Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Hegel has a lot to answer for!

A bit peripatetic these days so struggling to keep an eye on things but have managed a quick look at a few things coming out of the Roman synod on the family. All very thesis and antithesis and the synthesis might surprise or it might look like the current status quo. In which latter case one would be entitled to wonder what Francis is up to.

Be that as it may, in the midst of this report is a very technical discussion about Hegel and his influence on Protestants such as Cardinal Kasper. OK, that last phrase is a small joke at either Protestants' or Kasper's expense. But the thing is Hegel was brilliant and likely very wrong. Yet somehow he has been very influential. When you last heard a sermon abut Jesus suffers when we suffer, the preacher may not have realised that whatever else he or she is bearing witness to, it is to Hegelianism!

Or have I misunderstood Hegel?


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, not too familiar with Hegel though I am little with his reception. I don't see anything wrong with "Jesus suffers when we suffer," which I think can be stated in biblical and Chalcedonian terms. That is, Jesus interceding for us in Rom 8 and a high priest who sympathises with us in our weaknesses in Heb. Because Jesus remains human he can still suffer with us according to his human nature. The only objection here I think would be if his current exaltation and having been delivered from suffering in the resurrection precludes any further suffering. But to affirm otherwise does not sound Hegelian. I understand Hegelian to mean that the classical Christian absolute distinction between infinite, divine being and finite, creaturely being is abolished in history -- God (thesis) is actually affected by history and thus can suffer in the exigencies of creaturely being, his Son's becoming flesh being the consummation of this (antithesis), which is subsequently resolved eschatologically, overcoming this suffering in an even greater future without erasing its history reality (synthesis). In this case to say "Jesus suffers when we suffer" would be to go beyond his suffering in his human nature and speak of him suffering according to his divine nature...?

Father Ron Smith said...

All very deep. But, does the argument about Jesus sharing our contemporary suffering have anything at all to do with the juxtaposition of the past, the present and the future - time and eternity - do you think? That, for me, is the great mystery at the heart of eschatology. A lot may depend on whether we think that the Incarnation of Jesus was merely an historical event, or an eternal reality.

(Ah, great mystery of life, at last I've found you! But, have I ?)

Anonymous said...

Peter, Bowman. Professor Stark's lecture on Hegel and Kasper (reprinted in the Catholic World, used by the Catholic Herald) rightly introduces Hegel as the thinker who introduced radical historicity into the Christian theological imaginary. Those for whom Hegel was the last great Christian metaphysician see his philosophical work as offering the language in which the narrative Self-revelation of God can finally be expressed as ontology. So for example, Robert W Jenson tosses a dash of Hegel into a basically Barthian trinitarian salad when describes the Son as an unknowable and somewhat frightening 'Logos asarkos' who became radically historicised as the flesh and bones of love, or when he describes God's infinite being as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit mutually outfoxing the cunning of history itself. Reactions differ. Some see proposals like these as insights of the Cappadocian fathers finally brought to clear expression in an age that could understand them. Even the Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart, who disagrees with Jenson's "sentences that seem as though they might detonate if you mishandle them," views them as the most important proposals in contemporary theology. But, if you have bolted your furniture to the floor lest it all float up past the treetops when some liberal pope revokes the law of gravity, these notions may be disturbing. ;-)

Jean said...

Greetings Peter

Well I have never heard of Hegel, or a sermon on Jesus suffers when we suffer. But I have reason to believe it by experience. One Thursday night, some years ago (e.g. once upon a time) when I was suffering and did not wish to wake a flat-mate I said to Jesus, being the night before Easter Friday, you too were left alone while the disciples slept this night. The next day I went to church and the first thing the pastor said was last night I got this real sense that Jesus felt lonely. I was a bit gobsmacked. It made me realise just how intimately God relates to us, how real, actual are scriptures such as 'you and they will be one just as you and I are one'.

Happy Sojourning,

Bryden Black said...

Anon/Bowman. I cannot pass this opportunity up ...!

I have been following too the Roman Synod and notably the article on Hegel by Prof TH Stark. In which case I’d also point this out re DBH and Robert Jenson.

David Bentley Hart has a delightfully ambivalent assessment of “the theology of Robert
Jenson” in his “The Angel at the Ford of Jabbok: On the Theology of Robert
Jenson.” In the Aftermath: Provocations and Laments, 156–69 (Eerdmans, 2009). It is truly tantalizing, since he wants to try to remain “Orthodox” but clearly sees the traction Jenson achieves - and not only by accessing something (but only something) of Hegel. For example, this great quote from RWJ’s Systematic Theology vol.1:

“Gods whose identity lies in the persistence of a beginning are cultivated because in them we are secure against the threatening future. The gods of the nations are guarantors of continuity and return, against the daily threat to fragile established order; indeed, they are Continuity and Return. The Lord’s meaning for Israel is the opposite: the archetypically established order of Egypt was the very damnation from which the Lord released her into being, and what she thereby entered was the insecurity of the desert. Her God is not salvific because he defends against the future but because he poses it.” (67)

And thereafter his entire project to engage a sufficiently baptized triune ‘God’ into a due temporality.

Not unimportantly, Jenson also traces a direct genealogical line from Augustine’s “psychological analogy” to Hegel. See The Triune Identity, page 130, and page 155, note 136. And who could possibly be more ‘orthodox’ for Latins than Augustine?!

All in all, while I appreciate Stark’s alarm at the Teutonic invasion of a certain Idealism into the Synod, what is even more crucial (IMHO) is the Church’s need to grasp “the issue behind the issue” that is the triune God’s intimate embrace of his creation that is a history. Once more, see RWJ’s ST, vol.2: “God does not create a world that thereupon has a history; he creates a history that is a world, in that it is purposive and so makes a whole.” (14)