“This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing.”
I read an article in which the author, one Dr. Rose Nkechi Uchem, suggested that in teaching Christian Religious Studies, people should use a more imaginative approach to scriptures than the proof-text approach. Among her suggestions she said, and I quote, “Use a more imaginative/symbolic/story approach to scriptures and avoid a literal proof-text approach to the bible.” She said a number of other things to try to prove that the Bible needn’t be understood by its content but by our interpretation of its words and be changed where necessary to meet what she calls the needs of the moment. To be more specific, it needs to be interpreted to meet the requirements of the MDGs. I will just focus on her claim concerning which approach is appropriate to be used on teaching scriptures here. I will write on other claims she made in some other articles.
Now, in arts the imagination plays a crucial role, else art wouldn’t be so artful. In sciences arts play a very little and near insignificant role. Even if at all the imaginations comes to play in the sciences, it must then be subject to a thorough investigative experiment and study, that is whether that which pops up in the imaginations were attainable and feasible, or whether it could be developed into a scientific theory. So in sciences, the imaginations may play a limited role that is simply to broaden the scope of study, and when used in sciences it must also be the imaginations as guided by scientific knowledge. The imaginations may set the basis for a study, research, or experiment, but must never be a means by which theories and conclusions are drawn. The imagination therefore does not help us in advancing learning. It is the studies and research that may come by it that can advance learning. Now, the subject in question, Christian Religious Studies, is not an art nor should it be considered a science, though it has few qualities that may be considered scientific, but it is wholly and comprehensively divine.
What is received by revelation could never have been attained by the highest strain of the imaginations. Neither can the imagination contribute to the slightest extent to that which is revealed, rather it corrupts it so much that utmost care is required not to interpret that which is revealed by the imaginations. Rather we must rely wholly on the Holy Ghost for interpretation (1 Corinthians 2:5-16). Therefore in divine matters, such as the Christian Religious Studies, the imaginations are not merely useless but very harmful and destructive to the essence of the study, seeing it is founded on divine revelation.
Thomas Aquinas wrote:
“Augustine says (De Trin. xiv, 1) “to this science alone belongs that whereby saving faith is begotten, nourished, protected and strengthened.” But this can be said of no science except sacred doctrine. Therefore sacred doctrine is a science…
“The principles of any science are either in themselves self-evident, or reducible to the conclusions of a higher science; and such, as we have said, are the principles of sacred doctrine.”
So, he argues that Sacred doctrine is a science. So in a way, the Christian Religious Studies is a science, a sacred science. So the imagination may raise questions which should lead us to the Bible for answers. This way we are subjecting the imaginations to the scriptures. But the imagination cannot be a means by which we either understand the Bible or interpret it.
We ought to understand that when we talk about the imaginations in the spiritual context, we are not talking about the imaginations the way it is applied to art where the imagination is brought to life. In art the imaginations may as well be fantasies. It can be used in being creative and it can also be delusional. But this are not of any use spiritually. Rather the fantasies and creativity of our hearts can be used to create a world of evil. And when the imaginations is not brought to scriptures and is used independently to draw conclusions, though we may even assume the conclusion is good, yet is it bound to be wickedness before God.
Rather what I mean by the imaginations in the spiritual context are just inquisitive musings of the mind, meditations and cogitations, which, as can be easily observed, is different from artistic imaginations. So different that we may as well not call it imaginations at all. Through these application of the mind, which is distinct from artistic imaginations, we have questions in which we get answers as we study the Bible consistently and systematically. But we don’t teach questions, we teach answers and prove them with reason and logic. In the act of teaching therefore, the imagination can’t be used profitably but destructively.
Again Thomas Aquinas wrote:
“It is written (2 Tim. 3:16): “All Scripture inspired of God is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice.” Now Scripture, inspired of God, is no part of philosophical science, which has been built up by human reason…
“… sacred doctrine is not a science. For every science proceeds from self-evident principles. But sacred doctrine proceeds from articles of faith which are not self-evident, since their truth is not admitted by all: “For all men have not faith” (2 Thess. 3:2). Therefore sacred doctrine is not a science.”
