Holy hip-hop

The purpose of this article, dear reader, is to show that the so-called ‘holy’ hip-hop movement, which has gained enormous popularity during the last decade, stands at the very centre of New Calvinism. Virtually all who follow the doctrines and practices of New Calvinism are deeply committed to ‘holy’ hip-hop. It is important, therefore, for true believers, who love the gospel of truth, to understand the significance of this new way of worship, and to respond accordingly.

 John Piper and Desiring God 

Pastor John Piper, leading theologian among the New Calvinists, has gone out of his way to legitimise and support the ‘holy’ hip-hop movement. In 2008, the Desiring God website published a video recording of Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile, Senior Pastor – First Baptist Church Grand Cayman, extolling the virtues of ‘holy’ hip-hop music, which he referred to as lyrical theology.

To emphasise his support for ‘holy’ hip-hop, Piper recorded a video at the Passion Conference (2011) – posted on YouTube – of his prayer for the ‘ministry’ of rap artist Lecrae.


 Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church Seattle

Pastor Mark Driscoll, another leading New Calvinist, has a great passion for punk rock music, and also for hip-hop. He is on record as referring to rapper Jay-Z as a genius. In his book Confessions of a Reformission Rev (2006) he explains how at the beginning of his ministry he set up a punk-rock worship team in Mars Hill Church (Confessions, p100). Also see, God love punk rock

In February 2008, Pastor Mark Driscoll interviewed rap artist Lecrae. He expressed the desire to help Lecrae and friends in their ‘ministry’. Having listened to Lecrae’s account of

Mark Driscoll interviewing rap artist Lecrae

his rap ‘ministry’, with great enthusiasm Driscoll declared: ‘You guys are missionaries—you guys are 21st century missionaries. You’re doing the same stuff that Paul did, that Jonah did, that Daniel did, that Joseph did and that Jesus did.’

 Dr Albert Mohler

Dr Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and one of the biggest names in the New Calvinist camp, allowed his radio program to be used to endorse Christian hip-hop. In July 2008, a discussion program on Albert Mohler Radio, entitled “Hip-Hop and the Gospel of Jesus Christ”, featured rap artist FLAME. The interview was advertised with these words:  “On today’s program, guest host Russell Moore welcomes Christian recording artist FLAME for an extended conversation about hip-hop, art, culture, and the gospel.” A year later, in July 2009, the Albert Mohler Program interviewed rap artist Lecrae. So the Albert Mohler Program played an important role in making rap music acceptable to the Christian world.

These programs, hosted by Dr Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, openly promoted hip hop culture and Christian rap music. Dr Russell Moore spoke about how the church needs to dialogue with the hip-hop culture. He said: ‘There is something in hip-hop that we can learn from in all kinds of ways, in our evangelism, in our discipleship, in our preaching, especially in our preaching.’ He asserted that the lyrics of rap music are really very deeply doctrinal and theological. He also claimed that the church has much to learn from hip-hop culture about proper biblical contextualisation. The effect of these programs, coming from the Albert Mohler Program, with the blessing of Southern Baptist Seminary, is to endorse rap music and hip-hop culture among theological students and young Christians.

The idea that wicked hip-hop culture can be redeemed and brought into the Church (and turned into holy hip-hop) is wrong because the music style cannot be separated from its immoral associations. Hip-hip music invariably corrupts God’s people, for they have disobeyed his command to separate from evil. ‘And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them’ (Ephesians 5.11) Our Christian duty is to ‘abstain from every appearance of evil’ (1 Thessalonians 5.22).

 The Gospel Coalition

The Gospel Coalition, founded by Don Carson and Tim Keller, and the flagship of New Calvinism, is totally given over to holy hip-hop. In an article entitled ‘The Hip-Hop Opportunity’ (February 2010), Collin Hansen, author of Young, Restless, Reformed (2008) and editorial director for The Gospel Coalition, extolled the benefits of holy hip-hop. He writes: ‘The auditorium pulsated with youthful energy for nearly three hours. A diverse crowd of nearly 2,000 had formed large lines long before the doors opened to general admission seating. During the sold-out concert, they shouted out familiar lines and danced with abandon among friends and new acquaintances who shared common affinity for the music… There is no better way to describe the event than unashamed of the gospel. The concert—featuring rappers Lecrae, Trip Lee, Sho Baraka, Tedashi, Pro, and DJ Official—made Jesus Christ the star of the show.’[1]

 The Gospel Coalition blog, ‘Between Two Worlds’ by Justin Taylor, has posted an article entitled Jesus and the Gospel Rap Movement, written by Robert Sagers.


