Imagination and Theology
I’ve really appreciated John Frame’s insights into creativity and theology. So often we think that theology can only be expressed in linear and propositional forms. Frame challenges this view in The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God:
It is arbitrary to insist that theology be written in a formal, academic style. Rather, theologians ought to make broad use of human language – poetry, drama, exclamation, song, parable, symbol – as Scripture itself does. (p.85)
The work of theology is to proclaim the old ideas of Scripture and nothing else. But the work of theology is, indeed, to proclaim those old ideas to a new generation. This involves application, and that demands newness, since every new situation is somewhat different from its predecessors… (p.340)
There is a great need for imagination among theologians today. There is a crying need for fresh applications of Scripture to situations too long neglected, for translating the gospel into new forms. The artistic gift may be well employed in the theological profession. (p. 343)
Some of us got talking about The Shack last night. I’ve never understood those who say that The Shack isn’t theological because it’s fiction. According to Frame, genres like fiction can and should be used within theology. Whatever you think of The Shack – and it’s probably not great fiction or great theology – it demonstrates the power of a different genre (fiction) to explore theology (the nature of God, the problem of suffering, and more).
We really need people who can express theology to a new generation with creativity and skill.