Reading Lists

Click on an item below for extensive reading lists in theology for the arts and the arts for theology, compiled by DITA’s Director, Dr Jeremy Begbie.

Please bear in mind this is not an exhaustive list.

Find research assistance, subject guides, and other resources in the Theology and the Arts LibGuide.

Theology for the arts

Key texts which treat the arts from a theological perspective.


For those new or relatively new to the Christianity-Arts conversation

Ned Bustard, ed. It was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God, Baltimore: Square Halo Books, 2007. (A collection of essays, introducing a Christian approach to the arts.)

Richard Harries, The Passion in Art, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004. (The title speaks for itself; very accessible.)

Bridget Nichols, Literature in Christian Perspective: Becoming Faithful Readers, DLT, 2000. (A fine introduction.)

Hans Rookmaaker, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture, London: IVP, 1970. (A classic with enormous influence.)

Steve Scott, Like a House on Fire: Renewal of the Arts in a Postmodern Culture, Wipf & Stock, 2002. (Short, readable way in to the Christianity/arts relation, set in a postmodern context.)

Steve Turner, Imagine: A Vision for Christians and the Arts, IVP, 2001. (An accessible book for those wanting to think in a Christian way about creativity and artistic production.)


Jeremy Begbie, Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007. (A mid-level treatment of the theology-music relation.)

Jeremy Begbie, ‘Christ and the Cultures: Christianity and the Arts,’ in Companion to Christian Doctrine, ed. Colin Gunton, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. (A concise article on the relation between Christian doctrine and the arts.)

Hilary Brand & Adrienne Chaplin, Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts, Carlisle: Solway, 1999; Piquant, 2001. (An accessible, copiously illustrated book, intended primarily for artists. The best of its kind.)

Paul Corby Finney, The Invisible God, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. (This very important study challenges a popular misconception: that early Christianity is opposed in principle to the use of visual images in religious contexts.)

William Dyrness, Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue, Baker, 2001. (A short treatment of the theology-visual arts relation.)

Richard Harries, Art and the Beauty of God: A Christian Understanding, Mowbray, 1993. (Clearly written Christian perspective on art, with special attention to the concept of beauty.)

Guite, Malcolm, Faith, Hope and Poetry: Theology and the Poetic Imagination (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010) (A superb theological exploration of poetry: readable and profound)

John Newport, Christianity and Contemporary Art Forms, Word Inc., 1971, 1979.

Leland Ryken, Culture in Christian Perspective: A Door to Understanding and Enjoying the Arts, Portland: Multnomah Press, 1986. (Fine introduction to the field.)

Calvin Seerveld, Rainbows for the Fallen World, Toronto: Tuppence Press, 1980. (A classic by one of the leading figures in the Christianity and arts world.)

Gene Edward Veith, Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture, Crossway, 1994.

Gene Edward Veith, Reading Between the Lines: A Christian Guide to Literature, Crossway, 1990.

E. John Walford, Jacob van Ruisdael and the perception of landscape, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991. (First-rate Christian art-historical scholarship.)

Clarence Walhout & Leland Ryken eds., Contemporary Literary Theory: A Christian Appraisal, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991. (A useful ‘way in’ to a complex area.)

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Art in Action, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980. (A classic and thorough Christian aesthetic. Widely read, re-printed in 1997 by Solway.)

Wood, Ralph C., Literature and Theology (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2008) (Probably the best short book on literature and theology available.)


Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, ed., Art, Creativity and the Sacred, NY: Crossroad, 1986. (A useful anthology of writing in the field.)

Jeremy Begbie, Voicing Creation's Praise: Towards a Theology of the Arts, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1991. (An attempt at a trinitarian theology of the arts, including dialogue with Tillich and the Dutch Neo-Calvinists)

Frank Burch Brown, Religious Aesthetics: A Theological Study of Making and Meaning, Macmillan, 1989. (The author shows how aesthetics, no less than ethics, can play a central role in the study of religion and in the practice of theology.)

