‘Some go to church to see and be seen, some go there to say they have been, some go there to sleep and nod, but few go there to worship God.’ - Anonymous
Whilst our modern buildings and other modern man-made designs hail from either minimalism, or chaotic creation - whenever I encounter the face of a traditional church, I marvel at the creative genius that inspired the stonework that leads contemporary society towards contemplation of the complexity and beauty of God.
The same cannot be said when I visit more modern churches, and observe the harsh and minimalistic angles that the designers created, resembling nothing more than the office buildings that that are akin to it. Post-modern art being appropriated for church use always confuses me in a way that it reflects the nihilistic nature of modern society but not the infinity of God.
I find myself considering progression and the future of man, rather than the history and the work of God when I look at modern churches built using post-modern design. Granted, some are very functional and are beautiful, but substance is lacking.
Light and peace
Contrasting the monolithic nature of exterior stonework, as one steps into the interior of traditional churches, one finds that the space is often filled with colourful light passing through the spectrum of stained glass windows. The images which light passes through are reminders of the saints, the Apostles, and of our Lord who has proceeded before us in the life of faith.
The ambience created by the high ceilings further accentuates the feeling of other-worldliness that is expressed by the art that is used within to point towards the sanctuary. The stone interior also shields those within from the noises and worries of the world, it grants us a place in which we can safely contemplate, reflect, and give thanks for what God has given us.
One telling sign that a church has retained its tradition is the presence or absence of an altar. It is somewhat disappointing to see many churches in Sydney bear the heritage of tradition on the outside, but on the inside, the worship space is hollowed out and replaced with projector screens, or a simplistic table that has little meaning and cannot visually preach the truth of God to observers.
What is the purpose of church design and art?
If God is the creator of beauty, we should seek to reflect that truth in the way we worship, and where we worship. The works of art and tradition are poured out from hearts that glorify God through an expression of creation that have led souls towards the cross which rests on an adorned altar for many centuries.
Although not all Christian art needs to point to the Cross, all Christian art and design should reflect and maximise the beauty we find in the world. James chapter 1 verse 17 reminds us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
This is one reason why the traditional method of church construction and church design has lasted for so long because the purpose is to create a combination of form and function for holy use. Post-modern Christian architecture has always struggled in balancing the two, partly due to
This is one reason why the traditional method of church construction and church design has lasted for so long because the purpose is to create a combination of form and function for holy use. Post-modern Christian architecture has always struggled in balancing the two, partly due to theological foundation, but also due to more practical issues such as finances, or the needs of congregants.
The space in which we encounter God should reflect the meeting of heaven and earth, not just a meeting on earth as the Psalmist mentions “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27 verse 4)
Let’s contribute more beauty into the world, and partake more fully in the spiritual and physical redemption of our world through our Lord. Philippians chapter 4 verse 8 points us to this calling, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Amen.
Jack Liang is studying Commerce and Arts at Macquarie University, he is part of a family of five, his hobbies include computer gaming, football, learning languages, and church history.He attends Gracepoint Presbyterian, and occasionally, St Paul’s Anglican in Burwood.
Jack Liang previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jack-liang.html