A Creative Church Book review by Jordan Eisaman

There are numerous books on art history ranging in content, but the book I just read is different. The nonfiction book, A Creative Church, written by Todd Smith, is intended for artists and non-artists alike in the Christian world. The purpose of this work is to give information to others about the rise of the arts in the Church and Christian culture in general. Todd Smith brilliantly wrote a well-organized book about the revival of art in the church through an informative introduction and thesis, great main points, and a logical conclusion.

My overall opinion of the book is very positive because of the organization, information, and relevance. The organization has a continuous flow and layout that makes sense because there are no abrupt ends to thoughts or statements. All the information was relevant and contributed to the overall idea of the book. The book definitely exceeded my expectations. Honestly, I expected this book to be a monotonous monologue that just spewed out a history lesson. I was so wrong with my assumption and was pleasantly surprised with all the interesting knowledge. I had many moments of “I did not realize that.” I was truly entertained throughout the whole book and got entranced by the rich and fascinating history of it all. The relevance of this book is spot on with today’s culture. The title, Creative Church, fits in quite well with the book in general. By the title, the reader knows exactly what it is going to be explaining and talking about. Even as a tentative reader, the name Creative Church sounds exciting and made me interested. The book made me realize how blessed we are, as a Christian community, to be able to and be encouraged to make art.

"The book made me realize how blessed we are, as a Christian community, to be able to and be encouraged to make art."

The book has an introduction and thesis that makes sense and adds to the book nicely. In the introduction, the author reveals some of his background as an artist and what inspired him along the way. He makes known that he has had ample exposure to the arts in his lifetime. The introduction quickly informs you about the author, Todd Smith and why he wrote the book in the first place. Smith introduces the thesis: “This book is not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of the movement, but rather a popular approach to the topic” (Creative Church X). The beginning of the thesis already tells the audience that the book will not be boring. Smith continues his thesis: “I have attempted…to the best of my ability, to cover the most important background developments beginning in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century to the present that gave rise to what I believe has been a century of arts renewal in the church” (Creative Church X). The whole thesis clearly conveys that the book will not be an encyclopedic writing but an exciting overview of how art and the church clashed together. He wanted to give attention to the important roles of art and how the church began to integrate and welcome art. Throughout the reading of the book, it became evident that Smith’s thesis was a driving point for his book.

Todd Smith working with students at Liberty University.

The author’s main points are presented is a logical way and tie back to the major theme. The book starts with background information on how the art revival started which seems logical to do. It starts at the very beginning in the late 19th century. Smith provides names of particular groups and organizations that helped bring the arts in the church back to life. He goes on to say the groups brought art to schools and churches to expose more people to the idea of the arts. The next information that is given in the book is all the people who wanted to start the initial integration of the arts in the church and how they went about doing that. For a good portion of the book, Smith talks specifically about each form of art, such as theatre, music, visual arts, and dance, and how each form had a role to play in the integration of art in the church. Smith then transitions into the colleges and universities that started adding the arts to their curriculum and started encouraging students in the direction of art. Educational places allowing and encouraging arts had a big impact on how the church started viewing the arts. Author of Art of the Sacred: An Introduction to the Aesthetics of Art and Belief , Graham Howes, offers a unique point of view about art and the church: “Art can continue to enhance our theological, and indeed our religious, understanding” (167). Throughout, A Creative Church, Smith is trying to show how people started to feel Howes’ point of view in recent years. Instead of fighting the arts, the church started embracing it.

Art Gallery at Liberty University where students are encouraged in their artistic pursuits
Musical Performance at Cedarville University
Dance and theater performance at Anderson University

The conclusion of the book makes sense and adds to the books main point. Smith ends the book with an overall look of the globalization of the arts in Christianity in recent years. As the book draws to the end, Smith starts referencing recent events that helped push the church and arts together. He also references famous people to gain credibility and prove to the audience that what he is saying is important. He references famous evangelists, artists, singers, actors, and dancers and how they changed the way the world views Christianity and the arts. Smith quotes Pope Jean Paul ll saying how he wanted “a more constructive partnership between art and the church.” In many instances in the book, the famous names grabbed my attention and made me want to pay attention to specific points. The use of fame is a smart way to tell the audience that he has these people to back up his points in the book.

Pope Jean Paul ll

Todd Smith wrote an excellent book on the revival of arts in Christianity and did so brilliantly. The way he presented the information made for an interesting and exciting trip down the historical road of art. Through a well-structured thesis, well-though out main points, and a satisfying conclusion, Smith surpassed my expectations with his book, A Creative Church. He showed his audience how important the arts are in the church and how abolishing creativeness is never the answer. A beautiful quote from the confessions of Augustine says, “For the beautiful objects designed by artists’ souls and realized by skilled hands come from that beauty which is higher than souls” (qtd. in David Morgan’s The Forge of Vision: A Visual History of Modern Christianity). This quote is reiterating that God is the ultimate creator and He gave people creative abilities to use for His glory. God would never want art to be separated from the church because He was the one to give art in the first place.

"God is the ultimate creator and He gave people creative abilities to use for His glory."

Credits:

Created with images by marko8904 - "IMG_4515" • Sean MacEntee - "Sunrise with cross" • fusion-of-horizons - "Densus" • DavidSpinks - "Above the clouds"

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