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Faith And Imagination - Being Open To The Possibilities

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1. What does the word “faith” mean for you?

I find the following quotes to be informative:

 

When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.

- Albert Einstein

 

Faith is crumpling and throwing away everything, proposition by proposition, until nothing is left, and then writing a new proposition, your very own, to throw in the teeth of despair.

-Mary Jean Irion
, in
Yes, World: A Mosaic of Meditation

Or to put it another way (as I read/hear it):

 

Faith is having an Open Heart, Imagination is having an Open Mind.

 

Both states are Creative in the most fundamental and genuine since of that word. Open refers to our capacity to go beyond our typical ways of thinking and of being receptive to that which we might normally dismiss or uncritically/unfairly pass judgement. That is, faith and imagination are different aspects of the same disposition. This is why wooden faith, the kind which is mocked by many atheists as well as quite a few theists, is so transparently counterfeit and also why it is so dangerous.

 

What I just wrote came from something I was thinking about last week, and then I recently stumbled across a few things of related interest. First, a sermon by the Rev. Victoria Weinstein which includes the following:

 

If you think the Easter story is crazy, it is. It is absolutely crazy and ridiculous, as we are. Deciding together to experience life and joy where there is every reason to proclaim death and failure is absolutely ridiculous. As the composer Stephen Sondheim wrote, "Send in the clowns. Don' t bother; they' re here."

 

We celebrate a ridiculous story here today, a fantastic story. Jesus' original community of disciples went home on Friday afternoon thinking the whole enterprise was over, failure. Enough with this kingdom of equals, enough with the promises of God' s healing and love for all. It was done. Finished.

 

[T]he women went back to tend to the body of their rabbi the next day and they found the tomb empty. They saw an angel. Or a figure in white, it depends who you ask. The details of their vision aren' t consistent among all the gospel accounts, but it startled them just about out of their skins and they went running off to tell the men. The men said, of course, you' re being ridiculous... This is what we usually say when something seems an enormously obvious failure and ending by our conventional wisdom. "Don' t be ridiculous, there' s no life to be seen there, and there certainly aren' t any angels." So a couple of those downhearted men walked to a town called Emmaus...[t]he two men had already decided the women disciples were fools for believing that Jesus was still alive, and yet they got pulled into the very same experience of life and faith as the women did. They got pulled into just as much ridiculousness.

 

I especially respect it when a group of people' s direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder leads them to see the possibility of life, ministry, healing and hope where there was death... How blessed to be that ridiculous. It' s what I live for... If you want to set out to be that ridiculous, and I hope you do, here' s how: set out to find bits of light, love and understanding wherever you can. Have a direct experience of ridiculousness that turns the way you perceive reality from death to life; from destruction to creation.

Don't you know that I then find a reference to someone I've never heard of before today called Walter Brueggeman, who is not in my humble opinion saying something entirely new but just saying it in a formal and new way regarding iamgination and faith and scripture...

 

Brueggemann offers a way of reading Scripture that links it rather with human experience – not directly, but through the imaginative interpretation of Biblical metaphors, myths and symbols which were the natural form of expression of the biblical writers. He sees the main object of faith that is grounded in Scripture as the transformation of human life, and this, he thinks, is not achieved by expounding doctrine or ethics or by historical criticism. These do not change people. It is in the telling of stories, in vivid images and analogies, that human imagination is stirred to receive the word of God in Scripture.

So I suppose I am not too fa afield in suspecting that faith and imagination are different aspects of the same basic dispostion (and that they are important for the effectiveness of religion and spiritual transformation)?

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So I suppose I am not too fa afield in suspecting that faith and imagination are different aspects of the same basic dispostion (and that they are important for the effectiveness of religion and spiritual transformation)?

 

IMHO, I think you're right. I have often thought about how, in my opinion, faith and science can work side-by-side because they address different aspects of the world. Science addresses the "left-brained" aspects - the analytical, the rational, the logical, that which can be explained. Faith addresses the "right-brained" aspects - the intuitive, the imaginative, the creative. That is probably why music and art go so well with faith. Anyway to come back to what you were saying, if it is true that faith addresses those aspects then it is also true that faith and imagination are, as you said, "different aspects of the same basic disposition."

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