The Absence of Imagination

Earlier this year I was listening to one of my weekly podcasts and was introduced to an incredible Leader by the name of Karen Swallow Prior who was asked what she thought the biggest problem with the Church was. Her response was profound –

“An impoverished imagination”

It is suggested that it takes 20-23 minutes to think deeply about anything which may mean nothing to you except that one of the growing economies of this cultural moment has everything to do with our attention. It’s called the ‘Attention Economy’ and it is running wild and free in our western society.

Imagination and creativity are cultivated when we are able to think deeply. There is also literature that has also shown how boredom can unlock creativity and imagination. Deep thinking and boredom do not fare well in an economy that is aggressively vying for our attention. This human facet of being able to imagine and create are part of what we call this incredible status Imago-Dei – what it means to be made in the Image of God.

1 So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. 2 On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. (Genesis 2:1-3)

Scholars like John Walton have been blessed the church in regards to the world of the Ancient Near East which speaks directly to our understanding of the creation accounts in Genesis. Genesis tells us of how Yahweh created a temple, this was a common idea in the Ancient Near East. In their understanding a god would build a temple and them on the seventh day the god would ‘rest’. Rest is more of an idea of ‘moving in’ than what we may think ‘rest’ means in our world. The god would move in and take control by ruling and reigning – these words sound very familiar to those who have read the Bible.

Quite unlike the gods of the Ancient Near East Yahweh does something radically different. Yes, Yahweh creates a temple and then rests in His temple but His reigning and ruling is administrated in an incredibly different mode – Yahweh administrates His Kingdom Reign and Rule through His covenantal people – This is His Modus of Operation.

What is surprising is that Israel’s scriptures show us that God not only has an Earthly family but also has a family in the Heavenlies. The Sons of God spoken of in Genesis 6, the Divine Council of Psalm 82, Deuteronomy’s commentry of the Tower of Babel incident let us in something that many Christians are simply unaware of – our world is more mysterious, beautiful and complicated than any of us can imagine. Michael S. Heisers book The Unseen Realm has been such a revelation in this regard.

What Yahweh’s Modus of Operation means is that there is great freedom for His family. He has intended that we partner with Him to push out His good creation. The whole notion of ‘ruling and reigning’ is the Kingly aspect of taking this world somewhere. Our grand story begins with a Garden and ends with a Garden City. The intent has been revealed – we are to go forth and push out our beautiful God’s Shalom into this world.

With such an invitation comes the possibility this things going extremely well and also for things to go horribly wrong. So we see in Genesis 3 that there is a rebellion in the Garden. There is actually another rebellion recorded – its found in Genesis 6. We are told of a rebellion in the heavenlies. Things go wrong and now God is making things right.

With the coming of Jesus, the inauguration of His Kingdom of life and Shalom we now return to the Modus of Operation adopted by our beautiful, Good God. This is where our imagination needs to kick in and be outworked with some thoughts that I will share in the next post – Imagination and Improvisation.

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