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Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue (Engaging Culture) [Paperback]

By Robert K. Johnston (Author)
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Item description for Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue (Engaging Culture) by Robert K. Johnston...

In view of the increasingly powerful role that movies play in cultural dialogue, Johnston has written a book to guide Christian moviegoers into a theological analysis of and conversation with film. Intended for use in the college and seminary classroom, "Reel Spirituality" helps Christians interpret movies through the eyes of faith. It provides the theological underpinnings for this art form and fosters both dialogue and discipleship.

Publishers Description
Increasingly, thinking Christians are examining the influential role that movies play in our cultural dialogue. "Reel Spirituality" successfully heightens readers' sensitivity to the theological truths and statements about the human condition expressed through modern cinema. This second edition cites 200 new movies and encourages readers to ponder movie themes that permeate our culture as well as motion pictures that have demonstrated power to shape our perceptions of everything from relationships and careers to good and evil. "Reel Spirituality" is the perfect catalyst for dialogue and discipleship among moviegoers, church-based study groups, and religious film and arts groups. The second edition cites an additional 200 movies and includes new film photos.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue (Engaging Culture) by Robert K. Johnston has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Christianity Today - 09/01/2011 page 66

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Baker Academic
Pages   351
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.98" Width: 6.32" Height: 1"
Weight:   1.1 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 2006
Publisher   Baker Publishing Group
Edition  Revised  
Series  Engaging Culture  
ISBN  0801031877  
ISBN13  9780801031878  

Availability  0 units.

More About Robert K. Johnston

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Robert K. Johnston (PhD, Duke University) is professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the coeditor of both the Engaging Culture and the Cultural Exegesis series and is the author or coauthor of several books, including Useless Beauty, Finding God in the Movies, and Reel Spirituality.

Robert K. Johnston currently resides in Pasadena, in the state of California. Robert K. Johnston was born in 1945.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Entertainment > Movies > Guides & Reviews
2Books > Subjects > Entertainment > Movies > History & Criticism
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible > General
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General

Christian Product Categories
Books > Christian Living > Practical Life > Contemporary Issues
Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue (Engaging Culture)?

Reel Spirituality  Mar 21, 2006
Rob has a wonderful grasp of the topic of putting Theology and Film into dialogue with each other. I encourage you to read this book if you have any faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. God is in the world and we are missing out of Him if our eyes are not fully open. Please open your eyes to a God that is bigger than everything the eye can see.
Evangelical theologian recognizes a wideness in God's grace  Jul 10, 2002
This volume by Fuller Seminary professor Robert K. Johnston is a readable introduction to film criticism from a thoroughly Christian perspective. Johnston is evangelical in outlook, and yet does not sacrifice his love for cinema to a fearful, fundamentalistic disdain for human culture. Rather, from the outset, he affirms the Christian truth that God's grace is to be found everywhere (what theologians have called 'common grace') and that cinema can be an occasion for a 'revelatory event'. Just as all life is 'sacramental' (that is, every aspect of the world has the potential to show us God), so the movies can help us to transcend to a deeper understanding of God and humanity.

Johnston rightly affirms that a film must first be approached on its own terms (as opposed to viewing it through the lens of a preconceived agenda). Once the audience has participated in the world of the film, then is the appropriate moment to begin the dialogue with theology. For this reason, Johnston's approach is to walk us through the basics of film criticism before applying that to the Christian study of film. On a few occasions, I worried that the author was taking us too far away from the book's stated intention (ie. a book about theology and film in dialogue), but Johnston always seems to be able to bring the material back round to assessing its relevance to the task of theological application.

His examples are far-ranging: theologically, his sources draw from every stream of Christian tradition; his choice of films to be analyzed is eclectic. He frequently homes in on a specific film (eg. Shane, Smoke Signals, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) or set of films (eg. the films of Peter Weir) in order to illuminate and illustrate the points he makes. Overall, Johnston exhibits a healthy attitude towards film, and is a breath of fresh air in an evangelicalism that too often regards films with suspicion and a superficiality that is likely to oversimplify issues of content and theme (such as sexuality and violence).

This book helped me to clarify my own method in approaching film. I have long been a lover of the cinema, and have sometimes found it hard to escape the incongruity of some aspects of this with voices from my fundamentalist past. Johnston is a man after my own heart, and seems able to encapsulate my feelings about film and how the movie experience is essential to the formation of my theology. In one chapter, Johnston addresses this role of cinema in theological method, and provides useful comparisons with various models of theological method (such as the Wesleyan quadrilateral).

I can also credit this book with changing some of my views. For example, I have long had a suspicion of mainstream cinema, almost amounting to a disdain at times. Johnston showed me the fallacy of associating commercialism with artlessness, however. After all, he reasons, didn't Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel on commission? In a sense, my aversion to mainstream cinema (or, perhaps more accurately, the mainstream of the mainstream) was a kind of misconceived snobbery. Johnston's appreciation of film from every corner of the film industry helped me to see my own short-sightedness in this regard.

This is a book I would recommend not just for film-lovers, but for theologians whose knowledge of film may not be particularly wide, but are willing to let the pursuit of the knowledge of God lead them into dialogue with other possible sources of inspiration, namely, the cinema. Johnston presents an accessible overview of film criticism and, in doing so, demonstrates how films can be, in a broad, but real way, means of grace for a Christian wanting to let the knowledge of Christ invade his experience of his culture.

A handbook on film criticism from a theological perspective  May 18, 2001
Despite the rather "punnish" title of the book, this is a thoroughly academic work, and as such it is not what one would call easy reading. Yet, it is enlightening for all who would take time to grasp the concepts presented here. The author advocates first attempting to understand what a movie is trying to convey on its own terms and then reflect upon it theologically. Basic concepts of film criticism are covered, as well as different theological approaches one may take to evaluting films. A good book for those who want to look at movies at a deeper, less superficial level.
Church, Seminary, and Cinema in conversation.  Apr 17, 2001
Johnston, professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, has put together a fine introduction to cinema through the lense of Christian faith. He notes that for the most part the cinema has displaced the church as the location where we come to wrestle with the deeper questions of meaning, God, and what it means to be human. After chronicling the sometimes testy relationship between the church and the movie industry, Johnston offers a typology of Christian approaches to cinema (basically a relabeled Niebuhr typology). The typology is both a strength and a weakness of the book. Like Niebuhr, it may well be that Johnston is allowing the typology to become little more than a way of stereotyping different approaches that he finds unsatisfactory. That said, I myself found the typology helpful.

Perhaps the greatest strength of the book is the quality of the reflection that Johnston brings to the various movies he addresses. The book itself models the sort of theological reflection that should be going on in churches and seminaries. There is no knee-jerk reaction to violence or language in this book. Rather, Johnston encourages the audience to watch movies on their own terms before passing judgment on their orthodoxy. This book is a welcome and accessible introduction to the growing interaction between theology and cinema in America. I strongly recommend it as a primer for Christians interested in starting a cinema studies group in a church or seminary.


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