Curtis Allen, Owen Strachan

Does God Listen to Rap? — Christians and the World’s Most Controversial Music

Paperback, Three Ebook Formats
(5 customer reviews)

Foreword by Owen Strachan
How can Christians think biblically about art forms that have sinful roots?

93 pages|||||Print: $8.50 $9.99 |||||Ebook $5.49 $7.50
8+ items, 10% off|||||25+, 15% off|||||50+, 20% off


Discounts begin at 8 items!

Learn More

Does God Listen to Rap? — Christians and the World’s Most Controversial Music, by Curtis “Voice” Allen

Some people hate rap and are sure God does, too. Others love it. Many of these who are Christians can’t imagine why God would have any issues with rap—at least, not with songs by believers that encourage and edify them in the faith. Who’s right? And why should we care?

Pastor, author, and Christian hip-hop artist Curtis Allen (Voice) starts this book with a sociological history of the emergence and development of rap. If you enjoy rap and hip-hop culture, you’ll love this section. Then the meat of the book unpacks several fascinating passages of Scripture to explore a vital set of larger questions involving God, faith, and the arts. In the end, you’ll have tools for thinking biblically about all forms of human artistic endeavor.

Does God listen to rap? Come find out.

Click for longer description

A lot of people think that if there is one style of music in the world that God hates, it has got to be rap. Some have even gone so far as to call rap, “An unclean thing before the Lord,” and to insist that anyone who listens to rap (whether it’s made by Christians or not) risks spiritual harm.

Lots of other people love and accept rap as their preferred form of musical expression. Many of these who are Christians can’t imagine why God would have any issues with rap—at least, not with songs by believers that encourage and edify them in the faith.

Who’s right? And maybe more importantly, who cares? You should. And here’s why.

In the past 30 years, rap music has become a vital artistic and cultural force globally, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Like it or not, you are probably exposed to rap in one form or another on a fairly regular basis. If you’re interested in this book you may be a believer in Jesus who likes rap a lot, and as Christians, when we love something that is (if you hadn’t noticed) closely associated with sin and rebellion, our justification for being involved with it really does need to go beyond, “Dude, this is good stuff.”

But maybe you’re in a different category. Maybe you’re a Christian parent, concerned that rap music may have a negative impact on your child. Maybe you’re a youth pastor worried about having a rap concert at his church because of the potential pushback. Or maybe you’re just a rap fan who is curious to see if there’s even any biblical evidence for or against rap.

To put it simply, if you’ve made it this far, this book is probably for you. Does God Listen to Rap? covers two areas. First, it presents a sociological history of the emergence and development of rap. If you enjoy rap and hip hop culture, you’ll love this part of the book. Then the book explores the Scriptures to bring some biblical (not just personal or anecdotal) resolution to the question of God and rap. Ultimately, this involves a set of larger questions involving God and the arts. So while the immediate focus of the book is rap music, you’ll find here a set of tools for thinking biblically about all forms of human artistic endeavor.

So, does God listen to rap? Come find out.


Curtis Allen is lead pastor at Solid Rock Church in Riverdale, Maryland, and moonlights as a Christian rap artist called Voice. He also raps under the name Curt Kennedy. He and his wife, Betsy, have three sons. Curt’s first book was Education or Imitation? Bible Interpretation for Dummies Like You and Me. He can be found at

A Notable Review

“A really valuable book, and I highly recommend it.”
Douglas Wilson

Click to read Doug Wilson's complete review

This small accessible book is a very sane and very good introduction to a much controverted subject.


This book…can be divided into two basic sections. The first describes the origins of this form of music, giving us the history of it. Where did it come from, and why did it catch on?

“So let’s be honest. Rap isn’t exactly rooted in the rich soil of holiness” (p. 37).

Having established in that first section that the origins of rap were pretty tawdry, Allen goes on to show in the second part of the book why — scripturally — that shouldn’t really matter to us, at least not as a stand-alone argument. He gives thoughtful arguments from Scripture on why the genetic fallacy is in fact a fallacy when it comes to music. I have read a lot of cultural analysis, and Allen comes to the subject in fresh ways. For one example, he develops one argument from the fact that all music came from the line of Cain (Gen. 4: 17-21), beginning with a gent named Jubal. We don’t know what his stage name was — perhaps JubalZ.

