Published by Moody Publishers on January 4, 2022
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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The gospel according to hip hop. Yeah, that’s a thing.
Christian ideas often show up in hip hop music. Biblical themes and even Jesus Himself appear in the lyrics. But beneath all the God-talk, can a true gospel message be found?
Pastor D. A. Horton (aka hip hop artist Azriel) says yes. And he wants you to know the gospel message is deep . . . powerful . . . theological . . . and surprisingly simple to comprehend. It all comes down to:
God’s designOur downfallGod’s demonstrationOur decision
Are You Good With God? is a book of giant truths written in the raw and rhythmic style of hip hop. The poetry of the streets will energize you with the dynamic power of Scripture. Like every other global language, hip hop speaks to the human heart with truths that really matter. So if hip hop is your mother tongue, why not listen to what God is saying to you?
Are You Good with God? is a book that made more sense as a book in pre-Internet times, but in an online age would probably have been better off as a blog post. At about maybe 5,000-8,000 words, this pocket-sized volume seems to have been developed as evangelism tool for people to hand out to nonbelievers. It’s written in what D.A. Horton calls theobonics, a merging of hip-hop cultural references with theological explanations. It’s…well, I’m not the target audience, but it has a bit of a #FellowKids vibe for me.
Horton—assistant professor at California Baptist and hip-hop artist who goes by the name Azriel—writes that this book was birthed in 2010 after Horton spoke at the Legacy Conference about the need for contextualized resources for urban audiences. Barnabas Piper got into contact with Horton and that led to Moody publishing the first edition of this book in 2012. Ten years later, Horton wanted to go back and revise the book with the result being Are You Good with God?
Horton defines the Gospel in four steps: God’s Design, Our Downfall, God’s Demonstration, Our Destination. Pretty straightforward stuff. This further gets broken down into the GOSPEL acronym that characterized the original version: God’s Image, Open Fellowship, Sin Introduced, Penalty and Price, Enter Jesus, Life Everlasting.
I’m really white and have always lived the suburbs or the country, but I have to say when Horton said that he was going to write a book for the urban context talking in “theobonics,” I was expecting something a little more lyrical and connected to issues of social and economic justice. I was not expecting him to define hell as “eternal spiritual death that is paid out in distributions like a 401(k) retirement plan.” Hip-hop be different than I thought if this is relevant to his target audience.
This reads like the kind of book suburban evangelical churches would buy in bulk and then hand out on the streets on a “missions trip.” It doesn’t engage on any meaningful level. It’s superficial to the point of condescension. Here’s the thing: there are good urban ministry resources contextualized for urban audiences. What Horton means is that there are very few conservative evangelical resources. But even then, there are authors like Tony Evans, Eric Mason, and Derwin Gray who fill this space in a much more substantive way than the way Horton does here.
This is the only book that I’ve read by Horton and maybe it isn’t fair to judge him on a pamphlet, but this doesn’t come across as a genuine way to engage the urban context. It’s not written in “urban language,” it’s filled with hokey 1990s pastor stories I heard growing up. It’s not substantial, it’s superficial. Instead of preaching a simple Gospel, it preaches a simplistic Gospel that comes across as shallow pandering to an audience that needed a message “dumbed down.” I don’t know what I expected out of this book, but I know I didn’t get it. Go read Drew G.I. Hart, go read Brenda Salter McNeil, Brian Bantum, Lisa Fields, or Howard Thurman. Leave this one alone.