see good fruit as well. Thanks for sharing the link.

          1. a. says:

            thank you. ever learning from the Lord..speaking truth in love; accepting weak in faith; growth together in discernment, eager to keep the unity of the Spirit…one body,One Spirit

  8. Mike Parks says:

    These brothers spit more truth in a three minute song then most pulpits across America and they’re getting condemned, this is shameful.

  9. Torance Jones says:

    I think some of it may be racist but above all there is a clear cultural superiority. This even took place with the Native Americans in this country. They were forced to become “civilized” by dressing like the Europeans, speaking European languages, and being under European control. This culture still continues today but it’s not only white people who do this. I’m a black man who goes to a black church and my black pastor refuses to allow any Christian rap in his church and the assistant pastor preaches against it. I’ve been at white or even multicultural churches that allow all types of music including Gospel rap on Tuesday nights for the teens. I’ve also been to some that don’t want black people at their church. I’ve even been to some where they welcome all races but don’t allow other races to influence the culture of the church (e.g. music, church customs, etc.) My point is, there are multiple reasons a panel can act like this.

    1. GT says:

      Torance, do you believe all cultures are equal?

      If you do believe all cultures are equal, you would equate the baby-sacrificing cultures of ancient times, or the cultures that subjugated women to cultures that didn’t do those things.

      If you don’t believe all cultures are equal, then your complaint against this panel goes away since you agree with them in principle, you just disagree on which culture.

      So can you give us some ideas or principles about how you evaluate culture?

      1. Kenton says:

        I’m not Torance, but the huge difference here is that the form of music is being evaluated and demonized in moral terms. We aren’t talking about practices and lifestyles and behaviors. We’re talking about auditory aesthetic preferences. Torrance’s point about civilizing policies is relevant because this amounts to dismissing chopsticks as barbaric because our eating habits are adapted to forks. Or perhaps more to the point, that a pastor who wears jeans blasphemes God.

        The simple point is that the basis of critique stems from a distinct Eurocentrism that cannot perceive of any form of worship other than its own, because it wrongly presumes that its forms are sacred and eternal. The early Christians did not worship as we do; they’re culture was strikingly different. Therefore, we should not conflate cultural preference with spiritual maturity.

        1. GT says:

          Whoa, my friend, back up the truck. You just called them “auditory aesthetic preferences.” But on what basis do you label them preferences? You can’t jump right back the argument stage to reach a conclusion. I imagine most on the panel agree that preferences are simply that. But they do not believe this is a preference.

          I am not sure you understand the basis of the critique being offered. It is not about being unable to perceive any form of worship other than its own. Again, I disagree with their position, but you have not rightly represented them.

          Nor have you actually addressed my questions. You gave a totally superficial response to a very important foundational issue. The questions are real, and are intended to quit talking past each other and determine something about what we actually believe.

          Do you believe all cultures are equal?

          So can you give us some ideas or principles about how you evaluate culture?

          Do you believe it is possible for a culture to produce something such as a mode of expression or communication that is sinful? If not, why not? If so, how would you identify it?

          1. Kenton says:

            I call them preferences because what is under attack is the base form of hip-hop, which consists of beats and rhythm. If something other than that is being addressed, do let me know. The style of music most certainly IS an auditory preference. It holds no inherent moral value. You need to show how it does, and so do they, if you disagree. Given the large appeal to subjective experiences with rap – distracting sounds, an inability to discern or remember the words, emotional effects, etc. – I concluded that what was really offensive about rap was nothing more than the unfamiliarity with the form, since they all acknowledged that at least the content was doctrinal. And that constitutes it as a preference issue, not a moral issue.

            I am quite sure that I understood the basis of the arguments, as many have. Be careful not to import your own critique into theirs. They were quite clear on what it was about hip-hop that they didn’t like, without being clear on the Scriptural grounds for such opposition. Let me make a simple list:

            Speaker 1:

            A. Rap doesn’t place proper emphasis on the words.
            B. The sounds (beats, loud music, etc.) distract from the words
            C. Rap doesn’t help us to remember doctrine
            D. Hip-hop draws undue attention away from God and to the rapper
            E. Music is meant to be a form of preaching

            Speaker 2:

            A. Rap doesn’t align with biblical literary art forms (narrative, poetry, parable)
            B. Rap, in its cultural setting, is intended to express unbiblical truths
            C. Christian rap is fundamentally the same as secular rap
            D. Rap is not an appropriate vehicle to express God’s truth (as outlined in God’s Word)

            Speaker 3:

            A. Rap is essentially worldly
            B. Rap is not a legitimate art form (implied in “so-called art form”)
            C. Christian Rap caters to the flesh
            D. Christian Rap caters to the world
            E. Christian Rap represents cowardly engagement with the world
            F. Rap needs to be replaced in order to fully redeem its cultural setting.
            G. Rap is the antithesis of Christian worship

            Speaker 4:

            A. Rap is indigenous to a non-Christian culture
            B. Discipleship involves putting away rap (implied: Christian Rap represents spiritual immaturity)
            C. The panelists don’t relate to the culture of hip-hop

            Speaker 5:

            A. The dress code of Christian rappers (backwards hat, etc.) is unseemly and out of place.
            B. Christian Hip-hop, especially in its dress, is immature and at odds with Christian manhood.

            Speaker 6:

            A. Rap cannot be separated from its culture
            B. Rap (ex. male ear piercings) does not identify with the godly culture of the church
            C. Rap is the death-rattle in the throat of a dying culture
            D. The words of Rap get lost in the music
            E. Rap cannot be disassociated mentally from its ungodly cultural setting.
            F. Rap does not fit the majesty and dignity of God’s words.
            G. Rap does not edify, instruct, or give proper praise to God
            H. Rap is repetitious, boring, disrespectful of God, and doesn’t portray sufficient knowledge of God.
            I. Hymns (especially the joyful ones) are worthy of God’s majesty and glory (implied in the positive regard for the hymnal, as opposed to rap)
            J. Rap, like some “funeral durge” hymns, doesn’t evoke joy in God.
            K. Rap does not enhance or strengthen the words that we sing to the glory of God.
            L. Rap does not glorify God.

            If I misunderstood these points, please enlighten me.

            I certainly didn’t intend to give superficial answers. I don’t think our objections are superficial, but foundational to the gospel that calls individuals from every tribe and nation and language.

