Unlock Imagination by Thinking with Theology

Posted By on June 2, 2019



welcome along to live on air tonight we're streaming live on Facebook and also YouTube as well I'm Stuart macadam and this is David Bell with me and we're here tonight to discuss creativity and how it's being used to spread and grow and develop the Christian message from classic thinkers like CS Lewis and Martin Luther to more contemporary figures like William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga creativity has always been a vital part of the Christian message and whether you are Sunday church attender or a very committed theologian we'd love to get your input in the Facebook comment section and also in the youtube comments as well feel free to punch any questions or comments you have in into the boxes there it'd be much appreciated David you've obviously done quite a bit of work with s both as a minister and a theologian as well just give us a bit of background as to how you've used creativity in your time well thanks for asking that Stewart I've been involved with creative writing in terms of writing prayers and sermons and reflections for Christian congregations for 38 years now and it's talking basically about creativity with words but of course with influx of social media in the last 10-15 years there's been a huge swing around to being creative with images with videos 360-degree cameras and all this kind of thing and you sort of wonder can Christianity compete does it have the ability to be creative when there's so much creativity out there in the world and the short answer is yes and believe me the some of the thinkers that we're just going to briefly touch on this evening have the most amazing insights into what the world of the imagination can do and be and how can enliven our spiritual thinking yes absolutely that's a very good point you made bitter David and very good overview I think and tell us about some of those thinkers that you are that come to mind when you sort of think about creativity okay I think the first one that I'd like to talk about Stewart as rabindranath tagore a and he he talked about a an elusive Kingdom and it wasn't so much that he was writing about Christianity but the spirituality in general and there are many ways to the kingdom of heaven but tag arrays insight was profoundly simple and what he did was simply ask nature something about this elusive inner Kingdom that human beings placed within the context of nature have to find and he said this and I like it very much indeed I asked the tree speak to me of God and it blossomed now that's a simple insight and we've simply made a little video recording that particular insight that's one way that I think we can say yeah there's something going on here it's a very good point that you made err David and the other thing that really seems to strike out as well is the discussion of and the use of figurative language as well and you've picked out a couple of verses from the Bible which talk about that yeah thanks Joe I think it's the Book of Psalms that really stands out Bible Society has said for many many years that sums is one of the most popular books of both old and new testaments the Psalms talk about very difficult times very hard times for people and in the sums there can be enormous blessings and at the same time curses because the some say some terribly most wicked things about nod and so how does how does that help our current search for spirituality well it's true that sometimes the people that wrote the Psalms mist up their own outrage the hard times in life that times when there was violence and cruelty and all the things that can possibly go wrong did go wrong they mistook their motives for God's motives and I think that's a perfectly human thing to do but when they were looking for the blessings that there are still always there whether than the hard times they had a kind of affirmation that actually this is the way life is life isn't structured in such a way as to have no evil and a life isn't structured in such a way that there can't be times of nature's cruelty and times of man's inhumanity to man if I can use that expression man all of these things happen but the psalmist's at their best say yeah we can find the hand of God in this and it's a hand that is worth knowing well put David very well put and I think one big takeaway from the Psalms in particular is God talking to us through and using and metaphors being used in order for us to truly understand and grasp the concept of human nature because a lot of the times if you talk about the concept of love when you see it in poetry when you see it talked about in the Bible there's no men such mention of chemicals racing around in your brain it's discussions of you know love is patient love is kind it does not boast but going over into the the next point what you're talking about is the sixth sense which is the creativity sense a very important part of us see us Lewis used it very well on his books The Chronicles of Narnia there are some times where you've really noticed Christian creativity really standing out either an apologetics or just in contemporary settings Wow there thanks for that Christians job because I believe that this is something that is a unique Methodist insight that was put forward by John Weasley the guy that started the Methodist Church in the 18th century and he said he believed that in addition to our normal 5 senses and I know that today is cycle psychologists say there that we've got more than five senses there are a number of extra senses in there but if we just take it as sort of a basic set of sensors that measure things where we said well the human being is constructed in such a way that somehow faith is a component of virtually everything that humans do and he went so far as to say that faith was the sixth sense and it was the sixth sense that operated in the good times and in the hard times so the six things could be I guess likened to a world of experience that's open to the imagination that the animal kingdom has that the kingdom of human beings used to have but have gradually lost and Wesley believed that Christian faith in particular opened a way to rationally talk about things that we don't normally talk about and that sort of carries us over to the next thing we're going to talk about now David which is values now a lot of people have different definitions and different types of values just explain a bit more as to where you see values fitting in from a creative perspective and also as well a Christian perspective Oscar you and I both are agreed that value is matter enormous ly in our society because values seem to be diminishing as the world grows more and more complex it's hard to see some really strong values standing out anymore and those values that you mentioned earlier love compassion kindness etc along with the Sammis ability to find blessing in the midst of the cursing all of these are about finding and creating principles by which people can love and I think if we are very very sure that values matter if we are sure that we can find an effect to live by then the world is going to be a better place and we're going to be better human beings from being born through all the stages until we die and I think there are twelve great moral principles that have always been there Moses gave the Ten Commandments and Aristotle said that human beings are social animals lived by the Golden Rule Jesus and system there were only two great Commandments all the others flowed from those two Luther said from the voice of conscience here I stand and can do no other the Jewish philosopher Spinoza argued that God could only be known through the laws of nature and Shakespeare said that the quality of Mercy is not strained those are all values that matter I could also