How do you reconcile current practice around the world with this verse from Exodus 20 (NABRE)?
25 But if you make an altar of stone for me, do not build it of cut stone, for by putting a chisel to it you profane it.
Should we change how we build churches?
Ver. 25. Defiled; because done in opposition to God’s order, who required, on this occasion, the utmost simplicity, to prevent any undue veneration. Iron was not used about the tabernacle or temple, as brass was more common. Altars raised in haste, like that, Deuteronomy xxvii. and Josue viii. 30, and that which was designed for the ratification of the covenant, (chap. xxiv. 4,) were required to be of this construction, unpolished and simple, as was the altar erected, 1 Machabees iv. 47. But other altars were not built after this model. (Calmet)
I suppose with the phrase, “if you make me an altar of stone,” might be referring to the ‘in the wilderness’ practice as Calmet seems to describe (e.g. like those made by Abraham or Israel by piling rocks and pouring oil on them), but literally there is no restriction on this commandment: Literally, it applies to every altar we decide to build.
I am alarmed because it does seem to me churches would be more special – and yes, more expensive, but perhaps more special for this reason – if we abided by this commandment, rather than always having smooth rectangular altars as seen in western churches. Likewise regarding candles instead of electricity and natural acoustics rather than electric amplification, physical sight rather than large televisions. It seems to me one reason people stop going is because it does not appear special in these ways. Do you agree?
Do you think we should return to building altars of natural rock? Would God look more favorably on our prayers if we used such an altar?