In A Creative Church: The Arts and a Century of Renewal, author Anthony Todd smith touches on some of the most important background developments beginning in the nineteenth and twentieth century and up to the present to which the author believes had been a century of renewal in the church. This book aims to show the glory of God by relating his work with artistic expression. This book is a culmination of many years of research and development based around art related activities or practices. It is not meant in any way to be an “exhaustive treatment” (Smith) of the movement, but just an approach to the topic. He compares his writing to an impressionist painting. He wants his readers to take a step back, and look at the big picture. I believe Anthony captures the essence and expression of arts in the Christian perspective well, for he provided examples of media as well as investigating people who helped shape Christianity through various forms of media.
When looking at the title of this book, I obviously knew that I would be learning something in relation to Art, as well as church. The thesis explains how there was an enlargement of the use of art in the Christian community after a long state of inactivity. The information within this book was both organized and clearly developed. It focuses more on the theological and historical aspects of the time period. Abraham Kuyper wrote a book called Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art. This book was put in as an example for the introduction of the chapter, and it focuses on how evangelicals will respond to contemporary and cultural shifts. It questions how people will respond and whether or not it will have a big impact on the future of society. One quote from Kuyper says “Art cannot be excused from following God’s law, and art disgraces itself by seeking that freedom. Anything that cannot be put into an image or onto canvas without demanding the sacrifice of modesty or injuring shame must simply be eschewed.”(Kuyper).
Anthony has sectioned his book into nine chapters, all with separate focuses. He evaluates the changes and developments of the arts from a Christian perspective by providing examples of forms of media. Throughout the book, he offers examples such as music, visual arts, literature, theater, ballet, and dance to support his main claims. As I was reading the chapter about music, I wanted to know more about the man he mentions named James Vaughan. He labels James as the man who helped start the trend of southern gospel music, claiming that he was a singer, publisher, and song writer. I wanted to see if the claims he made were accurate, so I found a book titled “Gospel Hosannas: For Sunday-Schools, Revivals, Singing Schools, Conventions, and general use in Christian Work and Worship,” written by Vaughan himself. Songs from this book included “Old Hundred,” “Covered by the Blood,” and “My Faith Looks Up to Thee.” After reading through the songs and seeing that he was the author for the ones presented, I felt better continuing in the book knowing the claims that Anthony was making were logical.
The book continued with about the same set up. Anthony would at first introduce the topic, and then move into the impact it had on the time period as well as the changes and advancements throughout time. He included a decent amount of characters throughout the chapters, however I do not believe it was necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I loved reading about the history and appreciated hi extensive research on each of the topics addressed in the chapters. It helps readers to have a better understanding on where these topics were coming from. However, I think it would have been easier for me to focus if he had focused on only one main influencer from the topic, for he could have had stronger research and made more of a development. When you don’t know much about the topic being presented, it could be difficult to gather a main idea of the chapter when you are basically reading more of a biography. These are just personal opinions; however, I believe it could have improved the book’s structure.
Overall, I think it would be difficult to deny or thing differently of the opinions suggested by the author when there are so many sources provided to further prove that his information is valid. It was helpful to include not only facts about history, but people that influenced it as well. It was very fascinating to learn about the present history of church and understand better about the modifications that took place. I would recommend this book to someone who is studying or wanting to learn more about art, but that would be as far as I would extend. I found most of it to be pretty interesting, but if you are not interested in art then you might fall asleep while reading it.
Smith, Anthony Todd. A Creative Church: The Arts and a Century of Renewal. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt, 2015. Print.
Vaughan, James D. Gospel Hosannas: For Sunday-Schools, Revivals, Singing Schools, Conventions, and General Use in Christian Work and Worship. Lawrenceburg, TN: James D. Vaughan, 1913. Print.
Kuyper, Abraham. Wisdom and Wonder: Common Grace In Science & Art. Grand Rapids, MI: Library Press, 2011.
Vellut, Guilhem. Stained Glass @ Chapel Notre-Dame de Compassion. Paris, France. flickr, March 25, 2017.
Nick. Lom Stave Church. flickr. July 25, 2014.
Hisgett, Tony. Jackfield Church. Broseley, England. flickr. January 23, 2011.
asbruff. Church. flickr. March 22, 2014.
Green, Tim. Bingley Church. Bingley, England. flickr. November 6, 2010.