Books on the Arts — A reflection after selling books at the 2019 CIVA conference. ALL BOOKS ON SALE – 20% OFF.

As on on-ramp to a review of William Romanowski’s important, new book Cinematic Faith: A Christian Perspective on Faith and Film I reflected in our last BookNotes a bit about our observations as a bookseller at church conferences and clergy events, and things we sometimes hear people say at these events. And things we hear here at the shop.

Oh no, I’m not spilling the beans on any of the personal, poignant stories and struggles good church leaders sometimes share with us – one pastor called me his confidential “bartender” – but just offering this broad realization: many folks (clergy and congregants alike) expect a Christian bookstore to carry mostly books about what we typically think of as religious — spirituality, faith formation, basic discipleship, theology, worship, congregational renewal, Bible study, ministry renewal; that is, churchy stuff.

And we do; when we go to pastor’s events or ministry conferences those kinds of books are obviously most germane. But people are surprised to know we carry books on faith and the arts, on science and work, on play and politics. God cares about all human endeavors and our books can help people – people like you! – develop a uniquely Christian perspective and a set of coherent practices as you engage the world around you. We sometimes call this “whole-life discipleship” showing that followers of Jesus should care about the Word and the world. So many of our favorite books are about nurturing a posture towards and perspective on all areas of life. We reject as unbiblical any principled division between the sacred and secular spheres of life — all of life is created good by God, marred by sin, at once beautiful and broken, and Christ is redeeming it all.

Why people don’t seem interested in books that explore how faith informs what we think about nursing or engineering or leisure or teaching or voting or shopping or town planning or hiking or banking is beyond me. These sorts of books are vital resources for faithful discipleship that you don’t usually hear about in your local church or public library. We know that people are struck by them, perplexed, even. Maybe glad; amused, curious. But such books just don’t sell very well.

Well, we’ve got ‘em and have been called by God to try to make our living trying to sell them. We’ve been thinking about this for nearly 40 years and our selection just keeps growing.

Who knows, maybe the new one coming in early July edited by our lit prof friend Karen Swallow Prior (along with Anglican theologian and director of New City Fellows in Raleigh, Joshua D. Chatraw) will help. It’s called Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues (Zondervan Academic; $29.99) and should at least inspire those with a broad worldview who are willing to have these (mostly, but not exclusively) moderate to conservative scholars stimulate their thinking. I’m glad for the relative diversity of authors and views. With dozens of topics (work, the arts, creation care, immigration and race, reproductive technologies, war, gender, and more) and very thoughtful contributors such as Katelyn Beaty, Vincent Bacote, Robert George, Ellen Painter Dollar, Joel Salatin, W. David O. Taylor, Michael Wear, Tish Harrison Warren, Mako Fujimura, this is going to be a very helpful handbook. Who puts Matthew Vines and Rosaria Butterfield together? Rod Dreher and Andy Crouch?  This book is loaded with fascinating ideas, good stuff to struggle with. You can PRE-ORDER this now if you’d like at our BookNotes 20% OFF. Just use the secure order form page at our website by clicking on the link at the bottom of the column.

Or maybe we just need to remind folks of some of our recent favorites like Tish Warren’s amazing Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life (IVP; $16.00) that shows how our worship practices in church can equip us to find God in the sacredness of the ordinary, hour by hour throughout the day. This truly has been one of my favorite books in recent years and it wonderfully shows how we can practice the presence of God in the mundane moments of ordinary living. If you haven’t read it yet, you really should — we love it!

Or, somewhat similarly, we might re-recommend the excellently written and astute little book by Ashley Hales called Finding Holy in the Suburbs: Living Faithfully in the Land of Too Much (IVP; $16.00) that explores the concrete (and sometimes tempting) social realities of suburban living in light of gospel values. That is, how do we embody faith in the day to day, finding God’s presence and living Christ-like lives in those sorts of settings of yards and cul-de-sacs and commutes and status and busy, fast-paced lives? Does God show up in your sub-division? Can we think Christianly and live faithfully in the development by the mall?

These books push us to incarnate, embody, live out, the gospel in ways that are not abstract or “spiritual” in some lofty sense. They help us do what Barbara Brown Taylor evokes in her beautifully written memoir An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith (HarperOne; $15.99) about finding holiness in the down to Earth. You know I’ve said often how much I value this good book.


