God and the gods: Christian theology and the modern constitution of knowledge

The argument of this essay is that we must speak about God in the face of the many gods. The Western tradition does not do this. It assumes that is that one God may or may not exist. The Christian account claims that the world is full of forces, influences and imperatives, and where these are destructive of human life, it calls them gods. Theological talk of God requires a conceptual henotheism, which concedes that these of gods are identified and defeated by the God of Jesus Christ. Christian theology does not ask if God exists, but which god is God?

God is the Holy Spirit. He is the God of Israel who has demonstrated he is holy for us by raising Jesus from the dead. There are other spirits. Some of these may be understood as natural forces, others as such moral authorities as nations, their institutions and legal systems, their figureheads and ambitions, amongst all the gods of nations other than Israel. Where these authorities are not themselves under authority, but step beyond the bounds set for them, we may call them idolatrous, sometimes even demonic. These spirits are not insubstantial and ethereal. Their impact on us is real. Only the God of Jesus Christ can give them their proper role, or rid us of them.

The God of Jesus Christ has made a place for us, a world in which we may be together and with him. This world is composed of things which together represent the hospitality of God, his invitation to pass that hospitality on, and exercise it for one another. So God, the Holy Spirit, has made a world of physical things for us. The Spirit gives us bodies so we can be present to one another, and he makes the letter and the law, the Scripture, and the many words of God. As long as these words are sourced from the Spirit, and return to him to be refreshed by him, they are good. When they are withheld from him, they may decay and cease to be what he made them. The Holy Spirit supplies us also with order and instruction, guides and guidelines, rules and institutions, forms of public order and worship. The Spirit is not against the letter, or tradition or rules, unless he considers that they are against us. He creates, sustains and renews them. He is not responsible only for the spontaneity, but also for the continuity and reliability of all that is. We can talk about the Holy Spirit only by talking about the continuum of this world with heaven as the act of God. We talk about the Spirit by talking about the world as the act of his hospitality.

A significant part of the Western tradition believes that theological statements cannot be meant as they are stated. It decides that narrative theology is inferior to propositional theology, and so must be rejected as mythological. Theological statements cannot be meant straight-forwardly and literally, and so solidly and physically. It portrays God in another realm, a ‘spiritual’ one, which leaves everything in this creaturely realm of ours untouched and unredeemed. Christian doctrine has to show that these physical and material things are made to serve the proper hospitable purpose the Spirit gives them. Up until two hundred years ago the word ‘spirit’ also referred to the totality of what is. The Spirit is that continuum that comprehends all natural, conceptual and moral entities. In this essay I will set out some of the relationship of pneumatology to theology, and remind ourselves of the variety of ways in the which the concept of ‘spirit’ used to function in discussions of being and act, soul and mind, and of bodies and living forces. A pneumatology is a theory of everything. The West has several such theories of everything, moral and physical pneumatologies, but to say this already indicates a problem. A pneumatology is a continuum, so it necessarily embraces both sides of whatever division we identify, and thus it must be both moral and physical. It must be the unity of both nature, and of politics, culture and human history. So I must also argue that, because it breaks everything up into the two economies of nature and human culture and freedom, the West has no pneumatology. It does not allow that there is any single continuum, or any single account of man freely in relationship with the world. Man is understood as alive and free only as he separates himself from everything else, leaving the economy of nature, rejecting the hospitality of God, and becoming entirely his own creation. Then I will come back to talk about the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, in order to connect our anthropology and pneumatology to Christology.

Kant as Christian theologian
Because it determines the whole institutional context in which we teach and research today, we must start by examining a Christology without a pneumatology. The theologian who more than any other has established our modern context is Immanuel Kant. We should take Kant seriously as a theologian, and we do this best by regarding him as a theologian in two opposed traditions. First he is a Christian theologian in the tradition of the Pietist (that is the charismatic evangelical) reduction of Luther, and this accounts for his definition of religion as primarily the concern of the inner man.

