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Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts Paperback – May 31, 2013

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway; 1 edition (May 31, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1433535971
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433535970
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #210,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


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 J. Keller, Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City; best-selling author, The Reason for God

“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 CollinsProfessor of Old Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary; author, The God of Miracles, Science, and Faith: Friends or Foes? 

“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, Dean, Wheaton College Graduate School

“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 of Apologetics, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia

“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, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship, A-Z of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend

“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 of English, Scholar in Residence, and Robert H. Ray Chair of Humanities, Houston Baptist University; author, Restoring Beauty: The Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the Writings of C. S. Lewis

About the Author

Jerram Barrs (MDiv, Covenant Theological Seminary) is the founder and resident scholar of the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary, where he teaches apologetics and outreach as professor of Christianity and contemporary culture. He and his wife also served on staff at English L’Abri for many years. He is the author of Learning Evangelism from Jesus and Echoes of Eden.

Customer Reviews

Humans were to function as creative artists in a good creation.
The final half of the book was thoroughly enjoyable and made me want to go read again all of the works addressed.
Peter A. Green
I was disappointed that the only areas of the arts included in this book were the literary examples.
Nancy Famolari

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Famolari TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
Creativity is a gift from God. Great literature, music, and painting, whether by Christians or pagans, present the truths of human existence. This is the basis of Barrs' discussion of the arts as an important part of the Christian experience.

Echoes of Eden are the way God made the world. In almost all good literature the three fundamental themes are: "The beauty of creation, the appalling reality of evil, and the universal human longing for redemption and a better world." (p. 131) Great works of art can come from the ancients, or from people who embrace another religion, but they all have in common a view of the world as God created it.

I enjoyed this book. In the opening chapters Barrs discusses the relationship of the arts to Christianity. In the subsequent chapters he uses the work of C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen to illustrate his point about the presence of Christian ideals in a variety of works.

Some readers may be surprised by the inclusion of J,K, Rowling in this list. However, Barrs makes good points about the themes of the Harry Potter books: self-sacrifice and love. Children and adults love these books, and I think it is as much for the themes as for the delightful world and interesting characters. If anything helps our children to become readers, we should encourage it. Creativity and the ability to enter imaginary worlds through the written word are gifts from God and should be treated as such.

I was disappointed that the only areas of the arts included in this book were the literary examples. However, since this is Barrs area of expertise it can be forgiven. I would love to see a similar book that included music and painting.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy literature. It is a treat.

I reviewed this book for Crossway.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jude M St John on June 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
I have been very impressed with books published by Crossway that pertain to literature and its study. I have reviewed several Crossway books on related topics and Echoes of Eden: A Reflection on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts is another impressive literature-related book. Authored by Covenant Theological Seminary professor Jerram Barrs, Echoes of Eden is an intriguing and instructive reflection on literature and the arts, and the Christian's interaction with them.

The book is comprised of ten chapters, five of which deal with theoretical and doctrinal issues that pertain to literature and the arts. The last five chapters apply the ideas of the earlier chapters by analyzing world-renowned authors; Lewis, Tolkien, Rowling, Shakespeare, and Austen. My review will focus on the theoretical chapters and the consideration of the great authors I will leave to the reader. The chapters dealing with the great literature of the aforementioned authors are informative and convincing and will be gratifying to those who love these authors and enlightening to the unfamiliar or unimpressed.

The title of the first chapter is a good indication of what is covered: God and Humans as Creative Artists. However, before discussing God as creator and humans as sub-creators, Barrs indicates an overarching goal that he intends to pursue. He desires to help the reader answer the question, "How are Christians to think about the arts?" (11). To begin to answer that question, Barrs develops ideas about creation and creativity. He delineates four aspects of God's creative genius and five foundational doctrines on the richness of life on this planet. He discusses how humans are God's image bearers and therefore sub-creators and then introduces five callings humans have in being creative.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Michael R. Francis on June 2, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Here is a book that I enjoyed very much, but one which I enjoyed very much less than I had hoped.

What I appreciated about this book:

1. Dr. Barrs' writing. His style is readable and clear.

2. Dr. Barrs' heart. The book reveals the breadth of his heart's wonder, from childlike delight to meaty theological reflection--with neither at the expense of the other.

3. Dr. Barrs' call to value culture and challenge to Christians to live out the implications of general revelation and common grace in our appreciation of the art (& work) of non-Christians. This book has strengthened my own heart and sharpened my vision in this regard, and for that I am very grateful. I especially appreciated Dr. Barrs' treatment of what he calls "the echoes of Eden," as part of God's general revelation, but, to be honest, it left me hungering for a more in depth treatment of this very important topic.

What I wished were different about this book:

1. The central metaphor Dr. Barrs employs-- "echoes of Eden"--is incomplete as a description of the longings embedded in every human heart. An echo, after all, is the reverberation in the present of an event from the past. But the Biblical story of Redemption is not, in the end, a story of Return, but one of Arrival. Not even Adam & Eve had fulfilled their destiny before their fall. Redemption is not a return to Eden, but, as Revelation 21-22 demonstrate, God's deliverance of HIs people into the Garden City, superior to Eden in every respect. As I read, I frequently found myself wishing Dr. Barrs would have treated this "forward leaning" in the human heart more directly in his discussion of the arts.

2. A much fuller treatment of other arts besides writing. In the first half of the book, Dr.
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More About the Author

Jerram Barrs is the founder and Resident Scholar of the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary. He also teaches apologetics and outreach, among other subjects, as Professor of Christianity and Contemporary Culture at Covenant. He and his wife were on staff at English L'Abri for many years.

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