Before I begin I must say that I owe a large debt to Dorothy Sayers and Dick Staub for writing about this.
Supposing a person unfamiliar with the Christian God wanted to learn more about this God’s character. Starting in a reasonable place he reads the first few words of the book of Genesis, “In the beginning God created,” and then stops. The first aspect of God that he discovers is that God exists. Furthermore that God was in existence “In the beginning.” Second he discovers that God creates or is creative. Reading further this person would discover that God is very creative, bringing forth a new world full of a surprising variety and beauty.
I have heard a lot of attributes given to God. He is loving, holy, compassionate, judging, righteous, wrathful, powerful, and glorious. Creative is an adjective that I don’t often hear in connection with God. A good definition for create is to bring something in to existence that did not exist previously. Creative does not necessary mean producing something unique or highly imaginative, though any act of creativity does require some amount of creativity in the sense of the word we usual use (think anything made by Apple). A look at what God does in the first chapter of Genesis shows that he is highly creative both in the sense of bringing objects into existence and making objects that are imaginative and wondrous.
Toward the end of the first chapter the person trying to understand the nature of God would find the curious description of God creating man in his own image. Does that mean that God has arms, legs, and a body like humans do? What has he learned so far about God? God exists and he is creative. While man may represent the image of God in other ways, existing, real beings and being creative suggest themselves as two key aspects of being made in the image of God. The “I think therefore I am” reasoning echos the existence aspect.
When a man or woman creates they are demonstrating the image of God within them. Just as God created something out of nothing, humans can, in a sense, create out of nothing. A person can design a totally new aircraft in her head and bring into being that which has never existed before. In a way though we are still sub-creators.
Creative must be distinguished for merely making objects or being industrious. A man who photocopies papers or mass produces plastic parts for a toy is creating a object that did not exist previously. Copying is creativity, but in its most limited sense. If you’ve read Lord of the Rings I hope you have noticed that the evil side cannot create anything new. They merely pervert what others have already created. Even their ability to pervert is an echo of the goodness that once existed. Creativity that most demonstrates the image of God is that which brings something new into existence. Its in the song writer who strings together words and notes together in an order that has never been done before to create a song which produces enjoyment in other people. Creativity that is alive and original is the most God-like. Artists, one could argue, are some of the most God-like people.
This brings up an important questions. How creative am I? Are Christians known for being creative people? If we are not creators, each creating according to the unique skills and perspective that God has placed in us, we are not fully bearing the image of God. Merely consuming or repeating falls short. Making is good, but there is something far better. So go garden, write a song, tell a story, build a relationship, fold a paper airplane, preach a sermon, or whatever, just be creative.