The Emotion in Creation

The Emotion in Creation

John Dewey was an American philosopher most known for his work in shaping education. However, he was also a philosopher of art and wrote on aesthetics in works like Art as Experience.

For him, the central element of creating art is emotion. It first makes itself known or present to the artist, leads the artist in creating, and is finally embedded in the art piece to be perceived by others. Here lies a great reality and truth on God's work as the Creator of the world and us.

Emotion in the Artist

Before calling it an emotion, Dewey says every artist first receives an impulse to create. This impulse is later clarified as an emotion through working out this creative itch of sorts. The emotion must be unclear, at least in some sense, because if it wasn't, there wouldn't be a need to put it in song or a painting.

Art is a medium of expression for the artist's emotive impulse.

A clear difference between us as creators and God is that God does know with clarity the impulse within Him. He did not need creation to clarify the impulse, rather He just used it as a canvas for what He knew He wanted to imprint. At times we can do the same, but Dewey argues that doing so might be fabricated and false art. True art is to work out what is in us.

God knew that the emotion within Him that lead Him to create was love.

Emotion Leads the Artist

One of the most fascinating thoughts of Dewey is that as we work out the emotion, the emotion itself leads our creative process. Every chord that we choose, or every line of a poem is dictated and shaped by the emotion itself. That is why we use particular phrases to describe what fits or doesn't fit in a given art piece. Producers of music and film constantly use their skills to set a mood or feeling.

The same can be said of God in that all of what was created was lead by love. His love for man, who had yet to be created, is what shaped every act of creation. He set up sustenance in the garden and a place of security for man to live. There was no self interest involved in creation on God's end. It was all an act of love to those who would inhabit the earth.

Emotion in the Art

The final product of art should serve as an exact representation of the emotion that was in the artist. When we hear a song where the emotion that was in the artist was sadness, we feel that or perceive it. Likewise when we look at creation and man we should see what was in the Creator's mind.

Look at what the Psalmist said:

When I consider your heavens,
   the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
   which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
   human beings that you care for them?

Creation doesn't just reveal God's existence, it also reveals His nature of love that lead Him to make all things.


As Christian artists there is an interesting reality whereby we can be lead by God Himself in creating things. God's Spirit resides in all those who are born again, and He has a role of bringing the things in God's heart to us.

But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.- 1 Cor. 2:10

In Dewey's language, it means that many times the impulse and emotion in us as artists is the very prompting of God to do something. And when we start to work out that prompting, the very Spirit of God shapes what we do. What we end up with is an end product with an embedded message from God to those in the world. With this common grace we see the truth in what is written:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Romans 8:14