Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hans Kung: Add to the list of Being itself theologians

Hans Kung

Kung was one of the major radical theolgoians of the 60's. Catholic, I believe he's Swiss, he made a big hit in the early 70s with his major work On Being a Christian which defined the state of liberal Christina humanism for the radical generation. He was first catipolted to fame in the early 60s with a worth which showed that Catholic theology and Protestant theology are really not so far apart on Grace. He was fired from teaching by the Vatican in the late 70s or early 80s.

Tiny Thinker to the rescue again. He came up with this quote. While Kung does not use the phrase "Being itself" or "ground of being" in this quote, it's clear he's talking about the same concept. I'm compiling a list of theologians who agree with Tillich's idea, so I'm excited to find this one.

Postby tinythinker on Mon Apr 13, 2009 10:13 pm

Tiny says:
"I recently found some sample pages from The Beginning of All Things by Hans Kung (pp. 105, 107-108) touching on some of these issues..."

Kung says:

The sciences demand some hard thinking of the theologian. I ask myself whether conversely theology may not also require a little thinking from the scientist, when it is about central issues.

There are physicists who use "God" as a metaphor for the worldly. "If you are religious, this is like looking at God," remarked the American astrophysicist George Smoot when he announced the fluctuations in the background cosmic radiation (an echo of the Big Bang). This sounds pious, but it is superficial. Here God is a metaphor for the secular, for nature. So too the Nobel Prize winner Leon Lederman with his book title The God Particle.

Rather, we should maintain that God is not identical with the cosmos. And Einstein would not have had such insuperable difficulties in accepting quantum theory had he not identified God with nature or natural laws like his "house philosopher" Spinoza. So God is not a being within the earth, not a "thing" in this world; he does not belong to the "factual reality," nor can he be observed empirically. God is not a "worldly being," and that means he is no "Father" or "Mother" in the human/all-too-human sense.

So is God a being above the earth? No, he is not a superterrestrial being above the clouds, in the physical heaven. This naive anthropomorphic notion is obsolete: God is not an existing, objective, reified other, in the spiritual or metaphorical sense "outside" the world in an otherworldly beyond, a "hinterworld."

But then what can be said about God at the level of today's scientific awareness - in the face of our new vision of the unimaginably broad, deep, and ultimately not fully comprehensible cosmos and the billions of years of the evolution of the world and human beings?

...God is conceivable in the context of a modern unitary and dynamic understanding of reality: God is not a (supreme) finite alongside the finite as part of reality. Rather, he is the intangible "infinite dimension" in all things. Not just the invisible mathematical dimension, though, but the real dimension of the infinite. The infinite in the finite, but with which one can reckon in principle as in mathematics, even the reckoning must not be included in everyday equations.

We can formulate the relationship between God and the world, God and human beings, only dialectically: God is transcendence, but in immanence. He is in eternity, but in temporality; immeasurability, but in space. So God is the absolute in the relative, the primal mystery in the reality of the world and world history - no more detectable than the architectural formula that supports everything in the bridge that spans the abyss. Can this infinite God still be called a person?

...First, God is more than a person. Albert Einstein's objections to a personal understanding of God are to be taken seriously. If he speaks of cosmic reason of if Eastern thinkers speak of the "One" (tad ekam), of "nirvana", "void" (Shunyata), "absolute nothingness", "shining darkness", then we must understand this as the often paradoxical expression of reverence before the mystery of the Absolute. This cannot be grasped either in concepts or notions - that has to be asserted over against all-too-human "theistic" notions of God, which is why even the name "God" is rejected by Buddhists.

It is true that God is certainly not a person as a human being is a person: the all-embracing and all-permeating is never an object from which humans can distance themselves to say something about him. The abyss, primal support and primal goal of all reality, which for the believer determines every individual existence, who is nearer to me than my neck vein, as the Qur'an (sura 50.16) says metaphorically, is not a limited individual among other persons. God is not a super-person and a super-ego. So even the term "person" is a cypher for God: God is not the supreme persons among other persons. God explodes the concept of person: God is more than a person.

But a second thing is also true: God is not less than a person. Precisely because God is not a "thing," precisely because, as is emphasized in Eastern wisdom, he cannot be understood, seen, manipulated; because he is not at our disposal, he is also not impersonal, not subpersonal. God, who makes possible the coming into being of the personal, also explodes the concept of the impersonal: God is not less than a person either.

...This is not just the view of the Bible and the Qur'an; most Buddhists also accept and Ultimate Reality. And this is more than the cosmos: more than a universal reason or a great anonymous consciousness. It is more than the supreme idea (Plato) or a thinking related to itself and thinking itself (Aristotle). It is more than the pure beauty of the cosmos or the blind justice of history. The Ultimate Reality is not indifferent to us and does not leave us indifferent, but is our "ultimate concern", as Paul Tillich put it in liberating and demanding way: omnipresent to us and at the same time withdrawn from us.

1 comment:

Matt B said...

I know that our library has a book or two by Kung, I think I might just go see if I can grab them now.