Imagination and the adventure of faith

Faith is the act of the whole person and has as its object a personal God. Faith cannot be less than personal and personalist categories are required to interpret it. Provided that we remember this, we may speak of the role of various faculties in conducing to faith reason, conscience and imagination. It is the crucial function of the imagination in the venture of faith that I propose to explore in this chapter. Newman wrote in his Anglican days ('The Tamworth Reading Room', 1841) and quoted...

Creative theology and the making of doctrine

It is not only the primary speech of religion in revelation mediated through the Bible that is ineradicably figurative, but also the language of theology and the doctrine that it articulates. Theology, as a second order critical reflection on the first order utterances of faith, finds it neither desirable nor possible to escape from the all-embracing realm of figurative language which is generated by the primary encounter of individuals and communities with the reality of the sacred. Sallie...

Seeing and shaping

The analytical tradition in epistemology that emerged in the pre- and early Enlightenment period was mesmerised by the ideal of a completely dispassionate, totally objective, perfectly clear and absolutely certain act of knowing. Bacon believed that an unmitigated realism was possible for science. Descartes' method confined itself to 'what we can clearly and perspicuously behold and with certainty deduce'. It was an ideal of knowledge without the knower, objectivity alienated from subjectivity,...

Biblical symbols spirit light love

Already in the Bible, the spontaneous metaphors generated by engagement with God in religious experience are reflectively refined into conceptual symbols. Abstracted from their original context in the address to God of prayer and praise, sacred symbols stand in their own integrity as windows on the transcendent. But they continue to have a living connection with liturgy (though this becomes even more pronounced in the case of myth reference the long debate on the priority of myth or cult). The...

Metaphors of revelation

'Ah Lord GOD,' Ezekiel cried, 'they are always saying of me, He deals only in figures of speech' (Ezekiel 20.49 REB). The language of the Bible is the language of the sanctified imagination. Blake claimed that the Bible was addressed to the imagination and declared that 'the Whole Bible is fill'd with Imagination and Visions'. Spinoza, one of the founders of modern biblical criticism, stated Scripture does not explain things by their secondary causes, but only narrates them in the order and the...

Biblical myth

Is there myth in the Bible While that might strike some as a rhetorical and indeed superfluous question, there have been biblical scholars who have answered it, in effect, in the negative. Such scholars collude with popular misunderstandings of myth and the strong aversion to recognising myth in the sacred scriptures among Christian believers. Frei denies that the Bible contains substantial mythic elements. He argues that the concept of 'narrative meaning' avoids the dilemma of choosing between...

Thinking and speaking

We need now to take a firm grasp of a connection that has been hovering on the edges of the argument throughout the connection between imaginative insight and its articulation in words. The effect is actually reciprocal. Insight needs verbal expression both to reflect it back to the subject, so clarifying the experience, as well as to communicate it to others in order that they may share in it and verify it for themselves or not, as the case may be . But the words that are available to us...