Why Creativity Matters
Creativity is not about me. It is not about you. It is not us somehow acting like little gods, creating on our own in the same way God creates. Although He asks us to imitate Him, we are not imitators of God in this dimension. The most we can hope for is to respond appropriately and creatively to who God is and what He means. Creativity is a response.
~ Michael Card, Scribbling in the Sand
Then Hezekiah commanded that the burnt offering be offered on the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song to the Lord began also, and the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David king of Israel. The whole assembly worshiped and the singers sang and the trumpeters sounded. All this continued until the burnt offering was finished. When the offering was finished, the king and all who were present with him bowed themselves and worshiped.
~ 2 Chronicles 29: 27-29
I became a Christian during my senior year in college as a creative writing major. Raised in a family of musicians, teachers, writers, and visual artists, creativity had always been one of my highest held values. When it came time for me to choose what I would study, the choice was easy. There had never been any doubt that I, who learned to read when I was three and had told and written my own stories from younger than that, would pursue anything other than writing as a vocation.
As I felt the Lord drawing me through a group of Christian friends I met at school, though, I experienced a strong degree of tension. I saw the supernatural peace they seemed to have with themselves and others, as well as the way they lived out their faith rather than simply talking about it. I heard them speak about Jesus as if He was someone they actually knew instead of just a mere teacher who said some cool things about loving each other. I wanted to believe in Him, but I was afraid of what it would mean for me as an artist. Could I still write the same stories? Could I write about characters who weren’t Christians, or did all my stories have to end with someone getting saved? Could I appreciate and admire the same literature I saw as influential to my work?
And then, there was the scariest question: if I became a Christian, would I even still be allowed to write at all?
It says a lot about my perceptions of Christianity as a nonbeliever that I asked these questions. While I was not raised as a Christian, the examples set for me by religious communities I crossed paths with sent the message that art did not have a place in the lives of believers. One of many reasons I did not want to know God was because I felt that He wouldn’t value what was most important to me: my writing and desire to create complex stories that dealt with suffering and conflict. In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth.
In studying what the Bible says about the arts and what scholars and believing artists have written on the subject, I have discovered that God deeply values creativity and creative gifts. He has to. We often quote Genesis 1:1 as evidence of God as the divine Creator of life, but if we look even closer, we see that the entirety of the Bible’s epic narrative hinges on five words:
In the beginning, God created.
Creativity must matter to God because it is at the core of who He is. He didn’t have to create the galaxies, or the earth, or the animals, or even us. He existed in perfect community and fellowship with the rest of the Trinity, His Son and the Holy Spirit. Nonetheless, He created because He could and because He wanted to. “If God is the source of all goodness, then revealing Himself and His character to us is one of the most loving things He could do,” writes Jordan Traynor, author of Called to Create: A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate, and Risk. Not only this, but Timothy Keller adds that “God made the world knowing what it was going to cost Him.” He knew that through the betrayal of Adam and Eve, the human race would be tainted by sin, and that only through the sacrifice of His Son could that relationship be restored. Yet, His creative nature is so a part of Him that He couldn’t not do it.
As His creations, made in His image, we, too, have the desire to make things. Whether artists are believers in Christ or not, they create because it is literally in their DNA. As the quote that precedes this entry from Michael Card states, this does not mean we are “like God” in our capacity for creation. Unlike Him, we cannot make something out of nothing. Our art is made from the pieces of our lives, our most cherished moments and the detritus of personal pain, as well as the imagined parts of stories, music, film, and paintings that allow the entire picture to come into being. God uses the artistic process to help us make sense of who we are, and by the same token, help others make sense of themselves. Regardless of subject matter, genre, or form, all art has the capacity to minister.
Obviously, my questions about whether being a writer was compatible with being a Christian were answered, and I believe that once they were, the door to the possibility of my becoming a follower of Christ swung open wider than it ever had. Today, my art is an essential part of my relationship with God; I trust Him to lead me to what I should write about and what form it should take, and He is always faithful in this endeavor, helping me navigate confusion about each project and overcome self-doubt. Most of all, I trust Him to put my work in the hands of those who need it, and as I’ve experienced through messages received on social media, letters, and other comments from readers, He always has. My art is the way I worship Him.
I’ve decided to start this blog because there is a need for more Christians to write candidly about this topic. Too many people have the misconceptions about the intersection of art and faith that I once had and that the Enemy often uses to confuse or discourage me. My mission is to discuss the ways that these two integral parts of myself work together; how art informs my understanding of God, and vice versa. It is my prayer that this project will provide encouragement for other Christian artists and help all of us to better understand how God wants us to use our unique artistic abilities to bring Him glory.