Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Küng – Der Anfang aller Dinge. Section B, pt 4.

This is the 4th and final part of my overview of section B in Küng’s Der Anfang aller Dinge.

God as Hypothesis and God as Reality

That ‘God’ be respected at least as a hypothesis is to be seen in the fact that an ultimate cause of the universe deals with that which is beyond our three-dimensional and probably limited, universe i.e. that which is beyond empirical science. And indeed, if God does exist, then the questions concerning the ultimate Reality, the conditions at t = 0, can all be answered. However, of course the big question is: does God actually exists?

More precisely, how is one to answer this question, how is one to find access to the Ultimate Secret of the universe? How can we get from ‘God as hypothesis’ to ‘God as Reality’? Certainly not through theoretical operations of pure reason, but also neither through irrational feelings. Rather: ‘on the grounds of a trustworthy, rationally defensible fundamental decision and standpoint (Grundentscheidung und Grundeinstellung)’ (98). To use his analogy: If one learns to swim, it is not done by standing in the dry bank, reading a ‘how to swim’ book, but comes about through risk, through getting the hair wet, and finding out that the body will not necessarily sink. You learn to trust the water through real life trying and risk. Applied to real life and the question of God's existence, this is, in effect, a hermeneutic of trust that Küng is suggesting. Despite doubts, the secret Reality of all things can be accepted and be the basis for one’s entire experience, behaviour and actions.

His reasoning continues: While an absolutely logical proof or disproof of God is not possible, it is viable to suggest that ‘practical reason’ (as opposed to ‘theoretical’ - cf. Kant) can function as a guiding introduction (hinführende Anleitung) into the reality of God – one based on the entire person. This is, for Küng's theological epistemology absolutely crucial. On this, let me quote him at more length - a citation that I think clearly displays the nature of Küng’s approach and hermeneutic.
‘Die Aussagen über Gott sollen im Erfahrungshorizont unseres Lebens und der grundlegenden existentiellen Fragen bewährt und bewahrheitet werden: nicht in zwingender Ableitung aus einer angeblich evidenten Erfahrung, die eine Entscheidung des Menschen erübrigen würde, wohl aber in klärender Ausleuchtung der immer problematischen Erfahrung, die zu einer freien Entscheidung des Menschen einlädt’ (99).

Indeed, only when talk of God is covered by, and related to (and with) the concrete experience of the reality of humanity and the world, can its ‘believability’ be grounded. And while for some, the ‘unprovability’ of God is enough to affirm atheism, Küng’s conviction is: the ‘yes’ to God enables a radically grounded basic trust towards reality. Uncountable existential questions can then, in principle, be answered; the human has an ‘archimedischer Punkt’ from which to view reality, and questions such as ‘what can we know?’, ‘what should we do?’ and ‘what can we hope for?’ can be answered so that, from deep within, it is possible to understand why such contingent and pitiful creatures, which are humans, can still be beings of unlimited expectation, hope and longing. It is to answer such questions from the ‘archimedischer’ standpoint of ‘God exists’ Küng now turns to address in the rest of the book. Does belief in God help to explain the mystery of epistemology, the question of appropriate praxis, and the nature of human hope?

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