Prior to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Christian faith was taught as an apprenticeship to a master, that requires that we learn the complex skills of discipleship in direct personal relationship with that master, along with the many subordinate apostles and teachers he provided. The long tradition of Christian doctrine teaches that Christian life requires time, patience, practice and testing, and above all relationship with the master. It cannot be learned without him, for it is precisely ‘life-with-the-master’.

Kant believed that the process of Reformation was not complete. The reformation of all public institutions, political power and life had to be continued, by removing power and influence from the institution of the Church and giving it to the citizens of nations. But external institutional changes represented only the minor part of the real Reformation, which is self-reformation. Kant cut out the master, announced that we must be our own masters, made Christianity a set of principles and so a self-help course. He preferred a self-imposed and self-interpreted discipline, ruling out the discipline imposed by others, both other teachers and external institutions. Kant has taken the Christian talk of judgment and the whole forensic account atonement transferred it to man. Man is now the judge, spectator and critic of all that is before him. Kant’s much reduced ‘gospel’ ended the need to be patient students of our subject. This new Law makes far simpler requirements of us than the discipline and discipleship of the gospel. His ‘gospel’ does not teach that God helps us, that because God is distant and unconcerned we have no one to rely on but ourselves, and we can replace God’s aid with our own. Kant turned gospel into Law – we have the book and we are on our own – therefore be brave!

This makes for a dramatically reduced exemplarist Christology, scarcely different from a doctrine of man. We can copy Christ, or those of us who are more mature can work these things out for ourselves, as Christ worked them out for himself. He became free by throwing off that apprenticeship and all external discipline. Most of all Jesus became himself by dispensing with his own nation.

Marcion again – Kant as New Testament scholar
Kant takes Jesus away from the people of Israel. He separates the God of Jesus, the first autonomous individual, from the God of the Old Testament and the Jews, that stubborn people with their primitive religion. Next Kant separates Jesus from the Church and its teaching, and so from the apprenticeship of Christian discipleship. He initiated the nineteenth century quests for ‘the historical (and ethical) Jesus’, that proceeded by isolating Jesus from his people. To show that the Christians had misrepresented their messiah was the only way that German intellectuals could protest against the smug alliance of Lutheran Church and Prussian state that held back the development of German civic and political life. Christian doctrines are at best illustrations of timeless truths, but perhaps they are actually an obstacle, or even possibly a huge falsehood foisted on the German nation to keep them down.

In The Conflict of the Faculties Kant revenged himself for the subordination of the philosophy faculty to the theology faculty. He rounded on the so-called superior faculty of theology and pronounced the sentence of a silenced intelligentsia on them. The theology faculty had already reduced the gospel from Luther’s ‘relationship-with-Christ to ‘being-good’; Kant reduces it further to ‘being-an-independent-individual’. Rejecting all external norms and living as a society of one, in retreat from the world, from embodiedness, sociality and from history, Kant has formalised the isolation and frustration of the eighteenth century intellectual denied a share in the political process.

The nineteenth century German tradition of historical studies and modern biblical exegesis, follow him in distinguishing a Jesus of critical historical science and the Christ of the faith of the Church, or a narrative about one member of a primitive people, and the real truth about the development of the autonomous individual that lies beneath this Jesus narrative. So the bible is a picture book for children: it dispenses moral truths dressed up in narrative form, for those who can only take them this way. Of course some of us grow to maturity simply by realising that we could construct the propositions of this religion for ourselves without all the picturesque narrative. This narrative religion is just there to be grown out of. The historical science that follows intends to strip away the particularities to get to the timeless truths underneath, if any remain.

From Bultmann to Borg contemporary biblical exegesis shares Kant’s determination that true religion is not public and contestable, but internal and self-imposed. Kant teaches that dogmatics is one domain, exegesis another, ethics another. There is no requirement that they be dialogue with one another for our ethics is not strengthened by historical research: it must be entirely unformed by other influences if it is to be truly ours and truly moral. The present separate domains of Old Testament, New Testament, Christian doctrine, ethics and ecclesiology demonstrates that Kant is still in control. Separate academic domains do not allow theological discussion of the faithful ongoing action of God with his witness people. The very proliferation of separate departments opposes the claim of the Christian Church to be the unity of the past and present communities and tell a single narrative.

