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Notes from the Book “Luther and Hegel” by Ulrich Asendorf

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How is Luther’s Theology Related to Hegel’s Philosophy?

notes taken by Peter Krey

Notes from reviewing Ulrich Asendorf’s Luther and Hegel: Untersuchung zur Grundlegung einer Neuen Systematischen Theologie, (An Investigation for the Foundation of a New Systematic Theology), (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, GMBH, 1982), an 11 page Bibliograpgy, 529 pages in all.

I studied sections of this book when I was working on the question: „Does the Immanent Trinity Precede the Economic Trinity in Hegel?” It became a 200 page unfinished manuscript. When I was writing it I was really exploring Hegel and books about the Holy Trinity in order to understand the question. I was in an open ended, exploratory mode of thinking, which precludes the possibility of finishing a work.

Now I realize that the economic Trinity refers to God as relating to creation, redemption, and sanctification of humankind on earth, while the immanent Trinity is the blessed Triune Godhead in God’s self; the Aseity of God, in philosophical terms.

According to the paradoxical principle, which Hegel as a Lutheran held, that the finite is capable of containing infinity (finitum capax infiniti) and thus in concert with it, for Hegel the economic Trinity does precede and hold the immanent Trinity. Then again, however, for Hegel, the matter goes through a reversal, because of his arguing for logical precedence over chronological precedence; or as in Jesus saying, “Before Abraham was, I am,” that is, the precedence of God’s Son’s divine nature coming before his human nature.

Thus the question has to be understood in its double paradox, namely that first, the economic Trinity precedes the immanent Trinity and then secondly, that logical and ontological states precede chronological time. But from this vantage point it is now possible to read Hegel and determine what his position is on the question. In this way my work on Hegel could once again proceed and not try to cover the whole waterfront or to say the same thing in German: um nicht ins Uferlose zu vergehen.

Here are some notes taken while rereading Asendorf’s Luther and Hegel: (N.B.: All the following translations from the German are mine.)

Asendorf, page 151: “Luther’s teaching concerning the Trinity concentrates on the coming of God to us, thus on the economic Trinity. With this salvation-economic conception of the Trinity, Luther joins himself above all with Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Athanasius, in once again placing a different accent on this teaching from that of Augustine, for whom the salvation-economic interest clearly begins to disappear.”

Asendorf, page 152: Luther discloses (erschliesst) the immanent Trinity from the economic Trinity: “In view of early Scholasticism [with its emphasis on the immanent Trinity] [Luther] continues his tendency of placing a strong emphasis on the economic Trinity in [an ever greater] opposition to Scholasticism, thus liberating the teaching of the Trinity from its isolation. From the revealed Trinity he discloses the immanent Trinity. Again Luther sustains his thinking through salvation history, when he understands the teaching of the Trinity essentially from an economic salvation perspective, or better yet, he opens up access to the teaching of the Trinity from this vantage-point, and this fact is precisely the strongest proof for his historically mediated thinking. It seems therefore justified that such a conceptualization of the teaching of the Trinity can be recognized as a prefiguration of Hegelian thinking. With the prior significance of history and with it, the economic Trinity, the secret of the inner workings of the Trinity (opera trinitatis ad intra]; whose explication is impossible without speculative help, opens up.”

Asendorf cites R. Jansen in a footnote: “If Luther can use the same Bible verse (John 15:26) to give both economic Trinitarian and immanent Trinitarian interpretations even at the same time, then it is an index for the way the immanent Trinitarian statements for him are only the necessary, preliminary theological statements for economic Trinitarian sentences. The opera trinitatis ad extra and the opera trinitatis ad intra allow themselves to be distinguished but not separated.”

Page 158: “In Hegel’s thinking both the logical process of the self-realization of the Spirit, as well as the history of the whole, point to theological relationships, which were thought out beforehand by Luther and are philosophically rethought by Hegel.”

Hegel and Luther, of course, work from different presuppositions, [with philosophy using reason and theology using faith], but Hegel was and remained a good Lutheran.