‘Last year around this time, I was grateful to post an interview with Marcus Gray—FLAME—on this site. Today, thanks in part to Marcus’ (kind) assistance, I’m happy to post an interview with some others associated with the gospel rap movement, as well. I’m thankful for these artists—Tedashii, Shai Linne, Thi’sl, V. Rose, and FLAME—and for the way they are employing their God-given gifts, and their life experiences, to serve Christ.’

The blog includes a video of Thi’sl: rapping Beautiful Monster.


See Trip Lee doing his song “Real Life Music” at the Christ+City conference in conjunction with the Gospel Coalition at the McCormick Place in Chicago.


 John MacArthur of Grace Community Church

Lecrae performing at Regeneration Camp

Regeneration is the High School Summer Camp hosted by John MacArthur and Grace Community Church for high school ministries nationwide. Young people are invited to join the Camp to hear powerful expository preaching, Christ-focused music, and to participate in intense team games, various outdoor activities, small-group discipleship, and purposeful fellowship. In August 2010, Pastor John MacArthur invited Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae to perform at his Regeneration Camp.

 Christianity Today

In February 2011 an article posted in Christianity Today under the headline, ‘Spotlight: Reformed Rap and Hip-hop’ publicised the holy hip-hop movement. According to the post, the Christian pioneers of hip-hop are taking their cues from Calvinist leaders. In fulsome praise of holy hip-hop the article comments: ‘Not since Maranatha! and contemporary praise emerged from Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel in the 1970s has a genre of Christian music become so associated with a specific stream of evangelicalism. And while not all Christian rappers are Reformed, nor do all see themselves as preachers and teachers working in a musical medium, the growing edge of the movement is explicitly taking its cues from Calvinist leaders. Several tracks have included direct references to (and even sermon clips from) John MacArthur, John Piper, C. J. Mahaney, and other pastors, and Curtis “Voice” Allen’s recent rap on the Westminster Catechism (with theologian D. A. Carson) went viral in March—as did his Heidelberg Catechism rap last October.’[2]

The Christianity Today article suggests that Martin Luther was the first reforming rapper, asserting that in the 1500s he used rhyme, meter, and melody to teach the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and other truths, and ‘to give the young… something to wean them away from love ballads and carnal songs and teach them something of value in their place.’

Why has rap caught on? Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman explains: ‘The genre allows the rapper to cram loads of biblical and theological content in a single verse. I think we love hearing the Scripture ‘preached’ lyrically. Second, there is a ‘cool factor,’ which has helped bridge generational and cultural divides. But we can’t explain this without acknowledging the sovereign workings of God.’[3]

Anthony Bradley, associate professor of theology and ethics at The King’s College and author of Liberating Black Theology comments: ‘Reformed hip-hop is a theologically driven masculinity movement. It says no to the prom songs to Jesus in ccm, no to whiny emo Christian music for hipsters, and no to empty, shallow, individualistic Christian music lacking theological content produced out of Nashville.’

The following rap artists are highlighted in the Christianity Today article. Lecrae is mentioned as the cofounder of Reach Records (the label of several Reformed rappers), and referred to as the genre’s crossover hit. We are told that Trip Lee, the Lecrae protégé, is taking a break from music to intern at Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church and named an album after Justin Taylor’s Reformed überblog, ‘Between Two Worlds’. Shai Linne is mentioned as the rapper with a song defending limited atonement. (“If saving everybody was why Christ came in history / With so many in hell, we’d have to say he failed miserably.”)

Flame (Marcus Gray) is a Grammy nominee who is getting a master’s degree in biblical counselling from Southern Seminary and grew up in the Word of Faith movement. Voice (Curtis Allen) is the artist who drew attention (and some criticism) when he performed at Piper’s Bethlehem Baptist Church in 2006. Now he’s an assistant pastor in Maryland.

 So is hip-hop the sound of Reformed resurgence? Theologian Don Carson comments: ‘I doubt that hip-hop with Reformed lyrics will ever become a primarily congregational corporate worship medium. It is a performance medium, and as such it is very useful for communicating with certain groups of people… But that does not make it inappropriate for the more limited goals that it achieves quite strikingly at the moment.’

