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Professor Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt of Covenant College has written an engaging and helpful resource for image-viewers of all kinds. Though primarily focused on art and art history, the insights she lays out can be applied to every facet of our image-saturated world of social media posts and billboards, memes and movies. 

After providing basic tools, vocabulary, and guiding principles for looking at art and engaging with visual culture, Weichbrodt takes us on a deep exploration of various artworks categorized into two sections: “Love the Lord Your God” and “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.” Each chapter within these sections goes beyond mere art appreciation to direct our gaze toward the Creator. In this way, the bust of a Greek statue can lead us to confess our idols, an abstract painting by Vasily Kandinsky can help us wonder at God’s transcendence, and a still life by Margareta Haverman can grow our delight in God’s presence. 

“When we look at art and images, we can do something with them,” Weichbrodt writes in her introduction to the book. “We are not simply consuming visual information or waiting for an artwork to stir our complacent souls. ... Our looking can lead to doxology and confession. It can direct us to lament, to gentle curiosity, or to shared delight. Our viewing becomes making when it grows our love for God and for our neighbor.” 

Though some of the artwork she highlights falls neatly into the often-quoted parameters of Philippians 4:8—all that is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable—where her book truly shines is in diving into artworks that deal with the historically and morally dark and ungainly. Can Christ be found in the photographs bound with the horrors of American slavery or in a disconcertingly massive crack installed into a museum floor? Can we gaze with love into a landscape bearing the ghosts of the Native Americans slaughtered by Manifest Destiny?

Weichbrodt, as a good professor and scholar, is not afraid to ask the tough questions. As the reader journeys alongside her into the darker corners of the museum, she reminds us like the psalmist of both our brokenness and the grace that sustains us.

Many Christians will step inside a museum at some point this summer, and many of us spend hours each day immersed in images of all kinds. For this reason, Redeeming Vision is required reading for every believer who wishes to live thoughtfully and honorably in our age of the image. (Baker Academic)

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