Monday, March 30, 2015

Art, Music, Creation, Difference, Violence, Harmony, and the Trinity

"Creation is the work of a dynamic, three-personed God and the members of the Trinity enjoy an eternal giving and receiving among one another. The doctrine of the Trinity informs us of both the personality and the dynamism of God - qualities that are suggested in the ancient term applied to the Trinity - perichoresis. It refers to the mutual indwelling of the persons of the Trinity by extension perichoresis can be used to refer to God's relationship to the world whereby all things exist in him and through him; in him we live and move and have our being... why move?  Are we dancing when we have our being?
All of creation is somehow engaged in the life of the trinity is well.  John 17 in particular comes to mind where we read that in our growth in Christ God indwells us and we indwell Him.  So Father Son and Holy Spirit are dancing around each other and the Christian life is our entry into that dance.
Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart notes that while God was under no necessity to create, the act of creation flows out of the infinite love that's experienced by the members of the Trinity.  Hart writes:
"God's gracious action in creation belongs from the first to that delight, pleasure, and regard that the Trinity enjoys from eternity as an outward and unnecessary expression of that love.  Thus creation must be received before all else as a gift and beauty."

When we think about the doctrine of creation, Orthodox Christians are eager to point out that God didn't need to create anything. And sometimes we ask ourselves, then why did He? Sometimes we answer it was an act of sheer will. Well, it was an act of will, but it wasn't sheer will. I think we need to reminder ourselves regularly - it was an act of love as much as act of will.  If we think of creation just as an act of will we're on the wrong path toward thinking of will as the ultimate attribute of God and willas the ultimate attribute of man.  I think the argument could be made if that's a huge mistake and modern thought. To treat will as more primary that love both in God and in our own identity. 

And Hart's pointing out the fact that the gift-ness and the beauty of creation or an expression of the generous love enjoyed by God, a God in three persons.  An interpersonal love exists in the Trinity before creation.
The relationships among the members of the Trinity are not only beautiful, they're beautiful in a way that has analogies with our experience of music particularly - "as God is Trinity in Whom all 
difference is possessed as perfect peace and unity, the divine life might be described as infinite music and creation too might be described as a music whose intervals transitions and phrases are embraced within God's eternal triune polyphony [multi voice].

One of the tasks of Hart's very difficult book is to address the idea in a lot of postmodern thought that violence is is at the heart of experience and one of things Hart is trying to do is to point out how peace and love in the divine life of the trinity are actually reflected in creation. And so difference is not an occasion for violence and competition but difference is an opportunity for harmony.  This is a very different way of understanding difference. 

All of this theology is to remind us that artistic and imaginative and creative activity is not simply a pleasant ornament that we might use to decorate our lives or to make them less boring.  Artistic activity is evidence to us of the kinds of creatures we are, of the kind of Creator God is, as well as the kind of world in which He places us to love and serve and know Him as we exercise our stewardship in this world.  So works of art are rooted in the reality of creation and in the dynamism that is present in the Creator."

- Ken Myers

No comments: