Saturday, June 8, 2013

Christianity and the Arts

Creativity is a gift from God. Great literature, music, and painting, whether by Christians or pagans, present the truths of human existence. This is the basis of Barrs' discussion of the arts as an important part of the Christian experience.

Echoes of Eden are the way God made the world. In almost all good literature the three fundamental themes are: “The beauty of creation, the appalling reality of evil, and the universal human longing for redemption and a better world.” (p. 131) Great works of art can come from the ancients, or from people who embrace another religion, but they all have in common a view of the world as God created it.

I enjoyed this book. In the opening chapters Barrs discusses the relationship of the arts to Christianity. In the subsequent chapters he uses the work of C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen to illustrate his point about the presence of Christian ideals in a variety of works.

Some readers may be surprised by the inclusion of J,K, Rowling in this list. However, Barrs makes good points about the themes of the Harry Potter books: self-sacrifice and love. Children and adults love these books, and I think it is as much for the themes as for the delightful world and interesting characters. If anything helps our children to become readers, we should encourage it. Creativity and the ability to enter imaginary worlds through the written word are gifts from God and should be treated as such.

I was disappointed that the only areas of the arts included in this book were the literary examples. However, since this is Barrs area of expertise it can be forgiven. I would love to see a similar book that included music and painting.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy literature. It is a treat.

I reviewed this book for Crossway.