Creator and Sub-Creator, part I

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"We are made in the image and likeness of the Creator of all things and as such, we share in His creative power. Man is, in effect, as J.R.R. Tolkien put it, a sub-creator."

The Parable of the Painter

There was once an artist, a painter of consummate skill who conceived a great work. He first spent weeks sketching and refining his inspiration. His studies for the various elements were works of art in themselves. When he was satisfied that he had captured his vision he began the task of preparing his support.

He spent days searching for the finest canvas, and days more stretching and preparing the canvas for paint. He sealed the surface with a foundation of gesso, sanding and reapplying until the ground held the perfect tension upon which to paint.

The paints he mixed himself, grinding the pigments and mixing them with a medium of his own invention. Finally, after many weeks, he was prepared to begin the painting.

He worked with skill and confidence. His brush never hesitating or erring. His composition was perfect, it held the eye and the imagination to such an extent that the viewer lost all track of time, gazing in endless wonder at the arrangement of the elements. The colors showed a harmony seldom seen, vibrant and luminous, echoing the music of the cosmos.

When at last he laid down his brush, the painter stepped back and saw the great beauty of his work. Exhausted from the effort, he then took his rest.

But the painter had an enemy, one who, out of envy, sought to disrupt all that the painter created. While the painter slept the enemy came into the studio and introduced a flaw into the foundation of the work. This flaw grew, spreading over the work threatening to destroy its beauty.

When the painter awoke and saw the damage done to the work, he thought first to destroy the painting and begin the long process again. But the work was precious to him, a child of his imagination, and he could not bear the thought of destroying it. He considered correcting the flaw but feared that it would simply reappear as it now had become part of the work itself.

Finally he concluded there was only one way to save the work. He painted himself into the work and taught the work how to correct itself.

In His Image and likeness

In the story of the fall of man from the Book of Genesis, the serpent is hard at work trying to undermine God's creation. The serpent comes to Eve, the mother of the living, and asks her, “Did God say, 'you shall not eat of any tree in the Garden'?” But Eve responds “Of the fruit of all the trees in the Garden we may eat; but 'Of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden ,' God said, 'you shall not eat, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'”

But seductive voice of the serpent was ready with an answer, “No, you shall not die; for God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5)

But the words of the serpent were a lie. Only a few verses before, we read, “God said, 'Let us make mankind in our own image and likeness,'” (Genesis 1:26) Being made in His own image and likeness, man was already like God.

What does this mean, to be made in the image and likeness of God? What does it mean for the creative individual, the artist that is part of every human being? Traditionally we are taught that being made in the “image and likeness of God” means that man was created with free will and an intellect, in imitation of God's perfect will and understanding. But we can go further. We are made in the image and likeness of the Creator of all things and as such, we share in His creative power. Man is, in effect, as J.R.R. Tolkien put it, a sub-creator.

this article originally appeared at www.DeaconLawrence.org

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Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university

Lawrence Klimecki is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He maintains a blog at www.DeaconLawrence.org