Last Friday morning, Jason Van Boom and I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. David Wang about the Notre-Dame Cathedral and its recent fire. Dr. Wang is a widely published expert on architecture who recently retired as head of the architectural department at Washington State University. In this discussion, Dr. Wang explained about the origins of Notre-Dame and what its Gothic style tells us about the people who built it and about us as human beings. The spiritual ideas behind the cathedral stand in sharp contrast with the design of modern buildings and cities, which are based on what Dr. Wang calls “the sacramentality of the machine.” Understanding the sacramentality of buildings points to an important limitation in the process of rebuilding Notre-Dame, Dr. Wang suggested. This is because our culture has lost more than the spire and roof of this historic cathedral: we have lost continuity with the sacramental worldview that this cathedral embodies. These are just some of the fascinating observations Dr. Wang made in this first of our two-part series on Notre-Dame. (If you are receiving this post by email and the embedded video is removed, just click HERE).
The sacramental imagination invites us to rethink one of the hottest topics within Christian apologetics right now: the meaning of “a Christian worldview.”
In 1963, Fr. Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983) addressed this topic of Christian worldview in a study guide written for the Quadrennial Conference of the National Student Christian Federation in Athens, Ohio in December 1963. The students in this group were preparing themselves for a discussion of Christian mission in the contemporary world. Schmemann, who was a liturgical scholar of Russian descent who immigrated to America in 1951, wanted to guide the students’ discussion through helping them to develop a correct understanding of a Christian “worldview.”