, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 515–533 | Cite as

God, Incarnation, and Metaphysics in Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion



In this article, I draw upon the ‘post-Kantian’ reading of Hegel to examine the consequences Hegel’s idea of God has on his metaphysics. In particular, I apply Hegel’s ‘recognition-theoretic’ approach to his theology. Within the context of this analysis, I focus especially on the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ. First, I argue that Hegel’s philosophy of religion employs a distinctive notion of sacrifice (kenotic sacrifice). Here, sacrifice is conceived as a giving up something of oneself to ‘make room’ for the other. Second, I argue that the idea of kenotic sacrifice plays a fundamental role in Hegel’s account of Christ. Third, I conclude by sketching some of the consequences of Hegel’s idea of a God who renounces his own divinity for an idealistically conceived metaphysics. My main thesis is that the notion of incarnation is conceived by Hegel as the expression of a spirit that advances only insofar as it is willing to withdraw and make room for the other. A kenotic reading of the Hegelian notion of the incarnation is also useful in terms of a clarification of the dispute between ‘left Hegelians’ and ‘right Hegelians’ concerning the status of the idea of God in Hegel’s philosophy.


Hegel Sacrifice God Religion Incarnation Metaphysics 


  1. Altizer, T. J. J. (1967). The gospel of Christian atheism. London: Collins.Google Scholar
  2. Bataille, G. (1955). Hegel, la Mort et le Sacrifice. Deucalion, 5, 21–43. Translated by J. Strauss (1990), ‘Hegel, Death and Sacrifice’, Yale French Studies, 78, 9–28.Google Scholar
  3. Bataille, G. (1993). The accursed share. New York: Zone Books. Translated by R. Hurley.Google Scholar
  4. Brandom, R. B. (2002). Tales of the mighty dead. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bubbio, P.D. (2012). Sacrifice in Hegel’s phenomenology of spirit. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 20(2), 797–815.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Deranty, J.-P. (2011). Hegel’s metaphysics as hermeneutics. Parrhesia 11, 80–83.Google Scholar
  7. Fackenheim E. (1967). The religious dimension in Hegel’s thought. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Hodgson, P. C. (2005). Hegel and Christian theology: A reading of the lectures on the philosophy of religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Houlgate, S. (2004). Religion, morality and forgiveness in Hegel’s philosophy. In W. Desmond, E.-O. Onnasch and P. Cruysberghs (Eds.), Philosophy and religion in German idealism (pp. 82–101). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  10. Jaeschke, W. (1990). Reason in religion: The foundations of Hegel’s philosophy of religion. Translated by J. M. Stewart and P. C. Hodgson. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  11. Jüngel, E. (1983). God as the mystery of the world: On the foundation of the theology of the crucified one in the dispute between theism and atheism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Translated by D. L. Guder.Google Scholar
  12. Kant, I. (1960). Religion within the limits of reason alone. New York: Harper & Row. Translated by T. M. Greene and H. H. Hudson.Google Scholar
  13. Kline, G. (1964). Some recent reinterpretations of Hegel’s philosophy. The Monist, 4(8), 34–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kreines, J. (2006). Hegel's metaphysics: Changing the debate. Philosophy Compass, 1.5, 466–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kreines, J. (2008). ‘Hegel: Metaphysics without pre-critical monism’. Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain, 57/58, 48–70.Google Scholar
  16. Lanzetta, B. J. (1992). Three categories of nothingness in Eckhart. The Journal of Religion, 72(2), 248–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Moltmann, J. (1985). God in creation: A new theology of creation and the spirit of god. San Francisco: Harper & Row. Translated by M. Kohl.Google Scholar
  18. Nuzzo, A. (2009). Vagueness and Meaning Variance in Hegel's Logic. In A. Nuzzo (Ed.), Hegel and the Analytic Tradition (pp. 61–89). London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  19. O’Regan, C. (1994). The heterodox Hegel. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  20. O’Regan, C. (2002). Gnostic apocalypse: Jacob’s Boehme’s haunted narrative. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  21. Pagano, M. (1992). Hegel: la Religione e l’Ermeneutica del Concetto. Napoli: ESI.Google Scholar
  22. Pinkard, T. (1994). Hegel’s phenomenology: The sociality of reason. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pinkard, T. (2002). German philosophy 1760–1860: The legacy of idealism. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Pippin, R. B. (1989). Hegel’s idealism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pippin, R. B. (1991). Modernism as a philosophical problem. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2nd).Google Scholar
  26. Pippin, R. B. (2000). ‘What is the question for which Hegel’s theory of recognition is the answer?’. European Journal of Philosophy, 8(2), 155–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pippin, R. B. (2008). Hegel’s practical philosophy: Rational agency and ethical life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Polkinghorne, J., Ed. (2001). The work of love: Creation as kenosis. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.Google Scholar
  29. Redding, P. (1996). Hegel’s hermeneutics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996.Google Scholar
  30. Redding, P. (2007a). Hegel, idealism and God: Philosophy as the self-correcting appropriation of the norms of life and thought. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 3(2–3), 16–31.Google Scholar
  31. Redding, P. (2007b). Hegel, Fichte and the pragmatic context of moral judgement. In E. Hammer (Ed.), German idealism: Contemporary perspectives. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Redding, P. (2007c). Analytic philosophy and the return of Hegelian thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Redding, P. (2009). Continental idealism: Leibniz to Nietzsche. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Redding, P. (2012). Kantian origins: One possible path from transcendental idealism to a ‘Post-Kantian’ philosophical theology. In P. D. Bubbio and P. Redding (Eds.), Religion after Kant. God and culture in the idealist era (pp. 1–21). Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.Google Scholar
  35. Stern, R. (2002). Routledge philosophy guidebook to Hegel and the phenomenology of spirit. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  36. Stern, R (2009). Hegelian metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Weeks, A. (1991). Boehme: An intellectual biography of the seventeenth-century philosopher and mystic. New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  38. Westphal, K. R. (2003). Hegel’s epistemology: A philosophical introduction to Hegel’s phenomenology of spirit. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  39. Williams, R. R. (1997). Hegel’s ethics of recognition. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  40. Yerkes, J. (1978). The Christology of Hegel. Missoula: Scholars Press.Google Scholar

G. W. F. Hegel:

  1. EL = Encyclopaedia Logic. Translated by T. F. Geraets et al. (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1991)Google Scholar
  2. LHP = Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825–1826, Vol. III: Medieval and Modern Philosophy. Translated by Robert F. Brown. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009Google Scholar
  3. LPR = Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. The Lectures of 1827. Edited by P. C. Hodgson, translated by. R. F. Brown et al. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988Google Scholar
  4. LPR 1, 2, 3 = Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, 3 voll. Edited by P. C. Hodgson, translated by R. F. Brown et al. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984Google Scholar
  5. PH = Philosophy of History. Translated by J. Sibree. Kitchener: Batoche Books, 2001Google Scholar
  6. PR = Philosophy of Right. Translated by S.W Dyde. Kitchener: Batoche Books,, Ontario, 2001Google Scholar
  7. PS = Phenomenology of Spirit. Translated by A. V. Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971Google Scholar
  8. PM = Philosophy of Mind. Translated by W. Wallace & A. V. Miller, revisions M. J. Inwood. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007Google Scholar
  9. EPW = Enzyklopädie der philosophichen Wissenschaften. Hamburg: Meiner Verlag, 1991.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Western SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Humanities and Communication ArtsPenrithAustralia

Personalised recommendations