Christian, you are more than you think. I am too. So are the caffeine-starved people on either side of you in the coffee line before Sunday service.
“You are more than you think.” Don’t misunderstand me. Don’t take the phrase the way most moderns do, as some sort of stirring declaration that there’s an untapped Einstein inside, and once you figure that out, you will be set free to become everything you want to be. Nonsense. Even Norman Vincent Peale, the prince of positive thinking, died a mortal.
Descartes and Disney, Aristotle and Austen
No. Here is what I mean. Inside you and me and everyone else is both a Descartes and a Disney, an Aristotle and an Austen.
Descartes? He was a seventeenth century French mathematician, partially responsible for making life difficult back in middle school when you took algebra. Descartes’ powers of logical argument were formidable, like those of Aristotle, the Greek philosopher who preceded him by some two thousand years. The two of them were masters of reasoning, of ordered and sequential thinking, of saying “if A is true, and B is true, then C must also be true.” It’s probably a bit more complicated than that, but you get the point.
Meanwhile, Jane Austen and Walt Disney were masters of the imagination. She was an early nineteenth century novelist, the beloved creator of Emma and Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett and the evil Wickham. And Walt Disney, he is none other than the iconic visionary behind the Magic Kingdom and Mickey Mouse and animated movies like Cinderella and Frozen. Disney and Austen: both of them saw the world in pictures and captured those pictures in different forms for all of us to enjoy.
Descartes and Disney, Aristotle and Austen. Each made in the image of God. Each using the human mind in such seemingly opposite and remarkable ways.
The One God is the God of Descartes and Aristotle. He is the Lord of crisp logic and pointed argument. To see this rational side of God’s being on fire, take a look at Matthew 23, where his Son, Jesus, takes the scribes and Pharisees to task with invincible logic, reducing their religious activities to dust. But the One God is God of Disney and Austen too. He is the Lord of the imagination, and to appreciate this power of divine mind to “think” in pictures, recall these excerpts from his Son’s famous Sermon on the Mount: “You are the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13); “Look at the birds of the air. Consider the lilies of the field” (Matt. 6:26, 28); “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you.’ Depart from me.” (Matt. 7:23).
Meet Your Imagination
Here’s my point. When I say that you are more than you think, I am making a strategic move in the discipleship of your mind. The Christian life is not simply about what we think (in the strict sense of the word), how we reason, what propositions we hold (thankfully) or heresies we can dismantle (again, thankfully). No, the Christian life is also about the imagination—the “made in God’s image” capacity to think in pictures, to “image-ine,” to do the sorts of things that everyone does, regardless of whether they are “imaginative” or not. Things like:
- Recalling the stove from the house where you grew up, even though its subsequent owners have remodeled the kitchen twice;
- “Seeing” the face of the person whose name just popped up on your iPhone;
- Envisioning how different a city could be two years from now if the gospel were to take root.
All these motions of your mind belong to your imagination. And just as much as we Christians take seriously the call to disciple how we think, so we should also take seriously the call to disciple how we imagine. For, like everything else about the human person, imagination was made in the image of God, fell into sin, and through Christ’s death and resurrection can be redeemed to his glory.