Why do Christians create? A theology of making

July 16, 2021

Avid moviegoers or cinephiles might recall a bleak tagline from a recent sci-fi blockbuster: “There is nothing more human than the will to survive.”

While the tagline may have succeeded in selling tickets, did it also manage to capture the truth about human nature? Informed by scripture, leading Christian thinkers have a drastically different view of what makes humans human.

One fundamental aspect of being human is to create—to live out a sense of “making.” Yet this is all too easily lost in modern times when we’re better known as consumers than creators.

The truth is that recovering our sense of making begins with acknowledging the abundance of God our Creator.

So how can Christians cultivate creativity and recover this innate aspect of being human? And how can the hope of the gospel influence our sense of making?

Recently on the Subsplash podcast, we sat down with Makoto Fujimura—renowned visual artist and author—to discuss these essential questions and more, starting with the theology of “making.”

THE THEOLOGY OF MAKING

Fujimura’s new book, Art + Faith, unpacks an exciting new theology of making, which is the exploration of creativity and the spiritual aspects of creating. 

The concept begins with God as the ultimate artist. He alone can create something out of nothing and redeem what we see as irredeemable. In Ephesians 2:8–10, Paul makes this clear when he writes of God’s grace and continuous creation in us.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)

Early church fathers also knew this to be true of God. Saint Athanasius, in the fourth century, described the Trinity as “a wholly creative and energizing reality” (Athanasius, First Letters to Serapion).

It’s from this ultimate source of making that human creativity flows. And regardless of how it takes form—painting, dancing, baking—all humans are recipients of this gracious gift. “Making” is a fundamentally human way to honor God’s abundant creation in and around us. Moreover, it can act as a powerful form of prayer or meditation—a time set aside to deeply connect with God and contemplate his gifts.

EMBRACING THE BROKENNESS

Unlike God’s creation, the human process of creating isn’t always perfect. Pottery cracks, bodies fail, food spoils—it happens and it’s all a part of the journey. That is, if we let it be.

Kintsugi—the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery—is a powerful example of embracing brokenness. The broken pieces are repaired and made whole again using gold as a sealant while also amplifying the fractures.

In his work Fujimura has made the profound connection between this art form and the gospel by comparing it to the resurrection of Christ. Jesus still bore his scars from the cross. Similar to how Kintsugi uses the fractures to make the pottery whole, we are healed through Christ’s wounds. 

Much like Kintsugi, Christians should “behold the fragments,” the imperfect beauty in our lives. We are made whole in Christ, and our experiences—both good and bad—make what we create more honest. What’s most important for Christian creators isn’t that we create perfectly, but that we create continually.

We hope this exploration into the theology of making helps you better understand your identity as a Christian creator inspired by the abundance of God and the gospel!  

To learn more about Mako, his work, and his book, check out Equip & Engage episode 25, “Finding beauty in the brokenness.” You can also follow Mako on Instagram and Twitter.

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