John Wesley and engaged aesthetics: transformative Christian education
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The Church of the Nazarene has an identity problem. Increasingly, Nazarenes are unfamiliar with their denomination’s holiness theology, and a gap exists between what people say they believe—espoused theology—and what they practice—operant theology. I argue that aesthetic Christian education can play a significant role in decreasing the discrepancies between a person’s beliefs and practices. This kind of teaching and learning incorporates holistic aesthetic elements, which I call engaged aesthetics. Research in the neuroscience of visual perception seems to point to the possibilities that art can offer for transformative reflection. Christian education that features the viewing of art can explore these opportunities to reflect on faith-as-beliefs and faith-actions and to amend discrepancies at a personal and/or communal level. Since the Church of the Nazarene is grounded in John Wesley’s theology, I make the case for an aesthetic educational bridge between espoused and operant theology rooted in the engaged aesthetic of Wesley’s practical theology, and in affinity with Wesley’s experiential and affective epistemology.
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