            To answer your question, I do believe that cultures can be evaluated, and that not all cultures have an equal moral worth. But, that moral evaluation is on the basis of moral action, not trappings and styles and preferences. You mentioned child sacrifices and misogynist systems. These cannot be compared to preferences about rhythm, musical instrument, or melody. They are not in the same category, and to suppose that they are is to fall into the same error as the Judaizers. It is to suppose that something as universal and diverse as food constitutes in itself something unclean.

            I certainly believe it is hypothetically possible for cultures to produce modes of expression and communication that are inherently sinful. But I think you need to provide some concrete examples, rather than accept blindly that hip-hop constitutes one such form.

            I don’t think I’ve missed their arguments at all. Their basic premise for evaluation seems to be legitimate enough: everything, including art forms, must be evaluated in light of Scripture and worship. But, their conclusions about hip-hop betray a cultural elitism that assumes that their own inherited art forms do perfectly conform to Scripture, and are the basis for evaluating other art forms.

            1. Kenton says:

              Speaker 2, Scott Aniol, posted an elaboration of his comments, here:


              It’s very helpful in elaborating on his points, particularly why he regards Christian rap as the same as secular rap, and therefore why it’s inappropriate.

            2. GT says:

              I think it fair to say that you missed the point, or at least the main point. The main point is whether or not form matters in communication, or if only content does.

              When you say, “I call them preferences because what is under attack is the base form of hip-hop, which consists of beats and rhythm,” you have completely jumped a big issue. You have simply restated your assertion. You haven’t actually shown it to be a preference. You have told us why you call it that. Now, tell us why it is a preference, and not a matter of principle.

              I suspect that your wife probably thinks form matters when your tone of voice communicates frustration or disrespect to her. And I am sure you think it matters when it was or is your kids tone of voice towards you. I imagine that you probably don’t think that is a matter of mere preference, but rather the expression of respect.

              Do you think John H. McWhorter is also an ignorant racist? Here’s an article worth your time. And after you read it, google him and find out who he is. And then come back and tell us this is about race and fundamentalists.

            3. Kenton says:

              I will be the first to say that form does matter. I don’t think I missed that at all. But the question wasn’t, “Does form matter?” but, “Is Christian Hip-hop godly?” And the deeper question is, can certain forms of music be redeemed? I believe, and others believe, that it can and has been redeemed. Again, the panelists betrayed an ignorance not so much of mainstream hip-hop and rap, but an ignorance of Christian hip-hop and rap. And despite Aniol’s extensive analysis of the genre, his primary arguments are these: “Rap is inherently aggressive, and rap cannot be separated from its fallen context.” Let’s get out of the abstract and into the concrete. I disagree with these statements not because of the history of hip-hop, but because Christian hip-hop has demonstrably disproven them.

              As to your comparisons between daily discourse and hip-hop, I will only say, again, that not all hip-hop is aggressive, and certainly not all Christian hip-hop, though some certainly is. And the fact that this is the case disproves that over generalized assertion. Also, I never called anyone an ignorant racist. That said, their comments on Christian hip-hop specifically betray an ignorance about it that reeks of cultural elitism. That they cannot perceive a difference between Christian hip-hop and secular hip-hop (whether it’s content, delivery, or attitude) shows that they simply have not observed much of Christian hip-hop.

            4. GT says:

              If you agree that form matters, then you have at least come on to their territory. A discussion can actually begin at that point. I do think you have misunderstood Aniol’s argument a bit, but even at that, the assertion that Christian rap has proved it wrong is, well, unproven. I was listening to it this morning, thinking of how odd it was. The words didn’t fit the music.

              But that aside, what do you make of McWhorter’s article?

  10. Christy says:

    Everything about this squabble made me SO sad. I read Mike Cosper’s post before I saw yours and I was so pleased in his response. If you know any hip hop artists that this panel was targeting please convey to them I pray for them regularly and I am so proud of the work they are doing. I particularly have been hugely ministered through the lyrics and work of Shai Linne, KB, Lecrae and Trip Lee. KB’s latest album put words to a year of some of the biggest griefs of my life and reminded me of the gospel every time I listened to it.

  11. John Dunn says:

    The prohibitionist attitude of these “orthodoxy police” toward other believers is a natural by-product of their strict allegiance to Sinai’s ministry of death and condemnation (2 Cor 3:6-9), which is enshrined in their scholastic confessions as a “rule of life”. The legalism that is imbibed by this bunch has been distilled into their so-called “regulative principle” . . . having narrow parameters that are controlled only by them. Condemnation flows naturally from these law-driven folk. But grace and truth comes through Jesus Christ, and those filled with His Spirit abound in unspeakable Gospel liberty!

    For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery! Galatians 5:1

  12. JB says:

    Does the panel think that being transformed means changing the style of music? It sure sounds like it. If so, isn’t that like saying rap and hip-hop, and those associated, need to repent and be transformed into another style of music?

    As far as the argument against rap and hip-hop being about the performance or performer, couldn’t that be the case with all types of music? (such as polka liturgies, country carols, or organ music). The problem is more with the heart than it is the style (I Samuel 16:7) and we are all accountable to God here. To declare one specific group of musicians as “disobedient cowards” is to judge their hearts based upon their rhythm.

    Discrediting and dismissing their Christ-centered lyrics so easily is unwise. What’s troubling here is that it’s like saying that true Christians denounce certain types of music, and if you don’t…I’ll denounce you. Why don’t we allow for a variety of expressions of truth as long as its true? Let’s encourage gospel truth to go forth, rather than harping on the expression.

    Praise Him! (Psalm 150)

    1. GT says:

      I don’t think they are dismissing their Christ-centered lyrics. If you listen to the panel, what they are talking about is the form that the lyrics take, the form of communication.

      It would be helpful for the conversation to actually respond to what they are saying.

      1. Kenton says:

        The problem actually is that they don’t identify what is offensive or unbiblical about the form. Instead, they criticize hip-hop’s background, the other cultural trappings that usually accompany hip-hop, or the content of most hip-hop tracks. They don’t actually identify what it is about rap that is inherently unbiblical. Instead, they focus on everything that surrounds the secular use of hip-hop. So it is actually hard to precisely address their real arguments, because they don’t actually address the theology behind their convictions. So that’s not our fault, but theirs. In fact, we are addressing what they are saying.

        1. Thabiti says:

          Well said, Kenton.

