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On occasion I have been accused of corrupting the youth, my children and other colleagues. Maybe I haven't been quite as successful at this as Socrates, because I haven't been forced (yet) to drink hemlock. I'll let you be the judge if you will simply read on.
Last week a colleague of mine sent me a link to this hilarious, yet serious, rap on the Heidelberg Catechism.

Heidelberg Catechism by avoice

(Actually, I'm his mentor and it seems I've influenced, if not thorougly corrupted him.) This "cat rap" as I shall call it, is the curious result of a challenge by C.J. Mahaney to rapper Curtis Allen. I hadn't heard of either of these dudes (the term seems fitting), though I've read some good things by Kevin De Young, whose recent book on the catechism occasioned Mahaney's challenge.
I played this rap last week as the conclusion to my devotions at our congregation's Leadership Council meeting. To say that it met with mixed reviews would be akin to saying World War 2 was a minor skirmish--especially after I suggested I play it in morning worship some Sunday. ("You do that and I'm gonna pull the plug." And "Well, the youth would like it!!!)
But hey! We're talking about trying to be more welcoming and culturally diverse and accepting and daring.
What do you all think of this remarkable production? By the way, I really, really don't like rap. Give me Ian Tyson, Jann Arden, Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot or Nora Jones any time over any rap. Oh yeah, Handel's Messiah ain't bad either, but Haydn's Creation is the absolute best. Regardless, this "song" does make some provocative points about communicating the Gospel. How does style or packaging affect the contents of a message? You be the judges.


This is great- thanks so much for the link!

What a great way to bring the HC into a church planting environment- this will surely show up sometime in the next few months in one of our worship services!

Personally, I think that it is important we share the Gospel in as many ways as possible - using rap, hiphop, and R&B if necessary. We have an obligation to reach out to the whole world, no matter their background, age, or musical tastes.

I would, however, offer a couple of cautions about using a video such as this. Every generation has a broad range of interests and tastes - some young people will find this rap just as distasteful as many adults in the congregation. We must be careful to not assume that a specific style of music will reach a certain population.

Also, I would caution against using "gimmicks" to reach the youth. If a church plays a video like this one time in an effort to appeal to a certain subset of the population, but does not consistently reach out to that group, it becomes clear pretty quickly that it was a one-time thing done just because, rather than out of a passion for responding to the needs of that population.

I think that the Heidelberg Catechism in and of itself speaks directly to the needs of young people today. Many have written about the lack of community many of today's youth feel. Many young people feel alone, abandoned, and separated from their families and peers. Social networking sites like Facebook allow us to create huge networks of shallow friendships. In response to that, the Heidelberg Catechism says, "What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I am not my own..." I am currently using the Heidelberg as the basis for a Bible Study of almost all graduate students and faculty of Michigan State University - we use the questions of the Catechism to guide our discussions. By doing so, we are encountering the full scope of the Gospel and basic theology. Rather than "teaching" the Catechism, we are using the questions as springboards for our own discussions - only occasionally do we read one of the Catechism's answers verbatim. This has received a strong positive response in our group - I have heard responses from many people saying things like "I had never thought about it that way before!" To which, of course, I inwardly smile, knowing that some great writers had thought of it that way hundreds of years ago. I think that perhaps it is better for us to repackage the Catechism according to the needs of our immediate audience, rather than hoping that a rap about the Catechism might make it more interesting again.

Incidentally, as far as raps about basic theology go, I think this one is much better: The rap by Curtis Allen is partially about the HC but also to a considerable degree about Kevin DeYoung's book about the catechism.

Thanks, Jim, for posting this.  But I must say that it is a sad sign of CRC insularity that you didn't know who CJ Mahaney was (or Curtis Allen at this point) - because the CRC is becoming more and more out of touch with the Reformed re-awakening that has been taking place in the world for the last 20 + years or more.  As the CRC continues to drift toward the mainline churches and irrelevance, there's been a wonderful revival of "New Calvinism" - with the Young, Restless, and Reformed.  But most of that has been happening outside of the declining CRC/RCA matrix.

I must say that your statement,

[quote=Dave Watson]

But I must say that it is a sad sign of CRC insularity that you didn't know who CJ Mahaney was (or Curtis Allen at this point)


is feeding the 'blaming/I'm better, or more open than you' sterotype...I do not know of CJ Mahaney or Curtis Allen's music/message either- and I am Catholic.  My United Church friend has not heard of any of these musicians either.  Although we did enjoy the rap, and we did find it to be different than we are used to--we decided to save the judgement work for God.  Your statement honestly made us feel like we had no business to have an opinion on the subject, let alone the join discussion... I am a rebel, then, I suppose.  My 15 and 16 year old children loved the music, but feel frustrated because they know that our man-made rules regarding who has the only and right way to worship will never allow anyone to openly admit it's cool.  May I ask what kind of insularity you are putting forth as a Christian example here?