So the sacred doctrine in a way is a science, and in a way not a science. It is a science in the sense that it has premises upon which studies can be made and knowledge acquired. But it is yet not a science because the Bible from which all the information of this seeming science can be derived is not a result of science but of divine revelation. And this divine revelation can only be understood when God draws a man to himself, not just mere studies. So, since it is not reliant on mere studies but in the illumination of the mind by the Holy Ghost, it is not a science.
The imaginations can help raise questions in our mind that can enable us get answers in the Bible. But since the Bible is divine, we don’t dabble into it with our imaginations. So also in teaching we do not raise questions, rather we present conclusions we’ve arrived at to students with reasons on how and why such conclusions were arrived at. Therefore, in teaching Christian Religious Studies, the imagination, not even in the spiritual sense, has absolutely no benefit and is in fact harmful to the purpose of the subject.
The prooftext approach she is downplaying is in fact the right way by which scriptures is to be taught and therefore the right way to teach Christian Religious Studies. This is very much in consonance with the essence of faith, for faith comes by hearing, not by imagining. And what one hears in the word is what should determine one’s conclusions and convictions. Our Lord Jesus Christ himself also used the proof text approach during his wilderness temptation when he consistently answered Satan, “it is written…” Not “as I imagine.” So the proof text is the right method to teach the subject of Christian Religious Science.
I am currently writing a book in which I speak against the use of the imaginations to know about God. So I’ll share that here. I wrote:
“One major thing people fail to get is that they think they can know things by means of the imaginations. As we have seen from Richard of St. Victor, the imagination falls in the category of things that we are to keep under and not allow to influence us. We can never by the imaginations of our heart find God. Our imaginations would lead us into idolatry, and this is none other than adultery…
“Picture the woman looking for her spouse and asking the watchmen [in Song of Solomon 3:3], but she doesn’t know him (for some reason) then she finds this other man and because of the imagination of her heart goes home with him thinking he was indeed her spouse. That is what our hearts, feelings, and imaginations will lead us to. As we have noted earlier, many, seeking after God without the aid of the light of Christ have concluded that the sun and other objects around us are gods and so worship them. Trying to know God by assuming our imaginations and feelings can lead us to some tangible knowledge about him, rather than relying on the aid of his word and Holy Ghost, is like groping in darkness. You can’t find God by these means.”
Faith As Opposed To The Imaginations
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
In the same book which I’m currently writing, I wrote on the principal way to know God and his ways. I wrote:
“Finding God in reality requires faith. For one manifest fact about God is that he’s unseen. No one has ever seen God. So then how do we go after God who is unseen? The answer is faith. Faith we are told is the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). So we work by this evidence in our walk with God. The same Hebrews 11:1 says faith is the substance of things hoped for. This just emphasises the efficacy of the evidence of faith. For when someone says, “this claim is without substance,” it means it is without proof. They are just mere words. But faith is not just mere belief or imagination, it is a concrete evidence. It is THE substance.
“I’ve written a full book on it titled, “FAITH: The Evidence Of Things Hoped For,” and it is free for downloads [download your copy HERE]. So I won’t wish to delve so much into that. But we must be sure that it is only by faith that we can come to God. The imaginations and feelings must be shut out. Not only are they useless, they can impede the wondrous work of faith. Now how is this faith gotten? It is written, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17). So hearing the word of God is what brings about faith.”
Also, in my book on Christian dressing I wrote against using the imaginations as way to advance learning and why it is not just useless but absolutely inimical to knowledge, especially on matters of religion. You can read about it in the chapter, “ON CROSS DRESSING” especially in the subchapter, “Dressing In The Remote Past Of Bible Days.” There I spoke about how the use of the imaginations has corrupted, through and through, our understanding of the way of life and dressing of the people of the Bible days. The full book is free and can be downloaded HERE.
On this note we can see that it is unwise to say people should use imaginative, symbolic, story approach to scriptures. That is antithetical to the very essence and injunctions of scriptures. If we continue in our imaginations we shall become good for nothing as Jeremiah spoke through the Spirit of God (Jeremiah 13:10). People don’t go to school to become good-for-nothings. So our dear lady should not pretend to be in pursuit of something good and noble while she’s merely seeking to reduce Christian students to good-for-nothings. May God deliver us and our students from evil.
Prayer: Dear Father, we ask this day that you will grant us the understanding that in spiritual matters we ought to be guided by the Holy Ghost and not by our imaginations. And whatever guiding we believe to be from the Holy Ghost must be proved in your word. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.