Is there a place for imagination in the spiritual life of the Christian? Some critics argue that Christian faith stifles human creativity. Does the use of imagination in worship and prayer lead to spiritual transformation or spiritual depravity?
On the one side, the Bible consistently warns that a misplaced imagination will distract the Christian from true worship. For example, everywhere in the classic King James Version, in contrast with more modern translations, the English word imagination from the original Hebrew and Greek phrases always carries a negative meaning (then contrast with ESV). For example:
But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward (Jeremiah 7:24 KJV).
Clearly, it is possible to become so engrossed in our own imagination, or someone else’s imagination projected towards us, that we fail to hear God. In our television-saturated world and ultra-realistic CGI animation movies, the massive feast before our eyes can easily clog up our ears to God’s Word. Even in the church, if in our Sunday morning services we find ourselves remembering more about the vivid illustration used by the preacher, and yet still unable to recall what Bible passage was being expounded upon, then I think we have a deadly serious problem.
OK. So far, given this overview, the concept of imagination does not bode well in the life of a Christian. But does this mean that all imagination is contrary to God’s purposes? Is there a more positive, biblical, even godly approach to imagination? Sometimes, in an effort to fight off counterfeit spirituality, we can easily throw out the baby with the bathwater.