The modern world is, by and large, quite ugly. The modern skyline is filled with metal slabs and tin cans that disgust anyone trying to look at the beautiful sunset God painted that evening. Clearly, those who built such ugly disgraces cared nothing for the sunset. They probably have never looked from their screens to notice that there is a God above them, and He makes beautiful things. Instead of looking to the most beautiful Creator of all things for direction and inspiration in building and creating, they look to their own gods for such inspiration – which is why our cities look more like computer motherboards than anywhere that happy and healthy men and women live.
Any such assertions as I have made will send moderns screeching because they don’t believe there are any standards of beauty. This is because they don’t believe there are any standards for anything. Remember kids, these are the same people who believe pinning a banana peel to a white wall is “art.” These are the people who will tell you that the middle ages were the “dark ages.” I don’t know, but it seems to me that the beauty and longevity of the castles and cathedrals that have been standing for a thousand years across Europe wasn’t built by a bunch of dummies, especially considering we couldn’t even build some of the cathedrals that they built today even if we wanted to, because we don’t know how! The reason the modern man sees the middle ages as the “dark ages” is because the modern man is standing in the dark and he needs to turn the light on.
The fact is that beauty and aesthetics matter, and Christians who deny this have likely been successfully catechized in the prison buildings that are called “public schools.” When I say that beauty matters, what I mean is that God made us with eyeballs and souls. It is not that a modern strip mall that was propped up in a week is morally inferior to an Italian marketplace built one brick at time 700 years ago. It is simply that when the strip mall is compared to the Italian marketplace, they both tell us quite a bit about the people who built them and the society in which they were built. The middle ages were not the golden ages, but for the problems they had, atheism, frankly was not really one of them. They were not secular people. For all the advancements we have in our modern society, many of which I am truly thankful for, we do have the big problem of atheism. We have become a secular society. If I was an alien who had not been observing the activities on planet earth for the past few hundred years and you showed me a picture of some typical buildings from each society, I could tell you which one believed in a transcendent Creator and which one did not.
The truth simply is that beauty comes from God and belongs to the Christian. Since beauty comes from the Creator God, beauty matters. Ugly modern metal slab architecture comes from people who don’t believe in God, and what they make reflects that. If we believe in a transcendent God of truth, goodness, and beauty, our architecture should reflect that. This of course is not to speak of those who are not in a position of choosing, designing, building, or buying a building. But for those who are in a position to choose between ugliness or beauty, the beautiful option should be the no-brainer.
Just this week I saw two pictures of massive “solar farms” in Japan and Germany. Let me tell you, these things are a disgrace. Rolling hills and vast fields filled with nothing but those large blackish solar panels with not a sliver of green grass to be seen. All of this in the name of preserving the earth. Absolute morons. It doesn’t take any kind of degree to tell that this will not be good for the environment in the long run. But did I mention it was about the biggest eye sore I’ve ever seen? If aesthetics were a factor in the decision making process, this blasphemy would not have happened. Modern ugliness is the real environmental crisis.
Beauty on the other hand is a work of proper Christian obedience – that of working out the dominion mandate to fill the earth, subdue, and make it fruitful. Beauty takes cultivation, care, thoughtfulness, and turning a profit on what God has given us. Beauty is taking matter, working with our hands, and turning out something more fruitful. Part of the work of dominion is the work of beautifying and glorifying. Since beauty is part of the equation of dominion taking, the aesthetics of an architectural structure ought to be of consideration when Christians build buildings. Beauty is good for the earth and those who dwell therein.
Another reason I believe that beauty is part of the dominion taking equation is because apartment buildings from the 1990s are already complete junk while thousand year old castles in Scotland and Ireland are tourist attractions. Ugliness, like the modern secular society that made it, is not built to last. This is because ugliness is not the fruit of careful and faithful dominion taking. It is the fruit of those who only build things for the perceived efficiency and comfort, which is often neither efficient or comfortable.
The problem for modern man is that building beautiful things that last takes time. And everyone knows that modern man has no time for such nonsense with all the Netflix shows he has to watch, all the iPhone games he has to play, and the two hours a day he spends in commute. The truth is that sometimes those who lay the foundation for building a beautiful society simply will not live to see it finished. For those who do not have a worldview of continuity, such an endeavor is a waste of time. For those who only have this life, there is no point. Our society can’t have beautiful lasting things because we don’t believe in God, we sacrifice our children in the womb, we sterilize ourselves, and we lock grandma and grandpa in the nursing homes to die. We live in an ugly society. And ugly societies have no future.
The future of building beautiful things that last belongs to those who believe in generational continuity. Those who strive to leave an inheritance for their children’s children. It is for those who believe that their personal immediate comfort and enjoyment is not the only reason for doing things, that it is worth it to do things that they won’t see the end results of. It belongs to people who love their neighbors and don’t want to leave them with sores in their eyes.
I have tarried long enough so allow me to close by answering a common objection. It is said that beautiful architecture is expensive and idolatrous. First, this wrongly assumes that beauty is not something worth paying for, and that the only way to pay for it is on a credit card. Second, it doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. Beauty can be simple. Beauty is not equal to fancy gaudiness. This is also my answer to the charge of idolatry. Roman Catholics have built some beautiful things over the centuries, after all, they do believe in God. However, they have also built many things that are ugly, and those things are ugly not because they didn’t want to spend any money on it. When I speak of beautiful architecture, many people think that is what I am speaking of, which I am not. Much of what they have built is indeed gaudy, ornate, extravagant, idolatrous, and way too aesthetically busy. Frankly, it should be no surprise that an idolatrous religion makes idolatrous things.
Atheists and Idolaters are not able to properly beautify the world. The one sees no point, and the other worships what he builds. So who is fit for this task? I am glad you asked. Protestant Postmillennial Christians are those who are sufficiently equipped with the necessary worldview foundation for this noble endeavor. This is good news, because Protestant Postmillennial Christians are becoming many, as our current secular society degrades away.
If we want beautiful things, Protestant Postmillennial Christians must not only build them, but we must be busy making disciples, converting the secularists who can no longer bear the ugliness of disobedience to Christ, so that one day, there may be no more secular cities built again. This is a work we will not see the end of, but it is a work that we must begin.