How should Christian art be informed by the Christian worldview? (part 3)

In the last post, we considered that creation was once very good and we made some observations about how that impacts the way we look at certain forms of art. Now we are going to… 

Consider that we are Creative Creatures

Humans are made in the image of God. We see this teaching–the doctrine of the image of God,[1] the imago Dei–in various places in Scripture (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1-3; 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7 Col. 3:10; James 3:9). The most prominent is Genesis 1:27: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”[2] “The ‘image (likeness) of God’ refers to a permanent aspect of our created nature, which was not affected by the fall. It is the special characteristic of the human race, which distinguishes us from other creatures.”[3]

So, “We are created in the likeness of the Creator… So we are, on a finite level, people who can create.”[4] We also see that humans–all humans–have great worth! We have worth beyond what we do, we have worth in who we are. But what we do is important. 

We were made, in part, to create. We were made to work unhindered at the creative care of creation. However, the plot thickens. A cosmic problem is introduced. Through man’s fall, we see the crash and curse of creation, which explains why everything is no longer good and why our creative care is constrained. (I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll get to considering the crash in our next post)

Observation: We are creative creatures; that is part of what we do and how we reflect the image of our Creator. We see that because that is what we were created to do we thrive as individuals and as societies as we create.

Edith Schaeffer wisely reflected,

Man was created that he might create. It is not a waste of man’s time to be creative, because this is what he was made to be able to do. He was made in the image of a Creator, and given the capacity to create—on a finite level of course, needing to use the materials already created—but he is still the creature of a Creator.[5]

We were created in the image of God not to procrastinate but to be productive, to create and “subdue the earth.” When we are functioning according to our design, doing what God has given us to do, it is then that we prosper (and realize I do not mean financially, I mean teleologically).

Realize there are all sorts of types of creativity, one person creates cars, another creates music, and still another manages his restaurant in thoughtful ways.[6] It is also helpful to remember that Jesus–God in flesh–was a carpenter, and I am sure He was good at what He did. He also formed sermons that were works of art (Matt. 5-7). It is amazing that John records that Jesus tidied the tomb after His resurrection (Jn. 20:7). God is an artistic and organized God. 

We image God in all sorts of ways through our creativity. Some build with wood, some bring order out of chaos (my wife does this all the time with the chaos I create), some use poetry, and still others create in other ways. The important observation here is not so much what we do but how we approach our tasks.

We should approach all we do with intentionality and skill. As Timothy Keller says, “our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests. Thinking of work mainly as a means of self-fulfillment and self-realization slowly crushes a person and… undermines society itself.”[7]

________________

[1] “That man by creation uniquely bears the divine image is a fundamental biblical doctrine—as also that this image is sullied by sin and that it is restored by divine salvation” (Carl F. H. Henry, “Man” in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, 338).

[2] “The declaration that humanity bears God’s likeness is startling, awesome, and almost incredible, but what exactly does it mean?… Two primary, and not necessarily contradictory views are: (1) the substantive view, according to which humans share some aspects of the nature of God (intelligence, emotions, etc.); and (2) the functional view, according to which humans act like God in their divinely given role to rule the earth. The immediate context, with the language of dominion and subjugation, suggests that the functional interpretation is primary” (Köstenberger, God’s Design for Man and Woman, 29). I personally believe in a hybrid view. I believed in a functional view that implies the substantive view. That is, if we as humans are to function as vice-regents we must be endowed with the abilities to carry it out (e.g. intelligence, creativity, etc.).

[3] G. L. Bray, “Image of God” in NDBT, 576.

[4] Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking, 24.

[5] Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking, 24.

[6] I think for example of Chick-fil-a.

[7] Keller, Every Good Endeavor, 19. He also says “Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavours, even the best, will come to naught. Unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavour, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever” (29).

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 9 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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