Art Recommendations

Art.  Symbol.  Myth.  Creation.  All of these are central to living a healthy, God-oriented (Christ-oriented) life.  They are abundant and rich themes in Scripture.  But modern, Enlightenment-based, rationalistic, naturalistic, reductionistic thinking has largely blinded us to their significance.  Sadly, there have been times in my life as a Christian when I would have been surprised to hear someone say that art, symbol, myth, and creation are central themes of the Bible.

But art, symbol, myth and creation are indeed central to our life with God.  And in the interest of this, I’ve added this tab to my blog for sharing created things that have touched my life and drawn me closer to God.

I’ll be adding to it and editing it over time, so re-visit from time to time!

Books (Fiction)

  • The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis.    Everyone knows about Narnia.  This is lesser known, but just as good.  Perelandra in particular will re-order your whole concept of reality and make you fall on your face in worship and joy.  The basic theme of the trilogy is this: If God created intelligent, un-fallen life on other planets in our solar system, what would that be like?  How would that play out?  What would Satan do?  And how would God respond?

Books (Non-fiction)(Arranged Topically)

Body Image.   

  • (1) Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers by Nancy Redd;  (2) This Is Who I Am: Our Beauty In All Shapes and Sizes by Roseanne Olson;  (3) Bodies and Souls: The Century Project, by Frank Cordelle;  (4) Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes, by Laurie Toby Edison.    We all know that Media and the Entertainment Industry have twisted and perverted our notions of what people really look like, what people “should” really look like, and what beauty is.  We live in a society in which nudity is always sexualized and pornography is ubiquitous.  Ironically, it is also quite rare to see what a naked person actually looks like, with no editing.  These books are created for the purpose of combating our society’s limited, twisted and perverted notions of beauty, helping us love our bodies for what they are rather than hating them for what they are not.  I recommend these books on the basis of three premises: (1) It is possible for nudity to be non-objectifying and non-pornographic; (2) It is possible to view nudity in someone who is not your spouse without sinning; (3) Seeing what real people actually look like and listening to their stories of how they have wrestled to love their bodies can help us all to love our bodies and be more sexually pure (because envy and self-hatred are core causes of sexual sin).  :: If you don’t agree with these premises, then you probably shouldn’t look at these books.

Emotions.

  • The Emotionally Healthy Church, by Peter Scazzero.  The premise is that if your definition of “Spiritual Maturity” does not include emotional maturity, then you are missing something.  Spiritual maturity is impossible without emotional maturity, because God made us with emotions.  This book will teach you about what it means to be emotionally mature (and even includes a test to assess your emotional maturity!).  (You can download and take this test—called the “Inventory of Spiritual/Emotional Maturity”—by clicking here.
  • The Cry of the Soul, by Dan Allender & Tremper Longman.  This is a book that explains why God gave us emotions and what they are for.  It then spends two chapters on each of several primary emotions (anger, fear, desire, jealousy, contempt, despair, and shame): One chapter on the unrighteous version of that emotion, and one chapter on the godly version of that emotion.  (If the notion that there is a such thing as godly anger, contempt, or jealousy is surprising to you, then I especially recommend this book!)

Gender and Sexual Identity.

  • Wild At Heart, by John Eldridge.    A great book if you want to engage with the question of what it means to be a man.  Though I don’t always like the way Eldridge uses Scripture and he sometimes falls into stereotyping, I don’t think there’s a better book for engaging with this question.
  • Captivating, by John & Stasi Eldridge.    This is the female counterpart to Wild At Heart, and I thought it was even better than Wild At Heart.  Again, there is some stereotyping, but if you can soften your heart to look past that, it’s a phenomenal book for wrestling with the question of what it means to be a woman.

Intimacy With God.

  • The Signature of Jesus, by Brennan Manning.  I know of no other book that bleeds from every page with such passionate love for Christ.  This book came to me at a very dark time in my walk with God.  God used it to rescue me with the raw beauty of the gospel.  To this day, I look back on my reading of this book (back in the spring of 2000!) as one of the biggest milestones in my relationship with him, almost like a “second conversion”.

Pain and Suffering.

  • The Dark Night of the Soul, by St. John of the Cross.  St. John of the Cross is a 16th century Spanish poet and Catholic mystic.  This document is a famous poem and treatise that he wrote about the journey of the soul through hardship and suffering towards unity with God.  If you’ve ever felt the need to cry out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”,

Sex and Marriage.

  • Intimate Allies, by Dan Allender & Tremper Longman.  A great book about marriage.  The best part is the real life stories: The book is broken up into 5 sections, and each section begins and ends with a vignette of a particular couple.  The stories are powerful, striking, true, challenging, fascinating and fun.  It’s worth buying the book even if you only read the vignettes.
  • Resurrecting Sex: Solving Sexual Problems and Revolutionizing Your Relationship, by David Schnarch & James Maddock.  This book talks frankly and openly about sex between couples.  It pulls no punches, and doesn’t shy away from specifics.  At the same time, it maintains that, at its core, sex is not just about intercourse but relationship.  Though the authors are not Christians, this book will leave you marveling at the way God has custom designed the marriage relationship to grow spouses into the people He created them to be.

Books (Philosophy & Theology)

  • Flight From Woman, by Karl Stern.    An incredible (and dense) book about the nature of masculinity and femininity.  As the title implies, Stern argues that at the core of Enlightenment Rationalism is a rejection of True Femininity and Intuitive ways of knowing.  This has massive implications for how we relate to our world, each other, and to God.  (One paraphrase from this book: “The scientist knows more about the rabbit than the artist; but the artist knows better about the rabbit than the scientist.”  (If you liked the philosophy behind Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, then you may like this book.)

Music

  • Joanna Newsom: Ys and Have One On Me.    These two albums are unlike anything I have ever heard before.  The genre?  Imagine Classical-meets-Pop-meets-Bjork.  All played on a harp.  The lyrics are high poetry, beautiful and accessible at the same time.  This music has been expanding the longings of my heart immensely since I discovered it.  Give “Sawdust and Diamonds” a try—but listen to it at least a few times before giving up… she takes a while.

Movies

  • Magnolia.    It’s rare to find a movie (or any kind of art) that looks unflinchingly at human brokenness and sin, yet also finds hope and redemption in the midst of darkness.  Incredible characters and relationships; great use of music; and a cast that includes, basically every famous actor in the world.  This is a long movie that requires an emotional investment, but is very much worth your time, especially if you are wrestling with heinous sin, self-contempt or wounds of abuse.  (Warning: Adult content, and some nudity.)

Visual Art

(If links are broken, do a Google Image search!)

Poetry

Audio Recordings

  • Poetry of Self Compassion, by David Whyte.  Sometimes the gospel becomes so familiar to us, we can’t hear it until we hear its echoes in the words of those who don’t know Christ.  Give it a shot: Go here.
  • Clear Mind, Wild Heart, by David Whyte.  If you listened to the above and liked it, here is 6 hours worth of poetical goodness for really cheap.
  • Peter Kreeft sermons.  Peter Kreeft is an astoundingly brilliant Catholic theologian and philosopher, as well as an expert in all things C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.  If theology has ever seemed stale or boring to you, then he will help you to fall passionately in love with truth.  I especially recommend “The Cosmic Dance”, “Sexual Reconnection”, “Christianity in the Lord of the Rings”, and “Shocking Beauty”. (You can download all his sermons for free, or podcast them free through iTunes.)
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