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Creativity and the Believer by Pastor Wayne Stewart (January 7, 2001)

[span class=download]Click here to download the complete PPT presentation.[/span]

Much of my life has been devoted to creative activity. As far back as I can remember I have had this desire to make things; to create, to express myself artistically. As I was growing up, my parents were in a constant state of alert; never knowing where or when this son of theirs would decide that the moment had come for a performance. My main routine, I am told, was "Current TV Commercial Theme Songs." No potential audience was safe.

This tendency to erupt in creative activity, though, caused me quite a bit of embarrassment amongst my schoolmates from time to time. The year was 1975. I was a student in Ms. Cram’s 5th grade class at Panther Lake Elementary School in Kent, Washington and I suddenly felt the need to sing the theme song from a current shampoo commercial. I thought I was completely safe; I had a hall pass, I was in the bathroom, no one else was around. Making my way back to class I knew something was up when all the students, as well as the teacher, had their eyes fixed on me as I re-entered the room. Apparently, the heating ducts in our school carried sound quite well. When asked if "someone" was singing a shampoo commercial in the bathroom, I responded simply, "Yeah, and is that kid gonna be embarrassed when he gets back to his classroom."

 

Now, as the son of a Boeing Engineer, I am sure my father spent nights awake wondering what he had done to deserve this fate. But it was the last year of elementary school, sixth grade, when two major adjustments in my life occurred. It was this year that we had the opportunity to sign up for the school band program. I chose saxophone (my first choice—drums—was vetoed by my mother) and my creative energies suddenly became very focused in the arena of music. This was also the year in which I first understood the Gospel and responded to Jesus’ invitation to accept the gift of salvation and follow Him.

Looking back on it now, I see that as the Lord was redeeming and focusing my life, He was also redeeming and focusing the creative gifts which He had placed in me. He was making order out of chaos, direction out of wandering.The last few years of this journey of faith and creativity has been mostly about the big questions.

  • What does the Lord have to say about how I am using these gifts?

  • Is my thinking and practice of creativity Biblical; or is it more influenced by traditional or cultural models, be they secular or Christian?

  • Is something that is so important, such a major part of who I am, important in a broader sense as well for the Community of Christ? Or is it simply an extracurricular concern, best engaged by a minority of individuals?

I believe Scripture has much to say about the issue of creativity; its purpose and its practice. So that’s where we’ll go to investigate these questions. In this teaching we'll simply look at six passages of Scripture and derive some principles from our observations. We'll follow that up with what I think are some key implications from these principles, and then offer some suggestions for engaging in creative activity as a Believer.

As we begin to, in a sense, build a theology of the arts, I believe we start to see two main principles emerge:

  • that God is creative in nature

  • that creativity is an integral part of God’s intention for the life of His Church.

    Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Observation: God is Creative in Nature

Observation: God alone creates ex nihilo....

GE 2:8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. [9] And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.

Observation: Aesthetics were of concern within the original plan of God.


Exodus 31:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, [2] "See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, [3] and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts-- [4] to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, [5] to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. [6] Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you: [7] the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the Testimony with the atonement cover on it, and all the other furnishings of the tent-- [8] the table and its articles, the pure gold lampstand and all its accessories, the altar of incense, [9] the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, the basin with its stand-- [10] and also the woven garments, both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when they serve as priests, [11] and the anointing oil and fragrant incense for the Holy Place. They are to make them just as I commanded you."

Exodus 35: [34] And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. Observation: God ordered visual art to be an integral part of corporate worship. Implications:

Observation: God called, gifted and anointed individuals for the specific work of creating elements involved in corporate worship.

Observation: God inspired these individuals to pass their training on to others so that the work of providing elements for corporate worship would not die out.

1 Kings 6:1 In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the LORD...

1 Kings 5:17 At the king's command they removed from the quarry large blocks of quality stone to provide a foundation of dressed stone for the temple

1 Kings 6:14 So Solomon built the temple and completed it. [15] He lined its interior walls with cedar boards, paneling them from the floor of the temple to the ceiling, and covered the floor of the temple with planks of pine.

