Although what follows can be read entirely independently, readers familiar with my two earlier volumes on Tradition and Imagination and Discipleship and Imagination may find it helpful if the present project is located more precisely within some overall scheme. 1 In those two earlier works my aim was to widen the perspective of theology by insisting that greater attention should be given to the history of the Church as a focus of divine revelation. So far from contrasting biblical revelation and subsequent ecclesiastical tradition, I wanted to suggest that an evolving tradition is itself the motor that under God guides biblical and post-biblical community alike. The community tradition, instead of being conservative or reactionary, has in fact a dynamic of change inherent within it that entails that biblical stories are read in new ways in each generation, and this applies as much to the biblical period as subsequently. What happens, I suggested, was that triggers in the wider society encourage an imaginative re-engagement with the story that can lead to significant new emphases and insights. Over the course of the two works I offered a wealth of studied examples where I believed this to be so, using art no less than the written word to illustrate the nature and means of change.
Here the emphasis is different, but not unrelated. Once more I am concerned to widen the range of material that is thought relevant to constructive theology. Once more also I take seriously what most modern academic work on the subject tends to place on the periphery, if reckoned with at all. In the West the passing of the centuries has marked an increasing marginalization of religion till today it is often seen by many as just one more possible leisure