 Justifying holy hip-hop

We are asked to believe, dear reader, that holy hip-hop is lyrical theology that ministers to the soul. Rap artists, like Lecrae and 116 Clique, are seen by some in the New Calvinist movement as 21st century missionaries, men who are taking the word of God to the masses. We are asked to accept that the philosophical articulation of rap artist Lecrae is being used by God to plant urban churches. Three arguments are put forward to justify the holy hip-hop movement:


1) Redeeming hip-hop culture for Christ

The first is that hip-hop culture should be redeemed for Christ. The argument is that the church should not separate itself from hip-hop culture, which is so popular among young people, but rather should actively transform it into ‘holy’ hip-hop, and thereby create a medium of communication that brings glory to God. Rap artist Trip Lee says ‘many today believe the hip-hop culture is unredeemable, better left to itself’. He says that Reach Records and Reach Life Ministries are devoted to reaching the hip-hop culture for the glory of God. He claims that Reach Records create music that is relevant to the culture and that is packed full of biblical truth.[4]

Dan Lucarini, a former worship leader, and author of Why I left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement (2002) comments: ‘I cannot bring any of my old sinful desires and practices into worship to a holy God and expect him to accept them. I am now convinced that God will not accept our worship when it is offered with music styles that are also used by pagans for their immoral practices.’[5]

 2) A matter of musical preference

The second argument is that Christians are free in Christ to enjoy any type of music. The music that believers choose to listen to is simply a matter of taste. Some people like listening to hip-hop, and others don’t—it’s a matter of preference that is heavily influenced by our culture. Those who seek to deny young people the freedom to enjoy hip-hop are criticised as legalists, who act like Pharisees, for there is nothing in the Bible that forbids hip-hop music. Dan Lucarini comments: ‘God does care about the music too. Punk music [including hip-hop] is the ultimate statement of musical rebellion. Changing the words and the artists and calling it Christian will never sanctify it. It has no place in a new Christian’s life.’[6]

 3) Music is morally neutral

The third argument is that all music is morally neutral, and therefore there is no such thing as good music or evil music. Hip-hop music is no different to other music genres, and as it’s morally neutral, it is perfectly acceptable for Christians to enjoy hip-hop if that is the music of their choice. In discussion with Mark Dever, rap artist Shai Linne made the point: ‘I believe it’s a preference, it’s a cultural preference, and I don’t think we should spiritualize our preferences, but we should acknowledge them for what they are. I don’t believe that any musical form in and of itself, any medium in and of itself is, inherently sinful.’[7]

But this is wrong thinking. According to the Oxford Companion to Music, a composer ‘has the desire to express himself.  If he were a poet he would do so in words, if a painter he would do so in line and colour, and so forth.  As a musician he uses sound.’[8]  The composer has a dual aim—to express his emotion and his sense of beauty.  Therefore the only valid question about a composition is, ‘has the composer succeeded in expressing his emotion and his sense of beauty.’[9] So when music is composed it is not composed into a neutral nothing, it has a form that expresses a message and shows the composers vision of beauty. The message of hip-hop is of rebellion against all that is good and decent, and the vision of beauty is a vision that has been corrupted by evil. Many rock artists openly boast that their music is communicating a message of sensuality and rebellion, and would be horrified at the suggestion that their music is morally neutral.

According to Dr Max Schoen, in The Psychology of Music, ‘Music is the most powerful stimulus known among the perceptive senses.  The medical, psychiatric and other evidences for the non-neutrality of music is so overwhelming that it frankly amazes me that anyone should seriously say otherwise.’ Therefore we can be sure that as the lyrics communicate so too does the music accompanying the lyric.  Hip-hop music is communicating a message of rebellion.

 A biblical response

So how should we, dear reader, respond to the ‘holy’ hip-hop movement? As with all moral questions, we need to start with Scripture, not with the opinions of men. The issue of whether hip-hop culture and music is acceptable in the Church of Jesus Christ cannot be decided by rational arguments put forward by human wisdom. We cannot simply accept the wisdom of those New Calvinists who are involved in promoting the holy hip-hop industry.

Scripture commands believers to test everything, and to abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). Every teaching must be tested against Scripture to establish its truthfulness. All conduct must be tested to establish whether it is right or wrong in the eyes of God. Every teaching must be tested to establish whether it is good and edifying to the body of Christ or not. Believers are instructed to test, prove and examine everything; and everything includes doctrine and conduct. In the context of the holy hip-hop movement, it means testing the music, the dress, the lyrics, the fashion trends and ecstatic conduct associated with hip-hop concerts that come together to make up holy hip-hop culture.