N.B. For Luther’s theology and Hegel’s philosophy, the operative word again has to be mutatis mutandis, i.e. the necessary changes having been made.

Page 159: “Luther’s teaching of justification and Hegel’s Philosophy of the Spirit can be seen as different delineations of the same phenomenon.” Luther said that the Spirit makes the lover and the beloved one.

Page 160: Luther at the end of the Bondage of the Will writes of the light of nature, the light of grace, and the light of glory:

In note 32, page 160, Asendorf explains: “In a threefold light, each higher step explains what was insoluble at a lower one.“ In German: „In dreifachen Licht erklärt die jeweils höhere Stufe das, was der niederen verschlossen war.

Thus Luther writes that what cannot be understood in the light of nature can be resolved in the light of grace and what cannot be understood in the light of grace can be resolved in the light of glory.[1]

Asendorf, page 160, quotes Luther this way: “In the simple world of morality there is no explanation why the good have to suffer, this however becomes resolved in the light of grace. In the light of grace it cannot be understood why someone who can do nothing but sin, becomes punished by the righteousness of God. But what cannot be solved by the light of grace will be, in the light of glory. Each lower step becomes resolved in the higher one. (aufgehoben) All three are caught up in the unity of their teleological movement. Only from the vantage-point of the telos, can the whole process become understood.”

Page 162: N.B. Is Hegel’s philosophy based on Luther’s theology? According to Asendorf, different from Hegel, there is a double reflection [of realized eschatology and still outstanding eschatology for theology]. Although history before and history after the crucifixion are there for both theology and philosophy; but only history itself can be the court of judgment [for Hegel’s philosophy] while the last judgment when history comes to an end (can be taken into account for theology as well). Instead of simple reflection involving [only] the realized eschatology of Hegel, Luther’s double reflection [upon realized eschatology and the eschatology that still stands out] takes place theologically. “What Luther in his explication of justification thought out beforehand in [that double reflection], becomes for Hegel a new starting point for philosophy.” (162)

“In a strict sense Hegel’s philosophy is the historical thought of the reality transformed by Christ. It is both a philosophy from revelation and of revelation.”

“Luther’s teaching or theology about the sacrament of communion is the classical locus of Hegel’s concrete spirit thinking.”

Page 163: The Trinity, Christology, the theology of the sacrament, and the theology of the Trinity, all form a direct line toward the concrete spirit of the economic teaching of the Trinity. The Spirit is mediated historically, oriented toward the Incarnation and Passion. Luther comes close to Monophysitism (one incarnate nature of Christ) and Theopaschitism, i.e., that God the Father also suffered on the cross) by holding to the concrete spirit and saying “God is dead” and by calling Christ, the God-martyr.

Page 163: “In a double way Hegel remains in Luther’s footsteps, when he not only articulates the concrete spirit in a new way, but makes the death of God the cornerstone of his thinking.” Luther first encountered the abstract spirit in Zwingli and the latter [not Luther’s concrete spirit] became victorious in the Enlightenment. Zwingli’s is the opposite figure encountered in Luther’s understanding of the concrete spirit. In Hegel there is a new awakening of anti-spiritualistic thought.

Page 172-173: Kant loses sight of history in his philosophy. “In that Kant established his concept of [human and natural] science on Newton’s physics, in a compulsory way the realm of history had to be precluded.” N.B.: Perhaps Kant replaced religion with rational morality.

Page 193: Here Asendorf finds just the right words for a thought: “This interpretation does not only change the original meaning, but succeeds to make it mean the exact opposite.”

“Bultmann’s demythologization style is a kind of an existentialist interpretation carried out under the banner of morality.” Bultmann follows Kant’s deletion of history from philosophy and thus the Incarnation, Ascension, etc. all become meaningless. God does not come up in the naturalism of science. [And Kant’s metaphysics are very much oriented around the physics of the natural sciences.]

