In his first rebuttal to Scott Aniol on the subject of “Christian rap,” Shai Linne asserts, “Scripture clearly refutes” the notion “that music, apart from lyrics, can be sinful in and of itself.” More fully, he writes:
You [Scott] said:
“Yes, I believe that music, apart from lyrics, can be sinful in and of itself.”
I wholeheartedly disagree and I believe Scripture clearly refutes that notion. A few relevant texts:
“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4-5 )
“I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself…” (Romans 14:14)
Those are amazing statements coming from the Apostle Paul, a Jewish man who was familiar with the many old covenant dietary restrictions. The key phrase in Romans 14:14? “in itself”. Paul is saying that food doesn’t have inherent moral value. The heart of the one eating it determines how God views the act, not the food itself.
You yourself said, “God created the ‘stuff’ of music (sound, pitch, rhythm, timbre, etc.)”. Agreed. Music is simply the result of human beings arranging that “stuff” that God created. Can it be arranged with evil intent? Sure. And the person who does that will have to give an account for it. But no matter how evil a musician’s intentions, he doesn’t have the power to transform something that God created and called good into something inherently sinful. 
Is what Shai Linne asserts here a valid handling of these passages? Various considerations from Scripture combine to answer this question.
Does Paul Teach That Food Does Not Have Inherent Moral Value?
Concerning Romans 14:14, Shai asserts, “Paul is saying that food doesn’t have inherent moral value.” If that were what Paul is saying in Romans 14:14, then Paul would be contradicting himself because he explicitly says in the other passage that Shai quotes that everything that God has created is good: “For every creature of God is good” (1 Tim. 4:4).
Contrary to what Shai asserts, therefore, Paul teaches that food does have inherent moral value because what God has created as food for man is good. Neither 1 Timothy 4:4-5 nor Romans 14:14 teaches that food does not have inherent moral value.
Do 1 Timothy 4:4-5 and Romans 14:14 Support Shai’s Understanding of Music?
About music, Shai says, “Music is simply the result of human beings arranging that ‘stuff’ that God created. Can it be arranged with evil intent? Sure. And the person who does that will have to give an account for it.” With these statements, he acknowledges that people can arrange the ‘stuff’ of music with an evil intent and that they will have to answer to God for doing so.
He then, however, asserts, “But no matter how evil a musician’s intentions, he doesn’t have the power to transform something that God created and called good into something inherently sinful.” When he says this, Shai clearly is asserting that man cannot do something, but what exactly does he mean by what he says here?
If what he means by this statement were that the various elements (the musical “stuff”) that God created (such as individual musical tones) cannot themselves be transformed into something inherently sinful, that would be one thing. Because, however, he means that the resulting product of the human arrangement also cannot be inherently sinful, he is saying something far beyond what either of these passages is saying because neither passage directly addresses what happens when man alters or combines good things that God has made.
Can Man Create Something That Is Inherently Sinful from Something Good That God Created?
Because neither 1 Timothy 4:4-5 or Romans 14:14 actually does what Shai asserts, we have to look elsewhere in Scripture to see if it teaches anywhere one way or the other whether man can take something good that God has created and make something that is in and of itself evil. Deuteronomy 9 provides revelation that addresses this matter explicitly and decisively.
In Deuteronomy 9:1-7, Moses reminds the Israelites of their previous wickedness in the wilderness. He then rehearses their exceeding wickedness in the Golden Calf incident (Deut. 9:8-21).
Moses notes multiple times in this passage that they sinned by making a molten image (Deut. 9:12, 16, 21): They quickly “turned aside out of the way” that God had commanded and “made them a molten image” (Deut. 9:12). They “sinned against the Lord [their] God” and “made . . . a molded calf” (Deut. 9:16; cf. Exod. 32:31).
When he speaks for the third time in the passage about the calf that they made, he says,
Deu 9:21 And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust: and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount.
The exact wording of this third reference to their making the calf is striking: “your sin, the calf which ye had made.” Saying this, Moses puts “the calf which ye had made” in apposition to “your sin.”
Moses thus referred to the calf that they made as their “sin”! He thus said that the calf was itself sinful.
It was not just their evil intent for the calf or their evil use of it that was sinful—the calf itself was a sinful object! These people took gold, an inherently good and highly valuable substance that God created (cf. Gen. 2:12), and made an object out of it that was in and of itself sinful.
Although the gold itself did not become inherently sinful, the golden calf was a manmade fashioning of that gold into something that was inherently sinful! Based on what Scripture says about what man did with gold on this occasion, we understand that this passage refutes the basic principle underlying what Shai asserts is true about the musical “stuff” that God created: “But no matter how evil a musician’s intentions, he doesn’t have the power to transform something that God created and called good into something inherently sinful.”
As a key basis for his support of “Christian rap,” Shai Linne asserts that humans cannot take something inherently good that God has created and make something out of it that is in and of itself sinful. Deuteronomy 9:21 refutes this assertion by showing that man did take something inherently good that God created and make it into something that was inherently sinful.
It is important to note that the gold that they made the calf from was from their earrings (Exod. 32:2-3), and we have no indication that their possessing and using gold that had been fashioned into rings to be worn in their ears was sinful. When they took the gold of those earrings, combined it, and molded it into the calf, however, the resulting object that they made for an evil purpose was wicked.
On the one hand, man’s use of his creative powers to make something out of the gold (the earrings) was not sinful. On the other hand, when they through “art and man’s device” (Acts 17:29) made the golden calf, they sinned by making an object that was in and of itself sinful (Deut. 9:21).
Moreover, the golden calf could not be “redeemed.” In spite of the fact that the gold that constituted it was a precious good metal that God had made as good, the golden calf that had been made for and used for a wicked purpose had to be obliterated (Deut. 9:21).
Neither 1 Timothy 4:4-5 nor Romans 14:14 supports the view that man cannot take musical elements and arrange them to make instrumental music that is inherently sinful. Scripture does not “clearly refute” the view “that music, apart from lyrics, can be sinful in and of itself.”
In fact, Deuteronomy 9:21 shows that Scripture provides a clear basis for saying that human beings can take good things that God has made and create something out of them that is inherently sinful. Applying this principle to what many biblical passages reveal about music provides believers with ample justification to say that instrumental music made for and used for wicked purposes is inherently wicked music.
 Multiple translations confirm this understanding: “I took your sinful thing, the calf which you had made” (NAU); “As for your sinful thing that you had made, the calf” (NET); “Also I took that sinful thing of yours, the calf you had made” (NIV); “Then I took the sinful thing, the calf that you had made” (ESV); I took the sinful calf you had made” (CSB).
Copyright © 2011-2022 by Rajesh Gandhi. All rights reserved.