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IV. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel‘s
Philosophy of Religion
1. Hegel’s Concept of History
• Within Enlightenment (Deism, Lessing, Kant) and
its concept of religion founded upon reason,
Hegel aims for a mediation between
philosophical reason and history as the
foundation of concrete religion.
• Like Kant, Hegel develops a concept of religion
which is a criteria for historical religions, but also
this concept pertains historically established
„positive“ religion.
Hegel’s Concept of the Absolute’s
History against Lessing’s “Ugly Ditch”
• Lessing: 1777 tract On the Proof of the Spirit and of
“Accidental truths of history can never become the
proof of necessary truths of reason.”
Hegel’s concept of necessary truths does not
exclude, but contrarily includes accidental truths of
history. Necessary truth is the necessary being →
the Absolute must necessarily present itself in
history, in its “otherness”; being in its other the
Absolute is identical with itself (incarnation).
The Absolute in itself is self-mediation and
therefore, it knows difference and otherness –
religiously speaking: it is Trinity.
2. Hegel‘s Science of Logic - Wissenschaft der Logik
• SL develops categories (determinations) of
thinking (Kant: omnitudo realitatis); these
categories are categories of what is true.
They are objective (Aristotle) and subjective
(Kant), human and absolute – absolute because
truth in its final form can be nothing but
definitive, absolute, divine.
• These categories pertain to what religion calls
• In its theological dimension, Hegel‘s Phil. of Rel.
takes these categories for granted.
2. The Affirmative Infinity
• Enlightenment puts infinity beyond the finite, unattainable by
reason. One cannot permit infinity‘s presence in history (Lessing).
Hegel: this infinity is in fact limited by the “ugly ditch” (Lessing)
and by the insuperable boundary between itself and the finite,
accidental, relative. But being limited denotes finitude.
Hegel’s conclusion: Enlightenment does not really think the
infinite, but a finite infinity. The real or affirmative Infinity is not
limited by its otherness, the finite; it rather contains the difference
between itself, the infinite, and the finite; it is present and
manifest itself in the finite - which is identical with itself in its own
otherness: the finite.
The same dialectic is applicable to all kinds of attributes which
usually define God: the absolute, unity, necessity, omnipotent,
2. Triadic Concept of the Absolute
• Being (indeterminateness, immediacy, no differentiation),
Nothing (otherness, contradiction, mediation),
Becoming (immediacy of identity in difference) –
• are the primordial, elementary movement of pure thought
which determines the absolute: cf. Parmenides (being),
Buddhism (nothing), Heraclites (becoming).
• The Science of Logic develops more triadic structures which
prefigure the absolute’s triadic self-mediation:
universal notion, particular notion, individual
• Logic is the first part of the whole triadic system: Logic (realm of
pure thought), Real-Philosophies: Philosophy of Nature, of Spirit
– Spirit : subjective, objective and absolute spirit: art, religion, concept
3. Lectures on the Philosophy of
Religion Berlin 1821,1824,1827,1831
1. Concept of Religion (being, immediacy…)
1. The Concept of God, 2. The knowledge of God, 3. The Cultus
2. Determinate Religion (determination)
1. Immediate Religion, 2. Rel. of beauty / eminence, 3. Rel. of
3. Consummate (revelatory, absolute) Religion (syntheses,
1. The First Element: „Immanent Trinity“
2. The Second Element: Diremption (creation, sin) and
Reconciliation (incarnation, cross)
3. The Third Element: Pneumatic-spiritual Community
Concept of Religion
1. The concept of God: God as substance, universal, content
of pure thought, not the sphere of religion
2. Knowledge of God:
a) Immediate knowledge: difference as beginning of
religion, God is judgment, God is subject, spirit for spirit.
First immediate form = universal by thinking:
• “The genuine content of a religion has for its verification
the witness of one’s own spirit and satisfies the needs of
my spirit. My spirit knows itself, it knows its essence –
that, too, is an immediate knowledge, it is the absolute
verification of the eternally true, the simple and true
definition of this certainty that is called faith.”
