Today’s blog was guest written by CPLS Rhetoric School Faculty, Dr. William Isley.
The two great enemies of creating beauty in the modern world are the exaltation of chaotic energy and the narrowly utilitarian demand for functionality. In contrast, the Bible describes the creative process as the ordering of chaos and the filling of emptiness to produce something that is fruitful and then declares it to be beautiful.
In Genesis 1 we are told that God ordered the chaos of the created energies in days 1-3 and filled the creation in days 4-6 so that his creation would be productive of life. The culmination of the process is the creation of man, male and female, as the image of God to fill the earth and rule over it so that the earth might be fruitful (1:26-28). Five times in Genesis 1 God calls his creation “good” (1:4, 10, 12, 18, 25) and at the end “very good” (1:31). In the context of creation, the Hebrew word translated “good” means something that pleases God and fulfill his purposes. The picture is God as an artist stepping back and admiring his work and calling it beautiful. These declarations of the goodness of his creation are tremendously significant for the role of humans in the world.
As the image of God, we humans, male and female, are meant to reflect God’s character and actions. We are called to be artists who create beauty by bringing order to the world’s potentially chaotic powers resulting in fruitfulness and life. Understood in this way, the creation of beauty is not limited to the fine arts of painting, sculpture, music, and dance. Gardening and farming produce food by ordering earth’s resources (Genesis 2:15). The cook, the automotive engineer, the home decorator, and the baseball player harness the energies of nature, their possessions, and their own bodies to create powerful machines and actions that are beautiful. The poet harnesses sounds and orders words to create a poem. Above all, living by the Holy Spirit channels our powerful and God-given emotions and desires to create a fruitful life (Galatians 5:22-23). Such a life is not only beautiful because it reflects God’s character, but it is also free because we are and do what we have been made to be and do. Thus, it turns out that disordered chaos is not free nor productive and that a commitment to creating beauty is fulfilling and productive.