May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. -- 2 Thessalonians 3:5
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Bob was talking about imagination and education last week, which started me thinking about imagination in Scripture. Oddly enough, the word imagination appears more frequently in the King James Version of the Bible than in modern translations. A good example is Genesis 8:25 which in the KJV read, in part, “…for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth …” where the ESV reads “… for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth …”.
Meanwhile, I did find two occurrences of the word in the ESV, first, Proverbs 18:25 – “A rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.” The other occurrence is Acts 17:29, “Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.” Well, of course, the imagination makes images, but they can be useful, correct images or erroneous images. We can use the imagination to understand what is unseen, such as the electrons on an atom. We can also use the imagination to mislead and deceive ourselves, as we were talking about a little yesterday.
Perhaps there is a connection between heart, spirit, and imagination. We can have a self-directed imagination, or we could have a God-directed imagination, one that is a vehicle of the Spirit to bring truth into our lives. We can use our imagination to indulgence in fantasies and daydreams, or it can be an agent of spiritual understanding and transformation. The icons, images, trappings, and rituals of Orthodox and Catholic Christianity are meant to engage the worshipper’s imagination. The same is true of music and the lyrical poetry of worship songs in much of Protestantism.
There is something of a conflict between the “normal” world of sense perception, of everyday language and common, superficial reality and the world that opens to use through the imagination. I think of the several writers and poets who used alcohol, often to excess, to quiet the common in order to connect to the sacred space of imagination. Prayer ought to be a place where we surrender our imaginations to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to direct us and guide. This seems to me to be what Paul is saying to the church at Thessalonica.
We cannot sense the love of God or the perseverance of Christ through touch, taste, hearing, smell or sight. There must be another channel through which we can perceive and grasp these realities. As we study, worship, and pray, may our hearts be open to the Spirit and what He wants us to see and experience with our spiritual sense.