Creativity's Creative Deception

Creativity's Creative Deception

God's Glory vs. Self's Glory in the Arts

by Elsje Zornes | March 1, 2014

Growing up with a mom who has more creativity in the tip of her little finger than most people have in their whole body, meant an early and constant exposure to all things “artsy.” Oil pastels, watercolor, decoupage, silk painting, chalk drawings, pencil sketches, furniture refinishing, batik...you name it, she’s done it. I very distinctly remember being the only one of my friends with a painted and decoupaged freezer in their house. Yes, you read right. Painted and decoupaged. And matching kitchen cupboards to boot.

That being said, I can appreciate the craftsmanship and patience that goes into any art form, and I greatly admire the artistry required to produce one-of-a-kind masterpieces. If you look around in a Hobby-Lobby, Jo-Ann Fabrics or any similar store, it becomes readily apparent that women have a magnetic pull to all things that allow us an opportunity to be creative. One look at a sunset resting on the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, or a glance at the crashing waves of the ocean, and there’s no denying that God is indeed the Master and Author of creativity, and every one of our attempts to “create” pale in comparison with His creative genius on display in all creation. All our talents to make beautiful music, our skills to write poetic pieces, and our abilities to design and decorate a home—they all flow from Him, and were given to us by Him, to glorify Him.

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Creativity is a gift—it’s good. Yet, as with most things given and good in this world, the enemy loves to put a polluted and poisoned twist on it, and he loves it even more when he can get it right into the majority of our modern churches. More and more I have seen a disturbing number of “ministries” surface focused primarily on assisting willing and eager participants “find themselves” and “express their own individuality” through all different forms of art. They have made Christianity about self-expression, instead of a surrendered life that expresses Christ. They seem to forget that arts, music, drama, etc. all exist as a means to glorify Jesus, and not as an avenue to self-exaltation.

This dangerous deception is so very subtle, yet so harmful when taken hold of. Too many ministries focused on the “arts” have sprung up, and it would appear as if they worship creativity, not God. The pursuit of our individuality and expressing ourselves can never dethrone the pursuit of Christ and the expression of His nature within our lives. Our uniqueness becomes an assassin bent on dethroning Christ and taking His glory as the entire focus of our lives. We use Christianity as a means to express our unique talents, instead of using our unique talents as a means to express Christ. Your creativity is not the end, Christ is.

I recently watched a promotional video of one of these arts ministries, and was left wondering where Christ fits into all that they do and teach. This leader argued that during worship we uncover our own identity, and that we begin to love and value ourselves. That seems to be making us the whole point of worship, and directing it toward us and not to God, the only One worthy of our worship and adoration. Such a mindset places the creation and the ability to create above the Creator. Scripture is very clear on this—Isaiah 2:8 says: “Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.”

God did not purchase us with the blood of His own Son, to be “free to be who we want to be.” He has set us free to be conformed to the image of His Son. God desires us to be more like Jesus, not more like ourselves. The Bible says that He must increase, and we must decrease (see John 3:30). Our talents, creativity, skills, and abilities must all be surrendered unto God, to be tools used to glorify Him, and not draw attention to ourselves.

The human heart is such that we don’t need any help learning how to worship. We are always worshipping. The question that we as believers must ask ourselves is this,  “What am I worshipping?” Tozer is one of the clearest voices in Christian history on this matter, and he drives home the point that, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” The swift current of the modern movement to encourage the church to be more expressive, creative, and learn to live in community are all, perhaps, swell ideas. However, simply because the current is swift does not mean we should enjoy the ride. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, creativity is indeed a glorious angel, but if it refuses to submit to God’s purpose for it, it becomes the most fierce of devils. The greater the tool, the worse the weapon if used improperly.

True worship of the Living God is not a momentary surge of creative expression, nor is it the warm fuzzies of being with a bunch of friends swaying to some mushy worship song, nor is it an opportunity to do whatsoever you please; it is walking with a continual persuasion of the worth and preciousness of Christ the Lord.

Also, modern creativity is largely an exercise in vanity and insanity. I recently heard of a modern art exhibit where a rotund woman danced to tribal music on sticks of butter. We have no rule for beauty, because we live in a generation where anything goes and our feet are therefore firmly planted in mid-air! Study the art of ages past, and what you learn is that true beauty flows out of the orderliness and wisdom of our Creator. For instance, I did a little study on Fibbonaci, a mathematician in the 1200s. His mathematical formula gives a series of numbers that when used as the dimensions in artwork are most appealing to the human eye. Here is where we go a little nerdy. What I found most incredible, is that as mathematicians, artists, and scientists began applying this sequence of numbers, they found that the number of petals on a flower are always one of the numbers in the sequence. This is a little hard to explain, but they also discovered that the dimensions of the spirals found in seashells, pinecones, sunflower seeds, and even galaxies were in some way derived from this sequence of numbers.

Our modern artistic and creative world wants to turn inward and just merely let the brushstrokes fall where they land. However, creation points to the fact that God has perfectly ordered this universe to be a place of beauty, light, and glory. Rather than pitching out the order and authority of God and His Word, true creativity embraces the orderliness of our God. And ultimately, true creativity bows before the Creator of all things, and finds in Him the source of all beauty and loveliness.

I think of the old hymn, and remember that we would do well to echo these words:

Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.