Hey, Friends! Well, good afternoon. We are getting engaged, for sure, if maybe even a little testy.

Thanks to all the readers and several commentators of this particular blog with music on the HCat. I am delighted that there is interest out there.

Now, to David Watson: This has got to be the first time in probably 30 years that anyone has accused me of being CRC-insular, or even insular in just about any way--let alone someone from my own denominational tribe, if not ethnic background. I suppose it depends a whole lot on what meaning one attaches to "insular."

Without going into particulars, I think it's fair to say that I have been around the block a time or two, inside and far outside the CRC since about 1978 (perhaps before many of our networkers were born). I have worked in evangelical and mainline organizations in Latin America--always in partnership agreements with CRWM--and worked in evangelical and mainline ecumenical relationships in Canada for around 15 years. Enough of personal credentials or someone might accuse me of puffing myself like St. Paul is accused of doing in 2 Corinthians.

To respond more directly to Dave Watson's otherwise largely civil comment about the HCat rap, I will show my cards a bit about the "young, restless and Reformed." I remember a Christianity Today article a couple of years ago that perhaps coined that happy phrase. That was an interesting, informative, yet in its own way an oddly insular article. If I recall correctly, the author highlighted a number of Reformed Baptists, in addition to Mark Driscoll of somewhat different colour, among others, most of whom were, I believer FOUR-point Calvinists. OK, 80% is still an honourable percentage, but who’s counting?

What I thought odd about that article was that the CRC and RCA with more or less proprietary name right, so to speak, were not even mentioned in that article. While I do take some exception to Dave Watson’s allegation that the CRC is sliding (backsliding, some would say!) mainline, I do believe it is fair to say that the Reformed tent is legitimately very wide around the world. For young, restless and Reformed North Americans to think they have a corner on the current market of Reformed faith, life, action, thought and theology would be a remarkably short-sighted perspective to take.

In any case, now I definitely know of C.J. Mahaney and Curtis Allen and those are good things. What’s more, I learn a lot from Kevin De Young and Ted Kluck, even though I take some exception to some of their pretty rigid, though riotously expressed take on the church and Reformed accents in particular.

For now, friends, let’s keep feeling our oats, expressing ourselves with vigour and verve, always remembering that  we should take God pretty seriously and ourselves a whole lot less so—and maybe even take the church a bit less seriously than we do, because I have recently discovered some folks who have gotten their egos confused with their work in churches. That’s not a new thing, but how this happened was new to me.

Dear Hope,

I didn't mean to add to a feeling of being ostracized or left out.

This does happen to be a Christian Reformed Network, so I was assuming most of the participants were CRC.  I was expressing my frustration with the CRC leadership (Rev. Dekker has been prominent in the CRC for a long time) which has been actively leading the CRC toward more cooperation with more mainline/liberal/declining churches (like the United Church in Canada, or the UCC & PCUSA in the US) rather than with the vibrant and yet enthusiastically-Reformed movement. 

You can learn a little about CJ Mahaney here

God Bless


Thanks, Jim, for your gracious reply.  Our two messages crossed in cyberspace - while I was finishing up mine - yours must have been travelling through the Network :)

I have also just read your bio - I knew some of your info - I knew Erika in Seminary - but it was of interest to learn more too - 

I am a Westminster Sem (Philadelphia) grad as well as a Calvin Sem grad - a Calvin College (MACS) grad and a Wheaton College (BA) grad - so, like Paul, I have bragging rights  - in both the Evangelical and Reformed worlds.

Whether insular or insulated are the best words to use - maybe not - but I will still lament that the CRC has, in many places, lost part of its "first love" - excitement about "the Reformed faith".  While Colin Hansen - author of Young, Restless, and Reformed - and regular contributor to Christianity Today - is certainly well aware of the CRC/RCA - there is an obvious reason why we don't rate much in his analysis of the "Reformed" "movement" today - We aren't very excited or evangelistic about the "Reformed faith" anymore - not many are "catching" the Reformed "faith" from us - we aren't on the cutting lines - We're "yesterday's news" - so to speak - a moribund denomination.

In the Lamb


Daniel Zylstra on November 19, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

For what it's worth, I thought that the rap was great!

