Early Theological Writings

Hegel, Early Theological Writings, tr. T.M. Knox, 1948.

Sect. 30 – The Rise of Sects Inevitable

The various Christian churches share this policy of determining the motives, or the disposition, behind actions partly by the public statutes and ordinances, partly by the force necessary to give effect to these. By these means, human freedom cannot be regimented nor can anything beyond legality be produced. In this situation, either the church must have been able to blot out the character of humanity from part of the human race quite irrevocably and make this deficiency a characteristic as indistinguishable as a racial one, or else from time to time there must have been those who found the demands of their own hearts unsatisfied in this ecclesiastical legality, in that type of character which asceticism is capable of building; they must have felt themselves able to give themselves a moral law from which arises freedom. If they did not keep their faith to themselves alone, they became founders of a sect, and this sect, if not suppressed by the church, gradually spread. The farther it spread from its source, the more it retained in its turn merely the laws and rules of its founder; and these now became for its adherents not laws that issued from freedom but ecclesiastical statutes all over again. This brought with it the rise of new sects once more, and so on indefinitely. This happened, to begin with, in the Jewish church out of which the Christian sect arose; this sect became a church, and in the bosom of this church new sects were engendered once more; these blossomed into churches, and this is the way things must go on so long as the state misconceives the scope of its rights and either allows a state consisting of a dominant church to arise within itself or else simply goes into partnership with the church and thus once again oversteps its authority.

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