What is inspired imagination?
Sometimes we miss the small details of a story because we skip over familiar details. Some times we let our culture and way of doing things get in the way of understanding. One way to get more out of the Bible passages is let your Holy Spirit lead imagination fill in the gaps.
This isn’t a license for pure fantasy, but with some questions, some thought and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit you can get more out of stories and parables. Before we continue – let’s answer the question,
“Is This Biblical?”
Yes. In Deut 11:18 we read, “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul…”. Biblically the heart and soul were the place of emotion, passion and attachment – not the place of thinking. Both the Hebrew and Greek languages are full of imagery.
Today we tend to teach facts and figures. We start at A and make a logical argument to get to Z. Jesus didn’t teach that way. When Jesus was on earth he wanted to make sure his followers remembered, and understood, his teachings so he used pictures and scenes which drew on the emotions and imaginations of people.
Parables stimulate the imagination. They require you to picture scenes and draw you into a shared ‘fantasy’ or story – then use that imagined reality to drive an idea or teaching home. There was a reason many people got so angry at Jesus – his stories hit home at gut level, where as intellectual theories might be annoying but rarely inflame passions like Jesus did.
If we don’t use our imaginations we miss a lot of the richness contained in God’s word. Gods message must be accessible by even a child, and intellectual theories (while good) aren’t accessible, but imaginative stories, pictures, metaphors and parables are.
Just because Jesus used imaginative pictures and the Bible is full of words designed to stimulate your thoughts, that is not a license for wholesale fantasy. We must allow the Holy Spirit to direct our imaginations and lead us into all truth.Some people are scared that using imaginations might be some new age visualisation practise or self centred fantasy. As you allow God to guide you, as you check your thoughts against scripture, as you apply some basic methods – then imagination can help inform and richen your devotional life. Biblical imagination is not an escape into fantasy.
Imagination does not build theology. Imagination opens our hearts to explore the reality of God more richly, allowing the richness of scripture and language to inform our hearts, minds and souls.
How to use inspired imagination
As you read the passage, stop from time to time and try to visualise what you have just read
- Who is involved (talking, listening, acting, watching)
- What is the climate like (weather, temperature, time of year)
- Where is this happening? (Geography like hills, plains, rivers, night, day)
- What situation is the story in (Country, culture, time in history, political and religious and social influences)
- What would your other senses pick up (sights, smells, sounds, tasts)
- How would it feel emotionally if you were there?
- How would you feel if you were in their shoes?
- How would you have acted. What would you have changed? Why?
- What would happen if this occurred in today’s society?
Scripture isn’t there for our entertainment. It is meant to lead us closer to God and change us.
Using Biblical imagination you can practice and examine situations before they arise. You can apply ‘what-if’ scenarios then see if it lines up with scripture.
The WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) movement is a good example of Biblical imagination. Asking what would Jesus do if he was here is a great way to examine your ideas and responses in a situation and compare it against scripture.
The 5W work sheet and article might be helpful to further grow and guide your imagination.