Book Review: Echoes of Eden by Jerram Barrs

Many thanks to Crossway Books for this review copy of Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts by Jerram Barrs.

An Overview

Echoes of Eden is a lively and insightful read, especially for lovers of the literature and the arts, who are of a Christian disposition.  The book is divided into ten chapters: chapters 1-5 are foundational, with chapters 6-10 devoted five well-known authors, all the way back to William Shakespeare and up to the contemporary JK Rowling.

The thesis Echoes of Eden runs thus: God, the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, made human beings as his image-bearers, like himself, creative artists.  Humans were to function as creative artists in a good creation.  But then came the fall.  With the fall, this creativeness in humanity was marred, but there remains echoes of the good creation and the longing of redemption.  According to Barrs, all great art contains elements of this true story of “the good creation, the fallen world, and the longing for redemption.”

Barrs traces this theme of the good creation, the fallen world, and the longing for redemption through the writings of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, JK Rowling.

An Evalution

Jerram Barrs sort of took me back to my college days of World Literature A and B and what makes for good literature.  Barrs has made a solid case for the Christian understanding of the arts, how Christians are to judge the arts, and God’s testimony to the truth through the arts, whether by Christians or non-Christians.  As a student of the arts, Barrs shines in these first five chapters, especially in correcting many Christians aversions and misconceptions, to and of the arts.  The reader will either rejoice at or reject Barrs defense of much of the elements in Tolkien, Lewis, and especially Rowling, who herself was inspired by Tolkien and Lewis.

My only criticism of Barrs work is his failure to devote a chapter or two to other arts, after mentioning that the “Echoes of Eden” may be traced in them.  An interaction with a Bob Dylan would have sufficed.  Perhaps in a future edition Barrs will address this.

In the end, the underlying strength of Barrs work is his “Echoes of Eden” thesis (the story of the good creation, the fall, and the longing of redemption), which is the stuff of all great work of art, as mentioned above.

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