What’s Wrong with Your Imagination?
Gary: Here is this week’s question: I seem to be getting mixed signals in the Christian reading material I receive. Some advocate the creative use of the imagination, stating that it’s a wonderful part of our makeup, which can be used to glorify God and help us reach our potential in every area of our Christian walk, while you seem to have almost nothing positive to say about it.
Tom: Well, Dave, we have talked about the imagination, and it’s a big problem.
Dave: They accuse you or me, or both of us of having…
Tom: I think we both could take the credit here…
Dave: …almost nothing good to say about the imagination. I would suggest they be Bereans—this is what this program is all about: Search the Scriptures Daily. And you can search the scriptures daily, today, tomorrow, and from now on until the Lord comes, and you’re not going to find anything in the Bible that is positive or favorable about imagination. And you could start with …
Tom: All right, Dave, I want to jump on this just right up front.
Dave: All right.
Tom: Now, you’re a creative guy. You’re a writer. You write fictional novels. How could you do that without an imagination? I mean, are we talking about… do you get my point here?
Tom: Are we talking about some different things?
Dave: Okay. Let’s go to the Bible, and then we’ll get back to what you’re talking about.
Tom: I’ll be here.
Dave: Remind me.
Tom: I’m waiting [laughs].
Dave: If we have time for it.
Dave: But go to Genesis:6:5: “God looked down, He saw that the imagination of man’s heart was only evil continually.” Chapter 8, He says basically the same thing: “From his youth, his imagination is evil.” Chapter 11, He looks down, comes down at the Tower of Babel and He scatters them, confounds their languages and scatters them, because He says, “Whatever they imagine, they will be able to perform,” okay?
Now, you’re reminding me that there are some good uses of imagination. You’re an architect, or an engineer, or whatever. And I have even used visualization for memorization. I don't bother with it anymore. It’s too much trouble. But you can…I mean, this is how they do it. You’ve got some memory expert, and you give him a whole string of words and numbers and so forth, and he can come out with them forwards or backwards because he’s using visualization.
Tom: Association…and images.
Dave: He’s connected them with things, right. And those images—connect one with the other and you could become an expert at that. So there’s nothing about the occult—no occult undertones for anything like that. So, yes, there are good uses of the imagination. When I write a novel I try to paint a picture so that the person can put themselves, you know, they can see what’s going on. However, imagination is very dangerous.
Dave: Little children get involved in imagination. They even have imaginary playmates that they play with and all kinds of things. But you know, we all recognize, even secular people, when you grow up, you ought to leave those imaginary playmates. And stop living in your imagination. There are some people who live in their imagination, and they can’t face the real world.
Tom: And they’re institutionalized.
Tom: And I…my father was a psychiatrist. I grew up in that environment. That was the heart of it. They lost contact with reality because they were trying to create reality in their own mind.
Dave: So now we have a problem, because, for example, [Calvin] Miller, in his book The Table of Inwardness, chapter seven begins with these words, “One door opens into the world of the spirit: imagination.” And then he tells us that that’s how we get in touch with God. “This is how we learn spiritual truths,” and so forth. It’s “through our imagination.”
No, our imagination is only going to create that which comes from us.
Tom: Right. We’re the god of this realm…
Dave: That’s right.
Tom: …in which we call the shots. We see things the way we want to see them and hook them up with ideas. It’s not connected to God’s Word, to the reality, the content of the faith…
Dave: So there are even those who teach that you need to use your imagination, put yourself in the picture, you know. You’re reading about Christ teaching the Sermon on the Mount, put yourself there. No! My imagination is not going to help me. It’s only going to lead me astray when I try to apply it in this realm.
Furthermore, the imagination is the fastest way into the world of the occult. This is how the witchdoctors have always done it—how they pick up their spirit guides and so forth.
So, all we’re saying is, imagination, although it has some benefits, some legitimate uses, and we’re not putting that down, it is very dangerous for many reasons—even from a practical standpoint. But it also is the doorway into the occult. And God condemns the imagination all through the Bible. In fact He doesn’t even say anything good about it, and we’re saying something good about it. So if we get back to the Bible and we search the scriptures daily, then we’re going to find, for example—we’ve quoted Jeremiah:13:10: “This wicked people who refuse to hear My word and follow the imagination of their own heart…”
Tom: Dave, to go back to the imagination with regard to what we would say would be reasonable uses of it—I don’t believe God’s Word condemns that, but I think for those who are a little confused about this, the imagination has to be consistent with what God’s Word says. You know, we come up with ideas. The scripture calls it a stronghold. We can have ideas and thoughts that are not true to God’s Word, the knowledge of Him. That’s a concern that we have.
Dave: When I say God’s Word doesn’t have anything good to say about it, it’s not that God’s Word intends to say anything good about it, but it is bringing correction to the occult uses of it, and that’s what we’re talking about.