• No verification by history, miracle…
Hegel Contra Schleiermacher
b. Feeling:
…as a form of contact with God
(after Kant’s rejection of
theoretical reason, feeling is an
appropriate way to come to the
existence of God.) Hegel: But
feeling does not guarantee
Hegel criticized F. Schleiermacher‘s „religion of feeling“ and
his assertion that “religion is the
feeling of absolute dependence”.
First, Hegel takes “feeling” as
1768 – 1834
• c. Representation
„For human beings God is primarily in the form of
representation. Representation is a consciousness of
something that one has before oneself as something
“Religion is the consciousness of absolute truth in the way
that it occurs for all human beings.”
“Philosophy does nothing but transform our representation
into concepts.”
Examples: the Father begets the Sun; creation – represented
as empirical action.
Problem: the form of representation provokes a critique of
the Enlightenment: begotten Sun, three persons in one God.
d. Thought (as the way to God)
• „To show coherence means in general to prove“
„Zusammenhang Zeigen heißt Beweisen
• Thinking shows the – necessary - coherence of
finite and infinite, and therefore proves God’s
• „… finite is only a limit. But inasmuch as we know
something as a limit, we are already beyond it.“
„The starting point is … the finite, but spirit does
not leave its subsisting.“
The spirit sublates the contradictory existence of
the finite, and affirms the infinite. That is
“thinking as elevation”.
3. The Cultus
a) Devotion: inwardness
b) Sacraments: external
c) Ethical life: inwardness and external in action
The Consummate Religion
The Positiveness of Religion
• Religion is „the consciousness of God as such“.
• „God has given himself for human beings to
know what he is … that it is a revealed,
positive religion in the sense that it has come
to humanity from without, has been given to
• In a positive of religion, reason has to find the
reasonable, the spiritual.
The First Element: the Idea of God in and
for himself – Immanent Trinity, the Father
Being, universality, concept, thinking, idea, infinity
“In accord with the first element, … we consider God in his eternal
idea, as he is in and for himself, prior to or apart from the
creation of the world” (Cf. Science of Logic § 53 “It can
therefore be said that this content is the exposition of God as
he is in his eternal essence before the creation of nature and a
finite mind.”)
• „… the eternal idea is expressed in terms of the holy Trinity: it is
God himself, eternally triune. Spirit is this process, movement,
life. This life is self-differentiation, self-determination…“
• “’God is love’” … „love is a distinguishing of two“.
• God is universal,” the distinction in God is only ideal”, not real.
• In his universality, God is Father: he represents God’s being,
immediacy, first “status”.
Philosophical Justification of the Trinity
„When we say, ‚God in his eternal universality is the
one who distinguishes himself, determines
himself, posits an other to himself, and likewise
sublates the distinction, thereby remaining
present to himself, and is spirit only through this
process of being brought forth‘, then the
understanding enters in and counts one, two,
three…“ Cf. Kant’s critique of the Trinity.
„The truth of personality is found precisely in
winning it back through this immersion, this being
immersed in the other.“ - This concept of
personhood has to be used speaking about three
persons in God. Personhood is not pure
individuality, no isolated Egoity → Tritheism.
The Second Element: The Sun
Nothing, particularity, judgment, representation, nature, finite
Human perspective:
“The idea must therefore be present for this subject as
concrete self-consciousness, an actual subject.” =
Incarnation as a self-representation of divine subjectivity.
Divine perspective: “The act of differentiation is only a
movement, a play of love with itself, which does not arrive
at the seriousness of other-being, of separation and rupture.
This other is to this extent defined as ‘Son’….”
“It is in the Son, in the determination of distinction, that the
advance to further distinction occurs, that distinction comes
into its own true diversity.” = “The finite world is the side of
distinction as opposed to the side that remains in unity;
hence it divides into natural world and the world of finite
Human Nature – good, evil – both?
