Creation and Jazz Music

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October 24, 2010 Tags: Divine Action & Purpose

Today's entry was written by the BioLogos Editorial Team. You can read more about what we believe here.

Creation and Jazz Music

The classic view of creation is that God crafted all life by hand exactly as it is today. In such a view, God takes the role of a master artisan or director who assembled each of us from a preset plan. Doesn't such a view, which invokes a craftsman's care, provide the most loving image of a creator?

In their book Questions of Truth, John Polkinghorne and Nicholas Beale argue that evolution instead is more consist with the loving nature of God. If God has shaped the world as it was from the beginning, the universe seems reduced to a mere puppet stage where God the Puppet Master pulls all the strings.

Instead, God in his wisdom has provided a system in which creatures can make themselves. God has given us great potentiality through fine-tuning and other processes, but it is through the exploratory nature of evolution that we fully reach it. Polkinghorne and Beale compare this to a performing orchestra:

"The history of the universe is not the performance of a fixed score, written by God in eternity and inexorably performed by creatures, but it is a grand improvisation in which the Creator and creatures cooperate in the unfolding development of the grand fugue of creation."

                                                                                                                          -Questions of Truth, Page 15.

Just as the improvisations of jazz music in the end produce a beautiful song, so too the improvisations of creatures as they continue to evolve create a beautiful creation in which we are all active sharers.

For more answers to questions like these, be sure to check out Questions of Truth, and don't forget our own Questions at www.biologos.org.



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Jon Garvey - #36301

October 25th 2010

An interesting metaphor, especially to me as I am both an improvising and reading musician.

Not least (and this is maybe the illustration’s weakness) because it could cover almost any theology of God’s sovereignty, or lack of it.

At one extreme, even classical, “off the page” music draws on the deepest humanity of the performers - it’s not mechanistic, though it’s fully determined.

In the middle, most improvisation is usually governed by pretty strict and genre-specific rules (you use a bebop scale and particular phrase-types for that kind of jazz, but pentatonic stock runs to sound authentic in heavy metal). And even the greats will tend to evolve a solo over a number of perfomances and repeat it with variations. So what sounds a unique performance is governed by external laws and conventions which, in the metaphor, are necessarily the creation of God.

At the other end are the Ornette Colemans of this world playing as randomly and innovatively as possible. And yet people complain that he sounds just like he did 40 years ago - which suggests that even free jazz follows conventions.

In all forms, many musicians don’t have a sense of invention, but of finding what’s already “out there” somehow.


HornSpiel - #36392

October 25th 2010

As a musician and improviser, I like the analogy.

I am reminded that in improvisation,  the individuality and gifts of the performers are maximized. Not only that,  if the performance is to really be great, they are more than listening to each other;  they communicating, even communing, through the music.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #36420

October 25th 2010

The analogy also suggests the dominant Biblical view of history, which is Covenantal, the Mosaic and Christian Covenants.  Salvation history is based on covenantal interaction between God and humanity. 

Evolution is based on the complex ecological interaction between organic and inorganic elements of the biosphere.  Sadly neoDarwinism does not understand this and oversimplifies our understanding of life as the product of random chance and Malthusian conflict.


Robert Byers - #36787

October 27th 2010

Jazz is a minor form of music that only had popularity for a while because of general poverty of musical acheivment. Nobody likes jazz today. If alternative music had been around back then nobody would of back then like Jazz.
Likewise evolution fails because it makes little or no case for the great conclusions it makes.
Creationism is based on Gods word and then human intelligence can fill in the details or combat false ideas of complexity from dices rolling over the ages.


Jon Garvey - #36849

October 27th 2010

@Robert Byers - #36787

Young Earth Creationism as the new Rock and Roll? More Kenny G, if I had to make a judgement.


beaglelady - #36926

October 27th 2010

Nobody likes jazz today.

Baloney!  Not that I’m a jazz fan, but your claim is ridiculous.


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