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Are we free to be as creative as we want?

Published: 6 March 2021 (GMT+10)
creative

In response to Phil Robinson’s article, How would your child draw Noah’s Ark?, David C. expressed his opinion that the suggested drawing exercise would actually stifle children’s imaginations.

Kids need a lot of time for unstructured, child-directed, imaginative play. Creativity is a God-given right and to force render a “you must replicate the ark as everybody else in the lesson … Please follow this blue print …” is drawing the sap from children’s essential component of imagination. One needs to have a lot more humility and less of the obsessive-compulsive and step back a few more cubits from their painting pots. Art directing a young child to ensure that any biblical painting that take pride of place on the fridge is actually really only enhancing one’s own personal aims is not a positive for children’s freest form of self-expression.

Phil Robinson CMI-UK/Europe responds:

Hi David,

As a father of three children I can fully agree with you that kids really do benefit from unstructured, child-directed, and imaginative play. I love nothing more than to watch my kids playing, or being creative. However, you are making a massive leap to effectively claim that children (or adults for that matter) should not receive any direction and are free to represent biblical truths as they see fit.

Throughout Scripture there have been times where God has specifically prescribed how things were to be built or constructed, and these were not left to the artistic licence of the maker. Take, for example, the Tabernacle, for which God provided painstaking detail to inform Moses (Exodus 25-30): how it was to be built, the design of implements to be used, what activities in its confines were to be conducted, and how. Indeed, when things were not done as God had instructed, such as the unauthorised fire laid by Nadab and Abihu (the sons of Aaron), in breach of God’s prescription, He consumed them by fire (Leviticus 10:1–2).

Of course, the Ark is another example of an object in Scripture which was described in great detail; the length, width, height, decks, pitch, windows, etc. This being the case, no-one then has the right to misrepresent what Genesis 6 clearly teaches regarding the shape, scale, and size of Noah’s Ark. We are not free to be as creative as we want about this, and as the original article points out there are many negative implications for people’s faith when we do so.

Ask yourself, how far would you be prepared to go with such a principle of allowing children the “freest form of self-expression”, knowing that, without the Bible to guide them, their work will be a misrepresentation of truth? Does this also apply to re-imagining what the days of creation are and what happened during each? A straightforward reading of the Bible is clear on what occurred, and that they are six, consecutive twenty-four-hour days.

Sadly, many ‘Christians’ today insist on having their own form of salvation, and deny that Jesus is the only way to the God the Father (John 14:6). Yet the Bible is exceptionally clear on this point, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name [Jesus] under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). This may seem harsh, but my point is this: are we free to be as creative as we want? Are we free to re-imagine what the Bible teaches? The answer is a resounding no. There are many articles on this website explaining the major dangers, and grave theological errors involved in going down such a path:

So yes, I agree that creativity is God-given but within the bounds of Scripture—children should be taught to handle things in the Bible with care, which will leave them in a much stronger position for navigating life. Otherwise, we are in real danger of altering God’s word as and when we see fit, or when we want to ‘accommodate’ (i.e. excuse) an aspect of our lives which is not compatible with it. I believe this is true whether our creativity be in writing, acting, film, or artistic depiction.

While our Creator God has certainly endowed mankind, made in His image, with creativity, we do not have a limitless freedom to express ourselves. Noah was obedient to God’s command in how he built the Ark, and we should be no less faithful in our representation of it.

Every blessing,
Phil Robinson

You can download the free colouring-in pictures of Noah’s Ark from the original article.

