Christopher Benson and Matthew Milliner have been doing the Lord’s work over at Evangel in agitating for the recovery of a non-pragmatic understanding of church architecture.

Of course, they’re swimming up stream among us evangelicals: one whole wing of our happy movement doesn’t think we should have buildings at all.

The irony, of course, is that the same Christians who tend to be suspicious about spending money on architecture tend to also have a robust appreciation for the arts . A stereotype, yes, but part of the emerging critique of traditional evangelicalism has been an aesthetic one: The Church has neglected artists and the arts, and so they set out to recover them.

And rightly so. May their numbers increase.

But the dichotomy between architecture and the rest of the arts simply isn’t sustainable. If the arts are somehow tied to culture, then how much more architecture?  As it turns out, a lot.

G.K. Chesterton:

Architecture is the most practical and dangerous of the arts.  All the other arts we have to live with. They are things we have to live with, and some have even said, with regard to some kind of music and paintings, that they are things they could live without. But architecture is not a thing that we only have to live with–it is a thing we have to live in . We live with it as Jonah lived with a whale. Jonah could not see the monster and there is a great deal to be said for living in the most hideous house you can see in the landscape.  That is the one place you will be unable to see it.

A beautiful building can be a sign of the wastefulness of God over and on his people, a witness that points forward to the establishment of his eschatological people.  And it can be a tutor for those (the mentally disabled, particularly) unable to grasp the cognitive aspects of the faith.

In this sense, it is a sign of the decay of the culture of Christianity in America that we spend more time improving our homes than our places of worship. If we wish to make our home within the dwelling places of God, then we ought defend and promote a non-pragmatic aesthetics most especially within and among his people.

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