There were a lot of questions generated by our recent Animate series. This sermon answers questions about why Christians have sometimes been suspicious of the imagination, and about how we can get our “life” (worth, significance and security) from God.
Greg began this sermon with a couple of questions: Why do Evangelical churches tend to ignore or even be suspicious of imagination? Why have they
tended to downplay the visual arts?
In response to these questions Greg pointed out that the history of Christian tradition is rich in its use of both imagination and the arts. The use of icons, stained glass, beautiful buildings, imaginative prayer, liturgy, and worship music all reflect creative uses of imagination. So what happened? Greg pointed out that during the Reformation, some of the self-declared reformers were also “iconoclasts”. These folks took a very literal and hard-line approach to the idea that when humans make things that represent God, they are creating idols and are therefore encouraging idolatry.
When you add the “Scientific Revolution” to this Reformation intuition, it just intensifies skepticism about what is “real” and what is “imaginary”. And again, with the emergence of the New Age movement and their highly imaginative ideas—Christians had yet one more reason to be suspicious of anything that seemed to tend in that direction. Clearly the New Age use of imagination would lead us astray so the result was often to throw the baby out with the bath water and reject all forms of imaginative prayer.
All of this creates a rather hostile environment (among most Evangelicals) for the imaginative prayer that we have been focusing on with the Animate series. This is a problem because we need to experience the truth of the Gospel, not just know it intellectually. And the only way to experience abstract ideas personally is to make them concrete in our minds and then in our lives. To do this, we need our imaginations. If we can’t imagine a new possibility, we certainly can’t move toward it either.
Greg gave a practical example of this based on a common New Testament
theme: life and death. For the Christian, we are dead to the world and our old way of being and alive to Christ and a new way of relating to God’s creation. As Paul puts it, “to live is Christ and to die is gain”. Greg shared with us a practical application of this that uses our imagination to reshape our thinking and therefore our responses in life. Simply take this truth from Scripture and repeat it to yourself as a confession of what is true. Greg rephrased it this way for himself: “Life is Christ, nothing else matters.” When this truth becomes a part of your way of thinking and responding to the world around you, new options open up all over the place!
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