Christ-Centered Hip-Hop

December 07, 2011

Students, Brady Goodwin (left, MDiv General) and Timothy Brindle (MABC).

Westminster Theological Seminary boasts a reputation for solid, reformed, biblical teaching. As a result, students come from all kinds of different backgrounds to study under the teachings of Van Til, Machen, Murray, Gaffin, and many others. This year, two first-year students, both with a unique background, have come to study at Westminster. Brady Goodwin (MDiv General) and Timothy Brindle (MABC) have spent the last 18 and 14 years, respectively, making hip-hop music.

Timothy, who became a Christian later in life, and Brady, who became one in his teens both say their faith has affected their music. Brady says, “It wasn’t until I became a Christian that I actually had something to say, that I actually began to try to become better at saying something through rap.” In a similar way, Timothy left a group of battle rappers when he became a Christian, and has come to focus on glorifying God through his music. Through the mentorship of Shai Linne, he was able to focus on writing Christ-centered hip-hop.

Contemporary rap music is a reflection of the culture from which it comes, but Brady comments that rap in the secular sphere has been hijacked for the purposes of commercial gain. Hip-hop in society has come to represent both a culture and a product. “I think secular hip-hop is doing a great job at marketing products, and doing a very immoral job at marketing a lifestyle.” People are either “buying the products the rappers are selling, or they’re buying into the lifestyle.”

Hip-hop, however, can be redeemed. In the same way that it can be used to market products, it can be used to “market” the Gospel. “You can summarize the same points or theological truths that were in last Sunday’s sermon of about 40 minutes into a 5-minute song,” Timothy says. “Hip-hop is very ideal for expounding theology since it is very oratorical by nature. Therefore, we have come to find that many of our listeners are Christians who normally don’t listen to rap music. I think hip-hop is a good example of putting Bible truths into an urban vernacular for the edification of believers and for evangelizing the lost.” While Christian rap is as diverse as the church, and therefore will reflect many points of view, true Christ-centered hip-hop can be both God-honoring and God-glorifying.

But rap is not the only area of ministry in either of their lives. “Ministry is so much bigger than hip-hop,” says Timothy.

After finishing up with his group, The Cross Movement, Brady (aka "The Phanatik") began teaching character education in high school. “I was in secular classrooms where I wasn’t able to preach, so I was kind of like MacGyver, trying to make a weapon out of that which is no weapon. I was talking about morality, but really trying to get it to shift to philosophy and theology. God gave me great success, and I want to continue to do that, both in High school and on the collegiate level. I knew that if I was going to go into those classrooms, into the world of academia, I had to have a very sound, firm grip on my faith. So when that became the need, Westminster stood as the obvious answer.” Brady has known of Westminster for some time having attended Manny Ortiz’s (professor of ministry and urban mission, emeritis) church, but “when I came for the tour and heard the apologetic approach that was the foundation, I said that’s exactly what I need.”

Timothy, similarly, has found another avenue of ministry in social work, which allows him to help people in their real-life situations. “I knew I could not stomach a secular master’s in social work (MSW) degree with just how man-centered and how completely unbiblical it is.” Westminster became an obvious choice with its connection to The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF). “I do have a heart for counseling work as a broken, needy, messed-up person who has seen that Christ and the Gospel is enough; he is all sufficient. And I really want to be equipped to be able to better minister that to other broken people in the context of Biblical Counseling, through my church, Christ Redemption Fellowship (PCA).”

Timothy also hopes that his time at Westminster can better equip him for rhyming and sharing the gospel through music in the future. Brady, however, feels as though his days of rapping may be finished (for now, at least). “I don’t know what two words I haven’t rhymed.” He has come to a point where he wants to glorify God in a new and challenging way, so he has turned to writing and teaching. He has published a book in the style of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in an urban environment and a book that presents a cultural critique of hip-hop as it relates to morality. “I think I’m going to be doing more writing and teaching and less rapping, only because I feel like ‘I’ve done that.’ I don’t feel like I’m giving God my best anymore in that medium.”

While they are only in their first semester, both recognize the rich foundation that Westminster is providing them.  “A standout moment has been in my Old Testament Biblical Theology class with Doug Green, because of the redemptive-historical understanding of the Bible as a story, and the story of the Bible is God’s plan of restoration….When I’m sitting in these classes, I am awe- struck with how God’s story of redemption is just so much deeper and richer and more glorious than I would have ever imagined," says Timothy. He hopes to use what he is learning to improve upon his upcoming album, “The Restoration.”

Rap music has become an important part of the urban culture, but it is still within the plan and purpose of God. “Every kingdom that’s risen, and every kingdom that’s fallen, is part of God’s plan to bring into fruition his will,” says Brady. “Just like that’s true of every nation and every king and every kingdom, it’s true of hip-hop. Hip-hop will either finish serving God’s purpose in God’s plan, and fall like every other king and kingdom; or, in God’s plan and by God’s wisdom and power, it is even a part of the teleological end that He has in mind.”

Timothy is quick to point out though that “there is a growing movement of urban Christ-centered hip-hoppers that are becoming more churched. Not only that they are going to a church, but they are in submission to church leadership, and are under sound theology and Christology, and the Lord is using them to spread His Fame amongst a dying culture.”

Many have come to know the true God through the work that Brady and Timothy have done. Continue to pray for these brothers and the rest of the Westminster student body as they study God’s Word, and train to proclaim the whole counsel of God throughout a changing world.

Click here to visit Brady Goodwin's website and see videos of his music and his books.

Click here to visit Timothy Brindle's website.  Also, check out his song The Self-Sufficiency of God from the album The Attributes of God by Shai Linne.