“In the fourth year the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid …. And in the eleventh year… the house was finished in all its parts, and according to all its specifications” (1 Kings 6:37–8a).
1 Kings 6
We will conclude our survey of the biblical approach to aesthetics today with an examination of architecture. Even the way we construct our edifices conveys something about us, and we should pay attention to what our church buildings say about the Lord.
Let us first remind ourselves of the doctrine of omnipresence. God is present everywhere, and there is no place where we can flee from Him (Ps. 139:7). Whether we walk in the woods, shop in a grocery store, or sleep in our beds, our Creator is always at hand.
From a practical perspective, this means we can worship the Lord anywhere as long as we praise Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23–24). However, it does not follow that Scripture has no concept of sacred space. Just as there are special moments in redemptive history, such as the crossing of the Red Sea or the day of Christ’s resurrection, so too are there special locations. God is everywhere, but He often chooses to make His presence felt more strongly in some places than in others. The same Bible that teaches divine omnipresence also depicts certain locales where the Lord meets His people in a way He does not elsewhere (Gen. 28:10–22).
Though Jesus emphasizes the need to worship in Spirit and in truth, early Christians did not abandon the practice of constructing sanctuaries. At first they met in houses, but as the church grew, so too did the need for larger meeting places. In the medieval period the church built Gothic cathedrals, which communicated the Lord’s transcendence through vaulted ceilings. These cathedrals were often built in the form of a cross (a cruciform), reminding people of their need to be crucified with their Savior. Often, works of art were placed so high that only the Lord could see and enjoy the beautiful images created for His honor and glory alone.
In the end, the Word of God alone is effectual for salvation, not a specific type of architecture. Nevertheless, as long as we live on this earth we cannot get away from art forms, including architecture. Every form is an art form and every art form conveys a message, whether or not we are conscious of the message being conveyed.
Unlike the Jerusalem temple described in today’s passage, we do not have any new-covenant specifications for church architecture. Still, whether we build a cathedral or a building resembling a theater, people will get a sense of what we think about the Lord and our worship of Him by their surroundings. Consider today what the design of your church building conveys. In all things, seek to glorify our holy and gracious God through your Christ-centered creativity.
Passages for Further Study
1 Kings 7:13–51, Ps. 127:1, Matt. 16:13–20, 1 Peter 2:4–8