What do people do when they make a work of art? What do we mean when we speak of human creativity? Are artists creators?
Humans are made in the image of God; does this imply that, in our creativity, we mirror his creating? Surely in some sense, human uniqueness includes our capacity to intentionally shape the world. Any living being can shape the world, but only humans shape it with intention, having considered the world and decided to shape it in a certain fashion.
But then, we are shaping something that already exists, a big, fat, unavoidable given. Imagine human creativity absence of any givens. You can’t, of course. So for all its freedom and newness, human creativity is unavoidably responsive—and because responsive, responsible.
Maybe we shouldn’t call it “creativity” at all. Or maybe we can grant the noun and the adjective, but refuse the verb: Humans just don’t create.
Trevor Hart is one of the leading lights in the theology and the arts movement of the last two decades. For many years, he co-directed the Institute for Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at the University of St. Andrews with Jeremy Begbie.
Hart has recently published Making Good: Creation, Creativity, and Artistry, the first of three volumes in his Poetics of Redemption. In Making Good, Hart examines human creativity through the lens of the doctrine of creation (though this is also one of the most interdisciplinary books I have read in a long time). His answer is a carefully qualified yes—humans do create.
I recently sat down with Haein Park and Jon Puls, of Biola’s English and art departments, to discuss Making Good.
In the first conversation, we consider Hart’s reference to the necessary unfinished character of God’s creation and its implications for human artistry:
In the second conversation, we ask the million dollar question: “Do artists make new things?”