Kant as pagan theologian
So far I have portrayed Kant first as Arius, Pelagius and then as Marcion. But on his own terms he does not intend to be a Christian theologian, but a Platonist one. According to Ian Hunter, Kant’s critical turn established him as chief of the ‘Platonic’ metaphysicians. Hunter argues that ‘rather than restricting religion to the private sphere in order to effect the de-sacralisation of politics, Leibniz, Wolff, and Kant all attempted to provide a secular equivalent for religion – in the form of their own natural theologies – through which they hoped to provide a moral basis for a resacralised state.’ This state has the Lutheranism removed, and the more reasonable science of a revived Athenian academy and more sacred morality of a new Athenian Republic restored. German idealism is German platonism. Kant’s Platonism is not purely Greek, but mixed with a braver Roman spirit, via a Stoic ethic owed to Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, and a dash of scepticism –the mixture made familiar by Cicero.

Kant turned the concept of spirit into the concept of Mind. He attempted to free the mind by distancing it from all the practices of social formation, which as Hamann pointed out, amounted to a flight into a cerebral disembodiedness, that Kant learned from the early Socrates for whom the world is an unfortunate miasma that the unaided mind can think it way back out of. Kant’s distaste for the body, practices, habits, crowds, and his distrust of society has become the criterion of critical reason and analytic philosophy. Kant’s gospel of personal development by bravely distinguishing yourself from all external influence and refusing an apprenticeship now serves as the criterion for knowledge in the Academy. In this purified Platonic Republic there are no heavenly authorities to bow to because man is not in any strong sense under the gods. Each of us has to make his own way and be his own master. This religion is noble Roman self-discipline.

The changed concept of ‘religion’
In Religion within the Limits of Reason Kant formalised the separation of ‘religion’, in the form of internal personal reform from ‘politics’, public debate. From this point on ‘religion’ meant whatever had no constructive role and no legitimate place in the public arena. Kant has turned theology from a public discipline into religious studies, an esoteric science. How did this happen? Kant had made himself heir of a tradition of political philosophy that started with Hobbes in the post civil war Restoration settlement (and Spinoza in Holland) and continued as Latitudinarianism, rationalism and deism. These two hoped to bring public discourse under control. They dismissed the long and honourable tradition of Platonic political philosophy, with its central axiom that man is subject to a process of formation (paideia), and dismissed the almost equally honourable tradition of Christian political philosophy (that understood that we are formed by a process of trial we call ‘history’, but which is led by God). Hobbes and Spinoza replaced these two traditions with a Stoic metaphysic of passion-driven natural man in a war of all against all. After a century of German rationalist rear-guard action against this new and nastier anthropology, Kant ruled that the rationalists and the whole Christian and or Platonist traditions of political philosophy were at an end. He alone was able to provide what they had not. Kant superseded all earlier political philosophy – and his claim has not been seriously challenged. The hubris usually associated with Hegel is in fact Kant’s. Philosophy of religion is the abolition of political philosophy, that is of all earlier public and political discourse of how we may live together in societies. Kant had made himself heir to those political elites that intended to stop people talking about public life (politics) and doing so in the language they learned from scripture.

This elite still polices civic politeness to prevent ordinary people from exercising their views in public, and from using the bible to hold their leaders to account. Christianity is not acceptably reasonable because it is vulgar. Yet the responsibility remains to ask who is setting the rules that make (elite and pagan) wisdom normal and (poor and Christian) wisdom require special pleading. This question of who gets to define the terms of our conversation was put forcibly by MacIntyre twenty years ago, as yet without impact on the institution arrangements of the university in which Kant rules on. As a result of accepting Kant’s ruling in ‘The Conflict of the Faculties’ on single departments with non-overlapping jurisdictions and indisputably distinct objects, we have a proliferation of domains, but no agreement that the many sciences of many distinct objects may also serve the formation of persons. The paradigms of the modern university are very properly the court of law, that isolates and examines its proper object, and the market in which we have to attract students and funding. But theology insists on one further paradigm for the university, that of an assembly or parliament.

