Imagination, Epistemology, and Embodiment

The crisis of contemporary theology, I believe, is in the final analysis not a crisis of imagination. That is, it is not at bottom only an epistemological crisis. Today’s crisis of Christian faith is even more so one of embodiment. After all, what it is that we can know has to do with what we see, and what we can see has to do with the place from which we look. When we look from within the shroud of contemporary Western liberal rationality, we will have a hard time seeing the God of the Christian tradition. We will instead see a tribal god, one of our own creation, albeit one very different from any preceding tribe. And a god whom we create cannot save us. Such a god must be saved by us and by our intellectual strategies. Ironically the outcome of a tribal god is the very one the whole constructive imaginative project was intended to repudiate.

However, when our imagination is located within the rich Christian tradition we are not enslaved to the repetitions of archaic images and dehumanising practices. Human rationalities and human experiences change over time because we are living, pulsating, creative beings. Theological constructions must change because the God of Abraham and Sarah, of May and Paul, the God of Jesus Christ, is a living being who grounds and inhabits life itself. And this God who lives within the lives of human beings today has always lived. Unless our theological imaginations can ‘explain’ the ‘continuity of God-language’ convincingly in light of the biblical text and the tradition which has given us our understanding of God to begin with, it cannot meaningfully be said to be Christian theology. Perhaps even more important, the ‘explanation’ ought to be sought not only in the imaginative works of our best intellectuals, but also in the lives of the ones who have remained traditional enough to be able to open themselves to the transforming power of God – the God who has spoken through texts that the church considers authoritative, through the one whom the church calls Christ, and to the community which gathers regularly in worship. – Echoes of the Word, 46

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