Saturday Book Review: “Art That Tells the Story” by Christopher R. Brewer

Saturday Book Review: “Art That Tells the Story” by Christopher R. Brewer


Over the past several years I’ve come to the conclusion that we need a better telling of the only story that’s ever mattered: God’s Story of Rescue. That’s one of the reasons why I wrote my first book and why I’m writing a second on the subject.  Most retellings of that Story begin in the middle or the end, with sin or with heaven. The problem is that God’s Story begins at the beginning, with Creation. Perhaps more concerning is the plot that undergirds those typical re-tellings: Jesus came to save you from your sins and purchase a place for you in heaven, as if all that matters is escaping this world “some glad morning’ when this life is or’”. The problem is this isn’t God’s Story.

Or you have many Christian nowadays insisting that we need to re-imagine the Christian faith entirely, re-imagine the Story entirely. They insist we need a new kind of Christianity, a Christianity and story worth believing where in the end love ultimately wins. This version of the Story isn’t honest about the reality that all humans are busted beyond all self-repair, that Jesus is the only one true God that provides rescue through his sacrificial death on the cross and actual resurrection, and all people will be judged either “in Christ” or “outside Christ.” That isn’t God’s Story, either.

Creation. Rebellion. Rescue. Re-creation. That’s God’s Story, and it’s the Church’s, too. And I believe a whole new generation in the Church need to re-discover (NOT re-imagine or re-understand or re-interpret or whatever other re-fillintheblank) the historic Christian faith that has always told that Story. One such person who’s among that whole new generation is Christopher Brewer, who has edited and authored an incredible, necessary book.

I first met Chris a decade ago while at university and got to know him even better while in seminary over the past few years. Chris is a thoughtful, engaging thinker who has a passion for telling the Story well, while also connecting that Story to our emerging postmodern, post-Christian culture. That’s a good thing, because we need re-tellings of God’s Story that are true to it’s historic plot and actually command a hearing with and connect to every person on the planet who needs the rescue Jesus provides.

Enter Art that Tells the Story.

The kind of cradle that Chris has given the Church in his new book is different than cradles of yore. It isn’t some tract with cheesy comics of people being raptured off the planet. It isn’t a book filled with point after point of the finer details of the Story. It isn’t even a gospel sharing method or curriculum for sharing that gospel story. No, this book is as magical and revolutionary of a cradle for as magical and revolutionary of a Story:

Art that Tells the Story is a coffee table book.

On the surface it looks like any other coffee table book: it’s filled with paintings, sculptures, textiles, and even pottery. The beautiful, alluring art first draws the viewer into this book and into it’s Story before hooking it on textual elements that help assist that Story forward. The art is certainly at the helm of this narrative—the pencil strokes and brush swirls and contorted bronze all drive the Story forward—while the accompanying essays come alongside and assist it along. The resulting amalgamation of images and words mix to form a potent Story-telling combination, a highly engaging, highly engrossing artistic elixir that faithfully stewards and shares God’s Story of Rescue well.

Take a look at some the books paintings, one from each of the “acts” of God’s Story:






Aren’t these few examples amazing? (What’s more amazing is the list of contributing artists: Makoto Fujimura [yes, THE Makoto Fujimura!], Alfonse Borysewicz, Clay Enoch, Peter Gordon, Scott Laumann, and Julie Quinn, to name a few…)

Along with the breathtaking paintings and textiles and sculptures that speckle the book’s pages are theologically robust, engaging essays by theologian and professor Dr. Michael E. Wittmer—who also happens to be my academic mentor—that help tell the Story with words. Also, Chris has provided some commentary along the way that’s minimal enough not to distract from the art, while helping take the viewer deeper into the rabbit-hole of God’s magical, revolutionary Story of Rescue.

Needless to say, Chris has done a great service to the Church by putting together and authoring this book. I can imagine many conversations will be had in living rooms or family rooms wherever this book will sit this Fall, whether during neighborhood progressive dinner parities or Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. I can also imagine many artistically and culturally savvy adults will be both thrilled and intrigued this Christmas when they receive Art that Tells the Story as gifts from thoughtful parents and friends.

There’s an old hymn I’m sure many of you know, called I Love to Tell the Story.  It’s chorus says this: I love to tell the story, ‘twill be my theme in glory. To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.” I am thankful to Chris for providing the Church with a wonderful resource to help people steward and share that Story by creatively communicating it in a way that’s faithful to the Story’s historic plot and uses the language of our time to help connect it to our culture, the language of art.

Art is the language of our culture and her stories. Now the Church is armed with a resource to help art tell the only Story that really matters: “the old, old story of Jesus and His love.”

You can purchase the book for $24.99, here.

Also, if you live in Grand Rapids, Chris is having a book signing September 16 from 7pm-9pm at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.

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  • Frank Zweegers

    Looks really interesting!