Monday, August 18, 2008

Wiersbe on Imagination in Preaching


Warren Wiersbe is one prolific writer.  The breadth of his writing continue to amaze me. I recently came across an article on on imagination. It is entitled, Imagination: The Preacher's Neglected Ally.

As a writer of fiction, I find conservative Christians frustratingly afraid of imagination.  Back when we were homeschooling our sons (we did it all 13 years) I grew very impatient with homeschoolers who would actually work to steer their children away from their natural creativity and imagination.  "We must see everything realistically, as the Bible sees everything realistically," is such a narrow view of the Bible and of God's give of imagination.

Some Wiersbe quotes:

Imagination and fancy are not the same. Fancy helps me escape reality, while imagination helps me penetrate reality and understand it better. Fancy wrote "Mary Had a Little Lamb," but inspired imagination wrote Psalm 23. Fancy creates a new world for you; imagination gives you new insight into the old world....

Perhaps the greatest cause of the decline of imagination in preaching is right there: we have forgotten that the Bible is an imaginative book. It contains every kind of literature, from funeral dirges and pastoral poems to epigrams, parables, allegories, and creative symbols that have captured poets, artists, and composers for centuries. For some reason, our views of inspiration and inerrancy have robbed us of a living book, a book that throbs with excitement and enrichment. Instead of entering into the literary genre of the passage, we treat all passages alike. David's poems sound, to our ears, like Paul's arguments, and our Lord's parables like Moses' genealogies. Shame on us!...

We do not degrade Scripture when we come to its pages with a sanctified imagination. Rather, we accept the Scriptures as they were given to us, in simile and metaphor, in parable and allegory, in poetry and narrative, in song and proverb. The preacher who masters a book like The Language and Imagery of the Bible by G. B. Caird (Westminster, 1980) will discover a new touch to both his hermeneutics and his homiletics....

Though we often deal with abstract truth, the best way to get it across is to incarnate it in pictures and illustrations. "You may build up laborious definitions and explanations," Spurgeon told his students, "and yet leave your hearers in the dark as to your meaning; but a thoroughly suitable metaphor will wonderfully clear the sense."

It amazes me how some preachers can make Bible doctrine so dull! Each of the key doctrinal words in our New Testament is part of an exciting picture. Justification belonged to the courtroom before it moved to the seminary. Redemption was born out of Greek and Roman slavery. The phrase born again was familiar to the Greeks and carried meanings that would illumine any sermon today. The preacher who does not study words—including English words—is robbing himself of an effective tool for communicating truth. It is not accidental that some of our most effective preachers were students of words, readers of dictionaries, and lovers of crossword puzzles.

Tomorrow I will share some of his ideas for cultivating imagination.

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