Summary: God continues his creativity through us.


If one were to ask an unbiased observer to name that institution in our society which clearly espouses creativity, we can be sure that he would not name our twentieth-century church. This is an indictment of how we Christians feel about the mandate God has given us for being creative...We do not embrace creativity as a way of life...We do not see it as having much to do with Biblical living.... Calvin M. Johansson.

The church should not only seek to be relevant to local culture, but also an agent of transformation. This often requires creativite risk-taking.

Bara Creativity

Creativity has become a buzzword in our society. Everything from a child’s scribble to Einstein’s theory of relativity is considered creative. Not so in the Scriptures! In the Bible “create” is reserved for extraordinarily exalted activity. The Hebrew and Greek words for it, respectively, bara and kitzo, are very similar in meaning and are employed sparingly to denote only the pinnacles of God’s achievements - creating the heavens and the earth, man, righteousness/justice, the nation Israel, the Church, reconciling Israel and the Church, creating the New Jerusalem, and to regeneration and worship.

In the Bible, creative activity must contain something of the miraculous and the mysterious (Exod 34:10). If the phenomenon can be explained away by natural means, it is no longer bara activity.

Inquire from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything been done like this great thing [God’s creative act], or has anything been heard like it? (Deut. 4:32 NASB)

Moreover, in both the Old and New Testaments bara creativity is power theology. It urges a rethinking of everything, a transformation of one’s worldview to acknowledge God:

That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it. (Isa. 41:20 NASB)

Meanings Change

The meaning of words, however, can change over time, and the word create has undergone extraordinary change over the centuries. In the Bible, man is refered to as a maker or fashioner, but never as a creator. A comprehensive examination of the word “create” in the Scriptures reveals that in all 86 cases it refers to activity performed exclusively by God, never humans.

Against this backdrop, Christians insist man’s calling is not to create, but to work with the materials of creation responsibly and obediently for the delight of mankind and benefit of all creation. They see in Genesis chapter one a “cultural mandate,” a broad directive for focusing human energy:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. (Gen. 1:28, emphasis added)

Christians take this passage as a command, a charge, to subdue not only all living creatures, but to discover and use all the potentials in all materials. This enlarged scope appears justified from these words addressed to man elsewhere: “you put everything under his feet “ (Ps. 8:6); “God left nothing that is not subject to him” (Heb. 2:8). In uttering this mandate, God dignified mankind’s work, and “crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps. 8: 5).

To subdue means to tame, master, humanize, impose order, develop technique—to place our imprint on creation in a positive way. This takes effort, wisdom, and experience and infers mankind is invited to work and to extend God’s creation.

Moreover, God in His creativity has demonstrated a love for immense variety without sacrificing quality! This variety and plentitude of materials on our planet offers an extraordinary range for mankind’s field of action. Notice that verses 28 to 30 read “every living creature,” “every seed bearing plant, “ “every tree,” and every green plant.” Moreover, scripture teaches us to respect the materials of creation:

God saw all that He had made and it was very good. (Gen. 1:31)

Additionally, the following helpful Scriptural metaphor teaches us to lovingly care for the created order.

Adam and Bezalel: Master Gardeners

The kind of “subduing” and “ruling” that Scripture envisions is not that of raping the environment or squandering or suppressing human potential. The image appropriate to subduing is “that of gardening. Man’s vocation is to be the world’s gardener.”

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food...The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work [”cultivate”] it and take care of it.

The devoted gardener learns the secrets of good management - when to water, when and how to prune the trees for the benefit of all.

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