Colin Harbinson


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Article: Restoring The Arts

by Colin Harbinson

A Chinese government official was looking for ways in which students from his country could get creative training in the West. Upon selecting a potential school, he was told that study of the bible was a part of the curriculum. He responded, “Chinese students need to study the Bible. The Bible is a work of art.”

Although not acknowledging the truth of God’s word, this official recognized truth about the Bible. God’s revelation of himself is full of stories, parables, metaphors, allegories, songs and poetry. Because God is an Artist, He communicates truth in creative ways. The bible truly is a work of art!

When looking for what the Bible has to say about creativity, the book of Genesis is both the starting point and the primary source. Here we see God the artist at work, and learn about His original intention for His creation. (Gen 1 & 2)

God created ‘out of nothing.’ Chaos became cosmos, as the Holy Spirit burst into creative energy at His command (Gen 1:2,3). Wisdom, the ‘master craftsman,’ delighted and danced in the world God created (Prov 8:30,31).

Human creativity finds its expression in this world He made for us to enjoy. Creativity is at the very heart of God’s personality. It is also of great significance in the lives of human beings, made in His image. Human creativity must be understood in the context of the original, and the redemptive purposes of God. It must also be seen within the creaturely task of cultural development. (Gen 2:15)

The beauty of creative endeavor can be given a valued place in our lives, for its own sake (Gen 2:9). It can also be a powerful way to express our worship of God, or to ‘show’ truth in a unique and revelational way. The universal language of the arts, illustrates that all human beings are a reflection of the one who ‘formed’ them (Gen 1: 26,27). For the same reason, every people group demonstrates universal, yet unique cultural expressions of music, dance, drama, storytelling, art, crafts and architecture.

This is not to say that every cultural expression is good. Creativity, like every other area of human reality, has been ‘shaped’ by man’s rebellion. The effects of idolatry are clearly evident in the world of the arts, as the truth of God has been exchanged for a lie (Rom 1:23, 25). God’s good gifts have been distorted.

There are those who would abandon creativity to its own woundedness. But God is in the process of redeeming His fallen creation. Through Jesus He broke into human history, with the view of bringing all of life back into harmony with His original intention (Col 1:20). For this to happen, there must be a process of recognition, repentance and restoration. The distortions must be recognized and repented of. Restoration comes through the application and outworking of Kingdom values and principles (Rom 14:17).

This does not mean that creative expression should only deal with the redemptive side of life. Truth demands that we also recognize the sinful nature of our world, as well as God’s redemptive work within it. The bible deals with every aspect of our fallen nature, but it never glorifies sin. On the contrary, it always represents truth, and with it God’s broken heart over his rebellious creation. When we see things through God’s eyes, His Holy Spirit can use our creative gifts to bring revelation to others.

God is looking for those who will be committed to excellence of character, as well as to creative excellence. If we are to represent truth, we must first acknowledge and deal with the truth about ourselves. The most powerful spiritual warfare is how we live. Sin will always curb God’s creative flow through our lives.

His Church should be a celebrative people, reflecting the creativity and beauty of the Original Artist. We must not despise the gifts that He has given to us. To embrace them joyfully, demonstrates a fitting response of gratitude and stewardship. God is restoring creativity, and has called us to work with Him in the ministry of reconciliation. (II Cor 5:19)

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