What can we learn from the way God imagines and makes, and how must we change our ways of imagining and making because of what we observe in His ways?
1. What we call strange or abstract art may be closer to God’s way of creating.
When God created the first giraffe He did not have one to imitate or to copy. It came out of His imagination and, in the finest sense of the word, was abstract, because it did not look like anything else; it had no exterior reference point.
When people grouse about a painting that does not look like anything kindly refer them to God and what He did in starting up creation. Ask them to take a microscope and telescope and note the countless oddities, dazzlements, flashes and sublimities—abstractions all, nothing imitating anything else.
2. With God, there is a difference between replication and continuation.
Our reasoning might go this way, “Yes, I can agree that God was the first abstract artist, but He acted this way only once, to start things up. After the first giraffe, there were billions of giraffes, and I know they are giraffes because they look like each other. So why should we not continue to the parade by drawing giraffes that look like giraffes?” There is a simple answer: even though God may repeat an action, He does not replicate the object of His action. The genius, if you will, of God’s repeated creational acts lies in the deeper fact that giraffes dramatically vary from each other in ways that go beyond their seeming similarities. And it is the variation that not only brings delight but also allows us to tell one from the other. All giraffes have spots.
3. God’s inside workmanship is as exquisite as His outside workmanship.
When God makes something, it is marked by structural integrity and impeccable craftsmanship through and through. There is no such thing as rough work and finished work with God.
4. God’s idea of quality is the same whether He makes something for quick or for long-lasting use.
When God makes something, He does not pay less attention to it or make it less carefully if He knows that it will be quickly used up.
5. God’s handiwork is not divided between great things for magnificent display and doing average things for ordinary circumstances.
Do we have a concept of creativity that is divided between museum mentality and a workplace mentality—great art for the ages and so-so art for the worship place? Look at a rose or look once at the lowly, eatable mango, and you will see inherent beauty at the same time you notice that each has work to do. God saw to it, in His ways of putting things together, that inherent worth, intrinsic beauty and usefulness quietly and humbly merge. Everything we imagine and make should be put to some work, and everything that is put to work should have inherent comeliness.
6. The Creator is not the creation, and the artist is not the art.
God is superior to what He makes, sovereign over it and separate from it. He is everywhere at once, at the bottom of the deepest sea and in the midst of a primrose. But He is none of these, nor can He be. He made the creation; He did not beget it. By the same token, we are not what we make. We are superior to it; we are sovereign over it and separate from it. A potter no more begets a piece of pottery than God begets a salamander.
7. God is not especially interested in straight lines, perfect circles and geometric tidiness; His work is more chaotic than symmetrical.
A statement like this flies in the face of our neatly packaged, superficial and often spiritualized ideas about order, symmetry, harmony and balance in creation. Walk into a meadow and see if you can locate a straight line of buttercups all exactly the same height, each with exactly replicated pedals. Or try to find a strictly triangular stand of perfectly symmetrical trees foregrounding a mountain range the left side of which is a mirror image of the right side. There is no landscape in which we can find any semblance of order, no storm, at sea in which the waves are the same shape, height, creaminess or momentum. Nothing repeats and nothing is predictable. But here’s an odd twist on it all: underlying the asymmetry and the randomness, there are governing laws that do not randomly fluctuate, even though the outward workings of the laws allow unpredictability and fluctuation. With God, “chaos theory” is nothing other than infinitely varied rightness.
8. God has the jump on anyone who thinks that cultural diversity is the greatest thing since the automobile.
For instance, I must be willing to die for the absolute truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, but I can live comfortably with the belief that Beethoven symphony is but one song among many songs, no one of which is the true song. The biblical defense for cultural diversity lies in the way God speaks, the way He creates and especially the way He clarifies the fundamental difference between His Word and what He creates. God is the most complete diversifier we know of. His handiwork is endlessly varied; all of it is good and each particle fits easily into its ordained place. While everything has its own worth, nothing exists independently of the other, for the entire creation is a community of substance and interchange.1
Adapted from Harold M. Best, Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives of Worship and the Arts. InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. 2003. 129-137