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The Reformed Evangelical Divide, Clash of Worldviews, and Tim’s Open Letter to Shai

“The most positive thing to come out of these debates is the increased unity seen between Presbyterians and Baptists over their shared hatred of wokeism’s destructive ideologies.”


Over the last week, I’ve received text messages, emails, and phone calls regarding A Letter to My Friend, a rap song released by my friend Timothy Brindle in which he pens an open letter to my friend Shai Linne. In reaction, what I offer in this piece is an affirmation of Tim’s sentiments, cautionary observations of Shai’s trajectory, and interrelated thoughts on the state of Reformed evangelicalism in America.

This song is from the ‘Fault Lines’ album by Timothy Brindle and Voddie Baucham. Please visit: wrathandgrace.shop/products/faultlinesthealbum

At the start of his song, Tim expresses his heartfelt appreciation for the lower-case MC, taking his listeners through the history of their deep friendship, as well as his gratitude for Shai’s instrumentality in taking him under his wing and teaching him the Scriptures after his conversion. Yet, in the spirit of Proverbs 27:6, the song is also charged with a firm, loving rebuke to Shai, exhorting him to repent of wokeness (as it relates to issues of race).

For those of us familiar with the emergence of lyrical theology in the 2000s, feelings of nostalgia are hard to suppress when listening to Tim’s song, as he reminds us of that golden age of Christian hip hop. This was the era when Tim and Shai themselves were the prominent giants of lyrical theology, releasing classic albums such as Killing Sin and The Atonement respectively.

In fact, these two esteemed brothers in Christ had an enormous influence on me as a Christian recording artist, providing encouragement to me (and to a host of other artists) to join the movement and redeem the genre of hip hop — all in order to communicate the rich truths of Scripture, exalt the name of Christ, and glorify the triune God.

In 2015, Shai graciously poured into me when we were both involved in separate ministries in Northern Virginia, taking me on three-hour car rides to his church plant in Philadelphia. He invited my wife, Angelita and me into his fellowship, housed us, took us to Philly’s dope food spots, and discussed theology with us for hours on end. Shai also introduced me to Westminster Theological Seminary, where I first met Tim. All precious memories.

Without question, Shai will always be a precious friend to me, and I will only ever be on the side of his sanctification. That’s precisely the reason I believe the concerns Tim raises in his open letter to Shai are not only biblically warranted but long overdue. In 2017, ever since Shai got “political” by subtly lamenting the election of the 45th president of the United States on Still Jesus, I began to wonder what had been triggering his mindset.

But it wasn’t until he got “more political” in 2018 and started writing for The Gospel Coalition (TGC) that I began to have grave concerns. For those unaware, TGC is a coalition that’s known in the evangelical world for its advocacy of liberation theology, Democrat policies, Black Lives Matter rhetoric, white guilt, class conflicts, Marxist political philosophies, and analogies between Taylor Swift and Jesus.

Indeed, Shai continued writing several articles for TGC on the topics of whiteness, systemic racism, and his perceived moral equivalences between “Republican” and “Democrat.” In 2021, I lovingly cautioned Shai with the same sentiments Tim expressed in his open letter. However, as debates on these things often go, Shai concluded I had made assumptions and misrepresented his views.

That said, these sorts of disagreements between brothers of Reformed theological convictions are not wranglings that have appeared out of the blue. Since the presidential election of Donald Trump in 2016, the political-theological divide within Reformed evangelicalism continues to grow wider, so much so that its ecclesiological divide (differences over baptism, etc.) is no longer the main point of contention and debate.

The mega conference Together for the Gospel (T4G), for instance, was once a prime example of Reformed evangelicals coming together “for the Gospel,” despite differing views on the sacraments, ecclesiology, and church polity. However, as John MacArthur (one of T4G’s original speakers) stated a couple of months ago, “[T4G] bought into the deceptiveness of the woke movement and the racial-baiting that was going on a couple of years ago, and it literally put them out of existence.”

I believe John MacArthur’s words ring true. When Christians move to the left on social issues, whether it be on matters of life, sexuality, or race, they begin to take Scripture less seriously and end up losing sight of a biblical worldview. In fact, it’s impossible for a Christian to become more solid theologically while becoming more liberal politically.

The new test of “orthodoxy” in Reformed circles, therefore, is not whether one professes to be creedal, Calvinist, or paedobaptist, but whether one has enough of a backbone to pursue holiness over political correctness. Reformed evangelicals, as a result, are no longer debating topics such as baptism, but are now clashing over worldviews. And the question behind this worldview clash is, what should be the Christian’s view of man, sin, race, and culture in God’s world?

To be sure, the BLM-advocating, Democrat-voting evangelical (who prioritizes “justice” for ethnic minorities outside the womb and resonates with left-leaning ideas espoused by Christianity Today) does not have the same worldview as the conservative, Republican-voting evangelical (who prioritizes justice for the unborn and resonates with conservative Christian ministries such as G3, Ligonier, Grace to You, Answers in Genesis, and Founders).

Furthermore, as long as these two opposing worldviews exist within the Reformed world, not even the common ground of Reformed confessionalism (as important as I believe that is) will come close to resolving these hostile polarities. Indeed, Reformed pastors and elders read a fair bit of theology but not much on ethics. A typical ordination exam in a confessional Presbyterian denomination is heavy on confessional-theological questions without questions on God’s law as it applies to current society.

For instance, perhaps a question will come on the Sabbath commandment for the sake of allowing the candidate to express his disagreement with the Westminster Confession on recreations. But you won’t hear questions like, “Is wealth redistribution sinful?” “How does ‘equity and inclusion’ violate the fifth commandment on the topics of superiors, inferiors, and equals?” “Is abortion murder?” “Are you born gay?” Sadly, too many uncritically follow the spirit of the age.

The most positive thing to come out of these debates, however, is the increased unity seen between Presbyterians and Baptists over their shared hatred of wokeism’s destructive ideologies. Christian leaders, even in the Reformed hip-hop movement, are crossing ecclesiastical lines to refute the notion of white saviorism, which assumes blacks need to be acknowledged and saved by whites in order to live their lives.

Meanwhile, Shai is working on his next album entitled Sociology and has made it clear he won’t be responding to Tim’s letter in the public domain. He has released a teaser in anticipation of the project, where he continues to advocate for moral equivalencies between the policies of Republicans and Democrats, quoting the late Tim Keller to argue his case. But let’s be realistic. Is “racial injustice” really an equally pressing social issue as the mutilation of minors and dismembering of babies? Shai exhorts us to uphold “truth over tribe.” But does that apply to the halfway house of tribal moderatism?

In other words, can we get past the false notion that Christians can disagree on political matters and still maintain theological unity? Let’s be clear. If you are a professing believer who voices support for a political party that advocates for abortion, infanticide, same-sex marriage, gender fluidity, men entering women’s bathrooms, transgenders serving in the military, open border chaos, defunding the police, critical race theory, and censoring Christians, then you are not only politically wrong but first and foremost theologically wrong. In fact, it’s the fruit of a worldview that is diametrically opposed to the Bible and the Christian faith.

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