Posted by: Billy Marsh | October 4, 2008

Fernando Ortega On Theology And Christian Music

Here’s an article I found from Covenant College’s student newspaper, “The Bagpipe”. It’s a brief interview with Fernando Ortega discussing his entrance into “Christian” music and what he thinks about the current state of CCM. The whole interview is great, but this exchange below is the highlight. I believe that Ortega is on to something when he says that he prefers hymns over other Christian music because they were written by theologians not pop stars. He says that the gospel “weighs down” a pop song, and therefore, both are cheapened. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this issue and what you perceive to be the relationship between Christian music and theology. Also check out The Rabbit Room’s discussion on this same interview and topic.

Bagpipe: What do you think of the current “commercialized” status of most popular contemporary Christian music?

Mr. Ortega: Like I said, I don’t listen to a lot of Christian music, and I don’t want to speak to something that the Covenant College student body really likes or listens to a lot.

Bagpipe: You might be surprised.

Mr. Ortega: Well, I think that most of today’s Christian music is based on a thin premise. When you take a pop song and weigh it down with the gospel it sort of cheapens both. The theology is too heavy for the song, and the song usually ends up being too light for the theology. Often I feel like you end up with some sort of fuzzy Christian propaganda that doesn’t do music or the gospel any justice. That’s why I like hymns so much. The early fathers wrote many of the texts to hymns that we sing today. I like that they attach us to our Christian history and remind us of what in our faith is worth preserving. Hymns were written by theologians, not pop stars, and that is why when they are sung, we so tangibly feel the weight of glory.

via Search Results for ‘fernando ortega’ at The Bagpipe Online.



  1. Interesting. I have forwarded this to the heads of Vineyard Music here in South Africa as we had this exact discussion on Friday evening

  2. Billy,
    As much as I enjoy the new music at Redeemer, the words are biblical and of sound doctrine and encouraging, yet the music itself is unremarkable though well performed by the musicians. Maybe I am just too old to get this newer music? I enjoy it, but I guess what I mean is the tunes all kind of mush together. The hymn tunes were much more distinctive and memorable; complex yet simple. The modern music is all kind of like smooth jazz…it all sounds alike.
    I almost never listen to CCM on the radio anymore and very rarely buy any CCM anymore. I prefer Beethoven and Vivaldi or Miles Davis and Artie Shaw.

  3. Steve,

    I hope this interview helps to encourage the writing of Christian music that does justice both to the content and the quality that is worthy of the gospel.


    Though I would concede that much of the actual “music” of the modern worship movement is unremarkable, I would say that the music that Redeemer chooses is on the majority in another league. We rarely sing anything from the “heavyweights” of CCM worship music such as Tomlin, Crowder, and Hall. In fact, recently I had suggested a song to Gary to play during worship, but he didn’t feel comfortable doing it simply because we try to play music that is more musically challenging than normal.

    I think one reason why some of the songs tend to blend together is due to the fact that a large part of the music we sing is written by a select few of songwriters, thus we are limited to a certain style, not only musically and lyrically, but also methodologically. I do feel that it would benefit us to try and reach beyond our comfort zone, so to speak, in this regard.

    However, in light of Ortega’s comments above, he is right stating that much of the hymns were written by theologians, yet I think that this corresponds to the lyrics and not so much the actual music. I know that there are plenty of hymns where both the words and music were written by a single author, however, a lot of the lyrics have been set to music by people later, who may or may not have been actual theologians. So how now shall we write Christian music? And how should we train the future worship leaders of our day?

  4. I am not blessed as a musician, I can play the radio and that’s about it! But it does seem to me that there is something about classical music and the older hymns (before the gospel songs of the later 19th century) that makes that musical style inherently more lofty, deeper, more rich and informative. That being said, I am also blessed by a lot of contemporary music that is also rich.

    Maybe it will just take me a long while to learn the music to our new songs, after all, I have been singing and hearing the hymns for almost 50 years now.

    Despite my struggles with the tunes, I must say that the worship that we are privileged to participate in at Redeemer is the most meaningful, most convicting and illuminating that I have ever had.

  5. When you take a pop song and weigh it down with the gospel it sort of cheapens both.

    That’s good!

    Though, some of the emotive power of some contemporary tunes resonate with another aspect of the gospel, its power to produce sound religious affections.

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