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Images and Idols: Creativity for the Christian Life

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Christians ought to be leading the way in creativity, but we rarely do. God is the Creator of all things, and He created us in His image. Creativity is woven into the very fabric of our humanity. Therefore, Christians should value and champion creativity as a vital part of our image-bearing role. Instead Christians often don't know what to do with creatives and creatives do Christians ought to be leading the way in creativity, but we rarely do. God is the Creator of all things, and He created us in His image. Creativity is woven into the very fabric of our humanity. Therefore, Christians should value and champion creativity as a vital part of our image-bearing role. Instead Christians often don't know what to do with creatives and creatives don't know what to do with Christianity. On one side you have Christians who neglect or discount art, imagination, and beauty altogether. On the other, you have artists who make idols out of each of these good things. Ryan Lister, a theology professor, and Thomas Terry, a spoken word artist and founder of Humble Beast, team up to help restore the connection between creativity and theology. Images & Idols is a theological and artistic exploration of creativity in the Christian life. It will help creatives build a strong theological foundation for their art, while challenging the church to embrace a theology of beauty and creativity.


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Christians ought to be leading the way in creativity, but we rarely do. God is the Creator of all things, and He created us in His image. Creativity is woven into the very fabric of our humanity. Therefore, Christians should value and champion creativity as a vital part of our image-bearing role. Instead Christians often don't know what to do with creatives and creatives do Christians ought to be leading the way in creativity, but we rarely do. God is the Creator of all things, and He created us in His image. Creativity is woven into the very fabric of our humanity. Therefore, Christians should value and champion creativity as a vital part of our image-bearing role. Instead Christians often don't know what to do with creatives and creatives don't know what to do with Christianity. On one side you have Christians who neglect or discount art, imagination, and beauty altogether. On the other, you have artists who make idols out of each of these good things. Ryan Lister, a theology professor, and Thomas Terry, a spoken word artist and founder of Humble Beast, team up to help restore the connection between creativity and theology. Images & Idols is a theological and artistic exploration of creativity in the Christian life. It will help creatives build a strong theological foundation for their art, while challenging the church to embrace a theology of beauty and creativity.

30 review for Images and Idols: Creativity for the Christian Life

  1. 4 out of 5

    Todd Miles

    Here is what I wrote for the cover endorsement: What has Hollywood to do with Jerusalem, the studio with the sanctuary? Everything. In Images and Idols, Ryan Lister and Thomas Terry take the reader on a journey across the storyline of Scripture, tracing the theme of Creativity along the contours of redemptive history. Beginning in Eden, accounting for the fall of humanity, then intersecting the gospel, Lister and Terry demonstrate that Creativity not only can be redeemed, it must be redeemed if Here is what I wrote for the cover endorsement: What has Hollywood to do with Jerusalem, the studio with the sanctuary? Everything. In Images and Idols, Ryan Lister and Thomas Terry take the reader on a journey across the storyline of Scripture, tracing the theme of Creativity along the contours of redemptive history. Beginning in Eden, accounting for the fall of humanity, then intersecting the gospel, Lister and Terry demonstrate that Creativity not only can be redeemed, it must be redeemed if the Great Creator is to finish his goal of taking his re-created people to the New Heavens and New Earth. If you have any creative impulse at all, you should read this book. Christ-honoring and gospel-saturated, with plenty of helpful application, this is biblical theology at its finest.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lia Roberts Ross

    I was excited to read this book about creativity and the Christian life seeing that I am a believer who has a creative profession and have been cultivating my creativity for some time now. This book was very interesting but was not my favorite. The back cover reads “God is reclaiming creativity for His glory and our good” I was very confused on how a God who created everything in the earths below and heaven above and essentially owns everything could be “reclaiming” anything. Another thing I dis I was excited to read this book about creativity and the Christian life seeing that I am a believer who has a creative profession and have been cultivating my creativity for some time now. This book was very interesting but was not my favorite. The back cover reads “God is reclaiming creativity for His glory and our good” I was very confused on how a God who created everything in the earths below and heaven above and essentially owns everything could be “reclaiming” anything. Another thing I disliked was how the creative analogies and metaphors also got kind of cheesy and redundant throughout the book. However, I did really enjoy the last chapter and how we should be creating based on the future ahead in the new heavens and new Earth. All we do is for God’s glory and our good. Essentially we should be viewing creatively rightly. Note: I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for a review, all opinions are my own.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bethany Cantrell

