Our Calling to Christ-like Creativity

Another block to studying the doctrine of creation and its implications for our lives is that it is not seen as a specifically Christian doctrine. After all, Jews and Muslims believe in creation, as do Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, etc. If it’s not a distinctively Christian doctrine, why write or read about it. Let’s move on to more Christ-centered, more Gospel-centered material.

But wait a minute. Although the Bible initially ascribes creation to God in general (Gen. 1:1; Isa. 40:12), the New Testament attributes the primary role in creation to Jesus (1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:15-17; John 1:1-3; Heb. 1:1-3). Although all three persons of the Godhead were involved, yet Jesus, the Son of God, is given the most prominent and productive role in creating the world and everything in it.

Which raises a question. We can all see a role for Christ in saving the world, or in re-creating it. But why involve Him in a perfect world that needed no redemption…yet?

Answer: Creation is part of Redemption.

As there was a plan to redeem the world before the world was created, creation was a redemptive act, in the sense that it was part of the plan of redemption, and done with a view to redemption.

In creating the world, Christ was setting the stage for the unfolding drama of redemption. He designed the props, the background, the lighting, the set, the actors, etc. He made sure that everything was suited to the redemption He planned to perform.

Created with a view to re-creating
When we begin to look at creation through the lens of redemption, we see not just Christ’s power, wisdom, sovereignty, etc. but we also see His mercy. The way He created was with a view to re-creating and to explaining re-creation. For example, salvation is portrayed as being re-made in the image of Christ, being lighted by Christ, of Sabbathing in Christ, of marrying Christ, etc., all “invented” at the original creation.

When Christ was making the sheep, the sparrows, the sun, the stars, the grass, the flowers, etc., He did so in the knowledge that He would use these to teach old creatures how to become new creatures.

Creation has a redeeming role
Looking at creation as made by Jesus with our salvation in view changes the way we look at creation. We’re used to speaking of redeeming creation, but we should also speak of redemptive creation. Creation itself has a redeeming role. Creation is Christ-ian. Now that should motivate study of creation, shouldn’t it?

And not only study, but it should also inspire creativity. Because if our creator is Christ, creativity is part of our calling to be Christ-like.

Previous Posts in Created to Create series
Competitive Creativity
“But I’m just a Mom!”
Creatorless Creativity
Creationist Quarterbacks
Concrete or Crocuses
Don’t kills Do
World Flight and World Fright

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3 Reasons for the Epidemic of Christophobia

One of the worst things you can be called today is “Homophobic,” often defined as “having an irrational fear and hatred of homosexuals.” However, while alleged homophobia (together with any opposition to homosexuality) is being aggressively intimidated out of existence by an ever-vigilant media and militant homosexuality, another phobia is growing, Christophobia, “an irrational fear and hatred of Christ and of Christians.” Indeed, often those who are most vigilant against homophobia are the most violent in their Christophobia.

Christophobia is not new; it’s as old as Luke 8:26-38, where, after Christ delivered a man from thousands of demons, people reacted not by rejoicing but by running away in terror, then urging Him to leave. Even the healed man seems to have felt the crowd’s hostility and begged the departing Jesus to take him too.

However, although Christophobia is not new, it does seem to be a reaching epidemic proportions in many places.  Last century, communist nations such as China, the Soviet Union, and North Korea waged a merciless and murderous war on harmless Christians. This century, while communist oppression has diminished, many Islamic countries have taken on the persecutor’s mantle. In January 2011, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an atheist convert from Islam, wrote a Newsweek article on the “War on Christians” being waged across the Muslim world resulting in thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths:

Fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other. 

But we don’t need to look in the history books or to other nations for Christophobia. Even in America, there is a determined effort to remove Christianity from the public sphere and consciousness: Christian holidays and symbols are being extirpated, prayer is banned in public schools, the 10 Commandments have been removed from courts and classrooms, blasphemous art and a mocking media deride Christian values. We might ask, “What have we done to deserve this? What threat do we pose? Why is Christophobia the only acceptable bigotry that’s left?”

