Theology

What is the purpose of an eternal light in a worship space?

An eternal light does not belong in a protestant church. The historical symbolism of the eternal light refers to the belief that the actual body of Christ is in the tabernacle, placed upon the altar in a Roman Catholic church and, therefore, rightly belongs in their worship structures. Some Protestants have used the eternal light to suggest the presence of God in the worship space. A church is not a place that houses God. The church building is not a domus dei (house of God); it is a domus ecclessiae (house of God’s people). God is not localized in a structure. Sacred space is brought into being by a worshiping assembly, not by a building or its art. People are the temples of God. Note part of Stephen’s final sermon in Acts chapter seven: “But it was Solomon who built a house for Him. However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands . . .” We should not give the impression in our worship area that God is contained or localized within the building.

Not to offend anyone, a transitional eternal light might be placed in the nave of the worship area.