Thursday, February 08, 2007

Theology, Reason and Imagination

I've been reading Michael Paul Gallagher's (*) Dive Deeper, which he sub-titles, 'The Human Poetry of Faith'. In Chapter 9 he quotes from Cardinal Newman's, Grammar of Ascent:

'The heart is commonly reached, not through reason, but through the imagination'.

As a young man, Newman had had a long dispute with his brother, Charles, who had become an atheist. In a letter to Charles, he wrote: "you never entered into the spirit of Christianity (you are) not in a "state of mind to listen to arguments (you are) suffering from a fault of the heart not the intellect."

Gallagher goes on to observe:

'The majority of people around us who have abandoned regular contact with the Church have not done so because of some intellectual argument against faith. They have drifted away because their imagination was left untouched and their hopes unawoken by their experience of Church. They leave less in anger than in disappointment with hollow words that claim to speak of the holy. The crisis is on the level of the 'mediation' between a tradition of faith and a new cultural sensibuility. The language of the churches seems stuck in an older mode and unable to speak imaginativcely to the desires of now. People need to feel themselves part of a larger Story. Like the parables of Jesus, what is needed are traps for depth, moments of human poetry that give voice to the language of desire."

(* Michael Paul Gallagher is Professor of Fundamental Theology at the Gregorian University in Rome. Dive Deeper pub. DLT 2001)

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