Thursday, February 15, 2007

I Don't Like Cathedrals

I've heard arguments about how the greatness of architecture and art inside immense ancient cathedrals helps people worship God and understand how big he is. I cannot agree at all, at all! I was thinking this morning about how I spend my life staring at four walls, only moving from one four-roomed wall to another, and how stifling and depressing this is. I grew up roaming woods and fields, splashing in brooks and ponds, exploring beaches and catching fish from our little fishing boat. I spent hours catching crabs and talking to my dog and singing songs to God from the end of an old wharf. I was so quickly intoxicated by fresh air as I ran and somersaulted and swirled through big open grassy spaces or ice-skated on big ponds cleared off by my Dad. I hate living in the city where the only nature we really have has been tampered with and and 'improved' until God's order is somehow rendered something more human--something much smaller.

And you won't convince me that these big cathedrals don't do the same thing. They make God as big as we like him to be and no more. They make us feel him to be far away and dreamy but not Emmanuel, God with us. They are more a monument to man's accomplishments than God's. God's great accomplishment involved coming here to earth as one of us, being born a helpless naked baby in a stable. He died a shameful death on a piece of wood, killed by the ones he made and came to save. He spent much of his time on earth trying to pull down the deceitful religion that looked so impressive on the outside and he is still at work today doing the same thing. Religion is a monument to man, not God. While men are busy building monuments to themselves, God is building the church, a people for his own who will be an eternal monument to his love, power, and all-surpassing glory.

When I talk about cathedrals, I want to make it clear that I think evangelicals are building their own kind every day. We spend millions of dollars in the name of ministry to build impressive buildings, buildings that stand as monuments to our worldly success of attracting so many people with so much money. We add pretty decorations and expensive crosses and call people to worship God, thinking these things somehow help them. We depend on sound systems and stages and pulpits and bands and choirs until the Holy Spirit is optional and even somewhat of an inconvenience to all our diligent planning.

It's funny, but when Jesus was asked where we should worship, he answered "...believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father...But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:21-24)

So do I think it's wrong to meet together in a building? Nope. I just think the building shouldn't be a focal point at all. Have chairs and heat and rooms to use, whether rented or owned, but don't have another temple or mountain. To have another temple or mountain is to deny that the Spirit lives in us, and to deny the Spirit living in us is to deny Christ and admit we don't know saving faith. We must learn to leave behind old covenant thinking that emphasized the physical realm, because those things were only a sign of something better and more real to come. And it has come!!!

I'm going to continue in this theme soon as I'm working on some posts on baptism (infant vs. believer's). Stay tuned, and feel free to comment and try to convince me I'm wrong if you think I am. I promise to be kind in my responses...and I apologize for when I haven't been in the past.


Baxter's Boy said...

Ern Baxter preached once on the rather odd concept from the OT of "asses heads and doves dung". He taught that once the Holy Spirit's glory and Presence has departed from a nation or a church then all that is left is human wisdom and the distant memories of the touch of the Holy Spirit.

I appreciate the asethetics of cathedrals but like you I see them as monuments to "Ichabod" - the departed Holy Spirit. Beautiful but sad.

Steve & Katie LaBs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve & Katie LaBs said...

I can see that you feel very passionate about this. So I'm probably stirring the waters but from descriptions of Solomons Temple it was quite a thing to behold. And God was very specific about His earthly "abode" (if you will) because it ponted to something greater. The Temple's purpose was to glorify God by giving His people a taste of whats to come and also a promise of His presence. I agree with you that cathedrals and church buildings alike are not where our hope should be placed. I can see and understand the danger in building "temple's unto ourselves". But I don't believe this to be true about all larger churches If we condemn big churches because they are big and appraise small churches we miss the point just in the opposite direction. We can veer towards putting our hope in the fact that the church is small. The Holy Spirit can dwell in large temples and small upstairs rooms; with the great kings of old and 11 frightened fishermen. Large chruches and small chruches have different perks and different struggles but they both have both. -Katie

jul said...

I think I'm concerned when people feel the need to put so much effort into buildings. Solomon's temple was (as the tabernacle as well) designed to show us God's holiness and to emphasize not only his presence with his people, but the seperation because of sin (think Holy of Holies). The temple points forward to the church, the body of Christ. The place where we worship is no longer important, but the indwelling of the Spirit as we gather together. I'm not condemning big churches, but a mindset that buildings somehow house God, or in some way accentuate or encourage God to manifest his presence. I can't imagine any good reason why we would waste time, money and other resources on elaborate building, since God has made it clear that his temple is now us. Hope that clarifies what I was trying to say, but if not, I'm sure we'll talk some more about it hehe. Thanks for your comment!