Talk to anyone who is well-read on the concept of “free will” and you may find yourself discussing any number of heady things, from the five points of Calvinism to the four Spiritual Laws. In Christian thought, free will is typically associated with our ability to choose to follow or reject God and His grace. In this sense, it is associated with sin or where you go when you die. It is a heaven or hell thing.
But I think that one of the more under-explored aspects of free will is something that defines us as artists: Creativity.
What is creativity anyway? The word is synonymous with imagination, innovation, originality, individuality, artistry, inspiration. Creativity is a new way to tell a story, a different way to catch a mouse, the silhouette of a new car. Creativity is a song that makes you tap your foot, or a joke that makes you laugh, or a movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Creativity is the photography of Ansel Adams, or the Wright brothers’ first powered airplane, or a new flavor of ice cream. Creativity is all of these things.
Human creativity is one aspect of what theologians call “the cultural mandate,” which is essentially our job description here on earth: “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” This cultural mandate includes the blessing to prosper and procreate, to be responsible for the care and stewarding of the earth, to develop societies and invent and explore, and also to create and express ourselves in the created universe. In this sense, creativity is a vibrant and essential part of our free will.
Creativity happens, in part, because all of us were created to be unique beings. We all see the world in our own special and distinct ways, and are able to express this view uniquely. Each of us sees the sunset differently. Each of us feels sadness differently. The smell of bacon and eggs in the morning is a distinctly different experience for each of us, because we each bring our senses, preferences, physicalities, and memories to the breakfast table.
Theologian Jeremy Begbie says in his book, Voicing Creations Praise, “I have argued that the Christian faith presents us with a vision of created existence possessing its own latent orderliness and meaning, and that a crucial part of human creativity is to be attentive to that inherent order, to discover it and bring it to light.” What I think he is implying is that the act of human creativity is in part the act of revelation, a revelation of God’s creation interpreted through humanity.
And this is my point: Creativity is one inherent aspect of being made in the image of God. Creativity is an act of the human soul, where our free will and our personality and our intellect converge. It is a gift from God, imbedded into all of humanity. And more than that, it is mandated as a part of our purpose here on earth.
And this makes sense—when we realize that our Creator God is the author of diversity and beauty and goodness. And we are made in His image.