Page 193 bottom: N.B. Do an economic study in the spirit of Luther. Perhaps the new orientation of evolutionary economics in Eric D. Beinhocker’s The Origin of Wealth and Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daly’s Unjust Deserts could be helpful in this endeavor.[2]

Page 194: In Kant and those who follow in his footsteps, giving any objectivity to theology becomes impossible. “Theology cannot accept the way Kant excludes it from claiming to have objects. [With Kant’s objectivization Verbot] Theology loses itself at the same time as it loses its object.”

Page 196: “For Kant contradiction does not lie at the heart of reality.” In German; „Hier gehört der Widerspruch prinzipiell nicht zum Wesen der Wirklichkeit.”

N.B: I believe Michael Polanyi describes a contradiction in the middle of reality or one close to it in his book, Science, Faith and Society. Polanyi is speaking about the experience of scientists in a Marxist-Leninist ideology that “denies the intrinsic creative powers of thought.”[3]

And “Since this power regards itself as the embodiment of historic destiny and as a dispenser of history’s promises to humankind, it can acknowledge no superior claims to truth, justice or morality. Alternatively, materialistic (or romantic) philosophies, denying any universal claims to standards of truth, justice or morality, may deprive citizens of any grounds for appealing to these standards and thus endow the government with absolute power. The two practices are in fact fused in their joint justification of force as superior to mind.

“But we must add here an additional process which makes violence the embodiment of the values it overrides. Those in our day who brought into power governments exempt from standards of humanity were themselves prompted by an intense passion for the ideals which they so contemptuously brushed aside. They had rejected the overt professions of these ideals as philosophically unsound, hypocritical and specious, but they had covertly injected the same ideals into the new despotisms which they set up. Thus these ideals became immanent in the violence that ruthlessly rejected them. By virtue of the moral inversion (as I have later called it), the very immoralism of this power became a token of its moral purity. In view of its internal structure it could honestly reject any accusations of immorality in the very breath of proclaiming its own immorality.”[4]

N.B.: Perhaps it would be more accurate to say “force as superior to mind” is a contradiction in the midst of a social reality. But Polanyi’s description of modern despotisms reminded me of what Martin Luther faced in an unreformed church headed by corrupt popes. Instead of honest debate for the sake of truth, he was labeled a heretic, and what an irony, that one of the statements listed as heretical, was that burning heretics at the stake was wrong, and should not be allowed for the church! In burning a person at the stake, the Christian ideals of love and righteousness “became immanent in the violence that ruthlessly rejected them.” To forbid coercive power to the church, but allow it as a lesser of evils to the civil government, still plants a contradiction into reality, but one that needs to be overcome by ever decreasing the coercion of governments as well, when the evil and violence they block internally and externally also decreases. Note that Kant’s categorical imperative constituted immorality as a rational contradiction.

On pages 196, 358, and 389 Asendorf mentions the Latin formula, finitum capax infiniti: the finite is capable of containing the inifinite. Kant held that finitum non capax infiniti, i.e. that it was not. Zwingli and Calvin provide science with a foundation for the empty finite. God is repressed or expelled from the world. (Gott Verdrängung) (“Verdrängung” is a psychological word meaning driven into the unconscious where God cannot be remembered nor accessed).

Page 198: Nominalism splits reason and revelation.

Page 200 top: “Kant’s religion of morality leaves the human being alone, unredeemed or feeling no need of redemption. In a transfigured light, over the complete horizontalism of his thinking, hovers the utopian cloud of a kingdom of God; of course, as the perfected kingdom of humanism. The cross of Christ has become superfluous. And in the schizophrenia of our time, theologians have remained Kantian.”

Page 182: Theology can be inside Philosophy, much like the infinite inside the finite. “The unity of [Hegel’s] form consists of the unending togetherness and mutual indwelling of theology and philosophy.”

N.B. A verse in the spirit of Luther

The One greater than the all in all

Now lies in a crib so small.

Page 262: From the German Christmas Song by Martin Luther:

Der aller Welt Kreis nie beschloss,

der liegt in Marien Schoss.

