Some notes on Hegel and his influence on theology

From Xavier Rynne II’s letter from the synod today, this morsel on Hegel:

The Hegelian view of God’s involvement in the unfolding of history asGeist [Spirit] is at root a Christian heresy, reminiscent of Joachim of Fiore and the Gnostics. For the Hegelian, God suffers with, and changes, precisely through the sin and suffering of his creatures, dialectically pouring out his love and mercy through the progress of history. This heretical view has had widespread influence in modern Catholic and Protestant accounts of God’s nature, in such a way as to misunderstand Christ’s two natures and the suffering of the Second Person of the Trinity in “the economy of the flesh.” Thus the Hegelian approach, in either its Protestant or Catholic form, preaches a God who cannot save: a God who cannot wipe away every tear because he is somehow bound up with our tears.

  • A brief primer on Hegel on religion

As a response to Enlightenment rationalism, Hegel “dialectically” both accepts and rejects Kant’s infinitely transcendent God, even as he dialectically accepts and rejects the Romantic subjectivity which flowed from it: a subjectivity in which, without any accepted rational demonstrations of God’s existence, “religious feeling,” [Gefühl] becomes the best evidence on offer. Rather, Hegel argued that the best argument for God was rationally demonstrable, and was objectively experienced, in history.

For Hegel, God is “Absolute” and Christianity is an “absolute religion.” Abstracting from the doctrine of the Trinity, Hegel imagines that God is the Absolute in the process of coming to greater self-understanding through a dialectical unfolding of his divine love in human history. The Absolute, or universal, chooses to move out of itself to the historically particular – a kenotic movement which non-identically recurs as God pours out this divine love into a common life of Geist, which must be represented by cult, by sacrifice, by a Sittlichkeit, or moral community. This is, of course, an ek-stasis which is supposed to philosophically mirror the Christian faith in the Incarnation of the Son, as well as mirror his death and resurrection which opens the way to Pentecost and the creation of the Church.

But Hegel universalised this as idealist philosophy. And in the process he radically transformed the orthodox Christian understanding of the Triune God into something quite different. Hegel does not see God as “the true font of light and wisdom and the primal origin raised high beyond things,” because in the most dramatic way possible, Hegel believes that “God is not God without the world.”

So, perhaps this is where a certain prominent theologian gets his idea that mercy is a property of God?  Very interesting.

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