Frank Burch Brown, Good Taste, Bad Taste, and Christian Taste, OUP, 2001. (Frank Burch Brown offers a constructive, "ecumenical" approach to artistic taste and aesthetic judgment - a non-elitist but discriminating theological aesthetics that has "teeth but no fangs".)

M. A. Couturier, Sacred Art, University of Texas Press, 1989.

John De Gruchy, Christianity, Art and Social Transformation: Theological Aesthetics in the Struggle for Justice, Cambridge: CUP, 2001. (A major work on the role of the arts from a theological perspective, with special reference to the South African setting.)

Roland Delattre, Beauty and Sensibility in the Thought of Jonathan Edwards: An essay in aesthetics and theological ethics, Yale Univ Press, 1968. (This illuminating analysis of Jonathon Edwards' philosophical-theological-ethical program focuses on his concept of beauty.)

Jane Dillenberger, Style and content in Christian art, 2nd ed. London: SCM Press, 1986.

John Dillenberger, A Theology of Artistic Sensibilities, London: SCM, 1987. (One of the classics in the field.)

John Dillenberger, Images and Relics, OUP, 1999. (This text explores the extent to which artists of 16th-century Europe were influenced by ideas of religious reform.)

William Dyrness, Reformed Theology and Visual Culture: The Protestant Imagination from Calvin to Edwards, Cambridge: CUP, 2004.

Edward Farley, Faith and Beauty: A Theological Aesthetic, Ashgate, 2001.

Paul Fiddes, The Promised End, Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.

Paul Fiddes, ed., The Novel, Spirituality and Modern Culture, University of Wales Press, 2000.

Paul Corby Finney, Seeing Beyond the Word: Visual Arts and the Calvinist Tradition, Eerdmans, 1999. (A very important and large collection of essays on the visual arts in the Calvinist tradition.)

Peter Fuller, Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace, London: Chatto and Windus, 1988. (This controversial art critic caused much stir with the second book in particular, with its plea for a 'natural theology', yet without God.)

T. J. Gorringe, A Theology of the Built Environment, Cambridge: CUP, 2002.

David Mahan Mahan, David C., An Unexpected Light: Theology and Witness in the Poetry and Thought of Charles Williams, Micheal O’siadhail, and Geoffrey Hill (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2008) (One of the best books on theology and poetry currently available.)

Jacques Maritain, Art and Scholasticism, London: Sheed and Ward, 1933. (See also: McInerny, Ralph, Art and Prudence, Studies in the thought of Jacques Maritain, Univ Notre Dame Press, 1988. Jacques Maritain was one of the most profound and far-ranging Roman Catholic thinkers of the twentieth century.)

Margaret Miles, Image as Insight, Boston: Beacon Press, 1985. (A much-discussed discussion of the role of images.)

Margaret Miles, Seeing and Believing: Religion and Values in the Movies, Boston: Beacon Press, 1997. (This text explores how recent films explore ideas about religion, relationships, and society.)

Anthony Monti, A Natural Theology of the Arts: Imprint of the Spirit, Ashgate, March 2003. (A bold attempt at doing ‘natural theology’ with the arts.)

David Morgan, Visual Piety: A History and Theory of Popular Religious Images, Univ California Press, Hardcover - 280 pp. 1997. (Debunks the myth that Protestant privileging of the word has generated no visual culture.)

Walter Nathan, Art and the Message of the Church, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961. (Protestant treatment, mainly of visual art.)

Robert J. O'Connell, Art and the Christian Intelligence in St. Augustine, Harvard: Harvard Univ. Press, 1978. (Important, though some would say over-played, critique of Augustine.)

Sergiusz Michalski, The Reformation and the Visual Arts: the Protestant image question in Western and Eastern Europe, Routledge, 1993. (The author argues that the image question played a large role in the divisions within European Protestantism and was intricately connected with the Eucharist controversy.)

