Book Review: Angels in the Architecture

1885767400It’s time to get medieval.

If the above pronouncement induces chills, headaches, nausea, or sneers of self-righteous disgust, you may be suffering from an aggravated case of Chronological Snobbery. You can thank Mr. Lewis for the diagnosis; he described it as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and [even more important] the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.”

Therefore: if you think you’re allowed to sneer at anything “medieval” simply because it’s, well, medieval… think again. Think outside of your paltry little postmodern box. Think long and hard and well, because this is not a subject to be taken lightly. Not sure where to start? Luckily – providentially – there’s a book for that. It’s called Angels in the Architecture.

In this book – collaboratively written by Douglas Jones and Douglas Wilson – you will find sixteen essays on a wide variety of subjects (politics, poetry, technology, the family, the church, the state, etc.) but all of these are connected by a single unifying idea:

Christianity presents a glorious vision of culture, a vision overflowing with truth, beauty, and goodness. It’s a vision that stands in stark conflict with the anemic modern (and postmodern) perspectives that dominate contemporary life. Medieval Christianity began telling a beautiful story about the good life, but it was silenced in mid-sentence. The Reformation rescued truth, but its modern grandchildren have often ignored the importance of a medieval grasp of the good life. This book sketches a vision of “medieval Protestantism,” a personal and cultural vision that embraces the fullness of Christian truth, beauty, and goodness.

The alternative being disaster, we need to get our heads out of the sand, recognize how much we’ve lost, and (what is more) strive to recover it. This is not a nostalgic backward glance to “the good old days”, nor is it an alarmist shout designed to scare us into renouncing indoor plumbing and moving to huts in the wilderness. No, this is a clarion call to throw off the shackles of postmodern pride and prejudice, and to grasp the glorious vision that was once ours – the vision which we have traded, like Esau, for a mess of pottage. We have no excuses. The sooner we see this, the better.

Just a few of many favorite excerpts:

Modernity’s hatred of all things medieval should be reason enough for Christians to desire it. (Jones, p. 16) 

The truth of the gospel leads inexorably to laughter. Those who want to glower as they cling to the truth want something that can never be. Whatever it is they have in their hands, it must not be the truth, unless it is perhaps just a fragment of it. (Wilson, p. 72)

The man who stands in his justification is a man who has been enabled to really enjoy the bread on his table and the wine in his glass. (Wilson, p. 75)

We are far more comfortable removing our hat and lowering our eyes for the state than for the Church. Even though the full majesty and fire of the Triune God has been determined to bring blessing and cursing through the institution of the Church, we treat the Church with the same deference we give a community bulletin board – a little info, a little humor, a little opportunity. (Jones, p. 93)

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 control by Typhoid Mary, and it is all a bit much. (Wilson, p. 168)

… the poetic mind cultivates knowledge by means of growth and gradual accumulation. We are not born desiring truth, but rather milk. Truth is not found primarily through the reflections of trained philosophers and scientists. It is found primarily through faithful mothers diligently spanking bottoms. We are designed and created by God to grow up into truth. (Wilson, p. 191)

Get this book. Get medieval. Modernity is overrated.

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: Angels in the Architecture”

  1. “…this is a clarion call to throw off the shackles of postmodern pride and prejudice, and to grasp the glorious vision that was once ours – the vision which we have traded, like Esau, for a mess of pottage. We have no excuses. The sooner we see this, the better.” – Amen to that.

    Thanks for writing such a fantastic review. I greatly enjoyed reading your thoughts. And I heartily agree.

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