Theology must always hear the accusation that it is a science without an object. But the university cannot decide that in advance; it can only hear and decide on that by debating this issue, which means that theology must be properly heard and represented in the university. Philosophy of religion cannot be a conversation partner for systematic theology until it has got over its delusion to be the arbiter of reason and policeman of the university. Philosophy of religion is a politics that does not admit that it is a politics, and thus it is an unaccountable exercise of power, one that effects to shut people up. Theology cannot but oppose this. If theology does not do this it ceases to be faithful to its object. It is appropriate that theology’s object always be a live question. In some way it is even theology’s task to contribute to the crisis of the university, because it is entirely appropriate that the university is in crisis, but this is because of the interest of God in mankind and his determination to ask questions of us and hear how we answer.

But Kant is also here in the person of the philosopher of religion. He patrols the corridors of the modern university like the demon headmaster, and is troubled by what he hears in the theology department. He cannot approve of theology: it looks like a mongrel discipline, not history, not ethics, not sociology, it is speculative, and its object – God – is undemonstrable. He must therefore put the case that this object does not exist. Unlike the object of every other science, God cannot be summoned and made to appear, for he is himself pure Subject, or Lord, as the Christians insist on saying. Any God about which we can wonder whether he is exists is not God, but our own construction.

The disruptive task of theology
It is the job of those of us who teach Christian theology to defend it against all attempts to make it submit to some other category. With all our scholarship we have to tell the philosopher of religion that we cannot fall into line with his definition of our subject as religion. We have to point him to the scholarship that tells the history of this category of religion and shows that Kant’s version may be deficient. So we have to tell the history of Christian, Platonic and Aristotelian political philosophy, which Kant claims to have to replaced, and treat them as live options. A new generation of historians of political thought are in fact revealing the historical context and agenda of the philosopher of religion, and implicitly reducing Kant’s justification.

Kant’s anthropology erects an individual above society. This autonomous man, secure in his knowledge of himself, looks down on the world with his whole panoptical technology, in detachment, viewing, registering, controlling. Kant’s high anthropology makes this individual unaccountable. Kant’s anthropology puts us beyond the language of protest. Perhaps theology is the one conceptuality that enables us to ask whether this man and this anthropology has become a monster.

But there is another question that would profoundly change for the better the relationship of theology and philosophy of religion, and make it much healthier. As a direct of the hostile climate in the 1780’s which obliged Kant to pretend to be a Christian thinker, he claimed to be a meta-Christian thinker, somehow more truthfully Christian than the Christians. Could it now be time to say that Kant is a non-Christian thinker? Kant has not made Christianity reasonable, more itself, by getting rid of accretions, but re-introduced a very old religion, the brave mindset of Rome. He has dressed up the old pre-Christian mindset as Christianity in order to sell it to his contemporaries, but we do not have to buy it. We can point out that though they are quite admirable, Cicero, Aristotle, Plato are not Christians. The Western tradition is not one tradition at all, but (at least) two distinct traditions, Christian and pagan. This means that not everything is settled, that Kant’s ruling and the present institutional form of the university, are not final, and more than that it means that there must be debate, and thus that public assembly and conversation are absolutely basic. No one may shush Christian theology for being vulgar.

Kant and Hegel on pneumatology and time
We have looked briefly at Kant’s Christology and seen that that it attempts to rule out large swathes of the political tradition. The very least a pneumatology is, is an account of history, and so an account of how others, other people and outside forces, impact on us. The term ‘spirit’ was once used to name an indefinable host and so to describe the effect of a very large number of people acting on us, or setting the context for our own action.

