Thursday, April 16, 2009

Imagination as a Virtue, Imagination as a Vice

I've recently been mediating on this distinction from Clyde Kilby and pondering its implications:
There is a simplicity that diminishes and a simplicity that enlarges,
and evangelicals have too often chosen the wrong one.

The first is that of cliche--simplicity with mind and heart removed.
The other is that of art.

The first falsifies by its exclusions,
the second encompasses.

The first silently denies the multiplicity and grandeur of creation, salvation, and indeed all things.
The second symbolizes and celebrates them.

The first tries to take the danger out of Christianity, and in removing the danger it often removes the actuality.
The second suggests the creative and sovereign God of the universe with whom there are no impossibilities.

The contrast suggests that not to imagine is what is sinful.
Clyde Kilby, "Christian Imagination," in The Christian Imagination, ed. Leland Ryken (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1981), pp. 42-43. Formatting and italics mine; emphasis in the last line is original. Cited in James Spiegel's excellent essay, "Aesthetics and Worship," The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 2.4 (Winter 1998): 40-56--about which more later.