The Power of Imagination with Ian Cron
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, Ephesians 1:17-18
This verse resonates when I think about the idea of imagination. The idea “having the eyes of your heart enlightened” helps me realize that God is always prompting us to continually seek him and to be open to being “enlightened” to our calling. I had the chance to listen to a conversation between Luke McElroy, Visionary of SALT Conference and Author and speaker, Ian Cron discuss this topic of Imagination. Some things I noted:
What role does imagination play in the church environment and how does it communicate to our congregations. Imagination and being a creative seem to go hand in hand. The nature of what a creative does is create, but for those that are creatives in the church our creativity doesn’t just have a communicative purpose, it has the ability to awaken something for our congregations. The belief that faith lives in the sphere of imagination not in intellect, holds true when you think about ancient cathedrals like Chartres or Notre-Dam. The early church didn’t have the technology we have today, they didn’t have access to the Bible like we do today. These spaces were created to communicate the Bible and Theology without words.
“When the front door of the intellect is closed the back door of imagination is open.” – Ian Cron
That said, many churches aren’t built like the early church cathedrals. So we have to create an environment that feels very different from something we see everyday. By creating an environment that helps our congregation see the beauty and use their imagination. Ian states that “When the front door of the intellect is closed the back door of imagination is open.” I love this idea because many times preachers try to reach their congregation through intellect and we (humans) are wired with filters that are full of objections and critical thinking. However, if you communicate God and his love through the back door of imagination then it sneaks up on people and they feel the presence of God.
“What an artist does, is awaken people to the reality that God is immediate and present” – Ian Cron
However, there is a line. There is difference between using creativity and imagination to awaken God in the presence of our environments versus using creativity to manipulate or manifest God in an inauthentic way. When created to manipulate it can become “religious propaganda.” So this begs the question, “what are the distinctions between religious propaganda and real art?”
Ian answers this by suggesting that information and art can live together, but the art becomes propaganda when it “tries too hard” to be cool or relevant. I go back to how we view our creative community, the name and idea of SALT comes from the belief that we as artists and creators should be ENHANCING the gospel message not becoming the message. SALT is meant to enhance the flavor not take away.
Ian tells a great story about a Japanese man and his Kansumi Bowl (41:56). This Japanese man broke his Kansumi Bowl, a bowl that was passed down from generation to generation. He sent it to be fixed and it came back with ugly staples and he was unsatisfied with the “lack” of craftsmanship. So he was able to find some craftsman that were able to take the bowl and take the broken pieces and mend it using gold lacquer. When he saw it he had a revelation that this new mended bowl was more beautiful than it was BEFORE it was broken.
The mended Kansumi bowl became a visual illustration of an invisible truth. Eugene O’Neill says “Man is born broken, he needs mending, grace is the glue.” It was art that awakened not manipulated. It is a beautiful metaphor for us as Christians.
What are some practical things we can do as artists to help prompt our imagination:
- Go to museums
- Read books on great art
- Watch Jeremy Begbie – Teacher of Theology Through the Arts at Duke
- Go to a cathedral
Immerse yourself in learning your craft, immerse yourself in art. You may have a pastor that really doesn’t get the idea of the back door of imagination but by you refining your craft and creating beautiful art you will see the trust level build from your pastor because they will start to see the beauty.
Mako Fujimori stated that Art and the Gospel aren’t that different…..because if he had never been exposed to the wonder or beauty of art he would have never understood it and the same is true for the Gospel if you were never willing to accept the invitation to explore the beauty and wonder of the Gospel you never would have been transformed by it. His point was to create for yourself, don’t always let your creativity be around a mission, message or statement that has to be made. Create for the sake of beauty and wonder so that you can be invited into that imaginative spirit that God has given you.
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