The best books on art and Christianity

Who am I?

In my late high school years and during college I was confronted with a question that has dogged many artists over the years who are in the church: should a Christian be in the arts or not? As it turns out, the first person to be described as filled by the Spirit in the Bible was an artist. I had to wait until my college years to find that out by reading Francis Schaeffer’s book Art and the Bible. This and Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water gave me a theology that valued art. Now I'm a full-time artist and curate a small art gallery, but I've never stopped looking for good books on Art and Faith.

I wrote...

It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God

By Ned Bustard (editor),

Book cover of It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God

What is my book about?

A Christian looks at the world through the eyes of one who has a restored relationship with the Creator and receives a new vision affecting every area of life—including the creative process. So what does it mean to be a creative individual who is a follower of the creative God? This was the first in a series that set out to answer that question. Instead of casting a vision for Christians in the arts (which had been done in other books like The Liberated Imagination: Thinking Christianly about the Arts or Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts), the essays in It Was Good offer theoretical and practical insights into actually making art from a Christian perspective. The contributors to this book include artists, musicians, actors, pastors, and more.

The books I picked & why

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Naming the Animals: An Invitation to Creativity

By Stephen Roach, Ned Bustard,

Book cover of Naming the Animals: An Invitation to Creativity

Why this book?

What if creativity was not a talent given to a chosen few, but an invitation extended to us all? What if the desire for beauty was not gratuitous in life, but central to our faith? Drawing upon the biblical account of Creation and the witness of a myriad of creative thinkers, this book asserts that all of us—from plumbers to painters and meteorologists to musicians—were made in the image of an imaginative God. In that light, Naming the Animals encourages us to see creativity as an essential part of God’s design for partnership with humanity. This is a great introduction to the Art and Faith conversation.

Objects of Grace: Conversations on Creativity and Faith

By Sandra Bowden (editor), Mary McCleary (editor), James Romaine (editor)

Book cover of Objects of Grace: Conversations on Creativity and Faith

Why this book?

Kelly Crow of The Wall Street Journal said that the Art World is like a cocktail party that has been going on for quite some time. Without question Rainbows for the Fallen World: Aesthetic Life and Artistic Task is a critical voice for Christians to hear in that conversation, and it is a classic that should be required reading for everyone. But there are other conversations at the art cocktail party and, as in most professions, there is a peculiar language that must be learned in order to pick up the nuances and meanings in the discussions. How is the newcomer to the party to learn the vocabulary and begin to understand the accents at this party? Objects of Grace: Conversations on Creativity and Faith stands out as a one-of-a-kind method to begin picking up “art speak.” Objects of Grace is a collection of conversations with some intriguing artists—Sandra Bowden, Dan Callis, Mary McCleary, John Silvis, Edward Knippers, Erica Downer, Albert Pedulla, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Joel Sheesley, and Makoto Fujimura—along with beautiful reproductions of their art. 

Faith and Vision: Twenty-Five Years of Christians in the Visual Arts

By Cameron J. Anderson (editor), Sandra Bowden (editor),

Book cover of Faith and Vision: Twenty-Five Years of Christians in the Visual Arts

Why this book?

The best mediator over the past several decades in the awkward relationship between Art and the Church has been Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA). The beginning of their story was told beautifully in Faith and Vision: Twenty-Five Years of Christians in the Visual Arts. Between its covers are more than 200 images that showcase the work of CIVA’s most accomplished artists and highlight the quality and breadth of its many traveling exhibitions, conferences, directories, and publications. Founded in 1979, Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) was born as a response to the absence of a tangible Christian community within the contemporary American art world. As it matured, CIVA grew to become a place of aesthetic stimulation and spiritual encouragement both to its members and to the several thousand artists and institutions in its formal network. This book is the record of a generation or two of Christians who heeded the call to make art and, in doing so, accepted its manifold challenges, tensions, and affirmations. 

Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue

By William A. Dyrness,

Book cover of Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue

Why this book?

Possibly the most helpful book for those looking to engage both Art and the Church. In Visual Faith the reader will find a wonderful overview of art history from a Christian perspective, beginning with art in the Early Church and coming all the way up to Warhol, Pollock, and art today. There is also an entire chapter devoted to making and looking at art. If there was one book I’d give to people in my church who were interested in engaging with art, this would be it.

Lifting the Veil: Imagination and the Kingdom of God

By Malcolm Guite,

Book cover of Lifting the Veil: Imagination and the Kingdom of God

Why this book?

From the moment that Jesus Christ first proclaimed the Kingdom of God, he appealed to our imagination. He made that appeal through the parables, the paradoxes of the Gospel, his miracles, and those moments when the heavens opened and the ordinary was transfigured. In this book, the poet Malcolm Guite explores how the creative work of poets and other artists can begin to lift the veil, kindling our imaginations for Christ. N.T. Wright has commended this book, calling it “A small treasure-house of beauty and imagination, helping us in turn to imagine God’s world and God’s love with multi-faceted and grateful wisdom.” Although I heartily recommend other recent books, Lifting the Veil is my favorite new work in the Art and Faith conversation. 

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