Under the rubric of the Holy Spirit Christians confess that God is invisibly at work on us. Christian talk about time relates to the belief that we are in the world of God’s hospitality, being formed and prepared by him, for increasing relationship with him and with each other. But without the Christology that makes this a distinctively Christian narrative about the progressive hospitality of God, time is now understood to be absolute, not determined by relation. This concept of absolute unchanging time is derived from the Hellenic concept of Fate or Necessity: we could call it a pagan pneumatology. Kant is denial about time and change, so has no eschatology. He already has what he has, so does not need to hope for it. His is a timeless system. Kant has a strong and static doctrine of Nature, which he then allows himself to be agnostic about it, with his reservation about being in itself. Kant is opposed to the idea of time and change, and thus has adopted the role of Parmenides. Hegel insists on the importance of change, history and flux, so has adopted the role of Heracleitus. Kant’s scepticism (his creation of the dualism of appearance and the thing in itself) means that he has journeyed so far away from the old Platonic paideia that, as Nietzsche pointed out, he has he has crept right round and come back to something very like it again. He has left us with the old top-down cosmology in new attenuated, sceptical and agnostic form. He has God without God – where Man the scientist sits about all and judges with as much serenity as any Epicurean deity. This is what Luther, with that insupportable arrogance that Christianity allows the working classes, calls idolatry.

So why do we need pneumatology? Why do we need an account either of spirits of the age, and thus an account of history, and of the rise and fall of nations and their ethics? Or why do we need an account of the Holy Spirit, that is the very tribal, partisan sectarian God of one people, and who determines that he will not be known as the God of all people except as he makes himself known as the God of this particular people. Why do we need a pneumatology, even in the very minimal form of a theory of history? Won’t ethics do? Do we need history? Must we learn the history of Christian doctrine or Christian political thought?

Hegel as political pneumatologist
There is an alternative to the Kantian tradition. It obliges us to listen to a great modern and political pneumatologist who wanted to remind theologians of the wealth of the Christian resources that they no longer seem to regard as important. A great laziness has allowed Christian theologians to disregard the whole tradition of pagan and Christian theological political thought in the mistaken belief that it does not concern us. Hegel is associated with the ascent of Man, the march of progress, and high Victorian optimism. But his view, perhaps reflecting his own very rocky career, is more subtle than this. Man grows up by many stops, starts and reversals, through a series of mishaps, from which he gains experience. Life is series of strange juxtapositions and mismatches. We never foresee what turn things are going to take next, so we are never done and there is always more to be said.

Like Aristotle, Hegel understands that man is a social being, a political animal. It is entirely important to me what you make of me. I live from your recognition, indeed to be human is to be recognised by other humans, so we are entirely outward and other-oriented beings. Other people make me what I am. So when it comes to my formation I am dependent on you my contemporaries, and also on the layered experience of previous generations, in inherited social practices and institutions. The development of man is supported by many intermediary institutions – school, university, church, guilds, clubs, charities, trade and all the other associations by which responsible citizens are formed. Man is always at the very least a dual beast, either servant or master, but in real life a complex layered combination. Hegel is determined not to let Kant get away with making the Christian religion either a cerebral-rational discourse or making it a discourse about my own spiritual, or rather emotional and psychological, state. It makes me responsible, it puts me in front of you and makes us converse.

Hegel diagnoses the whole Western tradition as dualist. It proceeds by identifying dualities. It identifies the spirit and the body, the spirit and matter, the living word versus the dead letter, the externals versus the heart. It believes that nothing is what it seems, that appearances always deceive, but it believes that the tough interrogator, that God-like observer, the scientist, can make each thing give up its secrets. It cannot look at anything but it sees a husk that has to be violently broken into and the real living entity let out. It has a manic disposition to cut everything up and make two piles, of the dead and the living. Or rather it is nothing but this habit act of rending into two. We could call this pathologically repetitive behaviour the analytic psychosis. Every subject is trying to make all other subjects its objects. All life is a fight to the death between subjects, each has to subdue the other in order not to be subdued. The present is at war with the past. It does not understand the past as continuing resource, teacher and conversation-partner. It thinks it can only be itself by identifying some part as dead and inert, and yet also as a dead hand that must be actively shrugged off. We can only be ourselves by flight from previous generations. We are tearing ourselves up and rending ourselves from ourselves, in a craze of self-harm.

