The western world has lived under the assumption that the outer world is objective (what we can see, hear, smell touch, etc.) and the inner world subjective (feelings, ideas, imagination, etc.). By this definition, objective means reliable, concrete, and meaningful, while subjective means unreliable, hollow, and useless as a pathway of knowing. The scientific myth, introduced during the enlightenment, rooted during the industrial age, and was generously helped along by Freud. And it has taught us to trust the outer world and to distrust the inner world. We are coming round to seeing the folly of this world view as we realize that nothing is truly objective, among other things.
This mistrust of the imagination and intuition within the Church is the result of modern cultures influence. Science, logic and whatever else is labeled as objective are valued as the only means for discerning truth and wisdom. Generally speaking, because one cannot put a vision under a microscope, because one cannot mathematically prove an intuition, and because one cannot control something that is subjective, all have been devalued and deemed as useless. This split is not healthy, nor is it how God created us to function.
It is fairly easy to see how this has affected the Christian church once we look more closely. The emphasis on the Bible as the standard of knowing truth over and above tradition, experience and other ways God is revealed, betrays how much authority we give to what we consider objective. In a way, fundamentalism is the baby of modern thinking because of the emphasis on literal, logical theology.
Another example is evangelism done through logical analysis. The gospel was presented as a group of propositional truths that logically convince people of their need to be forgiven and accept Jesus’ role in allowing them to be forgiven. Any person converted because of an irrational, unexplainable experience or who encountered God through nature, art, or any number of events that slowly allowed God to capture their hearts, were put in the “not sure” category and were still lead through the “sinners prayer” just to make sure their conversion was legit. Prayer itself ceased being about communing with God and was turned into a time in which we ask God to accomplish a laundry list of things.
Furthermore, in this culture where science was king, all mystery was eradicated from theology and worse, the imagination was viewed as the devils playground simply because we do not understand it. Thus, for some there is a fear of using a contemplative prayer, labyrinths, and other forms of experiential endeavors, and I discuss that more here.
The truth is that there is both subjective and objective in the outer world as well as in the inner world. God can use logic and emotion, propositions and experience to bring a person closer to God’s self. Logic and the irrational, scripture and intuition, can all be powerful tools for God to reveal God’s self to us and to lead us! It takes an incredible amount of trust in God to step out of our comfort zone and to allow God to grow us up a little in a way that we may not understand or be able to explain to others. Part of God redeeming and reconciling all things is the relationship between reasoning and the imagination, thought and image, being repaired so each can inform the other, making us more whole beings. Creative prayer stations are a step in that direction.