10 Recent Books about Faith and the Arts — and a celebration of CIVA (all books mentioned 20% OFF)

CIVA-B2W-logo-600-300x300.jpgA few weeks ago we had a schedule conflict and couldn’t make a trek to Grand Rapids, Michigan to the bi-annual CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) conference.  Although we truly enjoyed being with local friends, pastors and lay delegates of a Central PA denominational gathering, we missed  being at the remarkable national meeting of CIVA. We need to publicly thank the leadership of CIVA and our stalwart supporter from Lancaster, PA,  Ned Bustard, for helping us get a display of books there, sans Beth & Byron, and for Mr. Bustard for representing us at the event.

books at CIVA.jpgSince we couldn’t have dozens of tables, display racks, or take our boards and shelves to make a pop- up bookstore the way we do at some large events, we only sent a handful of titles and, still, the artists, art teachers, art historians, patrons, museum curators, critics and those who do ministry among and for artists all seemed glad to see our titles. We thank those who browsed and bought books from us — it means a lot.  It reminds us of how important cultural creatives and those thinking about aesthetics have been to us in our work. We are grateful.


Over the years we have developed numerous lists of books or columns about our book-selling at IAM or CIVA or other gatherings where we’ve served serious artists and those interested in culture-making. Please see (and send to others, if you know anyone who’d appreciate it) lists of books about the interface of faith and thea arts here, here or here, or, just for instance, see my review of Beauty Given by Grace: The Bible Prints of Sadao Watanabe, here. Or our review of Art That Tells the Story edited and compiled by Chris Brewer, here.

seerveld set.jpgNot long ago I insisted  in a Hearts & Minds BookNotes column that last year’s release of a multi-volume set by Calvin Seerveld was “the publishing event of the year.”  His stunning and influential classic,redemptive art in society.jpgrainbows for fallen world.jpgRainbows for the Fallen World (Toronto Tuppence Press; $30.00), appears on nearly every list on the arts I do, so these newly compiled anthologies of essays, articles, scholarly pieces, sermons and sundry projects  — like Normative Aesthetics or Redemptive Art in Society — are important.  For what it’s worth, I had the great privilege of being asked to pre-read and then write a blurb for Redemptive Art.  More important and knowledgeable critics have offered better endorsements, but since you are a Hearts & Minds fan, figure you might like to see part of this quote of mine, from the back of the book:

Can high quality, properly nuanceful, allusive theatre, sculpture, painting or song help heal the world? Can art expose injustices, bring comfort to the hurting, shake the idols of our age? These chapters are amazing pieces, a true gift for those wanting to go further along the journey towards “seeking the peace of the city.” Wise leaders and faithful artists simply must read them.

Art in Action_thumb[2].jpgDr. Seerveld was at the CIVA conference this year, as were a fine array of other very important writers and supporters of artists. Nicholas Wolterstorff (who – I might shamelessly note – has a chapter in the book I edited called Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life) was there.  His book Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic (Eerdmans; $26.00) is a classic in this field, published by Eerdmans in 1980, the same year as Rainbows for the Fallen World.  I like to tell the story that I learned of both in a splendidly stimulating pair of reviews in Vanguard magazine that year, called “Cal on Nick, Nick on Cal.” It was important for me to learn of these two Christian philosophers, understanding from their excellent academic work what people meant by the “integration of faith and scholarship” as well as the realization that even those within the same worldview community could disagree about how to go about doing “uniquely Christian scholarship” in a  particular field of the Lord.  Perhaps I took it a bit too much to heart, since are bookstore is very diverse, with “left right and center” viewpoints on offer, enhancing, we hope, principled discussions within each area of life, and each academic or vocation arena, as we ponder and discern what it truly looks like to “think Christianly” and live faithfully, in but not of the world. I thank God for Cal and for Nick, and to realize they were both at this historic CIVA conference and that we would not, was nearly painful. If you don’t have Art in Action, you really should.

luci shaw picture.jpgAnother person we admire from a far was there, poet and author (and publishing hero) Luci Shaw. We stock her several volumes of lovely, thoughtful poetry, and her wonderful book about being a Breath lucy shaw nice cover.jpgChristian in the arts, Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith (Nelson; $13.99.) I recently skimmed it again, for the umpteenth time, alongside an old favorite, a classic by her best friend, the last Madeline L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (Waterbrook; $18.99.) I would tell those uninitiated to this genre – books about faith and the arts – to read Shaw before L’Engle, but anyone who keeps a library of a few books across the broad school curriculum — campus ministers, say, or “faith in the work-world” geeks or just those who like to read very widely — should have them both.

Luci’s most recent book of prose is Adventure of Ascent: Field Notes from a Lifelong Journey (IVP; $15.00) which wonderfully surveys the landscape of her experience of aging. 

taylor and thumbs up.jpgfor the beauty of the church taylor.jpgOne of the great additions to this field was edited by David O. Taylor, and I really would have liked meeting and hear him at CIVA – Taylor gave the opening address, so, of course, we had a big stack of his edited volume For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts (Baker Books; $15.99.)  If you are somewhat new to this body of literature, I guarantee you that this will be a great on-ramp, a way into reading about the myriad blessings of beauty, the important issues and concerns, the joys of church-based art ministry.  Some of the contributors here are professional artists, a few write about aesthetics and the arts professionally (Jeremy Begbie, John Witvliet, Barbara Nicolosi) and some are just solid church folk interested in the field (Lauren Winner, Eugene Peterson, Andy Crouch.) There is a lovely foreword by Luci Shaw. This is great book, enjoyable and helpful.

faith + Vision.jpg

Faith+ Vision: Twenty-Five Years of Christians in the Visual Arts, edited by Cameron J. Anderson and Sandra Bowden with an Introduction by Nicholas Wolterstorff (Square Halo Books) $44.99

It was Square Halo Books, in fact, that partnered a few years ago with CIVA to create and publish a large coffee table book of contemporary Christians in the arts, to honor their 25th anniversary.  Modern, postmodern, classic, iconoclastic, heavy, playful, the work represented in Faith+ Vision: Twenty-Five Years of Christians in the Visual Arts, is broad, mature, and evocative.  The paintings and other visual art pieces shown are “suggestion-rich” and “allusive” as Seerveld might say, and we are honored to continue to stock it.  In fact, I was honored to get to do an endorsement on the back — next to serious scholars in the field such as Ena Heller and Wayne Roosa and William Dyrness.  I wrote, very sincerely,

In word and image, the pages of this book record the glorious work of an organization dedicated to support the Christian artist. CIVA is a wonderful association and this book shows off the God-blessed glory of the their members’ work in extraordinary fashion. Thank God for the gentle steadfastness of CIVA,. For those who compiled this excellent books.  And for Square Halo who publishes manna like this.

I so wish I knew how to get folks to buy this handsomely designed, inspiring showcase book. The artists deserve to be known, and this organization needs to be supported.  It really does make a great gift!

If you want really the “best of the best” standard lists of books, do see the links I offered above.  Or write to us, and I can customer make a list, just for you at whatever stage or level you want. The lists are not exhaustive, of course, and we have other titles on the shelves here at the shop, but they will serve as a reliable core curriculum. We have a lot of older “back list” titles at Hearts & Minds, and can get nearly anything in print, so do send us orders if you want. 