The analytic tic that is the modern Western tradition means that whatever we divide and analyse, what is being divided is us. We are being divided here. We manically identify some part of us that we decide is not us, and we disavow it, identify it as a piece of nature that we must free ourselves from, and we alienate it from ourselves. This self-construction is my lonely task, and it is a terrible law and harsh imperative. Be yourself! We can accept no limit or definition, we are in permanent flight from all otherness in case it makes demands on us. We can never be comfortable with ourselves or retrieve that spontaneity and happiness of earlier generations of mankind.

By taking the whole political philosophical tradition seriously Hegel has found a way of talking about its history, which is our history, which does not increase our dichotomisation and alienation from it. Hegel says that theology is political, and that means public theology, not internal personal religion. Christian theology had once been a political philosophy, but Hobbes, Spinoza and Locke divided politics from theology, reduced theology to moralism, psychology and ethics. Christian theology has, quite unnecessarily, failed to resist this division and interiorisation. It intellectualises and sentimentalises, just where it should be proclaiming that the rule of God bring us into a more real and more communal life. Christianity had ceased to say anything constructive to the world. It has fallen prey to the rationalists on one hand, and on the other to the sentimentalists, pietists, romantics, conservatives, charismatics, revolutionary socialists, futurologists, new-agers and all the rest of the circus. Why did Christian theology cease to be political theology? Why did it cease to interact with the tradition of political philosophy?
Truth is one, and so we seek a single unifying theory. Every scientist, every philosopher, is either looking for such a theory, or saying that such a theory is not to be found. Hegel looked for a theory that would re-unite the divorced worlds of nature and human action and of public life and politics therefore. Because these two have been separated, man has been separated from his world, and this makes him miserable. Hegel is saying that we have an ongoing obligation to set out the unitary account. If we forget it, and with Kant remain in solely analytic mode, we enter a spiral of increasing alienation from one another and from the world. Hegel wants a dualist account, and he wants a unitary account. He wants both, and he is quite right to insist on both.
In the unitary account Hegel has to come up with a single concept under which everything can be ordered and by which it can be explained. He comes up with ‘Motion’. Everything can be explained in terms of this one category. Motion underwrites everything, and everything can be expressed in terms of it. Everything most basically is motion. Of course the English do not translate Geist as motion. They choose an archaic term which gives everything that Hegel says a quaintly religious feel which distracts from what he is saying. We should translate Geist as the Anima, that which animates. It is the Anima, and it animates everything. The Mover moves, the universal Drive drives, and generates cascades of subordinate drives. The Western intellectual tradition has taken one decision that has put it at a serious disadvantage. It has decided that first there are things, and then there is movement. First things exist, and then they move. It does not generally concede that we can put things the other way around, that we can see things as the products of movement and process. It is not that it cannot put things the other way around. It is not that the resources to redress this skewing metaphysic do not exist in the Western tradition. But they are seriously neglected in the basic constitution of Western knowledge. We can also say that motion comes before the thing, that motion brings bodies into being. We do have a class of people who regularly put motion first and things second. We call them ‘scientists’. Scientists are those who conceive of a single nature, to everything belongs, and of which individual organisms are short-lived phenomena that come and go. This nature envelops and accounts for everything, which is why we once also called them ‘naturalists’. There is nothing that may not be subjected to and comprehended by this category of ‘nature’. But they do not simply identify a body on one hand and a movement on the other – they also look for a third term. We need all sorts of intermediate entities of movement – operators, algorithms, catalysts, genes, memes, biotopes, locations, hormones and enzymes. Until the eighteenth century all these existed as ‘animal spirits’. We are in ourselves drives and instincts, tics and impulses, passions, appetites and habits. This account, once set out by Aristotle, is now best represented by Daniel Dennett. It is not just that we move in leaps and bounds, but that these leaps and bounds are us. This is not to deny that we are reasoning and self-controlling creatures for these hops and tics coalesce to form compounds that we call traits, habits and virtues, these coalesce to form what we call character, nature, personal identity and all the skills of reasoning. That we are complexes of instinctual behaviour does not mean that we are not reasonable creatures. We are. It is just that we are not more reasonable for insisting that that is all we are, or that reason must be preserved from all other forms of explanation, such as that in terms of passion. We need a cosmology of nested places, that are understood both a series of confinements, restrictions, and as a series of spirits, or moods, that animate us, and determine what we do, and how we relate to one another.

