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Steven Felix-Jager: Pentecostal Aesthetics

The final part of the book focuses on issues of praxis and questions the purpose of art in the Christian world. Chapter 6 maintains that humans are inherently relational and that the purest non-functional form of relationality is play. The idea that art is play is then connected with the contemporary discussion of play in Pentecostal theology. Chapter 7 shows that, although not in all Christian art, the arts of redemption contain an eschatological purpose and are therefore important to Pentecostal aesthetics. The final chapter offers suggestions on how the church should approach art and how Pentecostals can make art that is faithful to God, the artist and artworld, and the Pentecostal worldview.

How should the church approach art?

The book is a timely addition to various interests among Pentecostal that explore the continuing viability and vitality of the movement and its integration in the broader Christian spiritual traditions. The theme of the annual meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies in 2016 on worship and the arts indicates that the importance of aesthetics has been recognized among Pentecostal scholars, not only in the theological fields. Félix-Jäger navigates different terrains in his attempt to bring together the field of aesthetics, philosophical domains, and the practices of the artworld. His chief intention appears to be the integration of Pentecostalism in these domains rather than the distinction of a uniquely Pentecostal aesthetic (a necessary task that he may undertake in the future). What emerges is the theological, soteriological, ecclesiological, and eschatological potential of the arts, which is not widely explored by Pentecostals and often seems drastically absent from the architecture and adornment of Pentecostal churches (whether in the austerity of storefront buildings or the abundance of megachurches). The book highlights well that Pentecostal can benefit from the use of art in their physicality of experience, their worship of God, and their witness to the gospel. From a Pentecostal perspective, artists can be assisted by God’s Spirit in the process of artistic creation as a form of participation in the divine life. What is needed further is a pneumatological model for the arts that offers practical guidance for Pentecostals to engage more deeply in the arts as Pentecostals. The philosophical aesthetic offered in this book will need to be supplemented by a theological aesthetic reflecting on issues of embodiment and the primacy of kinaesthetic forms of expression in Pentecostal orality, narrative, dance, music, architecture, media, and art. Such an endeavour invites the larger global Pentecostal community to participate in forging what is perhaps a new form of Spirit-filled aesthetics, not exclusive to Pentecostals but driven by the Pentecostal experience and vision of participating in the divine life.

Reviewed by Wolfgang Vondey


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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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