Now, I’d like to share with you a handful of newer titles, including some of what we showcased at our small showcase in Grand Rapids last month. These are others to celebrate.  All are 20% off — do send us an order so we can keep doing this kind of work, promoting Christian scholarship and resources often not found in typical bookstores.  


creative church handbook.jpgCreative Church Handbook: Releasing the Power of the Arts in Your Congregation J. Scott McElroy (IVP) $20.00 This was one of our biggest sellers at the CIVA Bi-annual, and they honored Scott by arranging a book signing to celebrate it. This book has been years in the making; it includes a report of of various church groups that have robust arts ministries, and offers guidance drawn from them, stuff they’ve learned, insights they’ve gleaned along the way.  In this regard, Creative Church Handbook is both interesting/ inspiring – to hear these stories, learn of these ministries and outreaches – and practical/useful — with the “take away” points so clear and actionable. Scott has been involved in conversations about faith and the arts for years, has written an earlier book (Finding Divine Inspiration) and this new, slightly over-sized work illustrates his keen ability to pay attention to what God is doing across the land.  It shows how to mobilize and manage artists and other creatives within your congregation and how to establish structures and parameters for arts ministry.  It includes good stuff on outreach and engagement with the local arts scene in your own community as well as how to wisely think about utilizing the arts in worship and sermons, even.  I’m particularly glad that the arts work of a local church near us here is included;  kudos to our neighbor DeAnne Roe for how McElroy described the work over at Living Word Community Church. This book is a must-have resource, highly recommended.

who's afraid of modern art.jpgWho’s Afraid of Modern Art? Essays on Modern Art and Theology in Conversation Daniel A. Siedell (Cascade) $21.00 I’m not a fan of the bland cover, but this book is anything but bland, and the always interesting, often passionate Siedell has followed up his seminal God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art with a great new volume, a must-have for anyone wanting to stay current with the “state of the art” of recent conversations in this field. This fabulous, richly informed new collection of over 30 essays, is grouped into six major themes. Blurbs on the back include one by David Raskin, the influential (atheist) professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism at the Art Institute of Chicago. (“He asks important questions about art and belief, and helps me better understand my own passions.”) and by Gregory Alan Thornbury, President of The King’s College in New York City, who, after avery thoughtful summary, says “This is a landmark work, a signal of achievement in the field.” As it says on the back cover, Who’s Afraid of Modern Art? celebrates the surprising beauty of art that emerges from and embraces pain and suffering, if only we take the time to listen. Indeed, as Siedell reveals, a painting is much more than meets the eye.”

Siedell’s serious essays are arranged in these units: The Ear,  The Audience, The Art World, The Artist, The Art, and The Poetics of Modern Art.  Fantastic!

ReVisioning- Critical Methods of Seeing Christianity in the History of Art.jpgReVisioning: Critical Methods of Seeing Christianity in the History of Art edited by James Romaine and Linda Stratford (Cascade) $41.00 Mr. Romaine has been known in evangelical art circles for years, in part because of his role in Square Halo Books such as It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God, Objects of Grace: Conversations on Creativity and Faith, and The Art of Guy Chase. He is now Associate Professor of Art History and Chair of the Department of Art History at Nyack College. Mr. Romaine is the President of the Association of the Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art (ASCHA – who knew?) He recently helped edit the excellent collection of art history essays done in honor of Dr. John Walford, Art as Spiritual Perception (published by Crossway — I named it as a Best Book of 2012, which you can find in this big list, here.)  Linda Stratford is an Associate Professor at Asbury College and a board member of ASCHA as well.  I name these important qualifications to assure you that this hefty book is very well done, a collection of exceptional scholars showing forth their work about the methods they use to do faith-informed, coherent art history.  To suggest that a book about methodologies within a sub- genre of a certain, technical field — Christianly conceived analysis of art history — is worth reading by non-specialists may sound like a stretch, but I think this stuff is very interesting for any adult learner and think it should be available in church libraries and among those who like to think deeply about these sorts of things.  Nearly all of us could benefit from fresh teaching about old stuff, and on one hand we could just consider this a refresher course, a good overview of all kinds of interesting matters.  More so, though,  we can learn much about our own self-awareness about our methods and tendencies and styles of how we engage culture and scholarship by dipping into these keen approaches to Christian engagement with culture. These grapple with how to think faithfully about how we do just that – how we approach this artifact or that painting or the accepted wisdom about this school of thought or that cultural movement – is very, very helpful.

