Hegelian Themes In Contemporary Theology -- By: Winfried Corduan

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 22:4 (Dec 1979)
Article: Hegelian Themes In Contemporary Theology
Author: Winfried Corduan

Hegelian Themes In Contemporary Theology

Winfried Corduan*

It is a premise underlying this paper that a systematic theology cannot help being influenced by one or more philosophical points of view. This philosophical background may express itself in many different ways, ranging from the language used to denote theological terms to the emphasis placed on particular theological categories and their definitions. As long as theology is seen as the task to relate the Biblical message and its historical interpretations in the most suitable cultural expressions, discovering the philosophical framework behind any given theology is of paramount importance in learning to understand it.

This paper will present a preliminary sketch of the possibilities in investigating Hegelian themes in contemporary German theology. Such an analysis, it must be said from the outset, does not mean that any of the theologians mentioned below are Hegelian theologians in the same sense as, for example, D. F. Strauss was in the nineteenth century. But we will show how they took recourse to Hegelian ideas in order to shed light on some theological issues. The problems of the mutability of God and of the natures of Christ, to mention just two, are being elucidated by taking recourse to some thoughts apparently derived from Hegel.

I. Hegel’s Theology

At the risk of belaboring the obvious it must be emphasized right from the start that Hegel, especially in his later mature period, considered religion as more than one facet of human experience among many others.1 It is no mere cultural accident for Hegel that revealed religion stands on the threshold of Absolute Spirit in his system.2 Theology is seen not as a phenomenon that must be emptied of all content by the all-devouring specter of abstract philosophy, as Hegel’s thought is so frequently represented3 (a caricature that could with a slim margin of possibility be applied to his youthful manuscripts4 but that certainly does not

*Winfried Corduan is assistant professor of religion and philosophy at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.

obtain in his earliest published essays5 ), but rather as the driving force in man’s realization of Absolute Spirit. It must be kept in mind that for Hegel the individual stages in the life of the Spirit are as important as the finished result.6 Hegel’s philosophy is a philosophy of

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