All of which reminds me of a book I recently started, the remarkable, energetic, scholarly papers of a conference called Creation and Doxology: The Beginning and End of God’s Good World edited by Gerald Hiestand & Todd Wilson (IVP Academic; $25.00.) Co-published by the Center for Pastoral Theologians, it includes gloriously stimulating pieces by Andy Crouch and Deborah Haarsma and John Walton and Kristen Johnston and many others on everything from medicine and technology to the insights of Wendell Berry to the role of a robust doctrine of creation in the history of science to the hope for restoration of a renewed cosmos to the significance of beauty in theology. This has much intellectual rigor and has much to do with providing a Biblical resource for scientists, it seems.

And that exceptionally important Biblical truth — This Is Our Father’s World — is the the first theological basis for any engagement with culture and for our interest in, just for instance, the creative arts.


Last week we had the great privilege of sending some books to the remarkable bi-annual conference of CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts.) We are grateful for their work and witness these last forty years — they have literally saved the faith of many young creatives and encouraged many to be faithfully allusive in their art work — and we have been honored to provide books for them on occasion over the years.

Special kudos to our friend and supporter Ned Bustard, manager of Square Halo Books, a niche indie publisher who does very fine books on faith and the arts, who staffed our CIVA book table there at Bethel University and told conferees about our passion for selling books. He did a bit of lugging and loading, too, so we are grateful.

Here are some of the sorts of books we took to CIVA, some that you may want, and some that you might want to buy to give to an artist friend you know. Surely you could be a lifeline to a painter or dancer or sculptor or writer or videographer you know. We have more books on this topic than this list, but this gives you a glimpse at some of the best. Spread the word if you can. Thanks.

All books mentioned are 20% off. As always, just click at the bottom of this Hearts & Minds newsletter and click on the link that will take you to our secure order form page. Just tell us what you want. Or, you can always call our Dallastown shop (717.246.3333) where we and our small staff are eager to serve you further.


Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity Michael Card (IVP) $18.00 This is a truly fantastic read, both as a Biblical study and a set of wise musings, a lovely look at creativity and the life of Jesus. Some of Mike Card’s own story as a thoughtful songwriter is included, so those who like his good music will especially enjoy this. There is a great appendix, too, offering several short “Letters to a Young Artist” (by the likes of Mako Fujimura, Calvin Seerveld and others) that are themselves worth the price of the book. Very nicely done. In fact, it is much more than “nice” — Publisher’s Weekly called it “stunning” and writer Larry Crabb says, “This book touched my heart as few others.” Yes!


Art for God’s Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts Philip Ryken (Presbyterian & Reformed) $6.99 One of the most brief but potent little arguments for the idea of Christian art rooted in a Christian world-and-life-vision. As Hans Rookmaaker used to say, “art needs no justification” and this makes that clear for anyone with doubts, or how God is pleased by our interested in the arts. We don’t want to fall into an idolatrous and unhelpful “art for art’s sake” approach, but we surely don’t want an “art for the sake of a message” approach, either. This is a nice way to begin and the argument is concise and lovely. Give this to any seriously Christian high school or young college student who loves the arts or anyone wanting a succinct starting point.

Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts Steve Turner (IVP) $18.00 Turner is one of the best rock critics in the world; he was the authorized biographer of Johnny Cash, and has done other serious rock bios (Marvin Gaye, Van Morrison, and several important works on the Beatles.) His new (and lots of fun) Turn, Turn, Turn: Popular Songs Inspired by the Bible (Worthy; $24.99) shows how the Bible has influenced popular music (from the 50s through nearly contemporary times) and is so very, very interesting. Imagine (now out in a recently updated, 2nd edition) is an accessible, insightful book making a case an “in the world but not of” engagement with culture and the arts, offering a fine foundation for anyone doing creative work out of a Christian orientation. Imagine is especially good for those involved in the world of popular culture, film or the contemporary music scene, since that’s his specialty, but it’s a good book about being faithfully open to common grace in the art world for nearly anyone. Great reading, especially for those who perhaps feel like maybe this isn’t that important or right.

Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture Makoto Fujimura (NavPress) $24.99 Mako Fujimura was just becoming known as an evangelical thought leader, doing impressive abstract art in lower Manhattan when he started writing these ruminations on art and culture. Some of these essays and prayers emerged from his important work post-9-11 when he helped show how the arts can help citizens and neighbors lament and grief and recover from the awful attack. Handsomely designed on good paper, this is a humane, beautiful book to cherish. Makes a great gift and is a great example of a handsome and thoughtful Christian book for those who may not be inclined to read something more directly religious. We often recommend this as one of the first to read in this topic, and you will not be disappointed. Very nicely done.

Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life Makoto Fujimura (IVP) $18.00 This potent little volume, a more recent one by Mako, is about the common good, our responsibilities for caring for our culture, and the particular ways in which we can be cultural stewards by feeding our culture’s soul with “beauty, creativity, and generosity.” Good for “creative catalysts” who desire a renewal of culture that yields human flourishing. Why not join with some others in your church or fellowship and read this together and see what comes of it. Excellent. By the way, don’t miss his reflection of beauty and cultural healing as it comes up against sorrow, suffering, and injustice in his splendid, thoughtful study of a transforming book in his life, the famous Silence by Japanese novelist Shusaku Endo. Mako’s study, in a very handsome hardback, is called Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering (IVP; $26.00.) There’s an excellent, extensive introduction by Philip Yancey.

For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts edited by W. David O. Taylor (Baker) $18.00 This is another one of those books that nearly anyone should read and from which nearly everyone would benefit. What a great collection, interesting and upbeat with a variety of contemporary scholars, pastors, critics, patrons, and artists, from Luci Shaw, Andy Crouch, Eugene Peterson, Barbara Nicolosi, Lauren Winner, Jeremy Begbie and Joshua Banner. This really is an excellent collection, particularly useful for local church study. These chapters emerged from a conference at a church, so isn’t only for artists, but for anyone who cares about how the church can affirm and appreciate the arts and artists.

By the way, editor and organizer David O. Taylor has a book coming out in September called Glimpses of the New Creation: Worship and the Formative Power of the Arts (Eerdmans; $22.00) and we are already taking PRE-ORDERS at our discounted price. Jeremy Begbie is writing the foreword.

Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts Jerram Barrs (Crossway) $18.99 We have an extensive selection of books – at various scholarly levels – of books mostly about literature, so wanted to name at least one. That this also is good for any sorts of creative workers or anyone interested in a faithfully Christian insight about the arts makes this one great for nearly anyone. Barrs is a beloved professor at Covenant Theological Seminary and we stock all of his books, from Being Human (which properly frets about Gnostic influences in some contemplative spirituality) to excellent books on prayer and evangelism, Barrs is really solid. Our dear and trusted friend Denis Haack of Ransom Fellowship has a very nice blurb on the back of this, as does the always-discerning William Edgar. Timothy Keller says it is “the most accessible, readably, and yet theologically robust work on Christianity and the arts that you will be able to find.”

It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Books) $24.99 I love this book and very, very highly recommend it. When a very handsome revision of this classic was released a decade ago, I wrote this:

This one of the few books that I can say with confidence is one of the best we have had the privilege of carrying in our 25 or more years here at Hearts & Minds. It is a collection of great essays illustrated with beautiful artwork (both ancient and modern) and seems to be the perfect book for anyone who needs an introduction to thinking faithfully about the arts from a Christian perspective, or that needs more maturity after having read a bit of the classic stuff for starters (Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer, say, or Art for God’s Sake by Philip Ryken or Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle.) With pieces from working artists like Mary McCleary, Ed Knippers, Karen Mulder, Ted Prescott, and others, it is the best collection of its kind in print.

You can enter the title into the search engine of our archived BookNotes at our Hearts & Minds website to see a few times I’ve commented on it, or see my older review, here. but please know that, I still believe this to be true. It Was Good: Making Art… is just a marvelous book to behold, packed full of wondrous essays and good, good writing that is Biblically faithful and very aware about the issues faced by faith-based artists of all kinds. Highly recommended.

