Had one of those sermons in church last night – where the preacher has looked at the Bible text and read up on the historical background so he can give us some more insights into what the passage is talking about, which is great and really helpful, but…
The guy has an imagination, and he’s using it to fill in more details in the story – which I wouldn’t mind him doing if he stated clearly that that’s what he is doing. What bothers me is that he wasn’t separating out what is a definite and what is a maybe. I’d be cool with it if he stood there and said: so here’s what I imagine may have happened there… or: the text doesn’t tell us where he was when he saw the vision, but from this and this and this that we know about the circumstances, my guess is that he’d gone to the Temple (just for example).
Of course, inserting these kind of caveats means you end up with less beautifully flowing oratory, but since we’re a Bible-believing church and we take our sermons seriously, I expect our preachers to be prepared to sacrifice some beautifully flowing oratory for the sake of making sure that they are preaching truthfully and not misleading people. I think of this as “responsible preaching” – you’re not there to just tell people a nice story, you’re there to help us see something of God’s truth, to open up God’s word to us. So I really expect you to make it clear what part of what you’re saying is actually there in the text, what is stuff that you got from another reliable source, and what is just stuff that you are filling in, imagining, making an educated guess about.
Otherwise, I can’t take in much of what you’re saying – once I’ve noticed that some of what you’re saying is just your own guess, how can I take any of what you say seriously? It’s as though you went into a physics lesson at school and your teacher started talking sci-fi stuff as though it’s real, not making any distinction between stuff that has been scientifically tested and stuff that people have imagined – yes, some of that stuff we imagine may be true, who knows, but please don’t present me with time travel alongside, say, gravity.
There’s nothing wrong with using your imagination. I just wish preachers were more clear about it when they’re doing it, that’s all.