Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Pentecostal Epistemology Privileges Aisthesis Before Noesis

Worship at Furious Love
I'm still reading through Calvin College pentecostal philosopher James K.A. Smith's brilliant Thinking in Tongues: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy. Pentecostalism goes berserk-intellectual! Watch this, on pentecostal worship.

"Pentecostal worship operates on the tacit assumption that we are moved by stories. [Of course we are. Hence, movies. Cmp. N.T. Wright's narrative theology. Note pentecostal "testimonies."] As we've already seen, film operates on the same assumption - as does literature. One could see, then, how the affectivity of pentecostal spirituality resonates with the imaginative arts. [See, for example, our church's sanctuary.] Indeed, I would suggest that a pentecostal epistemology [what was once seen  as an oxymoron is no longer...] is always already a kind of aesthetic, an epistemic grammar that privileges aisthesis (experience) before noesis (intellection)... Pentecostalism is marked, even defined, by an openness to "signs and wonders"; as such, it is a spirituality of signs, of the visible and the invisible - it is a religion of manifesting, displaying, and showing. Pentecostal spirituality and worship are very much a visual economy, a spectacular, visible, fantastic world of the sort created by the fantastic world of film. Like the visual world of film, pentecostal worship is semiotic ["semiotics" - the science of 'signs']; but also like film, it is more than visual, affecting other senses and affecting us via narrative, etc."

Droppeth thy jaws in wonder. At our last Elders meeting one of our E-guys, after hearing the testimonies coming out of our Furious Love Event, said: "I feel like we're in Narnia!" I'm so glad I've left my former near-total noesis paradigm and embraced aesthesis. Both noesis and aesthesis; but aesthesis before noesis.