“Who made you?” asked the teacher, and in response, 21 kindergartners chorused, “God!” It was our last chapel of the school year, and each elementary class recited a few things they’d been learning from science, poetry, history, or Bible through the year.
The teacher went on to ask a number of questions from the Catechism for Young Children, and it struck me how well such basic faith questions can help us stay grounded when we discuss our creative gifts and how to use them in the world. In this and the next few posts I’ll be using more of these questions, as well as thoughts related to creativity from a number of Christian authors, musicians, and artists, including C.S. Lewis, Michael Card, and Madeleine L’Engle. Here are the first two questions and how the answers can inform our understanding of what is means to be a Christian in a creative field.
Question 1. Who Made You? Answer: God. (Genesis 1:27) What does this mean for Christians in the arts? It’s pretty common in many fields today, especially in the arts, for people to believe truly creative work only comes from those who break away from the rules; refuse to conform; who think they’re the center of realty. C.S. Lewis, in “Christianity and Literature,” Genesis: Journal of the Society of Christians in the Arts, Inc., believes that mindset is similar to what caused the Fall—thinking we are greater than our Creator.
But Genesis 1:27 tells us God made us. In recognizing that, Christians in the arts should humbly acknowledge that any talents or skills we have are gifts from our Creator. Furthermore, He helps us develop and sustain them. Genesis 1:27 also says we’re made in God’s image, so no matter what field we work in, we can tap into our creative gifts.
Question 2. What else did God make? Answer: God made all things (Genesis 1:1-31)
For Christians in the arts, this means we are sub-creators, not creating out of nothing, but joyfully creating from the wonderful profusion of all God has made. Jerram Barrs, who served on staff of England’s L’Abri Fellowship for many years and is the founder and resident scholar of the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary, explains our role as sub-creators this way:
We will be thinking God’s thoughts after him—painting with his colors; speaking with his gift of language; exploring and expressing his sounds and harmonies; working with his creation in all its glory, diversity, and built-in inventiveness. Barrs, Jerram, Echoes of Eden, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013, p. 26.
This doesn’t mean we’re not creative. J.R.R. Tolkien worked with things God created, such as mountains, streams, people, and trees to sub-create the world of Middle Earth and imaginative characters such as Hobbits and Ents. He used God’s gift of language to make up distinctive languages for his characters. Tolkien’s God-given gifts of imagination and storytelling draw readers into a magical world.
In her series beginning with A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle, also worked with part of God’s creation—time—to sub-create an imaginative story about characters who can travel in space because of a tesseract or wrinkle in time.
Like Tolkien and L’Engle, we may write imaginative stories with talking animals and plants. Or we may write devotions and nonfiction that stick to the facts of this world (truly amazing just as they are).
Either way, we’re working with gifts God has given us and materials He’s made. Remembering those little ones shouting, “God,” helps me stay grounded. They remind me that I’m an earthly creature, living and working in dependence on my heavenly Creator.
How do you stay grounded? What reminds you to be thankful to God for your talents and skills?
Stay tuned each 4th Monday as we explore more about what it means to be a Christian working in the arts.
Kathy O’Neill is an art teacher who loves to show everyone they can draw. Visit her website http://www.kathy-oneill.com/ to discover more about her writing and workshops, and her blog https://kathythepicturelady.wordpress.com/ for a Christian view of great art and related projects and devotions for children. Kathy’s goal is to engage children’s and adult’s hearts, hands and minds to discover God and their own creativity through art, history, and nature.