“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, September 27, 2010

If creation is small compared to God, is He a poor artist?

I mentioned above that God is on an incomparably higher level of existence than anything he creates; God is to creation as a plane is to a line, perhaps. There is a vast chasm between creation and the uncreated Creator. In a sense, creation can never come close to God in his fullness. Compared to the infinite and transcendent God, creation is virtually nothing.

Is God a poor artist, then, to make something so little compared to himself? Ought God to do better than making something infinitely below himself?

No. First consider human artists. What painting or symphony could compare to the complexity and intricacy and beauty of the human mind that gave birth to it? The artists mind is in many ways a work of art far higher and greater than anything he produces. So also with God and his tapestry of creation. But this is an imperfect analogy, and I do not mean it to be taken as a strict, logical argument.

Second, the artist's work is not to be judged by whether it surpasses its author, but by what it is in its own right. In a sense, creation is little compared to God (and so it must be, or God is not God), but that is only a relative evaluation. When we speak of things as they are, creation is enormous, limitless in its growth and infinite in potential (see "Will God Stop Creating?").

Third, and most importantly, it is inconsistent with God's nature to make something greater than himself, or even to make something in the same category. This is on par with logical impossibilities: God's level cannot be reached by a created thing by definition! For what creature, what part of creation, could possibly compare with the Uncreated One? Creation is inherently dependent on God - how then could it approach the self-existent One in his transcendence? How could the One whose very essence is greatness make something greater than himself? God can no more make something comparable to or better than himself than he can make a stone so big that he cannot lift it or make 1+1=3. It would be inconsistent with who He is - his divine nature - and therefore no more possible than a logical contradiction.*

Is the sun less glorious because its rays cannot compare to it? Of course not. We must pause and think before directing the same absurd objection towards the Creator. Creation is the light God shines, the garment he wears. It is his expression and revelation, his song and his story. And seeing it as such enlarges our perception of both creation and God.

*One might object that it is a cop out simply to say "such and such is inconsistent with God's nature," for what do we really know of the depths of God? This would be a valid complaint if we had no reason to think of God in this way (that is, if "God's nature is such and such" really was an arbitrary statement), but in my view, we do have just enough light to speak confidently of God in this way, as did Anselm, for example, when he spoke of God as that something "than which which nothing greater can be conceived."

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