Creativity as Sacrifice

Creativity as Sacrifice: Toward a Theological Model for Creativity in the Arts

James M. Watkins
Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    Creativity as Sacrifice
    Book Description:

    Theological interest in art is at a premium. However, theological engagement with art is often enacted without a clear sense of method. This text argues for a theological methodology in engaging the arts, and, specifically, the author puts forward a theological model for understanding human creativity in the light of Jesus’ sacrificial redemption. In dialogue with theology, philosophy, psychology, and art theory, the author establishes the relevance and applicability of an incarnational and sacrificial model of human creativity. Theological models also do more than provide a conceptual framework for theological inquiries. They engage the imagination. A theological model for human creativity is like an invitation to join in the creative vision God has for the world, and to embody this vision in one’s own creative work. Therefore, Creativity as Sacrifice does not merely articulate a conceptual framework for human creativity; it also casts a vision for human life as a creative response to the gracious gifts of a creative God.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-9423-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    David Brown
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    The wordcreativitymakes a late appearance in the English language.¹ The modeling of human agency upon divine power, however, began at least during the fifteenth century.² For example, a new vocabulary for artistic production—including words such ascreare,ingenium,fantasia,imaginazione, andinvenzione—developed in the fifteenth century that contributed to the rising status of artists.³ The transfer of divine creative powers to human agency continues through the modern period, and in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is manifested in the form of “genius.”⁴ In its early usage, applying language typically reserved for a divine context to a...

  6. 1 What Is a Theological Model?
    (pp. 15-40)

    How does one reflect theologically on the experience of human creativity? How does one reflecttheologicallyon anything at all? We can define theological reflection very broadly as the human activity of making sense of the world. This activity can be so pervasive and commonplace that we take it for granted until we are confronted with a crisis in which the world seems meaningless and purposeless. It is helpful then to offer a more descriptive definition of this activity:

    Theological reflection is the discipline of exploring our individual and corporate experience in conversation with the wisdom of a religious tradition....

  7. 2 Theological Models for Human Creativity in Twentieth-Century Theologies of Art
    (pp. 41-72)

    Theological models are like tools composed of language because they perform afunction. There are some who think the function of theological models for human creativity is peripheral or merely illustrative in a theology of art. I wish to show, to the contrary, that theological models for human creativity perform a central and essential function in a theology of art by structuring one’s thought about and engagement in artistic creativity.

    To support this claim, we will survey an array of twentieth-century thinkers who use theological models for human creativity. Although premodern thinkers did use similar models, the significant difference between...

  8. 3 The Work of Genius
    (pp. 73-104)

    Today, we speak of a genius as apersonwho excels in any discipline. A genius is thought of as mastering an activity, such as musical composition, without the normal training required to do so. A genius seems to be endowed with an innate ability to perform much better than his peers. In the eighteenth century, however, the wordgeniusreferred more specifically to somethingabout a person. Genius was thought to be the faculty of mind that produces excellence in a particular field—even, and especially, when no rational explanation is forthcoming.¹ Whatever explanation for creative achievement the concept...

  9. 4 The Icon of God
    (pp. 105-134)

    Over the next two chapters, we will explore two theological models for human creativity that insist upon an intrinsic connection between divine creativity and the incarnation. Even if there is an intrinsic connection between creation and incarnation, why should thinking about creativity in light of the incarnation be helpful? The concept of genius associates “genuine creativity” with the purity of origins: genuine creativity does not rely upon tradition, genuine creativity happens in the privacy of the artist’s studio, and genuine creativity happens before the artist begins to compose in space and time. The incarnation, however, is an act of God...

  10. 5 The Sacrificial Offering
    (pp. 135-162)

    If the icon of God model focuses on creativity as an act of communication, the sacrificial offering model invites us to think more broadly. Rooted in the incarnation as a redemptive act, the sacrificial offering model provides greater scope to see the creative process as an activity of communication and discovery. While we often think of creativity in narrowly individualistic terms, the sacrificial offering model asks us to consider how creativity is caught up in and shaped by our relationships withothers. Not only is creativity about communicating an idea, it is also an act of service and sacrifice.


  11. 6 The Anthropological Costs Moving from Creator to Creature
    (pp. 163-188)

    In chapter 1, I argued that one can assess a theological model by weighing two different costs: anthropological and theological. The theological cost refers to the way that the theological model organizes and draws upon the Bible and tradition. The anthropological cost refers to the way that a theological model shapes our understanding of the experience of creativity. In this chapter, we will explore some of the anthropological costs of the sacrificial offering.

    It is my hope to persuade the reader that Vanstone’s theological model more adequately grasps the experience of human creativity. The reader will recall that the difference...

  12. 7 The Theological Costs Moving from Creature to Creator
    (pp. 189-224)

    Over the course of this project, the question of whether divine or human creativity needs its materials, traditions, and communities has emerged as a central theme. In chapter 3, I argued that the modern concept of genius encouraged a picture of the artist as one who does not require the normal means to accomplish a great work of art. Likecreatio ex nihilo, the artistic genius does not really need his materials, traditions, and communities because he is endowed with a mysterious and transcendent mental faculty. In chapter 4, I argued that Dorothy Sayers and Aidan Nichols adopt similar sorts...

  13. Conclusion Creativity and the Kingdom of God
    (pp. 225-230)

    Contemporary American culture places a high value on creativity. In his popular bookThe Rise of the Creative Class,¹ Richard Florida argues that the U.S. economy shifted in the last half of the twentieth century toward a creative economy. He points to evidence such as increased corporate investment in research and development, and the growth of creative industries such as publishing, TV, film, and music.² Although he sees the economy as driving this shift, Florida is even more interested in the cultural changes that have come about in this new creative economy. He argues that a whole new class of...

  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 231-254)
  15. Index
    (pp. 255-259)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 260-260)