Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Angels in the Architecture

Douglas Jones, Douglas Wilson, Angles in the Architecture (Canon Press, Moscow, Idaho, 1998)

There are some noteworthy problems with this book, not the least of which is the ambiguous style in which most of it is written. Many arguments are poorly supported. Logical leaps abound.

In spite of the trouble, I found great value here as well. Many observations astute and conclusions correct, their weak arguments notwithstanding, and not all the authors' assertions are mishandled in this way. Angels in the Architecture identifies some common and very detrimental contemporary misconceptions, which it is the purpose of the authors to correct.

A limited selection of highlights:

    ...a central lie, which is that the world is the source of aesthetic wisdom and understanding.

    "A Wine Dark Sea and Tumbling Sky" p. 28

    We want an avuncular figure in the sky, someone to hand out celestial candies when we are feeling a little blue.

    "Te Deum" p. 42

    The Church today is a stranger to victories because we refuse to sing anthems to the king of all victories. We do not want a God of battles, we want sympathy for our surrenders.

    "Te Deum" p. 43

    Part of the Medievel ability to appreciate the obviousness of Christianity was their maturing understanding of the ancient war between the seed of Eve and the seed of the Serpent.

    "The Emerging Divide" p. 49

    Silence is terrifying; it reveals our bitter sin. The rebellious demand constant background noise as a shield against God.

    "Swords into Plowshares" p. 135

    In search of "real change," they charge out to conquer the institution [the state] that is most impotent in actually bringing it about.

    "And Babylons Fall" p. 159

One of the strongest chapters and, possibly the most relevant is "Rights of Degree".

    Modernity only believes in the language of equality -- we do not mind tyrannies as long as they are draped in the name of the people, all of whom must be formally acknowledged to be equal. The tyrant may actually be engaged in trying to murder all the people, but as long as he bows and scrapes in front of the Temple of Democracy, his position is secure.

    As C.S. Lewis comments, "The modern idea that we can choose between Hierarchy and equality is, for Shakespeare's Ulysses, mere moonshine. The real alternative is tyranny; if you will not have authority you will find yourself obeying brute force."

    This must be emphasized because egalitarianism is so deeply embedded in the modern mind that thinking outside of egalitarian assumptions is extraordinarily difficult.

    p. 162

    Not surprisingly, if this is the case, then at least some caveats must be stated at the outset. First, an assertion of hierarchy in no way sets aside the biblical requirements of humility, or the scriptural warnings about the insidiousness of pride. Rather, it postulates a world in which rank and station exist, and therefore it is necessary to recognize the importance of humility. "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themeselves" (Phil. 2:3). Conditioned by egalitarianism the way we have been, we think that any assertion of hierarchy contains the clear diabolical desire to "be superior" to others, which is pride and arrogance. Certainly any such desire, considered by itself, is pride and arrogance. But we conveniently forget that our egalitarian zeal may be reflecting the same grasping attitude -- and intense desire not to "be inferior" to anyone.

    We have institutionalized envy, and we believe we are advocates of justice when we are simply displaying our petulance.

    p. 163

    The first victim on the altar of equality is always that of liberty. The second victim is a collective one, a long line of men, women, and children which stretches out of sight. Hearing modernists talk about the bloody abuses of the Middle Ages is like hearing a lecture on disease contol by Typhoid Mary, and it is all a bit much.

    p. 166

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