Holiness and Beauty

[Walter] Bruggemann has helped me to understand why so much detail is rehearsed in the text on the tabernacle [in Exodus]:

The [writer] knows that hosting the Holy One is no small, trivial, or casual undertaking. And therefore the practice of symmetry, order, discipline, and beauty is essential to the reality of God’s presence in Israel. This corpus of text on presence requires that interpretation not neglect the demanding reality of YHWH’s holiness, a neglect to which a technological, pragmatic society is immensely open. (in An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination)

Once I read this passage, I started to ask myself the kind of questions that easily upset the fragile ecclesiology of Evangelicals. Do our churches show that “hosting the Holy One is no small, trivial, or casual undertaking”? Where, if at all, do our churches show “the practice of symmetry, order, discipline, and beauty is essential to the reality of God’s presence”? If such practice is absent, why? Have our churches neglected “the demanding reality of YHWH’s holiness” because they conform to “a technological, pragmatic society” rather than challenge it with the superfluities of beauty? . . .

Far too often beauty is sacrificed on the altar of efficiency. Was it efficient for Bishop Fulbert to direct the building of Chartres Cathedral in France? No, but he and others recognized the human need for beauty – a need as profound as the need for truth because both are attributes of God.

–Christopher Benson, http://firstthings.com/blogs/evangel/, Friday, February 5, 2010

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