Bravado + Bible = Just Sort of Ridiculous

Note: I sent this post to Lecrae’s record label (I was unable to locate his e-mail address in repeated attempts), and received no reply in several months. I don’t blame them; I’m sure they’re busy! But this is a public issue calling for public comment. I think you’ll see that I hold Lecrae in high esteem as a true Christian brother. But his leadership in the Christian community is creating confusion.

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My heart is with Lecrae. I watched him give an interview to Mark Driscoll, and I love so many of the same things he does, preeminently the glory of Christ! He is intelligent, and he’s not after worldly success. Perhaps his most popular track tells everyone not to waste their lives by going after merely temporal things. Lecrae in the interview was gracious, theologically knowledgeable, passionate. And Judging by the iTunes comments on his latest rap album—and by that track so many of them were praising—he’s a brilliantly good rapper. (It pains me to say such a thing, but I have no doubt that it’s true!)

However… music communicates something apart from any lyrics that are placed with it. The lyrics can complement the music, or they can stand in contrast to it.

In the case of theologically-informed rap like Lecrae’s, the lyrics and the music are communicating two very different messages, and the result is sadly ridiculous: “Submit to Christ!” says the “rebəl.” “Be humble,” he preaches with bravado.

Bravado. That’s just it. Rap music screams bravado; it’s intrinsic to the genre. A bunch of young guys waving their arms around martially and shouting “Yeeeah! Yeeeah!” in ultra-masculine tones—preaching Christ?

Look at these lines, rapped on Lecrae’s album by guest rapper “Dwayne Tryumph:”

Persecution lets go! // Tribulation lets go!

He seems to be saying “If you follow Christ persecution and tribulation will come—so bring it on!” That’s mixing the humility and trust proper to a Christian with the machismo of rap music.

Here’s some more, this time rapped by Lecrae himself:

So I know I got life
Matter fact better than I know I got Christ
If you don’t see His ways in my days and nights
You can hit my brakes you can stop my lights
Man I lost my rights
Lost my life
Forget the money cars and toss that ice
The cost is Christ
And they could never offer me anything on the planet that’ll cost that price.

Bravado/machismo music + theologically astute (though kind of corny, to my ears) rap lyrics = confusion.

“Don’t be conformed to the world,” Paul commands. I believe that that passage applies strongly here.

P.S. I found these comments from iTunes reviewers interesting:

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The End for Which God Created the World

What is the biggest purpose of God, the Father’s business in the world about which we must be about?

It’s the glory of God. God’s glory is the ultimate purpose or end of all creation—and it should be our ultimate end in every act (cf. a book recommended by my pastor which makes this point relentlessly). There are many means God gives us to that end:

  1. Filling the earth, subduing it, and having dominion are among the first means He gave us (Gen 1:28).
  2. Becoming more like Christ by knowing God’s Word more deeply is another (Eph 4:11-15).
  3. Evangelism is another (Mt 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).
  4. It pains a good Protestant to say it sometimes, but it’s in the Bible: good works is another means of glorifying God (Eph 2:10; and cf. many references in the Pastoral Epistles).

What if we choose one of these means to God’s glory and make it the ultimate end? What if evangelism, for example, becomes the main thing? I’ve heard many say that the only reason God leaves Christians on earth is evangelism.

It cannot be damaging the cause of evangelism—which I have been very actively involved in for many years—to give that view a scriptural correction.

And like all erroneous views, even if they’re only slightly off true north, making evangelism the main reason we’re on earth leads to dangerous results:

  1. Sound doctrine is comparatively devalued, because doctrinal disagreements distract the church from its evangelistic task. (I’m not denying that distraction is a problem, only that making evangelism the main thing is the solution.)
  2. Urgency in evangelism turns into manipulation.
  3. The other purposes of God in creating man (see above) are comparatively devalued. Take the dominion commanded in Genesis 1 and never rescinded: Why bother getting a liberal arts education, becoming a doctor, acquiring a taste for good choral music, or sweeping streets except insofar as those things give you opportunities to witness? And, really, how many witnessing opportunities are you likely to get via cultivating a taste for opera? Can that be the sole reason for acquiring that taste?
  4. Christian people working “secular” jobs will be at best confused, at worst left feeling like second-class citizens.
  5. Pastors will feel that it is their duty to preach to the lost instead of the saved, leaving the latter without nourishing spiritual food.

