Angels in the Architecture (Book Review)

A thousand years ago people attended church in breathtakingly beautiful cathedrals. Today we attend church in community halls, school gyms, and hollowed-out warehouses. We have little concept of beauty in the modern age. Function takes precedence over beauty. In the past the glory of God was reflected in truth, goodness, and beauty. Today we get watered-down truth, self serving good deeds, and just plain ugliness…

…Or so imply the authors of “Angels in the Architecture”, a book of essays written by Douglas Wilson and Douglas Jones. This “odd book”, as one of the authors puts it, pits modernistic thinking against medieval thinking. And as modernism is now CTD (circling the drain), the authors suggest returning to a medieval mindset–not by rejecting or disposing of what we’ve accomplished (i.e. technology), but by embracing all that we have now with a different, and older, world-view. A medieval world-view.

Here are some quotes from the book to give you more of an idea…

On truth…

“If the history of science were a single person, we certainly wouldn’t let that person drive heavy machinery or carry sharp objects.”

“Modern science is far too hasty, calling claims ‘knowledge’ which are only a decade old.”

“Are they speaking truth? Well…are they laughing for joy?”

“…the pharisaical mind is inoculated to truth–he has received just enough of the truth to keep him from getting a case of the real thing.”

On goodness…

“In this futile world, in this world where vanity reigns, we can know that the grace of God has burst through to us by one indication only: ‘Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works’ (Eccles. 9:7). A man who stands in his justification is a man who has been enabled to really enjoy the bread on his table and the wine in his glass. But a man who is left to his own devices is a man who can eat and drink, yet can not taste. ‘For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight, wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather up and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit’ (Eccles. 2:26).”

On beauty…

“We have no sense of life carefully crafted by beauty. A devotion to beauty will sculpt everything we do, and the medievals knew that well. Beauty trains one’s mind to think differently about family, leisure, labor, theology, and the future. Yet we thin-souled moderns are so proud of our rejection of poems and stories and paintings.”

“If we understood (that God alone is true, good, and beautiful), we would understand how beautiful His holiness is, and we could not be kept from writing concertos and building cathedrals. As it is, we are content with thumping on the guitar like a million other aspiring artists headed for Nashville, and we erect crystal cathedrals which look like an upscale gasworks.”

“Coming to worship the Lord in the ‘beauty of holiness’ somehow gets translated into the ‘warmth of niceness'”.

There’s a lot more to the book than what’s quoted here. I recommend you read it for yourself.