Full disclaimer: as an artist (musician in my case) I find patterns everywhere. Make no mistake, what follows here is -not- exegetical unpacking of certain phrases from the first chapter of Genesis in context, nor do I mean for it to be.
Rather, I find in the nature of God as He reveals Himself via the Bible elements that we, created in His own image might benefit from if considered with regard to art-making.
As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn
“Creation Creativity Points”
Phrases from Genesis 1:
“In the beginning”
GK- In any creative work there is a spark of some sort. Something inspires the artist’s creativity. I would venture that with God, it was and is love, and not merely love for love of Himself, self-expression or even beauty, but at core, love for His creatures, humankind in particular. But every artwork has a beginning. It may well NOT end up or finish like it looked in the early stages of creation, nonetheless, it’s a start. We have to start somewhere though at times there is no telling where either we or our creative work(s) will end up, nor how they will be interpreted. Such is life. Create!
GK- So at the very beginning of creation there was a Creator. We are small “c” creators. There is a great humility in this (or should be as we consider both ourselves and our creation/s). We create because an element of God’s image is in each human regardless of how flawed, broken, fallen or imperfect that creativity may manifest itself in our artwork. He created. We create. We were created, male and female, in His image. We create with at least an element of His image in us and a measure of our own image in our work. But it is likely our works of art also yet contain that sliver of “gold in the dross” regardless how far we may be from loving relationship with Father, Son and Spirit.
“Formless and void”
GK- Does this not describe a work of art waiting to begin, to happen? From (in terms of element) nothing He creates something. In my case it’s not always “good”, while it was said of Jesus “He does all things well”. There is a sense of “form” in any work of art. From what was not, the form is filled with something and therefore is no longer void. Perhaps a need is met, an answer is offered, a better and more relevant (at least for someone/s) question is brought to mind.
“Darkness [yet] depth”
GK- “Void” as most humans conceive of it, is likely a matter of darkness -and yet I see promise and possibility in the word “depth”. What “depth” speaks to me is more thought, concern, a width, breadth, broadness, layers of possibility much as one finds in the ocean after God was finished creating and stocking it. Might there be depth in our artwork?
“Spirit of God hovering”
GK- Theologically, Christ-followers (and not uncommon for others of faith) believe that by His Spirit, that is, God Who IS spirit (as Jesus taught) was present, “hovering” (Hebrew: to grow soft, relax, hover, brood, flutter, move, shake). So the “wind” (Gk. pneuma, for “spirit”) blowing, moving, unseen but certainly at core affects “the face of the waters” in this Genesis account. Artistic expression often starts with peace but moves into inspiration, even agitation. It is not passive, does not leave things alone but touches and begins to shape and bring change. The Spirit was there and moved. He still is and still does, sometimes with us, sometimes without us, sometimes through us. This is a matter of both faith and relationship/cooperation. Great art moves us and moves others.
GK- While I believe certain pentecostal and charismatic speakers are off-the-rails with what I consider extreme word-faith teachings about creating by speaking something into existence (in the exact sense that God indeed did), I still think here is something so obvious that it’s often overlooked: oratory (speaking), writing, lyricism and such are -art- forms. The Artist of all Artists, the Creator-God of the universe imagined, then spoke into the void and everything we see exists. To be clear, I think all science can at it’s foundations do (and often does well, sometimes not so well) is discover what He has done. At times the scientific method (perhaps in reality “methods”) bring tested, proven information as to the practical ways elements seem (theory, sometimes ending up facts, other times proven themselves only temporary theories) as to what in my view, God did and does. We can give a physics answer to how wind works, we cannot accurately, authoritatively discover at very core, -how- the big bang (which may well have happened in my very unlearned opinion) -banged- in the causal sense. I would posit God spoke and “boom”. Back to the point which is God did something, He moved, He did not merely think nor dream nor imagine, but worked and did so with His words and power beyond mere speech. Again, spoken words, written words, sung words, etc., as fact, fiction, comedy, whatever, all can rightly be called works of art and there are of course many modes (forms) of artistic offering. Creativity is at the core. I will only add that God alone needs not neither does imitate or copy anything or anyone. Quite different when compared to human artists, no? I won’t elaborate at this time, but this is a huge and massive point to consider when thinking about art and art-making. I’ll simply mention humility and a listening heart as opposed to thinking we are God and only answer to ourselves re. art and creativity are part of the picture (pun intended!).
GK- I will continue to argue and disagree with those who teach all God does is light in the sense of “beautiful, wonderful, no ill or seemingly troubling affects” from what He either does or certainly allows in this life. The light and beauty of the cross is as clear as the misery, agony and brutality of it. This is a both-and world, and our art reflects this. The largest number of biblical lyrics are STILL “laments”! Yet it is absolutely clear in His Word (The Bible) that He -is- love, that everything He does He does well based in His love with respect to human beings He created in His own image. So God decided dark was not all that was needed, and created light. On the other hand, night did not disappear even after God created day. From all I read in the entire scriptural record I see nothing but light where God and those of his creatures who love and serve Him live before His throne. Yet I do not see only light or continual light in the metaphorical nor practical sense in every other place in the universe or on/above our planet. We still experience this thing called “night”. Darkness and not only light -ARE- and our art even as redeemed Christ-followers of faith lacks integrity if we only bring or express “light” into each and every creative work. That side of truth isn’t served by pretending light is all there is in human experience. At the same time, as I ponder this I begin to think about the many writers and speakers who make the foundational point that artists and art often (re. maturity of both artist and art) can, does and/or will bring “light” to people interacting with such artwork by seeing things in a new way, from a different angle, “in a fresh light” if you will. Horrid paintings or a photo or play or sad dance in some way depicting a dying child may not seem to in one sense bear “light” but such may move people to finally act in compassion and servant hood towards the child or to help bring good and positive change to the situations whereby the child met her agony and death. This would not normally be considered by Christians speaking only of God representing Himself in “beautiful” art work. There is great dissonance in nature, not merely harmonious song. I will argue it is not always an act of the devil that such apparent non-light exists. Pain is frankly, one of many ways we learn to seek Him and not merely our own interests. When we finally listen to Him speak (even when we don’t want to hear His Word…) light is the result.
Jesus’ own words “Follow Me” mean we are free to follow or not follow. We can walk in the light or in darkness.
Do we love Him and serve Him and others via our art? How do we as people (aside from our creative works) best reflect His love? How might we give place to His voice speaking via our creative artworks?
I think these are questions worth considering as we imagine and create.
Gloria Deo! -Glenn