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Nov 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 1, 2015 – Genesis 6:5-8

Christian Creativity
“Inventors of Evil”

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. Genesis 6:5-8

Intro: A few years ago I published a book on postmodern popular culture

After reading it, a professor at USC told me, “What you’ve described is ‘postmodern-lite’”
– he went on to explain, “You left out all the hard stuff – the dark side of postmodernity.”

He was right, and last week I was guilty of the same omission when talking about creativity
– I have to admit that the exploration of creativity excites me
• through creative eyes, whole world is enchanting — or becomes re-enchanted
• when against the wall, creativity imagines and then finds or designs a door
◦ creativity is free rather than caged, open rather than closed, flexible rather than rigid and curious rather than jaded
– so, yes, it’s true, what I described last time was “creativity-lite

If we endeavored to treat every moment creatively, the result would not be breakthroughs, but chaos
– for example, when driving it is okay in being creative to find a new route to work
• but it is not okay to experiment with something new and different at every intersection
– it is not necessary to reinvent everything!
– and though we associate creativity with making things, it can also be destructive
• our scripture today provides just such an example

The story of the Flood hits close to home

We may have difficulty with it historically or geologically
– but the idea that humankind can bring down its own demise is all too familiar

Helmut Thielicke described one of the ways God made humans to differ from other animals: “None of them can decide whether they wish to become fish, birds, or elephants. But to man the chance, and the burden too, has been given to decide for himself whether he wants to become human or inhuman, whether he wishes to realize or sabotage his destiny.”

• many voices today echo Noah’s warnings
• if we continue blindly on our present course the consequences will catch up to us
– by making us in his image, our Creator put an awesome gift in our hands
• we can use it to build a better world or spell our doom

It was risky for the storyteller to paint God with such human features
– what God saw in the human heart broke his heart (vv. 5 & 6)
• but this anthropomorphic language tells us that God is not disconnected, not unconcerned
• he has bound himself to humankind
◦ he cannot sit by and watch us create hell on earth
– although it may seem like odd theology, we need to see God grieved
• it reveals his disappointment at how we painted over his canvas, ruining his masterpiece
◦ his response to human evil is not merely a matter of morality and divine law
◦ that is to say, God’s response was not impersonal
• God’s grief–whatever else this language may mean–has to do with a Father’s heart
◦ with gifts that were given and a trust that was broken
◦ with how we used what he had put in our hands to rebel against him

Our scripture describes the human condition in absolute terms

– “every intent . . . was only evil continually [all the time]”
• the King James Version says that it was “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart”
• the point is, the problem with humankind was rooted in the inner world of thought
– I do not frequently press the issue of managing our thought life
• some people will run with the idea and go crazy obsessing over their thoughts
◦ judging each one and condemning themselves if a sinful thought occurs to them
◦ all sorts of ideas and impulses flit through our brains and we are free to ignore the junk
• remember this: a thought not entertained goes away by itself
◦ trying to fight off a thought only gives it more power
◦ as for the thoughts we do entertain, our brains go to work on them and they become the seeds of creativity

The Psalms involve a lot of exploration of our inner world
– interestingly, they sometimes recognize the bed as a place where serious thinking occurs

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
(Psa. 63:6)

(Regarding the ungodly) He plans wickedness upon his bed;
He sets himself on a path that is not good;
He does not despise evil.
(Psa. 36:4)

If thoughts remained thoughts, they would not be dangerous

But thought generates desire and desire motive, and motive formulates plans
– eventually thoughts break through the surface into real-life actions

Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. (v. 11)

• corrupt: to misuse a thing, a natural resource – to pervert or pollute
• violence: don’t we ache sometimes because of all the violence in the world?
◦ people were dreaming up ways to enforce their will on others
◦ think of the technological innovations that have only one purpose, namely, to snuff out life
– it seems that every human inhabitant in the land became a criminal genius

A few characteristics of creativity we need to keep in mind:

  1. Creativity is neutral – it has no moral core or compass
    – tools for construction can be used for demolition
    • farm implements can be turned into weapons
    – it can be used to plan the “perfect crime”
  2. Creativity is not infallible – it can make mistakes
    – it can turn on its creator
    – it can produce something that quickly runs out of control
    • even a quick and clever sense of humor can cut like a knife
  3. Creativity for good can be hijacked
    – it is impossible for inventors to regulate how their invention will be used
  4. Creativity is not a panacea – there are things it cannot do
    – it’s cannot produce the perfect solution for every problem
    • we must accept what Rollo May referred to as “The Limits of Creativity”
  5. (I’m convinced) Creativity can become addicting
    – I had a friend whose mind was a factory of new creations
    • but none of his brilliant ideas got him anywhere
    • as soon as one of his new ideas reached the design stage, he became bored with it
    – many people get seduced away from a stable life by always chasing the thrill of the new

The use of creativity requires wisdom and discernment

Discernment is not the ability to determine what’s best for me
– or what works in my favor or optimizes my happiness
• it is the ability to determine what is true, to distinguish:
◦ pure from corrupt
◦ a tool from a weapon
◦ medicine from poison
◦ love from lust
◦ the eternal from the transient

Richard Rohr observed that to see with new eyes “requires that we be willing to respond and change because we are aware of our own mixture of good and evil. Jesus uses a number of mixture images that illustrate the tension. They seem to say, this world is a mixture of different things, and unless you learn how to see, you don’t know to separate; you get lost in the weeds and can’t see the wheat.”

To practice discernment, our creativity needs to be tempered by humility

If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know. . . (1 Co. 8:2)
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. (1 Co. 10:12)

– we need the humility that is willing
• to know and admit that we can be wrong
• to have our motives, assumptions and prejudices questioned
• to look at ideas, needs, situations and others through new eyes

Conc: On Friday evening, Barbara and I joined a group to see a movie together

We saw “Our Brand Is Crisis,” because one of our friends appeared in it
– it would not be off the mark to say that the movie’s theme was the misuse of creativity
• the plot swirled around a campaign for the presidency of Bolivia
• the main characters demonstrated a particular type of creativity
◦ the type that could decimate a political rival or perhaps get a scoundrel elected to office

Do you agree with me, that it is extremely important that we not add to the violence in the world?
– I do not want to release one word or particle of
or sorrow
into our global environment
• but not adding to the evil already present cannot be our greatest ambition or goal
◦ that would not be very creative or courageous
◦ it is definitely not how Jesus lived or what he asks of us — he disapproves of doing nothing

[A man entrusted money to three slaves before going on a journey.] To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another one, each according to his own ability . . . . [When he returned the first two slaves had doubled the talents they had received, but] the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.”
But his master answered and said to him, “You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money with interest.” (Mt. 25:14-30)

To put creativity to good use by improving the world and the lives of others hits the mark
– so I’m not advocating that we try to control creativity, but that we point it in the right direction

Our Lord Jesus entered the murky sludge of this world’s evil thoughts, corruption and violence
– he is the hope of humankind’s re-creation
– he is inspiration and his Spirit is creativity for all who hope for a better world
– he is the light that illuminates our darkness and leads us home to God
For he also enters the murky sludge of my own heart to enlighten and transform me

So if you have trouble finding the right direction to point your creativity, just follow Jesus

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