It Was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Books) $19.99 Okay, this was the sequel to the wonderful It Was Good: Making Art… and I invite you to check out my long review of all thirty glorious chapters, here. If I loved the first, I adored this second one and have revisited many of the chapters multiple times and they always are rewarding. If you know anyone who is at all interested in music, they simply must have this exceptional book, the best book on faith and music of which we know. There are chapters on jazz and classical and blues and children’s music and rehearsal and choir and songwriting and lament. Even a very well written chapter by Calvin College SAO folks on hosting a live concert.  So much. Very highly recommended.

It Was Good: Performing Arts to the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Books) $19.99  Ahhh, this is the third in this splendid set of thoughtful books that explore the cutting edge of that line between theory and practice, between significant (but not dense) aesthetics and good ideas and the practical matters that artists face. This one is exceptional in part because it is just about the only book like it that offers good guidance and inspiring reflections about the craft of being a performing artist. For dancers, actors, folks on the road, people managing theaters and doing choreography or filmmaking and the like. What a book! See my longer review, here.

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art Madeline L’Engle (Convergent) $15.00 Recently released with a new cover design and compelling forward (by YA novelist Sara Zarr), this little classic is one of the most-often mentioned and certainly cherished books among those who care about this topic since its release in 1980. Sublime. Interesting. A must-have book for anyone involved in writing or the arts. It may be surprising to some how deeply knowledgeable she is about the contemplative tradition, about the Orthodox, about others upon whose shoulders we stand in our understanding of faith, life, the arts, and the creative process. Certainly of interest to arts, but a good, provocative read for nearly anyone.

Images and Idols: Creativity for the Christian Life Thomas J. Terry & J. Ryan Lister, with foreword by Jackie Hill Perry (Moody Press) $14.99 Just the look and feel of this hardback volume sets it apart – it is sturdy, black and white, textured, sans dust jacket. The authors are leaders of humble beast, an underground hip hop music label out of Portland that does important, gospel-centered rap and other hip hop records and concerts. They are not only way cool and authentically down with that scene, but they are wanting to forge a community of artists who are rooted in the gospel and thoughtful about aesthetics, the arts, cultural engagement, social renewal, and the like. For those who have followed the deepening worldview of performing artists like Lecrae or Prop or Sho Baraka or others in those circles, Humble Beast is highly, highly regarded. And so, this first volume in what may become a series of studies is insisting, “God is reclaiming creativity for His glory and our good.” Yep, it’s hip hop meets Jonathan Edwards, or so it nearly seems with Terry & Lister dropping names like Dorothy Sayers and Dostoevsky, Abraham Kuyper and Flannery O’Connor, this study is foundational and wonderfully realized. There are some pretty cool touches to the book too, with some light notations and illustrative graphics and reverse printing on full color pages. Kudos!!

Intruding Upon the Timeless: Meditations on Art, Faith, and Mystery (Revised and Expanded, 2nd edition) Gregory Wolfe (Square Halo Books) $22.99 I adored the first small volume of this that had the minimalist markings of the great Barry Moser illustrating the essays by famous Image Journals editor Greg Wolfe. In this second edition there are many more essays and much more artwork illuminating this wonderful anthology of some of Greg’s best short form essays that appeared in Image from the days it was so masterfully developed under his watchful eye. I love these short pieces on all manner of artful observations, about poetry and paints and movies and rock critics and dance and visual artists. Greg, an evangelical who became Roman Catholic years ago, has this wide vision and learned view and a winsome ability to tell a good story in a short essay. Intruding Upon the Timeless is a great introduction to a major voice in the faith and art movement in the last decades and will appeal to many sorts of readers.

Create vs. Copy: Embrace Change. Ignite Creativity. Break Through with Imagination. Ken Wytsma (Moody Press) $14.99 We have a lot of books like this, about creativity and the process of being inspired. I respect Ken Wytsma so much and this is great on the power of imagination. Bob Goff says he is “one of the most creative guys I know” which surely makes it well worth considering. This is good for leaders, for artists, for anyone wanting to develop their God-giving creativity. Highly recommended.


