Creative "Forms" in the Biblical Creation Perspective
God formed the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:19), and finally also Adam (Genesis 2:7), whom, alone among all His creatures, He made "a living soul" by breathing into his nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). To give Adam a help meet for him, He formed Eve from Adam's rib (Genesis 2:21-23), thus laying down woman's being "flesh of man's flesh" and "bone of his bones" and hence their becoming "one flesh" in marriage (Genesis 2:23-24).
In accord with God's creation mandate to man to exercise dominion over all the earth and its creatures (Genesis 1:26, 28), implemented through Adam's charge to dress and keep the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15), God brought the animals He had formed before Adam so Adam would name them (Genesis 2;19). Adam responded to God by naming the animals according to their God-created identity or essential character, manifested of necessity by their forms in their various kinds. Of course the creatures' forms perfectly corresponded to their inward characters in God's perfect creation as yet unmarred by man's Fall, much as in worthy human works of creativity (even today, after the Fall) their essential content and outward form intentionally and fittingly complement each other.
As with the formation of earth on Days One and Two of creation week, so it is with creation and formation of all other creatures of God. All are known to Him from before His initial creation of the world out of nothing, for "known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18); we also know that faithful believers in Christ were chosen in Him "before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4, I Peter 1:2). However, God forms His creatures in visible matter in the fullness of created time. This is not forced upon Him, as He is indeed able to both create and form His creatures in no time at all; Christ's first miracle, the changing of the water into wine at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1 11), shows Him as God the Instant Creator if He so wills (as do other miracles of our Lord, for instance, the feeding of the five thousand from five loaves and two fishes recorded in Matthew 14:14-21.
In His omniscience and unfathomable power, therefore, God might have caused all His original creation to "come forth" fully formed, instantly, even as He spoke light into instant existence. His forming the earth, the animals, and man in this is, as all His infallible, inerrant Word in the Scriptures, given for our edification. The sketch of His mode of forming His creation in Genesis 1 and 2 is particularly relevant and nurturing for our own creative efforts. Rather than exercising His sovereign prerogative as Creator regardless of time, He chose to give outward form to His eternal creative decree in six days. His mode of forming visibly, in time, that which he foreknew beyond time in Himself foretells the mode in which we men and women created in His image and likeness are creative ourselves by forming visibly in time that creative vision first arising in us as it were invisibly and Out of time.
God thus accommodated His own creation work to our human mode of creativity, foreseen an~ made by Him. He thereby revealed Himself as our altogether loving, gracious Lord and Father, Love Himself in His everlasting Counsel of the Three Persons of the Trinity, from before the foundation of the world and in it. He humbled Himself to appear as it were of our flesh and blood (Hebrews 2:1 4~ already in the first two days of creation, so he might be like His children in the act of creation. We can be bold to say so because Jesus Christ, the Father's image, the firstborn of every creature (Colossians 1 :15j and by Whom all things hold together (Col. 1:1 7}, also humbled Himself, taking part of our flesh and blood literally (Hebrews 2:1 4~. Jesus Christ, "being in the form of God. . . took upon himself the form of a Servant, and. . the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:6-7). And Jesus Christ "does whatsoever the Father does" (John 5:1 9~ and "always does these things that please the Father" (John 8:29b). We can now see that the Father and indeed also the Son and the Holy Spirit have humbled themselves to condescend to our creaturely level in the very act of initial creation. let theological modernists scoff at the Genesis account of creation because it is "anthropomorphic," portraying God as resembling man. We who by His grace know Him as our Father through Jesus Christ rejoice and glory in His loving condescension in both the acts and the account of Genesis 1 and 2. Yes, He deliberately made Himself "anthropomorphic" in forming His creation in six days of time (yet preserving His divine Majesty and glory by doing it all in Ofll~ six days of timel), so we might recognize and rejoice and thank Him for our likeness to, our kinship with Him Gloriously from the very beginning of the creation "the foolishness of God is wiser than men" (I Corinthians 1 :25a).
