Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Measure My Feet – A Warning about Your Imagination

My 4-year-old daughter recently asked me to "measure her feet". I could not figure out what she really meant. She then pointed to our digital bathroom scale. Think about it; you stand on the scale, look down, and a number pops-up over your feet........measure my feet. This is pure, unbiased observation logic with one incorrect assumption; the number must relate directly and specifically to the feet.
We observe something like standing on a scale; call it “A”. We then observe something else like a number appearing; call it “C”. We try to connect “A” to “C” by inserting “B” as a bridge in our mind. The result in our example is thinking the scale measures something about feet. All too often “B” comes strictly from our imaginations. Adults do this too. In my profession, we call it bad troubleshooting. In the spiritual life, it’s bad theology.
Example 1
Observation A:
I prayed for something
Observation C:
It did not happen
Imagination B:
God does not care about me

Example 2
Observation A:
My friend has sinned
Observation C:
My friend gets cancer
Imagination B:
God has punished my friend with cancer
A+B ≠ C

Have you ever listened to those who do not know their faith, talk about their faith? Have you ever heard the most theologically absurd things and ask, “Where do they get that stuff from?!?” Consider that it may have come purely from their imagination. Our imagination can instinctively take over if we have no other way to connect “A” to “C”. We then create our own personalized reality that is not real. This is a kind of insanity, and it is dangerous. This is why it is important to study good theology and apologetics in order to gain knowledge.

Scripture gives us a subtle hint on the topic. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”(Hosea 4:6) St. Augustine also makes mention in Confessions. “But who can invoke you knowing you not? For one who knows you not may invoke you as other than you are.”

Theologian Frank J. Sheed gives a stern warning about the imagination in his book Theology and Sanity. He says that since The Fall, there is nothing that can be done with the intellect until the imagination has been put firmly in its place. We’ve fallen into the habit of using our imagination as a crutch since it saves the intellect so much trouble. As a result, the intellect grows flabby and tired. It must learn to walk on its own again and this means great pain for muscles so long unused. This is easy to understand since we know that thinking is very hard, imagining is very easy…and we are very lazy!

Beware Your Imagination

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  1. or how about...
    A: God wants me to be happy
    C: marriage to my same-sex friend would make me happy
    B: God must approve

    So many of our errors are from taking the easy road. It is so much easier to imagine the truth than do the hard work of finding out what the Church actually teaches and why. Minimalism rules the day.

  2. Great observation. Sometimes our kids can teach us so much... even when they themselves do not understand.

  3. Maybe you should explain things like what a scale is to your kids that way they won't have to come up with explanations on their own.

    1. It’s a good point Corey. It’s all about reality, and growth in faith is growth in the right perception of all reality.