          1. GT says:

            Brother Thabiti, I know you mean well and I have a great deal of respect for you, but this may be the worst post you have ever done, and the worst interaction on a topic ever by you. I would encourage you to ask TGC to pull this so you can go back and take another run at it. Readers would be greatly served by such an effort.

            I think I asked you earlier if you had read Aniol’s book, or perhaps the book by John Makujina called “Measuring the Music.” I don’t recall you answering. These books might be helpful to see a side you might not have seen before. At least you would be familiar with why there is a reaction such as this. While I am not in full agreement with either author, and I find Christian rap very intriguing, there is a gross oversimplification going on here, and many key issues are being glossed over for the sake of piety. I think it deserves a better hearing.

        2. GT says:

          With due respect to Thabiti, that wasn’t well said. In fact, it didn’t actually say anything. You are expecting something out of a soundbyte that a soundbyte is not able to give. And Scott was very clear about the theology behind his convictions, so you either didn’t listen closely or didn’t recognize theology.

          You need to try to figure out why the form of rap was used to say what it said. Why not use one of the many other forms. Maybe take some rap and try to set it to Frank Sinatra, or to Willie Nelson. See how that works, and then tell us form is neutral. You know it isn’t because certain things don’t work in certain forms.

          Again, I think this type of interaction does a great disservice.

          1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

            Hi GT,

            Actually, it is well said with reference to the panel discussion, which is what triggered this discussion and what the comment was about. In the panel, no one pointed to what was offensive about the form or inherently wrong with hip hop. They simply denounced it. So, Kenton is exactly right when he says it’s difficult to even engage the panel discussions because they don’t actually say much–which you’ve been saying by referring to other works to “explain their position.”

            I answered your question about their books earlier on in a comment. I have not read them. But that’s a conversation for another day and another post. This post was about the panel comments. Scott has written a lengthy blog post on his position. It’s probably most appropriate to have that conversation there. I think there’s a link somewhere in this thread.

            Grace and peace to all,

          2. Kenton says:

            I admit that I read Scott’s lengthy explanation of his own position (and only his position) after I penned the comment. That said, while I still disagree with Scott’s specific points about rap (namely its intractability and immutability), the way in which the panelists addressed hip-hop and its culture does reflect poorly on them. This is what I mean:

            When one of the panelists says things like “raised that way” and “this culture”, without clarifying what he means, he is drawing upon the audiences preconceived notions of what defines “that culture”. Then, the shared notions of what that culture is like become the argument against hip-hop, and instead of identifying particular aspects of the culture in question, everything about the culture and the people who express it is demonized without qualification. That was the effect of the panel discussion, and it is a large part of the reason why there has been such opposition to it from within Reformed circles.

            But obviously, the subsequent discussions must move from the limited statements of the panelists to the actual worldviews and philosophical presuppositions about the role and function of music in society and the church.

  13. Kenton says:

    I imagine that many of the panelists would object to this form of corporate worship:

    Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! (Psalm 150:3-5 ESV)

    But I could be wrong.

    1. GT says:

      What basis do you have for imagining that?

      1. Kenton says:

        Oh I don’t know, the uniform dress that all of the panelists share, the comments they make about non-vocal music being distracting which applies to the above verses, the simple observable fact that Reformed churches are known for hymns with simple accompaniment, rather than the wide breadth of instruments displayed in the verse above (when has dancing or trumpets ever been a major feature in traditional Reformed worship?) I’m hoping you can definitively correct me – with examples – if I have wrongly characterized the panelists. I attend a church that identifies as Reformed by the way.

        1. GT says:

          Uniform dress? Did you even watch the panel? They are dressed differently. You have everything from a coat and tie, to a sport shirt and jacket, to a couple of dress shirts and jackets, to a sweater. But your comment is even more odd since many people attacked the panelist who mentioned Toby Mac’s dress as if that was relevant. So why does the form of their dress have any meaning but the form of music does not?

          Secondly, I don’t recall them saying anything about non-vocal music being distracting. I think the point was that when the music accompaniment is overwhelming the lyrics, it distracts from the message. Again, it would be helpful to note what they are actually saying, which is yet another reason why I say above that I don’t think you get the point.

          Many reformed churches aren’t known for simple accompaniment. I don’t know where you got that idea. It is probably true that many Reformed churches are small and don’t have the capability, but the Reformed churches I have been in have had full orchestras, praise bands, booming organs, etc. So I think you are just unaware perhaps. Consider Coral Ridge (D. James Kennedys church), or Tenth Pres in Philadelphia I think as well. Others do.

          1. Kenton says:

            I’ll leave the dress issue aside (you may not consider it uniform, but that it represents the same culture is without dispute, and is relevant only in shedding light on why Jason Dohm crititiqued TobyMac’s clothing as he did. I am not maligning such clothing at all, though I do, as I’m sure you also, know that how one dresses does matter; a long tee and sweatpants are not characteristic of immaturity, but sagging pants that expose a man’s underwear is characteristic of immaturity and immodesty. Connecting this to rap and hip-hop, I believe that the strict form of the music (the beats, rhythm, melody, etc.) falls into the former category, rather than the latter. Everything from content to delivery can fit into the second category, but the two are not necessarily intertwined.

            As to musical accompaniment overpowering the lyrics, again, I don’t see how that is fundamentally different from distracting accompaniment. Both have the effect of detracting from reception of the words. That said, the speaker stated that rap is more about the beat and music than the words, and that it is hard to focus on the words. That’s his limitation. To the millions of people who listen to rap, whether secular or Christian, the words can be understood, they can be remembered, and the music serves to enhance its reception. It does not detract from the lyrics, because their ears are attuned to it. Furthermore, the purest rap is entirely and strictly lyrical. Opposition based on this is therefore not based on legitimate biblical grounds, but on personal tastes and preference.

            But again, the main points were not abstract, but concretely about hip-hop and whether Christian hip-hop was legitimately Christian (or legitimately music or art)

            1. GT says:

              Okay, great, let’s leave some stuff aside and push this a bit now since we have some examples on the table:

              First, regarding tees and sweatpants, would they ever be inappropriate? If so, why and how would you determine that?

              Second, you say that everything (content and delivery) can fit the second category. How would you determined if delivery fit into the second category?

  14. Concerned Citizen says:

    Thabiti, a few comments….