Helpful Resources

Little Dinosaurs on a Big Ark
by Lita Cosner & Joshua Warren
US $12.00
Hard Cover
Noah's Ark: Pre-School Activity Book
by Earl and Bonita Snellenberger
US $9.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

David C.
How do you handle a young creationist abstract artist? Or are creativity and creationism such polar opposites that they would struggle to marry. What about a young up-and-coming figurative artist, with the ark in the distance and a floating human carcass in the foreground? Or a Lowry, with the ark docked in the heart of a washed out Salford and animals (replace people obviously) departing into the remains of the suburbs? If a creationist sprayed the ark onto the door of a non creationist church is the correct proportions of the illustration the only talking point?
Philip Robinson
David, thank you for coming back to creation.com to read the feedback article in response to your original question. I have written on the topic of Christian artistry a number of times, and been thinking about it for quite a number of years. In fact in the next edition of Creation magazine it will feature an interview I conducted with someone highly involved in the production of Christian artistry. You will be able to get the answer to your new questions in another of my articles - creation.com/pterosaur-flood-artistry. In relation to spraying the Ark onto Church doors, this would be criminal damage which no-one should ever be involved in.
Lassi P.
It's a bit ironic to defend 'children's right' to draw freely a bathtub Ark, when the children who draw such have gotten the image of the bathtub Ark from 'creative' illustrations made by adults to mimic similar bathtub Arks by other adults before them. Any child when informed on the actual dimensions of the ark in his or her level, would insist on drawing it as it were. I mean, da'h, who wants to draw a silly boat with a bunch of 'funny' animals when you could draw a vessel big enough for DINOSAURS!

Besides. it's quite the norm for adults to direct child's activities when the activity is a part of a teaching situation.
Dean R.
Children are often instructed to study an artist to appreciate key attributes regarding an artist style. Basically its about visual comprehension/language/style. This is an opportunity to learn and express. But illustrations that compliment a text normally are expected to reflect or mirror the text. In a sense the bathtub Ark is surrealism as it bends reality (much like the evolution logo). Scientific illustrations go down the hyper detailed path but also take on the creative to fill in the blanks. Blue prints are actually drawn to be followed, usually down to the millimetre. I once took a paint brush and some free expression to the side of my grandfathers VW and he wasn't that happy about it I am told.
Philip Robinson
"But illustrations that compliment a text normally are expected to reflect or mirror the text." - Exactly the point! Amen.
Cameron N.
I am an inventor and a media arts and entertainment industry [Film/Cartoons/Comics/Games] entrepreneur. From my work towards trying to make my own company and our products successes in this field, I've come across some wildly vast misconceptions about creativity and art. To answer Beth's comment, many people seem to confuse creativity with craftsmanship in the art world. The distinction can be made that creativity lies in the ability to form an idea or explore the realm of the hypothetic and images imagined and craftsmanship is the deftness of hands it requires to render this idea/image from the mind into reality. I tell people all the time a lot of people can draw or write really well but lack deep levels of novel or skilled creativity. Creative ideas come from what we see or know and sometimes even a spark of connections at a nexus point our brains subconsciously pulled altogether. I.e. Like knowing that one term for greedy billionaire bankers is a fat cat, thinking that these bankers care nothing about working-class people and seem to suck prosperity from them, knowing that water comes from faucets and that the symbol for money is "$". Then putting it all together in an idea to form a statue depicting fat cats surrounding a human with spigots wearing nice clothing while drinking greedily the money signs coming from the faucet. The craftsman part of all of this would be the ability to render this image by taking pencil to paper. Or working materials to produce the looks and images you see in your head.

Idolaters do the same. Forming wicked creative images in their head and then crafting these very things for their wicked imagined purposes.
Seathrún M.
Other examples include the story of the child who drew a picture of God "driving Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden" - in a car! There was also the child who drew a picture of "The Flight into Egypt" which showed an aircraft with Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus in it. When the teacher asked "And who is the fourth person in the plane?" the child replied "Oh, that's Pontius the pilot." Such wrong ideas do need to be corrected!
Jane V.
Since CMI has brought up the subject of Christian art...I wish the same care was taken when Jesus Christ is depicted in His human form, especially on the cross. I think we wouldn't do that painting at all as His total humiliation is always hidden by a cloth. And why is He usually portrayed as a white European? The ark depicted to portray its huge size is educational and necessary to understand the story, but perhaps some other Biblical art should still be under the censure of the second commandment. Just saying...
Beth H.
As an art teacher, I don’t even agree with this idea that children should be freely allowed to express themselves when it comes to school projects where there is an intended learning outcome. That is an idea from the 1970’s and has come back around again with terrible results. Sure on their own children can draw whatever they want, but in school they are there to learn skills and facts. Most children give up art by the time they reach Middle School grades because intellectually they are at a point where they want to render things realistically but their art teachers never taught them enough to feel competent to do it! I actually hadn’t thought about the problem with the cutesy illustrations but Phil is absolutely right! It would be great to base education in fact and leave the individual expression to picking the medium used. Parameters always force the artist to creatively develop a successful solution!
Jim M.
These two perspectives are actually not at odds.

