In an older post titled Mohler’s Sacralist Commentaries, we saw how Mohler’s view of European architecture and ceremony betrays a sacralist (Constantinian) view of society, which is odd for a baptist. I quoted one author
Mohler assumes these buildings [old churches in England] were valid expressions of Christian faith and celebrates the sacral symbolism of the steeple, the Tower of Babel-like proclamation that every society makes in its architecture. He doesn’t view it that way of course but celebrates the symbolism of Christendom. Like most sacralists he simply assumes the validity of calling buildings ‘churches’ and then without hesitation accepts all the subsequent theology generated by this basic doctrinal error…On the one hand I lament the decay of these buildings and their history. On the other hand when I view it from a theologically objective viewpoint, as opposed to Mohler’s reactionary romanticism, I say ‘tear them down’. Remove the false witness so that the antithesis between the world and Biblical Christianity can be made more manifest…
[Sacralism] can look like Christianity but results in something very different. Mohler’s ethics applied to the world all too often bear this out. The values of the world and the Kingdom become muddied and distorted. War, greed and pride are recast. Serving the greater good they can become tools and fruits of virtue.
With the recent burning of Notre Dame, Mohler again laments the loss of “Christian” architecture as monuments to the gospel.
It is a tragedy especially as you look at the Christian civilization of Europe, a civilization that is now missing one of its most iconic symbols, one of its most historic buildings…
[G]othic cathedrals, those tremendous monuments to a faith that at least once was, are giving testimony to the very identity of Europe. You can’t tell our story, you can’t even tell the history of the Reformation or the modern age without talking about the age of the cathedrals.
But then he explains that these cathedrals were/are thoroughly Roman Catholic.
[R]ecognize that every single part of this building is communicating something of importance. You look at the basic layout of the cathedral, it is shaped like a cross. Not by accident, the altar at the very center of the crossing… [That’s] explained by the unique theology of the Roman Catholic Church…
But what is the word cathedral? Well it comes from the Latin cathedra, but it comes to us, not by irony here, from the French, cathedral, and it means “the seat.” Now what kind of seat is it? It is the seat of a bishop. It was true in one sense of the east, but it was formalized, most importantly in western Christianity, a cathedral is the seat of a bishop. Without a bishop, there is no cathedral. When the bishop sits, he sits in cathedra. It is an official designation… A bishop or an archbishop is required for the building to be rightly designated as a cathedral. Which means that churches that do not recognize the office of bishop in a formal sense, well those churches do not have cathedrals… the Middle Ages were overwhelmingly Catholic. This was a Roman Catholic Age. This was when western civilization knew only Christianity as Roman Catholicism.
So apparently, no, it is not true that “the truths of Christianity were the only available truths to civilization at that time,” because the truths of Christianity were obscured by the cult of Antichrist, focused on the idolatrous Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass where “Christ” is re-sacrificed daily at the altar (the one at the focus of Notre Dame) by the priests of Antichrist.
Mohler goes on to explain subsequent changes to Notre Dame in the history of France.
The French Revolution that took place in the late 18th century into the 19th century, it itself as an expression of the radical modern impulse, a radically secular modern impulse, it saw the authority of Christianity as an authority that like the king must be overthrown. And thus, on October 10th of 1793, the cathedral that is named Notre Dame Cathedral, the Cathedral of Our Lady, referring to its dedication to Mary, in that cathedral, the statue of the Virgin Mary was replaced by the statue of the Goddess Reason.
The modern age reflects a shift from a theological worldview to a secular worldview. And that includes the fact that the highest instrument of authority, according to the French Revolutionaries, was unaided human reason. It was an extreme humanism that of course led to deadly results. But you can come up with no more symbolic act than the fact that Mary was removed from the cathedral and the cathedral was instead claimed for the Cult of Reason, with the Goddess Reason, as she was designed, put in the place of Mary.
A society that had been framed, forged, and entirely founded on the Christian worldview, was now being transformed by a radical version of a secular worldview, an officially atheistic worldview, and we’re talking once again about 1793.
Read that again. “The statute of the Virgin Mary was replaced by the statute of the Goddess Reason.” Sounds like they merely swapped one idol for another. The Cult of Mary was replaced by the Cult of Reason. If that is the case, then no, French society was not “framed, forged, and entirely founded on the Christian worldview.” Rather, it indicates that French society was framed, forged, and entirely founded on the doctrine of demons. (See Timothy Kaufman’s excellent lecture explaining how the worship of Mary is doctrine delivered, literally, from the mouth of demons.)
Mohler notes that in 1801 the cathedral was returned to the Pope. “Napoleon, eventually the Emperor of France, reached an historic agreement known as the Concordat, between his own government and the Roman Catholic Church [which had been at war], effectively re-establishing Roman Catholicism as the state religion in France in 1801.” Which highlights that the kingdom of Antichrist is a kingdom of this world, not the kingdom of heaven. (See also this interesting post from Timothy Kauffman explaining the role bishops played in the rise of the Roman Catholic Church-State (no comment on the eschatology in the post).)
Mohler actually does, later, acknowledge these differences.
[T]hose of us who are committed to Gospel Christianity, understand the reality of the Catholic mass. We understand the theological distinction between our understanding of Christianity and the historic and present Roman Catholic understanding of Christianity. The sacramentarianism that takes place in Notre Dame Cathedral is not the theology of evangelical Christianity.
But evangelicals should understand that we share in the loss of this kind of architectural monument to the centrality of Christianity. There is a rightful mourning that should come to evangelicals as well.
Very broadly speaking, we can agree. Insofar as the world does associate a cathedral with Christianity, we can see that the burning of Notre Dame is symbolic of the decline of Christianity in the West and the rise of paganism. (And in this respect the fire was likely not an accident.) There is a sense in which “Christianity” was the dominant worldview of the West, but this has much to do with the fact that it was kept the dominant worldview at the edge of the sword. Once the Bible regained its place as the sole authority of doctrine, religious liberty gained ground. Once religious liberty gained ground, all the unbelievers who were restrained to express themselves in Christianese could now speak their mind openly. And thus, as Mohler said “It took the modern age and the development of worldview pluralism to lead to a situation in which that basic Christian worldview had any rivals.”
Another way to put that is “it took the development of religious liberty to realize that the gospel always has rivals in this world.” Upon a slightly closer inspection we see the cultural shift from Roman Catholicism to paganism as simply a change in Satan’s tactics, not an abandonment of the gospel once held. In this respect, though I can mourn the loss of a beautiful, old building, I do not mourn the loss of this architectural monument to the centrality of Christianity, because Christianity was not central to the architecture of Notre Dame. Thus if we are speaking strictly theologically “I say ‘tear them down’. Remove the false witness so that the antithesis between the world and Biblical Christianity can be made more manifest.“