Make Something: Creation, Sub-Creation, and Us

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There are ways of seeing truth that you find and there are some that find you. An illustration found me, inevitably, one day as I prepared to teach my children about the unrivaled, creative power of God. I commend it to you.

Get out some blocks such as children use to make houses and towers. Leave these alone on an otherwise bare table. Call up a clever child and say “Make something.” When the child makes something, a little house most likely, you thank him and ask him to stand aside. You tell him that it’s good, and you invite the compliments of other children.

“Very creative.”

“You’ve made something very nice here.”

Then you knock all the blocks off the table and you point at the void where the blocks were.
“Make something again,” you say.  The kid will be puzzled, or laugh. You repeat, “Make something.”
You thank the child and ask him to sit down and the lesson teaches itself after that. Questions flow easily, like “Who can make something out of nothing?”

Soon you have taught your way through the theology of the power of God and the principle of sub-creation.

It is an effective illustration, and the children see more with their eyes than they can hear with their ears –and the truth is dazzling. There are many themes you can develop from there. Who is original? Well, God is. Who is derivative? Well, man is.

We recently were blessed with our third child and we named him Micah because of the meaning of the name. Who is like Yahweh? The answer is a silence as empty as a bare and blockless table. Who is like our God? Who can stand against him? To whom can he be compared? He is absolutely holy –set apart. He is the elusive Other of all our regenerated longings, the earliest Enemy of our rebellion. This truth –properly considered– fills us with appreciation for the incarnation, helps us understand the mystery of the church as a mystery, and gives to our thankfulness an astonished aspect. It puts the lie to our man-centered worldviews, embarrasses us in our pride, and informs our art.

Informs our art –how? Because we know that we are sub-creators. We are reflectors of a light we did not speak into being. So we are not original. However, we are unique –not as creators but as creatures. For we are becoming amazing art ourselves, the workmanship of the Father –so there is no room for boasting.

There is, I think, room for appreciating our own art. As Lewis said, “If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself.” I think it is this attitude that informs the Rabbit Room’s spirit. That is, positive reviews of what is worth considering, appreciating, and receiving (as opposed to consuming).

The exclusive glory of God, which teaches us to abandon idols, ought to work in us a delight in, and appreciation for, God’s holy work –his people. That can be extended, I believe, to the sub-creations humbly made for the glory of God and the joy and service of God’s creatures. I don’t think that this means we have to approve of every piece of utilitarian, pseudo-fiction drivel printed by zealous evangelists with little appreciation for beauty. But I do think that we are called to charity, something the Rabbit Room is notorious for, in my view. My own critical nature has been softened by my interaction here. But approving what is superior, while useful and helpful, also carries some significant risks in the area of pride. We have no status of our own that gives us standing with God. This is the heart of the Gospel. This applies to our own sub-creative art and to our view of what we may consider our refined taste (easy things to be proud about).

So let’s point each other to excellent things worthy of our attention. Let’s add to the beauty by inventive and humble sub-creation. But mostly let’s remember our Creator, remember that we are dust, and that our life is a vapor. God is interested in his own glory, and we ought to be too. This is a happy thing.

We may as well be pleased with it.


8 Comments

  1. Tony Heringer

    “But I do think that we are called to charity, something the Rabbit Room is notorious for, in my view. My own critical nature has been softened by my interaction here.”

    Nice line Sam. Can we consider this our collective sub-creation?

  2. Robert Treskillard

    Sam,

    This really fits in with your post at The Maple Mountain Story Club about the debate between Douglas Wilson and Mr. Hitchins. Perhaps your “make something” illustration could have been part of their live debate that happened last weekend at the Christian Book Expo!

    I do think you’ve nailed it about the Rabbit Room: Charity. I hadn’t thought of that myself, but it was lurking there in my subconscious like a friendly smile. That truly is what characterizes this place, these people.

    Thanks,

    -Robert

  3. Janna

    “He is the elusive Other of all our regenerated longings, the earliest Enemy of our rebellion.” Um, that sentence really blew me away and I had to read it like 5 times to get it.

    And this ” . . . what is worth considering, appreciating, and receiving (as opposed to consuming).” is something I constantly struggle with, both as a reader and a writer.

    Good thoughts.

  4. Micah

    S.D., I am writing my Philosophy of Music Education paper for school, and I am taking some time to deal with the performers right to enjoy their own art, and I was wondering where that Lewis quote is from.

  5. Profile photo of S. D. Smith

    S. D. Smith

    @sdsmith

    Hey Micah,

    I had meant to retrace and nail down that quotation before posting, but got in a hurry and forgot (oops). I knew I had the quotation close, but it’s actually a few words off. I have now, thanks to your question, traced it down and corrected it. The quotation is from The Weight of Glory, which is a small book with several essays, one of which is the actual essay entitled “The Weight of Glory.” Very small volume –brilliant stuff. The quotation is from there, and here is the proper version, with an additional sentence in front which may actually assist you in your effort:

    “Perfect humility dispenses with modesty. If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself.”

    In my little Weight volume it’s on page 38. Thanks for reminding me of this and all the best on your paper.

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