September 22, 2010

Creativity & Discipline

Discipline is necessary to accomplish almost anything worthwhile in this life. Christ Jesus, we are told, 'learned obedience', most likely a reference to his humanity, as an ascription to the divine nature would call into question his constancy and omniscience. So, the human Jesus learned obedience. He grew in his knowledge of the divine will, bringing the human will into conformity. Here is an argument for a free will, a will exercising true freedom in obedience to God. How did he do it? 1) As the revelation of God, he knew the divine will. For us, this requires constant exposure to divine revelation, finding our life in the living word that gives life, exulting in the presence of God in our ears, on our lips, in our hearts, hearing, confessing, believing. 2) He obeyed the divine will, submitting himself to the will of the Father, even when it brought him duress in extremis in the garden. For us, this requires divine grace, since the human heart, having sold itself into wickedness, is locked in its depravity. By faith (itself a grace) we accept this grace into our lives and are thereby saved, being saved by grace, holding onto our salvation until its completion by grace. Christ 'learned obedience' and the restoration of a truly free will among the redeemed is manifested in a similar learning of obedience to God. This obedience is through the Word in the Spirit unto the Father; this obedience is by the Word in the Spirit from the Father. (The mystery of free grace and human response is again before us.) This obedience is otherwise known as discipline, discipleship, taking up the cross and following Him. So far, discipline.

And yet, as beings made in the image of the God who creates, we humans, male & female, also share in creativity. Do we as creatures fashion ex nihilo, out of nothing, as God did in the beginning? No, but we do fashion that which God has made. Surely, God finds joy in his image mimicking his creative acts. Like God's Word, we also use words to name creation--God found delight in Adam naming animals. Like God's Spirit, our spirits become one in the flesh of man & wife and we marvel at the mystery of the gift of a new breath coursing through the body of a newborn child. Beyond these acts of creation, is not work itself, for which God made us, by nature a creative activity? Whether it be the subduing of the earth in rows of corn, or the reporting of responsible capitalism in the columns of an accounting ledger, or the brushing of the swirls of an approaching storm splashed upon a taut canvas, these are acts of creation. Creativity from a human perspective involves taking two or more related yet often seemingly irreconcilably conflicting created things and bringing them together into some new created thing, 'new' in the sense of not previously recognized in our experience. And in that moment of creative action, the artist, the pilot, the scientist has a sense of exhilaration that is fundamentally pleasurable. As when God declared such and such to be good at the end of its creation, we too mimic him. The 'aha' of the creative work of man is a statement of discovery that echoes the 'it was good' declaration of God, an echo diminished qualitatively by the depravity of man, but an echo of goodness nonetheless.

So, what has creativity to do with discipline? Discipline brings the creative acts of male & female closer to the 'it was good' of God. When a human musician disciplines her fingers to pluck the strings of a classical guitar, chords of the divine symphony orchestrating creation throughout all time whispers mystery into our ears. When the architect disciplines his eyes and hands with his mind to connect this line with that circle at that particular angle in a reflection of the perfection of a divine thought, we glimpse behind the maker of the building another Maker whose glory is at the same time overwhelmingly awesome yet only vaguely perceived now. And when Christ disciplined his body and his mind to glorify his father, we see him take with divine authority the most gruesome deformation of wood & metal devised by human depravity for the sake of human torture, the cross of death, and through his human discipline, which he learned, transform that grotesque instrument by his own blood into the most glorious means by which his humanity, our humanity, reaches out and fully embraces and is embraced by the perfection of the God of love who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The discipline of the man who was God recreated humanity again into the image of God. And what cannot a humanity recreated by the cross of Christ itself create to bring us closer to the knowledge of his perfect formation of creation? Greater works than the miracles he performed in his first ministry upon the earth he promised his people would do. The key to the grace of creativity is the grace of discipline, a discipline with its eyes set on the revelation of God in Christ, and its hands wrapped around the pain of brokenness of whatever cross he lays upon his own, and its feet moving whither the Spirit would take them, and its mouth opening to speak nothing but his Word, for his glory, by his power. This is the discipline of Christian creativity. What ugliness, Lord, would you have transformed through the instrumentality of this body, which is learning the beauty of discipline to your will? Speak, Lord, your servant is ready to be disciplined for the sake of your creation.

(I offer this piece only at the encouragement of my bride, who read this entry from my private diary.)


  1. Excellent, Dr. Yarnell. I have long believed that Christians should be the most creative, innovative, and disciplined people on earth.

  2. Dr. Yarnell,

    Thank you, brother. And, I hope you don't mind my quoting you at SBC Tomorrow and sending readers here to examine your whole theological reflection.

    With that, I am...

  3. Dr. Yarnell, came by way of Peter. Might I suggest you listen very carefully to your wife's input on all your journaling reflections?

    This post makes me think that once we are all better disciplined in Christ, we will each be working more in tune with His re-creating process and instead of having our God say, "this is good", He will be saying, "Now, this is great!" selahV


Edifying comments always appreciated!