Imagination and Conceivability

I came across this fascinating little footnote in Graham Cole’s ‘God the Peacemaker‘ book. He wrote:

“In my view, imagination (at least in part) has to do with our ability to form a mental picture. Conceivability, on the other hand, has to do with our reason’s capacity to form a non-contradictory notion. E.g. I can imagine a pregnant bull, but I cannot form a coherent concept of one. A square circle I can neither imagine nor conceive of. Many a Christian idea and doctrine (eg the Trinity) are conceivable, but unimaginable.” (p 118).

Graham used to lecture us in Philosophy when I studied some three decades ago, and as I type this footnote up I find myself recalling how my mind was spinning in those classes. He always had us thinking deeply and I find this book draws me to continue to do so in God’s great salvation work.

What led to this footnote? It flowed from this paragraph about Christ’s faithfulness and imputation:

“Christ’s faithfulness issued in obedience. His obedience constituted his righteousness. His righteousness is put to our account, if we are believers as the traditional doctrine of imputation maintains. It is put to our account not because of a mere reckoning so by God, but because we are really united to Christ by the Spirit. We are in Christ (en to Christo). Without such righteousness we cannot be at-one with a holy and righteous God. This union is a matter of faith, not sight, and is unimaginable, but not inconceivable.” (p 118).

It’s all great stuff and draws me to pondering the ‘faithfulness and obedience of Christ’ which is his theme in chapter 5 of his book in which he particularly looks at the Scriptures dealing with this (especially Paul’s writings and Hebrews).

But, I have to admit, my mind does wander in its imagination. I find the more I muse upon the footnote the more I wander. I have images of bulls being impregnated, then I jump to the story of a parishioner whose grandmother was gored by a bull out Kurrajong way 100 years ago, before bouncing back to the pregnant bull and wondering whether you would say it had conceived, and I dare not introduce another another side to the bull (though those Bashan blighters of Psalm 22:12 are trying to jump in – so I’ll stay with the silly cows in Amos 4:1) because then I might have four sides and form a square and I’d really be running in circles. Enough – this blog post has definitely lost coherence!

Leave a Reply