Friday, February 19, 2010

Architecture is not neutral

Matthew Milliner provides another reason that should persuade those of us blessed with beautiful, traditional church buildings to value them highly:
Whether or not they are consciously aware of it, many non-Christians are seeking a deeper, ecclesial reality in their life, not a gospel that caters to their present one. If non-Christians go to church, or back to church, a significant percentage of them want it to look, architecturally, like a traditional church. If you doubt this assertion, look into Lifeway’s recent survey that shows it to be true. ....

But, some might ask, Isn’t the pragmatic modern style of architecture more conducive to pragmatic evangelicalism? Not by a longshot. In An Architecture of Immanence, Mark Torgerson demonstrated the alliance of Protestant liberalism (to which evangelicalism is traditionally opposed) and architectural modernism. His diligently researched book concludes that flat, immanent modern architecture is uniquely suited to mid-century liberal Protestant denial of the supernatural, both of which (he seems to subtly imply) have been outmoded. Before evangelicals build in the modern, pragmatic style, therefore, they might want to consider whether or not the architecture they worship in will be counteracting the sermons preached therein for decades to come. It is impossible for architecture to be neutral.

Still, I’m not too hopeful about the possibilities for an evangelical recovery of traditional architecture. Having spurned the superior resources of Christendom, evangelicals have great difficulty detaching themselves from our dominant culture, and architecture is no exception. In addition, our economic downturn will do much to regenerate that ancient argument (John 12:5) against extravagance in worship, as if the poor were not ministered to by beauty as well. .... [more]
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