Creativity is a gift. And everyone is gifted with creation. The two are united in expressing God’s overflowing goodness. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. This through the Son’s creative work:
In the beginning was the Word and the word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Even now the Son’s work of creation extends to us and through us, something Paul affirmed in his exposition of grace in Ephesians 2, and especially verse 10: “For we are his [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Also, in Galatians, Paul wrote of our new life in Christ, that we are now to walk “by the Spirit” and become people able to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” [Galatians 5:25; 6:10]
Now let me raise a question in this context—the context of God’s creativity—about our own makeup. Is our creativity a feature of love, finding its meaning only as we create gifts for others? Or can it exist as an independent quality? As something we own and maintain as private property? I ask this in light of God’s relational being—as the one who exists eternally as Father-Son-and Spirit in mutual love and shared glory. It is, after all, from this reality of God’s overflowing goodness that the creation came into being. It expresses God’s love as a centrifugal outflow to and through the creation. So creative love is the basis for God’s creation purpose and it explains our own existence and aesthetic sense.
Another facet of the same question is to ask whether beauty exists apart from any observer. In recent years scientists have been able to peer deeper than ever into the micro and macro realities of the universe. Remarkable features have come into view. On the macro scale the Hubble telescope, with others, have offered dramatic images that combine visible light and infrared light to display galaxies and stellar displays of incredible beauty and unexpected artistry.
Their aesthetic qualities have been present from the beginning yet we are only now discovering them. And in that discovery we properly stare in delight: by any measure we find the universe to be full of beauty. But can we speak of still-unseen features of the universe as beautiful before we actually view them? Are the vast number of undiscovered star formations lacking any aesthetic quality until we, the viewers, find them and call them pleasing and delightful? Or is beauty an independent quality of being?
The Bible suggests an answer for us in Genesis 1. As the author surveys the works of creation we find a repeated refrain—“it was good”—that within our Trinitarian faith offers an ultimate aesthetic grounding. It is an appreciation of goodness voiced by God; the Creator speaking within the context of his triune works; the Father celebrating the creativity of the Son at work with the Spirit. And with this beginning we find that no aspect of the creation is unseen or unknown to the Father who, upon seeing it, declares it “good”. It all reveals the glory of God, a glory the Son longs to share with us, even as he shared it with the Father from the beginning.
Certainly we must believe, too, that in the words offered by Jesus to the rich moralist—that “no one is good but God alone”—he was offering not only a moral axiom but a creation principle: that God’s moral-aesthetic being—his goodness—is the basis for our own ventures into good deeds and winsome aesthetics. And, with that, we meet up with the moral dimension of artistry. The Father’s declarations that “it is good” reveals the Son’s basis for creation: his ambition to please his Father with his creativity!
By asking earlier whether creativity is a feature of love, I anticipated the truth of 1 John 4 that “God is love”. And with that bedrock relational reality in view I take the discoveries of the Hubble telescope to be signs of God’s eternal creativity now unveiled to us as an expression of that love. It was and is the love of the Godhead—the mutual joy of creativity and response—that accounts for what we are only now able to enjoy. In the Trinity there has always been a creator and an observer—and therefore a relational basis for aesthetics.
But what of our own creativity? Are we independent agents of aesthetic creativity? Or are we extensions of Christ’s creativity who are at work within our status as his created ones? Has the Son, perhaps, used a unique palette of creativity in forming us? Are we all “new” in the sense that no one has the same set of qualities and creative capacities “in Christ?”
I take that to be true—that each human is “fearfully and wonderfully made” from the moment of conception—as a continuing creative expression of the Son, with the Spirit, for and before the Father. We who love God love him because we were chosen in Christ even before the world was formed, with a view to be the Son’s holy, blameless, and beautiful bride.
So it is that in the embrace of the Father and Son, by the Spirit, we too are embraced. And as we experience the centripetal attraction of God’s eternal love we also become part of the centrifugal outpouring of God’s creative impulse. We share a partnership with Bezalel and Oholiab who were filled with the Spirit of God “with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs” in order to have a setting appropriate to the worship of God. [Exodus 31:1-6]
What, then, of artistry apart from God? Of beauty treated selfishly? The biblical answer is that apart from Christ we can do nothing. Not even in the realm of aesthetics? No, nothing. That’s not to say that a mimicry of true art will not be generated. Or that echoes of the music birthed by angels won’t be heard on earth when human savants overhear their melodies and repeat them. But it will be an artistry of rebellion, not meant to delight God and others but to declare independence and selfish glory.
We see this in the tragedy of Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, who were leading in the worship of God as his priests. In every feature of a sacrificial event they were instructed in the ways of God: the paths to God’s pleasure. Yet in the flow of events they became independent from God—offering “unauthorized fire before the LORD” [Leviticus 10:1]—and God’s fiery glory consumed them. We don’t know the specifics of the event except that God treated their creativity as warfare against his realm and reality.
This fits the bipolarity of the Bible as a whole—of good versus evil—and it reminds us that true artistry is God’s gift given to us and through us. It is a gift with moral dimensions. God is a lover, yet a jealous lover. And the focus of his love is the Son in whom he finds beauty and where our own sense of beauty was birthed. Our delightfulness to the Father comes in our embrace of the Son—as in Psalm 2—where his ongoing creative love pours out to us and through us. Creativity is the impulse of God in us, by his Spirit gifting us to gift others. The creativity need not be narrowly conceived, but it must be birthed in love—a love for God and then for others. And most of all our creativity is meant to delight the Father as we enjoy the beauty of the Son. Creativity is a gift. And everyone is gifted with creation. The two are united in expressing God’s overflowing goodness.