ABSTRACT

After Dante there is only one institutional Christian type left. That is the Christian of the reformer embodied most completely in Luther. 1 The entire basis of his defiance of Rome is the intolerable practices of the church already identified and systematically attacked by Dante. With Luther these crimes against the spirit—simony, indulgences, church corruption through its politicization—all force the Christian away from the mysterious powers claimed by the church and back into the everyday world. Luther not only teaches that every Christian is a priest, and hence the priest is not privileged above any Christian whose heart is open to God’s word, but that divine service consists in being embedded in the community. The basis of that embeddedness in community is now the family. This is what Hegel grasped with such clarity. Hegel called himself a Lutheran because he saw Luther and all moderns as shaped and empowered and in service to the spirit of freedom. Freedom as the Holy Spirit, is the Spirit no longer subordinate to the Son, but now is the primary force of the Western understanding of the divine. Just as Paul had grasped that Jesus, not Yahweh, for him simply designated as the Father, was the primary spiritual power through whom the divine voice spoke and created, so Hegel grasped that the spiritual significance of Luther was that he had made the living presence of the spirit the truth of God’s word (a particularly appropriate term for the philosopher of the Begriff—Begriff being the German for concept. But in the German, Begriff is derived from begreifen, to grasp: the tangible/graspable if one but has the hand, has the attunement, presence of the divine spirit). With Luther the Holy Spirit is in the world. And we must participate in the world for our service to be meaningful, for us to live in the truth of the spirit. When Hegel makes the family the basis of the ethical life, he is not only realizing the truth about the ethical foundation of the modern being 112in the family, but he is following Luther in realizing that the family is the ground of the spirit in the community: it gives the primary shape in which we are tested/purified/move out into creation as whole or damaged by spirit.