What Is Creativity?

One of the most common statements I hear in response to the subject of creativity is, “I am not creative.” This statement is pregnant with a set of assumptions about creativity and about oneself. Generally, what is meant is the person does not perceive him/herself to be good at arts-and-crafts or to possess aesthetic talent, such as decorating, drawing, or dancing. How we define ourselves influences greatly what we are apt to do.

Defining the human being has been a foundational undertaking where people from different schools of thought have derived various conclusions. According to the ancient, biblical perspective, humans were fashioned after the image of God. But what does this actually mean? This notion of being made in someone’s image or likeness did not mean to be exactly the same as someone but to resemble that individual on a definitive level (Gen. 5:3). While the Bible does not provide an explanation for being image-bearers of God, it provides a dramatic display of God as Creator prior to him creating humans. So we literally get an image of what God is like. He unfurled his imagination upon the canvas of space to bring a complex universe into existence in all its beauty that reflects the quality of goodness. He not only creates the physical substances (atoms and molecules) and compositions (mountains and seas), he fashions the intangible virtues of reality (order, harmony, goodness, benevolence, righteousness, justice). Planets tethered to a star by gravity convey the quality of order, balance, and harmony in the universe. The polar juxtapositions of massive versus small and complex versus simple generate wonder. A world conducive for a multi-faceted array of life forms, co- existing together in a self-supporting ecosystem, conveys a reality that is good and benevolent. Before he made people in his image, he demonstrated who he was in the drama of creation and made a fundamental aspect of God’s character obvious – creativity. If God’s image is the blueprint for our being, then creativity is an innate quality of our being. There can be different kinds, degrees, and levels of creativity, but creativity is nonetheless foundational to who we are. Creativity is a capacity of our souls to continue in that original endeavor of creating what is good.

Creative being is part of our identity. Embracing our creative identity empowers us to harness our creative capacity for the good of the world. Without a theological premise for our identity, we can too easily undercut who we are and what innate attributes we possess. The theological premise establishes a paradigm for us to think of ourselves as creative persons. Often, the paradigm we measure ourselves against is a commercial one or social stereotypes of creativity. Creativity belongs to the artist, musician, and novelist as well as to the doctor, accountant, homeless person, mother, and husband. It belongs to people.

The empowerment to be creative is also a responsibility. The creative mandate is to create music, movies, dances, culinary dishes, bedrooms, bridges, paintings, parenting techniques, exercise plans, and community events. Creativity is about exploring better ways of doing things and finding better ways of relating to each other. Our creativity moves the human race forward. It betters the world. And it cultivates good lives.

In the end, as creative beings we both follow and participate in the creativity of the Creator in the timeless work of creating the good.