C. Kavin Rowe–"Do You Understand What You Are Reading?": The Formation of a Scriptural Imagination

Our hope is that [in your theological education] Scripture becomes the keyboard of the imagination, the ordering structure of all the various notes we play in our lives. It is common to hear that order can only be imposed from without, that it is inherently oppressive to the originally free self, that true human freedom is to be unconstrained by order, and that the best ethic is one in which we refrain from claims to know the right or healing order of life. But order is in fact fundamental to Christian understanding. Chaos is neither the rule of God’s creation at its heart nor of new creation in Christ, as Christians ought to know from Genesis and the letters of Paul. No more could an entirely disordered keyboard yield beautiful music than chaos could lead to freedom and a well-lived life. The imagination that works freely and creatively is the one that has been ordered scripturally””a keyboard of virtually endless combinations and beautiful configurations that are the patterns of Christian life. Since speaking of a “scriptural imagination” is not necessarily a common way to talk, however, it makes good sense to explain what we mean.

By imagination we do not mean so much the capacity for certain kinds of play that we have in abundance as a child and often lose as we age, or a distinct area or activity of the brain that corresponds to creativity, fantasy, and the like. Imagination, rather, means more the way the total person is involved in interpreting and being in the world””the part we actively play in constructing a vision of life for ourselves and for others.

Imagination in this sense is thus not something that exists only in our heads or is used only for particular activities such as artistic depiction; it is also practically dense, or lived.

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Posted in Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Theology: Scripture