Images and Idols Review

Book Review: 

We are created. Not only that, our calling is to be creative and to let our gift of creativity bless the world we live in. More importantly, our calling as created beings is to go back to the Creator, God our Father. For we are made in the image of God and everything we do is a reflection of God's grace to us. In a stirring book about letting our creativity become our act of worship, authors Thomas Terry and J. Ryan Lister come together to help us knit together the grand spectrum of creativity through art, beauty, and theology. Like all books that touch on Christian spirituality, the authors begin with God. Jesus has said that without Him, we can do nothing. For if God is the Creator of all things, surely the gift of creativity comes from Him! In the foreword, Jackie Hill-Perry says it well that creativity is "best understood in light of Him and not in spite of Him." Ditto that. What then is need is to "reclaim creativity" from warped definitions and erroneous implications. How is it reclaimed? Terry and Lister assert that reclaiming means:

What belongs to God should go back to God;
We should be reconciled back with God;
We recognize all creative work flows out of God;
Creativity is for God and is there for the worship of God;
Turning our works into acts of beauty in worship to God.

The authors demonstrate the connection to God by declaring that acts of creativity needs a beginning and a direction. Any haphazard art strategy or plan arising from some random idea would only end up in "exhaustion and superficiality." Thus, our creativity stems from the glory of God, and because of this, our response is to reflect the glory of God. Put it another way, we begin and end in God.

This book essentially looks at creativity from five theological orientations. First, creativity is anchored in God's very nature. Terry and Lister spend a substantial amount of time to emphasize that our fullest expression of creativity is in God alone and for God alone. This has to do with our origins and the creation. As the Architect of the Universe, God has also given us the capacity to provide blueprints in our creativity. As Artist, God augments the work with beauty. As Author, God tells the story through His work. Second, creativity is purposeful. This has to do with calling and mandate. As people created in the image of God, we continue in God's work. Not only that, we take on God's attributes of giving, of blessing, and of influencing the world for good. When our purpose becomes an extension of God's purpose, we begin to tell the big story of God, to love our neighbour as ourselves. By linking creativity with the greatest commandment, we see creativity as the way to do just that. Third, creativity has been corrupted by sin. From bringing glory to God, we become more self-centered, more self-determined, and more idolatrous. Not only do we turn our attention away from God, we make others do the same. This rebellion has to be dealt with. Fourth, creativity is also about redemption. We are restored in Christ. Our art and creation should reflect the wonderful work. Finally, creativity leads toward the glory of God. We are the new creation.

My Thoughts
Creation is good for God has said that when He created the world. The good news is that it continues to be good. Our participation in the creative process continues to bring about lots of good. In some quarters, people have separated the arts and the creative process from theology and Christianity. This should not be. Christians are called to be creative beings. Creativity ought to be the inspiration for all good works and all beauty. The authors make a powerful case to help us think theologically about our world, our works, and our worth. We learn to see the world from God's perspectives. We see our good works as an expression of God's creative being. We remember our worth as being connected to Christ our Saviour and our Redeemer. This book gives us much theological framework to inspire our creative works. Every aspect of theology could be part of that inspiration. Even the reality of the Fall could be seen in the Old Testament. The Bible often paints idolatry as is, to show us the horrors of sin and wickedness. It reminds us that man's efforts like the tower of Babel are simply inferior ways of copying God. I like the way Terry and Lister frame the overall scheme of things.

We are stewards of God's gifts;
We extend God's creatvity;
We love our neighbour through creative arts and good works;
We bring glory to God as more people enter His kingdom;
We rejoice as God's kingdom come.

Most of all, there is a progressive movement of being freed to worship God and to bring glory to Him through all our creativity. This book is definitely more about theology than practical applications. I am still intrigued by the cover, what the letters C, H, T, and D stand for. Is the tower referring to the Tower of Babel or the steps to the glory of God? These are questions that perhaps the authors would know best. Nevertheless, if you are looking to find theological support for our art, music, and creative calling, this book would provide that.

Thomas J. Terry is founder and executive director of Humble Beast, a record label and ministry in Portland, Oregon. He also serves as executive pastor at Trinity Church of Portland. J. Ryan Lister is professor of Theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is also director of doctrine and discipleship at Humble Beast.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.

This book has been provided courtesy of Moody Publishers without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.