My introduction to Shai Linne was when a friend showed me “Jesus Is Alive”. I was deeply moved by the sheer triumph of Jesus over all other world, historical and religious leaders. I was quite humoured by the cheekiness of some of the lyrics, and I found the music quite groovy and old-school. My interest had been piqued, so I gave his first record, The Atonement, a spin. Rappers on limited atonement? This was not like other Christian music artists, sticking to their own personal praise. This was a guy who was delving deeply into the Word, yet doing so in the hip hop format. What a concept!
I was very excited to get my hands on Lyrical Theology pt. 1. Spinning it up for the first time, I was feeling very much out of my musical comfort zone. Harsh sounding drum loops, sub basses and sparse instrumental ornamentation make up the back drops for the Main Event. It’s the wrapping paper (no pun intended) for the great and glorious theological truths and topics.
Opening the first track we get a rather harsh sounding drum loop with Shai Linne telling us what he’s going to be teaching throughout the album. The topics are well varied and diverse, covering what historic Christianity has taught for the last 2,000 years, as well as some topics that are more controversial. Like every good theology publication, it has it’s very own ‘Table Of Contents’. Thanks, Shai. I’m glad I know where to turn.
Personal favourites included ‘The Holy Spirit’, explaining how He works in us and saves us with beautiful, powerful lyrics, music and beats; and ‘Active Obedience’, which reminds us of Jesus’ perfect life as a huge part of our salvation, not just his death and resurrection.
Another favourite that deserves special mention is ‘Fal$e Teacher$’, which has generated considerable controversy among Christians. A songs that has the lyric “If it’s your best life now / Then you’re headed for Hell / (talk to ‘em) Joel Osteen is a false teacher” is going to cause a stir. In an age where the message of Jesus is being watered down and reduced to a get rich or self help system, this song is poking people in areas of sin they don’t want exposed to the light of the true gospel. There has been a great deal of back and forth between Shai and his critics, including the son Paula White, and he has answered very graciously, but firmly.
For me, Shai Linne is the Charles Spurgeon of rappers. He has an incredible ability to put very dense and rich theological content into easy-to-remember one liners. You could even use his lyrics as a form of catechism to teach complex doctrines.
This album is a breath of fresh air. To hear people delving deeply into the wonders of God’s rich word, not just surface level teachings, is an absolute joy. Something I’m always very discouraged to hear is ”if it’s not a salvation issue, why do we need to know about it?” How about the command to love our God with all of our mind? Not to mention the commandment from the author of Hebrews to move on from elementary doctrines and onto solid food.
This record can act as an introduction to this more solid food, and proves that it’s not just for the theologically trained. It can be understood, even put into lyrics, and remembered. Don’t be lazy. Get into it!