mention that Kant formulated a wonderful if the core principle he said we have to live our lives as if every act was to be a universal law and so people who are searching for you know how do I behave ethically how do I behave morally today if the thing you do could be applied to everyone then surely it's worth doing if it can't be applied to everyone well maybe you need to think again John Wesley of course had his famous say about doing all the good that you can and all the ways that you can accept her and in 19th century the philosopher Kierkegaard did say that truth is subjective it's personal and it has to be lived out that means your personal values matter and so I think even the environmental activists you know the movements similar to Greenpeace that kind of thing they have a belief that yeah the environment matters the world is a living thing everything is interconnected there was a wonderful phrase they head towards the end of the 20th century and that was think globally act locally and to me all of those you know I really wanted to get them all in the little video series that this is in has has all of them but they're wonderful set of principles I think that we need to live by very very much so and another thing which is also a big part of it I guess the whole process of creativity and developing and putting the all of these things together as being able to communicate it each of these things in a way that's understandable to people whatever their background might be and one of the big things which Jesus used was parables and could you just expand a little bit more on why they were so effective David well the parables are effective job because sometimes they are wickedly funny they're always well not always but often they're putting a sort of a David and Goliath type situation together and because of that Jesus original audiences would have laughed out loud and it's the kind of mirth of God and that's all the things that do go wrong in life it's the mouth of God taps that some one of the least under valued aspects of imagination and spirituality the mirth of God was a topic that was explored very very well by the writer GK Chesterton and if you've ever read any of the father Browns stories that ticked off I think it was the 1920s 30s I could be wrong about that they were marvelous insights into the pastoral life and the little things that can happen that can be so funny and actually that's what a congregation is like it's like a whole series of little things where lots of funny things happen humorous things and at the same time people they go through all the stages of life you know there's baptisms of children and confirmations of teenagers and all the experiences that go on and adulthood up to the point where people die all of this somehow can be part of the myth of God and if our lives can be looked with that kind of myth I think that's really worth doing and that weaves nicely into the next thing that we're going to talk about which is a fair and just society well a fair and just society that really is a major major topic in terms of ethics and moral values and it was the American philosopher John Rawls who formulated the idea of what he called the original position and in a nutshell it's this look why don't you make up the rules of how you think society should govern itself and you get a group of people and they're all able to put down what they think society should look like what makes for fear just equitable kind of society and then john rules added this extra dimension he said but you when you formulate your rules do not know what position you will occupy answer xiety and of course that changes the whole dynamic of the game so the video explores that in a slightly deeper way but that's certainly what the fair and just society is about and that brings us to the next section sinners or Saints I've actually come to the end of a really interesting book about a leader of the South African Communist Party in the apartheid days Chris honey and him and a lot of people in the African National Congress were fighting against the apartheid regime who saw them as you know what would be known as complete sinners whereas in they saw themselves as the sort of like Saints and freedom fighters so it's quite interesting when you have a look at those different perspectives and how to distinguish out what is right and wrong what some your experience of all of that David into well I look I've got no experience of the apartheid regime in South Africa but what I can say is that the debate about moral and ethical issues around such things that you're talking about has been there in Christianity since it began and st. Paul had an extensive understanding of what constitutes sin now sinners in the very popular word I think the reconciliation committee there was at the Committee for truth and reconciliation in South Africa they understood pretty well what sin was but you'll find and say a lot of liberal thinking and I mean I'm a liberal sort of thinker in some ways but in a lot of liberal thinking that that doesn't sit comfortably with the concept of sin and sinners yet I'd want to say that actually the deepest roots of being human mean that we can and we do make mistakes all the time most of the time in our society these don't lead to consequences are for other people but when societies as a whole go wrong then there can be enormous harm committed but whether it's the individual or whether it's a society nevertheless people can and do easily get estranged from God and if there are strange from God well that's actually what the Bible meant by sin not having God with you and I think it's terribly important to have a notion of God so many people want to do away with the notion of God they think it's old-fashioned they think it doesn't mean anything they somehow believe that science has disproved it no that's not the case at all actually without the notion of God and the idea of universal ethical and moral principles it's possible for humans to do the most awful things all in the name of well we could you know we could make our own ethic as we went along it's easier to justify it is that there's no justification and while there's there in fact this is one of the great theological arguments is there a god and it's part of the argument about well why is there moral evil in the world and the answer is I think from a Christian perspective and I think from a very human perspective the answer is that if we lose the capacity to think about God and have got with us we lose the capacity for moral and ethical judgment now I'm not saying you've got to be a Christian to do that I think that moral and ethical judgments can proceed from any religion they can proceed from atheism and agnosticism but it's a lot harder and people say well if you look at all the harm that the church has done only over the centuries I'd remind you that people like Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot and all of the regime's of the world all of those things that have caused huge suffering haven't been done in the name of the Christian Church mm-hmm alright and I think with that that brings to a conclusion we've been talking about tonight thank you very much for your time David very good getting your thoughts in perspective on those things and thank you very much to everyone that tune in to watch us both on YouTube and on Facebook we look forward to doing many more videos like this and we thank you very much for your time have a wonderful evening Thank You Stuart and the parting thought I'd leave as our last little video is on Kagawa great Japanese Christian thinker and he was writing from prison and what he said was the whole universe is mine God through it and when he gave me Christ thanks thank you you

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