We are now in the middle of a five part series on the role of comparisons between divine and artistic creativity within a theology of art. In Part I, I introduced the topic and suggested that the role of a comparison between divine and artistic creativity in a theology of art is often closely connected to one’s theological approach to the image of God. In Part II, we considered those who regard creativity as part of the structure of humanity. In Part III, we will consider those thinkers who take a functional approach to the image of God. The functional approach is based upon the view that the image of God, in the biblical literature, is linked to a royal ideology. According to ancient thought, the king serves as the representative of God in the same way that an king might use an image or statue to represent his authority and power over land and people. In short, the functional approach is concerned with the function of humanity in creation rather than with what humanity is.
Those who take the functional approach tend to be very suspicious of comparisons between divine and artistic creativity. Calvin Seerveld argues, for example, that even the word ‘creativity’ is unhelpful: “There are no biblical grounds…for the usual talk about artistic ‘creation.’ Comparisons between God as capital A Creator Artist and man as small, image-of-God creator artist are only speculative and misleading.” While Seerveld offers a strong argument against comparisons between divine and artistic creativity, others are simply dismissive. Nicholas Wolterstorff says that a comparison between divine and artistic creativity is negligible within Christian theology: “I think the existence of a significant similarity between man’s composing and God’s creating is only a peripheral component” in the doctrine of creation.
But why should these thinkers be so hesitant to make comparisons between divine and artistic creativity? Both Seerveld and Wolterstorff agree that the autonomy of the individual is the primary theological problem in modern thought. Wolterstorff, for example, shows quite clearly that the modern artist assumes the view that he or she is ‘like a God,’ and he suggests that these divine pretensions are nothing more than the creature rebelling against the Creator.
For those who take the functional approach, the solution to the modern problem of human autonomy is to re-assert humanity’s obedience to God. The functional approach challenges the artist to be obedient to the ‘norms’ God has made in the cosmos and to what God is calling the artist to do. Seerveld writes that “when artistic activity is truly obedient, it will know and disclose a holy freedom that is constrained and driven passionately by the love of Christ, wanting to bring its new offerings close to the workaday people of God.”
What do you think about this approach to artistic creativity? Are these thinkers correct to challenge the commonly held view that creativity involves the production of something new? Do you agree with these thinkers that it is better for the artist, and perhaps everyone else, to avoid comparisons between divine and artistic creativity?
 Stanley Grenz, The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei (Westminster John Knox, 2001), 197-99.
 Rainbows for a Fallen World (Toronto Tuppence Press, 1980), 26. Seerveld’s position on the imago dei is idiosyncratic: “Man is not God’s image, a finite parallel to an infinite Perfection. Only Chirst is a spitting image of God. The fact that man is made in the image of God means that men and women carry inescapably around with them a restless sense of allegiance.”