Flames of Imagination

As you look at the cover of this issue of our journal, what do you see? The first and immediate response is that a house is burning, or maybe a giant pile of wood. Some might say a barn is burning or some might think it is a church building. When I show a picture like this to my students, I nearly always have a student who says he sees people or animals or ghosts within the flames. As you look at the door of the building, do you see a person--or maybe two? As you look between the boards of the building do you see other people? As you have read this, have your thoughts or opinions changed since you first glanced at the cover?

The human imagination is a powerful and creative thing. Properly applied, it can create beautiful music or art, tell wonderful and beneficial stories, inspire others, bring joy to children, peace and beauty to the elderly, and motivate people to do great things. Wrongly applied it can terrify children, destroy marriages and homes, bring people to despair, and waste fortunes.

We live in an age when imagination can be portrayed and acted out in vivid ways. Movies and television are tools which bring the imaginations of others into our homes in vivid ways. Pornography, Satanism, violence, and brutality can ruin us. Claims of miraculous cures, visits by aliens, and ways to get rich quick can take away our money and our time. Religion can take a leader's vivid imagination and turn it into a mind-controlling faith that eventually robs people of life itself. Christianity has a great apologetic in its teachings about how to deal with these problems. Not only is there an antidote for the destructive potential of human imagination, but there is also a provision of beautiful positive ways in which the human imagination can be channeled.

Let us explore these evidences:

Christianity gives a standard that excludes destructive uses of human imagination. Contrary to what a lot of people think, there are not a lot of taboos in the Christian system. When you compare the rules and laws enacted by the government or any human corporation, Christianity promotes an amazingly free way of life. The prohibitions that do exist within Christianity almost totally deal with the destructive uses of human imagination. Consider the things Christianity opposes--witchcraft, satanism, pornography, prostitution, prejudice, sexism, slavery, violence, brutality, etc. If people live by a standard that opposes those uses of imagination that are destructive, the whole of mankind is benefited and elevated. Far from being a list of thou shalt nots, the Christian system offers positive attitude adjustments that prevent harm.

The Christian system relies upon reason, evidence, and thought. In spite of the efforts of organized religion to do the opposite, the Christian system presented in the Bible offers logical, reasoned, practical arguments for what it tells its adherents to do. When Jesus taught the people of His day, He used practical understandable stories called parables to make His points. Though they are steeped in the time and culture in which Jesus lived, we today can still understand them and get His message. Over and over, you will see Jesus and the apostles saying "What do you think?" or "How would you answer this?" (Matthew 17:25; 18:12; 21:28; 22:17; 26:66). The only time this was not done was in the case of overt miracles. The miracles, however, were not showy money making extravaganzas. Many of those helped in a miraculous way by Christ were told to keep it a secret (Matthew 8:4; 16:20; 17:9, Mark 7:36; 8:26, and Luke 5:14; 8:56; 9:21). You either accept or reject the miracles as a matter of faith, but they were not and are not political ploys to advance a personality or make money.

The pictures we see of Christianity in the Bible are pictures of reasoning and arguing the points at hand ( Acts 6:9; 9:29; 15:7; 17:17; 18:14; 19:8-9; 28:29). Christians were told to "try every spirit" ( 1 John 4:1) and to love and serve others as the focal point of their lives ( John 13:5-17). This is not wild flaunting of explitive human imagination, but creative solutions to the problems afflicting mankind.

Christianity offers beautiful ways to express human imagination. While Christianity works to prevent the destructive acts of human imagination, it does not seek to squelch it. History itself teaches us that some of the greatest artistic, musical, and literary expressions have been done by Christians expressing their faith and love for God. In the Bible, we see commands to do constructive things to serve and help our fellow human beings. The major officers in the Church such as elders and deacons were instituted to serve. No political office or hierarchy exists in the Biblical description of how the church is to be organized--only those who serve in special ways. When Jesus washed his disciples feet ( John 13:5-17), he gave the full explanation of how the Christian system was to work: " If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you (verses 14-15)."

Notice that no method of doing these things is given. Human imagination was given free reign as to how to meet the needs. When the church in the first century met their first problem involving how to meet the needs of certain widows, they came up with their own creative system and did it. James tells us "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world "(James 1:27).

A wild imagination will find beautiful ways to teach, serve, feed, water, visit, encourage, soothe, edify, and love those who are in need. The flames of that kind of imagination will consume greed, selfishness, hate, prejudice, need, pain, violence, and destruction.

--John N. Clayton

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