Now as man is a creature (albeit made in our Creator's own image and likenessl, he is himself a "form" or "vessel" shaped by God. Even as the earth before the first tvvo days of creation week. so our bodies are foreknown in all minutest details by God before He begins to form us in our mothers' wombs (Psalm 139:14-16: Isaiah 44:2, 24; Jeremiah 1:5). We are indeed "fearfully andwonderfully made" in that God ordained strength even from the mouths of our babes and sucklings, visits us, made us "a little lower than the angels" and, most astounding of all, gave us dominion over the works of His own hands (Psalm 8). We are the living vessels of God which have power to shape, as His stewards, all His other lesser vessels. We can increase their beauty and joy when working in harmony with the will of our Creator, or else mar and grieve them. Because we sin, willfully disobeying His will, "all creation groans and travails in pain together until now" and earnestly waits and hopes for the full redemption of God's children from among fallen mankind (Romans 8:19-23).
Note that God altered the original perfect forms of creation in response to man's sin. He made the serpent to crawl on his belly and eat dust: the woman's childbearing to be painful; the ground to be cursed by bringing forth thorns and thistles; man's body to decay and return to the dust from which it had been taken (Genesis 3:14-19). All these punitive changes reflected the rebellion and pain man (and Satan) had inflicted upon God, and altered man's life to reflect the likeness of the Creator robbed of His undiluted joy in His original creation (Genesis 1:31) with the sacrifice of His only begotten, beloved, sinless Son needed for atonement and redemption.
As with our Lord both before and after the Fall, so in human creative work vision (content) and form must fit together. Ideally, as with God, they do so "from the beginning" (Acts 15:18), that is, the original creative vision already includes a view of the form in which it will be clothed and thereby revealed. However, man's creative vision usually does not come to him all at once but by stages and increments entailing adjustments of form. This is all right if the overall unity of vision and hence form are preserved, but fatal if lack of cohesion in theme and form results. Of course, same disparity between vision and form is present even in the best works created by man. This inevitable disparity is the result of the Fall where man himself, stepping outside His Maker's law for man, became in content and form disparate from his Creator's original creation vision and form.
while fallen man may produce flawed forms in his creative work in a sense innocently, due to his fallenness, it would seem that when a human creative work is flawed because of a false vision the fault is without excuse (Romans 1:18-21). For all creative vision comes from God and is true to true reality, seeing good as good and evil as evil, beauty as beauty and ugliness or perversion as ugliness and perversion. Man may be an inept implementer of forms (though the more faithfully he labors under God, the more diligently he will show himselt in the choice and technical training for artistic forms, "a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing" fit forms from unfit II Timothy 2:15). But if he bends a creative vision to please the "powers that be," his work, however technically adequate, is wicked and false. Examples of "bent" vision are propagandistic works slanting truth to promote a party line; this is why Soviet art is so sterile and why its forms are so rigid and mechanical.
(When communism in Russia still fed on some truth as during its consolidation and relative cultural freedom in the I 920s, it could still produce great art, such as the movie "The Battleship Potemkin.") Other examples of "bent" vision are, of course, art works seeking to dispense with vision altogether, as though forms alone could exist and communicate meaning.
The disparity between vision and form is always greatest in limes of cultural upheaval. We find, for instance, that the rigid "balanced" literacy and artistic forms of sixteenth and seventeenth century European Classicism, like the old wineskins in Christ's parable (Matthew 9:17), could not contain the new wine of burgeoning Romantic creativity. As with our Lord before and after the Fall, forms must needs be changed when visions and content change. Our own age is, of course, one of social and cultural upheaval unprecedented in scope because for the first time in human history revolutionary changes involve all the world simultaneously. Hence, in large part, our modern artistic preoccupation with form.