So let’s adopt the motto quoted by an evangelist I appreciate and borrowed from a most perceptive pastor-theologian, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: “The first object of preaching the Gospel is not to save souls; it is to glorify God.”

Ask Not What You Can Do for Your Church, But What It Can Do for You

I spoke last night to a new seminary student here at BJU. He just arrived from another undergraduate institution. I looked through his eyes at the choices he is about to make—especially about church attendance—and I trembled a bit.

A word to him: You are the product of your influences. Go to Bob Jones Seminary, listen hard, and you’ll preach a certain way. Go to Bob Jones Seminary, invest yourself in one local church during your time in school, and you’ll preach a somewhat different way than the guy next to you in Soteriology who attends another church. As my pastor says, “Good preaching is caught as much as taught.”

Seminary is your time of preparation, so choose a church on that basis. What you learn you will carry with you to the ends of the earth. So don’t fear to ask what a church will do for you rather than what you will do for it. If you have the right heart, you will serve your church! You can’t help but do so! And ultimately you will better serve those you pastor in the future.

You don’t know the force of sustained scriptural exposition unless you experience it, and most of us didn’t get that growing up. You may miss out on the key formative influence you should be receiving if you go right away to a little country church that’s crying for help. If you let need drive you, you wouldn’t be in seminary in the first place.

Have a little humility. Continue the learning process by choosing a church based on the quality of the preaching ministry—a ministry you will feed on now and feed to others later.

Literacy Rates and the King James Version

Literacy in the U.S. is embarrassingly low.

Nearly 50% of the adult US population reads at a 7th grade level or lower. Nearly 25% has reading proficiency so low they cannot read instructions on medication bottles, the manual that comes with a piece of machinery, or a newspaper. This means roughly 40 million Americans cannot do something as simple and critical as read the handout a pharmacist gives them that warns them of lethal drug interactions.

[From Blog Action Day 2008: Attack Poverty Through Literacy]

What does this say about the continued use of the King James Version in American churches?

The kids I have tried to evangelize over the past 10 years can’t even read the New American Standard. I’ve explained the theme verse at my one long-time weekly ministry—”Keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck”—to countless low-income junior highers, and I’m not sure any of them ever understood it.

God used the common language of the day in the New Testament, Koine Greek. Koine (Κοινη), in fact, simply means “common.” We should not fear to do the same. The Bible contains some passages and truths that are difficult to understand (2 Pet. 3:16). Some are impossible to grasp without divine enablement (1 Cor. 2:14). But why make understanding impossible by using a language no one in this world speaks?

P.S.

I’ve already posted a list of a few verses in the KJV that are unintelligible. I just found a new one, Joshua 17:18. “It is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine.”

The Sins of the Bloggers

I publish these comments from the latest Themelios with some trepidation: I don’t want to be guilty of these sins. But I publish these comments with some hope: I don’t want to be guilty of these sins!

D. A. Carson:

Because the Internet is spectacularly accessible, almost anyone can voice an opinion or make a claim. In this sense, it is the most “democratic” of the media. Occasionally this means that voices otherwise silenced, voices that should be heard, are indeed heard. Much more commonly, voices multiply that are ill-informed, opinionated, often pretentious and arrogant. A higher percentage of these voices were weeded out when the distribution was via print, radio, or television; by democratizing the delivery system, every voice can be published, and it becomes culturally unacceptable even to suggest that some voices are not worth publishing. This does nothing to enhance either discernment or self-discipline. As Michael Kinsley likes to ask, “How many blogs does the world need?”

Carl Trueman:

The title ‘scholar’ is not one that you should ever apply to yourself, and its current profusion among the chatterati on the blogs is a sign of precisely the kind of arrogance and hubris against which we all need to guard ourselves. Call me old-fashioned, but to me the word ‘scholar’ has an honorific ring. It is something that others give to you when, and only when, you have made a consistent and outstanding contribution to a particular scholarly field (and, no, completion of a Ph.D. does not count). To be blunt, the ability to set up your own blog site and having nothing better to do with your time than warble on incessantly about how clever you are and how idiotic are all those with whom you disagree—well, that does not actually make you eligible to be called a scholar. On the contrary, it rather qualifies you to be a self-important nincompoop, and the self-referential use of the title by so many of that ilk is at best absurd, at worst obnoxious.

N.B.: Don’t miss the latest Themelios. Trueman is always worth your time, as is Carson. And check out Keller (who in turn relies helpfully on Jonathan Edwards).