The One too great for the universe to wrap

is now sweetly lying in Mary’s lap.


N.B. Again in his Bondage of the Will, Luther’s thinking is dialectical and tends to ascend toward higher levels of resolution. Thus his thinking etches out nuances that monological thinkers often fail to grasp. For example, in his different relational fora, Luther does not reject free will on the horizontal level, i.e., coram hominibus (before others), but only before God, coram Deo. In a similar way Luther does not reject reason, the way some think he does, monolithically, charging him with fidéism. Reason remains the queen of its earthly house. Only when caught up in human pride, when it goes out of bounds, interferes with a person’s faith, and tries to set itself over God, does Luther reject it. Luther’s levels of understanding ascending from the light of nature through the light of grace and into the light of glory in his Bondage of the Will,[5] remind me of Hegel’s thinking ascending from a philosophy of substance to one of the subject, which he finally brings to the concept in the philosophy of the spirit.

I will translate the following long citation from U. Asendorf:

Page 408: Die allgemeine theologische Bedeutung von Hegels Logik

Diese ergibt sich aus der Auseinandersetztung mit dem Denken der Aufklärung. Der Verstand als das Trennende, am Widerspruch scheiternde Denken, zerstört die Religion. Aufgabe des Denkens, nicht nur des theologischen, ist es, den Bereich der einander entgegengesetzten Reflexionsvorstellungen und ihre Abstraktheit zu überwinden. Der Gegensatz zwischen Betrachtetem und Betrachtendem muss aufgehoben werden. Die logische Bestimmungen sind daher doppelt, insofern sie dem Seiendem wie dem Denken zuzuschreiben sind.

Das Denken muss zur Höhe der Idee hinaufgehoben werden, in welcher Subjektivität und Objektivität gleich sind. Hier geht es um den ersten Zusammenhang der Idee mit dem Ganzen.

Hegels Logik formuliert dann den Aufbau der logischen Welt in einem dreifachen Aufstieg von der Seins- über die Wesens- zur Begriffslogik.

Page 409: Wenn sich Hegels Logik ferner um eine neue Erschliessung des Ganzen bemüht, so ist das Leben die Idee, so dass dieses teils Leben, teils Erkennen, teils Wissenschaft ist. Dieser Bezug der Idee auf das Ganze impliziert einen hohen theologischen Anspruch, nämlich das Wissen des Absoluten, welches darin begründet ist, dass Gott Geist ist und im Geist und in der Wahrheit erkannt werden will. Deswegen gilt beides, dass Gott das Ganze ist und dass er absoluter Begriff ist. Es ist darum nicht zufällig, wenn Hegels Begriffslogik offenbarungstheologisch begründet ist. Wenn aber die Begriffslogik als offenbarungstheologisch begründete, wenngleich unzulängliche Kommunikationstheorie verstanden werden kann, so gilt das nicht zuletzt trinitätslogisch in den doppelten Bezugssystem der immanenten und der ökonomischen Trinität. Es liegt also in den Konsequenz des Hegelschen Denkens, wenn die entwicklung der logischen Kategorien die Entwicklung der metaphysischen Bestimmungen Gottes ist, wie ferner die Vernunft erst im Licht des geoffenbarten Absoluten zu sich selbst finden kann, weil Hegels Ansatz ein rein immanentisches Vernunfstverständnis ausschliesst. Auch darin hat er die äussersten Kantischen Grenzmarkierungen hinter sich gelassen. Aus allem Gesagten folgt, dass der Geist erst mit begriffslogischen Kategorien voll erfasst werden kann.

Aus den Gesagten folgt aber auch, dass die oft zu hörende Kritik, Hegel verstosse in einer gradezu klassischen Weise gegen Luthers Verbot der Spekulation, nicht zutrifft. Luthers Kritik nämlich richtet sich dagegen, mit Hilfe der Spekulation an der Offenbarung vorbei zu Gott gelangen zu wollen and damit die Vernunft an die Stelle der göttlichen Offenbarung zu setzen, wodurch diese gegenstandslos würde. Hegels Denken wird von diesem Vorwurf nicht getroffen, weil er von der in Christus geschehenen Versöhnung her philosophisch denkt.

