We are living in a time when many clergy and lay professionals are calling upon Christians to be creative. This quote from Andy Crouch’s blog is an excellent example:
Christians are becoming dissatisfied with the postures they adopted toward culture in the twentieth century: condemning it, critiquing it, copying it, or just consuming it. More and more, we want to be people who cultivate: people who tend and keep what is good. And we want to be people who create: adding new cultural goods that move the horizons of the possible in places as wide as the world and as small as a home.
There are also many organizations and institutions that have recently been formed on the premise that Christians need to take a more active role in those fields we typically describe as creative. Personally, I agree with the sentiments expressed by Crouch, but I want to know what it means for a Christian to be creative. How can we move the conversation forward from claims that Christians should be creative to a consideration of how Christians should create?
To some extent, I think the answer lies in the nature of language itself. Words like ‘create,’ ‘creativity’ and ‘creator’ are dead metaphors. There was a time when such language would have conjured up ideas about a divine creator.
Today, however, the language of creativity refers in a more straightforward manner to a human activity. The word ‘creativity’ is not a dead metaphor because it has fallen out of conventional usage. Indeed, the exact opposite is the case. The language of creativity is overused and democratised. It is not reserved for great achievements, and so can apply equally well to the construction of a LEGO set.
We use words metaphorically when we take them from one context and use them in another. For example, we speak metaphorically if we refer to God as ‘father.’ In doing so, we take a word normally used in a human context, and, conjuring up all sorts of human experiences, apply the word to God. Metaphors refer to their objects indirectly by passing through some related form of knowledge or experience.
When a metaphor dies, it may have simply run it historical course. What was once a novel and surprising association is worn out through use. The death of creativity as a metaphor, however, is also a theological death. In a post-Christendom society, a robust theology of creation is no longer ‘mapped onto’ the human activities commonly referred to as ‘creative’. The seeming impossibility of belief in a Creator, coupled with new ways of envisioning the cosmos, has stripped the language of creativity of its divine context.
What if we could resurrect a dead metaphor? Some have argued that modelling human creativity after divine creativity is dangerous for the human person, for society and for the environment. Perhaps it is best not to disturb the dead. What do you think? Can we bring this dead metaphor back to life?
To be continued on Monday, April 16th…