Were they really?

Two types of architecture on some of our Christian college campuses suggest two strikingly different stances of evangelicals toward modern culture. On a number of campuses there is an “old main” building that looks like a Victorian conception of a medieval fort. Towers and parapets abound. Such imagery suggests that one attitude of evangelicals toward the modern world has been to make war on it. From the crusading forays of Wheaton College’s Jonathan Blanchard against slavery, Masonry, and Sabbath breaking to fundamentalist attacks on modernist theology and secular humanism, a constant theme in evangelical approaches to America has been militancy.

Recently, however, a far more popular architectural style among evangelicals has been the colonial. This motif suggests peacefulness, harmony, and tranquility toward the culture. It relates to the pervasive sense evangelicals have of a lost golden age. Colonial America is widely viewed as a time when the harmonies of Christian culture prevailed. The telling irony, however, is that such themes are suggested by borrowing the classical and Enlightenment architectural ideals of Thomas Jefferson.

Most people do not think they think about history, but these two attitudes toward America are based on evangelical views of history. Each is based more on what the Bible is seen as saying about the modern world than on historical analysis of modern culture itself. The stance of warfare reflects apocalyptic themes in Scripture, focusing on prophecies concerning the upheavals that will surround the approach of the millennial age. The theme of harmonies and lost harmonies reflects the covenantal ideal. America is viewed as, in effect, a new Israel, often blessed by God, but always ...

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