Further thoughts on Biblical creativity

Last week there were wonderful contributions to the discussion on Biblical creativity from @huwtyler on this blog, and @pmphillips elsewhere. I would like to continue that discussion a little further here. Sometimes when we discuss creativity we can talk it up as a kind of oozlum bird – that mythical creature which always stays one elusive step ahead of its pursuers, before eventually disappearing completely. It is easy for people to become discouraged when Biblical creativity is under discussion, and simply to drop out and leave it to others. However, I believe that there are things we can do to stimulate our creative ability, and I list some of them here.

I would love to have drawn these like the particles of an atom, rather than in this rather dull circle – since like that atom the act of biblical creativity can unleash tremendous power. However, until someone else can redesign it I shall leave it like this and describe its constituent parts. They are taken in no particular order.

Holy imagination : it is vital to the process of Biblical creativity that we see imagination not as the act of making things up which are not, but rather that of describing things which are. Such imagination, sanctified by God, can open the eyes, unstop the ears, and find its way into the heart.

Surface reading : in order to capture the creative potential of the small stories of scripture we need to have an excellent grasp on the big story. We need to know how the Exodus is echoed in the prophets, or the cross foreshadowed by Abraham’s lamb, for instance.

Deep reading: there must also be that deep reading to which Huw referred last week. This is the kind of reading where we interrogate the Biblical text, and then bounce those questions back on ourselves: what would it have felt like to cross the Red Sea, or to carry Christ’s cross, for instance?

Rest: in my experience creativity is one of the first casualties of exhaustion. Like a snail retreating into its shell, we shut off our creative feelers when the storm comes – and resort to more prosaic output instead.  A person who rests today in order to create tomorrow is not foolish but wise.

Exposure to the creativity of others: some years ago I visited Willow Creek Community Church, and attended a seminar with their creative ministry team. The team leader at the time insisted that the members of her team attended the theatre and cinema on a regular basis in order to keep their own creative edge. On Saturday, with thoughts of Sunday’s sermon in my mind, I was watching Pixar’s fabulous Up. I was struck not just by the beauty of the whole thing, but by Pixar’s ability to tap into deep veins of human experience and longing. Creative people need creative people.

If all this sounds a long way from an ethereal pursuit of some muse -that’s because it is. Of course there are some who lean more naturally towards creativity than others – but all can learn to a certain extent.

What are your golden tips?