Bezalel's Compass

February 26, 2013

John Calvin, Decorum and Church Architecture

John Calvin wrote, “Decorum ought to be observed in the sacred assemblies” (Commentary on I Corinthians). According to Calvin, the chief principle governing public worship is decorum, a concept that describes how we are to behave, dress, and, I would add, build. For Calvin, decorum is a general principle that includes qualities such as propriety, gracefulness, dignity and, yes, beauty. Indeed, these are the qualities that should be sought in church architecture…

…The dignity, decorum, and beauty that we seek in designing places for public worship should extend also to the external witness of the church. We must not forget that, besides being a gathered body of believers, the local church is also an earthly institution. Like all civic and commercial institutions, when churches construct buildings, they are building public statements about their identity. In other words, all buildings—whether art museums, gas stations, big-box retailers, or churches—bear witness to the institutions they serve. – Reforming Church Architecture, David Gobel

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