Common Ground: On the Faith-Creativity Connection
Joshua Hale + Kelly Arbeau

Research exploring the thought processes and personality attributes of creative individuals (such as that of Dollinger, 2004; Karwowski & Lebuda, 2016) would be enriched by acknowledging that many factors underlying creativity are also crucial for the act of “having faith.” These shared factors are concepts like ambiguity tolerance, openness to mystery, paradoxical thinking, perseverance, and questioning. Practitioners of both activities (the act of “having faith” and the act of creating) also share many guiding phrases, such as “take it one step at a time,” “go with your heart,” and “trust the process.” Despite these commonalities, many perceive faith as antithetical or oppositional to creative thinking. We contend that the cultural tendency to conflate “faith” with “religion” is the most likely culprit for this confusion. Higher levels of religiosity, particularly religious fundamentalism, have been shown to predict lower levels of creativity and associated attributes, including greater conformity and need for closure (Brandt & Reyna, 2010; El-Haq, Abdelaziz, & Mohamed, 2016; Schwartz & Huismans, 1995; Zysberg & Schenk, 2013). However, faith, understood as a process of meaning-making, purpose-seeking, and placing trust (Parks, 200; Swidler, 2014) is very likely associated with its own distinct set of attitudes and behaviours. Failing to distinguish between these constructs obscures the drivers of effects reported in the literature, thereby limiting interpretation and usefulness. This conflation of terminology may be holding back creativity research in many ways, not the least of which is the possibility that “having faith,” in its most general sense, might actually be necessary for creativity itself. Perhaps persons who have faith also have something crucial to offer in regards to creativity. Only when we appropriately distinguish between “having faith” and “religiosity” will we move forward in this dialogue.


Joshua Hale is a creative professional from Texas, currently teaching in the Art + Design program at Trinity Western University. Having professional and educational experience in both the design and studio art realms, he carries with him an interdisciplinary perspective. Before earning his MFA in studio art, he worked as a professional graphic and web designer in Texas. He is interested in research that explores the wide overlap between art and design, such as creative thinking processes, creative problem solving techniques, and design methodologies. This interest has led him to introduce various problem-solving systems and creative thinking techniques into his design and studio work, as well as into the classroom environment. 

Kelly Arbeau, BA (New Brunswick), PhD (Alberta) is an assistant professor with the Department of Psychology at Trinity Western University. Dr. Arbeau's interests include integrating quantitative (esp. multilevel modeling) and qualitative methods in interdisciplinary research and the phenomenology of involuntary separation.