10 September 2006

Resources on Christianity and the Arts

I sent an email this evening to a pastor friend of mine who had recently asked me for some suggested resources on Christianity and the Arts. It's worth reproducing here, with some minor tweaks and book links added.


Rookmaaker, Hans. Modern Art and the Death of a Culture. A bit dated, but still a classic in this field. Rookmaaker, along with Francis Schaeffer, was one of the early influences on evangelicals finally coming back to think seriously about the arts.

Sayers, Dorothy. The Mind of the Maker. She compares the human creative act (especially that of writing) to God's creative act and sees trinitarian implications there.

Sayers, Dorothy. The Zeal of thy House. Wonderful play about an architect who struggles with faith, defiance towards God, and pride. He designs a cathedral which ultimately serves as the act of worship he was unable to give any other way. "Behold, he prayeth; not with the lips alone, / But with the hand and with the cunning brain / Men worship the Eternal Architect. / So, when the mouth is dumb, the work shall speak / And save the workman." Out of print; limited availability/expensive in used market; check libraries.

Begbie, Jeremy. Voicing Creation's Praise: Towards a Theology of the Arts. Very scholarly/theoretical, but gives a good foundation. Begbie is a brilliant musician/theologian from the UK, one of the key names in the arena of faith and the arts today. I know him personally. He's taught summer school classes at Regent, and I supported and attended his "Theology Through the Arts" conference in Cambridge in 2000. Fabulous!

Begbie. Jeremy, ed. Beholding the Glory: Incarnation Through the Arts. A more readable collection of essays about theology through various specific arts: literature, poetry, dance, icons, sculpture, music.

Johnston, Robert. Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue. Encourages a two-way conversation between theology and film. The stories in films can teach us about reality, and a theological perspective can help us interpret films.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic. Sees art as an instrument of action in the world, and artists as responsible servants.

Van Gogh, Vincent. The Letters of Vincent van Gogh. Intriguing insight into the mind and spiritual life of an artist who was very tormented by his vocation, but who truly saw it as a calling from God, and in spite of his tragic life ended up making a huge impact with his art.

Wilkinson, Loren. "'Art as Creation' or 'Art as Work'?" Crux, March 1983, pp. 23-28. I can't improve on Brad Baurain's summary: "An excellent essay, seeking a synthesis between sacramentalist (emphasizing creativity) and Reformed (emphasizing stewardship) perspectives on the arts." Loren is a friend of mine and one of my favorite professors at Regent. Alas, the article is not available online, but it should be, and I'm working on trying to rectify that (permissions, etc.)

Larsen, David. The Company of the Creative: A Christian Reader's Guide to Great Literature and Its Themes. A very useful reference book.

Debray, Régis. The Old Testament Through 100 Masterpieces of Art, and The New Testament Through 100 Masterpieces of Art. Two volumes of excellent reproductions of great art depicting themes in the Bible, with commentary.

Essays online:

Vonnahme, Nathan. "Art as Witness." Paper written for Regent College class "The Christian Imagination."


Image Journal - the premier journal of Christian faith and the arts; to its credit it has in a short while (50 issues) become one of the top 10 literary journals of any sort in the United States; poetry, short fiction, essays, visual art on color plates; high quality publication; co-sponsors the annual Glen Workshop (Christian artists/writers conference) in Santa Fe.

Christians in the Visual Arts - organization that encourages, promotes, and fosters networking among Christian visual artists; holds annual summer workshops at Gordon College, and co-sponsors the Glen Workshop with Image Journal.

Mars Hill Audio - engaging in contemporary culture from the vantage point of Christian conviction; they publish an audio journal and have lots of interviews related to the arts; some free tracks are available as MP3 downloads (click "Listen for Free")

Diary of an Arts Pastor (excellent blog by David Taylor) - David is a Regent alum and currently arts pastor at Hope Chapel in Austin, TX, a very arts-focused church indeed. He's a thoughtful writer, and is working on a book (to be published by Baker) on Christianity and the arts which promises to be very comprehensive (he's been posting outlines of his chapters as he works on it).

Iambic Admonit - this blog! :-)

Modern and Contemporary Poets of Christian Faith - a substantial list put together by a professor of English Literature at Dallas Baptist University

Art Index (aka Art Concordance) - thematic and Scripture indexes of artwork, with links to online reproductions

Movie Index (aka Movie Concordance) - topical index of movies with biblical themes, with links to reviews and articles about each movie

Ransom Fellowship's "Movie Central" - reviews and resources for leading movie discussions that will develop discernment and deepen discipleship.

Arts & Faith (discussion forums)

The Arts & Faith Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films


Iambic Admonit said...

Wow, thanks, Rosie. This is great. I'll add these:

1. Anything by C. S. Lewis, including An Experiment in Criticism and Christian Reflections.
2. Anything by Francis Schaeffer, including How Should We Then Live? and Escape from Reason.
3. Anything by Leland Ryken, including The Christian Imagination, The Liberated Imagination, and Windows to the World.
4. “On Fairy-Stories” by J. R. R. Tolkien.
5. Reason and Beauty in the Poetic Mind by Charles Williams.
6. “Towards a Christian Aesthetic,” and Unpopular Opinions by Dorothy Sayers.
7. Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers by Patrick Kavanaugh.

But really, I recommend just getting into the literature itself, just listening to the music.

The works speak for themselves and hardly need Christian interpreters!

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

Iambic Admonit,

Thanks for posting over at my blog - it seems we're getting into some interesting issues. I'm considering opening a new post so that we can continue our discussion with a little bit of higher visibility. Are you interested in that? We all have limited time, so I understand if you'd rather not, but you seem to have a lot to say so far.

If you are, I'll post in the next day or two, when I get some time.

Iambic Admonit said...

Oo, I'd love to... my time restraints are the only concern. How about you post it, and I'll see what I can do? And what do you think about Rosie, and anyone else who's reading this, joining in?

I'll pop over and maybe put this on your blog, too, so you see it straightaway....

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

Iambic Admonit,

Of course - naturally I have no objections to comments on my blog - the more the merrier. I am pretty convinced we have some substantive disagreements, but I'm interested in probing them and seeing why we think what we think. Your viewpoint is an important one for me to engage and do justice, and if I differ with you I had darn well have good reason.

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

I've continued the discussion here. Hope I wasn't too heavy-handed or dismissive - if so, let me have it!

Rosie Perera said...

I posted a follow-up here. Sorina, I've added a bit more substance to this version than the one I emailed you, though it's essentially the same in outline if you don't have time to read it again.