(excerpt from a recent sermon given on Genesis 1:1)
In part 1 of the series, I briefly touched on God’s relationship to time. This second portion continues the first verse in Genesis, turning to God’s role as Creator and his continuing interest in human creativity. Admittedly, this is the most scattered portion of the sermon, but then again, I’ll be processing this part for awhile… Take the ball and run.
In the beginning, God created…
Not only did God create using the stuff of the universe, he created the stuff of the universe! He did this without buying a blueprint or a plan. God imagined this stuff and spoke it into reality, then used his creativity to divvy it up and make cool things. His creativity is on so high a plane that creativity itself is God’s domain.
If you dig into the squiggles, dots, and dashes of the Hebrew language that read “he created,” they are used in two ways in the Bible – specifically the verb exists in two stems. One is a special use reserved for God’s creative activity, because his work is different. His work is other. God’s imagination is crazy good.
The other use – the second tense – of these particularly glorious squiggles speaks of man’s version of creating. Man’s creating comes by wiping clean something that has been done in order to start over. More clearly, we further divide what God has already created and divided. BUT, we never start from nothing. All of our creativity has a context, a foundation. We think using brains that God created and thought processes that he invented. We apply our thoughts with materials he designed and provided. This means our creativity, no matter how seemingly original, is subservient to his.
How limited is our ability? We can’t even imagine the nothing from which God created everything. We call that ex nihilo. (Hebrews 11:3) Go ahead. Try. If you are picturing darkness, it’s not nothing. Darkness was a product of creation upon which God has shone light. Maybe your mind’s eye moves to pure white… something like blinding light? Again, it’s a concept that has a foundation, a base. Nothing. No thing. It is entirely other.
God’s pre-existence to our own is a big deal.
Truly original ideas are hard to come by. Don’t get me wrong, I come up with original and creative ideas all the time. But my original ideas aren’t creative, and my creative ideas aren’t original. (I even stole that quote)
God has laid the groundwork that we engage & call imagination. Genesis 1:26-28 says that we are made in the image of God. We are reflections of his glory. One way we do this is by creating. By imagining. By finding answers to questions. By studying and figuring things out. By receiving the raw materials from the hand of God and building. We do these things because the God who created us owns and shares his vast imagination.
Every human who has ever lived bears the image of the Creator, whether we or they have loved God or not. This means that ALL creativity… let me say that again, ALL CREATIVITY is evidence of God’s glory. Creativity doesn’t all of a sudden “glorify God” when it’s done by a Christian or with an explicitly Christian theme. The very existence of imagination points to God, no matter who expresses it. Now, the expression of human creativity is driven by the deceitful human heart – and so there are expressions which do not necessarily honor God as LORD. But the ability to think, to imagine, to create IS the stamp of our Maker. Christians can and should seek and learn to appreciate creativity.
The Scriptures say God has written eternity on all of our hearts. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Because that is true, human creativity will often serve the gospel.
Think about the books, movies, TV series, paintings, music you enjoy. Not necessarily “Christian” stuff. Anything. What makes it good? Good creative stuff makes us imagine paradise. Good creative stuff helps us explore and understand brokenness. Good creative stuff desperately wants justice and redemption. Good creative stuff ponders judgment. Good creative stuff chases after the eternity found only through the gospel. We like this stuff because, in the end, we’re all after one thing. We’re all chasing eternity. If the Bible is true, then this eternity is only found by chasing after Jesus with every last breath.
On the flipside, where good creative stuff explores truth, deceptive creative stuff twists or exploits truth. Consider the extreme: pornography. Porn misrepresents paradise, glorifies brokenness, feeds injustice, abandons redemption, and ignores righteous judgment. Pornography denies eternity and replaces it with instant gratification. It is the product of sin and the work of the Enemy. When your conscience recoils around this stuff, it is your heart’s eternal longing shining through.
But even the presence of the lie suggests the existence of the truth and makes us cry out for something better. The desire to create is an image thing. The abuse of creativity is a sin thing. Human creativity is stained by sin and the fall, which means there will always be an absence of perfection. But rightly engaged, imagination will serve to draw us nearer to our God – who is creative – by drawing us into the narrative of redemption (creation, fall, redemption, consummation in Christ Jesus); a narrative that he first imagined and then brought to fullness in the life, death, and resurrection of his only begotten Son.
Big picture application for the Christian: Engaging healthy creative expressions helps us to see how humanity processes eternity. Ask questions that get to God’s arc of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation as you are blessed by the expression of the image of God in another. Drag someone else into it with you. You will be blessed.
Big picture application for the non-believer: If our creativity and creative activities are subservient to God’s; if our creativity is designed to draw us nearer to him through Christ as we explore truth, then we will never create an avenue apart from him that will lead us into the eternity we all so desperately desire. It may provide a temporary escape, but never an answer.
The truth is: in the end, creativity can’t save us.
But imagination CAN help us explore the eternity God has created.
Ultimately, creativity is good, because creativity is God’s domain.