Thursday, March 31, 2011

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:

Do you have to imagine being saved by Christ for it to be an actuality for you?

32 comments:

Sue said...

I think not all people have the capacity to imagine. I do not think our capacities are a requirement to be saved. On the contrary, it is our lack in many areas that makes God's rescue so amazing. I would be cautious about equating faith and imagination.

Greg said...

Sue,
Thanks. For people that do have the capacity to imagine, which probably includes most of us, but your point is well taken, should we not think, generally speaking, that our capacities to accept God's rescue mission have something to do with faith?

Seems that for most people there can be no faith without imagination, though I agree that faith cannot be reduced to imagination. If that's the case, the "for you" plays a role in actualizing through the Spirit what Christ has done.

carter said...

I struggle with my salvation, like a fish deep in the water, caught on a hook fighting the felt but unseen fisherman. But I don't generally have to imagine my salvation. Even when I cannot speak to or hear God, I am certain of his reality. I must add, however that imagination, or better yet, 'imaging' the fact of salvation helps when walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

Greg said...

Carter,
Thanks. I'm interested. Do you think that you can be certain of God's reality without imagination? I would have thought that it would be very difficult to engage that, as imagination seems to be a necessary (though there is more) for a belief in God in the first place.

carter said...

How are you defining imagination? Psalm 19 and Romans 1 support the proposition that the existence of nature evidences God's being. I don't "imagine" math or cause and effect. I don't "imagine" physical pain. Of course, I remember it, particularly when in the dentist's chair.

abigail said...

So, by the "for you" that you mention, do you mean that people are required according to their capabilities/capacities? And thus based on those capabilities faith might look different? For instance, the child who dies in infancy--I'd venture doesn't have the capacity to imagine, period, and certainly isn't "imagining" Christ saving her--yet we would, at least, say that God can and probably, at least, sometimes does save those babies. Or maybe my Calvinist tendencies are getting the better of me? :)

But my guess is, this isn't quite the dimension you were getting at--you weren't asking the "who can be saved?" question. Am I right? I imagine (hahah) what you are saying, Greg, has to do with the fact that faith is a multifaceted "activity" that encompasses logic/reason, emotion, imagination, intuition, information from experience, other people, the world, Scripture etc... as opposed to something narrower? That faith permeates/influences and is influenced by all of our faculties and experience?

Or am I way off base?

Greg said...

Carter,
True, the existence of nature does indeed reveal God, but God is a divine being that we have to imagine "for us" if we are going to have access to him.

The great physicists, for example, would never get to where they do without imagination - Einstein says somewhere that imagination is more important than knowledge.

I'm not sure, but you seem to discount imagination as a faculty that takes us away from the real and true. Plato would have agreed. Perhaps, imagination might be seen more positively, without negating the real, in opening up access to that which can be perceived.

Greg said...

Abigail,
Thanks. You're quite right. I'm not at all asking "who can be saved?" My concern was more with access to being saved "for you" - more the personal/subjective dimension of the actuality and how that becomes real. The "for you" was an attempt to ask if you are required to be a participant, if you have the capacity, in being saved by Christ, and if faith in that reality/truth would necessitate imagining it. So yes, faith is, as you point out, a multifaceted composite of the dimensions you mentioned that "for you" engages the whole of who a you is, and imagination has a significant role to play in truth becoming an actuality "for you." I suppose that for those who do have the capacity to imagine, imagination needs to be seen as explicitly integrated with all that a "you" believes. Do you agree?

carter said...

Still, how do you define your terms? I gave up arguing for Lent. If you want my answer, you had it. If you want to argue, can we wait for another 25 days?

carter said...

My last reply seems a bit terse. Please forgive me. I am not really certain what you mean by "imagine being saved," but the key to me is the qualifier of "to be an actuality." So, as a general rule, I don't need to "imagine" being saved. It is not something that I have ever really pondered.

Greg said...

Carter,
In my previous response to you, I mentioned that imagination was a faculty that had the capacity to lead into the true and real and to open access to faith, knowledge, and the actuality "for you" of being saved. So, I presumed I had responded to your request for definition, or at least description.

Not sure, for example, how to read a passage like PS 97 without having to imagine who God is "for me." Of course, God is not reduced to this. I'm trying to highlight that there is a "for us" that requires our engagement - God invites us to be engaged, and imagination is one of the ways that we do this.

If you don't need to imagine being saved how do you access this truth/reality and how does being saved mean anything "for you"?

carter said...

