On Art and Christ

Process with Purpose

“In the beginning, God created…”
Genesis 1 : 1

    Christians know this fact to be true. Often times, other faiths will acknowledge the concept of a first causer, but the manner of creating and the character of the creator may be less clear. Within the Christian faith as well, the manner of creating remains a topic of heated and potentially destructive conversation, over the use of evolution or not, the long or short day theory, or the old or young earth. Most Christians, however, recognize the process God chose to utilize. As the God of the universe, with all matter and spiritual forces under his control, God was not limited at all in his ability to create. His power is enough to simply speak “Let there be Earth and everything in it” and it would have been finished and perfectly complete in the blink of an eye. Instead, He chose to draw out his work over a series of seven days. His reasons for this are of course many and vast, and He used this process to teach those who would later read and learn about it. But as an artist, I like to think He had future generations of creatives in mind when He used a creative process. His process reveals something of his character and our own character, and our creative processes are opportunities for learning more of His truth. 

    God chose to break his process into days. From the very beginning, He made himself known in a way which we could understand, in a time period which we could relate to. Whether or not the creation days are literal, He chose to explain his creative process with this unit of time in mind. Already, the Lord has given mankind a touchpoint which will remain for all eternity, or unless we cease to experience days and nights. Artists can look back at the Lord’s creation and learn from how he spread out his work. He allowed himself time to reflect upon the work he completed that day, each time coming to the conclusion that it was in fact ‘good’. The artist ought to see his example, taking the time to consider the work along the way. Reflecting upon the work, in progress, allows the artist to glean from the work, whether it is ‘good’ yet, or not. The Lord can teach us in the times spent examining along the way.

    He also laid a foundation before beginning his work, a “formless and void” earth on which He could build his creation. When He began his full work of creation, the foundation and resources already were present. He was creator God and he “created the heavens and the earth” from nothing, but when describing the process of his creation, the actual seven days of work, His foundation, of the formless and void, existed already. He has made it possible for us to follow in his footsteps and to creating from and out of that which already exists. We do not create from nothing, as this would be an impossible task. He desires rather that we would draw from the resources around us: a.k.a, seek inspiration. Whether one becomes inspired when viewing a seascape or simply the intense color of a ripe orange before beginning their work, he has drawn from existing creation, evidences of original creation. Materials used by the artist, moreover, are drawn from the created world: pigments from lapis lazuli, marble for carving the David and chemicals used in daguerrotypes. In both inspiration and substance, artists draw from the prevailing created order. 

    But the creative process used by the Lord teaches more than simply and to take time in creating and to use the foundation observed in creation. In the first three days, God adds light, gives order to the waters(the “face of the deep” mentioned in verse 2?), and brings land up from the deep. Out of the unknown, and the chaos, He brings order. Then he gives life to these things: he gives purpose and place to the light, he makes the waters and air a home for life and he places mankind on land. His creation progresses from formless, lifeless, and purposeless, to full of life, order and intention. This same progression exists for the artist in each piece he works on. They begin as lumps of clay and gradually, not in one move, become objects of life and beauty. God continually defined and refined what he had already created and the artist ought to strive for the same. When artists continually work for completeness and goodness, He works through the creative process to reveal even more truth to the artist. His process taught about his order, power, and supremacy, and He can work through process now to do the same. He speaks in his people’s process in much the same way he spoke through his own

    God’s last addition to creating, however, holds the most importance. He waited to create mankind, the humble yet glorious image of himself, until the earth was prepared for man. When He did create man, He uniquely breathed life into him. His manner of creating Adam pointed to the added value in him, because he contained the image of God. But the addition of woman teaches more about process. Firstly, God is a perfect and omniscient God, incapable of making mistakes, yet He chose not to create Eve simultaneously with Adam. The Lord always knew his work remained unfinished until Adam had a suitable helper to work with. Yet He allowed Adam to name creatures and begin his work in the garden without a helper. God wanted Adam to search for a helper, knowing he would not find one. He wanted Adam to discover the need for community by himself, through his creative process. Adam had to learn before the Lord could finish his work and call it ‘very good’. Often, the artist’s creativity is much the same. Artists must learn from the work before it can be finished, searching for the truth in the piece where it may not have existed before. The Lord desires to teach through process, his process and our own. 

    The creation works of the Lord teach many things, but the artist can identify in a unique way with the accounts in Genesis 1 and 2. All uncertainties about specific methods become unimportant in this case, instead the focus becomes the undeniable elements of the creation story and their relationship to the act of creating itself. The Lord clearly reveals much about himself through his process: order, beauty, patience, reliability, community, and more. As a precursor and example to Christian artists, the creation story reveals that the Lord desires to make himself and his truth known through process. Artists can be confident in the intention of the Lord to teach in and through their patient, striving processes. The act of creating ties humans inextricably to their creator God and to their undeniably extraordinary beginning.