To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions. An Answer for Today. By Hans Kung.
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To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions. An Answer for Today. By Hans Kung. Translated by Edward Quinn. He stands for some as a symbol of intellectual integrity, for others as a disreputable disturber of the doctrinal peace.
There is a persistent temptation, therefore, to review not his published work but the man himself and the public controversies surrounding him. It is a work at once conservative in its faith and substantive in its scholarship. Father Kung argues for the existence of God, but in a manner that undermines at the same time biblical and dogmatic fundamentalisms.
The book addresses two principal questions: Does God exist? In his characteristically comprehensive fashion, Father Kung constructs the case for belief or better: trust logically and systematically: from the question of knowing, through the central question of meaning, to the question of God.
Beginning with a negative critique of both rationalism and naivete, Father Kung sounds the theme that permeates the entire work: any position, whether scientific or religious, that claims to be absolute puts itself in question, because reality is multidimensional.
To be sure, without thinking we never reach faith, but with thinking alone we do not reach truth. Appeals to the Bible, on the one hand, or to philosophy, on the other, are never sufficient in themselves. We can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God.
We live, he insists, in a radically changed situation. Although it once required courage to be an atheist, today it often requires courage to believe in God. Belief in God is validated not by arguments but by practice. Believers who live in a truly human way are an argument for that belief, and vice versa. But, again, practice alone neither proves nor disproves God. Father Kung moves from an analysis of atheism to an exploration of its consequence, nihilism, and therein to the heart and perhaps the real achievement of the book.
Nietzsche, not the traditional atheist, poses the most direct challenge to belief, for he rejects not only the cogito of Descartes and the credo of Pascal, but also meaning itself. For Nietzsche it is no longer a question of doubt about particular certainties, but about the possibility of being certain at all. Life as a totality is useless, pointless, worthless - in a word, null. All that is could also not be. And nihilism is irrefutable as well, because it is at least possible that life is meaningless.
Make up your mind. This fundamental trust is both a gift and a task. It is a gift because reality is a given from the start. And if I commit myself to it trustingly, I get it back filled with meaning and value. Trust is also a task. It must be proved in practice. We are called to critique and change those social conditions that shake our trust. But such trust is justified only if reality itself is not groundless, unsupported and aimless.
God is the ground of reality and the deepest foundation of our attitude of trust toward it. But it is not enough to assert this as Karl Barth does. It must be confirmed but not as Vatican I does. Indeed, he belongs clearly in the top rank of those theologians who, like Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr, have successfully mediated religious faith to the wider society and culture.
He does not merely assert his belief; he tries to provide arguments and warrants for it without, at the same time, lapsing into the rationalistic apologetics of traditional theism. Father Kung is always erudite, fair and balanced almost to a dialectical fault , but he is not immune to a certain caustic impulse when Vatican policies, past and present, are at issue. Although this book seems more synthetic and even encyclopedic than creative and original, its principal value may be the challenge it puts to process philosophy to confront more seriously than it has the problem of nihilism.
The book is too long. Father Kung is not frequently enough called to account for his tendency to over-elaborate his case. His recent presentation at the American Academy of Religion convention in Dallas went on for more than an hour and 40 minutes, leaving many in his audience those who remained agitated and annoyed. Where is the sustained discussion of historical evil, represented, for example, in the holocaust?
How is our fundamental trust in reality qualified by such monstrous, and not at all isolated, historical occurrences?
What of the Eastern traditions that are treated so lightly? But these are questions, not charges. It deserves a wide and fair reading.
Does God Exist
He studied philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained in He continued his education in various European cities, including the Sorbonne. Louis University. He accepted an invitation to visit John F. Kennedy at the White House. It located a number of areas of agreement between Barthian and Catholic theologies of justification , concluding that the differences were not fundamental and did not warrant a division in the Church.
THE COURAGE TO BELIEVE
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Does God Exist? An Answer for Today