Allen is sympathetic with those who are put off by rap’s origins, but is well-versed on those rappers — may their tribe increase — who love the Lord and who are not participants in the grime.

But there is still a lot for some Christians to overcome. What happens when someone well-versed in the traditional music of the church, let’s say, is persuaded by the arguments, at least to the point where he is willing to give it a listen? A lot rides on what you expect from it when you come to it. My brother-in-law once came in from some hard labor outside, in need of a cold drink. He opened the fridge and saw what he assumed to be a bottle of cold lemonade. He glugged it down, and it was mostly consumed before he realized it was chicken broth. What you have there is a collision of expectation and reality.

When someone comes to rap for the first time, and it is represented to him as a form of music, which it is, what they encounter (because of their musical expectations) can really throw them. But suppose they change their expectations?

“What makes rap music different from all other musical genres? Pretty much just one thing: Its primary ‘instrument’–rhythmic, rhyming human speech. Think about it . . . You can rap over any style of music and people will call it rap because what’s really central is not the underlying music — regardless of its style — but the words that run over the top. Rap is rap because it features rhythmic, rhyming human speech over some kind of rhythmic musical background” (p. 92).

So if you think of it as “a poem” with musical elements, you might have a better time of it than if you think of it as a song with a lot of missing musical elements.

“Rap is also unusual in the way it uses words. Where a typical CCM song might have 50-70 words, and a typical hymn has about 200, rap songs are often 300-500 words long. A well-written rap song can fit a lot of content into a short time. Many have said that listening to a good Christian rap song can be like hearing a mini-sermon” (p. 92).

A mini-sermon. Let’s call it a homily, shall we? So let’s call it a homily with a driving beat, which, let’s face it, a lot of homilies down through history could have used.

So if you come expecting a charged verbal expression, you will not be thrown by the beat. But if you come expecting a specific idea of a “song,” you could easily be bewildered by the absence of many of a song’s components.

Allen also has a brief section on a recent controversy in rap circles, a controversy that revolves around the question of “selling out.”

“Lecrae uses the Acts 17 philosophical approach in the hope of giving people stepping stones toward the truth of Christ. Although he has experienced some backlash from well-intentioned Christians, Lecrae has solid biblical precedent for his approach” (p. 95).

Also mentioned in this regard are Humble Beast’s Braille and Propaganda.

The one thing I would want to note here is that “selling out” ought to be defined in terms of the mission, and the character of the artist, and not in terms of whether the label is headquartered in Nashville. People can compromise wherever they are, and they can stand tall wherever they are. Someone can sell out by signing with a Christian label, and someone can refuse to sell out by signing with a secular label. Of course, life is complicated, and it can also go the other way, and frequently has.

This is a war, and war is risky. So when Christian artists “crossover,” they might be doing it for the sake of the gospel, and we had better pray for them hard. Or they might be doing it for the chicks and bling, which is more problematic.

One last thing. I thought this was a really valuable book, and I highly recommend it. I didn’t find myself colliding with any of its basic assumptions on cultural engagement that Allen set out for the reader. The one criticism is that I would have liked further development on one point. He didn’t quite argue that “all that matters is the words, and so the music is irrelevant,” but it is possible that he believes that. I don’t think that anything is neutral, including forms and styles of music — but I agreed with him that believers can take a form of music that came into existence out in the world, and adapt it for our use.

But suppose we have done so, and believers have been rapping for a couple centuries. I think we should be looking for drastic development and improvement of the musical form as a result. If that is not our task, then all we are doing is riding an evanescent fad. There will be certain Elizabethan sonnets that will continue to be studied centuries after the rage of writing sonnets has passed. This is unlikely for the be-bop-a-loo-bop-she’s-my-baby forms of poetic diction. So gifted Christian poets and lyricists should never be content with throwing their words down into the sinkhole of momentary culture. They should be aiming for something higher, and books like this help.

As of this writing there are 15 Amazon reviews, with an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars.


