The fastest growing worldwide Christian movement in the 20th Century, Pentecostalism, sees inspiration as the human feeling of divine indwelling. Possessed by God’s spirit, a believer may speak in tongues, perform miracles or make prophecies. Emphasis on the personal experience of God distinguishes Pentecostalism from the more ritualistic and sacramental expressions of traditional Catholicism or Protestantism. Similarly, another speaker pointed out that for some Muslims inspiration in terms of direct religious experience has also become more important in recent times. Thus, there has been a growth in individual engagement with the Koran, and a new sense of responsibility for one’s personal salvation through one’s actions on earth. Both Pentecostalism and this Protestant-style Islam have been highly successful in reaching out to more people, in new ways, and were described as renewal movements. They are both modern in the sense that their growing popularity is fuelled by increased levels of literacy and education. However, several conference participants asked whether these versions of religion allow for inspiration from the beauty of art, architecture or hierarchical traditions? In reply it was conceded that modern Islam has sometimes attacked the appreciation of natural beauty, music or other more indirect sources of inspiration. The main forms of beauty such Muslims might focus on are the Koran, and the life of the Prophet; the inspiration of these may be narrow, but they are believed to be the means to rebuild society from the bottom. Similarly Pentecostals believe, if not exclusively, at least whole heartedly, in the divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible; the pattern of repentance, regeneration, water baptism and baptism with the Holy Spirit, as instigated by the Apostles of the early Church, still has the power to transform the lives of individuals. Whether this precludes inspiration from works of art was not explored at the conference, however it was agreed that for Pentecostals there is far less emphasis on finding inspiration from the sacraments or liturgical construction.
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