Hegel Is One Thing. Christianity Is Another

It became evident (to me at least) that Moltmann’s way of going about things is thoroughly [H]egelianised. He is not an anthropomorphite simply because he is sentimental about God, wanting a God near to him, nor because of jejune bible study. His doctrine of God depends on Hegel, a [H]egelianised Trinity in which each Person is a dramatis personae, the drama being the unfolding of God—God as he is—in periods, God the Father, and then the Son, and then the Spirit. But not three persons in one substance, or two natures in one person. One God constituted through a three-act drama. Afterwards we were able to talk briefly about this and whether there was any time in his career when he was not a follower of Hegel. He said that there hadn’t been.

Paul Helm On Jürgen Moltmann

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  1. It seems that the discussion is more about Juergen Moltmann than about Georg Hegel.

    However, Hegel has cast a long shadow. Much of the secular superstition about the Gospels being written long after the events they describe stems from Ferdinand Christian Baur’s attempt to force the composition of the NT into a Hegelian thesis-antithesis-synthesis schema.

    As for what phase God is in various ages, could this not be more the medieval Joachimite schema (after Joachim of Fiore), who saw an Age of the Father giving way to an Age of the Son giving way to an Age of the Spirit?

    • Chuck and Peter,

      Yes, as I understand him, Joachim anticipated Hegel et al. Hegel has been massively influential in the modern period and evangelicals are more Hegelian than perhaps always realized. Hegel has had more influence in ostensibly “conservative” Reformed circles than realized too.

      • Thanks, Dr. Clark. Years ago, you told me that you thought Philip Schaff was a bit too Hegelian. Ever since, I have tried to figure out what this means on my own but did not want to reveal my ignorance!

        Why was Schaff too Hegelian? Did he teach a “synthesis” view of Church History? Or was it that he was like Joachim? Or some other reason?

        I know this may require a long answer that you may not have time to address, so please feel free to ignore the question. No offense will be taken. I know life is busy.

        Thank you for your work in the Lord… and for the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58.



        • Hi Chuck,

          It is a long answer and I’m not confident that I’m the best one to give it. What I meant is that the Hegel-inspired readings of history are really an versions of his eschatology more than a history. Ultimately Hegel (and all Hegelians) are more interested in the future than in what really happened and why. Now, to be sure, Schaff was a truly great scholar and his learning was amazing. Nevertheless, he was influenced by Hegel in such a way that, especially later in his career, he sometimes gave the impression that later developments were superior to earlier developments simply by virtue of their place in history. Hegel-inspired histories are prejudiced in favor of the present (in his case, the 19th century) and the future. Even though he identified with the Reformation he could be dismissive of it because he thought that history had moved beyond certain questions. That’s not a historical way of thinking. That’s an eschatological/theological claim.

          It’s the influence of Hegel that contributes to the oft-unstated but influential notion that “we know better now.” C S Lewis observed this phenomenon and complained about it.

          • Wow. This is a great help. Thanks for taking the time. As a student of church history and one who tries to share it with others, this helps me a great deal.

            I also better know how to read Schaff and appreciate him, while being aware of this propensity.

            Thank you so much.


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