Hopsin’s Ill Mind and the Anatomy of Unbelief
“I lost faith.”
That is the declaration of hip-hop artist Hopsin, minus a few expletives.
In his latest track, “Ill Mind of Hopsin Seven,” the rapper levels a frenzy of accusations against God and most would call “the Christian life.” Whether the song is worth listening to is up to you, but what makes this important is that Hopsin (born Marcus Jamal Hopson), professed faith in Christianity in 2012.
Hopsin’s latest rap begins with a lament over the scorn he’s evidently received for backsliding (the source of which is unclear). Then he quickly progresses down a dark road by asking God, “Who the [expletive] are You? You never showed the proof,” complaining that he can’t believe in the Bible because “I’m only [expletive]-ing human yo, what am I supposed to do?” The depth of this fleshly despair is illustrated in his complaint that he can’t even “[masturbate] without getting convicted.”
But in my opinion, even those shocking lines don’t constitute the crux of the rapper’s six-minute declaration of independence from God. The heart of Hopsin’s manifesto is this (emphasis added):
Show Yourself, and then boom it’s done
Every rumor’s gone, I no longer doubt this s***, You’re the One
I’ll admit that my sinful ways was stupid fun
And all my old habits can hop onto of a roof to plunge
I’ll donate to a charity that could use the funds
F*** the club, instead of b*****s I’d hang with a group of nuns
And everyone that I ran into would know what I came to do
I wouldn’t take a step unless it was in the name of You
I hate the fact that I have to believe
Let’s face it; Hopsin is not alone. Many people—Christian or otherwise—would do themselves a favor to confess times when they’ve had similar doubts, albeit possibly not as profanity-laced. Some have wandered down Hopsin’s path and repented of their blasphemy; others have not.
I’ve felt doubts before too. Plenty of times. After all, if God sovereignly saved me and filled me with His Spirit, why isn’t it much easier to live for Him? Why doesn’t He intervene?
Counting the Cost
We Christians would do well to admit that the Christian life isn’t as easy as we often pretend. Churches should be terrified of giving unbelievers the impression that the life of true faith is effortless. Truly following Jesus takes backbreaking effort—effort, which, I confess, I am often unwilling to apply.
If we as Christians gave Hopsin the impression that all he had to do was say a sinner’s prayer once in order to automatically live a Spirit-filled, sinless, easygoing life, we did him a terrible disservice. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
Crucifying yourself daily is hard. Even with the Spirit in your life, it’s painful—yet possible.
But what Hopsin expresses in the quoted lines above is more than frustration with his flesh. He represents a heart that has never been regenerated; one that still desires sin more than it desires God Himself. Not only does he not want righteousness; he doesn’t want to want righteousness—only certainty of some kind. It’s the kind of heart described in Psalm 36, that of a man flattered and enticed by sin and totally unable to see God for the steadfast, loving, fearsome Being He is.
The core line of the song is: “I hate the fact that I have to believe.”
Genuine faith is a gift from God, not an action of human exertion, and it is clear that Hopsin has never been mercifully given such faith.
Faith Starts With Fear
We’ve all experienced—or are experiencing—the sort of emotional doubts Hopsin describes. Thankfully, God is a big boy; He can handle our doubts. He can even graciously give us the answers we’re looking for. Biblical faith is not blind faith.
But generally speaking, in Scripture, God does not answer the questions of the prideful and arrogant.
The key to knowledge, faith, understanding Christianity, and sticking with Jesus for the long haul is not having good apologetics, hearing a booming voice from Heaven, or witnessing an undeniable miracle. God uses these things and does provide them, but He gives such gifts only to those who have humbled themselves before the Lord.
James 4:10 reminds: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” This is the overwhelming pattern of Scripture. God requires that we fear Him before we understand Him; “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).
On earth, Jesus affirmed this fundamental fact of epistemology (how we know what we know). Foreshadowing that even the greatest miracle of history, His own resurrection, would not win over prideful doubters, He quoted Abraham as saying, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
There is no neutral moral ground on which to question the goodness and the existence of God. Even if there was such a neutral ground, Hopsin is clearly not standing on it. Those with spiritual discernment will recognize that abject creaturely pride, not innocent intellectual doubt, is what drives Hopsin’s blasphemy. Evidence for Christianity is not the answer Hopsin needs; humility is.
In Job 38-41, we see one of the more unusual manifestations of grace: God condescending from Heaven to gently smash human pride into the dust. After Job and his friends had spent hours discoursing over God’s goodness and human suffering—in a fashion, most likely, far more reverent than Hopsin’s—God speaks from Heaven.
