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By Good & Necessary Consequence - Everything is Meaningful

Reading through Hegel today, I came across the philosopher’s beliefs on insanity. I was, for lack of a better word, triggered by what I read. I wasn’t offended by Hegel’s theory of insanity, but his belief that there can be anything in reality that is meaningless. Given that Hegel’s entire philosophical edifice rests upon the assumption that the “All” is by necessity comprised of all that historically preceded it’s formation, it seems to follow that Hegel cannot legitimately call any thing – be it an event, object, property, relation, etc – meaningless. For at the very least, what is eliminated through the dialectical process of history can be meaningfully identified as contradiction, and contradiction, for Hegel, is the driving force of the dialectical process. Raymond Plant explains that

For Hegel philosophy…has to be historical. Given that the nature of the human mind and its development have to be considered in relation to the modes of social existence, these modes cannot just be taken as given. Their development has to be understood along with the evolution of the powers of the mind. The concepts in terms of which we characterize our religious, aesthetic, social and political lives are not just abstract and universal, although they do have these elements. They are also to be understood in developmental terms, too. So for Hegel ‘The shapes that concept assumes in the course of its actualisation are indispensable for the knowledge of the concept itself.’ This historical development is teleological – that is to say it is a rational process towards an overarching end which is the attainment of what he calls Absolute Knowledge. This is the state attained when all the shapes of human life, in terms of both their historical development and their interconnectedness, are fully understood. The historical process is full of difficulties and contingencies which have to be comprehended.1

How, then, can Hegel identify anything as meaningless? He can’t – at least not without destroying his whole system. Now considering the influence Hegel’s systematic philosophical speculations have had on many key thinkers and activists from his day onward through the present moment, it is triggering to see such a glaring error that cannot be merely brushed off as a slip of the tongue. Hegel’s system, allowing as it does for some things to be without meaning, abolishes itself.

What is more triggering, however, is that there are many self-professing Christians who believe that there are some things which are not meaningful. This not only tears the doctrine of eschatology limb from limb, it also contradicts basic theology proper. All that God does is rational, intentional, good, and teleological. This implies that what occurs is necessarily meaningful, seeing as it all comes to pass according to his sovereign will. As the Lord declares through the prophet Isaiah –

“Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.”2

God is the only one “who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”3 There is nothing in all of creation, therefore, that is without meaning.

By good and necessary consequence we know that everything has significance. By the explicit propositions of Scripture, moreover, we know that there is knowledge that does not belong to us. As the Scripture tells us –

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”4

So it could be that the significance we fail to perceive in a given object, property, event, etc is knowledge that God will give us at some later point. After all, do we not have examples of this in the Word of God itself? Consider the following passages of Scripture –

[i.] So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.5

[ii.] Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”6

God made the apostles understand the meaning of Christ’s actions only after a period of time. How foolish would it have been of any of the disciples to think that any thing is devoid of objective meaningfulness.

In contrast to this, however, it is equally probable that the significance of a given object, property, event, etc is knowledge that belongs only to God. In either case, our ignorance of the significance of a given object, property, event, etc does not imply that there is no significance there to be found. All things are objectively meaningful; we, however, don’t have knowledge of the objective meaningfulness of all things – nor will we ever.

1 Hegel (New York: Routledge, 1999), 23-24. (emphasis added)
2Isa 46:8-11. (emphasis added)
3Eph 1:11.
4 Deut 29:29.
5 John 2:18-22. (emphasis added)
6 John 13:3-7. (emphasis added)


John Bradshaw said…
"All that God does is rational, intentional, good, and teleological. This implies that what occurs is necessarily meaningful, seeing as it all comes to pass according to his sovereign will."

Clark says that Genesis 1:1 necessarily implies the above.