Friday, May 13, 2005

A Friday Rant: Contemporary Christian Music and Biblical Illiteracy

I was driving around the city last night, doing home visits and I flipped on the local Christian radio station. I don’t often listen to Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) because I’m more of a classical music sort of guy. I turned in the Christian station for a change of pace.

What I heard deeply disturbed me. Talk about theology-lite! It’s not that I was looking for versified versions of Luther’s Works, but I listened to the station for a full half hour and only heard a few bible verses in the music. I heard a lot of “Jesus you are so cool” or “I give my heart to you, Jesus” sorts of songs. But no songs based on psalms - the songbook of the church. No deep yearning after God. No announcement of the good news of the kingdom of God. Just feel good, mediocre versions of mediocre pop music.

Jesus = best buddy, or lover, or just a cool guy to hang out and jam with. Few expressions of Jesus as Saviour.

I wonder if these sorts of Christian songs are contributing to the growing biblical illiteracy in our society and the shallow theology in some of our churches.


Steve Bogner said...

My wife finds some of the CCM stuff likeable, but I can easily spend a lifetime not listening to it. About the closest I get to 'spiritual' music is U2, which now that I think about it is probably more spiritual than a lot of the regular CCM stuff.

I'm not sure that theologically-shallow CCM and related church services are a bad thing - if it gets them started down a good path then fine. What's bad is when people get stuck at that level instead of developing that deeper relationship with God.

Kevin said...


I see your point. But I wonder if part of the evangelistic process is teaching the language of faith. Not "Christianese" but the vocabulary of grace. The church is not the world, anbd when it mimics the world too closely, I find the message gets lost in the medium.

Just a thought.


Ono said...

I have a real soft spot for CCM. I was immersed in it for years. Very often, what you bring to it determines what you take out of it. Generally, Christian young men and women who listen to CCM also listen to a lot of praise and worship music, so there tends to be a decent music diet. (This was my experience and it was years ago too.)

The station you refer to probably overloads on that stuff, but it does fill a need for young Christians which is why the Pentecostals are doing very well with them.

One other quick note. I remember in college, the Christian bible study was initiated and run by young Christians with no adult supervision and it they (we) did a very good job. I tend to be very impressed with these young people. Now, if we could just get them to broaden their perspectives a touch, then we'd be in business.

Anonymous said...

I think you're making an unfair comparison - defining Christian music by what our local station plays is like defining classical music by "Boston Pops plays best of ...";

but you're right that CCM is 'theology lite', however I wonder if this music is a result of 'biblical illiteracy and shallow theology' instead of the cause?

I'd have to agree with Steve and Ono that there is a place for CCM - There are many people who need the "See Dick Run" music before they can understand "Luther's Works in iambic pentameter with a key change for the final verse"!


P.S. CCM = Mozart's keyboard material. Think about it.

Kevin said...

Mark wrote,

***CCM = Mozart's keyboard material. Think about it.***

MMM, them's fightin' words. My large form analysis class in university dispelled any myths about Mozart's keyboard music as "simple" or "lite" (if that is indeed what you are getting at)

Mark continues,

***...but you're right that CCM is 'theology lite', however I wonder if this music is a result of 'biblical illiteracy and shallow theology' instead of the cause?***

Chicken or egg, the result is the same.

Mark concluded,

***There are many people who need the "See Dick Run" music before they can understand "Luther's Works in iambic pentameter with a key change for the final verse"!***

Point conceded. But much of the music we have at church does not fall into the categories I've described. So CCM doesn't have to be poor quality.


Ono said...

BTW, I haven't listened to CCM in many, many years, so what I have in mind my greatly differ from what's out there now.

I used to listen to the early Amy Grant, Micheal W. Smith, Andrea Crouch, Jesse Dixon, Petra, etc. These guys actually had some solid stuff back then, Andrea Crouch still does.

Anonymous said...


Re:Mozart; yes, that's what I was getting at. (rest is somewhat tongue in cheek - I was fortunate that my form & analysis prof wouldn't waste our time analyzing Mozart, and my piano prof only used Mozart to teach technique, but wouldn't use it to teach musical appreciation/styling)

Re:Chicken or egg; I don't think this analogy works here - did biblical illiteracy lead to CCM, or did CCM lead to biblical illiteracy? is better asked by would we have CCM without B.I. or would we have B.I. without CCM?

I agree that most of our 'church' music doesn't fall into CCM, but maybe CCM brings people to the door, and we need to be sure that our 'church' brings them through and beyond the door.

CCM will probably continue to be 'poor' quality until enough of the artists and those listening to it are grown beyond it.


Kevin said...

But does CCM bring people to the door? The older church growth model assumed that folks were put off by that which they didn't understand. Now, folks are suggesting that so-called "seekers" are fascinated by worship in its fullest form.

That's why some Anglican churches are growing even though, or perhaps, because they worship with Gregorian Chant and/or traditional English style Anglican chant.

It's been my experience as a pastor and evangelist that folks are looking to be challenged with the real deal and are not looking for an easy entry way into faith.

re: Mozart. Maybe you had the wrong teachers. Boy, those Lutherans at Augustana, I dunno what they teach up there But maybe you need remedial analysis lessons, because with the right prof, Mozart can blow your mind ;)


Streak said...

It is interesting how people are describing CCM as if it is some kind of "gateway" music that will lead people to a deeper faith. Maybe it will. It seems to me that what I am seeing (admittedly from the outside) is that the faith as a whole is mimicking the CCM shallowness.