Colouring books, with pre-printed images for kids to colour, abound. The original article was noting that, when these books include images of the ark, these images are usually incorrect and allowing kids to use them will imprint an erroneous picture in their minds that becomes increasingly hard to correct as time goes on. To avoid this, the original article provided pre-printed images of the ark for these sorts of situations, thereby imprinting the correct image of the ark so when the child sees the other images, they will be recognized as incorrect.

David C. Is commenting about a different situation, namely one where the child has a blank sheet of paper and is drawing their own image of the ark. In this case a different approach would be appropriate, such as … allowing the child to draw the ark from their imagination and then talking to them about their drawing and how it corresponds to what the Bible tells us about the ark.

Comparing what they draw with what the Bible says, provides the opportunity to (i) explain the importance of knowing/reading what the Bible actually says about things—and not just the ark, (ii) discuss (to the extent and at a level warranted by the child’s age) any manner of things about the ark and the flood, such as how all the animals would fit on the ark, how the animals got to the ark, what happened after the flood, God’s post flood covenant and the rainbow … , and (iii) extend this discussion (again as warranted by the child’s age and interest) to other areas of disagreement about what the Bible actually says and what the secular world says. Indeed, the opportunity for teaching based on this approach is probably limited only by the God-given creativity of the adult involved.
Tim L.
Something I've been learning recently is that both open-ended creativity and directed creativity are both essential. These days, the latter is pretty much ignored, but it would involve, for example, telling the kids to write a story about a particular subject with certain details. The point is that even with specific instructions given, creativity is still very much possible (something that I'm sure was exemplified in the building of the Tabernacle).

I've heard it likened to telling a kid to explore the woods. It's quite likely that they would end up spending all their time by the creek running through it and miss the many other things in the woods. Now a lot of great things can be found at a creek and such open-ended activities should not be eliminated entirely, but the kids also need direction and encouragement to find the other great sites.
Marcia M.
Unfortunately, liberal handling of God's statutes, ordinances, precepts - WORD - is all too prevelant: the fallout of which has the devil rubbing his hands in glee, especially the early capture of children. We alter a jot or a tittle at our peril but because God's wrath is a slow burning fuse (in the main) rather than a bullet to their brains, the concepts of consequences/deferred gratification are foreign.
Mark T.
How did you approach/redirect? How would you/should I react to my daughter drawing a UFO Ark? It was a flying saucer with Giraffe heads out the top and elephant and kangaroo heads on the side. And Noah and lions, tigers and rabbits on deck. I burnt it sorry so can't share it. How do I stop her crying and believe it's not her fault and it's a test in faith that we've passed together in God's family?
Philip Robinson
Thank you for your piece of insincere polemic. Of course if real, the questions would be from where did they get such ideas in the first place, and what were they drawing this in response to? It would surely not have come from the faithful, diligent teaching of Scripture? And then being asked to draw what they had been accurately taught? Teaching about the Ark, the Bible, the Gospel, should be exciting. To see your child learn, grow, ask great questions, understand apologetics, etc. This should be done in a loving and nurturing environment. There are a number of articles, books, and DVD's that cover the spiritual deception in relation to alleged UFOs on the website which can be accessed via the search bar.
Geoff C. W.
I suspect that children's ideas about what the ark looked like are not their own, anyway. Their ideas have been influenced by adults' drawings.
Philip Robinson
Yes, that is exactly the point of the article (and drawn out in much more detail in the original article). We have to be very careful what we teach, and how we influence children so they are not taught or influenced by unscriptural ideas such as bathtub Arks which can cause harm.

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