Feelings, imagination, and promptings of the Spirit

Is my testimony of the restored gospel just some wistful imagining?

In his essay "Is Theology Poetry", C.S. Lewis refactors the title into "Does Christian Theology owe its attraction to its power of arousing and satisfying our imaginations?" which reminded me of Jeff Lindsay's recent post The Anti-Mormon Plea: PLEASE Don't Pray about the Book of Mormon. We are often accused of letting our feelings or our imaginations take the place of "real inspiration" when we ask people to pray about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon or when we bear testimony of our experiences after having done so ourselves.

In another essay, "Transposition", Lewis gives a good model for dealing with this. He describes transposition as the representation of a richer reality in a poorer medium. Believing that it is better to blame ignorance than malice, I believe that this concept applies very well to spiritual experiences like praying about the Book of Mormon. Those who have not experienced spiritual promtings (viewing the transposition from beneath in Lewis' words) have no basis for knowing that the Spirit does testify in repsonse to prayerful seeking, and will deride our testimony as the effects of imagination. Those who have had this experience (seeing the transposition from above), can see and respond to the fuller picture.

In answer to his reworked question, Lewis answers that true Christianity does not appeal to our imaginations, but to something higher. It makes unpleasant (from a natural perspective) demands on us which only make sense after we have undertaken to answer them. When we are able to view the transposition of our faith from above, then we find that it appeals to our Spirit. When we act on the word, we find that we are drawn closer to God. When we pray in faith to know that the gospel has been restored in these latter days, we hear the Spirit's whispered response.

Let us pray

After I started thinking about this, but before I posted it, I saw a pair of posts related to this grouping of ideas over on Ebenezer Orthodoxy — A Second Witness and On the Authentication of Scripture.

1 comment:

BB said...

I really enjoyed this thoughtful post--this is a question I've wondered about frequently. Your adaptation of Lewis' notion of transposition really rings true. I haven't anything to add, just wanted to let you know I enjoyed this post.