(This was originally posted on August 6, 2012.)
Over the years I've been asked to recommend books in the field of Christianity and the arts. What's embarrassing is that I often find myself stumbling for a good answer. Partly it's due, I think, to a hesitation to narrow down a "best of" list, while I'm still learning the field. Partly it's due to the fact that the field is relatively young and, unlike homiletics or mission, there isn't much to choose from comparatively speaking, and the field is as yet more eclectic than coherent.
Perhaps fifty years down the line things will have changed. But to be asked to choose a top ten here is like being asked to choose your favorite "event" at Epcot Center or your favorite food at the Olympic Village. It depends. On a lot of factors.
Consider this, then, a starter's list. If you're interested in joining the conversation at a serious level, these books are non-negotiable. You need to know them, pretty thoroughly. They reflect admittedly a Protestant (and perhaps European-American) bias, but whether you're a student, pastor, teacher, ministry leader, artist or self-proclaimed renaissance man, these books will introduce you to the basic grammar, vocabulary, framework and set of questions that mark the 20th-century field (broadly speaking) of theology and the arts.
Happy readings (and, yes, I'll take your feedback for books I should have included in the list).
Top 35 Recommended Books on Theology and the Arts
1. Begbie, Jeremy. Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.
2. Begbie, Jeremy, ed. Beholding the Glory: Incarnation through the Arts. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2000.
(I’d also suggest the third section of his book Voicing Creation’s Praise: Towards a Theology of the Arts.)
3. Brand, Hilary and Adrienne Chaplin. Art & Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 1999.
4. Brown, Frank Burch. Good Taste, Bad Taste, and Christian Taste. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
5. Brown, Frank Burch. Inclusive, Yet Discerning: Navigating Worship Artfully. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.
6. Buechner, Frederick. Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale. New York: HarperOne, 1977.
7. Bustard, Ned, ed. It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God. Baltimore, MD: Square Halo Books, 2006.
8. Crouch, Andy. Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. Downers Grove, Il.: IVP, 2008.
9. De Gruchy, John W. Christianity, Art, and Transformation: Theological Aesthetics in the Struggle for Justice.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
10. Dyrness, William A. Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.
11. Guite, Malcolm. Faith, Hope and Poetry: Theology and the Poetic Imagination. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010.
12. Guthrie, Steven R. Creator Spirit: The Holy Spirit and the Art of Becoming Human. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011.
13. Jensen, Robin. The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith, and the Christian Community. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.
14. Johnson, Robert K. Reframing Theology and Film: New Focus for an Emerging Discipline. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007).
15. L’Engle, Madeleine. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (New York: Shaw Books, 2001).
16. Maritain, Jacques. Art and Scholasticism. London: Sheed and Ward, 1933.
17. Matthewes-Green, Frederica. The Open Door: Entering the Sanctuary of Icons and Prayer. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2008.
18. Noland, Rory. The Heart of the Artist. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.
19. O’Connor, Flannery. Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1961.
20. Peterson, Eugene. Subversive Spirituality. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.
21. Potok, Chaim. My Name is Asher Lev. New York: Anchor, 2003.
22. Rookmaaker, Hans. Modern Art & the Death of Culture. Leicester: IVP, 1970; reissued Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1994.
23. Ryken, Leland, ed. The Christian Imagination: The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing. Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Pres, 2002.
24. Sayers, Dorothy L. The Mind of the Maker. San Francisco: Harper, 1987.
25. Schaeffer, Francis. Art and the Bible. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2006.
26. Seerveld, Calvin. Rainbows for a Fallen World: Aesthetic Life and Artistic Task. Toronto: Tuppence Press, 1980.
27. Seerveld, Calvin. Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves: Alternative Steps in Understanding Art. Toronto: Tuppence Press, 2000.
28. Taylor, W. David O., ed. For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010.
29. Thiessen, Gesa Elsbeth. Theological Aesthetics: A Reader. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.
30. Treier, Daniel J. and Mark Husbands and Roger Lundin, eds. The Beauty of God: Theology and the Arts. Downers Grove, Il.: IVP, 2007.
31. Turner, Steve. Imagine: A Vision for Christians and the Arts, IVP, 2001
32. Viladesau, Richard. Theological Aesthetics: God in Imagination, Beauty, and Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
33. Von Balthasar, Hans Urs. The Glory of the Lord: Seeing the Form, “Introduction.” San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1982.
34. Williams, Rowan. Grace and Necessity: Reflections on Art and Love. London: Continuum, 2005.
35. Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Art in Action. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980.