Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts

By Jerram Barrs

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Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts

By Jerram Barrs

... Show All

Art is all around you.

Yet few of us can effectively explain why certain movies, books, plays, and songs resonate so profoundly within us, and more importantly how they attest to God’s character.

Professor Jerram Barrs gives us the three key elements for evaluating great art. He then puts those qualifiers to the test by investigating five of the world’s most influential authors—empowering us to better understand the character of God and helping others to know him too.


Jerram Barrs

Jerram Barrs (MDiv, Covenant Theological Seminary) is the founder and resident scholar of the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary, where he is professor of Christian studies and contemporary culture. He and his wife served on staff with L’Abri Fellowship in England for eighteen years. Jerram and his wife, Vicki, have three sons and seven grandchildren.

Product Details

Category: Arts & Literature
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 208
Size: 5.5 in x 8.5 in
Weight: 9.12 ounces
ISBN-10: 1-4335-3597-1
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-3597-0
ISBN-UPC: 9781433535970
Case Quantity: 56
Published: May 31, 2013

Table of Contents

1.  God and Humans as Creative Artists
2.  Imitation, the Heart of the Christian’s Approach to Creativity
3.  Building a Christian Understanding of the Artist’s Calling
4.  How Do We Judge the Arts?
5.  Echoes of Eden: God’s Testimony to the Truth
6.  The Conversion of C. S. Lewis and Echoes of Eden in His Life
7.  Echoes of Eden in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
8.  Harry Potter and the Triumph of Self-Sacrificing Love
9.  Shakespeare and a Christian Worldview
10. Jane Austen, Novelist of the Human Heart
Appendix: The “Outing” of Dumbledore


Echoes of Eden is the most accessible, readable, and yet theologically robust work on Christianity and the arts that you will be able to find. It is biblical, theologically sound, filled with examples, and edifying. It anticipates and answers well all the most common questions that evangelical people ask about the arts. I highly recommend it.”
Timothy Keller, Late Founding Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City; Chairman and Cofounder, Redeemer City to City

“Jerram Barrs clearly loves the Christian vision of being human, and he loves human beings of all sorts. In this book he helps us to enjoy the fundamentally human activity of the arts, showing us how ‘all great art contains elements of the true story: the story of the good creation, the fallen world, and the longing for redemption.’ The chapters giving us a tour of great Christian writers—Lewis, Tolkien, Rowling, Shakespeare, and Austen—bubble over with passionate delight in these authors’ artistic and moral achievements.”
C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary

“For as long as I have known him, Jerram Barrs has passionately loved the arts. In Echoes of Eden he lets us share his passion by allowing us a glimpse of the beauty, truth, and grace he sees in the imaginative work of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, William Shakespeare, and Jane Austen. If he stopped there, this would be a book worth reading, but he digs far deeper, framing our understanding of the arts within the biblical worldview. From that perspective, human creativity is a good gift of God in a broken world, an expression of the image of the Creator in which we are made. Because of the brokenness, Barrs outlines eleven broad categories by which to judge a piece of art, since God’s image is always portrayed in ways that are flawed and incomplete. I hope Echoes of Eden is read and discussed widely by Christians. The truth of its message can help nurture a Christian imagination, restore the arts to their proper place in the church, and help us frame the unchanging gospel in a way that will cause a postmodern world to consider its claims.”
Denis HaackDirector, Ransom Fellowship; Visiting Instructor in Practical Theology, Covenant Seminary

“Evangelical Christianity has long been conflicted over the arts and in particular the literary artistry of such lights as Austen, Tolkien, and Rowling. Some justify such literature only insofar as it functions as an elaborately coded gospel tract. Others, despairing of any Christian rationale, confess such writings to be a distraction, a guilty pleasure, or even satanic. Now, with his typical blend of profundity and lucidity, Jerram Barrs clears away the clutter of much-touted but ultimately muddled arguments and sets forth a clear framework for any Christians interested in thinking biblically about art, not least those Christians who like to spend time in such places as Hogwarts or Middle-earth. Turn the page and prepare to worship!”
Nicholas Perrin, President, Trinity International University

