Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Hegel founded his entire philosophical system on a Christian worldview. This was a departure from Kant and a partial return to the approach of medieval thinkers such as Saint Augustine, Saint Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, and Saint Bonaventure. Hegel saw both philosophy and Christianity as progressing inexorably through history toward a morally and spiritually harmonious world under the governance of absolute reason. The first inklings of this dominant theme of Hegelian philosophy appeared in “The Spirit of Christianity and Its Fate.”

For Kant, the goal of all religion is to foster morality. Because morality necessarily involves autonomous decision making and therefore requires individual freedom, only a free rational being, not a robot or an obedient slave, can be a complete moral agent. Thus Kant’s philosophy of religion champions individual human dignity. For Hegel, religion includes this kind of morality, but its main purpose on earth is to create and promote “cohesive social morality” (Sittlichkeit). Hegel sees Kant’s duty-based, or deontological, ethics as one-sided (einseitig), because it attempts to reduce religion to ethics rather than incorporate religion on its own terms into a universal philosophical explanation of phenomena. For Hegel, philosophy is religious; for Kant, it is secular.

Kant’s ethics is terminally individualistic; that is, the individual must always obey conscience and perform the absolute,...

(The entire section is 437 words.)