Quanta and Quiddities: Coppenger considers the creativity of man

Communications Staff — October 14, 2010

Mark T. Coppenger is professor of Christian apologetics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Below, Coppenger offers a celebration of God’s creativity displayed through those made in his image – humans. The article originally appeared in the Oct. 11 “Towers.”

The technical and aesthetic contributions to both past and current culture by those professing faith in Christ is staggering, whether the music of Bach, the art of Dürer, the science of Newton or the math of Leibniz (who, developed calculus at the same time as Newton). Thank God, also, for the groundbreaking work of non-disciples such as Alan Turing, who led a group of British code breakers to unravel the mysteries of the German Enigma machines in World War II, or Aaron Copland, whose work includes the majestic “Fanfare for the Common Man” and music for the ballets Appalachian Spring and Rodeo (a selection from which was heard in the ad, “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner”).

Atheists proudly claim a range of accomplished people as their own – Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, geneticist Francis Crick, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, actor John Malkovich and Apple’s Steve Wozniak. The same could be said for transgressive communities, such as homosexuals in the arts and sciences: As Newsweek demonstrated in its Aug.10, 1987, issue “The Face of AIDS”, one year’s death toll among gifted gays was substantial, including a Columbia University mathematician, a Stanford literature professor, and winners of Obie and Tony awards. Heterosexual philanderers are just as accomplished – golf phenomenon Tiger Woods, heart-transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard and fathers of the American nation Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

None of this should be surprising, for all people are created in the image of God, and that image is not obliterated by sin or unbelief. So when men and women show sparks of ingenuity, eloquence, decency, industry and craftsmanship, they reveal their debt to God.

Of course, none of us replicates God’s creative work in Genesis 1. He made things ex nihilo, out of nothing. We work with the materials at hand, the elements he has placed at our disposal.

It reminds me of Taco Bell. Every year or so, they serve up with a new product – the Chalupa, Enchito, Gordita, Taquito, Meximelt, Cheese Roll-Up, Crunchwrap, Quesadilla, Mexican Pizza and Taco Salad – not to mention over a dozen variations each of the basic taco and burrito, whether “double-decker” or “seven-layer,” whether “crunchy” or “soft.”

As rich as the variety may be, the casual observer cannot help but notice great similarity in the products, the recurrence of tortillas, cheese, tomatos, lettuce, chicken-or-beef, rice-and-beans, avocado, sour cream and salsa. Sometimes it’s fried, sometimes not. You can roll it, bend it, stack it, crimp it, slice it, mash it or melt it. Same stuff, but what fun in the mix-and-match.

If Taco Bell does this with a dozen ingredients, imagine what you could do with thousands upon thousands of ingredients – copper and oxygen, A-flat and C-sharp, magenta and yellow, ultra-violet and infrared, oak and willow, water and salt, smoke and rust, logic and grammar, numbers and nanoparticles, quanta and quiddities. And what if one could trust these items to behave in an orderly fashion, under the direction of a beneficent Lord. And what if mankind, both the regenerate and the reprobate, were inventive and adept at fashioning helpful things from these items? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Yes it is.

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