Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Do you prefer Temple religion or Tabernacle religion?

Scripture: 1 Kings 8:1-27
Do you prefer Temple religion or Tabernacle religion? Asked differently, are you a dweller or seeker? (Perhaps Scrabble vs. Words with Friends doesn't quite fit.) Robert Wuthnow contrasts the theology of dwelling versus the theology of seeking in his book After Heaven. These can be helpful categories to think about in relation to our spirituality and about how spirituality has evolved over the last few generations.
The spirituality of dwelling emphasized God's transcendence and therefore a top down, ordered world. Social systems reflected this authoritarian worldview. Conformity was expected and status was conferred from those in positions of power.
We see this reflected in the way the Temple functioned in ancient Judaism. The Temple was not only a fixed structure and a symbol of strength and the backbone of the community, it was the place where heaven and earth came together. Temple religion, therefore, gave sharp boundaries along lines of geography and dress. Place was important and it was easy to identity those who were in and out. For Wuthnow the local church functioned similarly with regards to spirituality in the 1950’s.
The Spirituality of dwelling has the positives of knowing our place in light of God's ordered world, solace in security and rigid boundaries, and a systematic way of approaching life. 
The problem with the theology of dwelling is pointed to by King Solomon as he dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem. God can't be contained. Beyond King Solomon's advice, we know life is complex. Certain places can become idols. Our identities are no longer a given. Though we might prefer a theology of dwelling, is that a possibility in today's Postmodern culture? (Theology of seeking will be explained in the next blog post.)
In what ways do you identify with a theology of dwelling?
Where do you find a sacred space?
What problems do you see?
How does this play out in congregations?

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