Pneumatological Assist of Music in Theological Writing

April 16th, 2014 by Nimi Wariboko

musicIntellectuals often talk about various kinds of envy. Radical scholars accuse neoclassical economists of physics envy. Freudians accuse young girls of penis envy. I accuse myself of music-envy. It is my ambition to write theology as a great classical music or jazz. It is to find the music in the theological. For instance, I hope that one day my theology will sound as good as Schubert’s Ave Maria, Verdi’s Nabucco—Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, or Monk’s Blue Monk. This hope exists not only because good theology is a sublime music to the divine and beautiful to read, but also because all good theologians are slaves to dead or obscure musicians. In an adaptation of the rhetorical flourish of John Maynard Keynes, let me say this: The ideas of theologians, both when they are right and when they wrong are derived from music, exquisite sensibility to beautiful, harmonious movements of sound and silence than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world of theology is ruled by little else. Non-music envy theologians, who believe their thoughts to be above any musical influences, are usually slaves to some obscure musician.   Read the rest of this entry »

The Call of Pentecostal Praise and Worship

April 8th, 2014 by Nimi Wariboko

praise-dancersThere was always sound, joy, and anointing as a mighty rushing stream in Brooklyn. Far away from the place, I hear your call! I hear it break the walls of these deaf classrooms.[1] I want to feel your touch again and feel your warm embrace or at your deep set myself free, dance, and inhale the glory. Like the chrysalis I want to unfold my being and fill my days with the sun of righteousness, with songs from the lips of angels. I hear your ecstatic call, I hear it coming through; invoking the Spirit, coming from where your children hail your miracles and your power flows. My praise and worship is calling me! Its ceaseless drumming, rhizomatic rhythms, joyous voices, and endless halleluiahs impel my heady head and swift legs down its stream. And each concluding lecture brings near the spirit-call, the wooing and cooing that make my flesh tremble and burn the constraints of crouching dead walls. O enveloping Spirit, shall my years of praise and worship be my pilot to my final destiny. O my all-knowing God?

The Pentecostal praise and worship is a power that draws me to God wherever I am; a powerless power that awakens me in the morning, a glorious power that sets the sun of my day into the abyss of darkness. It calls me by my name, by my village name, by my secret name. It calls me with my mother’s accent. Are its ways with me too wonderful to understand?   Read the rest of this entry »

Awe and Wonder: Whither Theological Education?

April 4th, 2014 by Nimi Wariboko

aweAn important dimension of any religion is the feelings of awe that arise with encounters with the holy and the beautiful. Otto Rudolf in his 1917 book, The Idea of the Holy, argues that the experience of the numinous, the sacred, the holy is the ineffable core of religion. When persons encounter and experience the sacred they develop a sense of dependency on something objective, external, and greater than them. The experience of the numinous takes two related forms: (a) terrifying experience of the “wholly other,” and (b) fascination. Where can we encounter these experiences? Read the rest of this entry »

On Remaining Pentecostal

April 1st, 2014 by Dale M. Coulter

Occasionally I have been asked why I remain Pentecostal. The question is not without merit. It usually comes from friends in other traditions (although sometimes my own) who look at me and then look at Pentecostalism and wonder: “Surely there is something better out there.”

In truth, I cannot answer the question of whether Pentecostalism is genuinely “better.” It’s better in some ways; worse in others. There is always the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly. It has some good qualities, but falls short in a lot of areas.

When I think about why I remain a Pentecostal, the analogy that comes to mind is marriage. There are a lot of forms of the Christian faith that I love. I admire the beauty, the liturgy, the deep theological streams, and many other aspects of various Christian traditions.

This is my way of saying that I have deep, abiding friendships of mutual respect and love.

But I am still in love with Pentecostalism. She is my lover and, as far as I can tell, always will be. She took me in and nourished me in the faith and I am prepared to go the distance with this lover despite the fact that she can be abusive, callous, and even cruel at times. I have been stung by her words and witnessed the way she has wounded her children.

I’ve also seen how wonderfully surprising she can be–like Hobbits whose courage pops up in the oddest of places. I’ve been told that the Pentecostalism I know does not exist except in my own mind, but I’ve seen her.

I have witnessed her in the small prayer meetings where groans and cries are uttered through the night for God to intervene into the midst of life’s tragedies. I glimpsed her beauty in the deep embraces around an altar by persons who, according to social mores, should not even associate with one another let alone hug, kiss, and weep together.

I caught her hue in the harmonies of Appalachia and the deep sighs of the Delta. I beheld the beauty of her many shades–from the soft whites to the deep chocolates and all the marvelous browns and yellows and mahoganies in between.

No, for these reasons and many others, I remain committed. There are many others out there who are married to different parts of Christian tradition and I would not attempt to sever them from their lover. But God has called me to her.

My commitment, however, means a refusal to allow her to wallow in nakedness and shame when she sins before God. If I am called to this lover, then I am called to awaken all of her potential as best as I can. I am called to help her find her true self once again–an identity that I don’t yet clearly see myself “BUT GOD.”

This is no starry-eyed naiveté. Not only have I’ve lived with her long enough to see the dark side, as a historian I know her secrets and what she’d like to keep hidden from others. No, this is more akin to a vow to be with her.

And so I stay with this lover whose faltering steps and youthful determination still attract me.

I will name her sins.

I will see her through trials and temptations.

I will walk with her through meandering theologies and even “biblical” absurdities because, at the end of the day, I am in love with her.


African Pentecostal Kinetic Preaching, Part 2

March 19th, 2014 by Nimi Wariboko

african_preaching_2In Part I of this essay, I examined the kinetic nature of African Pentecostal preaching.  We discussed the sheer energetic force of preaching as a full-blooded dramatic performance. The performance requires an ensemble of skills that draws the people to one another, to the preacher, and to God. In that very act of centripetal collation and knitting of emotions and foci, there is a subtle mastery of centrifugal energy fashioned to maintain a circle of aura around the preacher. This is what I want to discuss today. My guiding question remains: are seminaries in the North America adequately preparing their students for this kind of preaching?  Read the rest of this entry »

Praise, Pentecostalism, and the Political: Renewing the Public Square III

March 17th, 2014 by Amos Yong

publicMy two previous blogs on Pentecostalism and the political have approached this intersection through consideration of prayer and the prophetic. Even if a stretch, careful observers of the religious life know well that Christians are called to pray for their governments and political leaders even as there may be occasions for civil disobedience; what the scriptural tradition calls “prophetic resistance” in response to what happens in the polis. But if prayer and the prophetic might be tied in with the public square in this way, isn’t the activity of praise altogether only religious and without public or political consequences? What does the liturgical life of believing communities, especially Pentecostal ones with their extended singing, shouting, clapping, and dancing, have to do with the public area? Read the rest of this entry »