AS A WRITER, who is also a would-be Christian, I cannot help feeling that a satisfactory theory of Art from the standpoint of the Christian faith has yet to be worked out. With the exception of Kierkegaard, most theologians who have dealt with the subject seem to me to have accepted Greek esthetics too uncritically. The difference between pre-Christian art and all art produced within Christendom, whether religious or secular, whether by professing Christians or by unbelievers, is much more radical, I believe, than is generally realized.
The three Religions—Natural, Revealed and Christian. The first believes that the Unconditional is perpetually objectively manifest in existence. The second believes that the Unconditional is, objectively, perpetually absconditus, but occasionally subjectively manifest to exceptional groups or individuals, to a chosen race or to its prophets. The last believes that the Unconditional was objectively manifested upon one unique occasion (The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us) and thenceforth is subjectively manifest, perpetually and to all. (Behold I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.) Each has a different attitude toward the objectively manifest, i.e., Nature, and since it is to Nature that Art holds up its mirror, the attitude of each towards Art is also different.
A natural religion must be based upon one of two contradictory premises; either upon the esthetic premise that the Individual is superior to the Universal, the divine essence is Will, and its command an ontological for-the-sake-of, or upon the ethical premise that the Universal is superior to the Individual, the divine essence is Reason, and its command a teleological in-order-that. Though the Esthetic religion is historically antecedent to the Ethical, the latter does not gradually evolve from the former, for their respective premises are irreconcilable; the evil of the one is the good of the other. A change from one to the other is a revolutionary transvaluation of values, a desperate step compelled by complete breakdown.
Faith in the Esthetic religion is inversely proportional to the believer's faith in his own esthetic individuality, in his subjective freedom to will. It passes through four obvious stages of successive decline, each corresponding to a stage of advance or social differentiation from primitive community (gemeinschaft) toward civilized society (gesellschaft).