Creativity does not seem to be a human generated power. Ask any artist, any creative programmer or athlete as to where their creativity comes from, and they start to sound a lot like a theologian…
Creativity is the secular word for what Christians call the Holy Spirit. I don’t care what definition you come up with for creativity, but I guarantee you some Christian theologian over the past 2000 years has used that exact same definition for the Holy Spirit. In the Christian tradition we hold that the Holy Spirit creates, so to use the word creativity is to imply the activity of the Holy Spirit.
Now, it is true some people try to push God out of the definition of “creativity.” But those people often have an antiquated and shallow definition of God. (Basically, if your definition of God isn’t similar as to how you’d define “electricity,” you have an antiquated and shallow definition of God. Think on that for a bit…if you can begin to see how electricity relates to God, you can then begin to see why there are still Christians around today who aren’t historical relics of “old-timey” religion.) Most artists that I am in relationship with understand their creativity arises from someplace, some time, some force-field outside of their strict “consciousness.” ( I am using that word very loosely, but I don’t want this to be a 25,000 word post.)
Since for Christians the Holy Spirit is the creative process, you can see how important creativity is for the life of the Christian community. Without creativity, you do not have God, and with out God you do not have anything to bind your community together. In essence, without creativity you cannot have a congregation. That’s why art and music are so important in the history of Christianity. They are the very activities of God that bind the community together.
Take, for example, the metamorphosis of Christian worship music in many Christian communities in the USA. What’s the biggest change? Worship added drums. What happened, from a theological standpoint, was that creativity has reached a critical mass-point in terms of music. Rhythm was no longer ancillary to the creative process of God. And music sought a way to add rhythm to worship. We call that a “drum kit.”
What started this change, however, was not a need to be “relevant.” or “cool.” We were not bored. We were not “reaching the young people” and all the other bullshit we tossed out whenever we wanted to add drums to our worship. What started this change was the creative power of God to call people together. (And it wasn’t like drums weren’t ever used in Christian worship, just go to Africa, where they use them all the time and have for 2000 years.)
I am not saying that just because worship music uses drums it’s better than other kinds of music. What I am saying is that the creative power of God is behind that music just as much as other music. And just like you can have stupid hymns like “Blessed Assurance” that do not use drums, you can have stupid songs like “Awesome God” that do use drums. We always want to judge God’s creative power on its best day, and it may well be that 200 years from now, Chris Tomlin will be as important to people’s piety as Charles Wesley. Who knows?
Talking about creativity is never outside of the parameters of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. I mean, what is that power of which we talk unless it is the power to create new realities, new worlds, new creations? I will give you a line from the Bible that is probably about 1950 years old. Paul, early in his ministry, probably within 20 years of the death of Jesus, wrote this famous line:
“So if anyone is in Christ there is a new creation, everything old has passed away, see everything has become new.” 2 Corinthians 5.17.
Paul might not have understood electricity, but he certainly understood God creates, and if there’s any creativity going on it must be God, it must be Jesus, it must be the Holy Spirit. Creativity is the Holy Spirit in action in our world.
May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.
Scott Frederickson, Ph.D., is a Lutheran theologian and educator. He regularly blogs at Thoughts from the Prairie Table.