Simplicity and the Sensate

Cultures pass through aesthetic phases as they rise and fall, and the last phase is the phase of decadence. It is the phase in which sensate spectacle is glorified, and it is a sign, not of glory but of decrepitude.

Our generation is in the thick of this last phase. Our culture is attracted to the sensational and insists upon spectacle. If you want to see everything that is wrong with our aesthetic understanding, just consider a half time Super Bowl show, or a Taylor Swift concert.

Such things can be impressive, after their fashion. The stadiums filled with people, the logistical expertise that is required, the impressive display that is required, and so on. As we seek to build a building that glorifies God, we obviously don’t want it to be a ramshackle affair, but we are also building in a time when people tend to measure beauty by the metric ton.

Another thing should be mentioned as well. This aesthetic decadence is almost always sexualized. As high art tends to be co-opted by the homosexuals, so also low art is co-opted by the fornicators. It gets to the point where people believe that the sexually pure have nothing whatever to contribute to the arts—they are allegedly duddy, across the board.

Simplicity in architecture and in liturgy are aesthetic values, as I have been urging, but they are also sexual values. When men are given over to the gaudy and gratuitous in one area, you can rest assured that they will soon be wanting to do the same in other areas.

Aesthete and effete rhyme, and they rhyme on the spiritual plane also—and for a reason. So when we press for puritan architecture and puritan liturgy, we are doing so for a reason. Reformed theology is not doctrinal content that can fit in any kind of box. The shape of the gift will determine, over time, the shape of the box.

So let the stones cry out.

Theology That Bites Back



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  • Swithun

    Dear Pastor Wilson,

    I very much enjoy reading your aesthetics discussion. Do you have any recommendatons of books and articles in this area?

  • Arnold Rowntree

    “The Central Significance of Culture” by Dr Francis Nigel Lee is worth rereading each year.

  • timothy

    Let’s throw in a counter-argument from C.S. Lewis where he argues that Christianity is real because it is–as all real things are–complicated.

    Simplicity in architecture and in liturgy are aesthetic values and are good things. Simplicity in architecture can also be bad things, unless you intend to argue that the Kaaba is a good thing.

  • Timothy

    What you imply as factual here seems like your own opinion on art. If you state something as bold as that sensational art and architecture is almost always sexualized, and that it is usually done so by effete homosexually-oriented men, and is thus bad, please back it up with scripture, or at least research.