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Steven Felix-Jager: Pentecostal Aesthetics

Steven Félix-Jäger, Pentecostal Aesthetics: Theological Reflections in a Pentecostal Philosophy of Art and Aesthetics, Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies 16 (Leiden: Brill, 2015) ISBN 9789004285637.

Hardly a Christian tradition is more obsessed with the physical and embodied forms of the Christian life than Pentecostalism. The Pentecostal movement manifests a change among contemporary religious traditions in major part because of its emphasis on the holistic nature of human participation in the experience of God. All the more surprising is therefore that Pentecostals have not sufficiently developed a distinctively Pentecostal philosophy of art and aesthetics. In Pentecostal Aesthetics, with a foreword by Amos Yong, Steven Félix-Jäger addresses this lacuna by reflecting theologically on art and aesthetics from a global Pentecostal perspective and through a pneumatological lens. He contends that Pentecostal aesthetics emerges from the global, experiential, and Spirit-centered nature of the Pentecostal movement. The book proposes that Pentecostal aesthetics can be ontologically grounded in a relativistic theory of art that is sensitive to its ontological foundations. The surprising outcome of this endeavor is that from today’s contemporary artworld Pentecostals can gain abundant insight about the work of the Holy Spirit.

Hardly a Christian tradition is more obsessed with the physical and embodied forms of the Christian life than Pentecostalism.

The question of aesthetics offers increasingly significant contributions to conversations on contemporary theology and philosophy, religious experience, and worship. The origins of the idea of theological aesthetics may be traced back to early Christian debates on divine beauty and the vision of God to the critique and defense of divine images and the rise of Christian poetry, music, and architecture during the Middle Ages, and into early modern reflections on art and aesthetics. Pentecostals may feel somewhat detached from this stream of Christian history, were it not for the consistent emphasis the movement places on the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in visual and oral gifts, a characteristic playfulness of the Pentecostal life, and a vivid imagination inspired by the Spirit of hope and beauty. Félix-Jäger traces these connections in three parts: (1) the history and definition of art and aesthetics, (2) the nature of art, and (3) the purpose of art. Each part examines theological aesthetics through a pneumatological Pentecostal lens.

The first part of the book details in two chapters the broader history of art and the ontological grounds for a Pentecostal philosophy of art and aesthetics. The first chapter follows historical trends in art and aesthetics and traces the cultural conditions in the West. The second chapter seeks to ground aesthetics within an appropriate philosophical system for identifying Pentecostal contributions. Félix-Jäger argues that a Pentecostal philosophy of art and aesthetics is grounded in the pneumatocentric and experiential aspects of Pentecostal spirituality.

What is the nature of beauty?

The second part offers a theoretical conversation with classical aesthetic issues such as beauty, imagination, and inspiration. Chapter 3 explores the Spirit’s role in artistic inspiration and imagination; chapter 4 explores the nature of beauty; and chapter 5 addresses the eschatological nature of Christian art. Important for the author here is that the dominant Pentecostal emphases on the imagination, beauty, and eschatology can engage the traditional concepts of art and aesthetics in important ways that speak to Pentecostals.

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Category: In Depth, Winter 2016

About the Author: Wolfgang Vondey, Ph.D. (Marquette University) and M.Div. (Church of God Theological Seminary), is Professor of Christian Theology and Pentecostal Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK. He is an ordained minister with the Church of God (Cleveland, TN). His research focuses on ecclesiology, pneumatology, theological method, and the intersection of theology and science.

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