 Spiritual discernment

To help Christian believers test all things, God has given to believers the spiritual gift of discernment. The two Greek words are translated ‘discernment’. The word ‘anakrino’ means to examine, discern or judge closely. The word ‘diakrino’ means to separate, to discriminate. Before we partake of the Lord’s Supper we are to discern our own spiritual condition, and so judge any evil before the Lord. It is used in Scripture of discerning what is of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 14.29). Mature Christian believers, who study and seek to live by the Scriptures, ‘have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil’ (Hebrews 5.15).

Spiritual matters are to be spiritually discerned. ‘But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2.14-16). A.W. Tozer writes: ‘Among the gifts of the Spirit scarcely one is of greater practical usefulness than the gift of discernment. This gift should be highly valued and frankly sought as being almost indispensable in these critical times. This gift will enable us to distinguish the chaff from the wheat and to divide the manifestations of the flesh from the operations of the Spirit.’

 The apostle Paul prays for believers that their ‘love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God’ (Philippians 1.9-11). Discernment means doing the necessary investigation to distinguish between right and wrong. To be faithful to God, and to live a godly life, all true believers must use spiritual discernment, for to do so enables them to approve excellent things, to avoid sin and to bear the fruits of righteousness (Philippians 1:11).

So we understand, dear reader, that spiritual discernment is the ability to distinguish the right from the wrong, to separate between divine truth and error, to judge what is good and evil. The gift of discernment allows us to recognize the genuine from the fake, to understand what is of God, and what is of the flesh, the world and the devil. We are to embrace wholeheartedly what is inherently genuine and true, and we are to reject every appearance of evil. The Christian mind, transformed by the Holy Spirit, rejects the lusts and passions of the old sinful nature, for in Christ we have a new nature and all things all new.

The Christian Church needs discernment because the evil one is the master of deception. Satan, the enemy of our souls, is cunning and subtle, and sets out to deceive the Church. Our Lord has warned that deception will be so great that even the elect will be deceived, if that were possible (Mark 13.22).

 The holiness of God

The God of Scripture is holy in character. He abhors evil with intensity, and nothing that is evil will enter into his presence. ‘You are of purer eyes than to behold evil,

And cannot look on wickedness’ (Habakkuk 1.13).  God calls for holiness among his people, those who have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. ‘As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1.14-16).  As strangers and pilgrims in this world, believers are to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul (1 Peter 2.9-11).

In Old Testament times God’s people were commanded to distinguish (discern) between the clean and unclean. ‘And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine’ (Leviticus 20.26). The priests in the house of God were instructed to teach God’s people the difference between holy and unholy. ‘And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean’ (Ezekiel 44. 23).

 The spirit of worldliness

We all, before our conversion to Christ, ‘once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others’ (Ephesians 2.2-3). The course of this world, according to Scripture, is controlled by an evil spirit, referred to as the prince of the power of the air. The course of the world is characterised by the lusts and desires of the flesh, and of the mind. The Apostle Peter says that the believer, who is a partaker of the divine nature, has escaped ‘the corruption that is in the world through lust’ (2 Peter 1.4).

So the way of the world, or worldliness, is an attitude of the heart and mind that desires the lusts and corrupt pleasures of the flesh. It is the way of the unbeliever, called the sons of disobedience, whose lives are characterised by a longing to gratify the lusts of the flesh, and the lusts of the eyes. True believers have escaped the corruption that is in the world, for they have been made ‘alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised up together, and made to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2.5-6). True believers are renewed in the spirit of their mind, and seek after righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4.23-24). Therefore, believers are commanded: ‘Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world’ (1 John 2.15).


This means that true believers, who are alive in Christ and renewed in the spirit of their mind, who have put off their former way of conduct, and ‘put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness’ (Ephesians 4.23-24), turn away from the spirit of the world and the lusts of the flesh, from which they have been saved by the grace of God. Believers are promised spiritual knowledge under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that they may know truth in a way that human instruction cannot provide (1 John 2.27).

True believers, with spiritual insight, and a renewed mind, are able to discern what is of the world (worldliness) and therefore opposed to God. Because of their new nature, true believers turn away from the lusts, pleasures and desires of the world. As children of light, true believers desire the fruit of the Spirit, which is all goodness and righteousness and truth. The Christian mind is to use knowledge and judgement ‘that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ’ (Philippians 1.10). The goal of a Christian is to be without any mixture of evil and not open to censure because of moral or spiritual failure.