• „…humanity is by nature good“ – „… evil“
( J. J. Rousseau, I. Kant)
• good = not cloven, not split within itself,
harmonious with itself = but only immediately
good = evil, because spirit is not only
immediate, it is imputable, reasonable →
cleavage, step out of immediacy = evil.
“Original Sin”
• Interpretation of Gen 3.
• Paradise „we can call it a zoological garden“ (“Tiergarten”) =
„status of innocence“
• Sin, fall = cleavage, status of cognition,
consciousness. „For cognition or consciousness
means in general a judging or dividing, a selfdistinguishing within itself… being evil resides in
cognitive knowledge.“
The Serpent did not tell a lie …
• „The story reports … if one knows how to
distinguish good and evil, one becomes like
God. … God himself says: ‚Behold, Adam has
become like one of us‘ (Gen 3:22). So the
words of the serpent were no deception.“
Need of Redemption
• „We have first to consider the relation of the
cleavage to one of the extremes, namely to
God. It is an aspect of there being the need for
universal reconciliation in humanity – and this
means divine, absolute reconciliation…
Human beings are inwardly conscious that in
their innermost being they are a
contradiction, and have therefore an infinite
anguish concerning themselves.“
Redemption as Unity of God and Human Being
• Sublation of the antitheses, the evil and contradiction. This
occurs by the unity of God and man. The truth is the
„sublatedness of the antithesis“.
• „…the substantiality of the unity of divine and human nature
comes to consciousness for humanity in such a way that a
human being appears to consciousness as God, and God
appears to it as a human being.“
“The necessity that the divine-human unity shall appear is due to
the exclusive form by which the human being can gain certainty
of the unity with God: that is the immediate sensible intuition of
this unity in one human being.”
“God in sensible presence can take no other shape than that of
human being…”
Religion: Unity with God, no moral matters
• Against Kant: „… in the hearts and souls of
believers is the firm belief that the issue is not a
moral teaching, nor in general the thinking and
willing of the subject within itself and from itself;
rather what is of interest is an infinite relationship
to God, to the present God, the certainty of the
kingdom of God – finding satisfaction not in
morality, ethics, or conscience, but rather in that
than which nothing is higher, the relationship to
God himself.”
God in Otherness as Reconciliation
• The unity of human being and God finds its
definitive form at the level of sensitive certainty in
Christ‘s death:
• „…the human, the finite, the fragile, the weak, the
negative are themselves a moment of the divine,
that they are within God himself, that finitude,
negativity, otherness are not outside of God and do
not, as otherness, hinder unity with God. Otherness,
the negative, is known to be a moment of the divine
nature itself.“
„God himself is dead“
• Johannes Rist (1641)
O grosse Not!
Gott selbst liegt tot.
Am Kreuz ist er gestorben;
hat dadurch das
uns aus Lieb‘ erworben.
O great woe!
God himself lies dead.
On the cross he has died;
And thus he has gained for
By love, the kingdom of
Man in God
• “This is the explication of reconciliation; that God
is reconciled with the world, or rather that God
has shown himself to be reconciled with the
world, that even the human is not something
alien to him, but rather that this otherness, this
self-distinguishing, finitude as it is expressed, is a
moment in God himself…“
Trinity and Cross
• „The reconciliation in Christ, in which one
believes, makes no sense if God is not known
as the triune God, if it is not recognized that
God is, but also is as the other, as selfdistinguishing, so that this other is God
himself, having implicitly the divine nature in
it, and the sublation of this difference, this
otherness, and the return of love, are the
The Third Element: The Spirit
• „… the community itself is the existing Spirit, the
Spirit in its existence, God existing as community.“
• „The subsistence of the community is completed
by sharing in the appropriation of God‘s
presence.“ - unio mystica, it starts with the host.
