From my interview with Mathew Block, in which we discuss “imaginative apologetics.”
CL: This ties in to what you and others call ‘imaginative apologetics.’ How does awakening the imagination open people up to the Gospel?
One function of art, it has been said, is to defamiliarize experience. We can become so familiar with things that we stop paying attention to them. Art can cause us to notice them in our lives anew. The same thing happens with faith. For a lot of people, Christianity is ‘old hat’ and easily dismissed. Art can help us defamiliarize Christianity so people see it clearly for the first time.
Art can help create new paradigms of thinking—to undo some of the obstacles people have to faith. People sometimes reject the faith because their imaginative model of it is inaccurate. They base their convictions—or lack of convictions—on an erroneous picture of what Christianity is. A prime example is the problem of evil, the problem of suffering: ‘How can there be a God who allows all this suffering in the world?’ many people ask. Behind this question is the idea that God is distant—that He’s ‘way up there’ looking down on suffering humanity. But Christianity teaches that God actually enters into this realm of sin. In Christ and the cross, God took the evil and suffering of the world into Himself. That’s why Isaiah writes, ‘Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows’ [Isaiah 53:4].
Many people who reject faith, however, picture God as distant, somewhere up far away. This flawed imaginative model of God is an obstacle to believing in the true God. Christians need to help such people recast their understanding of God—to think of God in Christ. To imagine God in this world. To think of suffering in the context of the cross—of God bearing our suffering. That’s the way we must approach God. Luther makes this very clear: we dare not think of God apart from His coming in the flesh in Christ. Helping people to picture God in this way gives them a completely different paradigm for conceiving of God and the things of God.