 Discerning the spirit of holy hip-hop

With this understanding of the holiness of God, the characteristics of worldliness, and the importance of testing everything in order to a hold fast to the good and to avoid every form of evil, we can now test the doctrine and conduct of ‘holy’ hip-hop in the light of Scripture.

 Mixing the holy and the profane

The ungodly spirit of hip-hop culture is well documented and beyond dispute. Hip-hop has come to dominate youth culture in the USA, the UKand other parts of the world. It has generated a multi-billion dollar industry of music, clothes, jewellery, movies, and more. It is not difficult for a true believer to discern that hip-hop is a worldly culture guided by the spirit who works in the sons of disobedience. Hip-hop culture is a bastion of filth—promoting violence (Cop killer by Body Count), drugs, irresponsible sex, (Na Palm’s debut album ‘Late At Night’, we love sex, drugs and hip-hop), excessive materialism, and delinquent behaviour.[10] It appeals to the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and is grounded in rebellion and lawlessness. Almost all hip-hop, gangsta or not, is delivered with an aggressive, arrogant, confrontational cadence. Rap music mirrors the brutality of rap lyrics in its harshness and repetition; it is the music of those the Scripture refers to as the sons of disobedience.

The idea that this wicked culture can be brought into the Church, and turned into holy hip-hop, is wrong because the music style cannot be separated from its immoral associations. Hip-hip music invariably corrupts God’s people, for they have disobeyed his command to separate from evil. ‘Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has thetempleofGodwith idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them, and walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.”  “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6.14-18).

As we have already noted, the uncleanness of hip-hop culture is beyond dispute, and Scripture is clear that Christian people are to separate themselves from the works of wickedness. Yet this is precisely what the holy hip-hop movement has done. Leading New Calvinists have formed a close association with the wicked culture of hip-hop, and coined the term ‘holy hip-hop’. There could be no clearer example of are mixing the holy with the profane, and is a great sin against God and his Church.

Why have the New Calvinists done this? Is it because they are actually in love with the culture of this world? Scripture says: ‘If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever’ (1 John 2.15-17).

 Revellings are works of the flesh 

Entertainments common in apostolic times among Gentiles were frequent ‘revellings’, against which Christians were warned (Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21; 1 Peter 4:3). The obvious meaning of revellings is excessive and boisterous intemperance and lustful indulgence. As we examine a ‘holy’ hip-hop concert, we note that the rapping, the dancing and the accompanying beat music and flashing strobe lights, are all geared towards arousing a spirit of ecstatic excitement and wild abandonment among the audience of young people. Collin Hansen, editorial director for The Gospel Coalition, comments on a holy hip-hop concert: ‘The auditorium pulsated with youthful energy for nearly three hours… During the sold-out concert, they shouted out familiar lines and danced with abandon among friends and new acquaintances who shared common affinity for the music.’

As a ‘holy’ hip-hop concert gets into full swing, all self-restraint is gone, as the audience, having taken leave of their senses, move as one revelling mass to the repetitive, hypnotic rhythm of the throbbing music. Our spiritual gift of discernment tells us that what we are witnessing is not the fruit of the Holy Spirit, but the works of the flesh. Scripture says that the works of the flesh include ‘revelries, and the like’ (Galatians 5.21). The spirit of the hip-hop concert is a sensuous spirit driven by the lusts of the flesh that war against the soul. And behind this behaviour is a rejection of God’s moral law.

Scripture describes, in some detail, the Israelite rebellion at the foot ofMount Sinai. When Moses delayed coming down from the Mount, Aaron and the Israelites built a golden calf. Aaron then built an altar, and proclaimed a feast to the Lord. In effect, the rebellious Israelites were worshipping both the Lord and the golden calf. The people ‘rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’ The Hebrew word translated to play, ‘lezakhek’, means that they aroused themselves with “love play”, that is, the orgiastic rites which accompanied the worship of the Baal.

As Moses approached the camp he heard shouting and singing, and he saw the calf and the dancing of the people. ‘So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain’ (Exodus 32.6, 17-19). The scene that greeted Moses was one of revelry—all moral restraint was gone as the people rose up to entertain themselves in wild dancing and carousing. Likewise, holy hip-hop concerts arouse the same rebellious spirit of gay abandonment with wild dancing, ecstatic arm waving and shouting. This is a spirit of wickedness and rebellion against God’s holy law.