    First, with the benefit of a few hours cooling down, would you agree that your response to this issue (particularly your Twitter posts) are exceptionally graceless? I was frankly shocked to see a man of your caliber descending to those depths.

    Second, this is not a racial issue. You don’t have to agree, but that doesn’t change it. Frankly, I feel that you often use your “race” as a way to throw your weight around rather flagrantly and cozy up to the world’s Politically Correct vision of life (see the Doug Wilson exchange earlier) and earn brownie points with the Left, both Christian and non-Christian. The men in the video were addressing the music on its merits, not panning their black brothers outright. You know that. You don’t have to agree, but you can at least meet logic with logic. Your skin color does not give you the right to get all righteously huffy about anything you can pull into the “race” narrative.

    Third, get to know those names. They are big and getting bigger and I’m frankly very surprised that you have not heard of them. I know at least three of them personally and they are the most graceful, Christ-like, and kind Christians I have ever met….period. Perhaps getting to know them would allow some of it to rub off. Do I agree that their statements were poorly worded? Yes. But keep in mind that they were in a Q&A session at a conference where they were speaking to the choir, and their statements were not delivered with the understanding that they would be aired to the “uninitiated” outside the argument and without clarification or background.

    It’s the ultimate in taking something out of context.

    A concerned black brother in Christ

    1. Kenton says:

      “When someone comes to me, who comes from a culture that’s raised that way, had no Christian background, and first hears this kind of rap and listens to the lyrics and gets really interested in Christianity – first thing I don’t challenge them on is the form of the music. I try to take them in, disciple them, and break this in slowly to them. So let’s have a little compassion for people who, for whom they related to this culture – which we don’t really relate to at all probably – and work with them.”

      This is cultural elitism. It isn’t necessarily racist, but it’s certainly spoken unashamedly from a culture that erroneously views itself as inherently Christian. The fact that these comments were spoken in-house is not a commendation, but further indictment. Furthermore, these arguments conflate other cultural aspects (such as ear piercings, tattoos, etc.) with the art form, while supposing that cultures cannot be redeemed. But this too is contrary to the gospel. When Paul evangelized the Greeks, many things did change, but many things also stayed the same. He did not assimilate them into Jewish culture – by all counts “superior” given their establishment by God – but he stressed freedom within the bounds of Christ. And that is exactly how Christian rappers have conducted themselves.

      1. Thabiti says:

        Dear “Concerned Citizen,”

        Thanks for joining the conversation. And thanks for speaking frankly, if anonymously.

        A reply for each of your comments….

        1. My response is “exceptionally graceless”? No. I wouldn’t agree with that.

        2. “This is not a racial issue.” I’ll respect and leave you to your feelings, both about whether this is a “racial issue” and about whether I “throw my weight around rather flagrantly and cozy up tot he world’s Politically Correct vision of life.” As far as I can tell, my views on “race” make me about as unpopular on the left, middle and right. I’m trying to figure out what “race narrative” you think I’m trying to pull the conversation into. And, honestly, insofar as God gives me grace to be faithful to His word, I could not care less about what people think of me or what they think I’m doing in “throwing my weight around.”

        3. I’m glad you know the men and think they’re the most gracious men you’ve ever met. Perhaps they’ll give you an audience to talk with them about whether their comments (friendly audience or not) represents the graciousness you’ve come to know of them.

        It seems to me that our disagreement has little to do with whether you or I think this is a “race issue” or whether I “throw my weight around.” You think their comments were “poorly worded” and I think they were sinfully slanderous. You think they’ve been “taken out of context” and I think the mouth revealed the heart in that moment.

        I’m certain God’s grace is enough for these men. And I’m certain I can use more graciousness, not just on this issue but at all times.

        May the Lord show you favor in all you do,

        1. Ricky J says:

          “Sinfully slanderous” – the guy was talking about TobyMac, he has no idea about Lampmode or HumbleBeast artists! I think “sinfully slanderous” may be a bit strong. The panelists should have probably passed on the question or used specific examples. I will say this of Beeke though, we know he was familiar with Propoganda as Beeke took time to blog about “Precious Puritans” one year ago.

          Thankfully, “God really does use crooked sticks to make straight lines”.

          1. Thabiti says:

            Hi Ricky J,

            Thanks for joining in, man. By “sinfully slanderous” I particularly had in mind calling people “cowards,” etc. That’s slander. And slander is sin. I certainly don’t think it’s anywhere near as strong as the repeated and intense charge of “coward.”

            And “Amen” to God’s use of crooked sticks!


            1. GT says:

              I don’t want to be rude here, and I want to tread carefully and respectfully, but this is serious and I think at least two questions are appropriate:

              1. Was “coward” actually repeated? To my recollection, it was only used once. All the repetitions have come from people who are critiquing the comment, right? Or can you point to some others have called them cowards? Or repeated the charge of “coward” in agreement with it? IF not, then why say it?

              2. Is the charge of “racist” also sinfully slanderous, particularly given the complete lack of evidence? The charge of “racist” has attacked, not just the opinions of these men, but their very character. And with absolutely no credible evidence. It seems to me that “racist” is at least as slanderous as “coward,” and probably has a greater rhetorical effect. It is a huge and unwarranted jump to go from a theological or philosophical disagreement with rap to a charge of racism.

            2. Thabiti Anyabwile says:


              1. Yes.

              2. No one has charged anyone with “racism” or being “racists.”


  15. Joseph Brader says:

    Thanks for a biblical, balanced response. I grew up in churches/”circles” that would have at least sympathized with the views expressed by NCFIC panel, although I now greatly appreciate reformed hip hop. Some of the statements coming from hip-hop’s critics are divisive at best and scary at worst. The grace shown by Mike Cosper, Shai Linne, etc. has stood in stark contrast to the original panel discussion. The men in the panel (and those I know who agree with them) love the Lord and seem to have good intentions, so I pray that, through this, they interact with those they are criticizing and come to see not only the issues and arrogance held in their arguments, but more importantly, the passion for Christ, the gospel, and sound theology of their brothers in the reformed hip hop movement.


  16. Jim Cassidy says:

    Before this dust-up, there was Episode 300 at Christ the Center:

    Tim Brindle does a great job setting the scene for us, and bringing in some rich theology to complement his understanding of Rap as an art form for communicating the Gospel.

