Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Our Creative Mandate (Part 3): Holding the Keys to Culture (not Gozer)

I know I know… yet another film revealing both my age and my geekish tendencies but you have to admit, this one was great, wasn’t it?

Forgive a crude link to a theme but the notion of ‘holding the keys’ has captured my thoughts for the last couple of days.Beyond the mere freedom to create in the presence of our God we are called into a mandate with responsibilities for our creativity. As image bearers of God we are charged with the cultivation of the earth: God did not say, "Let there be culture" but entrusted the culivation of His creation to us: as if we have been granted the keys to culture by which we protect and unlock that which God has invented through His word.

After God has created man in his image he says to them,

“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Genesis 1:28

There are four instructions given here: to be fruitful, to increase in number, to subdue and to rule. What do they mean? How do we follow these instructions in the arts?

I’ve already said a few things in a previous blog about bearing fruit and multiplication. There was a literal instruction for Adam and Eve to go and have kids but the instruction moves beyond mere reproduction of the species: God’s command comes in the context of developing culture across all of creation. The first humans were to bless the earth and blessing means to enlarge, increase, multiply.

When we read “subdue” it brings negative connotations to us at first. Elsewhere in the Old Testament the word is used to describe the crushing of nations, literally translating as “under the heel” or “crushed down” but Genesis doesn’t prescribe a tyrannical oppressorship of culture. Far from it. We are to bless creation and cultivate fruit, not reduce and oppress. Our subduing of culture marks more our authority in creation as those who rule over it as image bearers of the ruling God.

As Uncle Ben once said to Peter Parker, “With much power comes much responsibility.”

Recently, I heard Ted Ternau speak at the European Leadership Forum on this subject of stewarding creation. He described our role as something like "zookeepers of the imagination". I thought it was a great analogy. If you’ve ever been to a zoo where the animals are badly kept you’ll relate to the sense of despair and hopelessness the animals convey. A poorly kept zoo yields despairing and hopeless animals. As we serve as custodians of God’s creation - this precious gift of God for our enjoyment and care – we are to manage it well, taking care of all areas of society and culture.

I see it something like holding the keys that unlock culture: realise it’s full potential. What are these keys?

They include integrity, sincerity and authenticity: we are called to reveal something of truth in a created yet fallen world. They include humility, prayer and hope: we understand that it is the power of God’s spirit that brings new life and leads our partnership in new creativity. They include artistic invention, critique and hard graft: the tools by which Adam first began to cultivate creation back in the Garden of Eden.

As we hold out the keys to culture we do so in wonder at the gift of governance God has entrusted to us and, if you’re anything like me, with a certain sense of awe that makes you cry out, “How do we do this Lord?”

No comments: