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The Impossible Is Made Possible

Edward Schillebeeckx, Symbolic Imagination, and Eschatological Faith

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The human community niche is distinctively inflected by the human symbolic imagination, as particularized and maintained by the social group. This profoundly social form of symbolic imagination that characterizes human ways of being and knowing is central to human evolutionary history (Fuentes 2014, 243). The symbolic imagination allows human beings to step beyond the possible and believe in, act from, and experience the impossible. It allows for sensation of what is not present in material experience alone and 'what if' wonderings. It enables future planning and intensive coordinated social effort. Or, to use the words of Edward Schillebeeckx, it allows a community to "demand a future and open it up" (Schillebeeckx 1979, 622). This creates a condition of acute sensitivity to the negative; that is, humans are always living with an awareness of the gulf between what is and what could be or should be. Wise human communities have strategies or practices for enduring life in the negative. They are able to maintain an awareness of this gulf without it either overwhelming or underwhelming the imaginative faculty. More specifically, they have a symbolic framework that enables flourishing in the negative via the cultivation of hope. For Christians, this symbolic framework is eschatological faith.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 June 2016

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