Book Reviews

Book Review: “Renewal Worship: A Theology of Pentecostal Doxology” by Steven Félix-Jäger

Renewal Worship: A Theology of Pentecostal Doxology provides a broad overview/theology of Pentecostal worship.

The first thing that immediately came to my mind on starting this book is the discussions and debates I’ve engaged in over Pentecostal theology. As a Lutheran, there are some quite large differences in theology and practice. However, Lutheranism also doesn’t have a fully-fledged view of gifts of the spirit, a stance on continuationism vs. not, or really much interest in those debates. Knowing that some of these discussions quickly turn sour (such as having been told I’m unsaved because I held to a different consideration of what it meant to be baptized), I was cautious on cracking the cover here. I’m pleased to report that Félix-Jäger does not engage in such frivolous dismissal of other Christians. Instead, he’s provided here a substantive look at Pentecostal worship that includes enough in it to be useful and informative to Christians of broad backgrounds and interests.

The book is divided into two parts. The first is a profile of renewal worship, and the second places renewal worship in context. Félix-Jäger uses the term “renewal worship” interchangeably with Pentecostal worship. In the introduction, he points out that many books on theology of worship are prescriptive–that is, they tell readers how they’re supposed to be worshiping. He notes that there are severe problems with claiming to have one single unified approach as “the biblical approach to worship” (8). Rather than attempting to provide stout arguments for why one must worship as he suggests, he instead offers the theology of worship in this book as a case study of how a Pentecostal community can worship, why it matters, and how it can be seen as exegetically satisfying.

The first chapter has Félix-Jäger going into what renewal worship is. Here, his concern for not offering prescription is evident, though he provides a contrast between evangelical (largely based upon scripture as the primary driver in worship), sacramental (based upon rituals as means for bringing grace and Christ to believers), and Pentecostal (focused on the Spirit’s involvement in worship). Admittedly, the constant use of “symbol” language for sacramental theology is grating from a Lutheran perspective, but his effort to delineate different styles of worship is of interest.

Renewal worship, he argues, can be integrated into eschatological expectation–worship as a foretaste of the feast to come (39ff). The sacraments themselves are not rejected by Pentecostal theology but integrated into a broad sense of Spirit-filled worship (44ff). Of course, there are controversial aspects in Pentecostal worship, such as the notion of healing or miraculous signs and wonders as integration of worship. Félix-Jäger again puts this into an eschatological framework, seeing healing as a sign of the coming renewal (49). He does not debate whether healings occur or how they do so. Instead, the concept of healings occurring is a given for renewal worship and not part of the scope of this book.

Félix-Jäger acknowledges some of the difficulties that have led to renewal worship getting linked to prosperity gospel (72-81). He uses lyrics from various songs to illustrate aspects of what he means by renewal worship (eg. 27-28; 137). He carefully draws lines about what is meant by speaking in tongues in worship, not falling into the trap of insisting one must do so to demonstrate salvation (as this reviewer has encountered before in argument) (87ff). The arts are integrated into worship in renewal worship, whether its music or other forms of art (106ff). Renewal worship is less structured and often depends upon a sense of flowing with the Spirit (139ff). Renewal worship is a global movement and has advantages when it comes to integration and contextualization, he argues (200ff).

Renewal Worship is of interest to anyone who seeks understanding of worship practice or is exploring more about what it means to be Pentecostal. As someone who’s not Pentecostal, I still found the book quite engaging, sometimes challenging, and certainly enlightening. Recommended.

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


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