A Great Aphorism

One of the reasons why Chesterton is such an encouragement to us is that he understands the role of imagination. This is not the same thing as understanding imagination itself — for no man understands that — but Chesterton does understand the important role that imagination must play. He understands it, and he practices what he understands.

So when Napoleon said that imagination rules the world — a great aphorism if ever there was one — he was simply giving us some material to work with. In what senses might this be true? In what senses might we get all tangled up in what we falsely think of as imagination?

There is a distinction between the throne of imagination—the human heart and mind—and the realm of imagination—everything else. One of the central reasons we are languishing in our public life is that we have allowed a divorce between the throne and the realm. Artists are assumed to be the custodians of the imagination, but because of their insistence upon autonomy, they have become like a mad king who has the run of the throne room, and nothing else. And out in the mundane realm of hohummery, imagination is assumed to be irrelevant.

What this means — when Christians finally wake up to the real state of affairs — is that we are beseiging a city with no walls and no defenses. If imagination rules the world, perhaps we should focus on getting some.

Theology That Bites Back



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  • Eric Stampher

    What about men of the Word who’s own wordage wineskins be empty?  Not that they need be as prolific as you; but why are so few pastors unable and uninterested in, say, putting their imagination to the task of the blog?  It doesn’t pay?  Or do they really know in their hearts they have no developed imagination?  Probably most are not even interested in experiencing any imaginative product?

  • timothy

    I imagine that as the state continues to implode, We Christians create our own nation in their midst, with our own currency, schools, doctors, courts and laws.
    I do not know if that is what you had in mind regarding imagination, but there you go.
    grace and peace.

  • timothy

    Or a little bit of cultural tweaking I think you will like.

  • Steve Perry

    “Everything that men called sentimental in Roman Catholic religion, its keepsakes, its small flowers and almost tawdry trinkets, its figures with merciful gestures and gentle eyes, its avowedly popular pathos and all that Matthew Arnold meant by Christianity with its “relieving tears”—all this is a sign of sensitive and vivid vitality in anything so vast and settled and systematic.  There is nothing quite like this warmth, as in the warmth of Christmas, amid ancient hills hoary with such snows of antiquity.”  Chesterton.  Now that’s an imagination!  

  • scm

    Thanks for this post. Would love to see more here on this topic.