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Faith and the Absolute: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

‘If Kant was the one who brought about the revolution in philosophy that is its modern achievement, Hegel was the one who made the event explicit’.1 Whether the work of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) may be qualified as a ‘titanic synthesis’, in which God is constructed out of the particular,1 [1] [2] or as a ‘Gnostic return in Modernity’ may be left open for the time being. Hegel has great merits which are recognized even by his sternest opponents. For instance, Hans Urs von Balthasar acknowledges Hegel’s closeness to the patristic author St. Maximus the Confessor.[3] Even Hegel’s philosophical critics, such as Eric Voegelin, recognize his unusual philosophical genius and intellectual power.[4] Gislain Lafont concedes that Hegel restored the intellectual nature of theology and redirected human knowledge to the half-forgotten objective of universality. Moreover, Hegel re-established the intellectual importance of the doctrine of Trinity by making its interpretation the foundation of his own philosophical work.[5]

A precise description of Hegel’s notion of faith would require an analysis of most of his works. Since that is impossible here, let us consider only three perspectives under which his notion of faith can be approached.

  • [1] David Walsh, The Modern Philosophical Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008),p. 76.
  • [2] Hans Urs von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe according to Maximus the Confessor, trans.Brian E. Daley, S.J. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003), p. 282.
  • [3] Von Balthasar, Cosmic Liturgy, p. 17, and especially p. 95.
  • [4] Eric Voegelin, In Search of Order (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999), pp. 69-85.
  • [5] Ghislain Lafont, Histoire theologique de l’Eglise catholique (Paris: Du Cerf, 1994), ch. 2.
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