The relationship of materiality to religious consciousness in the Protestant Reformed tradition

Larry David Harwood, Marquette University

Abstract

The early 16th Century Protestant Reformed tradition shares in the general Protestant opposition to philosophy characteristic of the early Reformation. In its opposition to philosophy, however, the Reformed tradition can be conceived to be distinctly religious and without any of the typical "impoverishment" of religion by philosophy. It is my thesis that this in not the case because a tendency to rationalism is detectable in the early Reformed thinkers of the Reformation. The thinkers I look at are Andreas Karlstadt, Huldreich Zwingli, and John Calvin, and the specific trait in the Reformed tradition that I focus upon in this work is the relative unimportance of virtually everything material. The rationalism of the Reformed tradition is most evident in how it seeks to marginalize the material components of religious devotion. My thesis attempts to show, therefore, that despite its opposition to philosophy, on another level, philosophy overtakes religion in this tradition. That is, though not seeking to advance itself philosophically at the time of the early Reformation, but instead to arrive at "true religion," this tradition, I will argue, moves consciousness from the realm of the religious to that of the philosophical in its quest for true religion. I will argue that in the early Reformed tradition there is a shared tendency with philosophical rationalism to progressively "elevate" truth to levels proportionately distant from the tactile senses and material media. However, the reticence of this tradition toward the religious value of materiality is best understood not through an alignment of that tradition with particular philosophical schools of thought or doctrines, but more broadly as a transition from religious to philosophical consciousness, where the association of materiality to religion and its practice grows increasingly tenuous. In making this claim I am not merely contending for the logical truism that any religion or ideology in its assertions embraces some philosophy or philosophical form no matter how emphatic its denial of such. Rather, I argue that the negative judgment upon the propriety of the material components for religious devotion represents a conceptual shift in religious practice that can be identified in its particulars as a shift of consciousness.

Recommended Citation

Larry David Harwood, "The relationship of materiality to religious consciousness in the Protestant Reformed tradition" (January 1, 1998). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI9910955.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9910955

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