  17. Jeremy says:

    I agree entirely that this panel represents “what can only be described as statements of escalating idiocy and implicit (at least) cultural superiority.” It seems to me that the NCFIC continues to demonstrate their tendency to say far more than the Word of God says on a given subject and elevate their opinion to the status of divine revelation. Much of what they say seems to be based on theological confusion surrounding what the sufficiency of Scripture means and does not mean. As Timothy Trudeau has noted in his response, “it does not mean that omission equals opposition.”

    That said, I’m curious as to why everyone seems so surprised by this. I understand why people need to respond to these statements, as they convey a tone of cultural superiority, and I appreciate this post very much. But why the surprised reaction by so many authors in this round-up and in other places in the blogosphere? Would anyone be surprised or put off if Michael Moore made an extremely liberal documentary this year? Or would they just say, “Well, there goes Michael Moore again,” and move on? It’s perplexing, to say the least, because the NCFIC has been doing this for years. They’ve been saying that all modern youth ministry is a “weed in the church”, to use Scott Brown’s language, and that every church that utilizes age specific opportunities in ministry is also being disobedient, basing their ministry on paganism instead of Scripture, and distorting the gospel of Jesus Christ. The NCFIC has been using this kind of strong, biblically over-reaching (to put it mildly) language for years. They’ve been adding a “Thou shalt not practice any age specific ministry in the local church” rule to Scripture for years, and now they are adding a “thou shalt not rap” rule. The base of the problem here is that the NCFIC continues to refuse to be disciplined with how they respond to matters of opinion. Now, granted, they would say that issues like reformed rap and modern youth ministry are not matters of opinion, but they also wouldn’t (and don’t) do a very good job demonstrating that point Scripturally. So why the surprise in the blogosphere? Nothing to see here, folks. Just an irrelevant group of guys continuing down the road of legalism.

    1. Concerned Citizen says:

      Jeremy, reading your comments I can’t help but think…”And who’s got a problem with cultural superiority?”

      Your comments are dripping with arrogant superiority. And face it, there are elements of cultures that are superior to other cultures, but only inasmuch as they are grounded on the Word of God. To deny that is to deny the power and preeminence of the Bible.

      1. Jeremy says:

        Thanks, CC, for your comment. After re-reading my post, I do see that my last sentence is not worded charitably at all. I apologize for my lack of charity. I did not intend to call the men on the panel irrelevant (as I do not know them), but the NCFIC as an organization. Broadly speaking of all of the men on the panel as irrelevant legalists wasn’t in good form.

        I wonder if you would be so kind as to speak to some of my concerns here. I do think that they are legitimate. You said that there are elements of cultures that are superior to other cultures, and that may be true insofar as they demonstrate biblical truth, but we are actually dealing with a *specific* claim that the NCFIC is making here, not just some abstract conversation about culture. They are saying, in the panel, that rap itself is ungodly. So, my question is, how do you justify that specific claim biblically? Would you agree that if you elevate your personal preference to divine revelation that it is a form of legalism? If so, I believe it is necessary to demonstrate a Scriptural case for how reformed rap as a vehicle for doctrinal truth is ungodly. If one is unable to demonstrate a Scriptural case for how reformed rap (or age specific ministry, for that matter) is ungodly (which the NCFIC so far has been unable to do), and yet one continues to claim that it is sinful and ungodly, he/she is elevating their opinion on a cultural matter to divine revelation, and therefore stumbling into legalism. Please help me understand how the NCFIC is not doing this. I appreciate your push back regarding my tone, but it would also be beneficial to speak to the content of my remarks. Thanks CC.

  18. Eric says:


    I always appreciate your input on such matters. You clearly have a living working knowledge of the Person of Christ.

    If I understand correctly, usually this kind of thing (a dispute and a faction) is related to our unbelief. Would Christians argue about this kind of thing if they feared God appropriately? Would we be so quick increase laws and legalism if we knew they were not for life? Would we have a concern for our music as much as our character if we knew what God was asking? Would we not be silent instead of quick to speak if we believed our hearts were evil?

    I am suggesting the Lord speaks to this situation and says set your minds on things above. That is at stake.

    One man suggests we need rap music it is my preference. Is he submitting to the Lord when he suggests this? Another suggests that we do not need rap music because it is offensive. Is He submitting to the Lord when he says this? Is there not a competition among us for who may give the most grace and love to the other? Who may lay their life down the most? Or do we argue as to win at the expense of grace, surrender, and love?

    Your words are an encouragement in grace and love. Thanks brother.

  19. Kent says:


    Is there such a thing as cultural superiority? You talked about that as if it were bad. Is there culture superior to others? Do you believe in multiculturalism? Shouldn’t all culture be proven, and then we hold fast to that which is good? As moral agents, everything man does or produces can be good or bad and should be judged. Is John McWhorter a cultural elitist, or is he just trying to help with this article: ?

    The medium isn’t neutral. If it was neutral, it wouldn’t be creating this dust cloud. How could something neutral be associated with something people are angry about? And they are angry or you wouldn’t use “idiocy” and then sigh at their irrelevance, but alas something needs to be said, to stand up. Paul was irrelevant. He said any Christian minister was nothing.

    The medium came out of something and you can’t erase that. The medium itself was produced for a certain message. It’s not a medium to encase Godly thoughts. The Godly thoughts don’t sanctify the music. It’s vice-versa. Is that idiocy? I agree with . It’s easy to understand this.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Kent,

      Thanks for joining the conversation. If I understand your first paragraph correctly, here are a few things I’d say:

      1. Arguing “cultural superiority” is a bad thing given the current associations people then tend to make with the inferiority of persons. I’m not alleging everyone does that. I’m not alleging the panelists do that. I’m making a historical observation. Arguments for supremacy have typically joined together culture, race, intellect and biology in one whole. That is a horrendous thing, and I want to raise the question of “cultural superiority” with that ugly possibility fully in mind, lest we give room to something we don’t believe or approve.

      2. Viewed from a biblical perspective, the world and its cultures are all fallen. This means there are going to be both strengths and weaknesses to every culture and every human culture is antithetical to God. When we talk “cultural superiority” we need to realize that every culture we might discuss is in the same soup of sin as every other culture.

      3. As for whether I believe in “multiculturalism,” it depends on what you mean. As for what I would mean by the term, see the second half of this post:

      4. Thanks for the McWhorter article. I always find something worthwhile in his writing. Nevertheless, I’m not sure why you offer the McWhorter article in this discussion. At least I’m not sure why you think it helps your case because McWhorter is writing about secular hip hop and focusing his sharpest critique on the sub-genre of “gangsta hip hop.” When you offer this, you seem to repeat the mistake that the panelists made: not drawing any careful distinctions.

