First, reading. Reading is the way we learn to inhabit the world. Not the natural world, but the cultural world: the world of meaning. Martha Nussbaum has some wonderful essays in her book Love’s Knowledge on how the novels of Henry James train us to attend to the moral significance of the details of human life.
If we can learn moral sensitivity from Henry James, how much more can Christians learn, say, about speech ethics from the epistle of James, not to mention all the Old Testament narratives, Jesus’ parables, and the Gospels themselves.
My concern is that many Evangelicals are suffering from malnourished imaginations. This impedes their ability to live coherently in the world—that is, according to a meaningful metanarrative. We want to believe the Bible, but we are unable to see our world in biblical terms. . . . That leads to a fatal disconnect between our belief-system and our behavior, our faith and our life. If faith’s influence is waning, as two-thirds of Americans now think, I believe that it is largely because of a failure of the evangelical imagination.
Reading, then, is a kind of strength-training that flexes the muscles of our imagination. Those who read widely are often those who are able to employ metaphors that connect ordinary life to the wonderful real world of the Bible.
On Reading and Imagination
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