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 CHAPTER 9

 

CREATIVITY

 

CREATOR AND IMAGE-BEARERS

In Ch. 7 above, this was said:

It is a universe in which EVENTS OCCUR, just as it is one in which SOVEREIGNTY is EXERCISED. Never however do events constitute the maker of the system, nor does the creator subside into the turmoils of the little trifles He has spun out from His mind, and instituted into action in His creativity. As for trying to explain everything in terms of some part, as is so often done, and as Einstein naturally failed to do, since it is irrelevant, it is like taking the words, and, but, is and are, seeing how common they are, and then with nobly seraphic countenance, proposing that REALLY it is all a matter of just those words.

We saw that all was explained in its integrality, creativity and depth in that all-sufficient Being whose word attests His wisdom, whose action His power.

Let us however look at the creativity in one of His creatures, by name man.

How can man be creative ? It is because, as the Bible declares, He is in the 'image' of God. When you are concerned with a Spirit, it is obvious that since it is without material aspects, these being a phase of creation, and as Christ put it, A Spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see Me to have ... then you need to consider what 'image' means.

It is a spiritual image, obviously, that is in view, since this is the entity concerned. What is 'image' in this metaphorical sense ? It must imply, at the spiritual level, just what it would at the material, if material were in view, if it is to retain meaning. Thus there must be a certain sense of representation, of substantial correlation, of capacity to see one in terms of the other with some facility.

Since God is statedly infinite and man is clearly not, per se; since man began, and that Eternal Spirit without whom there would be no cause for any of the limited, delimited and qualified objects which reside in the universe, did not: there is an infinite difference. How could there be any sense of 'image' in such a case ? Only because, the answer is, the question at issue is spirit and not matter.

Thus a child is in one sense an image-bearer of a far more expressive and powerful father. The 'image' relationship, if you take the mental and spiritual apart, consists in KIND. That is, the father can ... love, hate, imagine, create, reject, scorn, scoff, admire, emulate, adulate, communicate, interact intellectually - and have courage or cowardice, loyalty or self-interest likewise, without size, shape, mass or colour. It is personal, spiritual and has meaning in its own field and domain, not elsewhere. It can have means of expression in any domain created for the purpose; but what is to BE expressed, that it is of its own kind.

'The father has such facilities and functionalities, and so can act in these ways. So can the young son, in far less measure in most cases. However there is a 'kind' relationship.

There is a certain ontological texture,  a capacity of nature  which, incorporating all those gifts, also has an integral capacity as a thinking, imagining, relating, cogitating and potentially worshipping being, to allow relationships which are meaningless without this, and intuitive, investigable and sometimes admirable with such a nature. There is a continent of co-operation possible, a skyscape of spiritual companionship as both parties seek what is beyond each, above all, and the only source of a kinship which can become so rich and diversified precisely because it does not end in itself.

What however is that which consists between God and man ? There are differences which the term 'creation' or 'creature' imply at once. Thus there is wisdom available to man, but omniscience in God; there is power in man, but omnipotence in God; there is capacity to foresee in man, dimly at times, but sharply to the end from the beginning in God; there is technical facility in man, but limitless contrivance in God.

Nor is it merely, as in the man-child case, a matter of more rather than less, in the one or the other, of the diverse qualities, powers and capacities. There is a difference, not 'categorical' since God has no categories in which He can well be placed, being unique in all, though His are qualities which are the originals; yet He donates the concept of categories to creation which can at least in a functional correlation, relate to Himself. In Him, knowledge has its habitat; in man, it can to a point be acquired. In Him, wisdom is scintillatingly unsearchable; in man it is derivatively active. In relationship, there is a function in each, original and limitless in One, derivative and limited in the other; but it is a ground of relationship.

Hence man can pray, God can listen; man can create, God can meta-create, providing the source for derivative actions of creativity in man. Man can rebel, God can forgive; man can hate, God can love; man can repent, God can hear.

