Hegel and Christian Theology: A Reading of the Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion

Hegel and Christian Theology: A Reading of the Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion

Hegel and Christian Theology: A Reading of the Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion

Hegel and Christian Theology: A Reading of the Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion

Synopsis

Peter C. Hodgson engages the speculative reconstruction of Christian theology that is accomplished by Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, and provides a close reading of the critical edition of the lectures. He analyses Hegel's concept of the object and purpose of the philosophy ofreligion, his critique of the theology of his time, his approach to Christianity within the framework of the concept of religion, his concept of God, his reconstruction of central Christian themes, and his placing of Christianity among the religions of the world. Hodgson makes a case for thecontemporary theological significance of Hegel by identifying currently contested sites of interpretation and their Hegelian resolution.

Excerpt

In the 1980s a new edition of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion appeared in German, English, and Spanish. I assisted the principal editor, Walter Jaeschke, in preparing the German text, and I coordinated the English translation by Robert F. Brown, J. Michael Stewart, and myself. This is a critical edition that distinguishes Hegel's four series of lectures (1821, 1824, 1827, 1831), which differ from each other quite significantly, and establishes a critical text for the first three series. The previous editions conflated the lectures into an editorially constructed text that often obscures Hegel's distinctive arguments and emphases. Now it is possible to study Hegel's philosophy of religion on a level of accuracy and insight hitherto unattainable.

After my decade-long engagement with the translation, I needed a break from Hegel and for the next several years pursued other projects. I did, however, edit an anthology of his writings on religion entitled G. W. F. Hegel: Theologian of the Spirit. During the past fifteen years several valuable studies have appeared that make use of the new edition, but they do not centrally engage the speculative reconstruction of Christian theology that is accomplished by Hegel's lectures, nor do they provide a close reading of the text as a whole. Thus an opening exists for a book such as the present one.

My view is that Hegel's Philosophy of Religion is one of the two or three most important resources from the nineteenth century for theology as it faces the challenges of modernity and postmodernity. The others are Friedrich Schleiermacher's Christian Faith and Søren Kierkegaard's Fragments and Postscript. Hegel, Schleiermacher, and Kierkegaard offer quite different routes beyond the theological impasse posed by the representative thinker of the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant, and these routes continue to be productive today. The purpose of the present monograph is to make the case as far as Hegel is concerned.

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