    Great read for any creative that has asked themselves the question, "Where does creativity belong in the church?" Our culture today makes it seem like there is a great divide between Christianity and Creative pursuits. The church has pushed out creativity as being unnecessary and excessive. So many creatives abandon church because they don't think they can have both. This book does an excellent job of showcasing creativity in scripture, how to make your creativity a reflection of your Creator, a Great read for any creative that has asked themselves the question, "Where does creativity belong in the church?" Our culture today makes it seem like there is a great divide between Christianity and Creative pursuits. The church has pushed out creativity as being unnecessary and excessive. So many creatives abandon church because they don't think they can have both. This book does an excellent job of showcasing creativity in scripture, how to make your creativity a reflection of your Creator, and finding peace that your art/talents don't have to be evangelistic in order to use them in a way that honors God.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Review Pending at Servants of Grace

  5. 5 out of 5

    Blake Wagner

    This book speaks to heart of creatives of the redemptive power of the gospel on all creation. Why read this book? I spend a lot of my time creating and crafting and also gazing upon God’s creation. His extraordinary attention to the minutest detail captivates my imagination and draws me in like gravity. It causes my heart to long to return that devotion to Him in ways that I have not seen nor done before. Sometimes I have wondered why is that? I know what the bible says about His creativity, “For This book speaks to heart of creatives of the redemptive power of the gospel on all creation. Why read this book? I spend a lot of my time creating and crafting and also gazing upon God’s creation. His extraordinary attention to the minutest detail captivates my imagination and draws me in like gravity. It causes my heart to long to return that devotion to Him in ways that I have not seen nor done before. Sometimes I have wondered why is that? I know what the bible says about His creativity, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20 (NIV). But why is it that I’m compelled to create? As a creative, I find myself wondering at times if what I create has any eternal significance. What were my motives? Was it just to gain the applause of man or was I more interested in the applause of my Father in Heaven? Should I be spending so much of my life’s short stream creating things that few will see? Was it enough for me that my Father in Heaven saw every stroke? In picking up this book, I was hoping to gain a new perspective on what those creative urges have to do with God’s purposes in my life -- and I was not disappointed! Even the cover of the book was a tactile sensation. Key insight When our creative urges line up with God’s creative design the Gospel shines through and God receives the worship and glory He is due. Some favorite quotes: “Only God’s creation is ex nihilo (out of nothing), which means our creativity is never purely our own; it relies on our creator and builds out of His creation. As His image bearers—created by God to be like Him—our creativity reflects His. It is not superfluous…It should, therefore, extend from His authority, and culminate in His objectives” (50). “We were made to declare and show and demonstrate the glory and beauty and “excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9) (138). “…let the new creation break in through your creativity. This is why you are creative and why you are called to express your creativity… Let eternity bleed through your imaginative work” (143).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Raymond Carter

    Mankind is by nature creative because mankind (male and female) we were created in the image of God. We are not all creative in the same way or to the same end, but we are creative for the same reason, to display the glory of God our Creator. But our creativity, like every other aspect of our humanity, has been corrupted by sin. In "Images and Idols" Thomas Terry and Ryan Lister explore creativity for the Christian life. They explore creativity through the lens of what the Bible says about creat Mankind is by nature creative because mankind (male and female) we were created in the image of God. We are not all creative in the same way or to the same end, but we are creative for the same reason, to display the glory of God our Creator. But our creativity, like every other aspect of our humanity, has been corrupted by sin. In "Images and Idols" Thomas Terry and Ryan Lister explore creativity for the Christian life. They explore creativity through the lens of what the Bible says about creation and the corruption of sin. Thomas and Ryan write: “In the chaos of cosmic treason, those made in the likeness of God fashion replacement gods in their own shattered likeness through their own misplaced creativity.” Our creative drive can be steered in wrong directions and cause us to worship our own creativity or the response of those who follow our work. This is wrong. God created us to create for His glory. Instead of working for the glory of God we become glory stealers. We need to view our work through the lens of a biblical understanding of God and mankind. In the book, Thomas and Ryan give us a good framework – built on the solid foundation of Scripture – to form our thinking about our creativity, vocation, and how we live. Please don’t think that this book is only for “creatives” (whatever that is). It is wisdom and encouragement for all of us who are redeemed sinners living for the glory of God in Christ.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Create With Joy

