September 24, 2008

Getting Creative

Visit any creative worship arts or communications conference and pretty soon the concept of God's creativity surfaces. Everyone wants to encourage churches to be more creative and to try new things. Inevitably you will hear someone say, "God is creative. Therefore, we must be creative. Just look at Genesis 1!"

While I agree with the need for churches to be more creative in their presentations, their programs, and in their worship services...it is not possible to get that from this verse. They have to twist Scripture and the theological intent of that passage to get that meaning. We are meant to be creative...we just can pull it from this particular passage without twisting Scripture.

Why?

Because we are simply reading a translated Hebrew word, and we miss what is behind it. We have place our own meaning on the word "create" and failed to see the underlying Hebrew word and its intent.

Genesis 1 says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." The word we translate as create is ברא; pronounced bara. To bara is to do something new...to create from nothing (ex nihilo).

Here is the interesting thing...in the Old Testament, God is the only subject to bara. Humans never bara! Humans are never the subject of this form of the verb that we translate as "create." They are not capable of creating in the sense the author of Genesis is using it in this text.

There is another word pronounced aseh which means to make or form...this verb both God and humanity does. It carries with it the imagery of a potter or artisan forming or making something with some raw materials. Genesis 2 shows God forming man from the dust of the earth much like a potter would mold clay. In this sense, we can be like God in the creative (using our modern understanding of the word) process.

Only God bara's...God and Man can both aseh. It is amazing how consistent the Old Testament is theologically. God is capable of creating in a way that we could never dream of doing. Human beings are able to take something and form it, but only God creates from nothing; with no raw materials.

The same word used of God's creative work at the beginning of the world is the same word used to describe the work that God wants to do inside each one of us.

Isaiah's promise of a Messiah and the work he would do indicates that God will make the dessert wasteland into a land flowing with streams and lushness. God is going to bara a new thing! This is a grand promise to those who live in a dessert region and know the scarcity of rain.

But this bara of a something new is also what happens in our lives. God takes the wasteland and sinfulness of our lives and puts in its place a lush land with flowing streams. In the words of Paul, we become a new creation!

If you are like me, you know the power of God's bara in your life. You can look back and see where you came from, and how far God has brought you. God has recreated you, and you are a new creation...as dramatically a new creation as moving from no earth to a fully inhabited earth! With that in mind, I realize that I cannot create. I can only form and shape, and I am content to have that in common with God.

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