When I was sweating over my thesis research, I would often come across one of the most basic creativity tests that academic researchers use. The Torrance Test.
This test measures the participant on four main scales:
- Fluency – the amount of meaningful ideas they can generate, when given a prompt;
- Originality – the rarity of their responses;
- Elaboration – how detailed they can described their ideas;
- Flexibility – the number of different categories of responses.
In one of the most simple examples of this, imagine sitting in a small room and being asked to generate as many uses for a clay brick as possible.
Your first answers would likely be fairly obvious. A building tool. A door stop. A section of a wall.
But then you might start going wider. You imagine how it could be used as a musical instrument. Or as a bug-collector (because you know that bugs love to live under bricks!). Perhaps you’d describe it as a weapon, or a cooking implement – or even a possible piece of sports equipment?
Researchers like to use simple objects when conducting a Torrance Test – such as water bottles, cups and nails. It’s believed that simple objects draw out the best imagination of the participants – and also can be creatively placed in a wide range of categories.
I was thinking of this as I read about the cross. At its core, the cross is an incredibly simple construction. Two pieces of lumber, notched together, and placed in the ground. This basic design is an effective execution device – but it’s a fairly crude and rough tool.
The fact that one man, claiming to be God, was executed on it 2000 years ago is also a fairly simple fact. There’s not, on the face of it, much fluency as to how this can be interpreted.
And yet, when we read the New Testament – and especially the letters of Paul – we see a jaw-dropping display of God-inspired creativity as he continues to draw rich meaning from this single event.
Two New Testament scholars, Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker, count over thirty interpretations of the cross in Paul’s letters. In places, he speaks of it as a place of reconciliation – between God, humanity and the world. In others, he speaks of vicarious substitution – of Jesus being in our place.
Further, he talks of representation – of Jesus representing humanity and Israel. He speaks of sacrifice. He speaks of justification, forgiveness and even of new creation.
He talks of redemption – of people being set free. He talks of it being the pathway to adoption. He speaks of the cross being a triumph over powers.
Time and time again, Paul gazes into the cross of Jesus – and continually discovers imaginative new depths of what this means for him and his community. He turns to Christ and his cross when he is suffering, and when he is rejoicing. He looks back to the cross, and he looks forward to the cross. He sees the cross as a present reality and a future victory.
If this was a Torrance Test – Paul would blow it off the scale. What was a simple and shameful execution device becomes an Exodus-starter, a Family-Maker, a Victory-Medal, and a Sacrificial Site.
Perhaps you haven’t pondered Christ and the cross since Easter – maybe it’s a once-a-year event for you. Why not prayerfully and thoughtfully book in five minutes to meditate on the cross?
Perhaps you’re in a time of suffering and pain. Maybe you’re feeling lost. Maybe life is ticking along quite nicely. Maybe you’re on top of the world.
Jesus, his life, death and resurrection speaks into all of this. Why not take five minutes to reflect and listen?