To translate the notes from page 408 and 409 in English:

Page 408:

8.5 The General Theological Significance of Hegel’s Logic

This ensues from the confrontation of his thought with the Enlightenment. The kind of reason that brings separation and fails in face of a contradiction destroys religion. It is the task of thinking, and not only of the theological kind, to overcome abstraction and the realm of representations of reflection that oppose each other. The opposition between the observer and observed has to be overcome (aufgehoben). The logical determinations are therefore doubled, insofar as they are attributed to being and thinking.

Thinking has to be lifted up to the level of the idea,[6] to the point where subjectivity and objectivity become the same. Crucial here is the first relationship of the idea with the whole.

Hegel’s logic, therefore formulates the ascension of the logical world in a threefold rising level [of logic] from being- through essence- to concept logic. [N.B. like the progression from substance to subject to concept or spirit]

Page 409: Because Hegel’s logic further concerns itself with an opening up of the whole, thus life is idea, such that the latter is partly life, partly perception, and partly science [again science as understood as both natural and human.] This relation of the idea to the whole implies a high level claim on theology, namely, the knowing of the absolute, which is therein grounded in that God is spirit and wants to be known in Spirit and in truth. That is why it is both valid that God is the whole and that God is the absolute Concept. Therefore it is not by chance that Hegel’s concept-logic is grounded theologically in revelation. If however the logic of the concept is grounded in revelation theologically, even if an inadequate communication theory could be understood by it, then it is valid not last of all for the logic of the Trinity in the double relational system of the immanent and economic Trinity. Therefore abiding in the consequences of the thinking of Hegel, it is the case that the development of his logical categories is [at the same time] the development of the metaphysical determinations of God, and further, reason can only find its way back to itself in the light of the Absolute, because Hegel’s thinking precludes an understanding of reason as purely immanent. Even here it shows that he left the outermost markings of the Kantian limitations behind him. From all that has been said, it follows that only with concept logical categories can the Spirit become fully grasped.

But from what was said it also follows that the often heard criticism is misplaced, namely, that Hegel violated Luther’s prohibition against speculation in a diametrically classical way. That is because Luther’s criticism is directed against that kind of thinking, which by the help of speculation wants to reach God through by-passing revelation and by wanting to place reason alongside God’s revelation, thus taking away the latter’s object. This reproach fails to touch Hegel’s thinking, because his philosophy has its starting point and is based on the atonement that happened through Christ.

Now paraphrasing Asendorf further in English:

Page 410: Hegel knows well that he is following the philosophical tradition and cannot proceed by faith. But his philosophy provides a place for Christian revelation, because his thinking starts from it. Hegel’s thinking demonstrates its theological and revelatory source in three ways.

1. The language form of his thinking that brings reconciliation to opposites

2. Because of his mutual and reciprocal relation of the Spirit and History his logic also contains the movement of history

3. And finally the concrete nature of his thinking demonstrates its theological and revelatory source.

Very early already Hegel criticized the false infinity of Kant, because he wanted to strengthen his commitment to finitum capax infiniti: the finite could grasp the infinite. To separate both completely, Hegel held to be Manichaean.

Page 410: Hegel’s concrete spirit is spirit moving through history.

His reference to a doubly wrong world reminds me of a place in Luther’s Commentary on Psalm 117: “Grace appears outwardly as if it were pure wrath, so deeply does it lie hidden under two thick [covers]…which is probably why St. Peter says, ‘the word alone shines upon us as in a dark place’ (2 Peter 1:19). Yes, certainly in a dark place!”[7]

Page 411: After considering the separation of the finite from the infinite, Asendorf states: “The option for the absolute finite and [abstract] spiritualism are factually identical. A similar negative judgment can only also be made for a pure theological horizontalism. The latter in the truest sense of the word by dint of its logical incapacity, does not know what it is talking about….In this sense the concept in its theological significance has to be disclosed and considered anew, insofar as it is the process, in which the infinite and the finite are connected.”