George Pattison, Art, Modernity and Faith, Basingstoke: Macmillan, (2nd ed.) 1998. (A readable theological aesthetic applied to the contemporary Christian attitude to its own artistic heritage and to the dialogue with artistic traditions of other faiths.)

Patrick Sherry, Spirit and Beauty: An Introduction to Theological Aesthetics, Oxford: Clarendon, 1992. (A theological/philosophical study of beauty, especially in relation to the Holy Spirit.)

Siedell, Daniel A., God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008) (A provocative and courageous book, attempting to engage the contemporary art gallery world theologically.)

George Steiner, Real Presences, London: Faber and Faber, 1989. (Now considered a classic - the author presents a vsion of the arts, especially music, underwritten by divine presence.)

George Steiner, Grammars of Creation, London: Faber and Faber, 2001. (A provocative and profound study of creativity in relation to creation's own givenness and order.)

Anthony Ugonlik, The Illuminating Icon, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.

Richard Viladesau, Theology and the Arts, New York: Paulist Press, 2000. (Professor at Fordham, Viladesau presents a thoughtful book on theology and the arts, including - unusually for books on these themes - music.)

Viladesau, Richard, The Triumph of the Cross: The Passion of Christ in Theology and the Arts from the Renaissance to the Counter-Reformation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) (The title is self-explanatory.)

Theology and Film

I put this as a category of its own, because of the explosion of interest in this field in recent years.

Baugh, Lloyd, Imaging the Divine: Jesus and Christ-Figures in Film (Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward, 1997)

Cawkwell, Tim, The Filmgoer's Guide to God (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2004)

Christianson, Eric S., Peter Francis, and William Telford, eds., Cinéma Divinité: Religion, Theology and the Bible in Film.(London: SCM Press, 2005

Corley, Kathleen E., and Robert L. Webb, Jesus and Mel Gibson's the Passion of the Christ: The Film, the Gospels and the Claims of History (London: Continuum, 2004)

Deacy, Christopher, Screen Christologies: Redemption and the Medium of Film (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2001)

———, Faith in Film: Religious Themes in Contemporary Cinema (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005)

Deacy, Christopher, and Elisabeth Arweck, eds., Exploring Religion and the Sacred in a Media Age.(Farnham: Ashgate, 2009

Deacy, Christopher, and Gaye Williams Ortiz, eds., Theology and Film: Challenging the Sacred/Secular Divide.(Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2008

Detweiler, Craig, Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008)

Garrett, Greg, The Gospel According to Hollywood (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007)

Geivett, R. Douglas, and James S. Spiegel, Faith, Film and Philosophy: Big Ideas on the Big Screen (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007)

Jewett, Robert, Saint Paul at the Movies: The Apostle's Dialogue with American Culture (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993)

———, Saint Paul Returns to the Movies: Triumph over Shame (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999)

Johnston, Robert K., Useless Beauty: Ecclesiastes through the Lens of Contemporary Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004)

———, Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue. 2nd ed (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006)

———, Reframing Theology and Film: New Focus for an Emerging Discipline (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007)

Kreitzer, L. Joseph, The New Testament in Fiction and Film: On Reversing the Hermeneutical Flow (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993)

———, The Old Testament in Fiction and Film: On Reversing the Hermeneutical Flow (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994)

———, Pauline Images in Fiction and Film: On Reversing the Hermeneutical Flow (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999)

———, Gospel Images in Fiction and Film: On Reversing the Hermeneutical Flow (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002)

Loughlin, Gerard, "Looking: The Ethics of Seeing in Church and Cinema," in Faithfulness and Fortitude, edited by Mark Thiessen Nation and Samuel Wells (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2000), pp. 257-85

Marsh, Clive, Cinema and Sentiment: Film's Challenge to Theology (Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2004)

———, Theology Goes to the Movies: An Introduction to Christian Critical Thinking (London: Routledge, 2007)

