Thursday, June 25, 2009

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

Does knowledge of God require imagination?


Micha said...

Sadly, my first reaction to your question was: knowledge of god does require intelligence.

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

Luckily the answer to your reaction is: God made man intelligent!

Ont eh other hand you could consider that as sad, too!!!

And God gives wisdom...

Greg said...

Thanks. Do you think intelligence requires imagination?

Greg said...

Thanks. True. But why do you say that God making humans intelligent could be considered sad?

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

Because we see intelligent people "dismiss" God!

Greg said...

But wouldn't dismissing God be a sign of ignorance and the deeper and necessary understanding that one is a sinner?

Joshua said...

Yea. The problem is that the imagination tends to be unreflective, and is largely structured via cultural images. So there's the common Seinfeld god, where He's absent, a sadist, and cruel. God can be a homeboy, a dark cloud in all things, or a Republican. The revealed metaphors and propositions though in Scripture seem to help in disclosing God, and the metaphors especially can only be accessed via imagination. God as Father, Master, Lover. The propositions too require imagination, as it ties the propositions to their meaning. Too often it seems, we let our imaginations though fill in the blank for propositions like God is good. The result is a lack of understanding. Often times the Scriptures themselves require the imagination required by listeners of a story or by historians as they reconstruct what happened.

That might not be epistemic enough for you, but knowledge itself without the object of God seems to require imagination.

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

Knowing God requires faith and as I see it, faith is far more than imagination, since imagination tries to grasp something - get it into my mind, whereas faith believes that, which I can NOT imagine.

Greg said...

Thanks. Helpful comment. True, cultural images can tend to de-sensitize imagination and lead us into, as Moltmann has it, presumption or despair and not truth.

I agree that the scriptural metaphors can ultimately only be accessed with imagination, but what other dimensions would you want to include here?

Good point that knowledge without God as the object requires imagination.

Greg said...

Would you say that faith, while being more than imagination is not less than imagination?

How do you see faith believing something you cannot imagine? I think I understand if you mean fully imagine, but I might have to imagine something of it to believe it.

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

dismissing God == ignorance?
Ignorance in the meaning of "(to) not know"?
Romans 1,19-21
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; ...

This passage is very clear about understanding and knowing and even knowing God! For me dismissing does not seem to be a sign of ignorance. But rather rebellion against the creator and judge.

b) Ignorance in the meaning of "(to) disregard" (I don't know if this is the correct word, I hope you understand the distinction I want to make...)?
Disregarding a fact requires knowledge about something and afterwards the act of disregarding it. Otherwise the decision is taken upon wrong information and there is no disregarding. It would be a "misregarding".

dismissing God == lacking understanding of being a sinner?
Romans 3,19
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

I don't want to say, that our faith is irrational! Surely we have things to know and others to imagine. But, as I understand it, (faith = ) I believe in things I can not see. Not with my eyes and often not with my imagination. (Example: I can not imagine a triune God. Still this is important to believe in, because otherwise Jesus was not God, which is essential.)

I can try to explain things through imagination, but faith is superior. Believing is better than knowing.

Though I am happy that we may know so much of the transcendent things. And through faith we "know" even more...

Greg said...

Good points. True, ignorance is not the problem in and of itself and it pertains only if it is set in a broader context of rebellion against God as sin.

Greg said...

Yes, and faith may also play a role in what you do see. Perhaps, one needs faith that one's faculties are operating correctly.

When we read or think of the triune God I would wager we have to have someone in mind and as we do imagination seems to be involved, but of course that wouldn't necessarily mean that I'm imagining and thinking about it fully or correctly in every sense.

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

When we read or think of the triune God I would wager we have to have someone in mind and as we do imagination seems to be involved, but of course that wouldn't necessarily mean that I'm imagining and thinking about it fully or correctly in every sense.

1. Faith believes in a perfect thing, which is unbelievable i.e. unimaginable, though.

Imagination tries to make the transcendent things imaginable, which always leaves them imperfect and maybe even wrong.

I don't need perfect knowledge, but I need something to hold on, something to believe in... So maybe it is important to believe in the transcendent (and therefore "far away") thing and at the same time try to get this far away thing nearer to me using my imagination. But will it get near by trying to understand how it is? Or may it bring me away from the actual thing?

2. Does the subject touch "aniconism" in your eyes?

Greg said...

I would think that Christ makes the perfect imaginable. But yes as far as the transcendent things there is a risk in imagining, yet Scripture does give us realities to imagine from - God is a fortress - a rock - love.

Thanks for the questions. Seems to me that imagining appropriately will help bring the transcendent nearer, but this nearness will not reduce it to immanence.

Maybe icons that point us to the living and true God and not themselves have a place.

Rhett & Valerie said...


Read this in the intro to Theological Interpretation of the New Testament (Vanhoozer, Treier, Wright, and lots of others) this morning;

"Knowing God is more than a merely academic exercise. On the contrary, knowing at once an intellectual, imaginative, and spiritual exercise. To know God as the author and subject of Scripture requires more than intellectual acknowledgment. To know God is to love and obey him, for the knowledge of God is both restorative and transformative. The saving knowledge of God results in the transformation of the reader into the likeness of Jesus Christ. In the final analysis, theological interpretation of the Bible may be less a matter of knowing God than of engaging with the living God and being known by God (Gal. 4:9)." (p.24)

It's helpful to note that imagination and reality are always connected. Jesus images God... he is the image of God; not just a reflection of him, as all humans are. Looking at Jesus helps us to imagine God; to know him better. I think that imagination is always tied up with knowing God. It seems that God designed it that way.


Greg said...

Thanks for this insightful quote and comment. I agree with this and, as you know, appreciate the work of Vanhoozer and Wright.

I too believe that God designed this connection between imagination and reality and that imagination is always tied up with knowing God.

John said...

Great comments on this topic. I've enjoyed reading them.

I think that imagination is absolutely necessary when talking about the knowledge of God. As others have alluded to, we have a bit of a picture of God through the person of Christ, though we do not have the complete picture.

We must remember, however, that our imagination needs to be within guidelines. God can't be whoever we imagine him to be. Therefore, our imagination must be in dialogue with the world, with God's created order, with who God has revealed himself to be in Scripture, and with our experience. If all of those are in dialogue, then I think that we will have a more virtuous imagination about who God is.

Greg said...

Thanks. Glad you found the dicsussion useful and pertinent.

You make important points about dialogue and not making it up as we go along. A de-sensitized and de-railed imagination ends up monologuing its imaginer away from God.

harry coe maynard said...


Reading the Bible creates immagination galore, but if it wasn't real it would remain just that. I don't think when Paul was knocked off his horse and blinded and heard Jesus, it was just his immagination.

But when we are in a cul de sac we have to immagine a different way, a very good Church can be a Cul de Sac, it needs a Vision (not a new building). Sometimes I think inductive Bible Study was invented so we wouldn't have to actually beleive it. Without Faith it is immpossible... I think you can ecpect two things problems or immagination which God ecpects to become reality.

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

"There is a God we want, and there is a God who is and they are not the same God. The turning point of our lives is when we stop seeking the God we want and start seeking the God who is." - Patrick Morley

Greg said...

Harry coe,
Thanks. Good points.

Greg said...

Excellent quote. Thanks.