Thursday, September 15, 2011
Better Than John Lennon
What Mike describes here is, I think, why the Narnia books are so popular. WE do not just want facts, we want pictures - images. Unfortunately, we have a healthy dose of puritan in us and cannot distinguish between a good imagination and a idolatrous image. Sadly, even good imagination can become idolatrous image, but not if we are careful.
I have always considered evangelicals (including myself) weak in the area of imagination. The evangelical or fundamentalist tradition has been, by and large, a prosaic tradition, characterized by simple logic, plain spokenness, common sense, and an iconoclastic rather than an aesthetic ethos. There is a certain literalism at its heart that carries with it a suspicion of metaphor, poetry, myth, mystery, ambiguity, symbolism, and open-ended questions. Evangelical faith is expository faith—it must explain. It values answers and certainty. It wants to “nail things down,” not set the mind and heart free to imagine and explore the possibilities. Its focus is captured in the immortal words of Detective Joe Friday, “Just the facts, ma’am.”
In some situations, this can be a strength. Overall, I think not.
That’s why I was so glad to see Scot McKnight take up the subject of imagination in his book, One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow. Scot notes how reading fiction and entering into its stories and characters “lengthens the horizons of my life and expands my vision of what life can be,” and then talks about how and why Jesus used fiction in the form of parables to teach about God’s Kingdom. “His parables draw us into the kingdom world and then they set us back down in this world hungering for more, hungering for a kingdom kind of world now.” (p. 38)
You see, here is the thing - God is supernatural - we must begin to stretch beyond the limits of fact and "reality" of we are going to even have a modicum of understanding. Reason is created by God and is good, but it is not all. Imagination is also created by God and it is a tool to access God. Imagination is our door to the supernatural.
One of the things that really bother me about the hyper-rational aspects of Evangelicalism is that it attempts to make faith controllable - it focuses on us instead of Him. SOmehow I think that misses the point.