Title Pending: Things I Think About When I Make Stuff Justin McRoberts (Justin McRoberts) $9.99 I love this little book by our good friend Justin, a singer-songwriter, consultant, coach, speaker, and author with lots of social media savvy. He has worked with visual artists and collaborated in all sorts of church and mission project and know much about being a maker. This offers an outline of sorts, with lots of stories, good teaching, and upbeat prose, for exploring your own drive to create.  After an opening thought on “who needs another book on creativity?” he invites us to the journey. There are sections called “Get Your Bearings”, “Map Your Territory”, “Pay Attention to the Weather”, “Course Corrections”, and “Enjoy the Journey.” Lots of ideas for good practices and some hard stuff and some fun stuff. We’re glad to stock this rare little guidebook and know it’s going to inspire somebody out there.

When Poets Pray Marilyn McEntyre (Eerdmans) $19.99  Granted, this is not about the visual arts, but, as a matter of fact, Marilyn McEntyre was at the CIVA event and although she was not doing a plenary session, we sold out of several of her great books – her Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies is a favorite and this marvelous thin hardback is nearly sublime. It offers deeply spiritual ruminations on poems (many which you may know, others which you may not) and asks if these well-worded lines and phrases could actually be used as prayers. There are two dozen select “prayer-poems” to learn from and live with. As the publisher puts it,

“Poetry and prayer are closely related. We often look to poets to give language to our deepest hopes, fears, losses–and prayers. Poets slow us down. They teach us to stop and go in before we go on. They play at the edges of mystery, holding a tension between line and sentence, between sense and reason, between the transcendent and the deeply, comfortingly familiar.”

Learning from Henri Nouwen and Vincent Van Gogh: A Portrait of the Compassionate Life Carol Berry (IVP) $22.00 This brand new book is the long-awaited reflection on the course Nouwen taught (just once) at Yale on compassion, learned by and from Vincent Van Gogh. Ms. Berry audited that class and took copious notes; she was approached by the Nouwen literary estate to write this spiritual formation book that shares what she learned by spending time with Van Gogh under the guidance of Henri Nouwen (who, as we know, loved his Dutch painters, especially Van Gogh.) What a great book, wonderful for nearly anyone who appreciates the arts. Thanks to IVP for doing this fine work and including some nice full color reproductions, too.

Shades of Light: A Novel Sharon Garlough Brown (VP) $18.00 Speaking of Van Gogh, keep an eye out for a forthcoming novel by Sharon Garlough Brown coming this August called Shades of Light. This nicely told story (by the author of the popular Sensible Shoes novels about spiritual direction) while mostly about a young woman recovering from depression and anxiety (and her anguished loved ones and aunt, Kit, who is a spiritual director) includes a whole lot about Van Gogh, who the main character (named Wren) is inspired by. I was actually very deeply moved by how Wren took comfort in the pain and paintings of Van Gogh and how beautifully she could describe the famous correspondence between Vincent and his brother Theo. I also enjoyed the vivid description of this novice painter setting out to paint… uh, I can’t spoil it. You’ll have to read it yourself! You might enjoy it too, and be moved by the sorrow and regret and beauty and hope found as someone ponders great art. PRE-ORDER it at our 20% off discounted price today.


Rainbows for the Fallen World Calvin Seerveld (Toronto Tuppence Press) $35.00  Rainbows is certainly one of the most esteemed and often-cited books in the last generation of Christians thinking deeply about faith and art and culture, and certainly a very significant book (from a very significant leader) in the history of CIVA. (Its first edition was published in the 1976, and I treasure my first edition as much as any book I own. For a variety of reasons, it is a personal favorite.) In Seerveld’s many books that we stock, this flamboyant writer colorfully studies Scripture, art history, aesthetics, and cultural renewal, always reveling in the sturdy goodness of God’s creation and the call for an allusive and imaginative human response. Rainbows has a few chapters about what we might call obedient aesthetic life — that is, not stuff just for artists but for all of us. And some wonderfully rich and deeply thoughtful calls to cultural renewal, inspired by his astute reading of various paintings and arts movements. He has a heady chapter about philosophical aesthetics and some inspiring talks about why we need a robustly Biblical framework for imagining the gifts artists bring to our lives. You should know his next book that was released as a follow up to Rainbows was Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves: Alternative Steps in Understanding Art (Piquant Press; $35.00) which I also adore. And then, we are proud to stock his large collection of miscellaneous and sundry works (such as Normative Aesthetics, Redemptive Art in Society or Art History Revised) which I explained in enthusiastic detail here. Some of this is heavy, but it’s so important, we commend it to one and all.