If it were not for this correlativity of the absolute and the limited, the Creator and the creature in this case, there could be no personal relationship at all. It could parody it, but not be it. Nor would there be any truth in the 'image' nature of man relative to God. However, it is precisely this which is operative in the Bible, in the life of Christians and in their relationship to biblical promises and premisses, which are verified in the living of them.

 

DERIVATIVE CREATORS

What then is the power of man to create ? If his very powers are derivative, what can they have that is not mere outcome ?

It is however because he is in the 'image' of God, in the state of correlativity, that man can have limited but very real powers of actualisation: that is, of bringing things into being that were not there, in any given milieu or system. It is limited; but the limit is not to exclude, but to prevent excess.

You see that in Genesis 3, 'lest man should stretch out his hand ...' and take of the tree of life. In other words, life is not available for sinners, if you mean that eternal life which alone in its field is the desideratum and completion of man. It has to be mediated by remission of what spoils it, first; like stopping smoking before coming to a clean lounge, and being healed of cancer before participating in a life of skiiing.

Man then, has a COMPETENCY as a God-derivate IMAGE-BEARER, to be self-determinative to a point. He can become EVIL, for example; and since the Fall, he can become MORE evil, or even reject remedy and so inherit death as a form of life-incineration. What however can he do in the field of music, art, literature, architecture and engineering, in philosophy (in the good sense of acquiring wisdom and perspective) ?

He can make rather haunting-seeming novels suggestive of love, of courage, of faithfulness;  but how readily do they become either superficial, forlornly lagging, activistically evasive, or subtly distorting! He can mould in thought other worlds with other characters, diversified and dubious, stylised or insincere, and populate them with ephemeral lights that waver, making innovation the spawn of desire and desire the creature of imagination.

Dashing these to the ground, he can substitute other dreams, other thoughts, and even try to implement them in this world, disdaining its actual texture and divine oversight. Unwisely, he can use blood as a colouring agent, and often does as liberty becomes lust and lust rebellion.

Again, man can make artistically evocative things in dress materials, delicate in beauty, imprinted outfits, suggestive of innocence, purity and the freshness of natural scene, or startlingly ugly things, modish and desired, which express hopeless disgust and a sort of silent rebellion. This is creativity. Used or misused, it is his image-bearerís gift.

He can analyse (rightly or wrongly) and recombine elements or qualities which he discerns; he can create characters in novels, and have their moral, spiritual and personal qualities displayed as if they were shone right through with light, and Shakespeare comes perhaps as near as any author outside the Bible, where God Himself is author, to doing this sort of thing with brief pith and eloquent incisiveness.

Some refer to the bard's universal feeling, the sense that some of his (created) characters are expressing not merely themselves, but some aspect of life and human life in particular, in its perspective and in its reality. The Gospel in Shakespeare (Hubert V. Little) is a little book, but it has a wonderful array of quotations from the bard, showing doctrines from the Bible in no mean flow.  It is this sense of moral reality, inescapable forces which, once stirred, may engulf the follies which incite them, along with the intensely spiritual and the saliently personal aspects with them, which tends to make Shakespeare's plays so vital. They are apt to educate, to admonish and to evoke a sympathy and pity which is not for all that, divorced from acute realism or poignant regret.

Thus here is one example of creativity in man. He can create various combinations of persons seen, events noted, historical cases which have happened (or with Shakespeare at times, which Holinshed said happened), and he can vary or add or put in pun or music, joy or contrast, the wise or the humble, and weave a tapestry of events which is as if it came off the wall and walked!

More than this, an artist can conceive the nature of man and then add refinements to history, make adjustments to things seen, bring forces to bear from the independent observation of the same and invent not so much new worlds, but new whirlings of this one. He can stimulate thought by showing, in effect, what very well might have been in disaster for this world, or might have been in triumph, if only ...

He can find the fountain of beauty in God, and painting, in literature or art of many kinds, he can let it flow into new forms, formulae and formats, but always with the same spirit.

