It might seem that there are few Hegelians in the world today. Even in French philosophy, where Hegel had considerable influence via Alexandre KojÃ©ve, few philosophers today would call themselves by his name. Nevertheless, there remains one large group who are, in an important sense, Hegelians. It isn’t that they have adopted his understanding, but that his work reflected the metaphysical structure of theirs. For traditional Christians, revelation came to an end with the First Coming of Jesus Christ. For them, nothing of ultimate importance remains to be known, so history has come to an end except as the repetition of what has already come into being, a central Hegelian claim. One can ask, however, if history, the revelation of all that is ultimately important, came to an end with the First Coming, what need is there for a second? If God’s revelation of himself in human history was complete 2,000 years ago, why expect him to reveal himself again? Though Christianity understands itself as a philosophy of hope, for what does it hope? Do we await any grace that has not already been given?
In contrast, the Mormon view seems radically unHegelian: Abraham was promised the kingdom to come; Jesus announced that the kingdom had arrived; through Joseph Smith it was revealed that the kingdom’s arrival was incomplete and that it withdrew. Theology, the account of God, remains incomplete; paradoxically, the appearance of the Godhead to Joseph Smith signaled that the Godhead yet remains a mystery. More remains to be known; history does not come to an end until the Second Coming.
Of course traditional Christians have reasonable responses. For example, a theologian in the Christian tradition might say that though everything has been revealed, the meaning of what has been revealed remains to be worked out. In particular the political and ethical meaning of the Coming of the Son of God continues to come into being. The saint rather than the theologian is the most appropriate model for a Christian (Jean-Yves Lacoste, Experience and the Absolute 134), so the First Coming is not yet complete. In other words, she might say that the First Coming was the anti-type (the figure) of all Christian experience, and that anti-type must be enacted in Christian life and experience, something that happens only through conversion. Thus, a traditional Christian could answer that though it is theologically true that history came to an end with the First Coming, it comes to an existential end only in the lives of individual persons as they are converted. Prior to conversion, existential history continues.
I like that response, and I am sure there are others. However, even with such a response the question remains, “Why a Second Coming?” Does our present enact a past in which everything was given or does the future invest the present with meaning? Is true Christianity defined by its look back to the event of the cross and resurrection or by its look forward to the event of the Second Coming announced by Moroni’s trumpet? I wonder whether this question gets at the core of the difference between traditional Christians and Mormon Christians.