Through a Glass Darkly: Essays in the Religious Imagination

Through a Glass Darkly: Essays in the Religious Imagination

Through a Glass Darkly: Essays in the Religious Imagination

Through a Glass Darkly: Essays in the Religious Imagination


These essays, interdisciplinary in their approach, demonstrate the variegation of the religious imagination from the broadest historical and denominational scope. By examining the works of philosophers and theologians, of poets, painters, and novelists - from Saint Mark to Jacques Derrida and from Erasmus, Loyola, and Milton to Rouault and to Andrew Greeley - the essayists seek to answer the question Jesus posed to His disciples: "Who do you say that I am?" and to anticipate the equally contentious query: "How do you say who I am?" The essays together explore the religious imagination through the question of transcendence, using both the age-old Christian imagination and the contemporary world wherein the divisions between religious cultures are less fixed, an age of imaginative permeability where the absence of God is as present as the presence of God.


Tom's God was bright, and gave light to the world. My God was different: was the darkness around the world.

--DAVID PLANTE, The Accident

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind


THE QUESTION THAT SO DISTURBED Christ's contemporaries resonates even now: "Who do you say that I am?" (Matt. 16:15). Paradoxically, the answers his disciples boldly or clumsily offer seem to define them far more clearly than describe their teacher. The New Testament stands as a record of their subsequent obsession with the question, with what they remember their answers to have been, and with how this radically creative interrogation ordered their remaining years. Throughout the centuries their own disciples, variously aided and obstructed by these confessions, used the question as a litmus test not only in their prayer and in their personal relations, but, eventually, in their global politics, as well.

Whatever else may be said about the writers of the New Testament, it is interesting that they would wish to portray their Messiah as someone concerned with the response to such a question-- as if the call to imagine and give "shape" to this other person was crucial, for both the respondent and the questioner. Their conception of God apparently entailed imaginative "recognition," either on the spot ("You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" [Matt. 16:17]) or in retrospect ("Did not our hearts burn within . . .

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