    If you are blessed with the gift of creativity you may be wondering how your creativity fits into God’s sovereign plans for His kingdom, for the world, and for your life. How does your creativity connect you to your Creator? What does creativity reveal about God? How can we use our creativity to reflect God’s glory in a broken world? Images And Idols: Creativity For The Christian Life by Thomas J. Terry and J. Ryan Lister does a great job of exploring these topics and more! In Images And Idols, the If you are blessed with the gift of creativity you may be wondering how your creativity fits into God’s sovereign plans for His kingdom, for the world, and for your life. How does your creativity connect you to your Creator? What does creativity reveal about God? How can we use our creativity to reflect God’s glory in a broken world? Images And Idols: Creativity For The Christian Life by Thomas J. Terry and J. Ryan Lister does a great job of exploring these topics and more! In Images And Idols, the authors present us with a theology for creativity. This isn’t a book on how to create but rather on why we create – why we feel the urge and impulse to create – what creativity looks like from God’s perspective – and how we, as Christians, are called to reclaim our creativity for God. This is a very insightful book into the nature of creativity and how the world can turn our creativity into an idol that will take us away from God if we are not careful to root our identity in Him and not ourselves or the works of our hands. This excerpt is taken from the original review that is published on my blog. To read my review in its entirety, please visit Create With Joy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jered Gering

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book from Thomas Terry and J. Ryan Lister. As a creative, I found their insights to be helpful, clear, refreshing and biblical. I recommend this book specifically to all creative Christians. The book is essentially a breakdown of the theology of creativity for Christians. Though I personally didn't find the content to be revolutionary, it did clearly verbalize what I already knew. This book is foundational to Christian Creativity and will clarify any points of confusion I thoroughly enjoyed this book from Thomas Terry and J. Ryan Lister. As a creative, I found their insights to be helpful, clear, refreshing and biblical. I recommend this book specifically to all creative Christians. The book is essentially a breakdown of the theology of creativity for Christians. Though I personally didn't find the content to be revolutionary, it did clearly verbalize what I already knew. This book is foundational to Christian Creativity and will clarify any points of confusion you may have about how your creativity relates to God. Even though the book is strongly theological, all of the concepts are explained clearly. Their conclusions are practical, not just abstract. Even if you know you already agree with the authors (as was the case with me), the content will still sharpen you and encourage you. The hardcover version is also beautifully produced. The publisher intentionally made this a work of art in and of itself. My only complaint is that it could've had a stronger title. In short: Images and Idols is a manifesto every creative Christian should read at least once and keep on his or her shelf for future reference.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joel Nevius

    Fantastic little read on the theology of creativity. This is not a book on how to be creative, but a theological underpinning and calling to pursue creativity as a follower of Christ. Much of the book hammers home the idea that human creativity is given the fullest and purest expression as our worshipful response to God's creativity in the world. Each chapter follows a flow that's in correlation with the meta-narrative of scripture: God the Creator, creation, fall, redemption, and glorification. C Fantastic little read on the theology of creativity. This is not a book on how to be creative, but a theological underpinning and calling to pursue creativity as a follower of Christ. Much of the book hammers home the idea that human creativity is given the fullest and purest expression as our worshipful response to God's creativity in the world. Each chapter follows a flow that's in correlation with the meta-narrative of scripture: God the Creator, creation, fall, redemption, and glorification. Creativity is then explored in the context of those biblical themes, building one chapter off of another. Though this is a short book, it is jam-packed with theological insights made relevant through pop-cultural references. If you're looking for an accessible, but jam-packed primer on the theology of creativity, it's hard to find a better place to start. It is thoughtful and deep, yet accessible and quotable. Terry and Lister have written an excellent (and beautiful) little book that I won't hesitate to recommend to Christians who want to dive deeper into this topic.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Richie Valdes

    This book set out to be a way in which creatives can see how their gifting has come from the Lord and is to be used for the Lord (in all different avenues). And the authors achieved that. But what they also ended up with was a great book on the theology of work. While I am one of the least creative people I know, there was still a ringing sense in my soul reading this of how these truths (creativity comes from God and should flow from worship to him to point to the creation to come) apply to my This book set out to be a way in which creatives can see how their gifting has come from the Lord and is to be used for the Lord (in all different avenues). And the authors achieved that. But what they also ended up with was a great book on the theology of work. While I am one of the least creative people I know, there was still a ringing sense in my soul reading this of how these truths (creativity comes from God and should flow from worship to him to point to the creation to come) apply to my life and vocation and what God has called all of his children to, creative and non-creative alike. So i will be recommending this book to my friends that are artists and gifted with talents of creativity, but will also give to those who may struggle to see what their work has to do with the Kingdom of God.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Adrienne Servis