Greg: You remind me of Aslan asking Eustace to scratch deeper. I gave up arguing and alcohol for Lent, and took up listening. I have not been able to hear the voice of God. Maybe I have been so distrustful of emotionalism that I have intentionally shut off the faculty of imagination and thereby lost the ability to listen. So, tell me, how do I reawaken imagination without wallowing in contentless emotionalism? And I so want to hear the promptings of God!

Greg said...

Carter,
I agree about the serious problems connected to contentless emotionalism. Yet, it would seem that we are always imagining - in one way or the other - it's part of being human.

Imagination cannot go it on its own, as like reason or other human dimensions, it needs informers to shape it towards truth and reality.

One of the ways to reawaken imagination would be to meditate on the words of Scripture that seem to invite the use of imagination for hearing, listening, and knowing God. Content and imagining can be related and distinct, and therefore imagination will not always be inappropriate, but can lead us closer to God.

carter said...

My minister and friend tells me that when we cannot pray ourselves, then we should pray the psalms. Maybe I should reawaken the slumbering imagination by listening to the psalms. Maybe by starting with #19.

Thank you for this blog, by the way. I somewhat consider all on here to be family.

carter said...

Going back to the first question you asked me: can I be certain of God's reality without imagination? Yes. Quite possibly, however, that is the result of some 36 years of wrestling with God.

carter said...

And so for your last question: what does being saved mean for me. (I am not sure how to answer the precursor thereto about "how do I access this truth/reality [of being saved?])

For me, being "saved" means for me that service (a) is not self-serving; (b) that I don't need to worry if I am "good" enough; (c) that I am forgiven.

These, to me, are matters of faith and not of imagination.

I am, however, open. Am I missing out on a deeper content-laden experience?

carter said...

Would you like for me to shut up and give you a chance?

Greg said...

Carter,
Yes. And focus too on the Gospels. To have a view of Jesus giving the sermon on the Mount to the Disciples and crowd in Matthew requires imagination. My wager would be that your imagination has not been slumbering, but that it has not been taken into consideration when it comes to God.

Greg said...

Carter,
It's still hard for me to believe that the reality of God can be accessed without imagination.

Even wrestling with God is done through imagination, though again it is only one feature of what that means.

Greg said...

Carter,
"Faith not imagination." Not sure that this either - or is necessary.

Ben A said...

Children often have a powerful, vivid imagination –seen in their “spiry stone tower” tree house or the monsters under their bed or the anticipation of Santa Clause’s arrival. When Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” I assume he was speaking of their humility and faith/trust. Perhaps children’s powerful imagination contributes to their abundance of faith/trust.

When imagining I often find a gap between the desirable and informed images in my head. I may desire a God/Savior who seeks personal relationship with me, but I often feel this image is not well supported with solid evidence. Skepticism creeps in as I fear the God I want may just be another fictitious figure like children's Santa Clause.

carter said...

Ben A:

I agree about the skepticism. We get fed so much, and we still bite. If we didn't, commercials would not be so obviously effective in duping us/me. We do imagine ourselves to be differnt from who/what we really are. (I am bald, but I put the shampoo on the top of my head.)

But God loves the skeptic, or is that just my imagination (tongue in cheek)?

Greg said...

Ben,
Thanks. I agree with you about the vivid imagination of children (too bad this gets hammered out of us in becoming adults).

I disagree though about your point about Jesus teaching. Surely, children are neither humble or faithful. In fact, they are quite arrogant and selfish. I think Jesus was telling his followers to adopt a childlike status and was not referring to some supposed quality of children, that they actually don't possess.

As I mentioned in an earlier comment, imagination cannot go it alone, but it cannot be done away with either. Belief in God requires imagination, but this does not mean that sufficient evidence is irrelevant or unnecessary. Problem is that we are unable to close down imagination or the subjective side, as it plays a role in belief.

SC is a good example of imagination attempting to go it alone. This will rightly produce skepticism, but my wager would be, skepticism has many avenues, including any notion of belief in God being based on solid evidence alone.

Greg said...

Carter,
Perhaps, we can imagine ourselves different from who we are, but we don't do that necessarily - imagination might get it right if it is not attempting to operate on its own. It's even a possibility that imagination plays a role in envisioning ourselves - imagination in this case would not be a negater of the real - it would be actually aligned with it.

carter said...

TOTALLY OFF (OF)THE WALL: Regarding the issue of Christ's admonition that we should be childlike: I was sitting in church about 20 years ago, misbehaving as usual, when a friend leaned over the pew and informed me that we are asked to be childLIKE not childISH. I tell that on myself quite often.

