Creation of Noise 3/5 (series: A Brief History of Noise, part 4)

Noise and God’s image.

by Dave Skipper

Chronicling Noise

In this series I am taking a unique approach to telling the story of noise:

  • surveying the broad sweep of history from a Biblical-theological perspective, and specifically applying this journey to noise.

This article is the third part of the second part of the series:

1. Chimeric Noise

2. Creation of Noise

i. Noise and God’s transcendence

ii. Noise and God’s word

iii. Noise and God’s image

  • Creator & Creation
  • Creator & Creature
  • Community

iv. Noise and God’s evaluation

v. Noise and God’s plan

3. Curse of Noise

4. Cure for Noise

5. Culmination of Noise

Last time I took a tour through the six days of creation as outlined in Genesis 1. In this article I focus in a bit on how God is revealed and reflected in what he has made.

2. Creation of Noise

iii. Noise and God’s image

  • Creator & Creation

I believe that the Bible is God’s specific and direct revelation of himself that he has given to us. I believe that we need the Bible to know who God really is. As diverse literature, it does this in a variety of ways – through historical accounts, through poetry and prophecy, through description, through logic, and so on. I believe that we need to view the world around us through the lens of Scripture in order to understand it aright. But once we do that, something else marvellous happens: the world itself opens up as God’s ‘Second Book’. The creation all around us can’t help but reveals God as its Maker. By experiencing, contemplating, and studying the world through science and art we can have our knowledge of God further enhanced.

I don’t believe in ‘natural theology’, that is to say I don’t believe that we can springboard from looking at the world around us and make conclusions from that about who God is. I believe that it is vital to start with the ‘special revelation’ of Scripture in order to read properly the ‘general revelation’ of creation. Put another way, the Bible is a one-way prism through which to look at the world because it gives us the Creator’s story and perspective on everything that there is. But once we do that, the world becomes a secondary prism through which we look back at God and can find deeper nuances to his character and his ways.

I explain my rationale for how and why the world reveals/reflects God, and therefore how and why noise can and does reveal/reflect God, in more detail in my article Symbolism and Noise.

So what do we learn about God from his creation?

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
‭(Romans‬ ‭1:20)

This is the basic starting-point: we can see God’s eternal power and divine nature in the creation. It’s easy to stop there, but there is so much more to explore. While I was writing about the creation week last time (see Creation of Noise 2/5), I became aware in new ways of how his eternal power and divine nature were evidently at work, specifically in the noisy aspects of his original creative works that I was pondering. Elsewhere, in the ongoing series The Ultimate Noisician I study in much greater detail the connections and relationship between God and noise / noisy sounds.

  • Creator & Creature

“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
‭(Genesis ‭1:26-27‬)

We arrived at this climax of creation at the end of the previous article.

So the big question is, what is God’s image?

An image bears the stamp of the original but is not the original. An image resembles the original but is not the original. An image shares characteristics with the the original, but is nevertheless always derivative.

Theologians talk about the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God. That simply means that some of God’s attributes can be and are shared with humans, while others of his attributes cannot be and are not shared with humans. The ‘choice’ of whether an attribute is communicable or incommunicable is not determined by us – the Bible shows us clearly which are which throughout its pages. The image of God in man therefore refers to the communicable attributes of God which he has chosen to imprint on us.

Here are a few examples to illustrate:

The incommunicable attributes of God include him being:

  • without beginning or end (his eternity)
  • self-existent, uncreated (his aseity)
  • the Creator of all things
  • all-powerful (his omnipotence)
  • all-knowing (his omniscience)
  • everywhere (his omnipresence)
  • the Ruler of all things, in control of everything (his sovereignty)

The communicable attributes of God include him being:

  • conscious, thinking
  • personal, relational
  • good, wise, holy
  • creative, choice-making

All human attributes are derivative and limited, whereas for God all his attributes are original, eternal, absolute, and infinite. These latter attributes have then been affected dramatically by sin, but this point will come later in the series, under the subsection Curse of Noise.

