A Theology of the Imagination
The imagination, often neglected at various times in the Christian tradition, is enjoying a new renaissance in Christian thought, thanks to the work of thinkers like C.S. Lewis and the Inklings, musicians like Jeremy Begbie and Andrew Peterson, and artists like Makoto Fujimura and Bruce Herman. And yet, a proper theology of the imagination has remained elusive. We cherish it and are devoted to its use, but we do not really understand it.
Beyond this lack of conceptual clarity, there is also a practical difficulty: too often truths about the imagination remain disconnected from our encounter with the daily realities of family, worship, and work. Our hearts connect to the realms of the imagination, but we do not see how to use it to develop principles that can guide daily action and ground godly wisdom.
In this 12 week course, we will examine the imagination as a way of thinking, restoring it to its rightful place alongside reason as a way of processing the world. This deep dive into the structure, purpose, and functioning of the imagination builds on some of the best Christian thinking about the imagination while expanding it into new directions. This is the first step; from there, we will go on to consider how this way of thinking opens new possibilities for discernment (properly viewing the world and ourselves), worship, witness, and navigating the mundane.
Meetings will be conducted weekly over Zoom. Brief reading assignments will be drawn from C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Bonaventure, John Paul II, G. K. Chesterton, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and others.
Saturdays, 9:00 - 11:00 am (CDT)
September 10 - November 26
$500 / student
approximate reading load: 30 pages / week
Registration deadline September 5, 2022
Here is a taste of some of the discussions we will have:
Week One: Tremendous Trifles and Kenotic Magnificence: Understanding the Scope of the Imagination
Week Two: There and Back Again: Situating the Imagination between Intellect and Affect
Week Three: Phantasms and Exercises: Attitudes towards the Imagination in the History of Theology
Week Four: Contested Ground: On the Provinces of the Imagination and Reason
Week Five: Circumincession of Human Faculties: The Analogy Between Imagination and Reason, Part I
Week Six: Circumincession of Human Faculties: The Analogy Between Imagination and Reason, Part II
Week Seven: To See the World Truly: On Imagination and Discernment
Week Eight: To Be More Than We Are: On Imagination and Discipleship
Week Nine: Stained Glass Lives: Imagination and Vocation
Week Ten: The Artist’s Vocation: A Case Study
Week Eleven: Imagination and Meaning
Week Twelve: Imagination and Wisdom
Dr. Johnson’s 12-week online course “The Wisdom of Possibility: the Practice of Thinking Through the Imagination” offers up a virtual gourmet buffet for any person hungry to explore a deeply Christian and highly intelligent theological treatment of the creative impulse so central to human experience. Small class size, accessible readings, and robust interaction under Johnson’s keen grasp of the critical issues at stake together offer up a deeply satisfying immersion into the world of wondering about the world. For the price and the substance, there is no better value on the continuing-ed market.
I thoroughly enjoyed this investigation into the Christian imagination! As an active musician and teacher, I have wondered about how the imagination works, how the mind uses both reason and imagination in concert to solve problems and invent new ideas. Junius took us deeply into these subjects, helping us discover philosophical truths, logical connections, and practical applications. I cannot “imagine” a more thoughtful and masterful teacher than Junius and would highly recommend this class. The readings were interesting and do-able, the discussions fascinating, and the content truly formative.
I was already deeply into writing a trilogy of science fiction novels when I heard about Wisdom and Imagination. So, I was a little hesitant to detour. But, following the Lord’s prompting, I registered. I am ever so glad I obeyed! Junius Johnson’s genius in weaving together science, the arts and music has inspired me to even greater creativity. And his sound theological perspective has challenged me to expand my universe. I highly recommend this course to anyone desiring to bring our Creator’s creativity into their life, work and service.