Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Beauty Of Church Is The People, Not The Building

This weeks Unbelievable podcast featured writer Alain de Botton and James Orr asking should Atheists be more religious?

Alain has written a book 'Religion for Atheists'. He seems like a really nice reasonable bloke, who can see the virtue in things religious people have and would like atheists to have the same just without the spiritual side of things!

One thing that came up that I strongly disagree with is his statement that having a faith orientation is the same as your sexual orientation, you are either one way inclined or another and there isn't any feasible way to persuade you otherwise.  I would probably agree that you couldn't persuade a straight person to become gay or vice versa, but to say you cannot show someone the way to faith is ridiculous.  There are many Atheists who become Christians and also sadly, many Christians who turn away from their faith and become Atheists.

The main point I want to pick up on from the podcast though is that Alain seems to place a lot of weight in the role Churches/Temples play in religion.  He would like a magnificent structure to be made for Atheists to be able to admire and gather in.

The point Alain has missed (not his fault, he's not a Christian) is that the Church building is irrelevant to a faith in God, beautiful though these buildings are, the Church is made of God's people;

Matthew 18:20 ESV
"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

I know some Christians obviously still meet in the traditional Churches of England, but the structure of the building is of no relevance to the religion, well, certainly not my religion! Alain seems to think we are drawn to the beauty of the structure and architecture of the building and enjoy that as one element of our religion. 

 It would make no difference to me where we met for Church, because the Church is made of the believers in Christ.
                                                The Church I attend; hardly an enviable temple, even to an Atheist!

Jesus himself dismissed the beauty of the Temple;

Mark 13:1-2
1 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

This was one of the most beautiful buildings in Jerusalem, but it was not built to honor God, it was built for the Jews, mere people. And true to Jesus' prophecy the Temple was completely destroyed.

So if Alain de Botton would like a Church/Temple/Beautiful structure for Atheists to meet in, go for it.

But it will never have the beauty of a Church that Christians meet in, because God will not be present in it.

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