 A spirit of lawlessness

As we examine hip-hop culture we see that most Christian rap artists are covered in tattoos, with the 116 Clique tattoo being especially popular. Rap artist Lecrae justifies the use of tattoos by claiming that God’s command in Leviticus 19:28 no longer apply to New Testament Christians, who are free in Christ to mark their bodies. And so we discern that the spirit of holy hip-hop actually glamorises the tattoo. Yet God’s word is clear that tattoos are associated with pagan culture and witchcraft, and God’s holy people are not to mark their body, which is thetempleofGod(1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This acceptance and promotion of the tattoo by holy hip-hop culture is a sign of antinomianism.

 Arrogant and aggressive demeanour

A feature of hip-hop concerts is the hero worship of the rap artist by an adoring audience that has been sensually aroused. The names of rap artists are often displaced in bright lights, and the casual way they dress, often with weird images on their T-shirts, demands attention. The self-image of the rap artist is magnified in the eyes of the audience. The idea that Christ is worshipped in such an atmosphere is impossible.

 Meaningless lyrics

When we examine the lyrics of rap songs we are amazed to see that they are incoherent, meaningless drivel, although they invariably contain a few biblical phrases. Moreover, the rap performance is such with the noisy music that most of the words are inaudible, accepted for the odd phrase that is repeated endlessly, and sometimes chanted by the audience. It is clear that the so-called spiritual message of the Christian rap artist takes second place to the music.

 Lyrics of Rebel

Yeah, (Rebel) just wanna dive into the beat, Swim around in it, lets rebel.

Chorus: (Rebel) I’m in rebe-llion, Yeah, to all my Rebels out there.

Chorus: (Rebel) I’m in rebe-llion, Rebelling against the culture, being transformed.

Chorus:(Rebel) I’m in rebe-llion, Not conformed to the ways of this world, or this age.

Chorus: (Rebel) I’m in rebe-llion, Welcome to the Rebel-ution.

Verse 1

Jesus was a rebel (He was), a renegade outlaw

Sanctified trouble maker, but he never sinned, naw

And He lived His life by a different set of rules (that’s right)

The culture ain’t approve, so you know they had to bruise Him (murder!)

That’s the way they do, man they swear they so gangsta (So gangsta~)

Everyone the same, everybody do the same stuff

Tattoos, piercings, smokin’ up and drinkin’

Money, sex, plus them extravagant weekends.

Man if that’s the high life of puff puff pass that,

You live evaporated like missin’ a gas cap (that’s evaporated yah)

I guess I’m passed that, I’m a rebell-yon’ ( I’m a rebell-ion)

Rather have a dollar in my pocket than a milli-yon’ (Jesus

Scared of a bunch of money (yeah,) I wants mo’ of Elyon

I remain a rebel while the rest of ’em just carry on

This is (come on) what I live for (come on), its the hill I’m buried on (Lets go!)

If Jesus is the Truth (lets go!), that means one of us is very wrong

Think about it!

Chorus: (Rebel) I’m in rebellion

Mark Driscoll: I know in our day rebel means sinner.

Chorus: (Rebel) I’m in rebellion

Mark Driscoll: But everyone is sinning, so it’s no longer rebellious to sin

Chorus: (Rebel) I’m in rebellion

Mark Driscoll: Jesus was a rebel, who was counter cultural.

Chorus: (Rebel) I’m in rebe-llion

Chorus: (Rebel) I’m in rebe-llion

Mark Driscoll: You’re just a conformist, if you’re drunk and naked and driving around on a loud motorcycle smoking cigarettes and breaking commandments and getting pregnant out of wedlock. Everyone has done that, that’s so tired. If you really want to be a rebel, read your Bible, because no one is doing that!  That’s rebellion! That’s the only rebellion left!

This is the song “Battle Song” by Lecrae Feat. Suzy Rock. It is off the album Rehab: The Overdose

Suzy Rock: Tell em bring they guns out, send my city up in flames. And yeh though I walk through the valley of the death, yeh my hope still remains? Rather dead or alive this is do or die when Christ is the gain? So raise your torches up high, tonight we fight for our King.

