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Here’s a recommended reading list of books on issues related to art, faith and culture. Some book reviews are also provided:

artistpalette1Art History



Modern Art and the Death of a Culture by H.R. Rookmaaker (Crossway, 1994) Buy Here

Review: This is another classic. It is one of the very few, if not only, book analyzing the worldviews behind visual art movements in history from a Christian interpretation. Rookmaaker was pals with Schaeffer at L’Abri, and his ideas rocked my world because I wasn’t being taught this stuff in college. He shows how every visual art movement, from classicism to pop, from Romanticism to Impressionism, from the Renaissance to Cubism, are all driven by a philosophy or worldview. It’s much more than painting pretty pictures and trying new styles. He seeks to interpret what those worldviews are and compare them with Christianity. He shows how modern art really followed a progressive course in its philosophy toward the death of culture and annihilation, which is manifested in its styles as expressions of that degeneration. Although it is dated, in only covering the Renaissance to the 1970s, it is still necessary for a historical grounding. – BG

globe1Culture and Worldview



Culture Making: recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch, IVP 2008

On Global Wizard: Techniques of Pagan Spirituality and a Christian Response Edited by Peter Jones (Main Entry Editions, 2010)

The Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy: The 3 Essential Books in 1 Volume/the God Who Is There/Escape from Reason/He Is There and He Is Not Silent by Francis A. Schaeffer (Crossway, 1990)

Review: This is a classic by the grandfather of the contemporary evangelical artistic movement. Before Schaeffer, almost no one in American churches understood art or its importance in culture. Sure, there were others who preceded him, but he brought the value of art and worldview into the mainstream of Christian culture. These three books in one are his main thesis of the secular/sacred or nature/grace dichotomy that still plagues modern culture and the church. We think that some things in life are rational and provable (science, nature), while other things in life are irrational and unprovable (religion, morals). So in order to find meaning, we take a leap of faith over a line of despair that suffers the pitfalls of mysticism and irrelevance. Though it is now outdated in its examples, it is still an excellent primer, particularly in its historical analysis. He deals with the nature of worldview and presuppositions in our thinking and shows that philosophy is not merely an academic discipline by snooty dry ivory tower professors, but something that drives the culture, and something that everyone engages in, whether they realize it or not. Wouldn’t you rather realize it? – BG

Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity by Nancy Pearcey (Crossway, 2004)

Review: This is a book that updates Francis Schaeffer’s brilliant insights into the “two-tiered” level of thinking that cripples modern Christianity, indeed non-Christian thought as well. It’s called the secular/sacred dichotomy or the fact/value split. We think that some things in life are rational and provable (science, nature), while other things in life are irrational and unprovable (religion, morals). Pearcey makes the point that the fact/value dichotomy is “the single most potent force keeping Christianity contained in the private sphere—stripping it of its power to challenge and redeem the whole of culture.” She shows historically how evangelicalism adopted this fact/value split and then explains how worldviews operate on our thinking and how we can apply the Christian worldview to all of life and regain our access to the marketplace of ideas.  – BG

The Sensate Culture by Harold O.J. Brown. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1996

The Crisis of Our Age by Pitirim A. Sorokin. Oxford: One World Publ., 2nd ed 1992. (1st ed.-1941)

Roaring Lambs: A Gentle Plan to Radically Change Your World by Bob Briner (Zondervan, 2000)

Review: Notice the title. Very important. This is not a book that talks about the liberating power of Christianity on our culture and the arts. It is about a plan for how to do it. I love the action orientation here. And this isn’t about creating a Christian ghetto of Christian subculture of Christian books and Christian movies and Christian TV, this is about being in the world but not of it. Being a force for change in the secular culture. Bob sees the detrimental aspect of much of secular entertainment culture, but rather than cursing the darkness, he helps us to light a candle and be salt and light. Rather than boycotting, he encourages us to reform through involvement. And he is more than theoretical, he actually refers to specific Christians who have integrated their faith into the secular world of movies, television, literature, music and the visual arts. – BG

The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog by James Sire (Intervarsity Press, 1997)

Review: Every Christian artist needs to have a basic understanding of the tenets of the dominant unbelieving worldviews out there in the big bad world. This book is the best simplification of those that I have found. Sire quotes from original sources to describe the basic components of each worldview and then gives a brief but powerful critique of each one. Indispensable tool for understanding the dominant thought forms in our culture, especially in the arts. He addresses Christian Theism, Deism, Naturalism, Nihilism, Existentialism, Monism, New Age, and Postmodernism. Thorough but concise and readable. Must have reference. – BG

Violin Pegbox and ScrollGeneral Arts & Christianity



Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic. by Nicholas  Wolterstorff
Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980

Death By Love by Mark Driscoll and Gary Breshears, Resurgence 2008

Eyes Wide Open by  William D. Romanowski Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2001

The Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards, Diggory Press (April 23, 2008)

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg, IVP Academic, paperback, 2008.

