Monday, July 31, 2006

Creation and Revelation

Some time ago, I wrote a kind of throw-away post on (the lack of) creativity in today's theology. In it I wrote that to be a Christian involves cultivating one's creativity, because we are made in the image and likeness of the Father who is Creator. One response I got was that humans cannot create ex nihilo, and therefore should be content with stewardship. (I'm not 100 percent this is the intention of the commentor, but I'm simplifying to make a point).

Well, this is true if we consider creation ex nihilo as bringing atoms into existence out of nothing. Granted, this is something we would believe to be involved in God's creative work. But this is not the theological point of creation. The point of the theological doctrine of creation is not primarily about explaining how the world has come into existence - if this was the case, all ancient creation myths would have been deeply unsatistying, since they all included some form of unexplained actor, in the case of the Genesis story, God.

No, the point of the creation doctrine is to say something about God. God is the one who creates. What God does when he creates is not about bringing something into existence - though this is the result of the activity. The purpose of God's creative act is to reveal himself as creator. Thus we see a great unity in all of God's works: from creation to eschaton, God is creating and revealing himself at the same time. If we see creation as revelation is it also easy to include the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ in God's creative work: they all flow from the same longing to reveal himself.

Now, if we take this and apply to it the idea that humans are called to create, we can gain a deeper understanding of human creativity. To say that a human artist is not creating ex nihilo, because he or she is using paint and canvas is completely beside the point: what is created is not the paint on the canvas - what is created is the revelation found in the work of art. Just like God reveals himself in creation, humans reveal their deeper nature when they are creative: be it in the form of art, theology or any other human activity.

To live one's life so that one is opening up reality to other people is the most fundamental aspect of being a follower of Christ. That is to live in the likeness of the Father, that is theosis. Thus holiness and creativity are synonyms.


Shane Clifton said...

yes, yes, yes - endless debates about the when/how of creation completely miss the point (in my conservative context - i face these tiring discussions constantly). And, as the husband of an artist - it is nice to read this affirmation of the arts, which is no doubt a better communicator of meaning then text (although the process of writing is itself creative, and an expression of the Father's likeness).

jeltzz said...

I find the "sub-creation" language of Tolkein interesting here. The idea that while we are not creators on that Divine level, we are derivative, yet reflective of that original, creators of truly new and unique things