      5. I’ve often said, though it’s certainly not original to me, “the medium is the message.” Often that’s true. And I think in the case of hip hop the medium carries messages. But, as you point out, that’s true of all mediums. If we carry your reasoning to its conclusion, then we’re not going to play or sing anything in worship because there isn’t a single medium known to man that’s not affected by sin. Nor is there a medium that’s inherently more suitable than another.

      6. Finally, I couldn’t disagree more with that second clip on hip hop in the church. Certainly there are better or worse artists and better or worse ways to include some hip hop elements. But the thing to do is toss the worse and keep the better, chew the fish and spit out the bones.

      Grace and peace to you,

      1. Kent says:

        1. It seems you do believe there is superior culture. No one should be proud of it — it’s only because of God that it’s better than something else.
        3. It doesn’t matter if my culture is rejected. I want a superior culture. Everyone should. Do you? Let’s say I want to keep my culture because it’s “white” — that’s idiocy — but what if you want to keep yours because it’s “black?” Can we not judge someone else’s culture if he’s a different race than ours because that is default racism? We could never minister outside of our own race or ever hope for unity between races if there can be no criticism. Do you think that hip hop is good to develop the attention span? Christian living comes from thinking and exegesis. Does hip hop lend itself to thinking? Do you think these questions should be asked?

        There is only one truth and one goodness. Do you believe there is one beauty? Historic Christianity says, “Yes.”
        4. You say that I read McWhorter without nuance and uncarefully. I’ve read several of his books. He’s judging more than “gangsta.” What about this? (same essay)

        The attitude and style expressed in the hip-hop “identity” keeps blacks down. Almost all hip-hop, gangsta or not, is delivered with a cocky, confrontational cadence that is fast becoming . . . a common speech style among young black males. Similarly, the arm-slinging, hand-hurling gestures of rap performers have made their way into many young blacks’ casual gesticulations, becoming integral to their self-expression.

        4. Is every medium equally soiled by sin? Certain media literally were written with the idea that they would be honoring God. Honoring God was what the music medium had in mind. There is “sacred music” sans words. You are saying that there isn’t a medium more suitable than any other. If that is your belief, then our conversation won’t go anywhere. I don’t believe that. There are media that do not have the same inherent quality as rap or hip-hop. You would be saying that “sexy music” is just as suitable as Bach. The only people who think this way that I’ve read are a certain segment of professing Christianity, and the historical root is Pelagian, popular music used as a new measure.
        6. Based on your own words here, it’s all equal — there is nothing better or worse musically. If the music can’t be judged, it can’t be judged, unless you are saying something different. One version of Happy Birthday is no different than Marilyn Monroe’s to JFK, because they have the same words.

        The mood or feeling conttrived by music, I believe, is a greater threat or gateway to false doctrine than a change in doctrinal statement. It is heteropathy. We can see this in the mystery religion in Babylon. It starts with a replacement of ordinate affections. We don’t love God the same way we love a plate of spaghetti or our favorite pet. If no expression is any different than another, then no one should care. They do, because they are different. For there to be respect, there must be disrespect. The feelings are not neutral. One is superior to another, one inappropriate and another not appropriate. One place to start is how these expressions began.

        What if you talked to your father, for instance, in a hip-hop or rap cadence? Does that mean anything? And then replace dad with God? Does it matter how we talk to or sing to God?

        Grace and peace to you as well.

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Hi Kent,

          A few responses:

          1. I do not believe any human culture is superior to another. All are fallen, and all have virtues. The mix of virtue and sin may vary from one to another. But the only “superior culture” holistically considered would be the culture God establishes himself in the Kingdom. I think there are superior ideas within or between cultures. But I think generalizing to cultures in toto is to generalize much too much.

          2. If you want a “superior culture,” you’ll only find it by being more thoroughly immersed in Christ our Savior. None of us will find it in our or another’s human culture.

          3. I think hip hop is excellent at developing attention and memory. I think Christian hip hop artists exegete the scripture with excellence, often surpassing the skill of seminary-trained pastors whose sermons lack such clarity and faithfulness to the text. It’s fine to ask these questions about hip hop, but make sure they’re questions and listen for the answers and evidence. Otherwise it’s not really a conversation.

          4. Again, I appreciate McWhorter. And, again, his many examples throughout the article all come back to the most vile expressions in hip hop. After he talks about the rather benign rap of Grandmaster Flash, all his comments focus on people like Tupac, B.I.G., Puff and others in that sub-genre. He’s not offering a critique that distinguishes between styles and sub-genres. Insisting he is suggests you don’t understand the music very well.

          5. I guess our conversation won’t go very far, then. I’d commend to you Al Mohler’s piece from today. Even the “sacred music” of Bach was, in its day, rejected as inappropriate for worship, to crass, etc. There is nothing that makes the melody, etc. of one music form inherently more God honoring than another. Nothing. If the artist’s intent is what matters most, then you should be willing to admit as God honoring the work of Christian hip hop artists who do as much as any other Christian lyrical genre to exalt the Person and Work of Christ.

          6. What do you mean “it’s all equal”? What’s the “it”? You asked me about culture writ large. I responded by saying all cultures are fallen. If that’s the “it,” then, yes, “it’s all equal” in that sense. I am not saying all lyrics or all ideas contained in any song is equal. But we’re not talking about evaluation of specific lyrics. We’re talking about an entire genre and whether we can discard it as not honoring to God. In my opinion, such a position is too sweeping.

          Okay… I think I’ve gone on enough. Suffice it to say we disagree on a lot. I’ll stop here and allow you the last word.


        2. Kenton says:

          Kent, if I may address your counterpoints:

          1. The problem is that you seem to treat cultures as solid wholes, such that they are either embraced or discarded. That’s a very poor way to view cultures. As Thabiti said, there are strengths and weaknesses in every culture. That means that some things within each are more or less sinful than other things within that culture. It is not simply that some cultures are more or less sinful than others. And when evaluating one’s own culture, it is simply unwise to do so by comparing cultures to one another. Wisdom is to evaluate everything by the Word of God, which is equally suitable to all cultures and all peoples. The gospel transforms peoples; it doesn’t transfer them from one culture to another. By transforming people within cultures, the gospel transforms cultures. Otherwise, Paul would have called Gentiles to adopt the morally “superior” Jewish culture. Instead, Paul’s defense of Greeks as Greeks *in Christ* ultimately led to the transformation of Roman and European culture, the transformation that eventually produced Bach and his music.