Hegel’s choice of Spirit is a good one. Hegel represents the return of Aristotle to the too-severe dualism of Kant and the Platonists who cut out all mediation, all practices and institutions. If we translate Hegel’s Geist as ‘spirit’ with a small ‘s’ it makes it easier to recover that intellectual history in which the term ‘spirit’ was employed, that is the conceptuality in which motion was understood to be as fundamental as being. Hegel tells us that Kant is wrong to think that it is all about recovering the unaided effort of the individual mind. Our mind is formed by the set of institutions we inhabit, families, groups, guilds and other institutions that form our mind. He looked forward to seeing a set of civil institutions that can support us in the course of our development: the concept of paideia does provide a vital third term after all, or, between God and man there is time.

Hegel employs the doctrine of the Trinity. He is the trinitarian in modern philosophical thought. Hegel believed that Christian theology had trivialised the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and given up proclaiming that God is all in all, or that the only real enlightenment is provided by Christianity. He believed that the lack of trinity was the reason why modern thought has stalled, and can only ever repeat partial aspects of the full coming into being of man. The West has conceptualised action in terms of subject and object. Where there are only two terms, they can act only one at a time and against each other. Two terms cause a alternation between two poles. Either man is object, or God is object, either one of them is subject and must struggle to subdue the other, so we have a battle of two titans. Dualism manages to prevent any really new action from breaking through. On this basis, life has stalled, and these non-social social relations can only be repeated. The two cannot see how the world of the material relation between them, is both a genuinely a third term, and is also not something alien to them, but their own work. There is no conceptuality for the recognition of the coming-into-being and passing-away-again of law, material relations and world. Hegel’s account of the consequences of a deficient trinitarian doctrine of God is prophetic – a less than trinitarian doctrine of God means allow a merely distant affirmation of whatever the state of affairs under whatever description the presiding elite gives it, and the Christian confession is not understood as the means of protest which God gives to his own people.