Certainly, this seems to have turned into a bit of a discussion, though, hasn't it? I just thought I'd weigh in with a couple little comments, if I might.


<li>The question of whether the CRC/RCA is "moribund" or relevant, or part of the revitalization of the reformed movement that's happening in the US and Canada is really, to me irrelevant. Here's why: There's always a temptation for a church and/or denomination to want to be "relevant" to the world and to be up on the latest trends--even better--to be part of those latest trends, but the truth is (in my opinion) that being "relevant" in the sense of keeping up with popular trends (in or out of the church) is highly overrated. Jesus instead calls us to focus on the weak, the ostracized, the outcast, the poor and the oppressed--and that (to most of the "popular" world most of the time) is profoundly irrelevant. Personally, I could care less if we're on the cutting edge of anything, to be blunt, unless it is on the cutting edge of ministering to the poor, the needy, the outcast, etc., in both words and in deeds. I'd rather have our church and denomination be totally unknown to most of the popular world, but have them do "closet" service to those who really need it (again in deeds <em>and</em> in words.</li>

<li>You mentioned that the CRC is moving towards more mainline churches in Canada, and frankly I don't see that at all. The CRC in Canada has always been a denomination (one of the very few, if not the only) that is a member of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, and is a member of the Canadian Council of Churches. That is because the CRC in Canada has always been on the "middle-ground" between churches that have a tendency to emphasize deeds (social justice, etc.,--like some of the "mainline" denominations) sometimes to the detriment of sharing the gospel in words, and the churches that have a tendency to be more "evangelical" (focusing on sharing the gospel in words--sometimes to the detriment of the deeds). I personally think this is a very good place to be--grasping both the ministry of the gospel in words and in deeds--and though we're no where near perfect at it (far from it) ideologically, it's great to be here, and I personally don't see any real movement away from that stance.</li>

<li>Last, you mention, Dave, this revival of the reformed movement as if it is something that is really reaching into the heart of the lost and those who have not heard the gospel, in contrast to the CRC/RCA which you claim does not. But the truth is that statistics (a la George Barna and others) indicate that there are very few churches at all that are truly reaching totally "new" people for Christ. There is a very limited demographic that almost all churches seem to be able to reach in this day and age, and these churches of the new reformed movement are no different, for the most part. What we really need to do as Christ-followers (and not just reformed people), in my opinion, is to recognize that Christ's ministry, and the ministry of the early church, and almost all other successful "revivals" in history were movements that ministered in words and in deeds to the poor and outcast. That's not a comfortable place to be, but it's the truth. All other attempts at revival that focus on marketing, or celebrating and/or repackaging a particular faith (or branch thereof) will be destined to "fail" in the sense that they only suck Christians, or nominal Christians from one group to another, for the most part. If we truly want to revitalize the CRC (and the Church as a whole) we need to be missionaries where we probably least want to be.</li>


Anyway, I'm sure I've said more than my share, and I apologize for all the run-on sentences, and so on. I also want to emphasize again, that this is only my opinion as a young (36) pastor with very limited experience (only been ordained for 2 years-ish). 

I really do wish God's blessings on you all.

in His service,



Thanks, Dominee Dan, for your response.  I'll reply more in a moment.  But I think that the following might be on interest:

Can the Reformed Resurgence Fly in Grand Rapids?

I can concur with your points - being relevant/popular isn't what matters - it's being faithful to the Lord's commands, which include the Great Commission (evangelism) and the Great Commandment (Love God and Neighbor). What I believe is happening is that a desire to be attuned to the latter is eclipsing the former, among other things.

I don't think trying to be in the middle between the mainline denominations and the evangelical denominations is a good place to be.  The CRCNA never joined the NCC (but now we might as well have, being in the WCRC). I think we should be squarely in the Evangelical camp, while maintaining Reformed distinctives to a gracious extent.  I think that most of our Evanglical brothers and sisters in Christ have been more balanced all along on the evangelism/social justice scale that they have been characterized by by others.  I've had a foot in both the Evangelical and Reformed worlds my entire life (stemming from my parents, who were both Evangelical (My dad went to Wheaton College and my mom went to a dispensational Bible School) before they came to Reformed convictions) .  I was born and raised in the CRC (just to ward off suspicions).

The "Reformed Resurgence" churches do appear to be reaching new people - or at least bringing straying young people back to a living relationship with Christ and His Church.  And they are growing the most in urban centers (like Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll) where they are engaged in diaconal work among the poor and the needy.

Keep the faith:)

David Kuyper Watson

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