[18] The inside of the temple was cedar, carved with gourds and open flowers. [19] He prepared the inner sanctuary within the temple to set the ark of the covenant of the LORD there. [20] The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty wide and twenty high. He overlaid the inside with pure gold, and he also overlaid the altar of cedar. [21] Solomon covered the inside of the temple with pure gold, and he extended gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold. [22] So he overlaid the whole interior with gold. He also overlaid with gold the altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary [23] In the inner sanctuary he made a pair of cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high. [24] One wing of the first cherub was five cubits long, and the other wing five cubits--ten cubits from wing tip to wing tip. [25] The second cherub also measured ten cubits, for the two cherubim were identical in size and shape. [26] The height of each cherub was ten cubits. [27] He placed the cherubim inside the innermost room of the temple, with their wings spread out. The wing of one cherub touched one wall, while the wing of the other touched the other wall, and their wings touched each other in the middle of the room. [28] He overlaid the cherubim with gold.

[29] On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers. [30] He also covered the floors of both the inner and outer rooms of the temple with gold. [31] For the entrance of the inner sanctuary he made doors of olive wood with five-sided jambs. [32] And on the two olive wood doors he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid the cherubim and palm trees with beaten gold. [33] In the same way he made four-sided jambs of olive wood for the entrance to the main hall. [34] He also made two pine doors, each having two leaves that turned in sockets. [35] He carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers on them and overlaid them with gold hammered evenly over the carvings. [36] And he built the inner courtyard of three courses of dressed stone and one course of trimmed cedar beams. [37] The foundation of the temple of the LORD was laid in the fourth year, in the month of Ziv. [38] In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He had spent seven years building it.

Observation: God was concerned with the quality and craftsmanship of the materials and labor in the place of corporate worship.

Observation: God ordered symbolic, representational and even abstract visual art in the Temple and its surroundings.


REV 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

Rev. 21:11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

Rev. 21: 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

Observation: God clearly intends for beauty to be a part of Eternity as well....


EX 32:1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him." [2] Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me." [3] So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. [4] He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."

Rom. 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22] Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Observation: Visual art can be perverted and used in ways that draw us away from God and to the worship and adoration of other things and people.


Why is it important to me if I don’t really consider myself to be an "artsy" person. Can I just tune out during this teaching, please?

  • If we say we want to know God, we can’t simply overlook this aspect of His nature. To understand that God is creative in nature is to know a significant part of who He is. Remember, one of the first things we find out about God as the pages of Scripture unfold is not that He is Redeemer, but that He is Creator (Gen. 1).

     

  • The godly use of artistic expression can call us to respond on an intellectual and emotional level in worship. Good art causes us to think and feel; Spirit and Truth, as Jesus said (John 4:23).

     

  • Understanding God as Creator can help us to value one another more deeply. When we see that God’s workmanship is us (Eph 2:10), we see how precious we are to Him and respond to one another differently.

     

  • Knowing that God has crafted us each carefully and lovingly helps us know just how much He does love us. The level of God’s action to redeem what He made is undergirded by the care with which He made us. You don’t expend much effort to save that which you don’t have an investment in; God’s investment in creating us is magnified by the Cross. If humankind was something God had "just thrown together at the last minute," do we really think He would have sacrificed His only Son to reclaim it?

     

Creativity is one of the main endowments of God’s nature to us. One of the clear links that we are related to Him in some way is that we have the capacity and the innate drive to create. And one of the most powerful arguments for the existence of God in the first place is the mystery of inspiration found in creative activity.

How can we "do art" as believers?

  1. Start by looking again at what beauty God has created in our world.The normal human response to the grandeur of nature has always been worship, but often misdirected.
  2. Be open to "loose ends," but always run your interpretation of art through the lens of Scripture.
  3. Pray for the artist whose work you are viewing/engaging in. If they’re a believer, ask God to bless and use them. If they’re not a believer, pray that they would wonder about why they have the gift of creation and who it might be from, and therefore what responsibility might fall on them to respond to such a Giver of this gift.
  4. View artistic expression primarily as a call to participation, not entertainment. Godly art draws us to the Creator, not the presenter or the presentation