The role of the imagination in Christian communication : a case study of the work of James S. Stewart as a Christian communicator
Throughout history, the imagination has been treated in various ways: at times it has been given prominence in communication philosophy and theology; at other times it has been relegated to having a rather lowly disposition in terms of importance. The discovery of this thesis is that Professor James S. Stewart places active, controlled use of the imagination at the centre of Christian communication particularly in the context of preaching. Two specific lectures given on that subject by Stewart amplify the importance of the imagination in communication and careful research of Stewart's work yields considerable evidence of the preeminence of the imagination in his own Christian practical theological communication. Chapter I identifies the communication crisis facing the Church and examines the foundation of Stewart's work in terms of his relevance to that crisis. We argue that one central motif in Stewart's work is the active, controlled use of the imagination and that it is central in the communication of an alternative reality, i.e. a reality which is alternative to that of the world. Chapter II examines various contexts which helped influence Stewart's development as a practitioner of Christian communication. A very significant influence was his experience as a member of the British Gas Brigade in World War I which may account to a large degree of his passionate teaching and preaching in terms of the content of his theology. We discover after analysis that there are five distinct practical theological stages evident in the work of Stewart which form a portrait of a Christian communicator. Chapter II concentrates on the imagination in historical and contemporary religious thought. Especially of interest to us here is Stewart's commentary and treatment of the imagination. We also discover there is increasing contemporary interest in the imagination in philosophy, education and theology.