Page 411 (bottom): Dialectic

“By the fundamental schema of his “Encyclopedia,” three steps need to be differentiated, namely, the abstractly understood, the dialectical-negative reasonable, and the speculative positive reasonable (Vernünftige). The first two belong to Enlightenment thinking. The third reaches the fullness of the concept. Only in this way does the idea realize itself fully in the concept.”

Page 412: “Therefore, the Spirit is not a state of being but a movement. Luther’s Deus semper actuosus [God’s always living, acting, and working] reaches all the way into Hegel’s logic. Because of that, logic can be the philosophical organum [instrument] for grasping the things of God, the way faith is, for the theological.”

Page 435: “Luther’s tract, “The Freedom of a Christian” is the secret center of the philosophy of the Spirit, which is as such at one and the same time the philosophy of history.”

Page 435: Hegel held fast to Lutheranism his whole life, like the Latin speech he gave as the rector of the University of Berlin on the third anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, 25th of June, 1830. “The unending pain embodied in Israel, stands opposite the unending positivism in Christ. The birth of Christ is the dialectically understood turning point in the history of the Spirit.”

Page 435-436: “Hegel wanted to lift up the representation of faith, love, and hope to the reality of a self-conscious rationality (Vernünftigkeit), namely, in a worldly kingdom of a community of free people. In its mere subjectivity, it is a kingdom of arbitrary choice and barbarism, which is not mediated by and does not stand opposite to an other-worldly kingdom. Thus Hegel speaks of the difficult conflict between the different [sides] of this idea, in which the kingdoms are rooted, the spiritual [kingdom] of a heavenly existence and the [kingdom of] a common, earthly reality. When heaven descends and settles down on the earth and the worldly ‘gets built upward’ out of its abstract being-for-itself to the rationality of justice (Recht) and law, then the old opposition is weakened to insignificance. The presence has stripped itself of its barbarism and the truth has stripped itself of its other-worldliness. With that, the atonement has become objective, so that the state has unfolded as the image of the reality of reason. Religion and science (understood as both natural and human science) become complementary manifestations of truth.”

N.B. Luther relegates reason and law to the state and faith and the Gospel to the church. Hegel seems to be thinking this position through in all its implications. Only if Hegel then substituted the state for the church would he have gone wrong. But if he saw a kind of partnership of the church and state via such different ways of operating, then he would still be thinking in the spirit of Luther.

Luther could see those in the vocation of the state as saviors. Like a Norwegian theologian, who disagreed with me, when I said that Luther’s theology was used there for the aggrandizement of the state at the expense of genuine faith and the church.[8] He said that Luther’s theology had changed the whole paradigm of the church and state, because they became the two wings of a new butterfly.

Page 436: “The concept is the subject as well as the object of the idea.”

“The double movement of estrangement and return are understood together as the concept of the Spirit.”

Page 437: A criticism of Hegel is that for him an unknown future does not exist. It is a problem that for the sake of philosophy Hegel excludes faith. [N.B. But that is legitimate when reasoning under the auspices of philosophy and the state.]

Page 440: But he places the Christ event in the middle of his philosophy.

Page 438, footnote: Hegel no longer wished to allow the paradoxical and oppositions to diverge infinitely, (like Kant and Kierkegaard did) but sought their reconciliation through his thought. “Thus Hegel concerns himself with melting the absolute and the concrete, the universal and the particular, [together] into the concept.”[9]

Page 445: “The reasonable is reality and what is real is reasonable.” or “The rational is reality and what is real is rational.” Another permutation: “The real is rational and the rational real.” (Vernünftig, “Vernunft” means reason.) (N.B. When my father said, “Sei doch vernünftig!” he meant “Behave! Be reasonable!”

