Monday, January 25, 2010

On Creativity.

The theology of creativity is interesting to me. In Romans, Paul talks some about what theologians call "general revelation."

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." -Romans 1:20 (NIV)

"Specific revelation" would be defined as a direct communication from God to humanity. For the Jew and Christian, the Torah and other Scriptures would fall into the specific category. Of course, the person of Jesus is the ultimate specific revelation for the Christian. But apart from these divine interruptions, Paul says that we can generally become aware of God through "what has been made." We see a Creator - a Mind - an Artist. This is enough to move most of us from atheism to theism. There must be something...or someone other than us out there. His "divine nature" is tied up in "what has been made." Who he is created what we see.

Early on in the creation account of the Torah we stumble upon an interesting passage about mankind:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. - Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV)

There is mystery here on a few fronts. The subject/verb tense disagreement is among them. It says literally that a very singular God speaks to himself as if plural. Some have used this to hint toward the Trinity, but it seems a bit of a stretch to me. The greater idea may be that he is beyond language - beyond us. None of this is my point for today though - it is rather the claim that human beings were originally and continually created in the image and likeness of YHWH.

These two words will be repeated again and again in the Torah - but mainly in the prohibitions against making or worshiping false Gods. The people of God were not to make a god in the image or likeness of an animal or anything else that was thought to contain the essence of deity. The Living God doesn't need or desire idols made of stone or wood, but He does have something to carry his essence in the world - people. A Living God has living image bearers. We are his likeness.

It is worth pondering what we know of God looking at only the text up until Genesis 1:26. We know he is powerful - that he has authority. It is clear that this is part of the image we have been given. In context, we see that since we are created in his image, we are to rightly rule over the earth.

But the secondary assumption we can make is that the God of Genesis 1:1-25 is at his essence creative. He is the Creator. To be endowed with his image and likeness is to be little creators. To create is to be human and to be human is to reflect the image of the divine.

The first person in the Bible to be described as "filled with the Spirit of God" may be someone you have never heard of. It wasn't Noah, Abraham, Joseph or Moses. He is first mentioned in Exodus 31:

"Then the LORD said to Moses, "See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts - to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship." - Exodus 31:1-5

This is worth meditation. Throughout the Scriptures, God will fill people with his Spirit to give them special power or wisdom. But here we see clearly, that he also fills artists with the Spirit to create art for his purposes. Art and creativity are spiritual.

Not all of us are as gifted (talented?) as Bezalel, but all of us are creative beings. It is part of what it means to be human. When life becomes so predictable or monetized or safe that there is no room for creative explosions, we lose sight of who we are. We lose touch with the God who creates.

Most Christians I know want to be spiritually disciplined. This usually means they want to pray, read the Bible, attend church events, help the poor, etc. These are good things. But below is a list of some other spiritual disciplines. Maybe trying one this month would be a good thing for you...

painting, writing, sculpting, dancing, photography, designing, sewing, pretending, cooking, singing, acting, inventing, wood-working, drawing, playing, gardening, filmmaking, fashion design, throwing a party, organizing a flag football game, learning to play the piccalo, etc, etc, get the idea.


sherry said...

In reading your post I remembered the book you suggested to me so long ago called The Artists Way and pulled it out from the shelf. I think I will take a spiritual journey through this book again. Thanks Joe, for the reminder.

Steve Fuller said...

I have been waiting for a pastor to come along and encourage my piccalo gift. Thank you, Joseph.

bshawise said...

just stumbled upon this interesting article on the creative personality

SuzieBee said...

i love this post!

in nigerian culture, we have a pretty weird relationship with creativity. as a child, my aunt once told me that artists, seamstresses, (secular) musicians, and anyone else with a creative gift, received their inspiration from evil spirits that visited in their dreams. this was pretty scary stuff for an aspiring singer/ songwriter/ poet to hear at such a formative age.

thanks for confirming what i already know...that artistic expression is a spiritual gift, like any other, and that there is a biblical case for the arts.

Mark said...

Amazing! Love this post.

The link to the article on creative personalities was great.

Daniel Kalbach said...

Nice piece of writing.

Sandy Maudlin said...

Seems to me that we are all creative in one way or another. SOme make the BEST soup, some can really draw well or write beautifully. Gardeners, seamstresses, teachers, writers, parents, leaders, nurturers... everyone needs to create in some way to fulfil who we are meant to be.

Anonymity said...

I think we tend to focus on the negative aspect of the word discipline. If I am disciplined as a child I am being punished, when God gets a hold of me he disciplines me (ie He cuts out the "fun"), the spiritual disciplines mean hard work and sacrifice.

There is another, less oft used definition, discipline=trained. We all have been trained in one thing or another. We know trained. Trained in reading, trained in writing, trained in sports, trained in whatever profession we have.

When God built his temple he used disciplined workers, trained professionals to accomplish His goal. Those trained professionals, masons, carpenters, goldsmiths, tailors, all used their training, their disciplines, to serve and worship God.

As a disciplined grunt laborer, I have never found myself closer to God than when I am cutting the grass, cutting down trees, fixing the car, plumbing, etc.. Working with my hands, my trained hands, my disciplined hands gives me time to meditate, to study scripture, to talk with God.

God has disciplined us to be how He wants us. There is room in the body of Christ for people like me, people that like to get their hands dirty rather than spend years in hermeneutical study of Revelations. We, although sometimes rejected by the church, have not been rejected by God. We are no pariah, but rather the 21st century fisherman.

Thanks for the reminder.

Amanda said...

This was really really nice.

It reminds me of this:

photogr said...

In my studies of Genisis I too did note that use of "US" and as you stated speaking to himself or a trinity. That was not the only time he spoke as us. When He found out Adam was tempted by Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, he also used the term us as if he was speaking to others.

My point is was Gabriel and Michael ( angels) also with God at this time or did they come later in time.

I would have to believe He already had heavenly company in His Kingdom.

Scott and Jess said...

Joe Boyd... once again, articulating well the thoughts that sound rediculous when I try to communicate them!
Creating is not only spiritual... but often worship!