I offer three answers to these questions in my monthly article at Christianity.com

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World fright and World flight

We live in a sinful world. Therefore don’t touch the world.

That’s the attitude of many Christians.  Their hope for heaven seems to be founded upon having as little contact with this earth as possible.

Sometimes, this world-fright and world-flight is manifested very obviously in monasteries, convents, and communes. But usually it’s subtler, more camouflaged, more difficult to identify. Some of its disguises include thoughts and words along the following lines:

  • What’s the point in improving the world, it’s all going to be burned up very soon
  • I hope the world gets worse, so that people will see their need of Christ
  • Doing scientific (or theological) research would compromise my faith
  • Beauty = Vanity
  • Why should I try to make unbelievers’ lives better?
  • Inventors just want to make money
  • Politics is just worldly
  • Everything new is suspect

Multiple disguises, but one identity underneath them all – fear and flee the world. Don’t get too involved, discourage progress, dismiss beauty, denounce change, etc.

Stronger command?
Just because the world is fallen and characterized by sin, does not mean that we are to fear and flee it. The same command to fill and rule the perfect world that was given to pre-fall Adam and Eve was also given to post-fall Noah in a sinful world. In fact, given the post-fall decline of the world, should there not be an even greater commitment to filling and ruling it in creative ways?

If one of our children gets sick, it doesn’t reduce our love and commitment to her. If anything, it increases it; we will do virtually anything to alleviate the symptoms or cure her illness. If it’s a contagious disease, we will obviously take extra precautions in our care and treatment, but we’ll never abandon her.

Love and labor
Similarly, we must share God’s abiding love for the world He has created. Despite its sin-sickness, we should also share His desire to alleviate symptoms and cure the disease. Extra precautions are required due to the contagious nature of sin. However, like God, we will not give up on the work of His hands. We will love the world (though not its sin) and labor in it and for it. That’s part of living like our Creator and for our Creator.

That’s not to say that we give up the “pilgrim” outlook (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet 2:11). This world is not the Christian’s “home.” We are to live as nomadic campers rather than long-term settlers.  However, we have work to do while we’re here. Just as God continues to preserve, protect, and provide for the world He will eventually burn with fire, so we are to continue to fill and rule the world we will all-too-soon have to leave.

Love the world?
In fact, surely Christians who are most conscious of how brief and tenuous their pilgrimage here is, will be the most zealous to make the most of their time and opportunities to serve their fellow pilgrims, many of whom are in total ignorance of what this world is all about and have no thought of preparing for the world to come.

Creativity will only flourish where there is a love for this material world, a positive involvement with this material world, and a commitment to live fully here while longing for our eternal home.

Previous Posts in Created to Create series
Competitive Creativity
“But I’m just a Mom!”
Creatorless Creativity
Creationist Quarterbacks
Concrete or Crocuses
Don’t kills Do

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Don’t kills do

For too many Christians, their life is defined by what they don’t do. “I don’t drink…I don’t smoke…I don’t steal…I’ve never murdered or committed adultery…I don’t watch sport on Sundays…etc.”

However valid such ethical deductions are, this imbalanced negativity devastates creativity. These powerful opposing forces simply cannot live together. One must die…and it’s usually creativity that’s the unfortunate victim. “Don’t” almost always kills “Do.”

Just think of a boy who only hears a steady stream of “Don’ts” from his parents. All day, every day, the child is subjected to unrelenting negativity. Even when the boy tries to nail some wood together, the Dad shouts, “Don’t touch my saw!” as the Mom joins the duet with, “Don’t cut yourself!” And so it goes on. Do you think that child is going to thrive and develop? Will he pursue innovation and development? Will he ever experiment or take a risk? Highly unlikely. “Don’t” kills “Do.”

Positive imperatives
For creativity to revive in the Christian community, there needs to be a resurrection of the Scriptural emphasis on positive commands, positive ethics, and positive imperatives (while not losing the necessary negatives along the way).

Think of our first parents. While they were given one negative command regarding eating from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the first and most prominent command was a positive: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

The same command was given to Noah in the post-fall world, though additional negatives were also added to take account of the rapidly deteriorating conditions. Clearly, God’s purposes still included filling and ruling what he created.