What has all this got to do with noise? In terms of what we learn about God in Genesis 1, here are some ways in which man bears the image of God in relation to noise-making:

God creates out of nothing → [man cannot do this]

God makes intelligible noise that communicates in the form of speech → man can do the same

God crafts the tools of creation, making noise with them in the process → man can do the same

God creates a phenomenal array of noise-makers (both inanimate and animate) → man can do the same (making inanimate noise-making objects, devices, and instruments; capturing, utilising, and manipulating the sounds of humans and animals)

God makes decisions, sets boundaries, and develops the possibilities of noise-making categories → man can do the same (the creative and artistic process)

Then consider the creative principles that I expounded in the previous article. Already there I was transferring and applying the creative works of God to human creativity and noise-making. I was pre-emptively assuming the image-bearing nature of man, taking cues and pointers from the divine into the artistic realm. Without going over the same ground again, these were the concepts that I gleaned: clarity, contrast, cataclysm, constraints, contours, composition, causation, complexification, configuration, cooperation, consciousness, commotion, categorisation, climax.

I need to make an obvious but important point here. Noise-making is a part of God’s activity that is passed on to us, but it is clearly not central. The purpose of God creating the world was not to specifically to make noise. The function of noise is not solely or even primarily to be used for making music. Art and music and noise-making are good and legitimate (as I will explore more in a subsequent article), but are not the pinnacle and end-point of human activity.

The significance of noise and noise-making is surely to be found in its origins and its existence as a gift from God, but this significance should not elevate it to any special status beyond other human cultural activity. Above and below all of this talk about noise-making is a crucial point about the distinction between Creator and creature, related to the moral purpose of man made in the image of God, namely:

God is God → man must worship

Noise-making is a matter of worship. The original question at the creation of man was just one of how man was to worship. The object of worship was only and easily and rightfully God himself. Following the entry of sin, that question has ever since changed into who, what, how, and why man worships. But I am getting ahead of myself.

A few more questions spring up. God is an image-maker: he created man in his image. His images bear his stamp. Is part of that image in man such that man himself is then also an image-maker? Then to what extent does man’s image-making bear God’s stamp, and to what extent does his image-bearing bear his own stamp? Put another way, where is the line between image-making and idolatry (whether the idolatry of mis-representing God, or the idolatry of elevating man to some kind of divine status)? Or put still another way, in what sense can (or can’t) and should (or shouldn’t) art/music/noise mediate the truth of God and the presence of God?

These are absolutely critical questions for me as a Christian who is also an artist, a musician, and a noisician.The future article series The Noisician will go into these questions, looking at differing and opposing motivations and roles for creative noise-making.

  • Community:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
‭(Genesis ‭1:26-27‬)

Relationship, harmony, communication, love. The essence of community is found in God’s eternally triune (one-in-three and three-in-one, 1 God in 3 Persons) nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the very definition and source of community. I briefly introduced this concept in the first article of this series (Chimeric Noise).

Mankind, as expressly and intentionally created in the image of God-in-community (‘Let us make… in our image, in our likeness’) is therefore inherently designed for community too: community with God, and community with each other (climactically in the marriage union between a man and a woman).

Art and music (and therefore also noise music), while having its place as a lone pursuit undertaken out of curiosity or for one’s own joy, catharsis, or whatever, reaches its heights when shared with others. This takes many forms in many different contexts. For example, in the music world there are artist collaborations, bands, groups, orchestras, record releases, live concerts, fan clubs, magazine reviews, online musicians’ forums, and so on. We want to listen, we want to be heard, we want to share these experiences. Art in community is utterly natural.

And within a piece of art or music (or noise music) itself is a rich web of interconnectedness, inter-penetration (think of overlapping layers of sound which augment and not destroy each other), dynamics, contrasts, influences, cross-modulations, symbiosis… the relation of parts to the whole and the whole to its constituent parts… community.

Turning to natural noise phenomena we find the same principles in play: weather systems, ecosystems, fluid dynamics, particle collisions, animal interactions… noise depends on the meeting and mutating and manipulating of objects of all kinds. And of course the very propagation of sound and noise depends on the interconnections and relationships between materials and their properties.

Everywhere we look or think, everything is connected. It it such an obvious and simple point that we can sometimes miss its profundity. And because the whole cosmos reveals its Maker (most explicitly and dramatically in mankind), this should come as no surprise: God himself is eternal community.

Conclusion

Going back to the topic of the Creator-creature distinction, I close this article with a neat summary found in the following Bible passage, taken from a sermon by the Apostle Paul in first-century Athens:

“‘The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. “For in him we live and move and have our being.” As some of your own poets have said, “We are his offspring.””
‭(Acts‬ ‭17:24-28‬)

The next two articles in this sub-series will develop the themes of God’s evaluation of his creation, and his plans for the creation.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

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