Art & Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts Hilary Brand & Adrienne Chaplin (IVP Academic) $34.00 This is also surely one of the best books in recent decades exploring a uniquely Christian involvement in the world of the arts. Lots of interesting side journeys cover all manner of scholarly and practical stuff. Chaplin, by the way, took up Seerveld’s chair in aesthetics at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto when he retired. Mature, thoughtful, important. I sometimes tell the story that I once knew a young art student at a state university who was being told by her advisor in the art department that she simply had to give up her faith, that her efforts to integrate her faith into her creative work was inappropriate and doomed. She bought this book from us, gave it to her teacher who later apologized, saying, “I didn’t realize that this is what you mean by developing a Christian perspective on the arts…” It’s that good.

Placemaking and the Arts: Cultivating the Christian Life Jennifer Allen Craft (IVP Academic) $30.00 This fantastic book is the latest in the excellent “Studies in Theology and the Arts” series and the author was a CIVA 2019 speaker. We are thrilled to suggest it to you. For starters, it breaks new ground, showing how Wendell Berry-esque localism is enhanced by art that attends to local space and, conversely, how local artists can enhance awareness, flourishing, and redemptive justice in their local places. There is nothing like this in print, making it a must-read, even urgent book. We reviewed Placemaking and the Arts a bit more extensively when it first came out and we continue to think it is brilliant. It’s good not only for those interested in the arts but for anyone interested in a sense of place, caring about their local region, those doing missional work for the common good. Very highly recommended.

The Arts and the Christian Imagination: Essays on Art, Literature and Aesthetics Clyde Kilby, edited by William Dyrness & Keith Call (Paraclete Press) $28.99  What a beautiful book this is, a great volume for your own personal library or to give as a very special gift. Kilby, you may know, is legendary for being an early friend of C.S. Lewis and one of the primary people who influenced American evangelicals to adopt Lewis and his lucid apologetics and his astute literary criticism and, of course, his colorful, creative fiction. He founded the marvelous Marion Wade Center at Wheaton College (where he taught literature for decades.) This collection has been called a “landmark book”  with “breathtaking scope” by an author who has been “profoundly influential.” Luci Shaw says that Kilby “set the course of my life.” The significance of this author and this collection is hard to understate.

There is, in fact, a lovely, handsome, companion volume to this entitled A Well of Wonder: Essays on C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings also by Clyde Kilby, edited by Loren Wilkinson & Keith Call (Paraclete Press; $28.99) which explores the seven key British authors who make up the writer’s group known as the Inklings.) In both volumes, the editors have carefully and thoughtfully selected and compiled the best of Kilby’s many essays, articles, lectures, chapters of other books to create two great readers: one on Kilby’s work on the Inklings and the other, more general in nature, on Kilby’s own writing on the arts. These are extraordinary, important, nearly historic, I’d say. Kudos to Paraclete for these two very nice matching volumes.

Arts Ministry: Nurturing the Creative Life of God’s People Michael J. Bauer (Eerdmans) $29.00 There may be some chintzy books on this, some guides that are somewhat self-evident, but this is mature, wise, complex, and well worth having around any congregation that cares even a little about this vital (but often not adequately considered) aspect of local church ministry. Published by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in their Liturgical Studies series (edited by John Witvliet) this volume is clearly “the best available guidebook to the emerging field of Christian arts ministry.” There are 18 different illustrative case studies that make this an inspiring and energizing read. The pioneering Catherine Kapikian (of the Henry Luce Center for the Arts and Religion at Wesley Theological Seminary” calls it “an unprecedented expose on arts ministry – what it is, how it works, and why it succeeds…” written with “unblinking, erudite analysis.”


Redeeming Transcendence in the Arts: Bearing Witness to the Triune God Jeremy Begbie (Eerdmans) $18.00 Of the new books in this field that came out this year, this may be the most important, and certainly one which carries the most amazing endorsements. A musician and a classical composer by training, Professor Begbie is one of the best scholarly voices in this movement, and you should read whatever he writes. This recent book explores, as only Begbie can, the questions of awe and wonder and mystery in the arts. Of course, he “employs a biblical, Trinitarian imagination to show how Christian involvement in the arts can be shaped by the distinctive vision of God’s transcendence opened up in and through Jesus Christ.” Very highly recommended.

