December 19, 2014

Imagination redeemed: Glorifying God with a Neglected Part of Your mind

As an active Christian poet, writer, and occasional poetry editor, I know how important imagination can be. More often, however, I heavily rely on prayer and observation – listening for God’s guidance and paying attention to the details that make a poem or post or book come alive. So I have to admit: I often think imagination is over-rated or, worse, a way to conjure up unlikely thoughts or inadvisable ideas!

Reportedly, God’s people have had similar concerns from the beginning as Genesis 6:5 reminds us, saying, “...the imagination and intentions of human thinking is continually evil.” Ouch! But wait!

What if Christ has redeemed our imaginations along with everything else about us?

I love that idea, don’t you? So, when I saw that Crossway had recently published Imagination redeemed by authors Gene Edward Veith Jr. and Matthew P. Ristuccia, I immediately requested a review copy, which the publisher kindly sent.

The subtitle reveals even more about the authors’ intentions: Glorifying God with a Neglected Part of Your Mind. Excellent idea! But, how do we do that?

Second Corinthians 10:4-5 gives us the short version:

For the weapons of our warfare
are not of the flesh,
but empowered by God
to bring down strongholds.

Therefore, with God’s help

we can bring down everything opposed
to what we know of God,

– that knowledge that comes to us through the Bible, our experiences, our conscience, and our God-given ability to think and reason –

taking every thought captive
in obedience to Christ.

Authors Veith and Ristuccia fully develop that idea in their book Imagination redeemed, beginning with this definition from Gene:

“Imagination is simply the power of the mind to form a mental image, that is, to think in pictures or other sensory representations…. Imagination lets us relive the past and anticipate the future. And it takes up much of our present. We use our imaginations when we daydream and fantasize, to be sure, but also when we just think about things.”

In providing biblical examples from Ezekiel throughout the book, Matt had this to say:

“It is hard to imagine a more difficult faith crisis for Old Testament people of God than what Ezekiel and his fellow exiles faced. The combined loss of hope and reassurance of divine presence were overwhelming. God’s people were in desperate need for something bigger than an oracle. Their thoughts had wandered too far astray to be called back by prophetic logic alone. Instead, they needed to see what they could not see: God’s loyal providence…. So the Lord went after Ezekiel’s imagination, and through him the exiles.”

As Matt goes on to say:“If you capture someone’s imagination, you capture his mind, heart, and will.”

Typing that quotation now, I’m reminded that Matthew 22:37 reports Jesus’ word to us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

Our imaginations can free us to capture our love for God – in our minds, in our writings, and in our lives.

With vibrant words and poetic imaginations, prophets such as Ezekiel give us examples to consider, which this book also does throughout the text. Sometimes, though, I found the references to Ezekiel distracting and would have preferred the text divided by each author’s emphasis, perhaps in separate chapters, parts, or even separate volumes. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book and the excellent ideas behind it.

Like the authors, I believe, “…the part of the mind known as the imagination – the ability to form mental images – is important in the life of the Christian. Though a realm in need of discipline and sanctification, the imagination is a God-given superpower, making possible some of the greatest achievements of human beings. It makes possible empathy and compassion, shapes our worldview, and is the way into our heart.”

For Christian poets, writers, editors, and other communicators for Christ, I pray that God inspires us and stimulates our imaginations to write in all genres with such winsome words and creative ideas that we bring countless readers to Christ and the church. Imagine what we can do in Jesus’ Name!

©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler is an ecumenical Christian poet, writer, and lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts.

Imagination redeemed: Glorifying God with a Neglected Part of Your Mind, paperback

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