The first batch of essays by world class scholars look at icons and iconography. The next handful of pieces look at methodological issues of reading theology in Renaissance and Baroque Art.  The third section looks at the historical-religious context of Nineteenth, Twentieth, and even a bit of Twenty-first century art.  The authors are from a diverse array of institutions, from The University of Chicago Divinity School to the Pratt Institute , from Duquesne University to several universities throughout the world.

Sanctifying Art- Inviting Conversation Between Artists, Theologians and the Church.jpgSanctifying Art: Inviting Conversation Between Artists, Theologians and the Church Deborah Sokolove (Cascade) $22.00  Cascade has an uneven, even peculiar, series, “affs/Art for Faith’s Sake” that is worth knowing about, a series which includes books large and small, including some poetry volumes,  a biblical theology of dance, a splendid, mature work by Bill Dyrness  (Senses of the Soul: Art and the Visual in Christian Worship), a very nice devotional based on Emily Dickinson, the significant ReVisioning book on art history mentioned above, and, a bit oddly, a teaching preaching book by Will Willimon, among others. This is a solid, foundational one, and should be known widely.  As Robin Jenson (herself Professor of the History of Christian Art and Worship at Vanderbilt) says “Deborah Sokolove has given us a rare gift. She has articulated her belief in the value and purpose of art in language that is fresh, convincing, and – perhaps most of all – accessible to and respectful of the lay reader. This is obviously a work of love, and it is a great joy to read.”  Many of the reviews and endorsements have been excellent, nearly urgent: Denise Domblkowski Hopkins says that the author “brilliantly accomplished what she set out to do – change the conversation between artists and the church….” and suggests that much is at stake here.  

The Virtues and Vices in the Arts- A Sourcebook .jpgThe Virtues and Vices in the Arts: A Sourcebook Shawn R. Tucker (Cascade) $33.00  I have not looked through this much, and wondered if it is mostly about the arts, or mostly about virtue, faith-formation and character. The seven deadly sins are known, perhaps the virtues less so, but this book brings all of them together and “for the first time, lays out their history in a collection of the most important philosophical, religious ,literary and art-historical works.”  Is this mostly art history then? Literary criticism? Historical theology? Yes, yes, and yes. It is a massive anthology, putting, in the words of a professor from Bowdoin, “philosophical treatises into conversation with religious and literary compositions.  Even more interesting, he draws on key artistic works, paintings, and sculpture, allowing the reader to imagine other ways to think about ethical problems.”

Seeing-the-Unseen-Church-Gallery-Handbook-800x600-300x225.jpgSeeing the Unseen: Launching and Managing a Church Gallery Sandra Bowden & Marianne Lettieri (CIVA) $30.00 This is another splendid, book which was launched at the 2015 CIVA event, and we are thrilled to have a few here at the shop. Sandra Bowden is, we might note, one of the most informed and respected art collectors in North America, herself a devout Christian and driving force within CIVA for decades. (Some of her own splendid collection is shown in a truly exceptional Square Halo Books coffee table art book, The Art of Sandra Bowden, edited by James Romaine; $49.99.)  Ms Lettieri is a mixed media artist, art instructor, and is currently in a residency at the Cubberley Artist Studios in Palo Alto, California.

This beautifully crafted new book is 10 x 7, spiral bound, and chock full of insight, vision, and lots of very practical advice.  Stepping into this world can be daunting – bad art is an embarrassment and we must resist cheap or unconsidered work, but we must also realize that the power and witness of even the most highly creative, exceptional work can be harmed by shoddy or unprofessional installations.  Anyone who is an artist could benefit from this; anyone who is interested in displaying real work by real artists should know this stuff, and anyone who is serious about doing a gallery, especially in a parish setting, simply must have it.  