We may date the beginning of our age by the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859 because this book showed how man could dispense altogether with God the Creator Anchoring the beginning of the world not in God's creation out of nothing and in God's creative decree in eternity but in lawless, everchanging flow of time and chance rendered all acts of creation meaningless. Denying God the Creator and replacing Him with evolution entails denying man as creator. What man stupidly calls human creativity, the evolutionist must assert, is really nothing but the product of matter in motion.
The absolute distinction between good and evil also falls victim to the evolutionist world view. This means that literary plots (visions) involving the struggle between good and evil become meaningless and are discarded. Some artists of the turn of our century received visions of the reality of evil; for example, the Russian painter Michael Vrubel (1856-1910) left us realistic and frightening portrayals of Satan until he suffered a mental breakdown in 1902 (as did Nietzsche, the prophet ofthe evolutionist "transvaluation of all values," in 1889, the yearAdolf Hitler was born). Artistic surrealism also portrayed this sense of an evil reality lurking behind falsely "normal" reality, foreshadowing World Wars I and II and the hell of the modern Nazi and Communist death camps-
Having shut their inward eyes to God the Creator and His gift of creative vision, modern artists increasingly concentrated on form by itself or attempted to do away with form as an impediment to artistic freedom. (Eliminating form altogether is impossible because, as a painter friend pointed out to me, every picture is limited to the size and shape of the canvas on which it is painted, hence locked in form. Form is an unchangeable fact of reality pointing to the eternal Creator and His unchangeable creative-formative decree.) Perverted, nonsensical forms were and are used to mirror the evolutionist view of the world as chaos (the word "perverted" is meaningless in that world view because evolutionism has no norms). When modern sculptors produce conglomerates of rusty metal scraps resembling nothing so much asjunk heaps, they express the shabby, final and irredeemable ultimate disintegration in hell (while Vrubel could still hint at hell's writhing rebellion and despair in the person of Satan).
The visual arts proceeded from pointillism through symbolism, cubism and dadaism to the "post-modernism" of the 19605,705 and 805. In this final stage anything goes in an inclusive pluralism of abstract expressionisn, color field painting, pop art and minimalism. In music a parallel preoccupation with form for form's sake has brought us atonality, obsessive experimentation with novel sounds and instruments, and the twin opposites of sheer percussion or else total silence (as with John Cage).
Some of the technical innovations in art and music can doubtless be useful to those artists and composers today who are open to God's creative vision, for mere return to the forms of the earlier past is impossible and fruitless. Present creativity (again, Christ's wineskin parable) must always break past molds. In and for all times we must "prove all things. and hold fast that which is good" (I Thessalonians 5:21) in giving form to our creative vision.
The forms of commercial and functional art, literature and music have not followed avant-garde "museum" or "academic" art all the way into the "post modernist" wilderness because these forms have always had to reflect as it were a secondor third-hand creative vision -the comfort, entertainment and taste of practical existence-oriented common people. The patronizing contempt usually heaped by academics and critics upon these "consumers" and the mass production art catering to them is not wholly deserved, for commercial and functional art still implies meaning for man and his world. The trouble with commercial and functional art is, of course, that it cannot by its very nature break new ground or give new life to the arts and must be preoccupied whh form at the expense of vision. In addition, that which is at first restricted to a few avant-garde artists and critics will eventually infiltrate commercial and functional art as well. The anti-creation, evolutionist-relativist, visionless and increasingly formless sculptures and canvasses of post-modernism may not yet decorate our living rooms, but they do depress our eyes and hearts in more and more bank foyers, doctors' waiting rooms and airport lounges.
However, all forms without vision must die in the end, returning to the dust from which they were taken even as did Adam's body. "Post-Darwinist" art, like Darwinist evolutionism which spawned it, has reached the nadir of expression and the end of its tether. Our Lord has raised up the modern biblical creation movement to restore creative vision and forms to His people so He might again be all in all (I Corinthians 15:28) not only in our natural sciences but also in our "humanities," the creative arts.