This is part 1 of a 6-part series on my upcoming dissertation for completion of a Doctor of Ministry degree at Portland Seminary at George Fox University. The tentative title for the book that I hope will emerge from this research is called Greater Things. This first post explores a theology of creativity. The incoming goal for my doctoral studies has been to synthesize my scattered thoughts of the past few years into a single understanding of creativity and faith – a theology of creativity, if you will. This first part of the series summarizes the hermeneutic of creativity that I have been working out over the past few years through my writings, in my book Think Like a Five Year Old and on this blog. (For the layperson, I define hermeneutics as the art and science of interpreting the Bible.)
As I began the program, my advisor Dr. Colleen Butcher asked me to name five keywords to help focus my research. I put them as follows:
Then, I expanded the words into a kind of loose order:
- Each of us has creativity in us;
- Our creativity is work, but a kind ordained by God, not the drudgery most of us experience;
- This creative energy leads to tangible new materials and services, which is innovation;
- These innovations lead to growth, in our personal lives and in the community;
- The result is the building of culture.
There are all kinds of assumptions and implications, which I’ll try to summarize over the next several weeks in their current state of development. The first is the word “creativity”:
A Working Theology of Creativity
Creativity, of course, happens by a process. In a very basic way, I define the creative process here and also here. While these are helpful, understanding creativity as a “process” is the tip of the iceberg.
My book Think Like a Five Year Old explored the idea that the creative journey we travel is actually a spiritual journey. I’ve thought much more on this topic since the book’s publication. Here’s roughly where I am now after several years of exploring these ideas on this blog:
- God is a creative and creating God. In other words, God didn’t just create and finish; creativity is an essential attribute of God (Gen 1:1).
- We are designed according to God’s image, which means we have this same attribute. Creativity doesn’t only reside in the realm of a certain class of people, but is a part of every creature that has been created in God’s image. (Gen 1:27)
- This means we are designed to be creative, and the creative God-image in us is the source in us that compels us to create. God has creative aspirations for each of us. (Eph 2:10)
- Because God is love, this means that to create is to love. Properly understood, creativity is sacrificial. Creativity benefits others and gives glory to God. (Deut 6:5, 1 John 4:7)
- Our relationship with God is in part a creative one – God wants to live in intimate relationship with us, where we participate in a divine creative process. (Gen 2:20)
- We begin life full of this divine creative spark. We exhibit genius-level creativity as youngsters. (Matt 19:14)
- Tragically, this spark isn’t pure, but is broken, even from the start, and gets worse as we grow. (Gen 6:12)
- While creativity leads to growth, growth leads to problems, because we inevitably take credit. (Deut 8:17)
- Our creative expressions release the residue of our brokenness, like soot from a candle.
- Over time, this soot covers us and others, and crowds out our creativity. As we grow older, the creative God-image in us becomes obscured. Our marred state prevents us from participating in a loving, creative relationship with God.
- We learn to focus on approval from and over other people, which leads to a worldview based on human power and self-glory.
- We eventually stop creating, and instead we learn to consume, even though consumption leads to death, which I also talked about here. (Ps 59:14-15)
- Jesus invites us to be like children – to start life over by going backwards and re-learning how to live life as a creator not a critic. (Matt 18:3)
- This do-over is our opportunity to become new creations, as God designed. (2 Cor 5:17)
- Becoming a new creation is both instant and life long, a journey in which we learn to abandon our worry over approval from other people.
- Since Christ is the perfect image of God, as we follow Jesus, we become more like the image of God given to us. Thus, the more creative we become. (2 Cor 4:4)
- As children of God, God invites us into a collaborative relationship, where we produce things that heal and build creation.
- God gives us a creative vision of the future, which are ideas to make something and build culture the way God intends, and the capacity to act on them. (Num 13)
- As we adopt God’s vision for creation, we begin to discover our calling to help create the world the way it is meant to be.
- We call these visions a calling. They form a proper understanding of vocation. (1 Sam 3)
- We can call the results of our creative efforts innovation, which produces artifacts called technology that benefits others.
- Tthe result of our creative work produces growth and flourishing.
- The beauty, truth and goodness of these works gives glory to God and helps build a redeemed culture, which Jesus calls the “kingdom of heaven.” (Rev 21)
- The potential of our creative efforts is remarkably described by Jesus as “greater” than works he did in his earthly ministry.
This is a work in process and can benefit from feedback. I would love to hear your thoughts!