View or download sample pages

back to top


Weight5 oz
Dimensions5.06 × 7.81 in
Imprint or Series

Cruciform Standard


Print / PDF 978-1-936760-76-3
ePub 978-1-936760-78-7
Mobi 978-1-936760-77-0

US List Price

7.50 Ebook, 9.99 Print


93 pages


Paperback, Three Ebook Formats

5 reviews for Does God Listen to Rap? — Christians and the World’s Most Controversial Music

  1. Amazon Review

    ”I picked this up fully intending to pick it apart.”

    I picked this up fully intending to pick it apart, largely because I’m old enough to have witnessed the birth of rap or “hip hop” in this country and saw the seamy, rebellious, misogynistic, thuggish origins of the genre. But Curtis Allen’s polemic turned out to be something unexpected. First, he did not erect and burn any straw men. Second, he didn’t dodge the tough questions related to either rap’s origin or its ongoing “gangsta” side, but acknowledged and dealt with them head on. And finally, he took the discussion back to Scripture, the origin of music, poetry, chants and the like from as far back as Genesis.

    His presentation was fair, gracious and balanced, and I grudgingly found myself unable to deny that much of my resistance to “Christian rap” was really based on preference more than principle. This is not to say that I don’t still wrestle with the question of how it plays out in the tension between Christian liberty and Christian charity, especially with respect to those whose entire association with the genre is so enmeshed with the in-your-face gangster mentality that the message gets lost in the medium. And then there’s the issue of whether the “non-hip” generation, already somewhat marginalized, are even able to understand the lyrics. This is of course just as much a concern with regard to “Christian rock,” where the lyrics may be doctrinally sound and Christ-honoring, but unintelligible to most of those over a certain age.

    But with that one qualification, I have to respect the gracious humility with which Mr. Allen articulated his position, and admit that there is nothing inherently unbiblical about presenting strong reformed theology through rap if the intent and result are the glorification of Christ and not the “artist.”

    Perry Stahlman, in a 5-star review on Amazon

  2. Amazon Review

    “Read this book, and ponder through its implications for your life and the Christian community as a whole.”

    The popularity of rap music in the Christian culture has seen a massive explosion of almost epic proportions in the past ten years. Guys like Lecrae, Trip Lee, Propaganda, etc., have taken rap music and infused it with such deep theological truths that even older caucasian pastors like John Piper and Mark Dever not only have music from these rappers on their iPods, but even actively promote their music by having these guys come and rap at their churches. I don’t think many people would deny that the theological beliefs of most Christian rappers is deeply biblical, but there continues to be a push-back from some in the community of faith that can’t seem to come to grips with the fact that God is honored with rap music. Are their reservations with Christian rap based on God’s Word, or does it speak to a level of bias in these individuals that has no foundation in the Bible whatsoever but can be traced back to the fact that these people just don’t like something “different” than what they are used to? A new book, Does God Listen to Rap?: Christians and the World’s Most Controversial Music, by Curtis “Voice” Allen seeks to address these important questions related to rap.

    In Chapter One, Curtis “Voice” Allen provides his readers with the reason behind the writing of this book. I always like reading what motivates authors to write the books that they write, since it lets me know if the book was borne out of controversy, trials/temptations, or out of a desire to make sure that the beliefs the author has subscribed to earlier in their Christian walk were unbiblical and in need of correction. For Curtis Allen, the whole reason this book was written was because he wanted to deal with the question of can/does Christian rap honor God. As a Christian rapper who had been faithfully rapping the truths of the Bible to a wide-ranging audience for years, Curtis freely admits that he had a somewhat biblically superficial response to all of the questions that were raised against Christian rap over the years. He seemingly had all of the answers, but those answers were borne out of a desire to defend something that he felt was right, but not something he had spent time studying from Genesis to Revelation to discern God’s thoughts about. Now, the first question that most people will think of is the fact that the Bible doesn’t have anything to say about rap music, and that would be a correct statement. Therefore, Curtis didn’t begin his studies to try and find the word “rap” in the Bible, or a word similar to rap in order to prove his point, but he began his studies with the origins of music as whole. This book is the fruit of those labors.

    Kicker, from a 5-star review on Amazon. See the full review.

