Volume 91, 2017
Philosophy, Faith, and Modernity
“The Mystical is Everything Speculative”
Natural Theology in Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion
Hegel is a towering figure in modern philosophy, and he is interestingly a thinker for whom philosophical modernity and traditional religion are necessary partners in the pursuit of shared truth. In this paper, I use Hegel’s unique rendition on natural theology as a test-case for examining the intersection of traditional Christian religion and Idealist reason in Hegel’s philosophical modernity. Specifically, I raise the question of whether Hegel’s philosophy of religion is faithful to what philosopher William Desmond has called the “religious between,” within which God exists as superior, transcendent other to the finite human being existing in created dependence on Him. I argue that Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion contain a German idealist conception of natural theology that counterfeits this “between” by subordinating it to a pseudo-mystical quest for noetic union with God that obliterates what should be the irreducible difference between the human and the divine essence.