Hegel, Love and Truth

Chalybäus, Heinrich Moritz, 1796-1862

Many Christians – and churches – are more concerned with endoctrines than doctrines. (As we know, the endoctrine glands regulate emotions).

Whatever we think or do – they say – we must make sure that we are loving, unifying, non-confrontational, non-divisive; in a word, relational. As my Anglican priest friend told me, it’s not about doctrine as much as about relationships (I think that is a reasonable summary of the book “The Shack“).

We should – they say – deal with concrete feelings and emotions and less with abstract thoughts and words; make people feel better about themselves. Don’t tell them they are sinners and under condemnation. Make people feel fulfilled and satisfied in their life. Make them feel comfortable. And if you’re going to use words from the Bible, emphasize the loving parts, the non-threatening parts. Emphasize happiness and self-fulfilment. Then point them to the nearest user-friendly church near you – a church that won’t bite, that is, a troothless church.

What is important to most people today is not what is true, but what is regarded as true. Many professing Christians, like most people, live in a Hegelian universe, always aspiring towards truth, the truth of love.


Hegel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is Hegel’s Dialectic (Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis) theory.

Thesis – my point of view. Antithesis – Your point of view. Synthesis: We find a common meeting ground.

Here is the great German philosopher (whom hardly anyone, including most philosophy graduates, like me, never heard about), Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus (1796-1862; translated by Edersheim, Alfred, 1825-1889. Historical development of speculative philosophy, from Kant to Hegel (1854). (Thanks to all the marvelous resources on the Web).

From a painting of Immanuel Kant

From a painting of Immanuel Kant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“We observe that every object in the economy of nature presupposes what we would term its antagonist; the leaf on the branch seems to call forth another on the opposite side, as if to preserve the equilibrium. The same law manifests itself also in the growth of mind and in the organic development of consciousness. While progress in the formation of the whole is the aim, the alteration in the individual parts is due to the appearance of contraries ; for it is noticeable, that, whenever any philosophical fundamental view was pronounced in a decided form, it also stood forth, ipso facto and necessarily, as one-sided. But immediately an opposite statement, roused up by contradiction, made its appearance, and criticism entered the lists on both sides of the question. But both these extremes only served to call forth a third view, to add a new sprout on the branch, which in turn was destined to pass through the same process of development.”

“Whether and when this development shall result in that blossom, which would at the same time be its termination, we feel to be an enquiry to which, as yet, we cannot return a reply. Such an actual perfection of consciousness, were it attained, would also mark the end of the development within the reach of our species ; and our globe, in its present form at least, would then have also served its purpose for the general economy of intelligences. Its ulterior fate would be long to a period yet future in the history of the world; nor shall we hazard any speculation thereon.” (Italics and underlining added).

I focus on “Such an actual perfection of consciousness, were it attained, would also mark the end of the development within the reach of our species.” The upshot: once we think we’ve found THE truth, which in its most radiant manifestation is LOVE, we would have reached our ultimate destiny. Christians agree. The difference between the Christian and the philosopher is that the latter does not believe that we can ever know THE truth (which Jesus says we can, and which is the only thing that can make us free). But there is more to the philosopher’s scepticism-cynicism; more perverse. “If the Messiah, as the embodiment of truth, were to be found, says the philosopher, Jacques Derrida, for example, there would be no point to life, because WE would no longer have any more intellectual clout; we would lose our role as the measure of all things. There would be no more secrets to uncover.” See The Deconstruction of Messiah: Always Arriving Always Departing).

But what did Hegel, in the last flickering moments of his pantheistic life, think? He “would have no book read to him but the Bible ; and said that if God were to prolong his life he would make this book his study, for in it he found what mere reason could not discover. His favourite hymn during those dying days was a German hymn of which the bearing is, ‘Jesus, draw me entirely unto thyself'” (Adolf Saphir, “The divine unity of scripture”). I wonder whether Hegel found his ultimate synthesis.I’m thinking of the face of God.

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