  3. Blog Review

    “Do you want to think through this rap thing more biblically? Does God Listen to Rap? is the book for you.”

    Curtis Allen’s Does God Listen to Rap release is providential. NCFIC (National Center for Family-Integrated Churches) Panel recently waded into waters way over their heads. They slandered Christian rappers (in some of the comments) and were ungenerous in others (most). My quick take is the general tenor of the panel came across as elitist and culturally superior and void of good and necessary consequence from Scripture.

    Ironically, Curtis starts by retelling a story about a controversy that erupted when he released his first album and then performed at John Piper’s church (pp. 10-14). I recall the scuffle he mentions because it occurred in a Christian forum I frequented at the time. Even more ironically one of the NCFIC panelist was an outspoken critic of Christians rapping in that forum. Side note, Shai Linne also was involved and generously offered his CD for free to anyone who wanted to judge his music after actually listening to it.

    Enter Does God Listen to Rap? which released almost a month prior to the NCFIC Panel. Curtis addresses some of very arguments made in the panel, and he does a better job of applying Scripture holistically to the topic. He’s also extremely humble about the conversation.

    Obviously, I relate to those who are passionate about rap in a positive way. At the same time, I can understand the anti-rap perspective. I appreciate how this view can seem morally right and biblically faithful. I get how those who take this position believe they are defending God’s church against the further encroachment of a worldliness that can only bring harm to the faithful. As a husband, father, and pastor, I am 100 percent in favor of defending God’s people against sin and worldliness!

    For anyone who listened to the panel and thought, “I know that’s off but I can’t put my finger on it.” Or “I just want to think through this rap thing more biblically” Does God Listen to Rap? is the book for you.

    Curtis examines the roots of rap. He provides insights important for understanding hip hop culture and a background for the current discussion. What I appreciated most was his honesty. He doesn’t try to paint over hip hop’s missteps. He frankly discusses its short coming. A common objection to rap is that because of its rough history it’s beyond redemption. It is always morally sinful. Curtis points out that music itself is first created by the “wicked line of Cain” (p. 50). He says,

    [T]he father of music and musicians was an idolater from a long line of idolaters, and that his music was therefore intended to glorify man, not God. Nevertheless, I am certain that the ability for Jubal to do these things came from God. That is, God blessed Jubal with special musical abilities, knowing that he would use them for sinful purposes. The Bible appears to be telling us that music as a form of human expression has wicked and sinful roots. . . . [E]valuating any form of music by its earthly beginnings looks like a higher standard than the one God uses. (p. 51)

    He does an excellent job of concisely stating his case using Scripture. In the end, I think Curtis’s thesis wins the day. Christians can rap and glorify God. He boils things down so well on the closing pages of the book. I want to share a final selection:

    Therefore, the question of whether to rap or not to rap, or whether to listen to rap or not listen to rap, is actually not about rap at all. It’s about the content and the intent of particular artists and songs, not the origin of the art form or the fact that it is still associated with some sinful practices. The question is not, Has rap often been used to glorify man? Not a single human activity can pass that test.

    The real question is, Can rap be used to glorify God? Yes.

    Should it be?


    Is that happening now?

    Yes, a lot.

    Conversion is the acquittal from every indictment based on sinful origins. Coming to Christ rarely means that we need to make a clean and permanent break from whatever professional, educational, or artistic pursuits we were involved in prior to our salvation. What matters is whether we are able to continue pursuing these things in a way that honors and glorifies God. (p. 77)

    As evangelicals seek unity in diversity, we must also be willing to set aside our prejudices and just listen. We must hear our brothers and sisters from other cultures. We must generously seek to understand their culture. This cannot be done when making sweeping generalizations or hurling accusations from across the way. Mutual edification happens in the context of relationships. Does God Listen to Rap? is a great place to start.

    Mathew Sims, Grace for Sinners

  4. Blog Review

    “Not a simplistic apologetic for a particular music style, but a robust framework for thinking biblically about all music.”

