What’s the role of creativity in theology?

I’m glad to say that no-one in the seminar balked or said ‘nothing at all’! Creativity is key in expressing our own ideas in new ways and must not be left only to the worship leaders in Church. In Bloom’s Taxonomy, Creativing is the highest level thinking skill and includes synthesis, which is something that theologians might be more comfortable admitting to. Creativity is all about seeing links where others might miss them, re-presenting things in different ways.

But creativity must be employed with limits. In graphic design we might call the limits a ‘brief’ – not there to stifle creativity but to ensure that it leads to an end that is appropriate. There are ways of combining text and images to create things that would not be helpful to communicate effectively. The boundaries will be different according to the situation of the design – what you are making and who it’s for.

≈≈≈ ♫ by WakalaniIn drama or music, it makes more sense to talk about ‘improvisation’. A Jazz musician can’t just play anything, they are improvising ‘around a theme’.

“It’s taken me all my life to learn what not to play.”- Dizzie Gillespie

The talented soloist must play notes that harmonise with the rest of the band – dissonance is important but is resolved. A good jazz musician learns the scales and arpeggios until they can play in any key without thinking, until it becomes part of them.

Theological improvisation is the same. We drench ourselves in the dramatic narrative of the scriptures and in relationship with God until improvising ‘in the key of Jesus’ is the most natural thing we can do. We improvise always with an ear on what the band behind us are playing, what the church is saying through history and today. Each bar sounds different. Each note must be thought through but not intellectualised. Each note must be felt. Every one contributes to an ongoing harmony of such ecstasy that even the angels long to sing alone.