"[T]here are new discussions that stained glass is seen more favorably by younger generations"

Stained Glass Windows for Churches May Make Comeback With Younger Generations

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Larry Nelson's picture

 

1. The church I belong to has one stained glass window.  It was originally clear glass, but was replaced with stained glass when someone donated it in memorium of a deceased family member.

2. Is the great expense of constructing churches in the traditional style, stained glass included, really what anyone wants to resume?  I'm thinking of two local churches who purchased & built-out two empty big-box retail buildings that they bought at fire-sale prices.  (One is a former K-Mart, the other a former supermarket.)  Neither building is beautiful, but they serve their congregation's needs. They chose to move into those buildings believing it was good stewardship.

3. I know of one congregation right now that is composed largely of millenials that is soon moving into a former Catholic church in St. Paul (MN).  It's a nice old building, with plenty of stained glass.  Although that church may be seeking the accoutrements & style of "traditional" church architecture, they are anything but "traditional" in other ways.  They are what might be called a "hipster" church, and I'm sure that most people reading this comment on SI would be uncomfortable attending it.

   

Bert Perry's picture

First, as much as I love well executed stained glass (and vaulted ceilings, and pipe organs), I've got to ask whether the church's building is supposed to be simply a place for believers to gather (that seems to be the Biblical model FWIW), or whether it's supposed to be (per Doug Wilson's comment on his site) something that has distinctive architecture to point people to God.  It's worth noting, BTW, that the most gorgeous stained glass I've seen (all in Europe, natch) was in spiritually dead churches that were built by princes and such.  Not exactly an evangelistic tool in that practice, while circuit riders, street preaching, and little white churches do seem to reflect real evangelism.

And even churches in old big box stores, as much as I hate that kind of architecture.

Second, where does Exodus 20:4 come into play here?  Thankfully most Protestants (outside of 1st Baptist of Hammond of course with the Jack Hyles statue) have abandoned statues for the most part, but what about the same thing in two dimensions?  I don't know that we need to be "regulative principle" people to have some concern with the possible idolatry and/or misrepresentation of Scripture that can happen with this sort of thing.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm a practical guy... and there's definitely a balance to be struck here in terms of building expense vs. other needs. But Scripture indicates that beauty is a vital part of worship. We tend to think of ministry effectiveness in terms that are more concrete and measurable, but we really aren't worshiping "effectively" if our affections are not lifted in exaltation of our God.

A one-sitting read through of Exodus 35-40 in a clear translation really helps drive this point home. God went to amazing lengths to make the Tabernacle gorgeous--and to involve human beings in making it gorgeous--even though something much simpler would have been way more practical during those nomadic wilderness years.

Timeless beauty is vital to loving God with heart, soul, mind and strength.

 

Barry L.'s picture

Bert Perry wrote:

First, as much as I love well executed stained glass (and vaulted ceilings, and pipe organs), I've got to ask whether the church's building is supposed to be simply a place for believers to gather (that seems to be the Biblical model FWIW), or whether it's supposed to be (per Doug Wilson's comment on his site) something that has distinctive architecture to point people to God.  It's worth noting, BTW, that the most gorgeous stained glass I've seen (all in Europe, natch) was in spiritually dead churches that were built by princes and such.  Not exactly an evangelistic tool in that practice, while circuit riders, street preaching, and little white churches do seem to reflect real evangelism.

And even churches in old big box stores, as much as I hate that kind of architecture.

Second, where does Exodus 20:4 come into play here?  Thankfully most Protestants (outside of 1st Baptist of Hammond of course with the Jack Hyles statue) have abandoned statues for the most part, but what about the same thing in two dimensions?  I don't know that we need to be "regulative principle" people to have some concern with the possible idolatry and/or misrepresentation of Scripture that can happen with this sort of thing.

If you are interpreting Exodus 20:4 correctly, then why did God instruct David and Solomon to build the temple the way he did?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

More on Exodus 20:4... It always was about idolatry, not about images per se. There were images involved in the Tabernacle design. So either 20:4 was not meant quite as expansively as it sounds, or the Tab. design was the lone exception. In any case, see the thread about dividing the Mosaic Law into three parts... I don't think a strict ban on all images for Israel translates into a strict ban on all images for NT believers. Still, I do believe it's important to avoid trying to make an image of God.. .other than the image He has provided: Jesus Christ.

I'm not sure about the Temple design... haven't studied that as closely or as recently. Were images included?

Bert Perry's picture

Barry is correct that the Temple did include images--specifically bulls holding up the Sea, pomegranates carved in various places, angels on the Mercy seat, and the like.  

The trick here is what Aaron notes; were they intended, or likely, to be worshipped?  Given the Catholic tradition of veneration of the saints and prayers to the same, and the similar structure of the statues and stained glass at a typical Catholic Church, one could at least make the argument that the stained glass was as likely to be the object of worship as the statues.

Hard and fast rule?  No.  But we ought to at least think about the matter--remember what happened with the bronze snake of healing from the Exodus?  If we can make stained glass about teaching, as used to happen in those vaulted churches long ago, we may do well.  If we make it about veneration of those pictured, as also happened in the same churches, we're in trouble.

Regarding the beauty of the Temple; absolutely.  My take is simply that for whatever reason, God chose for His Church to meet in more humble circumstances, and that we're not necessarily called to emulate the Tabernacle or Temple any more than any other portion of the Torah, no?  That doesn't mean that it's wrong, but it would mean that we ought to consider what we hope to achieve before writing checks.

BTW, looked up the cost of stained glass, and $48/sf might be a good starting place. So we would be talking into the six figures range for a significant amount of stained glass in new construction--but interestingly, that's still only 10-20% of the cost of the building, no?   Pipe organs would start at about $200k.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Craig's picture

Barry L. wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

First, as much as I love well executed stained glass (and vaulted ceilings, and pipe organs), I've got to ask whether the church's building is supposed to be simply a place for believers to gather (that seems to be the Biblical model FWIW), or whether it's supposed to be (per Doug Wilson's comment on his site) something that has distinctive architecture to point people to God.  It's worth noting, BTW, that the most gorgeous stained glass I've seen (all in Europe, natch) was in spiritually dead churches that were built by princes and such.  Not exactly an evangelistic tool in that practice, while circuit riders, street preaching, and little white churches do seem to reflect real evangelism.

And even churches in old big box stores, as much as I hate that kind of architecture.

Second, where does Exodus 20:4 come into play here?  Thankfully most Protestants (outside of 1st Baptist of Hammond of course with the Jack Hyles statue) have abandoned statues for the most part, but what about the same thing in two dimensions?  I don't know that we need to be "regulative principle" people to have some concern with the possible idolatry and/or misrepresentation of Scripture that can happen with this sort of thing.

 

 

If you are interpreting Exodus 20:4 correctly, then why did God instruct David and Solomon to build the temple the way he did?

God instructed David and Solomon to build the temple. There are no New Testament instructions to consider the temple when building a church. For that matter there are no instructions at all in the New Testament for building a facility for the church to meet in. Certainly its okay and good to have a facility to meet in, but there is no one blueprint to follow. I think functionality is more important than appearance (space, clean restrooms, air in the summer, heat in the winter and so forth). The idea that the appearance and beauty of the building should somehow enhance worship misses the whole point of Christianity and borders on idolatry.

Crystal's picture

Something to consider is that a lot of the old churches with stained glass were churches for people who were not literate.  The pictures in the glass were a way to help them remember the stories of the Bible.  (I am sure not in ALL cases but we were recently talking about this in Church)  I think it is worth us considering that we have more and more children graduating from school with almost no ability to read.