In another example of New World Anglo-Protestantism's escape from sign and symbol, the Jehovah's Witnesses, another cultic sect arising from the mileu of revivalism, revel in their simple, often windowless facilities. Note the centrality of the pulpit and no central aisle.
Why does the logical conclusion of the Puritan trajectory of liturical-architechtural sensibilities seem to lie in the physical structures of Mormonism? With its sleek, clean buildings brimming with functionality. No wastefulness of pomp, the average Mormon gathering house (even their temples convey this mentality on a larger scale) sports clear windows and a single sparse spire, no cross. Is it perhaps because both modern evangelicalism and Mormonism arise from the same movement, the Second Great Awakening? The Second Great Awakening with all of its rational untilitarian energy was focused upon an eschatological vision that saw no need for the types of liturgical waste so evident in the Old Testament and the Old World.
I heard the PCA just released its GA-appointed committee report on NPP/FV. Here are my comments:
Well, if I have some free time in my pastoral schedule I might read it. Maybe not. I truly wish my PCA brethren the best and hope they will deal with one another generously as brothers in Christ in light of this.
At the church I pastor, St. Andrew’s Community Church, our parishioner base is 54% male and 46% female. I believe that if you have lots of manly men the women will follow. We are a masculine church but we are unapologetically a church. We sing hymns, we recite creeds, we take the Lord’s Supper together but we do it in the knowledge that we are united to and served by the great warrior king, Jesus.
A Warrior King. I think the church has long allowed this back-story (which is really The Story) go untold. Like a great ode from days of old we don’t convey the chronicle of a great king who comes to do battle to liberate his people from their enemies. Jesus came to do battle. That was the problem the Jews of first century Israel had with this messiah, he didn’t lift a finger to harm the filthy pagan gentiles who were ruling the promised land. He didn’t begin the apocalyptic insurrection against Rome that they were waiting for. But what he did do was something far bigger.
Holy war. What we don’t see in the Gospel narratives is the fierce spiritual battles that occured constantly. Jesus fights with the devil in the wilderness and Jesus engages in hand-to-hand combat with something that would make even a battle-hardened Roman centurion tremble to his core: demons…lots of demons. Legions of demons come to Jesus and he defeats them all. The very spiritual entities that hold the entire ancient world in fear and which require the placation of false sacrifices shudder in the presence of the true King. In their grotesque multitude they cry out “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” They beg him to cast them into a herd of swine. In the final climactic battle, Jesus snatches profound victory from the apparent jaws of defeat at the cross. Jesus is raw masculinity personified.
So how do we convey this masculinity to our church? Well, the wrong way to do it is to turn the church into one giant tail gate party. The right way, I believe, is to act like men are there. To tell the story of the Great King and to equip them to join the huge and real war that is still raging as the Kingdom God expands to ends of the earth overcoming all foes who stand before it. This can be done in a church with a steeple, stained glass windows and a man standing in the pulpit representing King Jesus, the ultimate man.
This article paints a grim picture of the future, but does it have to go in the direction envisioned by the author? I don't think so. Where a cynical secularist sees distress we, as the church, should see vast opportunity. For example the article states:
The massive population growth will mean the Middle East, and to a lesser extent north Africa, will remain highly unstable, says the report.
How about this: The Church, instead of fighting over things like Reformed soteriological minutiae, starts praying like there's no tomorrow that the small and fragile churches in the Middle East start busting out like the church did in the first century. The Church should and could launch a massive reverse-Jihad...if we stopped fighting among ourselves in the West.
Also from the article:
An increased trend towards moral relativism and pragmatic values will encourage people to seek the "sanctuary provided by more rigid belief systems, including religious orthodoxy and doctrinaire political ideologies, such as popularism and Marxism".
Well, why a re-surge of Marxism? Why not a battle to re-Christianize Europe? Why not? It seems like all the church does in the West is lament that everything's going to Hell in a handbasket. Wringing our hands and wondering what the devil will do next. Whuh!?! We are the Body of Christ. The Royal attendants of the King of Kings. The vast and terrible army (in CS Lewis' words) with banners of conquest unfurled!
Here is the final section of my Good Friday sermon:
On the military base where we lived at in Munich Germany, they had a network of tunnels running under the base and stretching out for miles in all directions. They were left over from Hitler’s Germany. We went exploring down there once. You had to sneak in by a manhole and climb down a number stories by a ladder. Once the manhole cover was replaced it was completely and utterly dark. A darkness your eyes would not adjust to. Such complete darkness that it also seemed to be solid and you could not see your hand in front of your face.
At Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, darkness fell from the sixth to the ninth hour. It was the darkest hour in the history of the world because it was the culmination of the darkness that fell upon the world at the Fall. The darkness of humanities sin and separation from God. The darkness of the creation being subject to the futility of the Fall. The darkness of death which stalks the human race. The darkness of murder, war, torture, cruelty, and the Devil. The darkness of Israel and through her, the world, cruelly crucifying her Lord.
But the darkest day also means that lighter days are coming. The long march out of the Garden is being reversed and the curse has been taken up, every last drop, by King Jesus, at the cross.