Moving From God as director to God as artist

June 26th, 2014

I can't draw a stick figure to save my life. I just simply have never been good at art. I can envision what I want to do or what I want to create, but translating that intention to my pen or brush has always been a handicap of mine. There exists within me a sense of total awe when I see somebody that can take what they have in their thoughts and re-create it for the world to see. Whether it's painting a portrait or creating music or cooking a meal, the human species sometimes stands amazed at the ability of some people to create!

Of course, while the business of creating takes skill and talent and is beautiful in and of itself, there is always something greater, primarily because of its rarity: the ability to create out of confusion. It is, in my view of things, the true difference between direction and art. The former has the potential to do something fantastic in and of itself but remains just as constrained as everyone else when the unexpected comes. The artist, however, anticipates the unexpected and takes hold of it when it shows up. The artist is famed not because of his ability to simply create something good but because of his ability to create in the midst of un-creation.

This distinction, I think, has immeasurable consequences for how we approach both our theology of God and our ministry to the hurting world. Directors are only in control so long as there is no need for improvisation and when the script is never in deviation; artists, however, thrive on improvisation, they thrive in getting their hands messy in the mud of chaos. They do not will it, but they move from mere direction to art when they are confronted with it.

I've heard it on numerous occasions in my own tragedies and in the tragedies of others: "Everything happens for a reason." At least on the part of Christians who say it, the saying tends to be a sympathetically driven but popular misquotation of Romans 8.28 which, indeed, says something quite different: "We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God..." (CEB). The difference is not a subtle one: Our God is always in the business of creation.

Thinking of God as "the Director", no doubt, is a safe thing, for in doing so our insecurities are displaced by our confidence that the perceived chaos could never really be chaos. We want to think that God's "control" is found in his ability to give everything a reason, to give everything a grand metaphysical and timeless purpose. We trust the chef who writes and follows his recipe, even if we don't understand it ourselves. But of course, if an artist is better than a director simply by mere quality, than God's control must not be found in his ability to dictate how things should be but, rather, how things will be after he's done with his redemptive work. His creation is never statically complete but exists as a continuous project.

Despite the musings of certain popular theologians, the cross is not the climax of the Director's cut. It is art, paradoxically horrific and beautiful, where God became the cosmic Artist and put his brush to the landscape. To take something so depraved, so evil, so incorrect as death and sin and create life out of it is not the divine script but, instead, is the divine self-portrait of who God has been and always will be. Since beginning the work of creation, God has always created out of the chaos (Gen 1.2) and, until the whole Kingdom finds its way onto this earth, his process of "making all things new" (Rev 21.5) is always a reflection of continuous art.

The question of God as Director versus God as Artist is of huge importance not just in how we think about God's nature but in how we think of this world and the suffering therein. When we see pain, when we see disease, when we see death are we to think that God has written it into the script of this world? Absolutely, not! That is not our explanation, for there is no justifiable explanation. But that is, of course, where we should see God's control: his ability to take the unjustifiable, the uncreation, and the destruction and thwart them by his own participation in them. Indeed, God's power is not in the fact that he has created Leviathan but rather that he can tame it (Job 41.1-34).

There is, then, I think a huge opportunity before the feet of the Church to call people to see God's true power in his creation of all things. There is no reason for everything but there is a reason for God, and that is simply found in the fact that art is better than direction and it is an Artist that we worship and invite into our lives. Let him paint on your muddy and jaded canvas so you may see the masterpieces he can create. 

comments powered by Disqus