N.B. The philosophy of being holds the whole world in stasis. It as if it were based upon the Ptolemaic Universe, where the earth stood still and the sun, moon, and stars rose and set around it. Movement was peripheral, while the still-standing earth allowed for a static logic. But now we understand that the planet earth revolves around the sun, the sun is moving inside the galaxy of the Milky Way, which is swirling around a black hole, while all the galaxies are diverging in an expanding universe. Now a logic of becoming, one that has movement at its center, thinks in terms of grasping a moving target. Hegel’s is a logic of becoming, of life, of development.

Page 456: “In the absolute Spirit, freedom and history interpret each other.”

As on page 484, here Hegel presents the Trinity in his language:

Page 476: “God is Spirit, – i.e. that, which we call the Three-in-One God; – God is Spirit – the absolute activity actus purus i.e., Subjectivity – eternal personality – unending – differentiating himself from himself – [thus] begetting – but this differentiation is in the eternal concept, i.e. held in generality as absolute subjectivity, – so it is placed in his unending differentiation, not for the sake of darkness – i.e. Being-for-itself – non-transparency, impenetrability and coming to end – but at the same time as his differentiation remaining in an immediate oneness, and in his differentiation in himself – so with that, the whole divine Concept – Son – and God, this absolute unity as in his-self, in his difference, identical with himself, as eternal love.” N.B.: Hegel seems to be contemplating the Holy Trinity through the Holy Spirit, where we usually do through the Son or the Father.

Page 483: “Love is, namely, the gazing at oneself in the other.” N.B. Elsewhere Hegel would says, the differentiating of oneself from the other.

Page 484: Here Hegel presents the Trinity in his language.

Page 484, footnote 57: J. Splett writes, “[Hegel’s] logic as a whole is the presentation of the speculative truth, which Christian dogmatics calls the immanent Trinity, like his whole system is the economic Trinity.”

N.B. Wow! That is quite a claim!

Page 485: “The Spirit is to be grasped as Being himself, For-himself, and In-and-for-himself.” („Geist ist damit nach seinem Ansich-, seinem Fürsich- und seinem An-und-für-sich-sein zu begreifen.“)

N.B. Hegel challenges Kant’s phenomenal limitation of the noumenal. For Hegel knowledge of a limit means that ne already knows something beyond the limit. Thus Kant’s things and things- in-themselves do not relate with Hegel’s movement of thought and life expressed in being-itself, being-for-itself, and being–in-and-for-itself.

Page 495: “Love is to be understood in its endless pain and its healing of it.”

Page 495: “The concept of the absolute oneness of the divine and human nature – is the reality of God.”

N.B. Perhaps this is the contradiction in the midst of reality.

N.B. Reading Asendorf’s considerations for a new systematic theology helped by Hegel’s philosophy, I realize that perhaps when I ascribe growth to the theory of opposites, it may be more a philosophical insight than a theological one. That way I introduce the mediation of reasoning. It resembles the way I’ve begun to speak about God in another dimension rather than in heaven. A philosophical and intellectual mediation seems to replace faith as much as when Asendorf argues that justification by faith has no place in Hegel’s philosophy (page 514) where it is quite central in Luther’s theology.

Thus the presuppositions as well as the different associations or contexts of meaning have to be taken into consideration in theology on the one hand and in philosophy on the other. That is why when taking a philosophical word and using it theologically, it first has to undergo a bath, like baptism. (Page 511) Otherwise the distortion and mistakes produced by a mixing of categories could occur, i.e., a categorical error.

Page 514: “The statement, in its association of meanings, “contradictio est regula veri” [contradiction is the basis of truth] could not have been understood in classical Greek philosophy and logic.”

Page 515: The ancients would not have understood negation as an essential in dialectical thought, the double negative as affirmative, the doubly wrong world or the atonement of opposites as a task of logic.

