Worship as Experience

By: Paul Shockley  

In his seminal work, Art as Experience (1934), American philosopher John Dewey offered an extensive account about the nature aesthetic experience, the origin and use of the arts, and the resultant problems of anemia (personally and collectively) when the arts are separated from the organized life of the community. The proposed paper applies Dewey's critique of the arts to common aesthetic problems churches experience. Dewey's account of aesthetics offers penetrating insight into what engenders aesthetic experiences in corporate worship but also explains how local churches can use the arts to bridge the culture gap in the communities in which they are embedded. The implications are far-reaching for authentic spirituality, community life, and religious expressions of worship. After summarizing Dewey's ideas of the nature of aesthetic experience, I will critique four major types of aesthetics problems churches face: isolation of aesthetics from community; reductionistic focus of aesthetics in corporate worship; sensational indulgence in worship; mindless mechanical routine in worship. Afterwards, I will integrate Dewey's aesthetics in such a way that it can be used by local churches to advance the arts, leaving a rich aesthetic legacy of spirituality that will qualitatively benefit communities in the most dynamic ways.

Aesthetics, Community, Church, Philosophy, Dewey, Pragmatism, Spirituality
Religious Community and Socialization
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dr. Paul Shockley

Lecturer of Philosohpy, Division of Multidisciplinary Programs, Stephen F. Austin State University, United States
Texas, United States

Dr. Paul R. Shockley, Professor of Philosophy of Philosophy, Bible, and Theology at the College of Biblical Studies-Houston and Lecturer of Philosophy, Stephen F. Austin State University. Scholarly interests involve aesthetics, moral philosophy, philosophy of religion, hermeneutics, existentialism, American philosopher (John Dewey). Live in SW Houston, married, and have four adult children.