Lecrae: I was tailored to snatch the mic swiftly like Ye did and lay it down for the King like a sleigh bed, and they can kill us now/ go get the yellow tape, and put me six feet in the ground and watch a great escape. I promise ain’t 6 shooter that can keep me down. My God’s so official that’s a technical foul. Was engineered in my mother’s womb for God’s glory. Plenty faith & the persecution is inventory. I been spit in the face, still exhibiting Grace, kicked out many a place just for sharing my faith, my belt tight, shoes laced plus a breast plate, my war helmet on now I got my head straight. The battles on but the War over when Jesus Reigns and for His name I withstand the pressure and take the pain, and if they drop this promise we take into the grave, that tonight we may die but to die is our gain.

Suzy Rock: It’s about to be a riot, guns and fire, somebody dying. But it won’t be us, we’re covered in the Blood, and we’re spillin’ out our guts (Yuck). But even if it was, let our dust blow in the wind, we win when it’s done. Since Christ put death under wraps with the Nuns, I am taken no prisoners not a one, None, no I’m not the one, I just run solar in the power of the Sun. My God’s a Monstah (Mon Mon Monstah), Treads on Black Mambas, Defeats and Conquers.

Our spirit of discernment tells us that rap songs are not lyrical theology but a meaningless ramble. While spiritual phrases have been inserted into the rap to give an appearance of being Christian, these incoherent songs are totally unacceptable to the Christian faith. A believer cannot engage with rap songs that have trivial, incoherent words, for we have the Word of God, and we know that we will give account for every idle word spoken. Christian hymns and spiritual songs are meant glorify God and edify the body of Christ.

 The sin of syncretism

Dear reader, having applied our spiritual discernment to holy hip-hop, we are in a position to form a conclusion that is consistent with Scripture. We know from Scripture that the great sin of Israel was that they worshipped both the Lord and the false gods of the surrounding pagan nations. King Solomon set up an altar to Molech on the Mount of Olives(1 Kings 11.7), and did so despite the fact that Molech worship was forbidden to the Israelites (Leviticus 18.21; 20.1-5). This sin is known as syncretism, which is the worship of the Lord along with other gods.

The prophet Zephaniah warns of God’s judgement against the sin of syncretism. ‘So I will stretch out My hand against Judah, and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  And I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the names of the idolatrous priests along with the priests. And those who bow down on the housetops to the host of heaven, and those who bow down and swear to the LORD and yet swear by Milcom, and those who have turned back from following the LORD,  and those who have not sought the LORD or inquired of Him’ (Zephaniah 1.4-6, New American Standard Bible)

Those who promote holy hip-hop are committing the sin of syncretism, for they are seeking to worship the Lord by means of pagan hip-hop culture. In reality, they have integrated the evil culture of hip-hop with the Christian faith. They want both the fleshly pleasures of hip-hop culture and the blessings of the Holy God of the Bible. But God is not mocked. Those who become friends with the world of hip-hop make themselves the enemies of God.

So dear reader let us be clear about our conclusion; the great sin of the New Calvinism movement is the sin of syncretism. They have chosen to worship both the Lord and the pagan spirit of hip-hop, and have even coined the term ‘holy hip-hop’. Like the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness, they are not satisfied with the provision of God, and yearned after the sinful pleasures ofEgypt. The problem of New Calvinism is that its heart has never left Egypt. It is a movement that is discontent with the gospel of Christ; a movement that seeks to make the Gospel more exciting by adding worldly contemporary worship and the revellings of holy hip-hop. It is a movement doomed to failure and the judgement of a Holy God, who has commanded his people: ‘Come out from among them and be separate’, says the Lord. ‘Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you’ (2 Corinthians 6.17).

You can learn more about Dr Tim Keller, Pastor Mark Driscoll’s and Pastor John Piper in the book, The New Calvinists (2014), published by The Wakeman Trust and Belmont House Publishing. The book is available from belmonthousebooks.com/



[1] http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/11/10/the-hip-hop-opportunity/

[2] Christianity Today, Spotlight: Reformed Rap and Hip-hop

[3] Christianity Today, Spotlight: Reformed Rap and Hip-hop

[4] http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/living-unashamed/print

[5] Dan Lucarini, Why I left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement, Evangelical Press, 2002, p57

[6] Ibid. p59

[7] Can Rap be Christian? The Presuppositions, By Scott Aniol On October 5, 2009

[8] Percy Scholes, The Oxford Companion to Music, Oxford University Press, 1963, p217

[9] Ibid.