But He doesn’t bring evidence for His existence or answers to their question; rather, He gives reason after reason for them to humble themselves before Him.
God Himself shouts through a whirlwind, beginning in Job 38:1-7:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
In Job 40:10-14, He continues:
Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity;
clothe yourself with glory and splendor.
Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
and look on everyone who is proud and abase him.
Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low
and tread down the wicked where they stand.
Hide them all in the dust together;
bind their faces in the world below.
Then will I also acknowledge to you
that your own right hand can save you.
Job responds the only way any mortal could: not protesting God for avoiding his questions, but covering his mouth, repenting, and confessing that God is the unthwarted, sovereign God.
What does God do? He restores Job’s fortunes. He vindicates Job. He answers Job’s prayer for his doubting friends. Job never gets all the answers he’s looking for, but it doesn’t seem to matter now that he truly knows God.
What ‘Born Again’ Actually Means
Whether on a large scale or a small scale, Hopsin’s sin depicts the anatomy of any unbelieving heart. Unlike Job, who had only the most basic view of who God was, Hopsin has more knowledge of God at his disposal and yet rejects Him. Hopsin has heard the name Jesus Christ, and yet rejects the Gospel (assuming he even understands it). Hopsin knows God’s demands on his life, but he still writhes on the ground, wallowing in the mud of sinful affections. He’s so in love with his lifestyle of sin that he can’t comprehend that God would ask him to turn away from it on the sole basis of Scripture; surely God would speak directly from Heaven if His standards were so high! He forgets that only in total surrender to Christ will his sinful heart be crucified and be replaced with a heart that legitimately loves God more than sin, even though it may still struggle (see Ezekiel 36:26).
People like Hopsin are the people Paul wrote about in Romans 1:18-22:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Simply put, it outwardly appears that Hopsin—like anyone who is spiritually dead—doesn’t have the God-given capacity to see God as more desirable than sin. To want God. That isn’t meant to free us from struggle, like Hopsin seems to think it does; but it gives us the ability to succeed in that struggle, laying hold of what Christ has placed within our reach. We’re made dead to sin through the cross, but alive to righteousness through the resurrection. If we’re filled with the Spirit of Christ, then we’ll actually want righteousness. When we sin, we’ll be saddened that we wasted our potential to resist, not just made to feel guilty that we were found out. That is what it means to be a born-again Christian, and sadly, it seems Hopsin is spiritually stillborn.
Some words of conclusion for those who don’t believe, or who once did: doubting is okay, but blasphemy isn’t. Humble yourself. Put yourself in God’s shoes; is He truly when He is forced to respond to arrogant, prideful human interrogation, or would it shame Him? Should He not require that the doubter first humble himself, then trustingly bring his petition to God?
If God is God, isn’t He worth living a life of faith and effort for—or is He somehow obligated to make us perfect Christian automatically? Why should He have to prove Himself to us? Does the clay have the right to complain to the potter who formed it? Would any logical answer to your questions really satisfy you, or could it be that you simply want your own sins, rational assurance, and pride more than you want God? Beware; if so, God will give you exactly what you want (see Romans 1). But if you humble yourself before God, He will lift you up—justly.
To those who believe: examine how you preach the Gospel. How do you share the Gospel with a prideful doubter versus a humble, sincere questioner? Do you treat deniers of the faith as if they have some morally neutral right to question God, or do you acknowledge—and tell them—that their questioning of God is the reflection of their rebellious heart? Do you spend more time trying to answer every question than you do extolling God as more desirable than sin? Do you trust the Holy Spirit to bring people to life spiritually, or do you try to do it yourself through reason and persuasion?
I pray that God shows Hopsin grace by confronting him as He did Job, or Paul on the road to Damascus. Such confrontations are far gentler than the confrontation of Judgment Day. I pray that God would not wait until after Hopsin is dead to reveal His terrifying glory, and that Hopsin’s sin-loving, reason-touting stony heart would be replaced with a heart of flesh.
In Christ’s incarnation and death, God humbled Himself to make peace with us. One cannot receive such grace with contempt. But if we go “outside the camp” (see Hebrews 13:11-13) to that place of shame and humility—if we willingly bear the public reproach of looking to a bloody cross for eternal hope—then on it, we will find the very God whom we have so hatefully questioned freely poured out, availing all of Himself to us—with no questions asked.
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