• Cath: host as an external, sensible thing = „the
present God“
• Luth: external thing is consumed in spirit and
faith; no transubstantiation, but consecration in
the faith of the spirit.
• Calv: God only in memory, no immediate
subjective presence.
Confessional Preferences
1. Early Church, monkish withdrawal: Reconciliation
only within the Church in a spiritual way and has
the world as such over against it;
2. Middle Ages: Reciprocal dominion of the religious,
spiritual realm and the worldly realm; since
worldliness is not reconciled, it emerges in the
church as a worldliness devoid of spirit –
corruption of the church, unfreedom: absolute
contradiction of the spiritual life.
Confessional Preferences:
Reformation, Protestantism
3. „The third way is that this contradiction is resolved in the
ethical realm, or that the principle of freedom has
penetrated into the worldly realm itself…”
• Reconciliation has three real stages:
(1) the stage of immediacy or of the heart,
(2) dominance of the church, but of a church which is
outside itself;
(3) the stage of ethical life.
Practical Consequences
• „The institutions of ethical life are divine institutions
– not holy in the sense that celibacy is supposed to
be holy by contrast with marriage or familial love,
or that voluntary poverty is supposed to be holy by
contrast with active self-enrichment, or what is
lawful and proper. Similarly, blind obedience is
regarded as holy, whereas the ethical is an
obedience in freedom, a free and rational will, an
obedience of the subject toward the ethical.“
New Problems
• Hegel rejects both pietism which deprives
faith of dogma and theology which reduces
Protestantism’s Modernity
• „It is the freedom of reason that has been acquired in
religion and now knows itself to be for it self in spirit. The
freedom now turns against merely spiritless externality and
servitude, for the latter is utterly opposed to the concepts
of reconciliation and liberation.“
• This spirit of freedom which negates pure externality got
into the worldly period: in Enlightenment: it negates now
abstract, external forms of faith (Kant), but it tends to new
forms of one-sided critique. Hegel offers the synthesis, the
Justification by Thinking
• Philosophy however guarantees content: it
“knows that content is necessary, and that this
necessary content is objective, having being in
and for itself. This is the standpoint of
philosophy, according to which the content
takes refuge in the concept and obtains its
justification by thinking.”
Hegel‘s Philosophy of Religion
• Mediation of universal and positive Religion.
• History and accidentality as essentials for concept.
• Rational justification of Christian dogma and confession
(Trinity, Incarnation…)
• Necessity of creation and incarnation
• Necessity and relativity of Religion: sensitivity,
representation and superiority of philosophical concept.
• The problem of otherness in theory of subjectivity;
absolute knowing and truth as subject-object-relation
Solution: Unity of necessity, freedom and love?
4. Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling‘s
Critique (1775–1854)
• Later philosophy (1827–1854)
• differences between Hegel and Schelling concern
their approaches to the absolute by reason,
• Schelling: the grounding of reason by itself is
philosophical self-adoration. Human reason
cannot explain its own existence; therefore, it
cannot encompass itself and its other within a
system of philosophy.
• The beginning is world, not reason. Reason is
only one aspect of world.
Negative and Positive Philosophy
• Schelling: the identity of thought and being cannot be
articulated within thought. Thought has to presuppose this
• ‘concept’ = already both subject and object
• Negative philosophy: science of reason, negative concept
of being, negative concept of the absolute, ens
• Transcendence of reason: Ecstasies, jump into being = act
of positive philosophy
• There is the desire of reason to contact the real God =
desire of religion. Its bases is experience.
• From ecstasies in being, reason returns and understands
the correspondence between the concept and experience
of God.
• Mediation of Enlightenment / reason and
Christianity / history, contingency
• Mediation in the realm of reason?
• Inspiring Categories, such as affirmative infinity?
• Trinitarian formatting of thinking
• All-overarching subjective focus
• Confessional closeness to subjectivity?
• Absorbed freedom, contingency in conceptual
• The no-necessity, historical as the necessity of