    The authors of this book did a great job of point out how God developed creativity for His kingdom and how we go about using our talents for Him. "Think what would happen if we stepped toward God with our creativity rather than sidestep Him". "If we are ever going to understand creativity properly, we need to know God". If we seek the Lord, who created all we will then use our creativity for His purposes and be self-serving. Many who have natural and learned abilities attribute it to all they di The authors of this book did a great job of point out how God developed creativity for His kingdom and how we go about using our talents for Him. "Think what would happen if we stepped toward God with our creativity rather than sidestep Him". "If we are ever going to understand creativity properly, we need to know God". If we seek the Lord, who created all we will then use our creativity for His purposes and be self-serving. Many who have natural and learned abilities attribute it to all they did to get it. That is not true. God created us all with special skills and talents that He intended to be used to further His kingdom and not for just us. While you may have an idea that bring wealth to you, God did not intend you to never help someone else who is less fortunate. This is a must read for all.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jared Kassebaum

    A beautiful Christian art-philosophy book after Francis Shaeffer and Hans Rookmaaker's own heart, Images and Idols gives a uniquely modern and yet biblical view of why and how a Christian makes art, starting with their heart. The chapter focusing on the Image of God, and how our creation in it impacts all of us, including our own artistic endeavors, was particularly impactful, and I enjoy the anticipation of more layman-level theological books on the imago dei. Another note it touched on beautif A beautiful Christian art-philosophy book after Francis Shaeffer and Hans Rookmaaker's own heart, Images and Idols gives a uniquely modern and yet biblical view of why and how a Christian makes art, starting with their heart. The chapter focusing on the Image of God, and how our creation in it impacts all of us, including our own artistic endeavors, was particularly impactful, and I enjoy the anticipation of more layman-level theological books on the imago dei. Another note it touched on beautifully was the role of earnestness vs cynicism in the Christian's life, a topic I am most passionate about. In a sense, this book was a synthesis of the theological themes of the first Canvas Conference, a Christian art philosophy conference birthed and led by these two authors, Ryan Lister and Thomas Terry. Looking forward to more to come.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    (Note: this is coming from a creative herself) Definitely a fantastic resource. The authors mention how they hope this book is helpful to pastors seeking to understand creatives/creativity’s purpose in the church, creatives unsure of how their faith and creativity work together, believers, and skeptics alike. They hit the nail on the head. While at times they delve into a sort of sermon-esque way of writing towards the end, I believe it serves a purpose so that it isn’t really preachy. Also, they (Note: this is coming from a creative herself) Definitely a fantastic resource. The authors mention how they hope this book is helpful to pastors seeking to understand creatives/creativity’s purpose in the church, creatives unsure of how their faith and creativity work together, believers, and skeptics alike. They hit the nail on the head. While at times they delve into a sort of sermon-esque way of writing towards the end, I believe it serves a purpose so that it isn’t really preachy. Also, they even make their point by making a beautiful book with function in its diagrams and symbolic cover art. Really cool stuff. Definitely get yourself a copy of this.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dustin

    Terry and Lister provide a timely reminder that Christian creatively is not bound to the content of the Bible but rests on a heart and pursuit of worshiping God. When we escape this posture, we begin to make ourselves or our creativity the idol. It is great for those who are expanding into the world of "creatives" on various media platforms or would like to see their job as an opportunity to worship God through their work. One can easily carry the content into their daily life if one is willing Terry and Lister provide a timely reminder that Christian creatively is not bound to the content of the Bible but rests on a heart and pursuit of worshiping God. When we escape this posture, we begin to make ourselves or our creativity the idol. It is great for those who are expanding into the world of "creatives" on various media platforms or would like to see their job as an opportunity to worship God through their work. One can easily carry the content into their daily life if one is willing to be humbled and have the daily reminder who they serve.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    I am not the most creative of people...I would like to be! Which is partly why I wanted to read this book. I wanted to connect with creativity and be more creative. But, I had a difficult time getting into this one. It is well-studied, well-written, but somewhat dense to read. There is much information packed into a small package. If you are a creative, I would bet this is right up your alley! For the rest of us, it may be difficult to connect with.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elena L.