See also his recent book about theology called A Peculiar Orthodoxy: Reflections on Theology and the Arts (Baker Academic; $32.00) which advances similar themes. As I said in an earlier BookNotes review, Redeeming Transcendence is about the arts, considered in light of theology and A Peculiar Orthodoxy is about theology, in light of the arts. What an amazing scholar and author he is!

He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art Christian Wiman (FSG) $23.00 Certainly one of the nation’s most esteemed contemporary poets, Mr. Wiman movingly wrote about his return to Christian faith in his 2013 best-seller My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux; $14.00.) That was reviewed positively in prominent venues, with Kathleen Norris writing the extraordinary review in The New York Times Book Review. Now at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture, this is his recent work exploring theology and art in what Marilynn Robinson calls “scholarship that has a purifying urgency.” It’s a bit dense, has significant interaction with poetry and poems, but for those studying this field, it is one of the most important books published this year. If you are a fan of Wiman’s poetry, or care to read his moving studies of contemporary writers, you will love this.

The Faithful Artist: A Vision for Evangelicalism and the Arts Cameron J. Anderson (IVP Academic) $28.00 Special kudos to the previous director of CIVA for offering this mature and sophisticated appeal for how contemporary evangelicalism can come to appreciate the arts and how a deeply rooted faith can inspire artists today. This should be on the shelf of any person of faith who is an artist, and anyone who does ministry with and for artists. Many who are in this movement find their editions dog-eared and well used. This is a must-read that is meaty and scholarly enough, without being tedious or obtuse, thoughtfully written with a vast knowledge of the best literature in the conversation, and thoroughly engaging. The Faithful Artist is a great overview, but more than an overview, it is nearly a manifesto. Whether you identify with the evangelical tradition or not, this is a fabulous book. By the way, I’m not fond of the cover and if you are like me, please don’t be dissuaded. This book is beautiful, thoughtful, rigorous, and important.

Contemporary Art and the Church: A Conversation Between Two Worldsedited W. David O. Taylor & Taylor Worley (IVP Academic) $30.00 An exceptional release in the important “Studies in Theology and the Arts” series sponsored by CIVA, this is perhaps the definitive volume (and will be for quite some time, I suspect) pushing a deeper conversation about exceptionally contemporary art work and its reception within the Christian community. This includes expertly edited versions of talks and panels from the extraordinary 2015 biennial CIVA conference and includes inspiring and provocative transcripts of the wonderful presentations from that gathering. Nearly all the great thinkers and critics and patrons who have forged the foundation of CIVA these last decades are in here. This splendid book is nothing short of spectacular and a great tribute to the profound state of the discussion about this topic. I’m in awe. Order it today!

God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art Daniel A. Siedell (Baker Academic) $26.00 Dan Siedell is a deep thinker and curator who has been a pioneer in writing about modern art from a Christian perspective. The concern of this book is to think faithfully in ways that are germane to the real world of contemporary art moving the conversation about faith, culture, and the arts into the 21st century. Not at all limited to a faith-based cul-de-sac or echo chamber, Siedell is embedded in the real modern art world and is a trusted thinker; this was groundbreaking when it came out in 2008 and remains a must-read standard. He is also the author of, among other works, Who’s Afraid of Modern Art? (Cascade Books; $24.00.)

Putting Art (Back) In Its Place John E. Skillen (Hendrickson) $24.95  Many professors and students have admired the wonderful arts-oriented semester abroad program in Orvieto, Italy, founded by Dr. Skillen, a medievalist from Gordon College. This thoughtful book “takes readers on a fascinating journey through the world of Christian art in medieval and Renaissance Italy to rediscover the sacred role artwork can play once again in our churches.” Part historical survey, part manifesto about art commissions and collaboration and a vibrant call for church folks to realize the value of art and insist upon its flourishing. Skillen knows the cultural context of medieval and Renaissance Italian art (and storytelling) and its impact on art history and Western culture. This is a grand and unique book; highly recommended.