          3. The questions you pose about hip-hop are subjective in nature. To suggest that hip-hop doesn’t lend itself to thinking or isn’t agreeable with attention span is to discount the millions who are demonstrably thinking and able to pay attention. Such questions can and should be asked, but ignorant, blanket answers (yes, ignorant of the facts) is not the right way to approach such questions.

          Christianity certainly says that there is one truth. It does NOT say that there is one form of aesthetic beauty or cultural expression, nor does it EVER seek such a thing.

          4. McWhorter over-generalizes both hip-hop and its effect on its listeners. Hip-hop is always direct, but it isn’t always confrontational. When McWhorter says that it is almost always the case, does he have “Reformed rap” in mind? Does he know that there are strong examples to the contrary?

          4. Please give examples of specific media that were conceived expressly for the purpose of glorifying God, and were done so by sinless men. And do show how those media that were conceived by the ungodly are corrupt beyond rescue. Support your claims.

          6. Your statements about the mood and feeling created by rap are, again, subjective. There is an extent to which music can be judged, but aesthetics are subjective, and recognizing this is the mark of humility.

          Rap differs from ordinary discourse. You cannot compare the two. A person would be just as unlikely to communicate via opera. If you are referring to the intensity of much of rap, then certainly such would not be appropriate in common discourse. But again, rap is not common discourse, just as opera isn’t.

          Regarding God, we speak to Him in different ways depending on the occasion. We are not expressively mournful when giving thanks, and we are not expressively happy when mourning before the Lord. One is not worse than the other, but they have their expected contexts. I advise you to listen to rap that directly addresses God, because it exists within “Reformed rap”. Provide an actual example (preferably an actual track) that demonstrates why rap is an inordinate expression of worship to God.

          1. Kent says:


            Your name almost got it right — just leave off the “on” — but close.

            When I say “culture” I mean a way of life or a behavior. When I say “a superior culture,” I mean a biblical culture. You men talk as though it’s not possible possible to have “a” superior way of life or behavior. Paul in Rom 7 said “when he would do good,” assuming that he could do good. In 1 Cor 6 he said that we can glorify God in our body, which is God’s. It’s a matter of whether we yield our bodies as instruments of righteousness. So yes, there is a superior culture that is a Christian culture — it’s not black or white. The gospel does transform us from one culture to another, from one way of life to a new way of life. I don’t give a pass to a culture because it’s yellow, white, red, or black. When Paul was converted he didn’t eject every part of his former culture. He had a new culture. He didn’t stop keeping God’s moral law.

            A few of my questions I asked out of sheer curiosity. You shouldn’t read into them so much.

            Historically Christianity believes in one beauty. Paul said think on that which is lovely. If there is lovely, there is unlovely. Read Jonathan Edwards. He has a lot to say about it. Modernism led to subjective beauty, and that has definitely affected a wrong view of truth and goodness as well, as seen in postmodernism.

            So how exactly does the “music” of rap change when it is “reformed”? I understand it has different words. I’m talking about the medium, not the message. I’ve watched Curtis Allen and Shai Linne. You tell me what you see to be the difference. Do you think you can describe the difference with your not being a sinless human being? You seem to make a big point of that, when Paul says we can glorify God in our body as believers, because our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.

            There are no sinless people, so I have no examples of sinless men who wrote sacred music. With that as a default position, nothing could be superior to anything else, and we have no basis of judgment. Marilyn Monroe’s birthday song to JFK is no different than my singing to my brother.

            How is recognizing aesthetics as neutral humble? Almost no one in all history has said they were neutral until the late 20th century, which began as only a small segment of professing Christians, and then has grown today to most of evangelicalism. It is not a historic Christian position.

            If we can’t move beyond the neutrality of aesthetics or all music, then we will never agree on this issue. Related to history, it’s a brand new position. Before there was rap, it was Christian rock. All rockers knew their music meant something. Only when it became “Christian” did it mean nothing. People didn’t like it because it meant nothing, but because it was rock, and they liked what it meant, but as a means of defense, they had to say that it couldn’t be judged for its meaning anymore. The same goes with rap. There isn’t much of a difference between the arguments against rock and against rap, or the arguments for. There would not be Christian rap, I don’t believe, if there was never Christian rock. Personally, I think it’s proud to reject a position believed by Christians for centuries, as if they were total apostates on that position until we came along in the late 20th century.

            McWhorter believes hip-hop has detrimental effects. You say he generalizes too much. You can’t say he’s racist.

            I could describe to you why I believe it is inordinate affection, but it would take at least a small pamphlet. And if I give you a snippet, it’s not going to be enough.

  20. Jason Dohm says:

    Hello Pastor Anyabwile,

    I am panelist #5 (Jason Dohm). I am unknown to you, but you are very much appreciated in our circles, particularly your book on church membership. Thank you for that contribution.

    As clumsily as it was stated, my concern is not with 50-year-old men (though I got the age wrong – he is 49). I understand that longevity in that business is a tribute to the gifts employed. I am more thankful every year that it is not sinful to turn 50 or to have wrinkles, and having that level of success in my chosen field would be amazing. My concern is that Christian men are taking longer and longer to assume the mantle of manhood and all that entails, and having older men out front who carry themselves more like men thirty years their junior is not helping. It isn’t, and it isn’t good for the church, and it isn’t good for the advance of the gospel.

    You may not appreciate my solution, but you are a pastor in the same world as me, albeit on a larger scale, and I know young men rising up sooner would be a welcome sight to all of us. I wish I had simply said that, but I’m not very good off-the-cuff, and here we are.

    As to my state before a holy God, I have been trusting only in the completed work of Jesus Christ for a few decades now, and He keeps disciplining me, so I assume I am not an illegitimate son. I can see that TGC is disappointed in the pace of my sanctification. I share that sentiment more often than you know.

    1. Thabiti says:

      Hi Brother Dohm,

      Welcome to the conversation, and thank you for this contribution. I’m grateful you’d take the time to share in this way.

      Thanks for your kind encouragements. I appreciate them.

