The problem of creativity does not lie in our neglect of creativity. We value creativity. Bloom’s taxonomy places creating at the pinnacle of learning. YouTubers are called “creators.” Sports fans love to see creative plays. Yet some believe that pursuing creativity opposes another, more modern form of cultivating the human imagination. With information at our fingertips, they say, we no longer need to store more facts in our brains. Instead, our task is to ask good questions and synthesize. This is, or is becoming, the dominant mode of creativity in the digital age. Nonetheless, Augustine’s Confessions suggests that we should seek creativity through an unexpected medium—the art of memorization.

I venture to say Augustine’s creativity springs from his memorization of literature, including Scripture. Scripture saturates the Confessions. Sometimes Augustine quotes it directly. Sometimes he alludes to it. At other times the echo is so faint that we wonder whether it was intentional. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that Augustine thinks with the language of Scripture. This should not surprise us, given that Augustine encourages the memorization of God’s Word (doct. Chr. 2.9.14). Like an artist imitating other artists, Augustine immerses his imagination in Scripture. The words of Scripture internalized in the stomach of memory transfigure into a confession. But what’s so creative about the confession of Hippo’s bishop?

Reading the Confessions, I am drawn into another human being’s journey toward God. Yet a confession so personal becomes my own. Augustine’s recollections and reflections shed light on my own soul. I find myself embarking on a journey before my Creator. Like Augustine, my lips mimic words of Scripture, confessing sin and praising God. That’s what creative products do. Psychologists and philosophers of creativity remind us that we don’t celebrate creative outputs for their novelty alone but for the value they add to our lives. We gaze at, think alongside, and feel with the fruits of human creativity. In that sense, the Confessions is more than a literary, philosophical, or theological contribution to the canon of human civilization. It illuminates, brings us to our knees, and reorients our paths. From a unilateral conversation with the author, the reader begins a dialogue with their Creator.

The difference between plucking data from Google’s farm and long-term memorization is like the difference between fast food and a slow-cooked home meal. In the latter, ingredients are prepared into a pot. The food boils and simmers. Chemicals break and bond. Flavors blend into one another. Distinct flavors are formed; other flavors remain. This is what memorization and its fruits are like. Texts memorized simmer in the cauldron of life. When the world stimulates us with joy and sorrow, ideas of texts are reconfigured within us, helping us encounter meaning in our experience with good questions that beget insight. And that insight, so personal, in turn becomes universal, for we all share a common gift of life. I’m not against fast food. In fact, we often succumb to it in our research and writing. But I do wonder whether digesting Scripture and the classics, rather than collecting and consuming information, nurtures slow-creativity—one that builds up souls.