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Sunday, 19 June 2005



This is important, and as you rightly ponder what kind of use of space and shape of space do we construct our lives around. It is precisely here where new spiritualities have emerged and said things about making sacred spaces or seeking to resacralise the earth.

Thus out of Chinese folk religion has come the commodification of feng shui (means "water and wind"). Thus neo-pagans seek countercultural lifestyles, alternate energy sources, eco-friendly buildings: but all as a reflection of how they value the creation.

I feel that apart from the influence of industrialisation on space (which we are enmeshed in), the problem you raise here reflects:

a). A poor theology of the creation in the western church. We have so focussed on Jesus came to rescue me that we unwittingly sound proto-gnostic -- we want to "escape" the earth and head off to heaven.

b). A poor pneumatology - we are strong on God's transcendence, and weak on God's immanence through the Spirit being present everywhere. Our pneumatology is so governed by Acts 2 (tongue speaking ceased/or it is in perpetuity; the Spirit seals me in Christ), that we are deficient in our OT theology of the Spirit of God.

c). A poor eschatology - at least pop eschatology prevails in the LaHaye-Jenkins "Left Behind" novels, which reinforces the discarding of the earth -- the earth is going to hell in Armageddon so why worry? When in reality eschatology is about the fullness of Christ and the glory of God fully realised in a new heaven and new earth.

If we undervalue the creation, only think of God's Spirit as "in my heart", and expect the world to be destroyed, then proto-gnosticism will emerge as a "comfort" -- we are to escape here, we are only passing through. Then we are going to also not worry too much about sacred spaces in the here and now.

Thus in our absence, the church leaves behind "unpaid bills", to which alternate non-Christian earth-based spiritualities have filled the void.

So in neo-pagans and in feng shui we see the mirror image reflected back at us of what we have neglected.

In Scripture Tower of Babel is iconic for making structures to shut God out. Our Leviathan like monster cities become similar edifices. Pentecost though is eschatological as the Spirit breaks down the tongue barriers and builds a new community. The ancient church architecture symbolicaly expressed eternal realities.

Today's bland structures for churches links in directly to our paltry theology on creation, eschatology and pneumatology. We are interested in commodities and creating spiritual emporiums, but not seemingly interested in our role as stewards of the creation, and with it the sense of the numinous wherever we go. And yes we do objectify bush land, and we do not feel at ease inside it. Instead we live and breathe as people displaced from the natural world and consider it normative to inhabit idolatrous and humanistic icons that shuts out the Spirit all in the name of productivity, efficiency, calculability and control. This is the inversion of Eden.


And here I was thinking it was some form of enculturation that contemporary churches looked so much like hardware stores and industrial storage complexes...

I think you have some great ideas going there on how spaces in buildings can function to facilitate real "encounter."


Paul, thanks for this. I did a seminar on this stuff at Greenbelt last year and wish that I had had some of this material for it!

Angus Stocking

Thanks for the citation, I'm so glad you enjoyed the articles. I can't resist plugging my book, "Everything is Somewhere" which is available from Berntsen International ( or my website, The above essays and other material on Alexander are included, and if you like them, you'll probably like the rest of the book as well.

How did you come across the articles, just out of curiousity?


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