Word Pictures

Knowing God Through Story Imagination

by Brian Godawa

Word Pictures
  • Length: 208 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: September 2009
  •  Discontinued
  • ISBN: 978-0-8308-3709-0
  • Item Code: 3709
  • Case Quantity: 48

Artist and screen writer Brian Godawa used to revel in his ability to argue the truth of the gospel, often crushing his opponents in the process. In time, however, he began to realize that winning an argument about the logic of Christianity did not equal persuading people to follow Jesus. What was missing?

Through prayer and searching the Scriptures, Godawa realized that while God cares deeply for rationality, propositional truths were not the only, or even the primary, tools he used to reach people with his Truth. In fact, Godawa discovered that story, metaphor and imagery were central to God's communication style because they could go places reason could never go: into the heart.

In his refreshing and challenging book, Godawa helps you break free from the spiritual suffocation of heady faith. Without negating the importance of reason and doctrine, Godawa challenges you to move from understanding the Bible "literally" to "literarily" by exploring the poetry, parables and metaphors found in God's Word. Weaving historical insight, pop culture and personal narrative throughout, Godawa reveals the importance God places on imagination and creativity in the Scriptures, and provides a biblical foundation for Christians to pursue image, beauty, wonder and mystery in their faith.

For any Christian who wants to learn how to communicate and defend the Gospel in a postmodern context, this book will help you find a path between the two extremes of intellectualized faith and anti-intellectual faith by recovering a biblical balance between intellect and imagination.

"Godawa is one of the best thinkers on Christianity, art and culture writing today. His latest work, Word Pictures, encourages a much more holistic viewing of movies and TV, which in turn leads to a more complete understanding of the Word of God. His work will make you want to first reach for your Bible and then view (or, even better, make) art that engages the culture and advances the kingdom of God. He has also convinced me that I am a 'literarialist.' Read this book and you'll probably become one too."

Dean Batali, TV writer, That '70s Show and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

"Brian Godawa is that rare combination of industry professional and serious intellectual who is respected by the academic community and the media industry as well. When Brian speaks, I make notes, because what he thinks matters. Word Pictures is exactly what the culture needs to hear right now. We've moved from a text-based culture to a visually based culture, and Brian's book is the key to making that transition. It's changed my thinking about understanding the Bible in a postmodern era."

Phil Cooke, president and creative director, Cooke Pictures, Santa Monica, California

"Brian Godawa's incisive delineation of word pictures in the aftermath of a collapsed modernity heralds a new, thoughtful, biblically postmodern perspective of movies and the arts. This is a biblically holistic perspective. As a Hollywood insider, Godawa is uniquely situated to assess both the assets and liabilities of today's major movie industry and to offer valuable suggestions to Christians for how they should interact with it. We all would do well to listen carefully to Godawa's well-honed argument and heed his advice."

P. Andrew Sandlin, president, Center for Cultural Leadership

"Accessible and engaging, Word Pictures introduces readers to the popular discourse among religious conservatives about visual culture in a mass-mediated society. The strength of Word Pictures lies in the author's fresh explication of biblical passages, 'literarily' situating them in both generic and cultural contexts and then drawing interesting parallels for thinking about contemporary popular art."

William Romanowski, professor of communication arts and sciences, Calvin College, and author of Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture

"Brian Godawa's book is an exploration of the literary nature of the Bible. It is a spirited and balanced defense of the imagination as a potential conveyer of truth. There is a lot of good literary theory in the book, as well as an autobiographical story line. Pervading all this wealth is a sense of the author's energetic mind. The thoroughness of research makes the book a triumph of scholarship as well."

Leland Ryken, Clyde S. Kilby Professor of English, Wheaton College, and editor of The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing

"A timely corrective to those of us who would reduce faith to words and arguments, given by an author who uses words and arguments so well. In Word Pictures Brian Godawa manages to be contemporary without being trendy, faithful to tradition without being hidebound. It should be read by anyone concerned for the well-being of biblical truth in twenty-first-century popular culture."

Steve Turner, author of Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts

"This book deserves, and will delight, a wide readership. Part autobiography, part biblical studies, part apologetics, part aesthetics, part historical theology, only a 'Renaissance man' like artist-intellectual-communicator Brian Godawa could have brought together 'word' and 'image' with such serene, soaring mastery. I'll be requiring it in my preaching courses."

Leonard Sweet, author of Out of the Question . . . Into the Mystery

"This is must reading for anyone interested in the huge question of the use of words and the legitimacy of images for theological and apologetic discourse. Brian Godawa has left no stone unturned. Moving insightfully through the Bible, Luther, Calvin, Tolkien, Lewis and, of course, films, Godawa lays to rest the many fears about images and imagination. More than that, he encourages Christians to get involved in the media, with a view to transforming them rather than hiding behind the safe wall of 'Christian art.'"

William Edgar, professor of apologetics, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia

"At a contentious intersection of faith and contemporary culture, Brian Godawa offers what many of us have been calling for: balance. In a world (and often a church) torn by imbalanced devotion to either word or image, Godawa joins the two with a needed 'and.' He shows a well-developed literacy for both forms of communication, shows how the Bible incorporates both and challenges us to engage our culture creatively and redemptively on both fronts."

Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christian and A Generous Orthodoxy

"Brian Godawa is that rare breed--a philosopher-artist--who opens our eyes to the aesthetic dimension of spirituality. Cogently argued and fun to read, this book analyzes the rich variety of literary genres found in Scripture itself. Godawa shows convincingly that God interacts with us as whole persons, not only through didactic teaching but also through metaphor, symbol and sacrament."

Nancy R. Pearcey, Francis A. Schaeffer Scholar, World Journalism Institute, and author of Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity

"At first blush, Word Pictures sounds like just another postmodern effort to destroy our confidence in propositional truth. It isn't. Instead of pitting orthodoxy and orthopraxy against one another, Godawa talks about the relationship of reason and imagination. We have overemphasized reason, he argues, when imagination is also a biblical means of communicating truth. The book brings balance to a difficult conversation."

Leadership Journal, (www.leadershipjournal.net), Spring 2010

"Godawa shows how the Bible uses both propositions and rich imagery, metaphor, narrative, and poetry--in other words, the language of the imagination--to convey truth."

Susan Olasky, WORLD Magazine, November 7, 2009


Desideratum and Acknowledgments
1 Confessions of a Modern
2 Literal vs. Literary
3 Word vs. Image
4 Iconoclasm
5 Incarnation
6 Subversion
7 Cultural Captivity
8 What Art Would Jesus Do?
Afterword: In Good Company
Appendix: Answering Objections


Brian Godawa is an award-winning screenwriter. He has also taught and written on film and philosophy, screenwriting, and the art of watching movies. Four of his screenplays have won multiple awards in such competitions as the Nicholl Fellowship, Austin Heart of Film, Fade-In, Worldfest, Writer's Network, Chesterfield Writer's Film Project, Columbus Discovery Award, and Reader's Digest Screenplay Competition.

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