      Thanks also for the laugh. I’m also very glad it’s not a sin to turn for or have wrinkles! If it’s not a sin to have a middle-aged paunch, then I’m faring better than I thought!

      We have absolutely zero difference in our concern about maturity among Christian men. We long for and work for the same thing in that regard.

      Brother, I don’t doubt your standing in Christ. I assume that each of us will stand or fall before our Master, and that He is able to make us to stand (Rom. 14:4). My point actually had more to do with brother love than actually questioning your standing in Christ. As I said in reply to a couple of earlier comments:

      On the strength of John 13:34-35 I question whether they acted in love that becomes disciples and minister, or treated parts of Christ’s church as brothers. And I think that’s a fair question in light of the comments proudly excerpted and posted by conference organizers/participants. I’m sure that a wider angle lens on their lives would reveal things that commend them–in Beeke’s case (the only one I know), I’m sure much. But not in this video. I raised it as sharply as I did because I think the comments deserve the sharpest rebuke and I hope genuine repentance and displays of Christian love would be forthcoming.

      That’s what is intended. But as you said, here we are.

      I assume the pace of your sanctification is happening at precisely the pace the Lord wills. And whether quick or slow, it will most assuredly (Phil 1:6) end in your glorification. I share that hope for myself as well.

      Grace and peace to you,

  21. Chris says:

    Thabiti, I know Scott Aniol personally, and I have no doubt whatsoever about his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That was a strange conclusion for someone of your stature to jump to.

    1. Thabiti says:

      Hi Chris,

      Please see the comment above in reply to Jason Dohm. As said earlier in this thread, I assume the same about Scott and everyone else on the panel. The issue I’m highlighting there is Christian love, not Christian experience.

      Grace to you,

      1. Chris says:

        Thabiti, forgive me but using words like “ignorance” and “idiocy” as you did in your tweet doesn’t seem to be a very good example of Christian love either.

  22. Ryan says:

    Hey Thabiti,

    Just want to say great post my friend, the callous gospel-less opining of these men deserved sharp rebuke. I was relieved to see you, among others, delivered it. Thanks again.

    In Jesus,


  23. Doc B says:

    When I first heard there was a ‘dust-up’ over Christian rap, I was scared to death that some of the detractors were men I respected. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.

    Those who’ve come to the defense of the genre have, in some cases, surprised me (Paige Patterson?), but I’m delighted to see those names among the others I expected to see.

  24. william says:

    A good portion of contemporary Christian Rap is probably the most Jesus centered music on the radio–and I am not talking about the watered down Toby Mac kind-of rap but specifically about brothers like Lecrae and Trip Lee. And as far as I am concerned it is the most theologically serious music since the old hymns. I’m a white guy that did not grow up around rap music and have zero problem understand the words or being edified by them.

  25. David Oestreich says:

    “Intractable idiocy”. Right up there with “disobedient cowards”.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi David,

      There’s a significant difference between nouns and verbs. To call someone a “coward” as a person is quite different than to refer to remarks on a panel as “idiocy.” Very intelligent men can from time-to-time make idiotic remarks. And less intelligent men like myself do it with stunning frequency. But it’s one thing to say statements were “idiotic” and another thing to say a person is a “coward.” “Coward” goes against the man; it labels and slanders the person. I think the difference is significant.

      I’ll grant you it’s an impolite term. I intended to be sharp because I think the panel deserved sharp rebuke.

      Grace and peace to you,

  26. John says:


    Points 2 and 4 are in contradiction.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      How so?

  27. John says:


    I watched the video before I read your comments, the only artist mentioned was white, but you seemed to make it a racial thing, it doesn’t need to be that, actually the opinions on the stage could have just as easily transferred to “punk rock” or “heavy metal” genres.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear John,

      I “seemed to make it a racial thing” how?

      And if I only “seemed” to the reader to make it that, but (a) never actually said anything of the kind in the piece and (b) a couple times in the comments thread wrote to the contrary, why keep insisting on what “seems” to be the case to you?

      I do not believe the mere mentioning of someone’s skin color or pointing our how encouraging it is that some of our white brothers responded in defense of hip hop artists constitutes making this “a racial thing.” If we’ve sunk to the point where we can’t mention skin color, obvious cross-ethnic dynamics, or even understand the panelists’ comments about the “culture from which hip hop comes” as at least implicitly involving ethnicity (since hip hop originates in African American culture), then we’re incapable of having an honest discussion. And if we can’t mention such things without automatically assuming someone is either a racist or playing the so-called “race card,” then there’s little hope for progress.

      But I’m persuaded of much better.

      Grace to you,

  28. John says:


    Point two you say “white brothers”, why? why does it matter that they are white?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      C’mon man. You know why it matters.

      The question as posed, and the responses as given, with their reference to the culture out of which hip hop comes, and the fact that the vast majority of Reformed rappers are African American… means the situation was poised to “go racial” from the start. Of all the potential confusions and misunderstandings possible, the racial one was the easiest to make. Moreover, it would have been very easy to chalk this up as an “old white guy vs. young black dudes” squabble. Isn’t that how the old script seems to always go?

      But what flips the script? Two things: the young black guys not responding and some white guys actually do. The observation “white guys” brings attention to the breaking of the tired racial scripts. It doesn’t retrench the script. That’s why I mention it and that’s why it’s relevant. And if we can’t even acknowledge when the old scripts are broken then we’re more enslaved to those old scripts than we imagine ourselves to be.


  29. John says:


    I can almost guarantee the responses from the panel would be similar if they were asked about “nu metal” or “thrash metal”, similar things were said abut the Beatles and Elvis, but now I’m repeating myself, thanks for the interaction.

    God Bless,

  30. Thabiti Anyabwile says:


    That’s fine. No one is disputing that the panelists would disallow those other genres as suitable to worship. I would, too.

    But can you not see that if the comments had been made about metal no cross-ethnic or cross-cultural issues would have been raised? Moreover, can you not see that a Lig Duncan or a Paige Patterson responding re: metal would have been unremarkable? By the very examples you use you illustrate why “race” and “culture” loomed all over this, and why it was remarkable that some brothers responded when and how they did. That should be a simple thing to admit. And admitting it should open us to thanksgiving to God that things did not fall into another racial quagmire.

    But I find I’m repeating myself, too. The Lord bless you.


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Thabiti Anyabwile

Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor for Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

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