    I’m not a fan of rap music. I’ve never had a particular moral objection to it; it’s just that, outside of a song here and there, it really doesn’t appeal to me all that much. So it’s been fascinating for me to learn some Christian folks have got their britches in a bunch over whether or not rap is inherently immoral. Honestly, I’d never given it much thought beyond “I don’t really dig it.” Maybe you’re the same way.

    I’m glad, though, not everyone’s like me when it comes to thinking carefully about rap music. Curtis Allen, a pastor at Solid Rock Church, Prince Georges County, Maryland (who also raps under the monikers of Voice and Curt Kennedy), wants us to think deeply about rap music—to think about it theologically and philosophically. He shows us how in his new book from Cruciform Press, Does God Listen to Rap?: Christians and the World’s Most Controversial Music.

    Personal stakes and submission to the Lord

    To say Allen’s got skin in the game is an understatement. Not only is he a rapper, but he’s the first one to have been invited to rap at Bethlehem Baptist Church in 2006—an event that revealed to him how serious a debate was raging over Christian rap. His performance was immediately picked apart online, his lyrics dissected, and his salvation questioned. And although he spent a great deal of time defending rap in song, online and in the media, he eventually found his own answers were shallow.

    I realized I needed something a little deeper to hold onto. I could relate to what the critics were saying. I understood how you could take the position that rap can’t glorify God.… I understood where rap came from and why so much secular rap is what it is. I knew all about rap’s entanglements with sin and rebellion. I’m from that. I get it. But I really wanted to know how rap—or any music, for that matter—can glorify God. Realizing my position was actually biblificial (biblically superficial), I decided to start from scratch.… Rap’s critics make a strong case that most of its cultural origins and connections are far from godly, and I needed to see what those criticisms really mean for this art form I love so much.

    Allen shows a great deal of humility in his desire to “start from scratch” when addressing rap, something I suspect few of us would have. As I wrote above, I’d never gone past thinking about preference. Developing a biblical view on something like rap music—or music in general—that takes guts. It takes courage to put your convictions on the table and say, “If the Bible genuinely says this is wrong—either in precept or principle—then I must obey.”

    So what did his examination find? How much guidance does the Bible offer when addressing a subject like rap music? A great deal more than you’d expect.

    Learning to think biblically about music

    To show readers what Scripture says, Allen takes us through a number of what he calls theomethodosophical exercises. “This is a method that starts with and remains grounded in good theology but throws in some basic logic and philosophy where needed,” he writes. “It’s not too different from what somebody else might call common-sense speculation.”

    Allen’s approach is critical to our understanding of how to think biblically about rap music. We’re not going to get anywhere in the debate unless we can point to something definitive, something beyond our preferences and personal opinions.

    So he asks us to consider the origins of music. Who was the first musician? Jubal, the far-off grandson of Cain, the first murderer and the progenitor of the ungodly. “He was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe” (Gen. 4:21). Given his family background, is it likely his music was intended for the worship of the Lord? Hardly. In fact, Allen argues that although the Scriptures say very little about Jubal himself, it’s logical to assume (given his family heritage) that his music was intended to glorify man, not God. If that’s the case, should we say music itself is inherently evil?

    What about multiculturalism? The results of the sinful attempt of Noah’s descendants to make a name for themselves at the Tower of Babel. Although He could have used any number of means to stop their efforts, He confused their languages. “God committed the first act of multiculturalism,” Allen writes. “God must have wanted a multicultural world.” There is something about diversity that is pleasing and acceptable to God—for from multiculturalism comes a diversity of musical styles.

    Driving deeper into musical styles, he jumps ahead to ask: What did the song of the Israelites after the Red Sea crossing sound like? While, clearly, we don’t know exactly, Allen suggests it probably sounded a lot like music from the only culture the Israelites had known—that of Egypt. And if that’s the case, “the first worship song recorded in Scripture—a song that truly glorified Yahweh—was in the musical style of a pagan, polytheistic culture.”

    But the sound of music? As Allen points out, God is curiously silent on this point.

    Our meticulous, detail-oriented God—the one who devoted many thousands of words to telling the Israelites precisely how to worship him in non-musical ways—apparently said next to nothing about how to worship him through music. In fact, the Bible never even suggests that God is offended by a particular kind of music on the basis of its style. I think that means he leaves the matter of style up to us.

