Most often when Colorado comes up in conversation people think of ski slopes or mountains and snow. Colorado is synonymous with nature and the outdoors.
Nature scenes filled with mountains or waterfalls, without a hint of humanity…not even a footprint or bridge in sight fill highways, magazines, and even textbooks. This observation, coupled with the fundamentalist church my family attended when I was growing up pressed deep into my psychology that untouched nature, or God, is good and humans and anything they do to or on the earth is evil.
What I have discovered, however, is that this is deeply false.
Human design is beautiful and God thinks so too!
At the center of Christian and Jewish worship for thousands of years have been the bread and the cup. The Passover and the Eucharist. One is an Old Testament symbol the other a reinterpretation of an Old Testament symbol.
What is fascinating about bread and wine is that neither bread nor wine grows on trees.
In order to make bread one has to grow and harvest the grain, and then mix other ingredients and bake it.
For wine, the grapes have to be grown and then smashed and aged and fermented.
What are these?
These are examples of human design and industry. And God chooses to use these two symbols as aids in worship!
As old as these symbols are, they are linked to a tradition far older. An oral tale that was later written down and makes up Genesis 1 of the Bible.
In Genesis 1 God creates humans in his image. They are given dominion over the earth and everything in it.
They are supposed to work it, explore it, name it, grow it, study it, and multiply it.
Their calling is be just like God. God ordered chaos, and humans have been called to order God’s creation.
The plan hits a snag. Sin.
Sin does not turn the physical creation bad. It corrupts humanity. It is about human rebellion and not the evil of the physical world.
Despite sin, humans are still supposed to manage the earth, although now it is going to be much harder.
The calling is the same. The purpose was never altered. God did not give up. At no point does God say, “If you can’t play with my creation the right way, then no one gets to…I’m taking it and going home!”
God still has a plan for creation. God tells his people to spread out and fill the earth. The Genesis one plan is still underway.
If you fast-forward a few chapters in Genesis to chapter eleven there is a story that explores how seriously God takes the calling he has given humanity. In chapter eleven the writers record the scene at the Tower of Babel.
This is a story about humanity building a tall tower to the heavens. At first brush it seems that God apparently has a bad case of vertigo, or envy, or is perhaps legitimately threatened by his creation and their exploration of altitudes above a certain level.
Though counterintuitive, this story unlocks exactly why design is important.
In verse three of chapter eleven it says, “they said to one another (all humanity apparently) ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone and tar for mortar.”
Why is this significant?
In a world that only builds with stone…bricks are new technology! Bricks are the iPod.
And what do they do with their newfound technology? “Then they said, ‘Come let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”
You can read what follows this as God coming down and smiting human growth. That argument might go: why are cities bad? What’s wrong with building and a common culture?
What is missed by that is that this is a kind of death. The creation of a “mono-culture” that cowers in one tall tower afraid of the world God created for them is not in the interest of human flourishing.
This is not beautiful. This is Nazi Germany.
God condescends (the Hebrew is loaded with sarcasm) to see what the humans have created.
And He scatters their language.
Is this punishment?
Or is this liberation?
Humanity had created a monoculture of cowards. God gives them different languages so that they will have to spread out and fill the earth (the original intent) and leave their mini tower.
God gives them the gift of diversity. The gift of multiculturalism. The gift of liberation. God sets them free from the arbitrary boundaries that they drew for themselves, and from the empire they wanted to create.
In effect God says that humans were made for so much more.
He wants them to explore creation and fill it. Not cower in the dark.
God does not want one design. God wants a diversity of designs. For God creation is about depth and diversity and intricate detail.
If humans do not do the same, they will fail to be aware of the divine image they carry.
So when an artist boldly steps forward steps outside the bound of the accepted “tower of babel” culture and paints, draws, writes, or envisions something that awakens a whole new view of the world…though they may come under fire, what they are actually doing is the same thing God did in Genesis eleven.
They are destroying the walls that hold people in the darkness.
They are imagining a more complicated world than had previously been considered.
When an architect applies shapes and textures and depth to the spaces humans inhabit and wonders anew about how best to live…she is responding to the God given impulse within her to manage and explore creation.
With this in view, the Eucharist makes more sense. The Eucharist is not beamed down from heaven (thought I will be the first to admit that would be pretty sweet) it a picture of what God has been up to all the time.
God provided the earth and humans have worked within it to make bread and wine. God uses this as a picture of what he is working towards. God and humans occupying the same place and participating together in creation!
This is why design and art are important. They are central to our calling as humans and central to teaching us about the God who created everything!
And so begins this blog…