Tuesday, June 9, 2009

6/10- Calvin and architecture

(Inside of Huguenot church in Charleston SC)
(Charenton church outside Paris 1623-held 5,000).

Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 2Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. 3For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. 4For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. 5And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 6But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. (Hebrews 3:1-6)

We…must guard against either taking them to be God’s proper dwelling places, whence he may more nearly incline his ear to us—as they began to be regarded some centuries ago—or feigning for them some secret holiness or other, which would render prayer more sacred before God. For since we ourselves are God’s true temples, if we would call upon God in his holy temple, we must pray within ourselves. Now let us leave this stupidity to Jews or pagans, for we have the commandment to call upon the Lord, without distinction of place, “in spirit and in truth” [John 4:23].

What we believe affects so much of life. It affects the way we express ourselves in art, music, and architecture as well. In turn the art, music, and architecture of those who have gone before us affect us. Calvin spoke of simplicity, integrity, truth to reality, and clarity in life, and his followers generally reflected that in their architecture. Calvinist architecture usually centers around the pulpit and communion. The early followers of Calvin closed off the chancel areas, and encouraged a circular gathering around the pulpit and table. As pointed out in another blog, Tillich pointed to the fact that Calvinistic churches had more light and less darkness so that the people of God could read the Word of God. At the beginning, Calvinists had little money to build large churches or structures. Even in South Carolina before the Revolution the state (taxes) supported the Anglican churches while Presbyterian, Huguenot, Quaker and Baptist churches often met at the same simplistic meeting house (as in Georgetown, SC). A church was simply a practical place to meet, not a temple that pointed to God. In Byzantine thought the church building was an earthly reminder of heaven. In European catholic churches there was much gold and the churches tended to be as ornate as they could be. Calvinistic churches tended to be simplistic using extra funds for education or helping the needy. This was true universally. In our day, we would do well to adhere to this idea of living simply in order to help others with education and basic needs.

Prayer: Lord, dwell in our hearts deeply. Let your love flow to us and through us to your glory. May the things we make with our hands reflect our devotion to you and concern for others. Amen.

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