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Unread 09-25-2017, 01:42 PM   #1
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Atheists Should Love the Church

I don't think that this necessarily goes here, but I think this is the most appropriate place, nonetheless.

I recently came across this article, by an atheist, talking about the importance of going to church, or at least why he has started going to church.

It's fascinating.

Churches have had an immense social importance for, well, almost forever. And, I do wonder if, as Christianity continues to dry up in the West, people will come to recognise this again.

I'm sure we could go somewhere theological here, but I'll let you all take the helm with the discussion.

Perhaps some questions, though:

-Do you recognise some theological insights in what the author notices about churches?

-Aesthetics is an important part in this story. So, perhaps there is something important about the aesthetic of the church building? Or, do you think this is largely inconsequential?

-Does this point to the importance of the faith as something that goes beyond modern ideas of 'religion'? Namely, should we recognise that Christian culture is something that goes beyond the faith? If so, is this a good or bad thing? Is the temptation too strong to leave Jesus aside and underscore the important social and cultural place of the church?

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Taylor, you just got drive-by theologied.
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Unread 09-26-2017, 10:53 AM   #2
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I am trying to process what you're suggesting.

The only thing that is coming to my mind is this. Bear with me if I am way off base.

I don't know that is so surprising that an atheist can participate and actually get something out of church without believing in God. How many so-called Christians sit in those same pews/chairs and participate without it having a significant impact (other than emotional) change on them? If "Christians" can be moved by the words and songs without being transformed there's no reason why non-believers can't be.
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Unread 09-29-2017, 11:07 PM   #3
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I am trying to process what you're suggesting.

The only thing that is coming to my mind is this. Bear with me if I am way off base.

I don't know that is so surprising that an atheist can participate and actually get something out of church without believing in God. How many so-called Christians sit in those same pews/chairs and participate without it having a significant impact (other than emotional) change on them? If "Christians" can be moved by the words and songs without being transformed there's no reason why non-believers can't be.
Insightful.

I was thinking of going a different tack, like, of how we should not be satisfied with watered-down services that become so faddish now.

But yours. Spot on.
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Unread 09-30-2017, 05:27 AM   #4
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Insightful.

I was thinking of going a different tack, like, of how we should not be satisfied with watered-down services that become so faddish now.

But yours. Spot on.
I would agree with that as well. If the only thing that happens is an aesthetically pleasing service, then something is wrong somewhere. I think that can be said about any style of service. I love hearing a full on Latin Mass but really don't get anything out of it but the satisfaction that comes from hearing it. I imagine the same could be said of any non Christian who enjoys the music or liturgy. You can appreciate and enjoy it for what is but never react to the message found in it. I hear people day that about a lot of Christian bands. They love the music but the words don't mean anything to them.
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Unread 09-30-2017, 05:34 AM   #5
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Can the Holy Spirit work through aesthetics?

Are aesthetics, and works of art, abstracted from other human works?

I wonder if meaning can have an effect on a person. And, in what way?
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Taylor, you just got drive-by theologied.
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Unread 09-30-2017, 08:13 AM   #6
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Can the Holy Spirit work through aesthetics?

Are aesthetics, and works of art, abstracted from other human works?

I wonder if meaning can have an effect on a person. And, in what way?
I am biased. I 100% believe that He does. Music affects me deeply, much deeper than just liking it. I definitely believe there is a spiritual element to art.
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Unread 10-06-2017, 06:51 PM   #7
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Interesting article.

I know that growing up on the west coast of the US and not traveling much in my youth I found a great appreciation for what the article refers to as "proper old" architecture, especially that of churches and other religious buildings in areas that have a much longer "history". I grew up with a lack of appreciation for the element of time and tradition in the church and asceticism plays a huge role in referencing and being testament to faith in the element of time. Liturgy, hymns, icons, aromas, lighting, and architecture were historically created for a purpose to serve in the body and to enrich faith.

If I had to venture a guess I would say that the author might have a deeper understanding of the church's role in society than most Christians that I know - though it seems as though he learned it through the "school of hard knocks" so to say.

I think in our age of materialism, consumerism, fads, and cheap products (which have all definitely molded evangelicalism in their own way) people of all walks are looking for something that transcends the now. This author might have a deeper appreciation for some of the trees, so to speak, but he obviously is missing how they work together to form the forest.
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Unread 10-07-2017, 01:01 AM   #8
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Dostoevsky was correct when he said that beauty would save the world.

Orthodox Christianity - the faith revealed to the Apostles and kept pure for two thousand years - sees beauty as part of our salvation. The re-orienting of our senses away from the world and its pleasures and learning to direct the soul towards God is aided by all the means the Church has used through the centuries to worship Jesus Christ: iconography, water, incense, bread, wine, oil, song, and even gold and silver and precious gems are used in the Church to demonstrate that the Church is where God's Kingdom - infinitely more precious than even the best we can offer, but nevertheless still worthy of the offering of our very best - is revealed and made present.

I don't find it at all surprising that atheists find, in the architecture, iconography, and other trappings of churches, something transcendantly beautiful. The problem is if it stops there
The icons in my church invite a person into relationship with the persons depicted in them. The saints who are depicted on the icons, if one reads about them, ponders the meaning of their lives and why they did the things they did - performed miracles and other great deeds, spoke truth to power, and in many cases went to their deaths singing, blessing and praying for their murderers - all put to the viewer a question: will you follow where I led? The icon on the left side of the Beautiful Doors in an Orthodox Church - the Mother of God holding the infant Christ and pointing to Him, asks "Will you follow Him?". And Christ Himself - that simultaneously beautiful and fearsome visage of Him who has saved us - invites our love and our repentance on the other side of those doors.

For the way paved by the saints depicted in iconography led, each in their own way according to their life circumstances, ultimately to the God-Man who is depicted on the altar of every Orthodox church - Jesus Christ. And if the beauty of devoutly-constructed classical Christian art and architecture can by those means lead a person to Jesus Christ, then glory to God for all things.

The danger is seeing the beauty and not engaging with it. And that's as sad as seeing a wedding banquet arrayed before you and not feasting.
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Unread 10-07-2017, 01:09 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uptown Thrunk View Post
Can the Holy Spirit work through aesthetics?

Are aesthetics, and works of art, abstracted from other human works?

I wonder if meaning can have an effect on a person. And, in what way?
God could have commanded that His temple be devoid of beauty, since He is not worshipped in any created thing. Instead, He commanded the Israelites to bring their very best in the construction of the Temple, because beauty speaks to the human soul in ways that mere utilitarianism cannot. And ultimately, He clothed Himself in the splendour of human flesh - the same humanity that is built for appreciation of beauty.

That doesn't mean that a simple wooden chapel in the woods built for a small monastic hermitage needs to be ornate - it can be built for function, but even there, eventually that chapel will have some icons installed and probably some brocade altar coverings.
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Unread 10-07-2017, 05:57 AM   #10
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Faith is not a question of which propositions one can articulate. It's a question of whom one trusts.

Christians trust God, the God who makes trustworthy promises called covenants. Those covenant unite not merely God and individual persons but God and a people.

Therefore, the church is not a place where one gathers to practice or become better at articulating propositions. It is a place where one inhabits life together with the people of God and life together with God.

When one encounters God one is struck with glory. If one inhabits life together the the God of glory and those made in the glorious God's image, then, one should be run through with glory. One aspect of this is beauty.

The atheist in this article seeks life together with others, a rich life characterized by glory and beauty. Quite by accident, he may well have encountered God there.
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