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The Arts and the Christian Imagination

Essays on Art, Literature, and Aesthetics by Clyde S. Kilby

Arts and Christian Imagination

The Marion E. Wade Center and Paraclete Press are pleased to present The Arts and the Christian Imagination, a collection of writings on art, literature, and aesthetics by Wade founder Clyde S. Kilby. This volume was shaped and edited by William Dyrness, Dean Emeritus and Professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary and a former student of Clyde Kilby.

In The Arts and the Christian Imagination, we are privileged to receive Kilby’s wise insights into areas such as Christianity and Aesthetics, the vocation of the artist, and the role of the theological imagination. At the time he was writing about these subjects, Clyde Kilby served as a singular voice promoting Christian participation in the arts and culture – long before others were thinking about the significance of this relationship. As William Dyrness points out, Kilby’s “work predates Hans Rookmaaker and Francis Schaeffer by a decade at least, and this [important contribution] needs to be recognized and celebrated.”

Dr. Kilby had a great love for the natural world, whether it was delighting in the unique beauty of a simple dandelion or tending to his own garden. Indeed, it was Dr. Kilby’s delight in the beauty of creation that caused him to think deeply about the relationship between Christianity and art. As he wrote: “Aesthetics inquires into the reasons for the beautiful both in nature and art and of the manner in which the beautiful is identified with the mind and emotions of people.” William Dyrness concludes that “this is because beauty in its truest and deepest sense is connected with being, which ultimately is grounded in God.”

This publishing project spanned more than a decade and was guided to completion by the Wade’s Interim Director, Marjorie Lamp Mead; and Keith Call, Special Collection Assistant in Wheaton College’s Special Collections department as well as series editor. In looking back, general editor Keith Call recalls that “the most interesting aspect of this project is seeing what a glowing testimony Dr. Kilby left behind, one of intellectual vigor, hospitality, and pure kindness.”

Endorsements for The Arts and the Christian Imagination

“What a great gift to read the collected writings of this gentle, brilliant visionary, teacher and friend! I can say, like so many others, it was Clyde Kilby who set my course in life. Like the dandelions he tended all winter, we flourished under his wisdom and care. Now his remarkable words on the page act as a kind of resurrection. We can hear his voice again and bless his memory.”

Luci Shaw
Poet, Writer in Residence, Regent College
Author of Thumbprint in the Clay


The Arts and the Christian Imagination is a landmark book. Its scope is breathtaking, bringing together in one place well-known “signature” essays by Clyde Kilby and unknown but equally excellent ones. The essays in this book, masterfully edited, sum up what a whole era wanted to say about literature and art in themselves and in relation to the Christian faith.”

Leland Ryken
Professor Emeritus English, Wheaton College
Author of The Christian Imagination


“It was my great privilege to take several classes with Clyde Kilby when I was a student at Wheaton. Now a new generation, and readers far from the Chicago suburbs, have the chance to experience the sparkle, wit, aesthetic insight, and deep Christian commitment that made Kilby such an unusually captivating teacher. Even without his hobbit-like presence, his words remain a true inspiration.”

Mark A. Noll
Author of Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind
Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame


“Thousands owe to this giant of Wheaton their ability to hear literary voices with Gospel-tuned ears. This sampler of his hugely influential writing will make the reader profoundly grateful for a man whose legacy is beyond measure.”

Jeremy Begbie
Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology – Duke Divinity School
Director of Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts


“Samuel Johnson said people need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed. Dr. Kilby reminds us of what it means to be made in the image of God and how art, in our creation and reception of it, illuminates, articulates and glorifies that original great mimesis. With wisdom and relevance, this collection provides a touchstone for the spiritual thinker in its reconciliation of art’s true and beautiful purpose with the unspeakable, inimitable mystery of God.”

Dr. Carolyn Weber
Professor and speaker
 Award-winning author of Surprised by Oxford; Holy is the Day


“To read the reflections of C.S. Kilby on art and the Christian imagination is to engage one of the most pertinently constructive interior critiques of American evangelical culture in the 1960’s. His biblically formed imagination saw good and truth in what seemed to many of his generation astonishing places—French Catholic philosophers, agnostic novelists, psychic experimentalists, off-beat artists, mathematicians, mentally disturbed poets--and he asked fellow evangelicals, comfortably certain of the categories of their own perception, to examine whether or not some alien accounts did not square better with a biblical view of the human person than their own rigidities. To read these essays is to hear again his distinctively gentle voice in the classroom, and once again to gather many pearls of wisdom.”

David Lyle Jeffrey
Distinguished Professor of Literature
and the Humanities Honors Program
Senior Fellow, Baylor Institute for Studies in Religion
Baylor University


“As I read Dr. Kilby’s words in this book, “Love, not duty, sends the artist forth,” I recalled my class with him fifty years ago. I can still almost hear his voice as he read from Wordsworth: “what we have loved others will love, and we will show them how.” That line perfectly describes Clyde Kilby’s life and work. As his student, I love what my dear Professor of English literature loved. I treasure this collection of his essays on Arts and Christian Imagination.”

G. Walter Hansen
Professor Emeritus Fuller Seminary
Co-author of Through Your Eyes: Dialogues on the
  Paintings of Bruce Herman