God as Creativity
by Bill Murry, minister emeritus of the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Bethesda, Maryland and past president of Meadville Lombard Theological School
When a distinguished scientist and an eminent theologian agree on what is meant by God we should take notice.
The scientist is complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman, whose recent book is entitled, Reinventing the Sacred. Like many, he has left traditional religion behind, but he wants to retain a sense of the sacred nature of life, and he finds that sacred quality in creativity.
Creativity, he suggests, is at the heart of things and in the very nature of the universe. In fact, he identifies creativity with God, suggesting that what he means by God is simply creativity. He writes: “God is our chosen name for the ceaseless creativity in the natural universe, biosphere, and human cultures.” He comes to this conclusion because “This creativity is stunning, awesome and worthy of reverence.”
The theologian is Harvard’s Gordon Kaufman (same last name but they are not related), whose book is entitled, In the Beginning ... Creativity.
He proposes “serendipitous creativity as a metaphor more appropriate for thinking of God today than such traditional image/concepts as creator, lord, and father.” God as creativity, he says, is not a personal God as the Western faiths have maintained because in today’s world it is no longer possible to think of God in “traditional anthropomorphic terms.”
Both the scientist and the theologian are telling us something important—that creativity is at the center of this universe and, since we are the product of the creativity of the universe, it is very much at the center of our lives as well. We are creative beings who are both the product of the universe’s creativity and beings who create ourselves, artifacts and cultures. They are telling us that the very nature of matter/energy is creativity, and that creativity is worthy of being called sacred.
One of the creation stories in the book of Genesis says that God created human beings “in the image of God.” Some theologians have taken this to mean that human beings are capable of love as God is, while others have said that the image of God refers to our ability to reason. As I interpret this, I think it refers to human creativity. In other words, we are creative beings, just as God is understood to be a creative being.