Warping, if apart from God, he can bring in madness, as perhaps in Dostoevsky's work at times, quite brilliant in kind, and subtly weave it with cunning on the other side, as in The Possessed, and so make a horror which becomes a warning against the filth of philosophy, when godless, it invades the soul only to empty its richness, like pouring champagne down the drain with abandon and brio.

HOW and WHY ? It because in the image of God, man is by no means excluded from IMAGINATION and UNDERSTANDING, and so can mould things into examples of principles, illusory contradiction of them, evasive substitutes for them, can make persons who exhibit them or woefully ignore them, and so make strutting and stilted objects ready for mirth, or that infectious poison which miscuing creativity can so present for pagan purposes and pernicious aims. WHY ? It is because facility is to be used: it is there. It is because imagination is to be used: it is there.

Sometimes it derives from man's desire to understand, and so to create various possibilities in art, or philosophy or architecture; sometimes it is because he DOES understand, and so seeks to illustrate, apply and stimulate his fellows in heart and spirit to the point that they too might grasp the reality of God which they are missing. Sometimes, it is that he might the better imbue others with his hatred, or ruin them with his ire. Malevolence is not rare; and jutting outrage is not unknown. Nor is the sacrifice which deems it a delight to expand the kingdom of heaven, whatever the resistance; and to do it without the violence of folly, or the viciousness of presumption.

Creativity ? It is in mankind as expansive and self-differentiating as colours as sunset: there is such a canvas of spirit in a person set in a material world where mental analysis proliferates, that there is vast scope in man for creativity. Love is often creative itself, discerning in another some fine possibility of development, and aiding its advent; and the opposite, the desecrative is also creative, even if in a negative and ghoulish sense.

It is one of the wonders of being in the image of God that such discretionary dynamics lie hidden in the heart of man. They can of course turn to the material side in engineering, or the medical in seeking ways of diverting disaster, or into the arrogance of presumption, in trying to fiddle with the instructions to man, not to remedy disease merely, but to make life different. It is like a child trying to fly an aeroplane, and although lift-off is possible, the opposite is certain. It is creativity then not in the image of God but with that age-old blip, in competition. However, it is quite futile, since it is merely playing about with what is given, and seeking reconfiguration of what has been made.

When man is already in rebellion against a plain-speaking God whose word in the Bible is unique in validity, in testability, in verification and in its entire domain of understanding and history's control in predestinative splendour, expressed in words, it is scarcely advantageous to seek to outwit or ignore the God who knows! (See for example,  Calibrating Myths ... Ch. 6, TMR Ch. 5, SMR Chs. 1, 3, 5, 10, esp. 100 -101,  Barbs, Arrows and Balms 6   -7, News 94, It Bubbles ... Ch. 9, Great Execrations ... Ch. 6, Delusive Drift or Divine Dynamic Ch. 3, News 82.) 

However, man's creativity is not limited to useful services, but by his very nature in the image of God, it is specified so that it is quite possible for it to become arrogant and adventitious, as if it were some new thing that would astound not only this world, but its Maker.

But predestination ? how can man be creative when all is known ? That is irrelevant: to commence, to KNOW does not LIMIT what IS! It merely assesses it before it is. It is only the CONTROL which is relevant to  creativity. The control however, as noted, for a being created in God's own image, is not to STOP that image, but to allow its activity in blessing when it harmonises with its construction specifications, and realises its Creator with understanding, or in cursing ultimately, when it deludes itself into trying to avoid, ignore or  bypass its Maker, as if a car in superior mode at its manufacturer,  secretly resolved NEVER, but never to have further relationship of any kind with the manufacturer, his representatives or his manual users. This is of course destructive of the option-user, man himself; but then, he is not forced to love the lovely, to respect the Redeemer or to relish what is true.

Hence in this facility of man's, since it is not stopped, it can still be creative. Certainly, there may be little things like death and disease which bring in extraneous limits, but that is the nature of being derivative. Often these do but little to harass the rebelliousness which can seize creativity just as al Qaeda operatives can seize people and squander their lives in their inveterate hatred, and counter-creative destruction.

