Christians can read Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel fruitfully, if we downgrade slightly Hegel’s “belief” in the State as “self-knowing” to a “for fun, guys, let’s contemplate what religion looks like to the State if the State, itself, was the perfect being. The highest being.” (You may want to bookmark this one. It’s odd enough that you’ll need time to think it through for yourself.)
This downgrade must be made by the Christian, because otherwise Hegel actually competes with Moses, John and the others behind the Bible. And as far as that competition would be concerned, Hegel obviously loses because he does not promise eternal life, like the Bible writer’s do.
But! But, subsequent to the downgrade, Hegel’s conception of the State as a “concrete, self-aware being” is intriguing and can be useful to our Christian labors. How, you ask? Here’s how.
I haven’t been able find a reason to join a church. I haven’t. As most of you know, I grew up in church, left when I left for college, then moved away to the AF and from Christianity, and then ended up at a Christian seminary in a master’s program. While there, and just before there, I joined a black church, but the cultural divide was so great that it really doesn’t count as being a church member. The situation would be more accurately described by saying that both the real church members and I merely filled the role of “safe, outside consultants”.
Well, I’ve got a family now; there’ll be a grand total of three, not two, kids here in a matter of days. And I have a fourth working out her salvation elsewhere. And I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, that I have the Holy Spirit in me, that all should be done for the glory of God, and so I want to continue down the Christian way. But I struggle with the church membership bit. And I know I’m not alone. We all struggle with it, Christians and non-believers. Why join a church?
Well, here’s where Hegel’s modified look at the State comes in. If the State were this perfect being, then necessarily in our belief-in-this-being’s-perfection, we’d naturally agree with his, the State’s, perfect judgement. And on the matter of church membership, the State would encourage it.
Why? Because in the behavior of citizens being members of the local church (no matter the particular denominations etc.) the citizens are essentially “buying into” or “leaning into” or “doubling down on” their belief in the State.
Now, Hegel never mentions what I’m about to, but by my thinking the following runs through his thinking like a vein.
The idea here in this post, the simplified, fruitful version if Hegel’s idea, is not more complicated than to say without strong activity in the small institutions of the State (nation) by citizens, the big or overall institution (the nation) cannot be made as good as it could be made. Of course, underscoring this concept—and hopefully made clear by the post title’s “One Christian Perspective”—is the belief that the church is more than just a “small institution by which to make perfect the State.” What Christian reads the Bible and thinks “Oh! I get it. It’s like what Hegel said!”? But to a man of action like myself, the fact that this type of thinking moves me up from the comfort of the couch is the important part.
Would it move you up from the couch, unchurched Christian? Love of nation as the reason to stick out the undesirable parts of church membership?
If so, don’t tell me in the comments. Instead, look for me and my “bleed on the flag to keep the stripes red” love of country in church this weekend.