September 22, 2013 Q & A

Is rock or rap music that alludes to Christianity acceptable?


Is rock and rap music that contains lyrics and allusions to Biblical beliefs and/or praises to God acceptable in a Christian's life? Or, should all rock and rap music be avoided? God's Word says to stay away from all appearance of evil; so, would that also include music, even if the lyrics give praise to God?


Thanks so much for your question about the ethical nature of rock and rap music. As you have noted in your question, it is important to distinguish between the lyrics and the music of a song. Lyrics can be obviously sinful in the message that they convey. Even the tone of lyrics can be sinful (I think immediately of much of the rage-filled screaming and yelling of metal bands). But we are hard-pressed as believers to claim that a certain style/genre of music is sinful in and of itself. To say that certain music sounds evil has several problems (we are not talking about lyrics here, just music). The first is that the Scriptures never lay out for us what evil sounds like in music. Therefore, when we label certain sounds or instruments as evil, we say more than the Scriptures say. Also, this argument against certain genres of music has been used as an excuse by many who simply refuse to engage varying musical genres. Such a response does not encourage intelligent discussion and engagement. This is not to say that certain music is not technically better in quality than other music, and it's not to say that music can't be used for evil purposes. Many musicians, in fact, seek to use music for evil ends. But it's probably best to see music as a tool. Just like a hammer is not good or evil, but can be used for evil (or good) purposes, so it is with music. When we label particular sounds, rhythms, or instruments as evil or good we are basing that judgment on our own preferences and cultural biases and not upon the authority of Scripture.

With that said, varying musical genres must be used wisely by Christians. While Christian rock or rap might be appropriate in a concert or informal setting, it is not appropriate in the public worship of God, which emphasizes the corporate nature of worship. Rock and rap, by nature, focus on individual expression.

More recently, there have been rap songs that rap through one of the great confessions of the church—the Heidelberg Catechism. Simply google "rapping the Heidelberg Catechism" and you'll find more than you need to see how the genre of rap can be used to glorify God.

One more thing needs to be said. Whenever a musical medium becomes more important for a Christian musician that the truth it seeks to communicate, it ceases to be useful. And so those involved in Christian rock or rap must be in constant prayer that the medium of music used not become more important than the truth they are seeking to communicate.

This is a long way of saying that rock and rap music that contains lyrics that seek the glory and praise of God are acceptable in a Christian's life, but must always be used in the Christian life with great care and discernment.



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