Hegel called the continuum of movement which prevents the closure of the economy of modernity Spirit. But he understood the doctrine of the Trinity to be about a simple progression from Father to Son to Spirit, in which the Father is succeeded and replaced by the Son who is succeeded and replaced by the Spirit who is God-with-the-world, or God who-is-all-in-all. This represents a move from what we know to what we don’t know, a progression from the Creator to the Son and reconciler, as though the creator God is the universal God of humanity, whereas the so-called second and third persons of the Trinity are special Christian doctrines. This inadequately trinitarian classical theology turned God into an object, no longer Lord, in the control of the knowledge of himself and made God a centre of absolute self-consciousness and so an idol. This has led to the belief that we can speak first of all of God the Creator apart from Christ, and apart from the act of Spirit who creates the God-confessing community.
Hegel, and all evolutionist and process christologies and premature alliances of theology and science, fail to let the Spirit be determined by the Father and the Son. Hegel fails to be a Christian theologian because he does not let the Spirit serve and manifest and glorify the Son, and the Son the Father. God does not need creation. It does not make him who he is. Because God is freely, and not dependently, who he is, he can allow us to come to be who we are to be. Real pneumatology understands that it is the Son, not we creatures, who by his obedience makes the Father who he is. Hegel’s pneumatology is not disciplined by a Christology, and thus by a doctrine of God and of creation, Hegel cannot let the world be world, or God be God. We might say that he finally makes the unitary account more important than the dualist account, so monism prevails. In doing so he makes it impossible to show that God is different from the world, ruining the freedom of both. He allows the world to be absorbed into God so it is lost or wound up, or so God comes to himself through it. It is the odyssey of the Spirit, or the journey of God and or the journey of man, which comes to the same thing when the two finally become the same. Hegel cannot set the world free because he has not anchored this pneumatology (narrative of a development and ascent) to a Christology – that is an account of God coming to man himself, being with him, and always being different from him, and himself asserting that difference from us, for our sake. He has no doctrine of creation. Pneumatology without Christology cannot say that God grows us up, makes us a growing, competent, social thankful animal, who is pleased not to be God. Without this basic christological and theological narrative, the development of man is just a story, each rival elite trying to implement their own version of this story. Hegel’s account of the Trinity was not robust enough to hold back the influence of Kant. In the place of this paideia as act of God Hegel opened the way for the nineteenth century proliferation of new sciences. If we had a political philosophy, a notion of social paideia – of sort that Kant claims to have found impossible and replaced, we could say that all these sciences were intended to contribute to form us. But Kant has overcome Hegel here, and sociology, psychology, anthropology and economics, all now divorced from paideia are seen merely techniques that share no central narrative, so make no contribution to the assembly, or to the formation of mankind.
The Spirit is not the union of the Father and the Son. The Father is not succeeded by the Son, or rolled up into the Son, and the Father and the Son are not rolled up in the Spirit. The Spirit is distinct from the Father and Son, in order that he may also make the two of them distinct from each other. The Father is the initiator and the finisher. It is the Father, not the Spirit, who accepts and receives what the Spirit has done, and only when he accepts it is it definitive. The Spirit makes everything ready, but it is the Father who decides whether or not it is finally ready. Nothing is what it is until it has been confirmed by the Father, who is its proper arbiter and audience. The Father receives the act of the Son. The Holy Spirit enables us to receive and give thanks for the act of the Son, and to receive it as the act of the Father.

Modern theology alternates between Christology without pneumatology, and then pneumatology without Christology. It has not adequately shown that talk about Christ is spoken by the Spirit through the community he gathers, and that we must begin with the worship and the Church, understood as the act of God. Because theology is pneumatological, it must start with the public confession of Christ. Kantian theology has no concept of community, let alone any understanding that the Church is the public act of God for man, so it leaves the doctrine of Christ as information, with little idea how we came by it, and no idea that it transforms this disembodied intellect by giving it a Body in the world. A Christological pneumatology will prevent us putting an account of nature first, and then trying to control it with theological discourse. There is no nature: there is only the hospitality of God. All pneumatology is panentheistic: nothing within pneumatology can prevent this. Only Christology can make pneumatology serve the confession of Christ. It is Christ who sends the Spirit – his Spirit – to us, so we no longer live in a separate parallel universe, but in one universe with him, his universe. It is this that means that God is determinative for us, so that Christ is not merely information about a state of affairs elsewhere. Christology is the work of the Spirit. The Spirit raised Christ from the dead, distinguished him from us, and so distinguished God from the world. Christology is the safeguard of pneumatology, and the Spirit is the motor of Christology, and the guarantor of difference, diversity and particularity. Under the Son, the Spirit is the guarantor that anything is what it is.

The argument of this essay is that Kant only allows discussion of the existence or non-existence of God, whereas Hegel goes much further towards conceding that the world is made of many contending forces, and that the contest is real and ongoing and so allows that we have a real question of which God. Only the real God can save us from the substitutes which we create, inflict on one another and which are inflicted on us. Indeed only the real God has acted to break through the wall of substitutes – because he cares for us and calls us his. To say this requires that we do not make a static doctrine of man, but that we find it reasonable to talk about not only what we do, but what we do to each other, and that since this is not completely definable, that we are also able to say that we are also the victims of forces in part unnameable and unaccountable. We do not need to apologise for arguing about the extrinsic forces operative on us, giving them names and calling them ‘gods’, or for doing this in unrestricted debate in the public arena represented by the university.