The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller, Published by Dutton a Penguin Group, 2008

The Liberated Imagination: Thinking Christianly About the Arts by Leland Ryken (Harold Shaw, 1989)

Review: This is an excellent and balanced Biblical examination and justification of art. Ryken starts with explaining the nature and purpose of the arts within Scripture. He then explores creativity, beauty and recreation, and the goodness of imagination, some topics woefully lacking in the church today. He discusses the nature of art and truth and provides a proper biblical understanding of “Christian art.”  This is an excellent book for those who might be struggling seeing the value of art or want a stronger biblical foundation of it in their Christian worldview. But it also gives excellent and wise guidelines for discerning between good uses and bad abuses of art. – BG

The State of the Arts: From Bezalel to Mapplethorpe by Gene Edward Veith  (Crossway, 1991)

Review: An excellent groundwork for Christian artists. Veith starts in Part One: Comprehending the Arts, with a basic description of the nature of art and how Christians have abdicated their involvement in the arts. Part Two: The Biblical Foundations, is an excellent exegetical study of the arts in Scripture, focusing primarily on the first heralded artist in the Bible, Bezalel. This section provides a Scriptural foundation for the Christian to approach creativity. In Part Three: Christianity and the Arts, he applies that foundation to the Contemporary Christian artists and how the Church has dealt with the arts versus how it should deal with the arts. Strong biblical foundation. – BG

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle, New York: North Point Press, 1980




The Art of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives by Lajos Egri (Touchstone, 1972)

Review: This is my favorite book that deals with understanding how theme is expressed through story. Though Egri focuses on plays, the material is entirely applicable to all writing including screenplays and novels. Though his non-Christian worldview bleeds through at times, he nevertheless has a better understanding of the search for significance at the heart of all human behavior than some Christians do. He totally demolishes the modernist myth that messages and agenda in drama can be avoided. He proves that all great stories through history have an agenda, a message, or a moral. He then helps you to incarnate that moral into the dramatic conflict of your story. The Christian storyteller who understands this will stand head and shoulders above a postmodern creative culture that denies underlying order and rules. – BG

Writing Screenplays That Sell by Michael Hauge (HarperResource, 1991)

Review: This is a great nuts and bolts book for screenwriting. Hauge’s strength is his presentation of how character and motivation drive story and plot. He explains inner and outer motivation along with inner and outer conflict and how these all interact and express theme. Hero, nemesis, reflection and romance are among the basic components of successful Hollywood movies that sell. Excellent for outline development. He also includes a good introduction to the basics of format, scene writing, dialogue, three act story structure, and how to market yourself and break in to Hollywood. He has an excellent analysis of Karate Kid to illustrate his points. I keep going back to this book when I need refreshers. – BG

John Truby’s “Great Screenwriting Class” (at truby.com on the web)

Review: Though this is not a book, I highly recommend this lecture tape/CD series he has on “Great Screenwriting.” His teaching was probably the most influential on my own education. He is both theoretical and practical, giving not merely concepts, but also specific parameters and steps that are necessary to a satisfying story. Great balance. Rather than the classic three-act structure, he uses the 22 Building Blocks. These steps are more fluid but, quite frankly, they fit within the 3-act structure anyway, so fear not. What I liked about this teacher was his grasp on the importance of redemption expressed through story. He has a better handle on the morality, theme and redemption of a movie than those who discourage “messages” in movies. And I also recommend any of his other lecture tapes and CDs on different genres. They are excellent handles on the common elements in each genre. – BG

The Understructure of Writing for Film and Television by Ben Brady and lance Lee (University of Texas, 1988)

Review: This is a great “how to” book for writers of both film and television. The strength of this book is in it’s understanding of dramatic conflict and how it is displayed through character. The heart of every good story, and even scene is understanding how conflict moves and flows and changes the story and characters. A sure-fire antidote to writer’s block. They use lots of examples from movies to illustrate their points. – BG

The Healing Power of Stories: Creating Yourself Through the Stories of Your Life by Daniel Taylor (Gill and Macmillan, 1996)

Review: A hard to get book, but worth the effort. Taylor gives a thoughtful analysis of the power and necessity of story within our lives. But not merely in the culture we consume, like books, television and movies, but also in how we live out our own lives, making sense of and discovering meaning in our personal histories. We are characters following a plot in the story of our life. He explains how stories shape our worldview which then determines how we see the world. But he defends this as biblical and Christian in essence. He also clarifies that all stories are not equal, and how the Christian worldview is the necessary foundation for narrative. A great foundation for understanding the importance of story from a Christian view. – BG