Beholding Christ and Christianity in African American Art edited by James Romaine & Phoebe Wolfskill (Penn State University Press) $34.95 We were particularly glad to hear that at the bi-annual CIVA event in June of 2019 they intended to focus somewhat on the relationships and interfaces of art, social change, cultural transformation, and the unending project of seeking ethnic justice and racial reconciliation. Respected evangelical art historian James Romaine here joined up with Dr. Phoebe Wolfskill, Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, to offer a collection of essays that explore prominent African American art. Sometimes these artists engage overtly religious themes; often this work is transformatively Christian. As the publisher explains, these essays “examine the ways in which an artists engagement with religious symbols can be an expression of concerns related to racial, political, and socio-economic identity. We were glad to sell a few of this hefty book at CIVA and are happy to tell you about it now.

Normative Aesthetics: Sundry Writings and Occasional Lectures Calvin Seerveld (Dordt College Press) $21.00 This collection of various pieces – ranging from exceedingly dense scholarly philosophy to delightful sermons and brief essays – is the best place to dig deeply into Seerveld’s famously unique (and Biblically sound) aesthetic theories. No one in the contemporary world has done what he has done, and anyone interested in the topic, if they are intellectually honest and at all curious, owes it to themselves to study this volume.


Redemptive Art in Society: Sundry Writings and Occasional Lectures Calvin Seerveld (Dordt College Press) $21.00 One of my great joys in my bookselling and book reviewing “career” was being asked to provide a quip on the back of this volume as an endorsing blurb. I mentioned how important it is to see art as a gift that can stimulate and be a part of social change, bring shalom and voice to the oppressed. Better, though, are these sample lines from the good introduction by Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin, who wrote:

Art, for Seerveld, belongs to the very infrastructure of a good society, in the same way that a country’s economy, transportation system, or media network do: “With a vital artistic infrastructure priming its inhabitants’ imaginativity, a society can dress its wounds and be able to clothe and mitigate what otherwise might become naked technocratic deeds.”

Art History Revised: Sundry Writings and Occasional Lectures Calvin Seerveld (Dordt College Press) $21.00 As the publisher explains: “The essays in Art History Revisited follow a general course from the historiography of philosophy to the historiography of art and aesthetics to analyses of individual artists like Antoine Watteau and Gerald Folkerts and the theory and practice of artist/aestheticians like William Hogarth and Anton Raphael Mengs. As this selection of essays attests, Seerveld is both well-versed in the history of art and has made significant contributions to this field as well.” I know very little of any of this, and enjoyed learning, and was considerably blessed to see Seerveld in action, to imbibed from his integral worldview and his, deep, Godly passion.

Art as Spiritual Perception: Essays in Honor of John E. Walford edited by James Romaine (Crossway) $40.00 This is a very handsome, hardback festschrift for a legendary art historian, known for his many good years of teaching at Wheaton College. Each chapter has a contemporary art historian exploring the deep insights of a certain work, or body of work, as they were taught by their teacher, or colleague, or friend, John Walford. A few of the pieces are very, very good, examining the process of Christian art historical discernment (including one I truly loved by Calvin Seerveld.) A rare, specialized collection for those interested in the methodologies of art history.


ReVisioning: Critical Methods of Seeing Christianity in the History of Art edited by James Romaine & Linda Stratford (Cascade Books) $43.00 We were delighted to announce this book when it came out in 2014, now noting that it is somewhat like the Art as Spiritual Perception, above but more sprawling, diverse and intense. With over 20 chapters (and 350 pages, complete with color plates) it remains a seminal work in the field of nurturing a uniquely Christian art historical method. The publisher explains it like this: ReVisioning examines the application of art historical methods to the history of Christianity and art. As methods of art history have become more interdisciplinary, there has been a notable emergence of discussions of religion in art history as well as related fields such as visual culture and theology. This book represents the first critical examination of scholarly methodologies applied to the study of Christian subjects, themes, and contexts in art. ReVisioning contains original work from a range of scholars, each of whom has addressed the question, in regard to a well-known work of art or body of work, “How have particular methods of art history been applied, and with what effect?” The study moves from the third century to the present, providing extensive treatment and analysis of art historical methods applied to the history of Christianity and art.


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