Greg said...

Carter,
That's good advice from your friend, depending on what it means. Most of the time children would wrangle to get their own way and when they don't cause a stir.

For Jesus, becoming like children, is to recognize that this is our status in the Kingdom - it is not about being the greatest, but the least in an appropriate sense.

Ben A said...

Reviewing Matt. 18:1-10 I agree with you that status seems to read naturally into the text. Is Jesus then saying something like: Do not seek praise from men, but be content with the obscurity of a child?

For many children I would argue that belief in SC is a combination of imagination and evidence. As for evidence there is the testimony of parents (often a child's most trusted source of knowledge), the countless books, films, and advertisements that treat Santa as a real person, the cookies and milk that disappear the night before Christmas, and of course the filled stockings and piles of presents Christmas morning.

Now I do believe in a historic St. Nicholas, but the evolved, immortal, visit-each-worldwide-home Santa Clause is far from the real St. Nick. I also believe in a Creator God and would like to believe that he wants a personal relationship with every human being. I would also like to believe that he makes it possible for every human being to have that relationship with him. But here I wonder if my imagination is fueled mostly by my desire for a personally-defined, good God without having solid evidence to support that image of God. Certain Scriptures seem to line up with a God who gives everyone the opportunity for relationship, while other Scriptures appear to have God handpicking those who can come to him (e.g. John 6:65). Many in the world where we live seem to have no chance for relationship with God (mentally incapable, never heard of him, etc). And those who claim to have relationship with God often give testimonies of largely emotional experiences “with God” that may well have alternate explanations (similar to the alternate explanations of finding presents under a tree).

Greg said...

Ben,
Yes, I think that's more along the lines in MT 18.

Perhaps, the handpicking Scriptures (a minority?), as MT 18 did, need a further look. Taking a verse here or there is not a very good way of assessing biblical truth and meaning.

If God is God, then he can be trusted to not do the wrong thing in regard to the mentally incapable or those who never hear. Their destiny is in God's hands, and we have no information on that one way or the other. What we can know, is God will do what is just and loving.

And those who do claim a relation with God, yet make it up as they go along, have a responsibility to read the text again and to aim to align their lives with its teaching. Imagination interacts with this, the world, and the rest of who we are, providing checked access to a Creator and Redeemer, who is no SC.

carter said...

Greg: From the Introduction to "Jesus and the Land" by Charles Page II:

. . . my colleague, friend, and spiritual mentor in Israel, Father Bargil Pixner . . . took me to Capernaum and said he wanted to "see what I had learned." We entered the Franciscan Park where people come to see the ruins of St. Peter's house and the fourth-century CE synagogue, and Bargil said,"So, tell me what you see." I proceeded to talk about lintels, inscriptions, the insulaea, and the synagogue. He listened patiently. When I had finished talking, he said, "Look deeper and tell me what you see." I explained to him about the millstones, olive presses, harbor, and the street running alongside the synagogue to the lake. He asked again,"What else?" I said, "That's about all I see."

He led me into the synagogue, and we sat on the bench that surrounds the interior wall. I could tell that he was disappointed, but I did not know why. He turned to me and said, "You must see Jesus here. If you do not see Jesus in the ruins of Capernaum, you should have studied physics. We are involved in biblical archaeology. Our job is to know him and to make him known. Seeing him helps us to know him. Knowing him leads us to love him. Loving him will help us to serve him and to make a difference in the world."

carter said...

This morning, I was rereading John's gospel, chapter 5, and trying to put into perspective of the first 4 chapters as well as the holy festivals and the sabbath. Verses 39 and 40 struck me, because the implication to me is that by becoming caught up in the intricacies of the words, I can lose sight of the "Word made flesh" that has come to dwell among us. Therefore, I MUST utilize my imagination in order to fully comprehend.

Greg said...

Carter,
Thanks for sending this. Indeed, seeing Jesus involves imagination.

To see him in the ruins, or on the cross, or sitting at the Father's right hand, all involve imagination.

Our imaginations play a crucial role in knowing God, ourselves, others, and the world. How we picture these communities, through our hearts and minds, and as revealed in Scripture and nature will have a tremendous impact on how we live as God’s children. Engaging, transforming, redeeming, and sanctifying imaginations are part of God’s aim to renew the world and bring us more fully into his awesome and loving presence.

Greg said...

Carter,
I couldn't agree more. I'd say it like this: Sufficient comprehension of "the Word made flesh" and dwelling among us requires imagination.