I'm still not sure what the intent of the rap artist was. I've read his interview online and it seems clear he's been misunderstood by some of his critics, but even granting that, there are still factual problems with the lyrics of the rap. (Are “lyrics” even the right word for the text of a rap?) For example, to my knowledge none of the Puritans in the Valley of Vision book he cites were slaveowners, and some such as Richard Baxter were severe critics of slavery, blasting those who enslaved Africans apart from a just war as being “fitter to be called incarnate devils than Christians.”
The video I've seen of that South Korean “Gangnam style” rapper seems to indicate he has three people involved, not just one, but I grant your point — maybe I need to say “one South Korean rap group.” K-Pop being what it is, there will likely be a hundred imitators soon if there aren't already.
You asked whether I would prefer that people sing hymns.
Actually, while I will tolerate hymns, I believe we should use the psalms in the worship services of the church, since they're the inspired Word of God. He gave us 150 sets of lyrics, so why not use them?
I've got better things to fight about than exclusive psalmody, however. I guess Calvinists who are stricter than me on the regulative principle would call me a “RefINO” — “Reformed in Name Only” — because I'm not prepared to forbid someone from singing “Amazing Grace” or “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” in the worship service.
Outside of church worship services, we're free to do what we want. If someone likes rap music, that's their business.
Actually, I'll go a step further. There are good reasons based on needless offense not to sing rap music in most churches, but if there's a black Reformed church somewhere that wants to have rap music using the text of the psalms, I can think of no biblical objection, even though that's not my preference. Maybe it works in their culture, however. Elders have enough problems without an outsider like me trying to tell them what to do, and in any case, it's not for me to tell another church what to do apart from the clear teaching of the Word of God.
The bottom line is that if we can't find something in the Bible, we shouldn't find it in the church.
Reformed theology and the regulative principle are inextricably linked, for the simple reason that if we believe what we say we believe about total depravity, any rule made by men rather than God risks introducing man-made sinful rules into the church. Learning and obeying God's law is difficult enough, and only Christ did it perfectly; adding man-made commands to God's commandments is a recipe for disaster.
I wasn't initially paying much attention to this blog war over a rap artist, but some heavy hitters have now been drawn into the online discussion, including black Reformed men like Rev. Thabiti Anyabwile (formerly of Capitol Hill Baptist Church) and Dr. Anthony Bradley of Kings College.
Others commenting include Dr. Mark Draper of the Jonathan Edwards Institute at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Dr. Owen Strachan of Boyce College, Dr. Nathan Finn of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Dr. Marc Cortez, Dean of Western Seminary, plus a whole lot of theologically active laymen and pastors.
I think it's time for conservative Reformed Christians to start paying attention. This is no longer a tempest in a teapot, and is becoming a bigger issue than just one rapper's unfortunate wording of a rap song.
Rap music isn't the issue. It's not my style, but God didn't see fit to preserve the ancient tunes for the 150 psalms, and at least theoretically I could imagine an exclusive psalmody church using rap music and criticizing us for paraphrasing the psalms to put them into metrical verse.
Criticizing the Puritans for sinful behaviors isn't the issue, either. They're men, not angels or saints, and we ought not to have any Protestant hagiography in Reformed circles.
The issue, as one commenter on Rev. Thabiti Anyabwile's blog
points out: “I think the claim is not just that the Puritans had good theology they didn't live out, but that something was flawed in their theology itself that led to their missing slavery.” That commenter (a member of Tenth Presbyterian Church, FWIW) goes on to say this: “Maybe an overemphasis on sovereignty? God as a god who makes miserable creatures who should be content with their fate rather than a God who redeems miserable creatures from their oppressors, sin and the world.”
As modern conservative Reformed Christians, we need to follow Richard Baxter's Christian Directory in his severe condemnation of the slave trade and manstealing. Defenses of slavery, at least as it was practiced in America, have no place in the modern Reformed world.
However, I fear there may be another agenda here which is not compatible with the Reformed faith. Some of the things developing in the PCA smack more of political correctness than correct theology, and I'm worried this debate over the text of a rap artist's work could quickly spin out of control and go into places where we should not be going.