It’s amazing how we delight in creativity. It’s because, I believe, the creative side of humans is very much in the image of God. When we delight in the arts, we delight in a spark of God that remains in us despite our sinful, broken nature.
You see, one of the great mistakes of the Reformed branch of Protestantism has been to push creativity to the back and elevate logic and reason as the most spiritual of all human traits. And the Restoration Movement was founded by Calvinists. And while they left much of their Calvinism behind, they certainly kept the Reformed/Calvinistic culture of intellectualism at the expense of creativity and the arts. I mean, just look at our buildings!
Take our windows. Please. Stained glass is rejected as being, well, you know, like “the denominations,” or some such non-answer. Lately, we’ve allowed stained glass that’s entirely non-representational, even though not too many decades ago we decried the evils of abstract art.
But we allow pictures of Jesus in our Bibles and in our Sunday school classes. We just don’t allow him in stained glass or in the sanctuaryauditorium — not that the auditorium is in any sense holy.
It’s all very Gnostic — this notion that the material is unholy and the spiritual is holy or that the flesh is inherently incapable of perfection — and so in need of grace — while our intellects can be perfected and so there’s no need for grace for doctrinal sin. And our Gnosticism leads us to see art as less worthy, less holy, and less appropriate in our worship. After all, what has God to do with creativity? He just cares whether we get the answers right. (I blame the public schools for inculcating this sense of what is worthy and what is not. Well, not really. But they’ve strongly reinforced Gnostic attitudes that were already there.)
Life is preparation for the Great True-False Test in the Sky. Wasting time with the arts just takes away from time that could be spent learning why the Jehovah’s Witnesses are wrong.
We are not dualistic beings, and we shouldn’t have a dualistic doctrine. It’s all part of our broken, fallen nature and all in need of grace. And it can all be good, and none will ever be good enough to avoid the need for grace. The voices that sing words are no more inherently holy than the hands that play instruments. It’s all creative. It’s all worship, because it all comes from the creative part of God that remains in us. We best worship God by most being like God. And that’s serious theology.
(2 Cor 3:18) And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his [image] with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
(Rom 8:29) For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the [image] of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
(Col 3:9-10) Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
The over-arching theme of the Bible is God’s redemptive work to restore humans to the image of God in which they were made in Genesis 1. And in Genesis 1, the one characteristic of God that is most prominent is his creativity.
And that’s why we delight in creativity. There’s something in us that yearns to be restored fully to God’s image. And when we experience the creative, our hearts leap at recognition of what we could be and what we will become. And for those who understand, even the most non-religious creative experiences are, well, religious, and they can even move us to worship.
The arts change how we look at the world because they help us see and celebrate that bit of God that’s in all of us.