Reformed Architecture

The other day I pulled several quotes from architect Daniel Lee. As Lakeshore Baptist Church looks forward to rebuilding our storm flattened buildings, I wanted to reflect on the theological implications of building a structure conducive to Christ exalting, God saturated, cross centered worship.

I showed my project coordinator, Greg London, some of the stuff I read and he took the liberty and initiative to contact Daniel Lee personally. I enjoyed my short conversation I had with him and he sounds interested in contributing to our project at some level. We have not worked out any details yet, but I am excited about the prospect.

Credenda Agenda interviewed architect Daniel Lee who, at the time, served as an Elder at the Alexandria Presbyterian Church, (PCA) in Alexandria VA. They asked him:

  • Why should Christians reflect more upon architecture?
  • How does an architect begin to think about creativity?
  • How do you answer the pietistic objection that spending time on architecture is laying up “treasures upon earth, where moth and rust corrupt”?
  • Are there any distinctive aesthetic values of Protestantism, especially the Reformed tradition, which might shape an architectural style or vision?

In anser to that last question, Lee comments:

The Westminster Catechism declares boldly our Chief End. It is to glorify God! For me, to study God’s glory is to engage in the study of a true aesthetic. God’s glory is `the beauty of His manifold perfections’ and therein an artist or architect finds the full inspiration and direction for his work. Beauty, perfection, and excellence of form and design are the high values of any artist consecrating his work to God. We need, like Bezalel, son of Uri, to be filled with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and knowledge. But how does God impart to us such skill, ability, and knowledge of true beauty, excellence, and perfection? We must study His artistic work, the universum itself. Before us lie patterns, rules, and principles of design which spring directly from His manifold perfections. Dorothy Sayers observed “As the mind of the maker has been made manifest in a work, a way of communication is established between our mind and his.” The mind of our Maker is manifest in the creation. When we draw from the ordering principles of the architect of the cosmos, we establish a setting in which beauty can emerge.

Alas, these principles have been abandoned in our generation. But our buildings, whether in our cities or countryside must again quake with intimations of God’s great Glory through their magnificent beauty, embodiment of eternal principles in fine proportions, a sublime harmony of parts, and carefully crafted, appropriate materials. These are so deeply rooted in the stunning beauty of the created order, they will either serve God’s purposes for the redemption or condemnation of those who suppress the truth of His eternal nature and power.

Do we have a passion for God’s Glory like Nehemiah did, who upon hearing of the shameful condition of Jerusalem, sat down and wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed over its condition? With Nehemiah, let us rise up and repair our ruined cities, in the face of mockery and opposition if necessary. “He is the King of Glory, He is the King of Glory!” Bring in eternity with cultural artifacts of glory, even architecture.

Read the full interview

1 Comment

Don, sorry we missed you last week (April 26-30), but it sounds like you really could have used some away time.

We (Park Valley Church) would like to be involved in the building of your new masculine church building. I am really interested what Daniel Lee or others propose. The combination of directing people’s thoughts to God in preparation for worship and surviving powerful storms may be at cross-purposes, but it will be exciting to see where you all end up.