- Imagination, as revealed in the Bible, is two-fold: First, humans have a capacity to invent things. This is the capacity to see what could be but is not yet.
- Second, humans have a capacity, through the working of the Holy Spirit, to interact with transcendence—including the ability to engage with God. This is the capacity to see through what is known into the realities beyond what is known.
Once the Biblical concept (and definition) of imagination is seen in context with the biblical definition of the artist as a craftsman, the connection between God’s plan for worship and man-kind’s ability for expression can be seen. First, it affirms the way God has made human kind. Second, moves Christians to reject the notion that the arts and artists are simply elitist and somehow disconnect-from-main-stream-culture. Third presses Christians to seek out and include artists, creativity and beauty as mainstays in the life and worship of the Church.
Throughout Scripture1, and certainly exemplified in this Exodus 35 passage, one sees that God has directed His people to be engaged in a holistic, multi-sensory assortment of imaginative and emotional expressions to engage Him in worship—a worship-way-of-life. Dr. Ronald Allen, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew Languages at Dallas Theological Seminary addresses this issue:
Many Christians who cherish the bible for its teaching about Christ and about the nature of salvation have yet to learn to experience the Bible itself . . . We (must) learn how to develop the discipline of imagination from the Scripture in two ways. First, we must recognize the role of imagination in the very process of writing the bible. Second, we must exercise our own imagination in developing the art of creatively reading the Scriptures. . . . Many evangelical bible readers . . . read the Bible for its content, but we rarely linger over its style.. We read for doctrine, but we miss its art.2
God has created humans and human community to engage Him through the fullness of the mind: the imaginal dynamic of intelligence, the emotional dynamic of intelligence, and the intellectual dynamic of the intelligence. God designed man to enjoy all three dynamics in worship.
1 Other Scripture passages that reveal both, God interacting with believers, and directing believers to interact with Him, in multi-sensory ways are: The Three Visitors appear to Abraham, Gen 18:1-33; the ram in the bush and the voice of God for Abraham to substitute for Isaac, Gen 22: 1-14; Jacob wrestles with God, Gen 32: 22-32; Moses and the burning bush, Ex 3:1-22; Moses, Pharaoh and the ten plagues, Ex. 6-12; Moses and the Red Sea crossing, Ex. 13:17-14:31; God’s directions to build the Tabernacle Worship Center, Ex. 25-50; Joshua and the Jericho Battle, Josh 6:1-21; The Singers in Solomon’s Temple, 1 Chron. 25; Solomon, the Temple, and Huram-Abi, Solomon’s Temple Designer, 2 Chron. 2:13-5:1; Isaiah’s Vision, Is. 6:1-8; Ezekiel’s call, Ez. 1:2-29; King Belshazzar, Daniel and the Hand writing on the wall, Dan 5:1-30; Jesus’ Birth, Lk 1:26ff; Jesus’ baptism, Mt 3:13-17; Jesus’ Transfiguration, Mk 9:1-12; Paul’s conversion, Acts 9:1-19; John’s Revelation, Rev. 1:9-19; The New Heaven and Earth, Rev. 21-22. 2 Allen, Ronald Barclay. Imagination: God’s Gift of Wonder. Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1985, p. 9.