Also, although most of the Ten Commandments are stated negatively, consider the positive way that Christ sums them up: “Love God and love your neighbor.” A large part of that double-love is expressed by multiplying, filling, and ruling the earth.

Creation Commission = Great Commission?
Even the Great Commission is such a positive command. Some might say, “Yes, but it’s got nothing to say about creativity, about filling and ruling the earth. It’s about baptizing and making disciples, spiritual activities within the church.”

However, there are some very obvious overlaps between the Creation Commission and the Great Commission. Both involve multiplying, filling, and ruling. Both share the same arena – the whole world.

Part of making disciples is teaching them how to fill and rule the world, and there’s no more effective way of filling and ruling the world than through making disciples.

Previous Posts in Created to Create series
Competitive Creativity
“But I’m just a Mom!”
Creatorless Creativity
Creationist Quarterbacks
Concrete or Crocuses

Check out and Tweets of the Day are on a few more days of vacation

Concrete or Crocuses

The planning process had been bumpy. The local council had delayed, objected, hummed, and hawed. At last, the congregation’s building plan for their new church was passed, with one proviso – that a landscaping plan be drawn up to include trees, shrubs, and plants.

As this was a perfectly reasonable demand, and would prevent a previously scenic site from looking like a concrete jungle, the church leaders approved the adjustment and building proceeded apace. Over the next 12 months, the congregation rejoiced to see the weekly progress and looked forward with eager anticipation to enjoying worshipping their God and Creator in the new sanctuary.

Then, just before the opening day, the letter came. “Why was so much money wasted on the landscaping? Why did the parking lot need plants and shrubs? I’ve been going to church for decades, and we’ve never had tubs of flowers at the front door.”

Tar or trees
Did a secular council have more desire and appreciation for the beauty of creation than a mature Christian? Looks like it. But no, this godly believer had a lovely garden around his own home! It wasn’t so much that he preferred tar to trees, or concrete to crocuses. It was a concern to “protect” the church from “outward adornment.”

That might be hard for most Christians to understand today. But for Christians who know their church history, it’s a perfectly understandable reaction – or, should I say, understandable over-reaction.

Word blocks
At the time of the Reformation, the church had become image-based rather than Word-centered. Paintings and models of Jesus, Mary, and other religious figures and scenes filled churches and were often worshipped, or at least venerated, while the Word of God was pushed to the sidelines.

When the Reformers restored the Word of God to its rightful central place in the life of the Church, many newly-enlightened believers ejected the images and models that had displaced the Word and darkened their souls. It was an understandable reaction against what had blocked and blotted the Word and worship of God.

It’s that sensitivity, that fear of image pushing out Word, of color canvases pushing out black ink, that continues to influence many parts of the church against art of any kind, and indeed against anything that is beautiful. Creativity is therefore often suspected and discouraged due to its associations with artistic idolatry and superstition.

Extreme art
But it wouldn’t be the church if we didn’t also fall into the other extreme at times! Yes, there are some in the church who want to revive creativity but they only associate it with artistic disciplines such as painting, sculpting, music-making, film-making, etc.

Creativity and beauty are then corralled into a small corner, frequented only by a tiny über-trendy minority. The thought of creative parenting, creative management, creative teaching, creative leadership, creative carpentry, creative caregiving, etc., wouldn’t cross their minds. They can find and beauty and creativity in the most violent and perverse films, but yawn at the manager’s innovation that saved his company a million dollars, or the fire-fighter’s ingenuity that saved a baby’s life.

I’m not that interested in the “trendy” creativity of a minority – there are plenty of books and blogs for them. Instead, in future posts, I want to focus on “ordinary” creativity for the majority – for moms, for teens, and even for seniors.

I want all of God’s creatures to create like their Creator in their own special corner of the creation.

Previous Posts in Created to Create series
Competitive Creativity
“But I’m just a Mom!”
Creatorless Creativity
Creationist Quarterbacks

Check out and Tweets of the Day are on vacation.

Children’s Bible Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first 12 months of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s an explanation of the plan.