Art of Helping Others- How Artists Can Serve God and Love the World .jpgThe Art of Helping Others: How Artists Can Serve God and Love the World Douglas C. Mann (IVP) $15.00  Mann is a songwriter and former music and publishing executive (not to mention an accomplished visual artist) and has done extensive mission work.  (He currently divides his times between  Colorado and the Ukraine.)  In this book Mann offers a memoir of his own “joy, pain, sacrifice and hope” which calls artists of all sorts, in fact, all followers of Jesus, actually, to lives of “creative incitement to the glory of God.” Although this will inspire you to invite and network artists for activism and service, it will, more deeply, inspire all of us to live more generously, seeing the world in nuanced, colorful ways, and sharing that passionate vision with others. All of us, artists or not, can be encouraged by this author who, Ben Arment says, “has the hands of an artist and the heart of a pastor.” Maybe we all need a little “creative incitement.” 

Life After Art- What You Forgot About Life and Faith Since You Left the Art Room .jpgLife After Art: What You Forgot About Life and Faith Since You Left the Art Room Matt Appling (Moody) $13.99  We stock all the recent books in the recent imprint the “Moody Collective” which are written by younger adults, energetic volumes with an Millennial edge, deeply Christian but not pushy, well written and artful. So it makes perfect sense that the Collective would do a book about the creative passions that so many younger adults long for. (And others, too; recall that Doug Pagitt says we now live in “the inventive age.”)  This nice volume is, interestingly, as cool as their others, but has an appeal to readers of any age.  The topic is a commonly discussed theme – how school and grown- up life seems to squeeze the playful creativity of childhood out of us – but I know of no other book that reflects on this from a Christian viewpoint.  I love the blurb on the back by Anne Jackson, who explains that “Matt takes readers on a journey to the art room to discover our purpose in life, which can be found in our God-given ability to create beauty for the world to see.”  This is a book full of invitation, beauty, grace, and being set free to care about all this more.  I should have listed it in my list of books last months about leisure and play. Very nice.

Sense and Spirituality- The Arts and Spiritual Formation James McCullough.jpgSense and Spirituality: The Arts and Spiritual Formation James McCullough (Cascade) $18.00  McCullough has his PhD from the Institute for Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at the University of St. Andrews so you know this is some serious, meaty stuff.  He has published articles on the music of Anton Bruckner as well as the art of Graham Sutherland and Makoto Fujimura.  This book attempts to explore some new grounds, not just deepening our faithful understanding of aesthetics, nor the general conversation about faith and the arts, or church ministry among artists. This work is hoping to advance our insights about “how the arts might actually advance spiritual formation in terms of the cumulative effect of religious experience and intentional practices.”  It naturally offers more to the discussion between theological aesthetics and practical theology, but, more, it offers an analysis of artistic communication and how music, poetry, and painting can help us in our spiritual formation. Can our experience of the presence of God be animated by our appreciation of aesthetics and by our actual engagement with art?  As Wheaton art professor Matthew Milliner says in his back cover review, “McCullough deftly calls attention to the elephant in the elephant in the aesthetic seminar room: the way that art catalyzes spiritual growth.” 

Van Gogh's Ghost Paintings- Art and Spiritual in Gethsemane.jpgVan Gogh’s Ghost Paintings: Art and Spiritual in Gethsemane Cliff Edwards (Cascade Books) $16.00 Edwards is a fascinating author, having done books on Japanese haiku, and several previous books on the faith life of Van Gogh and his paintings.  I wish this had come out in time for CIVA; it arrived just after the conference, so here it sits, lovely, beckoning. Elizabeth King, a sculptor who won a Guggenheim Fellowship and a recipient of the Academy Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters says “This is a superb work. The author’s fearless journey into the life of Van Gogh and the interiority of the writing take the readers herself into solitude, loneliness, labor, triumph, and sorrow.  It is a complex work… we treat with this book the very path Van Gogh himself hesitate3d on and wrestled with himself on: the seeming contradiction between the intellect and the spirit in art.  Obviously, the Dutch painter remains one with whom we resonate.  Even Henri Nouwen, who drew so tenderly from Van Gogh, has esteemed Mr. Edwards contributions to Van Gogh studies.




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