Page 515: A principled shake-up of metaphysics cannot be addressed merely by Nygren’s presuppositional analysis. („Eine prinzipielle Perhorreszierung der Metaphysic hindert also die Theologie genauso wie die Philosophie daran, ihere logischen Klärungsfunktion gerecht zu werden.“)

To translate: “A principled shake-up of metaphysics hinders theology as well as philosophy from carrying out their logical clarifying function adequately.”

Page 516: “In the sense of modern philosophical anthropology, the world-openness of people is brought into a three-fold expression, namely, in the schema: God/human, human/nature (creation), and Spirit/history.”

N.B. Hegel may have been citing Luther in saying that the Holy Spirit was involved in justification. (I seem to have read that in Luther’s Genesis Commentary. While Hegel does not speak of faith, he does champion the concrete spirit.

Page 517: Asendorf claims, “Hegel did not sacrifice faith for philosophical speculation.”

Page 517: Hegel said, “A half of philosophy leads away from God…, true philosophy, however, leads toward God.” Perhaps the text for Hegel’s philosophy comes from 2 Corinthians 3:17: “The Lord is Spirit and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

N.B. I wonder why philosophy cannot consider the future, nor faith? Why is it in principle that eschatology is closed to philosophy?

Page 518: Hegel’s philosophy looks backward not forward. Think of the owl of Minerva! Hegel concentrates on realized eschatology, but not the eschatology that still stands out.

N.B. Asendorf has quite a wonderful last paragraph: “The remaining difference only makes [more] clear the deep relationship of Luther and Hegel, which has its source in a common philosophy of love, in the joyful exchange, the recognizing oneself in the other. Crucial is the vis unitiva, ex amante et amato unum quid constituenz, [the uniting power that makes the lover and the beloved one], which comes out of Luther’s Epistle to the Romans Lectures, as well as from his great meditation on Galatians 2:20 in his later lectures on the Epistles to the Galatians, where it receives its classical formulation. Out of love, as Hegel discovered it in the Gospel of John, the whole philosophy of Spirit develops in ever new onslaughts. In a similar and comparable way for Luther the “love of Christ” is taken in the sense of the double genitive [i.e. of our loving Christ and Christ’s loving us], which finds its form in justification, the center of the circle that encloses all.”


[1] In Luther’s Bondage of the Will, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell, 1957), page 316-317 or see Luther’s Works, Vol. 33, page 291 or the Weimar Edition, Vol. 18, ca. page 787.

[2] Eric D. Beinhocker, The Origin of Wealth: the Radical Remaking of Economics and What It Means for Business and Society, (Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Press, 2006, 2007). And Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daly, Unjust Deserts, (New York: The New Press, 2008).

[3] Michael Polanyi, Science, Faith and Society: a Searching Examination of Meaning and Nature of Scientific Inquiry, (University of Chicago Press, 1946), page 17.

[4] Ibid., pages 17-18.

[5] In Luther’s Bondage of the Will, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell, 1957), page 316-317 or see Luther’s Works, Vol. 33, page 291 or the Weimar Edition, Vol. 18, ca. page 787.

[6] Mostly I have been using the term “concept” where Asendorf uses the term “idea.”

[7] Philip and Peter Krey, editors, Luther’s Spirituality, (New York: Paulist Press, 2007), page 142. Check out Luther’s dumbfounding, divine, diabolical dialectic in this place.

[8] In a private conversation in Washington, D.C. with either Inge or Per Lønning at the Luther Jubilee, November 6-12, 1983.

[9] Asendorf is citing H. Schmitz, Hegel als Denker der Individualität, (MPF XX, Meisenheim/Glan, 1957).



3 Responses

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  1. […] Notes from the Book “Luther and Hegel” by Ulrich Asendorf ( […]

  2. […] Notes from the Book “Luther and Hegel” by Ulrich Asendorf ( […]

  3. From Luther to Hitler!
    Luther,s Antisemitism was a start for Holocaust! Luther, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Wagner= Hitler!


    April 23, 2014 at 7:38 pm

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