Thursday, January 8, 2009

Aesthetics during wartime

What value should we place on aesthetics? St. Andrew's Chapel (R.C. Sproul's church in Sanford, FL) is currently in a building project (see PDF brochure or .wmv virtual tour). The new church structure is designed "for beauty and holiness." And it is going to be beautiful.

But, is it wartime living? When it comes to church buildings, should we aim for temple-like beauty or wartime efficiency? Should our churches be more like the Queen Mary during peacetime or wartime?

I was recently watching CSPAN's series on the White House and learned that Abraham Lincoln ordered construction on the Capitol Dome to continue throughout the Civil War--despite its immense cost--because its continued construction was a symbol of the continuation of the nation. He saw the construction expense--though unrelated to winning the temporary war--to be an essential part of the nation's permanency.

But, what about churches? Some churches are great art; for examples, consider churches designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, or of course, the great cathedrals of Europe. Other churches, however, epitomize function over form; think of rectangle metal buildings. Which style is more glorifying to God, though?

Let us know what you think about applying wartime living to church architecture.


  1. If Wright wasn't a Christian though (and I don't recall ever hearing about any religious faith), do his buildings glorify God in their form?

  2. Wright was raised as a Unitarian, and in his adult life, he wasn't even a good Unitarian. So, do his buildings glorify God? Consider your own fondness for that Cindy Lauper song "Time After Time" that was re-imagined as a Christian song by Nichole Nordeman.

  3. Or, would it be more effective during wartime, for believers to meet in homes and use the billions of dollars that are pumped into building funds, electricity bills, water bills, and staff salaries to feed the poor, clothe the naked, and fund the gospel being preached to the ends of the earth?

    Maybe God doesn't care as much about the buildings as we as Americans tend to think.

  4. Rachel,

    The Christian church didn't have buildings for the first few hundred years of its history. So, I do agree that God is not concerned, per se, with buildings.*

    But, the early church might provide a model for home groups combined with large corporate gatherings. The early church met in large groups--much too large for homes--at the temple courts to worship and teach; and they also met in homes for fellowship and encouragement (Acts 2:42-47).

    Unfortunately, our modern cities usually don't have anything comparable to the temple courts--which were public, free and could hold thousands. So, that might be a rationale for church buildings. But, to save money, it might be wise to find facilities to rent, such as school auditoriums and movie theaters. Many churches rent such facilities for far less expense than owning buildings.

    Do you see any specific advantages or disadvantages to home churches, other than the obvious saving money on meeting locations?

    Also, how do you think ending staff salaries--making ministers bio-vocational--would impact ministry? I know the Mormon church does not pay ministers. Passages such as Acts 6, 1 Tim 5:17-18 and 1 Cor 9come to my mind supporting paid staff.

    *Caveat: Buildings are not what concerns God; people concern God. So, if we use buildings, he is interested in how we use them.


We intend this blog to be a discussion about wartime living, so we always welcome your thoughts.