"How am I supposed to believe the things I read in the Bible?" our non-Christian friends might ask. "How am I supposed to believe that Moses parted the Red Sea or that Jesus performed miracles? These things are not part of normal human experience and understanding."
We might respond to this in many different ways. True, there is a lot we cannot logically understand inside the Bible-but then, there is a lot we cannot logically understand outside of the Bible. As Ecclesiastes 11:5 so perfectly summarizes:
As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
The mysterious, supernatural force that brings life to bones in the womb is capable also of everything we read in the Bible and more. The creation of the universe is another little thing the Lord has done.
In this larger context, surely the important thing is to understand what the Bible means, not agonize over literalism.
Luci Shaw discusses Ecclesiastes 11:5 as she contemplates the nature of human creativity:
This verse . . . powerfully brings together the idea of the mystery of imagination with the influence of the Spirit and the creatorhood of God. Breath for the Bones (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 2007. (Page ix).
She goes on to say:
God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, isn't content to speak simply to the rational intelligence but informs us through beauty, imagination and intuition. Where doctrinal principles seem logical, though abstract, images print themselves on our minds and even on our senses in such brilliant color and three-dimensional texture that time and distraction cannot obliterate them. (Page 9).
Shaw appears to have the purposes of both defending the ways in which God communicates to us as well as encouraging personal creativity as we try to fulfill our understanding that we are made in the image of God.
Shaw emphatically states:
This is what I want to say to fellow artists: in looking at our tools we have for our art-word, colors, motion, breath, song, clay-we notice that God has used the things of this earth, of story, of picture, of detail. Here is how we look at God's transformation of meaning through method. As God took Abraham and made him a picture of faith, so, down through history, he has taken other human beings and made them living art-to convey his messages in effective and dramatic ways. (Page 15).
This should give us ample grounds for reflection: how is God shaping and molding our own lives into works of holy art? We are not all expected to be like Billy Graham or Mother Theresa-but we do possess our own sacred lives and callings. Among other things, we know we should try to be a blessing in all of our relationships; to seek and share joy in living; and to give praise and glory to God for this mysterious gift called life. We can strive for creativity in all of the ways that we do these things.
Aren't you astonished at the way the link between the visible and the invisible worlds is made? Faith is not linear. It is, indeed, that widening of the imagination, a leap into the transcendent, a taste of the numinous, the ability to see the extraordinary into the ordinary. And our coach for the leap, the glue in the link, is the Spirit of God. (Page 77).
It is an understatement to say that there are many, multi-faceted ways of understanding the word "faith." Here is yet another exciting description of that mystery.
Too often we associate our imaginations with chaos or wasteful fantasy. Our imaginations should assist us in a search for holiness. Shaw admits:
With an impressive resume in busyness drawn from my zealous evangelical upbringing, the benefits of meditation, silence, and aloneness-of listening to the Spirit in these ways-are new discoveries for me. (Page 144).
As crucially important as people are in our lives, there is also a need for some solitude. We need to allow God to warm us up in the palms of his hands, to re-shape us like clay back to the way we were meant to be. We need to let the Spirit put thoughts in our heads that are worthy of our gifts and calling. We need to imagine ourselves being in the company of Jesus-because, after all, we are.
In faith and fellowship,