HEGEL [modernity study cont.] Hegel is considered to be one of the most influential thinkers of the modern era [along with Kant]. Hegel’s view of God and religion laid the groundwork [with Kant and a few others] for liberal theology. Hegel taught an idea about God that said in the beginning God was this ‘undifferentiated spirit’ [impersonal] who ‘separated’ himself from himself- in this Divine separating part of him became cosmos, world, man- in the history and development of man, man comes to self consciousness about himself- about God- and in this process- God himself discovers who he is too! Yikes! Obviously Hegel’s view did not sit well with historic Christianity.
Hegel was an idealist [like Plato]. If you remember earlier in this study I taught how idealism is the belief that ultimate reality exists in ideas or forms- the reality of horse or chair is first an idea/invisible form- then what we see is sort of a second creation. Many of the early Greek philosophers held to this view [Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, etc.]. Hegel believed that because ‘God’ comes to this self realization of who he is thru the development of human society thru time- therefore he saw the Divine in human community [government]- primarily expressed thru Protestant forms of Christianity- he divinized the state in a way.
When we study the various thinkers of the modern period [1700’s-2000] it is hard to separate their strong views of religion and God from their thought- but many modern teachers of philosophy have a tendency to skip over the religious ideas of these men- often in the university setting these thinkers are just looked at as philosophers- and their obvious religious thought is kind of glanced over as ‘a symptom of the times they lived in’. This is a big mistake in my view- while I obviously do not embrace Hegel's ideas about God [he basically taught a form of Pantheism- a religious belief that says God is the creation- not just the creator] yet it is important to see the role Hegel will play in the influence of the higher critics that arose out of the German universities of the 19th century. Many of the modern religious thinkers were influenced heavily by Hegel [Rudolph Bultman] and his ideas- in various forms- will continue to inform religious thought right up until the 20-21st centuries.
I guess a good example to sum up Hegel would be the program I was watching last night on Link T.V. It was a discussion amongst various religious groups about God and how we should strive to know and understand and respect the different beliefs people have [I agree]. Yet as the various people shared their views- it was easy to see the eastern beliefs and how much they differed from traditional Christianity. At one point they gave a quote from a Catholic priest [Those of you who know me realize I consider fellow Catholics Christians and am a student of Catholic as well as Protestant Christianity]. He said there were 3 basic realities; 1- the other [God] 2- we are the other [we are one with the divine] 3- there is no other [double yikes!!]. Obviously this well meaning priest is not in good standing with the teachings of his own church!
I don’t share this to be mean- I think in today’s world it is vital for Christians to engage in interfaith discussions- to respect other peoples beliefs and to work with other religions [Islam, Judaism, Hindu- etc.] but we don’t want to confuse people about what the historic Christian faith teaches about God. In Christian teaching [Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox] God is an eternal personal being- not just some ‘undifferentiated spirit’. God is not ‘us’. He made us, and the creation- he reveals himself to man thru creation- his Spirit does indwell those who believe in him and the redemption of Jesus Christ and his Cross- and God knew who he was- long before we knew who we were!
So some of the deep thinkers have espoused ideas that do not sit well with Christian tradition- never the less it’s good to study and be familiar with the various thinkers of the modern era and to be able to refute [in a nice way!] their errors and share with them the truth of the gospel. As I study these various thinkers-I’m reminded of a term I learned when first moving to Texas from N.J. As a Yankee living in the south- I was often told that here in the south we don’t ‘fix it if it aint broken’. And over the years I have learned that there is much truth to this statement- thru trial and error.
One time I bought this 1976 datsun 280 ZX. It was a used car- paid around a thousand for it. I liked the car- ran fast and all. So one day I get this bright idea [yes-I am going to fix something that ‘aint broke’] and decide to install a backup oil pressure gauge- you know just in case the original one goes out. So I put the new gauge in [cluster gauge- shows 3 different readings] and every now and then I noticed the gauge would show no pressure! The first time this happened I panicked and pulled over and realized that the pressure was okay- it was the design of the gauge- the tube kept falling off the oil sending unit [the thing the gauge hooks up to]. So one day while driving home- sure enough the gauge reads zero pressure- O well I will fix it when I get home. I never ‘got home’. The tube did fall off- but to my surprise all the oil managed to shoot out of the small tube during the ride- yes- I blew my engine! So as I read Hegel and some of the other thinkers in this study- and some of the theories they came up with- I appreciate their efforts to inform modern thinkers- to give themselves over to the field of philosophy- but in the end I get the sense that they are trying to fix something that ‘aint broke’.