I read an article that invoked a fascinating distinction between two kinds of religious imagination from Mary Catherine Hilkert’s book, Naming Grace: Preaching and the Sacramental Imagination:
The Sacramental Imagination
- emphasizes the presence of the God who is self-communicating love
- the creation of human beings in the image of God (restless hearts seeking the divine)
- the mystery of the incarnation
- grace as divinizing as well as forgiving
- the mediating role of the church as sacrament of salvation in the world
- the “foretaste” of the reign of God that is present in human community wherever God’s reign of justice, peace, and love is fostered.
The Dialectical Imagination
- stresses the distance between God and humanity
- the hiddenness and absence of God
- the sinfulness of human beings
- the paradox of the cross
- the need for grace as redemption and reconciliation
- the limits and necessity for critique of any human project or institution, including the church
- the not-yet character of the promised reign of God.
The author of the article then singled out great religious poets of the sacramental imagination (John Donne, George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Richard Wilbur) and dialectical imagination (William Cowper, R. S. Thomas, Elizabeth Bishop).
SOURCE: Religion & Ethics Newsweekly: David E. Anderson, The Things of This World