Monday, July 09, 2007

Küng’s Memoirs

I have been really enjoying Hans Küng's My Struggle for Freedom, the first volume of his memoirs. It is a great read, difficult to put down. And as I've been a little ill recently, it has made for good company. The Continuum translation is a very smooth job, and I've found it an inspirational, at times amusing and an always informative read all in one. He has informed me that the second volume, Umstrittene Wahrheit (Debated Truth), will be released September this year – definitely one to purchase.


At 7/09/2007 1:55 AM, Anonymous Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Thanks for the recommendation. Kung was an early prod to my own journey, but his works are -- to understate it -- verbose. As this is volume 1 it would seem that verbosity continues -- or am I wrong?

At 7/09/2007 4:42 AM, Anonymous Kevin Davis said...

I don't get the Küng fascination that (seemingly) every neo-orthodox-leaning mainline Protestant has (in addition to the liberal mainliners as well) in the blogosphere and among my own acquaintances. Even though I'm firmly in the Communio-contra-Concilium camp (aka, Ratzinger's camp), I did my undergraduate religious studies with mainline Protestants and agnostics at a secular university reading Tillich, Bultmann, Schweitzer, etc., as well as our own James Tabor and the nearby Bart Ehrman. I appreciate all of the above mentioned authors and have gained much from them, but I do not find Küng even remotely profound. I keep reading him in hopes of "getting it," but I don't (not in the sense of not understanding him, which I do, but understanding why he's so damn glorified). His historical-critical readings are usually washed-over, unimaginative, and polemical, while his philosophical theology is his better work but better can be found elsewhere. So, there you have it, my Küng rant.

At 7/09/2007 7:14 AM, Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I linked to this at my blog, Chris.

At 7/09/2007 3:23 PM, Anonymous Jeremy Priest said...

Along with Kevin Davis, I too would like to understand the fascination with Kung.
Chris, perhaps you can share some of the things that enthrall you with him? Thanks.

At 7/09/2007 5:10 PM, Anonymous James Pate said...

I think Kung is a good writer, and it takes someone pretty impressive to keep me reading. I read On Being a Christian, and I enjoyed his compelling prose.

At 7/09/2007 6:24 PM, Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I enumerated my reasons for appreciating Kung on my blog, Levellers:

But, then, I can't stand Ratzinger or Communio. To the extent a Protestant can have a side in intra-Catholic debates, I'm with the Conciliium crowd.

At 7/10/2007 12:18 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Bob. Verbose? Hmm. I don't think so as I don't find it boring.

At 7/10/2007 12:18 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

WHat do I like about Küng? I wrote a post about that before here.

At 7/10/2007 12:49 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

Dear Chris,
I read Kung’s “On Being a Christian” after I’d become a born again Protestant, and enjoyed it. But by that time I was already seeking to understand the mystery of how some non-Christians throughout history could act charitably, even saintly--which seemed as big a mystery as to how some Christians (living with the biblical promise of having been given a new heart and of being renewed by God and of having the ultimate power over sin, and of having the Holy Spirit available to lead them into all truth, and of having the world's only inspired book to also provide guidance) could still sometimes act horribly bad, both individually and en masse.

Speaking of the first case, that of charitable-saintly non-Christians throughout history, Kung thought of such folks as “anonymous Christians.” But charitable as that phrase sounds it also sounded to me like Kung wasn't being fair except to his own religion, in employing such a term. Couldn't Buddhists, Muslims and Mormons also do the same thing and think of charitable people who were not of their religions as "anonymous Buddhists," or, "anonymous Muslims," or, "anonymous Mormons?" And couldn't atheists think of all charitable non-atheists as "anonymous humanists?"

Another part of me, when I was a Christian, wondered how anyone who was not a Christian could control their desires and act charitably without also having Jesus somewhere inside them already? Or was it really "Jesus?" Who knew for sure? It certainly didn't seem like "Satan" was moving such people toward self-control and charity.

So I eventually became an agnostic.

Also, Chris, since I know of your interest in Universalism, you might find these words from Kung interesting, Hans Kung on Eternal Punishment, Hell, and Reconciliation

Also see this neat little piece by Kung, The Pope's Contradictions.

Cheers, Edward T. Babinski

At 7/10/2007 1:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael said,
"But, then, I can't stand Ratzinger or Communio. To the extent a Protestant can have a side in intra-Catholic debates, I'm with the Conciliium crowd."

I love Pope Benedict! And I loved Pope John Paul before him. The Catholic Church needs more men like them. Next to them; Kung pales in significance.

Kevin said,
"I don't get the Küng fascination that (seemingly) every neo-orthodox-leaning mainline Protestant has (in addition to the liberal mainliners as well."

I would guess that one of the reasons Protestants like him so much, is because he's a Catholic, who isn't, well ... very Catholic.

At 7/10/2007 3:00 AM, Anonymous Pastor Bob Cornwall said...


By saying he's verbose I don't mean he's boring, just that I can't imagine writing so many words. While I've not read him much recently 25 years ago he got me going in a new direction that has continued to this day!

At 7/10/2007 3:35 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...


Why "anonymous" comments from folks who are certain they know the truth with a capital "T" and are equally certain where they are going to spend eternity? If such anonymous folks had the kind of faith they boast of having, why remain anonymous, ever?