    Judging with right judgment

    What Allen points us to is God’s consistent, unrelenting redeeming of art forms created by sinful people for sinful purposes. We see this in Scripture (sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly) and we’ve seen it throughout church history. The theologically rich hymns many love? Sung to the tune of drinking songs. The Keith and Kristyn Getty tune you sung your heart out to at the last Christian conference you attended? Celtic folk music. The power ballad you sung on Sunday but aren’t sure if it’s about Jesus or a girl? Okay, bad example.

    This is important for us to realize, particularly since we tend to speak out of both sides of our mouths on the issue of music. These days it’s rare to hear anyone criticize using drums and guitars. No one questions the use of the piano. On and on I could go. But we should be very careful not to be more firm on something than the Lord. To do so imports an alien point of view into the Scriptures, one you can’t find clearly in its pages. The bigger issue, it seems, is the heart and the content of the music.

    And in this I believe many of the ant-Christian rap advocates may need to do some careful soul searching (as well as content examination). Who are we to determine if a man is genuinely converted, as many did with Allen himself, because he performs (or even appreciates) rap music? Who are we to determine one style of music is better than another? We are called to judge all things—notably ourselves—with right judgment. This means if we’re going to praise condemn a particular form of music, it needs to be first and foremost on its content, not its style.

    What Curtis Allen gives us in Does God Listen to Rap? is not a simplistic apologetic for a particular music style, but a robust framework for thinking biblically about all music. This is something few of us have adequately considered, but many of us desperately need. Whether your preferences surrounding rap music change or not is irrelevant—what I trust will change is you’ll see your preferences for what they are.

    Aaron Armstrong, Blogging Theologically

  5. Amazon Review

    ”A level-headed, Biblical approach.”

    Does God Listen to Rap? Christians and the World’s Most Controversial Music by Curtis Allen was a very interesting book. Once I picked this book up, I devoured it… At 110 pages, I still had it read by the next day.

    The topic itself, though there are many on both sides of the argument that would agree requires conversation, is usually approached poorly. For myself, I have no patience, whether in book or in blog post or in person, for those who simply want to air their opinions. No offense, but I don’t have time for most opinions, not even my own. I want truth, and when it comes to God and what He wants, I want the truth from scripture. I liked this book because Curtis Allen, as best as I believe anyone could, comes to the table with this truth.

    To approach this topic from a Biblical perspective, since the Bible doesn’t actually talk about Rap (or any musical style for that matter), the author also describes a correct method to handling and applying scripture to various areas of life. And he does this in true rapper style, by inventing a word:

    So for right now the issue is not rap at all. Rap is just our immediate context for thinking about the character of God and how he relates to music. As we do this, I’m going to take what I call a theomethodosophical approach. This is a method that starts with and remains grounded in good theology but throws in some basic logic and philosophy where needed. It’s not too different from what somebody else might call common-sense speculation. But look, I’m a rapper, and sometimes rappers just go ahead and invent words. It’s what we do.

    I’m taking this theomethodosophical approach because Scripture obviously doesn’t speak directly to everything we are curious about. When that happens, we are biblically free to consider possibilities as long as we remain true to Scripture and don’t put our conclusions on a par with Scripture.

    That is precisely where many go wrong. They come up with conclusions, and quite often about musical styles, and they hold their conclusions up on the same level with the Bible. What naturally follows is a condemnation of any who don’t abide by their conclusions or who don’t come up with the same conclusions.

    I need to add though that one of the most fascinating parts of this book was the first few chapters that dealt with the history of Rap. I learned about “Kool Herc and the Birth of the DJ”, “Grandmaster Flash”, and “The 1977 NYC Blackout”. Before reading this book, my understanding about the beginnings of Rap music went only as far back as RUN DMC performing with Aerosmith… Yes. I am a white boy from the midwest.

    If you have had any struggle with developing a Biblical understanding of music or if you have come to some conclusions that you have help up on par with Scripture itself, then I would love to recommend this book to you, if for no other reason that to hear a level-headed, Biblical approach that might be different than YOU.

    Matt Harmless, in a review on Amazon

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like…