Neo-Calvinists are, is the short answer. Even James Bratt’s kvetch about the abuse of every-square-inch language, offered this resistance to hierarchical distinctions between the world and the spirit:
Over against any kind of body-soul, nature-grace, fulltimeChristianservicevs.secularwork dualism, Kuyper’s words insist that God can—must—be served anywhere and everywhere. No better jobs or worse jobs before the Lord by how “spiritual” they are. No writing off whole sectors of culture or society as inherently worldly, or privileging others as inherently good. No more traditional pietist (Victorian?) hierarchies. I get it, and endorse it.
Lots to unpack there and not enough space in a post to do it. A lot of the spade work needs to go in the direction of “pietist” and “Victorian” as code for some sort of objectionable distinction between the realms of religion and common life. At the same time, the entire history of the West, philosophy, and liberal education makes no sense without some kind of distinction between what Greeks, Romans, and Christians deemed were higher aspects of human existence (the realm of the spirit or philosophy or reason or language) and the lower (eating or sex or wealth). In fact, what continues to bedevil me about neo-Calvinism is this Turrets Syndrome like reaction to binary distinctions. It is as if the West was swimming along sorting out and thriving on the distinctions between spiritual/intellectual and temporal/physical spheres and along came Kuyper and said, “we will have none of it” or “this is all fault of the French Revolution.” And he might have added “we will not pay any attention to similar distinctions between flesh and spirit, or Caesar and God, in Scripture.” “Dualism is bad because all of life, the cosmos (do we hear an echo of Carl Sagan?) needs to be integrated.” So writes Kuyper in his famous Lectures:
. . . wherever two elements appear, as in this case the sinner and the saint, the temporal and the eternal, the terrestrial and the heavenly life, there is always danger of losing sight of their interconnection and of falsifying both by error or onesidedness. Christendom, it must be confessed, did not escape this error. A dualistic conception of regeneration was the cause of the rupture between the life of nature and the life of grace. It has, on account of its too intense contemplation of celestial things, neglected to give due attention to the world of God’s creation. It has, on account of its exclusive love of things eternal, been backward in the fulfilment of its temporal duties. It has neglected the care of the body because it cared too exclusively for the soul. And this one-sided, inharmonious conception in the course of time has led more than one sect to a mystic worshipping of Christ alone, to the exclusion of God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. Christ was conceived exclusively as the Savior, and His cosmological significance was lost out of sight.
This dualism, however, is by no means countenanced by the Holy Scriptures. (118)
What is particularly troubling about Kuyper’s disregard for distinguishing the temporal from the eternal is that paleo-Calvinism used this distinction for making sense of Christianity and the work of the church. For instance, here is the very confession and Kuyper subscribed on the Lord’s Supper:
We believe and confess that our Savior Jesus Christ has ordained and instituted the sacrament of the Holy Supper to nourish and sustain those who are already born again and ingrafted into his family: his church.
Now those who are born again have two lives in them. The one is physical and temporal– they have it from the moment of their first birth, and it is common to all. The other is spiritual and heavenly, and is given them in their second birth; it comes through the Word of the gospel in the communion of the body of Christ; and this life is common to God’s elect only.
Thus, to support the physical and earthly life God has prescribed for us an appropriate earthly and material bread, which is as common to all as life itself also is. But to maintain the spiritual and heavenly life that belongs to believers he has sent a living bread that came down from heaven: namely Jesus Christ, who nourishes and maintains the spiritual life of believers when eaten– that is, when appropriated and received spiritually by faith.
To represent to us this spiritual and heavenly bread Christ has instituted an earthly and visible bread as the sacrament of his body and wine as the sacrament of his blood. He did this to testify to us that just as truly as we take and hold the sacraments in our hands and eat and drink it in our mouths, by which our life is then sustained, so truly we receive into our souls, for our spiritual life, the true body and true blood of Christ, our only Savior. We receive these by faith, which is the hand and mouth of our souls. (Belgic Confession, Art. 35)
Parenthetically, if you apply this distinction then you might distinguish between the eternal words of Holy Writ and the temporal words of Shakespeare, which would in turn shape the way you understand the task of Christian education and the relationship between the humanities and divinity.
But if neo-Calvinists have their way, then Belgic makes a distinction that partakes too much of a pietistic or Roman Catholic or Greco-Roman view of the sacrament.
Meanwhile, Calvin himself relied on this very distinction between the temporal and eternal when trying to understand the relation of church, state, and the heavenly kingdom:
Having shown above that there is a twofold government in man, and having fully considered the one which, placed in the soul or inward man, relates to eternal life, we are here called to say something of the other, which pertains only to civil institutions and the external regulation of manners. For although this subject seems from its nature to be unconnected with the spiritual doctrine of faith, which I have undertaken to treat, it will appear as we proceed, that I have properly connected them, nay, that I am under the necessity of doing so, especially while, on the one hand, frantic and barbarous men are furiously endeavouring to overturn the order established by God, and, on the other, the flatterers of princes, extolling their power without measure, hesitate not to oppose it to the government of God. Unless we meet both extremes, the purity of the faith will perish. We may add, that it in no small degree concerns us to know how kindly God has here consulted for the human race, that pious zeal may the more strongly urge us to testify our gratitude. And first, before entering on the subject itself, it is necessary to attend to the distinction which we formerly laid down (Book 3 Chap. 19 sec. 16, et supra, Chap. 10), lest, as often happens to many, we imprudently confound these two things, the nature of which is altogether different. For some, on hearing that liberty is promised in the gospel, a liberty which acknowledges no king and no magistrate among men, but looks to Christ alone, think that they can receive no benefit from their liberty so long as they see any power placed over them. Accordingly, they think that nothing will be safe until the whole world is changed into a new form, when there will be neither courts, nor laws, nor magistrates, nor anything of the kind to interfere, as they suppose, with their liberty. But he who knows to distinguish between the body and the soul, between the present fleeting life and that which is future and eternal, will have no difficulty in understanding that the spiritual kingdom of Christ and civil government are things very widely separated. Seeing, therefore, it is a Jewish vanity to seek and include the kingdom of Christ under the elements of this world, let us, considering, as Scripture clearly teaches, that the blessings which we derive from Christ are spiritual, remember to confine the liberty which is promised and offered to us in him within its proper limits. (Institutes IV.20.1)
None of this means necessarily that neo-Calvinists are wrong and 2kers are right. Maybe Kuyper came along and corrected a deep flaw within both Reformed Protestantism and the West more generally. But since distinctions between spiritual and worldly affairs haunt the pages of Scripture, not to mention the leading texts of Western civilization, neo-Calvinists have some obligation to explain why they reject (or appear to) the categories that practically all Europeans and their offspring have used to make sense of the world and Christianity.