The Owl of Minerva

Volume 36, Issue 2, Spring/Summer 2005

Peter C. Hodgson
Pages 153-163

Hegel’s God
Counterfeit or Real?

Desmond argues that the God portrayed in Hegel’s philosophy of religion is not the true and real God of Christian faith but an idol, a counterfeit. In this he articulates a critique of Hegel that goes back to Kierkegaard and Feuerbach, both of whom read Hegel as a pantheist and monist. My response is that such a reading is a misinterpretation—indeed, perversely so given Hegel’s repeated critiques of pantheism and atheism. For Hegel, the whole is not simply the one (a philosophy of identity), but the one and the many. Instead of identity, Hegel posits holism. Without genuine difference and otherness, without transcendence as well as immanence, there is no whole, no system of relations, no spiraling into novelty, but simply an eternal repetition of the same. God is this whole, the whole in which everything finite comes into being and passes away, the whole in which time and history transpire and God becomes concretely self-determined. Hegel’s holism offers an alternative to the monism of modern philosophy and the dualism of classical theology. As such, it is an authentic reading of original Christian faith.