    Who said that creativity and God couldn't coexist? IMAGE AND IDOLS is a intelligently written book that discuss layers of creativity and its connection with the gospel. Besides its gorgeous cover, the citations are inspiring and the subject is profoundly approached, also with relevant Bible references. Lastly, I have to say that the design is terrific! [I received an ARC from the Publisher and all opinions are my own] Who said that creativity and God couldn't coexist? IMAGE AND IDOLS is a intelligently written book that discuss layers of creativity and its connection with the gospel. Besides its gorgeous cover, the citations are inspiring and the subject is profoundly approached, also with relevant Bible references. Lastly, I have to say that the design is terrific! [I received an ARC from the Publisher and all opinions are my own]

  17. 5 out of 5

    Emily Barnett

    There was nothing in this book that I really disagreed with, but I didn't feel like it was a new take on Christianity and artists. I've read many books on the subject, and I personally don't need to be sold the idea that "God is creative and because of that I create for His glory" again. However, if you've never read a book like this, it might be a great read. It is biblical and sound and all the glory goes to God, and I'm thankful the authors were so true to Scripture and God's character. There was nothing in this book that I really disagreed with, but I didn't feel like it was a new take on Christianity and artists. I've read many books on the subject, and I personally don't need to be sold the idea that "God is creative and because of that I create for His glory" again. However, if you've never read a book like this, it might be a great read. It is biblical and sound and all the glory goes to God, and I'm thankful the authors were so true to Scripture and God's character.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cosa Walsingham

    I would give it no stars if I could.... It was unoriginal, poorly written, the analogy used through the book barely passed par as far as analogies go. I started to regret getting the book when the authors spent 6 pages discussing the plot line of rattatoille the pixar movie. The best points of the book were quotes from other people. It takes the point of god gace you creativity use it for him and others. And beat it to death over 130 pages. Not worth for me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joel Sam

    This book is well-crafted. Not only is it a book about art, but it's also a work of art itself. Serious thought was placed into the cover design, colors, and formatting. There is a fictional parable woven throughout the book that helps summarize the main concepts in each chapter, which is a nice touch. This book is well-crafted. Not only is it a book about art, but it's also a work of art itself. Serious thought was placed into the cover design, colors, and formatting. There is a fictional parable woven throughout the book that helps summarize the main concepts in each chapter, which is a nice touch.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Philip Brown

    Outstanding and accessible introduction to a Christian understanding of creativity. All Christians interested in consuming and creating music, culture, etc. should totally read this book. Highly recommended.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dan Mingo

    Probably the best read I have had on what creativity means in our Christian walk. Why it’s important and foundational to our entire presence here. Incredible book. Went out and picked up copy for our whole creative team.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joel Hansen

    Fantastic exploration and contrast on the topics of creativity and idolatry from a Christian perspective. You can tell the authors have thought deeply on the subject, have walked it out themselves and have endured lots of heartache to come through victorious on the other side with a mature view.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Emily Herd

    I highly recommend this book if you are creative!! I didn’t give it 5 stars because there were some questions that didn’t get fully answered, there was some repetition, and no direct applications. But it is still really good!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Susnnah Metzler

    This was a rather interesting read––not to get too finicky, but it was a little wordy and repetitive in my opinion. However, I think it was a good encouragement for Christian creators to refocus their creativity and look back to the ultimate Creator for the reason why we all create to begin with.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Mundell

    I gave this book three stars not because the concepts were bad or poorly thought out, but because the authors wrote in 150 pages what could have been written in an undergraduate essay. Their application of creativity to Gods glory is bang on, but they took too long to get to it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Steven Robertson

    I could've saved time and trouble and just dropped the whole book in highlighter ink. I could've saved time and trouble and just dropped the whole book in highlighter ink.

  27. 4 out of 5

    David Cowpar

    A great book on the theology of creativity and how the Gospel, and the different truths of the human/Gospel experience affect and shape our creativity as human beings.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    There's a lot to like and appreciate here! My top takeaway: "Creative freedom, enlivened by the gospel, is not about doing whatever you want but about wanting to do what God made you to do." There's a lot to like and appreciate here! My top takeaway: "Creative freedom, enlivened by the gospel, is not about doing whatever you want but about wanting to do what God made you to do."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shaun Patrick

    Probably the best book currently out there on the topic of our God given creativity and what it’s for

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    Great perspectives and thoughts on the importance of creativity.

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