There is however one vast limit: if a person ignores or denies or decries God, then knowledge of the truth being absent, there is a CERTAINTY of superficiality, skew perspective, enervatingly eclectic omissions and selections, bluster or detachment from actuality to the point that while it may be stimulating or even amusing, yet it cannot climb those heights which give both ground and understanding. Indeed, the more such things aspire to understanding, the worse they become. If you are creating with charcoals instead of paints, there is a certain ... limitation which spoils, or even defiles.

How often does some noble inspiration fail in the end because it is surrealistic in a way which is neither stimulating to understanding nor ennobling to life! If it is a gaunt mockery, then that is the end of it; but to mock you need to know what it is that is right and wrong, or it is merely a reaction, a defiled response, adding its own pollution to that of the victim or butt. Truth however has its own demands, and is not available where it is not sought, or to be found where there is no exposure from its original and basis, the Lord. Where absent, its shadow is cast like a dulling of inertia, or its absence becomes glitteringly meaningless, like dancing at a funeral.

Many like to externalise by implements of creativity, their loss!

Thus, dress nowadays can have a creative message: I do not understand, do not like what I do understand, and think something needs mocking; and what is more, I  feel important and intend to declare this.

Gone is much of the exquisitely feminine dress where beauty and form, sweetness and artistry that could combine to create a sensation of loveliness. Instead, hair in the older or even aged, coiffure that could lend character is chopped to resemble some thin-cut head of a teen-ager, as if there were not already enough of their sombre clothes; dresses become tight jeans, as if material were scarce, and heads that could have looked out with wisdom and wit, become hard and mannish, as if being obdurate were the story, and inventing new roles were the ultimate in CREATIVITY!

That, it is creative, but also desecrative. If God then knows all this, and He did, and resolves on outcomes, and He does, so that ALL that He foretells CANNOT be prevented by unforeseen events (for otherwise He could do what He has done, predict in scope, detail, perspective, development, concurrent events, sequels, dates and the like), then in what way does that prevent creativity ? It merely ensures that when it is enough, it is stopped; when pride MUST at last have its come-uppance, it does; when philosophic failures need their exposures, they duly get them, and when the obdurate close the eyes of their understanding, becoming as one found in one recent case, virtually solipsistic in order to avoid the truth, as if will were all: then they too find that closing the eyes removes sight, not reality. IT still goes on...

Creativity therefore is as close to predestination as the image of God in man is to imagination. They are not strange bedfellows but aspects of the work and will of God, and His work in man to give him will so that he can be creative, desecrative, inert or abominable, adorable or delightful, noble or crass. Its design gives it power; its derivation limits it; its predestination keeps it all moving to its end.

The beauty however of creativity is this, that when it is used in the presence and power of God, it is like a song of strength, rejoicing with wit in his creation, and expounding, expressing, collaborating in its ways as fountains collaborate with the wind, and their spray is spread abroad. They do not create the water, and their necks are elevated by architecture, but the sheer exuberance of creation is there nonetheless, as a thousand entries and wind in interlocking beauty, create their fantasies of watery wonder.

Man can will it, as well, and can find that perspective in truth which allows a wandering in the mind, as if one were in heaven already, so that while as to station, he is confined to earth, yet he may seek to transmit something of the vision splendid, the vigour supernal and the glory that abounds without limit, there, into this earth's reception, like rain on mown grass. Why not ? Man's creativity like all the rest, is protected by foreknowledge, and has its final direction and rest, not to supersede it but to prevent its madness ruining all for all, and to enable its willingness to become the more dynamic in God's predestining oversight.

He does not do this to ensure that His creation does not act as He made it, but to enable it the better to do so, and to protect what He will, while the nether winds blow their hottest. After all, without creativity, where would test be ? and without predestination, where would man have gone ? God's good hand however brings the pony at last to halt and to halter; and His horses to their fields of wonder, where imagination can abound as goodness provides.