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Joel BelzVoices Joel Belz

Think creatively

Maybe we’re asking for the wrong good things

Think creatively

Food relief is prepared for delivery to hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico.(Bebeto Matthews/AP)

Ask the 535 members of the U.S. Congress to list the first three attributes of God that come to their minds, and I’ll guarantee you one that they’ll almost certainly leave off: His creativity.

What a pity! To be sure, it’s not just politicians who tend to minimize that aspect of God’s character. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone, in any context, list creativity as one of God’s chief attributes. I mention politicians first here only because they have such enormous influence over our lives. Close behind would have to be the millions of people who make up the educational establishment—or maybe the massive population involved in medicine and healthcare. Relatively few of all those people seem to treasure God’s inclination toward creativity.

But not everyone ignores that aspect of God’s character, or delays mentioning it in favor of other attributes. Scripture itself starts with the profound observation that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The Apostles’ Creed also makes the point right up front: “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”

I’m suggesting that when you think about God, day in and day out, first and foremost, as a creative Being, it makes a difference about your outlook in general. You don’t think about His running out of things. You don’t think about His needing to use conventional tools to provide new products and new supplies. You think instead about His enormously creative capabilities and inclinations. Creativity starts with nothing and ends up with something. It starts confidently with an empty container and fills it up. When folks downplay God’s creativity, they don’t just insult God. They shortchange themselves—and cut themselves off from God’s great blessings.

‘We’re on the edge of global starvation,’ the progressive liberals wailed. Today we have an overabundance of foodstuffs.

So does all this also make a difference in what you think about tax reform, the gross domestic product, and other key economic factors? I couldn’t help asking that question when I read last week about the grim negativism being hurled at the Trump administration for its proposals to boost economic growth across the nation and, indeed, throughout the world. At the core of that negativism is the pessimistic notion that there’s only so much wealth in the world, and that it’s our duty to slice that pie cautiously, divvy it up in what a few “experts” say is a fair and equitable manner, and then sit back and marvel at how happy and satisfied everyone is.

And so, says the leftist (and typically glum) Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, there’s “no plausible path to a sustained 4 percent growth” over the coming year. A wimpish 1.8 percent is “a reasonable assumption.”

The same dark predictions filled the world a generation ago with reference to the world’s food supply. “We’re on the edge of global starvation,” the progressive liberals wailed. Today, instead, we have an overabundance of foodstuffs. Even in Puerto Rico, there’s more food right now than the people can consume. But there’s apparently been way too little creative thinking about how to get the food to the hungry mouths.

It’s the same challenge we face around the world. As a race, we seem far better at producing what people need than we are at distributing what we’ve produced. Centuries ago, a wonderfully creative God used His provision of manna for the Israelites not just to feed their hungry mouths but to demonstrate He could meet any need they might have. In the New Testament, Jesus fed huge crowds of people with the same goal in mind. If I can create fast food on the spot, He seemed to be saying, is there anything you think I can’t do?

Similarly today—whether in Congress, the great universities, the medical centers, or wherever—folks mistakenly suppose that their overwhelming needs involve the provision of more goods. Altogether missing from such a perspective is the totally fresh consideration that there just might be sources of new wealth out there, never tapped before but waiting to be discovered, developed, refined, and then generously shared.

Just what is it that we think an infinitely wise and inventive God—the One who designed everything from microscopic amoeba to the planets of the universe—wants to withhold from His children? Do we really think He’s gotten tired of creative solutions?

Comments

  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Thu, 10/19/2017 04:30 am

    Thanks for your comments, Joel. I'm retring next year after 45 years in health care. Almost daily I'm struck by how limited physicians and academics are who talk about "Nature" or some other presuppositional word or phrase that assumes a priori that we have evolved from nothing. There is not a lot of room for discussions about creativity because to go too far down that road opens up too many unanswerable questions. But I marvel at the incredible diversity of what God has created, aka his creativity, and in reality I believe that this world view offers a more reliable basis upon which to begin research than time + chance+ a leap of faith into nihilism.

  • SBTB's picture
    SBTB
    Posted: Wed, 10/18/2017 08:01 am

    I took a class on creativity (divine and human) at Dallas Theological Seminary in the fall of 1991.  It was taught by the late Dr. Howard Hendricks whose creative influence continues to this day in the lives of numerous graduates (although he would be the first to give the credit to Jesus Christ).

  • Dick Friedrich
    Posted: Wed, 10/18/2017 01:47 pm

    And to think that each person bears within himself the image of the Creator of the universe! If only we might be more reverently creative in how we use this characteristic. Not just to think in materialistic terms but to steward with an eternal perspective. 

  • Brent Douglas
    Posted: Wed, 10/18/2017 03:39 pm

    Joel,

    Thank you for reminding us to be creative. To use a term from Tolkien, we are "sub-creators." We can't make something out of nothing, as God does, but we can and should create and be creative in all our efforts.