The Theology And The Significance Of Temples Or Cathedrals

Feature Article The Theology And The Significance Of Temples Or Cathedrals

The objective of this article is to explain the meaning of temples, or cathedrals, and their significance in religious practices. I believe a better understanding of the theology of temples and cathedrals will help us to marry theory or theology with practice as Christians. Often we do things as humans without theological understanding, because they look right in our eyes. How can you convince an ordinary Christian that it is better to exercise mercy, justice, and righteousness than to build a cathedral? When Stephen indicted the Jews in Acts 7 for their unfaithfulness to God, he reminded them that God who created the universe does not live in temples built with human hands. The question is: if God does not dwell in temples built with human hands then where does he dwell?

The simple answer is that God dwells among his holy people. The cathedral or temple becomes relevant only when they are filled with God's holy people. Cathedrals are important when we know God and his character. Jeremiah tells us who and what God is. He declares in Jeremiah 9:23-24, "This is what the Lord says: ‘Let no wise man boast of his wisdom, nor let the mighty man boast of his might, nor a rich man boast of his riches; but let the one who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises mercy, justice, and righteousness on the earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord,” (Jeremiah 9:23-24). He says, let the one who boasts do so because he understands and knows God.

A Cathedral symbolizes both the glory of the Lord and the church. In the ancient Near East, the temple symbolism was an encounter between the deity and the people. Nevertheless, it did not necessarily occur within a building but bore all the earmarks of temple relationship. The main idea of a temple is the act of appearing before the Lord. The Garden of Eden was God's first temple, and all humanity are priests in God's cosmic temple. We are to accept praises and worship from all God's creation under our dominion and offer them back to God. A temple or a cathedral is the presence of God, and we can trace it from Genesis to Revelation. Eden was the first temple of God, followed by the building of the Ark and the tabernacle of God in Exodus, and after that the Solomon Temple, and the second temple after the return from exile. In the New Testament Jesus described his body as a temple. And Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians that their bodies were the temple of God, and therefore should be holy.

The temple of Solomon was a little more than the architectural realization and ritual enlargement of the Sinai experience. Jonathan Smith, who has written a lot about temples, observes, "On three things the world stands: On law, on the temple, and piety," There is a close association between the temple and law in the ancient Near East. As a result, any time we think about a temple or a Cathedral, the focus should be on our encounter with God, the institution and enforcement of religious laws, and moral and social reformation.

The building or restoration of a temple means righting the past wrongs against God and fellow human beings. By building temples or cathedrals, we codify basic legal principles of righting the wrongs and organizing proper social order. There is always a tight connection between the temple of God and instituting godly laws and governance. Exodus chapter 19 through Chapter 24 talks about Moses' appearing before the Lord and the giving of the law. The appropriate response to the codification of the ancient collections of "royal judgment" or "just laws" was the building or rededication of a temple.

The introductory section of the code of Hammurabi puts great emphasis on his concern for the temples and cult and instituting and implementing righteous laws. He states, just before dealing with the codes, "When Marduk commissioned me to guide the people aright, to direct the land, I established law and justice in the language of the law." The epilogue also states, "I Hammurabi, am the king of justice, to whom Shamash committed the law." So your architectural building or edifices by themselves without social and moral reforms does not mean anything but a waste of resources.

It was believed in the Biblical times that repentance, reformation, and rededication of the temple would bring God's blessing to his people. So the temple was associated with abundance and prosperity. On the contrary, the destruction or the loss of the temple due to human wickedness was seen as calamitous and fatal to the community. It was perceived that abundance should come from heaven when the temple's foundation is secured by godly living and dedication to God. Thus there would be a fullness of water, oil, and wool, and that harmony and light will influence people's lives. The destruction was viewed as the result of social and moral decadence and disobedience to God's word.

Many Ghanaian Christians have been made to believe that God needs their money more than their hearts. They think that God needs great edifices built with great beauty and splendor. God made Solomon aware that the great architectural edifice he had built would become a heap of rubble, and it did when they sinned repeatedly against God. Ghanaian Christians think they can buy God's blessings with money or build edifices rather than obey God as their Lord. Why does a God who is spirit need physical things for? Why does the Almighty God need your money? Think about it! God owns everything and does not need anything from us but our hearts. It is the heart that he is looking for. Your giving should be in response to your devotion and dedication to him and his laws. God also wants us to give so those who do not have it can have it. Malachi, where it talks about tithes and offering, begins with" Return to me, and I will return to you."

In other words, repent from your sin and wickedness, and I, the Lord, will embrace you. Then after he says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house." God wants food in his house, so those who do not have it would have something. So God's concern is for the poor, and our giving provides for the needy. We cannot build Cathedrals and rob our people through corruption and other anti-social practices. Proverbs 22:16 says, "Whoever oppresses the poor for his increase and whoever gives to the rich, both come to poverty." Proverbs 12:22 says, The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in trustworthy people. God told the first king of Israel: "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is the sin of divination, and arrogance is like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king." God would not allow King David to build a cathedral for him because he had too much blood in his hands. God allowed the first and the second temples/Cathedrals in Jerusalem to be destroyed because of their sins and wickedness. Therefore, we need repentance before a Cathedral. Christians and their leaders should focus their attention on renewing the minds of their congregations, so their lifestyles can brighten the darkness in their communities. Yes, God wants cathedrals, but he wants them to be inhabited by people with clean hearts. Like the psalmist, our prayers should be, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."

The prophet Jeremiah made us understand that the nature of God is to exercises mercy, justice, and righteousness on the earth; for he delights in these things," declares the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24). So let us start by showing mercy, justice, and righteousness to the downtrodden before thinking about building cathedrals.