Creation, creativity, image of God

In the Bible, the term ‘creation' can mean both the process by which the universe was made and the created order which emerged.

The creation of the world

The description of the creation of the world in the book of Genesis doesn't focus on the details of the creation process. Instead, it emphasizes God's role as the creator of all things and describes his pleasure in what was made, repeatedly recording that ‘God saw that it was good'.

Genesis contains two accounts of God's creation of the world. In the first (Genesis 1:1-31; Genesis 2:1-3), creation takes place over six Creation‘days': (1) the division of light and darkness; (2) the division of the waters; (3) the creation of the dry land and plant life; (4) the creation of the sun, moon and stars; (5) the creation of sea creatures and birds; (6) the creation of animals and human beings. On the seventh day God rested.

The second account (Genesis 2:4-10) focuses on the place of human beings in creation. God first creates man from the dust and breathes life into him. He then places man in the Garden of Eden (see Big ideas: Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, ‘Second Adam'). In order to provide companionship for man, animals and birds are then created and named by man. Finally, God creates woman as a partner for the man.

The statement, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth' (Genesis 1:1) indicates that God is a unique creator, making matter from nothing. Scientific theories, such as the Big Bang Theory, also imply that the universe began from nothing; the Bible sees a creative plan and intelligence at work.

Humankind made in the image of God

The statement that human beings are created in the image of God, (Genesis 1:27) is the subject of much discussion. What does it mean that humans are created in the image of God? Clearly, since God is spirit, not a limited physical presence, the human body cannot be a copy of God. Nevertheless, human beings have the possibility of a special relationship with God, through their spiritual nature, often called a soul (see Big ideas: Soul). Christians also believe that God sent Jesus Christ, his only son, who was born in human form (this is known as incarnation) yet fully sharing the nature of God.

Human creativity

Some people think that human intelligence, for example as evidenced through language and through individual creative abilities, indicates something of humankind's divinely-given qualities. There is, however, a clear distinction to be drawn between God, the creator, and everything else in the universe – creation. The word ‘creature' means ‘something created', and in this sense all humans, as well as all other matter, are creatures. As Paul explained to the people of Athens, ‘since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill' (Acts 17:29).

The fact that humans are creative, however, is thought by believers to be a reflection of the idea that human beings are made in the image of God. Much poetry, art and music celebrates both the beauty of God's created universe and the divine spark that seems to inspire such creativity. The famous painting by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, depicting God's creation of Adam, suggests this spark of life passing from God to man at the moment of creation. Conversely, Blake's painting of Newton, holding a compass and peering downwards at the ground (a figure now reproduced as a statue in the courtyard of the British Library in London) suggests that even the brightest human mind is limited by the search for a logical answer to what is beyond human comprehension.

Creation and destruction in literature

That creativity brings people nearer to God, and that destruction – the opposite of creation – brings them closer to evil, is graphically depicted in the short story The Destructors by Graham Greene. The leader of a gang of boys, called T, decides to destroy a beautiful house by attacking it from the inside. T uses the metaphor of worms destroying an apple from the inside. ‘They worked with the seriousness of creators and destruction after all is a form of creation. A kind of imagination had seen this house as it had now become.'

Related topics

Big ideas: Soul; Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, ‘Second Adam'

Other cultural references

Graham Greene's The Destructors

Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel fresco - God's creating Adam

Blake's painting of Newton

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