Thursday, June 22, 2006

Küng on miracles

Review of Küng’s Der Anfang aller Dinge, section D, part 7.

5. Miracles

Küng, now turns, briefly, to the question of the intellectual credibility of miracles – a matter he has treated at more length elsewhere (Christ Sein II, 2).

He prefaces his argument with the following:
‘I don’t want to hurt the religious feelings of anyone who finds a literal interpretation of the biblical miracles important. Rather, I want to give a helpful answer to those modern people for whom miracles are a hindrance to faith in God’ (171, italics mine).
It is necessary, claims Küng, to distinguish between the biblical and the modern understanding of reality. In the scriptures, he argues, no one distinguished between miracles that broke the laws of nature, and those that didn’t. Indeed, the idea that miracles ‘break the laws of nature’, is a modernist conception only.

As I pointed out in my ‘Why I love Küng’ post in Ben’s series, Küng’s sensitivity to the results of biblical criticism is something I appreciate. And to biblical criticism Küng turns in order to demonstrate that one should not take the biblical miracles stories literally.

Based on the different ways biblical writers saw the world, and the results of biblical criticism, Küng argues that biblical miracle stories are best understood as metaphors. What is important is not whether the miracles actually happened but what they mean.

I don’t find myself in disagreement with anything particularly noteworthy in Der Anfang aller Dinge, except, that is, for his arguments above.

An appreciative critique follows tomorrow.



At 6/22/2006 5:56 AM, Anonymous One of Freedom said...

My only issue is that in settings where they don't have the same prejudices against miracles, miracles occur. Here it seems to take more work and when they occur we often explain our way around them. So what good is understanding the metaphor when you have to deal with this?

I appreciate that what is recorded is theologically oriented, especially something like John's gospel. But I don't find that Mark is always that careful. Sure there is a process of picking and choosing and the arguments about dating. But the bottom line is why would Christianity present these as part of their story if they weren't meant to continue as part of their story regardless of the theological or liturgical implications.

What he is saying is that the accidents are not important just the substance. I would argue that both are important.

At 6/22/2006 5:57 AM, Anonymous One of Freedom said...

Oh BTW I'm tired - picking and choosing should read redaction. :-)

At 6/22/2006 12:24 PM, Anonymous Rory Shiner said...

Hi Chris,

I gather from a post you left on Jon Rumble's blog that your sister lives in Perth now. Is that right?



At 6/22/2006 1:19 PM, Anonymous Rory Shiner said...

Chris--I hasten to add that I am happily married with children and not especially good looking. The only point of interest re your sister is that I too live in Perth.

At 6/22/2006 8:43 PM, Anonymous Derek Brown said...

Chris, I am looking forward to your critique of Küng and to your own opinion (that is, if it amounts to more than a critique of Küng...just kidding).

Here is my major problem with the whole issue at hand: the implicit presupposition that 'real' miracles and 'metaphoric' miracles are in fact two different things. While at times a particular miracle in the Biblical text may be metaphoric or literal (I hesitate to use such neat language), it remains impossible to declare categorically miracles to be one or the other.

It seems more preferable to analyze each story case by case and from there to establish whether we have reasonable evidence to conclude how the text presents the story.

Chris, what do you think of this suggestion: Küng's attempt to provide an answer to modern mindsets is a (mere) relativistic approach (this is rather ambiguous statement, but take it for whatever is is worth.)

At 6/23/2006 5:48 AM, Anonymous C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Alexis Carrel didn't believe in miracles either. His book Voyage to Lourdes was written under a false name and was not published in his life time. Stanley Jaki has written an introduction to the latest printing of Voyage to Lourdes. Jaki's response to an article about Carrel in Scientific American is also worth reading.

At 6/24/2006 10:29 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Frank
Thanks for your comments. Picking and choosing!

Hi Rory
I thought I'd left that comment on your blog! Oops! Yes, she lives in Perth now after getting married a few weeks ago.

Hi Derek,
"it remains impossible to declare categorically miracles to be one or the other."

I think you are on to something there. I'll make further comments in my later post - I want to get to the Moltmann lecture now, though!

I wouldn't call Küng's approach relativistic, however.

Thanks for the link Clay


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