It is said you can tell a lot about a person from the books on his shelf. Similarly, it seems to me that we can gain much about culture from the buildings each society erects.
A visit to Stonehenge during a trip to England this summer reminded me that many ancient structures across the world: the Mayan temples, the pyramids, and so on, as well as Stonehenge, were remnants of human search for God—recognition of a greater power and authority beyond humankind.
More recently, much of the heritage of Europe is found in Greek and Roman temples and Christian churches and cathedrals. The villages and towns of Europe were all nestled around the spire of the local church.
All this points to the human search for God throughout history, a natural desire placed there by a Creator who yearns for His creation to seek Him. But it has been argued that if God wanted us to find Him, He has failed miserably.
Unfortunately, many religions try to manage or appease God in some way—an attempt to control the uncontrollable. It is as we recognize not only His compassion and mercy, but also our need of them, that we discover Him.
A further argument suggests that God could easily reveal Himself if He existed. But the apparent hiddenness of God reveals His desire that we should seek Him willingly. Irrefutable evidence of His reality would coerce unwilling allegiance to Him.
As it is, we have the option to recognize or dismiss Him from the evidence and experience around us: to be masters of our own fate; to accept or deny a final accountability; to deny even when inwardly convinced of His final authority over our lives.
Even a cursory knowledge of history reveals a continuing human search for God through the centuries; except perhaps the last century in the western world. Most westerners deny or ignore the existence of God—unthinkable to previous generations.
Which brings us to buildings in cities today. The vast or soaring structures may symbolize the importance of commerce or manufacturing; a lesser level for education and healthcare. But reverence for God is tucked neatly away in the concrete jungle.
The ability to ignore God for our own convenience is alive but not well for today’s culture.