As for the remark by "Anonymous" that Kung "isn't very Catholic," Catholicism itself hasn't always been as Catholic as it presently appears to be. Catholicism has been challenged and changed via theologians, monks, bishops, cardinals, and popes, such that "Catholic" is whatever the "Catholic" church happens to be during each successive era. And it hasn't ceased changing and "becoming" since it first began.

Kung is a member of the "loyal opposition," seeking to stretch and test the boundaries of present day Catholic faith. And he knows, if history can teach us anything, that the church today will not be the same as the church tomorrow.

Neither is the church the same the world round today, but consists of conservatives, moderates, and liberals, and often individuals whose views on particular issues feature mixtures of one, two, or even three of the above options.

"Anonymous" might also consider that some Catholics were so disappointed with the reforms of Vatican II they they left Catholicism in the 1960s to retain earlier traditions of pre-Vatican II Catholicism. Such folks include Mel Gibson and the church he belongs to, which view folks like "Anonymous" to be "not very Catholic."

Another thought. Just as I said, anyone who believes they know the truth with a capital "T" and are equally certain where they are going to spend eternity, should be concerned over nothing, least of all saying who they are.

In a similar fashion, how seemly is it that a pope should ride about in a multi-million dollar ferrari from which he waves to the poor?

Why is the Magisterium so insistent on remaining Magisterial in an earthly sense, not only a spiritual one? Sell the art, sell the buildings and land, sell the churches, and the Ferrari. Everything must go. Give the money to the poor. Keep a walking staff. Start over from scratch at least once every thousand years, maybe even every century, for God's sake.

That might at least prove something to the world and remind it that Catholicism is not merely an institution like so many others. And that Catholicism does not require worldwide financial agreements and regular payments and pensions and high dining for Cardinals, and satellite TV networks, as it sometimes appears.

I also suggest that there is a lack of faith and a mental disconnect somewhere between the wish to avoid the untidiness and unpredicability of the statistical odds of a pope being ambushed, and the claim that God chose the pope and God is all powerful and loves the padre. (Keep in mind this is the same church that insists one must not interfere with God's option to creater life in the womb by putting an impenetrable plastic barrier between the sperm and ova.) Yet if one did now wish to interfere with God's options but trusted God's will to be done why put the pope in a bullet proof phone booth? Let each pope demonstrate God's supernatural protecting powers to preserve and dictate the length of life of each successor to Peter. If the first pope was martyred why also try to prevent the marytdoms of any of the successors?

Lastly, Popes under glass remind me far too much of museum pieces.

At 7/10/2007 10:22 AM, Anonymous Kevin Davis said...


So, if someone actually believes that something is true, do you get a capital "T"? Therefore, rejecting someone's claim to know Truth is a Truth in itself according to the rejecting-claimant.

Oh, and your cheap shots at the Catholic Church's wealth reminds me of Chesterton's remarks concerning the paradox of Catholicism's robust asceticism and aesthetics. Opponents of the Church in-turn condemn the Church for its poverty and its wealth.

Also, if Küng is part of the "loyal opposition" in the Catholic Church, what exactly consists in loyalty? Merely retaining ecclesial communion? So, if I were a PCA Presbyterian and found myself rejecting God's unconditional election, should I stay in the PCA or be honest to the confessional commitments of the church and leave? Should a member of the LCMS who adopts a Zwinglian reading of hoc est corpus meum remain in the LCMS? Should a Greek Orthodox Christian who rejects Nicea and Chalcedon because he/she believes the various gnostics really had it right, etc. etc. You get my point. Catholics are frustrated with Küng because he rejected the specifically Roman understanding of Catholicity continuing under the Petrine office and those bishops in communion such that, for instance, ecumenical councils binding on the Church and infallible can continue even after the Eastern schism. Küng, however, rejected Vatican I and much else; therefore, his license to teach as a Roman Catholic theologian was rightly suspended. If the LCMS fired a professor at Concordia Seminary after becoming a Baptist and teaching his students the glories of ordinances-contra-sacraments, should we be condemning the LCMS's actions as a throwback to the Inquisition? Let's be honest.

At 7/10/2007 9:20 PM, Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

The phrase "anonymous Christian" is not Kung's but Rahner's. (Kung was and remains shocked that Rahner did not do or say much in Kung's defense when then-Cardinal Ratzinger forbade him to teach as part of a Catholic faculty of theology!)And the problems you note with the phrase have been mentioned many times, including by those who support the general thrust of Rahner's work.

At 7/11/2007 1:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Edward,

May I suggest that launching into anti-Catholic tirades doesn't really help your cause.
If anything, it tends to ruin your credibility. At least, in my opinion.

Maybe next time, count to ten.

John McBryde

At 7/12/2007 12:05 PM, Anonymous Tom Kraft said...

Hi Chris,

the English translation of Umstrittene Wahrheit is down for Feb 2008 as Diputed Truth.

Thanks for praising John Bowden's translation, but you should be able to read the stuff in German now...!

Best from T&T Clark/Continuum,

At 7/13/2007 12:06 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Tom, nice to hear from you! I'll be reviewing a couple of T & T books soon, so stick around!


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