By Eugene C. Scott
What do Charles Schultz, Beethoven, J.R.R. Tolkein, Johann Sebastian Bach, Rembrandt, Charles Dickens, Georg Handel, Annie Dillard, Graham Greene, Michelangelo and C.S. Lewis have in common? No, they are not all dearly departed. Author Annie Dillard is alive and well, thank you. They are, however, all artists: cartoonists, musicians, writers, painters and poets whose work defines their genre. They also have in common a connection with their Creator. Each of these artists loved God and expressed that love through art.
We don’t often recognize it, but many of our creators of classics were those whose faith in God drove them to discover, invent, explore, write, paint and excel at their calling. Bach scrawled “Solo Deo Gloria” on each of his compositions because he wanted all to know his music was written to bring glory to God alone. It has! Rembrandt produced more paintings depicting biblical themes (850 religious versus 500 portraits) than any other subject. Rembrandt clearly possessed a passion to illustrate the truth of God. Tolkien created an entire fantasy world out of his belief that story telling reflects the eternal Wisdom and Beauty of our Maker.
Creativity and the arts are logically and intimately connected to our Creator. Genesis 1:1 and 26 reads, “In the beginning God created
the heavens and the earth. . . Let us make man in our image, in our likeness. . . .” God is creative and part of the image of God we bear is the ability also to create. God took nothing and formed it into magpies, rainbow trout and us. We build mud into temples, sheet metal into Jaguars and with ink we invent worlds. Tolkien rightly called us “sub-creators.”
That is not to say those who make no room in their lives for a Creator are not creative. The creation account does not say God granted the divine image only to those who believe. Many who have crowned themselves their own masters have become maestros. All humans carry creation in their genes. Simply because I don’t recognize the source of a river does not mean I cannot drink deeply from it.
But in knowledge and truth lies freedom. To know God as Creator frees us to create in the highest sense of the word. Pop culture is a testimony to the downward spiral of creativity. Rare are the Paul Simons, J.K. Rowlings and Picassos; rife are the Brittany Spears, Mr. T’s and Survivors. When a crucifix suspended in a jar of urine is passed off and hotly defended as art, is when we know the connection between creativity and the Creator has been stretched to its limit if not broken.
Christianity has been one of the culprits of this disconnect. Christians marched out of the age of reason believing imagination, story telling and theater were inventions of the devil. Some ancient churches banned art. And just twenty years ago, Contemporary Christian Music was thrown into befuddlement when Phil Keaggy, a masterful guitar player, produced an instrumental album called “The Master and the Musician.” Critics said it could not be a “Christian” album because it never mentioned Jesus by name.
Yet, James, the brother of Jesus wrote, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” Good art, engineering, poetry and parenting comes from God. Art need not reflect religious subjects only to be great. But we must recognize creativity flows from the One, True Artist in order for art in us to flourish. You and I were created creative. We can decorate our corner of the world by letting God’s art purl through us.
Eugene C. Scott loves creativity and is writing a novel, writes poetry, dreams up lots of crazy things but can’t cook a lick. He is co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church which is a grace-filled group of people who also love and welcome creativity.
By Eugene C. Scott