“A beautiful book on the contours of beauty by a beautiful man. Jerram Barrs here presents a lifetime of meditations on a subject close to his heart. The arts, he argues, are not a luxury, nor are they the savior. Instead they are an integral part of human life because they provide a unique window onto divine truth and the truth of the divine. The chapter on how to judge the arts is alone worth the price of admission. Reading these pages one can tell that art is not the subject for Jerram, but a rich palette, one he has lived with over the years. The arts, in his assessment, tell us not only what has been lost after Eden, but also how we may return to that gorgeous land. This book will enrich both professional artists and anyone else sensitive to the power of the arts for all of life.”
William Edgar, Professor Emeritus of Apologetics, Westminster Theological Seminary

“One of the obvious virtues of this book is its balance between theory and literary criticism of specific authors. The first five chapters are a carefully constructed Christian aesthetic. The second half of the book applies the theory to five authors. The splendid organization of the book makes it easy to read, and there is an admirable range in the subjects covered, as the five theoretic chapters systematically discuss the questions that Christians really ask about the arts, while the addition of Shakespeare and Jane Austen to Christian fantasy writers provides a pleasing scope. Finally, the book has a latent apologetic angle that I liked, not only in the theoretic chapters with their defense of the arts, but also in the chapters on specific authors, as Barrs explains why he is an enthusiast for each of them.”
Leland Ryken, Emeritus Professor of English, Wheaton College

"This is a wonderful book, especially for those who want to enhance their knowledge of how the church should view the arts. Jerram Barrs brings an intellectually informed and profoundly pastoral approach to confront the misunderstanding and animosity that frequently exist between evangelical Christians and popular contemporary literature such as the Harry Potter series. This book is a must read for anyone who has a burden to see the creation as it is reflected in today’s pop culture.”
Mike Higgins, Dean of Students, Covenant Theological Seminary

“This is a marvelous book for Christians who wish to think well and biblically about culture. Professor Barrs’s thesis—that human cultural production always has its genesis in something I have for years called the ‘Edenic memory’—is spot on. By providing a careful theological analysis of the origins of culture, the book teaches us how to live wisely and rightly in a world overflowing with cultural artifacts. Barrs’s observation on the nature and role of fantasy in the Harry Potter chapter is particularly thoughtful, and his chapter on how we are to judge the arts is as fine as anything I’ve read on the subject.”
Grant Horner, Associate Professor of Renaissance and Reformation, The Master’s College; author, Meaning at the Movies

“When a lawyer asked Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Jesus didn’t preach a sermon; he told a story, and with it he disclosed a profound truth. In Echoes of Eden, Jerram Barrs shows us how novelists, playwrights, and poets—much like Jesus—open our eyes and broaden our understanding. He shows us how, by creating worlds, people, problems, and circumstances, great writers put us in touch with the human condition: the struggles and joys, as well as the grief and great satisfactions. In these few pages, Barrs shows us why, especially in the twenty-first century, we need good books: they help us become fully human.”
Richard Doster, Editor, byFaith magazine; author, Safe at Home

“In a clear and attractive style, Jerram Barrs writes with passion about the ‘Echoes of Eden’ in the arts, which are so central to our humanity, whatever our beliefs. Graciously and with wisdom, he picks up a conversation that has already included such Christian thinkers as John Calvin, Dorothy L. Sayers, J. R. R. Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis. Illustrations that he draws from the fiction of Lewis, Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, the still enormously popular Jane Austen, and others make even more vivid his insightful reflections. Reading his gift of a book is an enriching and inspiring experience not to be missed.”
Colin Duriez, author, C. S. Lewis: A Biography of Friendship and Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship

“Jerram Barrs offers a compelling Christian defense of the imagination as a vehicle of truth and of the need to reclaim an imitative (as opposed to a self-expressive) view of the arts. He not only quotes C. S. Lewis wisely, but has written a book of which Lewis would have approved.”
Louis Markos, Professor in English and Scholar in Residence, Houston Christian University; author, The Myth Made Fact