McNulty, Edward N., Praying the Movies: Daily Meditations from Classic Films (Louisville, KY: Geneva Press, 2001)

———, Praying the Movies Ii: More Daily Meditations from Classic Films (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003)

Miles, Margaret R., Seeing and Believing: Religion and Values in the Movies (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1996)

Pope, Robert, Salvation in Celluloid: Theology, Imagination and Film (London: T & T Clark, 2007)

Reinhartz, Adele, Jesus of Hollywood (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)

Sullivan, Jack, Hitchcock's Music (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006)

Walsh, Richard G., Reading the Gospels in the Dark: Portrayals of Jesus in Film (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2003)

Wright, Melanie J., Religion and Film: An Introduction (London: Taurus, 2006)

The arts for theology

Key texts which treat the ways in which the arts can enrich and advance theology.


Jeremy Begbie, Beholding the Glory: Incarnation through the Arts, DLT/Baker 2000. (The incarnation explored through seven different art forms. Semi-popular.)

David S. Cunningham, Reading is Believing: The Christian Faith Through Literature and Film, Grand Rapids MI: Brazos, 2002. (A very fine treatment of credal Christianity, through literature.)

John Drury, Painting the Word: Christian Pictures and Their Meaning, Yale University Press, 1999. (An accessible entry into many theological themes, through paintings of London's National Gallery. Beautifully produced.)

Neil MacGregor and Erika Langmuir, Seeing Salvaion: Images of Christ in Art, London: BBC, 2000. (A fine book, coinciding with the National Gallery exhibition, 'Seeing Salvation'.)

Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, London: DLT, 1994. (A classic - Christology with Rembrandt.)

Intermediate and Academic

Jeremy Begbie, Theology, Music and Time, Cambridge, 2000. (Music being given room to do its own kind of theological work, in relation to issues of time and history.)

David Brown, 'The Trinity in Art,' in Davis, Stephen T., et al, ed., The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity, Oxford: OUP, 1999, pp. 329-356. (A thoughtful and intriguing study of the depiction of the Trinity in painting.)

Christopher Deacy, Screen Christologies: Redemption and the Medium of Film, University of Wales Press. (An examination of the theme of redemption in modern film.)

Paul Fiddes, Freedom and Limit: A Dialogue between Literature and Christian Doctrine, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991. (A readable study of some influential writers.)

Paul Fiddes, The Promised End: Eschatology in Theology and Literature, Blackwell, 2000. (A fascinating conversation between the theological and literary treatments of 'the end'.)

Robert Jewett, Saint Paul at the Movies: The Apostle's Dialogue with American Culture, Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993. (Biblical studies through film.)

Robert Jewett, Saint Paul Returns to the Movies, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999. (More biiblical studies through film.)

Gerard Loughlin, "Looking: The Ethics of Seeing in Church and Cinema," in Mark Thiessen Nation and Samuel Wells, Faithfulness and Fortitude, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2000, 257-285.

Roger Lundin, The Culture of Interpretation, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993. (A penetrating treatment of key theological themes - especially the doctrine of creation - as they emerge in modern (especially North American) literature.)

David Mahan Mahan, David C., An Unexpected Light: Theology and Witness in the Poetry and Thought of Charles Williams, Micheal O’siadhail, and Geoffrey Hill (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2008) (One of the best books on theology and poetry currently available.)

Aidan Nichols, The Art of God Incarnate, Theology and Symbol from Genesis to the 20th Century, London: Paulist Press, 1980. (Nichols challenges us to discover in the visual arts a model which goes beyond the limitations of words in modern theology.)

Stanley Porter et al, eds., Images of Christ, Ancient and Modern, Sheffield Academic Press, 1997. (A large collection of essays on the 'imaging' of Christ.)

Kathleen Powers Erickson, At Eternity's Gate: The Spiritual Vision of Vincent Van Gogh, Eerdmans,1998. (An intriguing treatment of Van Gogh's theological world, gleaned through his art and writings.)