One of the key features of religions is to emphasise the value of “spiritual” or “cultural” values over the sheer pursuits of sheer material empirical things, e.g. beauty, aesthetics, refined sensibilities (awe, wonder, serenity, etc), romantic wonderings or mystical/contemplative disciplines and experiences, etc. There is the idea of a hierarchy of human activities and values of which the “spiritual” or “cultural” is situated above the crass and common material and empirical activities, and that such “spiritual” or “cultural” activities is the means whereby one can ascend upwards to touch the divine.

However, the thing about Christianity, and Protestantism in particular, is that it does not operate upon the spiritual-material dialectic but the Creator-creation dialectic. It sees works of beauty, art and aesthetic sensibilities, no matter how rapturous, wondrous or refined, to be nothing more than gross superstitions and idolatry. The Protestant sees in “spiritual things” like art, culture, beauty, etc, as simply a mere creature which should not pretend to arrogate to itself the ability to ascend to the divine which exists in an infinite distance from the creation. Spirits, as much as beauty, culture, etc, are also mere creations of God, as much bound to this space-time material world as any other “crass” material and empirical phenomena and are alas, all too earthly. Even if there is such an “ordering” of created things which places beauty at the top of the “great chain of being”, but from the perspective of the divine who dwells in unapproachable light and who is infinitely qualitatively distinct from the creation, these “exalted” spiritualities does not inch any closer to the divine than crass material pleasures. A finite number, after all, is still a finite number compared to the infinite, no matter how large it is.

Thus, seeing such exalted spiritual objects and disciplines to be nothing more than “a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture; but rather repugnant to the word of God”, the Christian revolts against the presumption of the spiritual and introduces a great “levelling” whereby the despised, lowly and crass things of this world are on par with the exalted spiritualities of this world, both of them equally “worldly” compared to the transcendent wholly other Divine. All that matters is simply the Word, which communicates its truth and message immediately to each individual’s conscience with simplicity of preaching, whether Greek or philistine, seeing both “spiritual” things and “material things” as occupying the same material space-time continuum. As St Paul would say, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails to anything but keeping the commandments of God, likewise we would say neither exalted spiritual sensibilities or crass material pleasures amounts to anything but only faithfulness to the Word.

In this, it is easy to see why Protestantism tends towards the crassest and bases of human instincts and with extremely “low-brow” worship and aesthetics. It is the religion whereby the divine communicates and speaks to every single soul through the Word with an immediacy that cuts through the entire chain of being, not mediated by “refined” spiritualities or cultural aesthetics, a religion whereby both the simpleton fool and the learned scholar find themselves levelled before the infinitely qualitatively distinct divine Word which is no respecter of persons, cultures or spiritualities.

This also explains why Protestantism tends towards the extremes of materialistic empirical atheism and sheer pantheism. Having wholly severed God from this world and replaced the great chain of being, whereby one may ascend to the divine in steps from the material unto the spiritual unto the divine, with a dialectic opposition between God and the world, one must either make that infinite leap of faith unto the divine (Kierkegaard) or be mired in scepticism of the transcendent, not presuming to peer past the phenomenal world (Kant). The alternative is that of Hegelianism which borders upon the pantheistic whereby, also forsaking the great chain of being, the divine becomes immediately communicable and “present” to the entire world at every immediate point instead of mediated through the distance and the bars of the spiritual and the cultural…

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