What I Believe Hardcover – 16 Sep 2010
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'What I Believe is not a book to be read quickly, but rather one to ponder over. Some of it is couched in philosophical and theological language, but it is not too difficult to understand and well worth any effort involved.' --thegoodbookstall.org.uk
'Kung's continuing quest for language to speak meaningfully of God in today's world makes for exciting reading… Methodists seeking to commend their savior to others in the 21st century will find much value here.' --Methodist Recorder, 17th Feb 2011
'The tone is positive and life-affirming but also down to earth… there is something engaging about his [Kung's] commitment to battle for a critical faith and for peace among religions rather than a clash of civilisations.' --Church of England Newspaper
'Any book that leaves me asking whether my idea and experience of God is growing bigger or smaller has definitely achieved something.' --Church of Ireland Gazette, 29th April 2011
About the Author
Hans Kung was born in 1928 in Switzerland. He is Emeritus Professor of Ecumenical Theology in the University of Tubingen and President of the World Ethic Foundation. Continuum have published the two volumes of his autobiography - My Struggle for Freedom and Disputed Truth.
Top customer reviews
Kung's essential points are similar to Albert Schweitzer (who Kung credits and mentions) and Erich Fromm (who Kung does not mention and I dont know whether or not he is familiar with) affirming a reverence and trust in life and hope. Involved within the scope of the book's content are reflections and reminiscence of how Kung's beliefs developed, what they are, who he feels affinity with, who he once did feel affinity with but no longer makes common cause with and who he does not.
While reference is made to Kung's struggles with orthodoxy and attempts at reform within the Roman Catholic Church from the time of the second vatican council he does not dwell upon this and there is no trace of bitterness, infact he describes how being stopped, challenged and limited by these experiences caused him to grow personally, think and rethink his conclusions. It is very apparent that Kung has given a great deal of thought to his beliefs, there are reflections upon other world religions and a critical appraisal of what he describes as "phony" Christianity, while he mentions critically some strains of protestant fundamentalism, biblical or scriptural literalism for instance, he reserves most of his criticism for the Roman Catholic Church. Without doubt Kung wishes to behave as a kind of "loyal opposition", there is no real sense in which he wishes to make a definitive break with Roman Catholicism but he does see the Church as stuck in a moment, that moment being medieval and earlier structures underpinned by papalism, marianism and celibacy.
Kung affirms belief in an infinite God, suggesting he has never felt that be doubted God but has doubted some of the proofs of his existence, describing some of the proofs which remain relevent and valid for him he includes music (the affects it can evoke), mathematics (the idea of the infinity) and cosmological order (spontaneous order, although not exactly an argument for intelligent design). Kung is critical of anthropomorphism and goes so far as to suggest that he can not believe in God existing before and apart from the cosmos. There is some content about the trinity, Jesus and the problem of evil, this is interesting but not entirely clear to me, at least not in a single reading, and I think would be more understandable if I shared more of the learning in philosophy which Kung himself mentions and credits. I am unsure the extent to which the translation of the book has contributed to some of the content being less easily understood at first, it does permit some brilliant turns of phrase and elaborate prose, so it is not all confusing. In the final instance Kung describes that he believes in the existence of God, he hopes for an afterlife with God, and states that should this proof to be mistaken that in any case he believes a life lived in this hope to be better than any other.
In particular I liked, probably because I share it also, Kung's admiration for Kant, including Kant's consolations (that when life is wearisome there is recourse to hope, sleep and laughter), and I would likewise share Kung's bewilderment that modern philosophers dont seem exercised by metaphysics or religion at all, perfering to dismiss it all. The chapters considering love are those in which Kung truly comes to life, describing the different varieties of love, eros, agape (wrongly reductively described as "Platonic love"), love as described by Jesus and the bible. Unfortunately these are less expansive than other chapters but it is clear that Jesus' teaching to "Love Others As You Love Yourself" is at the core of Kung's ethics and a kind of motif force for him.
The passages and chapters dealing with politics and economics I think are weaker, I would not argue with Kung's idea that economics should be subjected by politics and politics subjected by ethics, although it is a statement of belief rather than a well or lengthy reasoned proposal. In economics Kung describes himself as critical of both the welfare state (which he considers exemplified by Sweden) and neo-capitalism (exemplified by America), while he mentions reading in economics, authors and the social market economy, Kung is a lot less persuasive on this topic. Welfare states are criticised as being in contradiction with the reality of economics, which I dont believe is in evidence, while the criticism of "neo-capitalism" is essentially an ethical assault on greed and exclusive definitions of success. Reading the book I was convinced that Kung may not draw much distinction between socialism, liberalism and other more totalitarian ideologies, considering them as utopian and/or substitutes for religious beliefs.
I really enjoyed this book, being interested in philosophy and spirituality, the main stays of the books content, having read Kung before, in particular his history of the Roman Catholic Church, and appreciating the resembalence between Kung and other authors I have already mentioned. I think it will appeal primarily to anyone who is interested in these topics or authors too.
The book has not disappointed in any way and I have found it compulsive reading. I am no doubt biased as Professor Kung represents the positive, theological views of life and the cosmos - that I grope towards - but What I Believewith such lucidity and depth of insight, that I find his writings incredibly helpful to my own 'journey'.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
of life, a model, the role of suffering, loneliness, spirituality, and other aspects of human life that all of us experience. It is NOT
a religious book as such, but rather a realistic vision based on the Christian model with Jesus Christ embracing each one of us.
Carl J Rossow, D.H.L., Ed.D.
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