The question of when Christians started attending church at a building rather than their homes led to a few answers and comments. One got me to thinking and asking this question.

When did the concept of God dwelling in believers shift from that belief to the one that God dwells in buildings? It's like the thought was we need a big grand spectacular building where God is for the Christian. When did that idea begin and from whom?

In contrast, the bible teaches this.

Rom 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

2 Cor 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

The earliest comments apart from the bible is defining the church, the called out ones, at Smyrna or the church at Ephesus. These weren't buildings, but the whole of the congregation of believers.

Papias Taking occasion from Papias of Hierapolis, the illustrious, a disciple of the apostle who leaned on the bosom of Christ, and Clemens, and Pantænus the priest of [the Church] of the Alexandrians, and the wise Ammonius, the ancient and first expositors, who agreed with each other, who understood the work of the six days as referring to Christ and the whole Church.

Clement of Rome The Church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the Church of God sojourning at Corinth,

Polycarp I am greatly grieved for Valens, who was once a presbyter among you, because he so little understands the place that was given him [in the Church].

To be sure, there are some who will say this is just an easy way of talking, but from various conversations, you can tell that people truly believe God dwells in the beautiful church building, like in the Old Testament Temples, rather than your (a Christian) bringing God there.

PS Examples of the developing belief that God dwells in church buildings.

Here again Constantine led the way. He not only restored (in 313) the buildings and estates, which had been confiscated in the Diocletian persecution, but granted the church also the right to receive legacies (321), and himself made liberal contributions in money and grain to the support of the clergy and the building of churches in Africa, ... The metropolitan churches of Rome and Alexandria were the most wealthy. -source-

Apparently beginning with Constantine.

Chrysostom even laments that many a time the poor are forgotten in the church buildings, and suggests that it is not enough to adorn the altar, the walls, and the floor, but that we must, above all, offer the soul a living sacrifice to the Lord. -source-

Continues with Chrysostom.

The house in which this sacrament is celebrated denotes the Church, ... And therefore, as a rule, it is not lawful to celebrate this sacrament [Mass] except in a consecrated house. -Aquinas-

And apparently is fully developed by Aquinas.

PPS. Should I turn my PS into an asnwer?

  • 2
    Do you have an example of Christians who believe that God dwells in buildings? I've never heard of a group that does. Aug 27 '18 at 19:43
  • 1
    I'm quite sure there are statements from every major Christian group that "the Church" is the group of believers. The real question here is why do our practices so frequently contradict our beliefs.
    – Bit Chaser
    Aug 27 '18 at 19:59
  • @DJClayworth Read the link and comments on the other question. Very apparent.
    – SLM
    Aug 27 '18 at 20:08
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    @SLM I've read the other question and all the comments on it, and I still see nothing indicating that God dwells in a building. Nor do I see that in your "PS". I agree that people treat a church building as special, and sometimes too special, but that's not the same. Aug 27 '18 at 20:46
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    @SLM Yes, he's saying that "church" has a sense of a building (though he doesn't say that it's the only sense), but that doesn't imply that God dwells in buildings.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 28 '18 at 4:31

It started in the Church Christ Built on Peter. The references provided in the original Question work perfectly with Catholic teaching.

The Problem is in the dichotomy of the Question.

God is One.

The Holy Spirit Dwells in the Catholic (believer or Christian) who was made into a new Christian through Baptism. The Holy Spirit is God and can dwell where it wishes in addition to those who possess the obedience of faith.

Christ dwells, body blood soul and divinity in the consecrated host during mass. The bits left over, are not discarded but saved as they are no longer what they once were, instead they are the Person of Christ, aka the second person of the trinity, aka. GOD! These pieces are transported to the sick and elderly by ministers assigned to do so or they are placed in the tabernacle for storage until they can be consumed by those worthy (free of mortal sin) to receive. God dwells body blood soul and divinity within the walls of the Catholic Church.

This understanding of the True Pressance of Christ in the sacrament goes all the way back to the letters of Paul and this, the earliest reference outside the scriptures to the real presence.

Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead."

Saint Ignatius of Antioch Letter to the Smyrnaeans", paragraph 6. circa 80-110 A.D.

God dwells In the believer and in buildings, once the Catholic Church was free to build buildings and reserve the Eucharist (AKA GOD)

You are, after all, what you eat.

  • yes that would be the line of thinking stretching to and from Aquinas. Definitely a sense of a priest, altar, sacrifice "there", like a house, but not "here" in you or me.
    – SLM
    Aug 28 '18 at 2:41
  • @SLM I'm a little unclear about your comment. Perhaps the manner in which Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ is the confusion. Simply understood, Christ Dwells in our Churchs (The Building) when the Eucharist is present within that building. when we EAT the Eucharist Christ dwells in us bodily, for a time. This does not replace or negate the Holy Spirit that is in a Catholic. The Eucharistic presence is not always in a building, just like in the dessert the cloud would come and go from the tent with the Ark.
    – Marc
    Aug 28 '18 at 11:13
  • I understand the Catholic POV on Eucharist (transubstantian, not "only" real presence) and agree that appears to be the line of thinking from Aquinas that led to the question. The priest, altar, sacrifice, host, etc can't be found in those who aren't Catholic priests, but can be found in the Catholic buildings. Hence, it seems to me, the view of the building as the church, even if there's some retained belief of God is in you also.
    – SLM
    Aug 28 '18 at 13:32
  • @SLM You are imagining a confusion that doesn't exist. Catholics know what we mean when we refer to the Body of Christ as "the Church", and also when we refer to a church building as "the church". It's maybe funny that the same word is used, but no one is truly confused on this point. I would bet that in some other languages, two different words are used.
    – workerjoe
    Aug 28 '18 at 14:07

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