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As creatives, we muse and we muster. We set out perspective and prose, colors and characters. We replicate woe and wonder. But amidst all the alleged uniqueness lies divine speech (see chapter 3 in The Speaking Trinity & His Worded World)—words of God manifesting, sustaining, governing, shaping. Above, beneath, below, and behind our creative activity is the all-creating, all-governing, all-grounding speech of the Trinity. We are artists using his charcoal and paper, his oil paints and sky-stretched canvas, his stone, his chisel, his chords. We are imaging artists. We are words of the Worded God.
Our Poetic Use of Creation
As little words tumbling off the lips of God, we have been given a gift: the poetic use of creation. We can manipulate, assemble, stretch, expand, break, construct, synchronize, simplify. We can make and manifest. The artist revels in this poetic use of creation, always looking for new perspectives, new venues, new landscapes.
Some are artists of sight, others of sound, others of structure, others of words. Personally, as an English major, I fall into the last category. I was always delving into poetry and drinking it to the dregs. I loved how poets wielded words given to them by the eternal Word in the potency of God’s Spirit. Some words felt like boats bearing me up.
Life is real;
Life is earnest,
And the grave is not its goal.
‘Dust thou art, to dust returnest’
Was not spoken of the soul.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Others felt like anchors.
Exiled by death from people we have known,
We are reduced again by years, and try
To call them back and clothe the barren bone,
Not to admit that people ever die.
Words. Words. Words. The broke me and put me back together. They carried and called me. Wordsmiths were poets using elements of creation to tear open the doors of the soul, letting the wind whip through. I was enlivened by them. They put vigor in my veins. And it was only a matter of time before I began to wield words in their memory.
But it was all too easy back then to think that these words I read or wrote were purely creative—that such words were the manifestations of little human demigods who created ex nihilo. That, of course, was false.
Mimicking God as Divine Artist
Human creativity is a mimetic behavior. And while mimicry is the highest form of flattery, that doesn’t mean we should ignore the source. In fact, an imaging artist has the high calling of pointing, in some way, back to the all-creating Trinity. And you cannot do that very well if you’re not in communion with the Trinity—in constant contact with the Father, Son, and Spirit.
Vern Poythress draws this truth out from the life and work of Jesus Christ.
Jesus offers a model for understanding human creativity. His work was unique. He alone was able to begin the new creation by rising from the dead. But in an analogous way we too can be creative as we enter into fellowship with him. The key to creativity is fellowship with God, who is the unique Creator. Jesus brought forth the new creation of eternal life by being in fellowship with the Father, obeying the will of the Father, and being filled with the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:11; Acts 2:33). Through Jesus we have our fellowship restored with God (2 Cor. 5:18). Then we can be creative, in imitation of God’s creativity.
Vern Poythress, Redeeming Sociology, p. 55
Christian artists are called to fellowship-based creativity. And because our creativity is brought about in fellowship with the Trinity, we must say that our creativity is ultimately mimetic. We create in communion with God, and so our creations are derived from the eternal and bottomless beauty of the absolute Creator.
That does nothing to dampen the creative work of artists. In fact, it gives our work eternal gravity. If we were imaging something that passes away, then our work would be in vain. But we image the eternal Trinity. So far as our work images God faithfully, it has no ultimate shelf-life. It stays. Because God stays.
My prayer is that Christian creatives will read this and be motivated to channel their poetic use of creation to bring glory to the God who manifests all. Lifting up the name of the absolute Creator should be the goal of every Christian creative.