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One of this century's most prominent and outspoken theologians affirms the vitality and uniqueness of Christianity by tracing it back to the reality of the historical Christ.


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One of this century's most prominent and outspoken theologians affirms the vitality and uniqueness of Christianity by tracing it back to the reality of the historical Christ.

30 review for On Being a Christian

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jc

    I first read this in 1975, soon after the Eng. translation came out. I found it to be an amazing and serious liberal R.C. exploration of the major questions of christian theology. Certainly it should be considered on the same level as many of the great protestant theologians (e.g. Tillich, Bonhoeffer, Bultmann, Kierkegaard). Considering this and many of his other works, it is no surprise that both Karol Wojtyła and Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger strongly opposed Kung’s relatively radical views. Re-re I first read this in 1975, soon after the Eng. translation came out. I found it to be an amazing and serious liberal R.C. exploration of the major questions of christian theology. Certainly it should be considered on the same level as many of the great protestant theologians (e.g. Tillich, Bonhoeffer, Bultmann, Kierkegaard). Considering this and many of his other works, it is no surprise that both Karol Wojtyła and Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger strongly opposed Kung’s relatively radical views. Re-reading it again nearly 40 years later, I would say if there was any truth to the christian image of reality, I would prefer Kung's church to that of most christian thinkers, RC or otherwise. Kung's discussions of the history of christian thought, the development and structure of the church, and especially his comparisons between RC christianity and 1)other world religions, 2)Judaism, and 3)other forms of christianity, are all fascinating and thought provoking. However, he is frustrating in that with each argument (and in ~600 pages he covers a LOT of arguments) he always haults at the brink – after showing the physical, philosophical, historical, and/or other problems with a particular "belief" issue, he then concludes with something along the line of, "but faith answers all" (of course, these conclusions are argued with his usual skill). I still think he is a brilliant, and learned man, but I wish his learning could push him a step further to even more liberal conclusions. Still, I recommend the book to serious students of christian thought/history, whether or not you are Christian yourself. One BIG caveat - while he repeatedly says he is also talking to atheists, except for those like me who still enjoy the history of christian thought separate from their own beliefs, atheists will not find him to be addressing them at all (no, I do not expect him to give up his beliefs, I am just noting that most of what he considers shared questions would not even mean anything to most atheists). And certainly I do nott recommend it to any of a more conservative christian mind unless they really can read it with a very open mind – this man is not shy about questions the precepts and assumptions of the christian cult. Finally, even though yes, I disagree with many of Herr Professor Kung’s conclusions, I still find myself greatly admiring the mind of this great thinker. Also – if you only can visit a few cities in Europe, Kung’s own Tübingen should be towards the top of your list!

  2. 5 out of 5

    M Christopher

    I have read and been inspired by many modern German and Swiss theologians: Jurgen Moltmann, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and Hans Urs von Balthasar, among others. But reading their books, though ultimately rewarding, has always been hard work. I often feel that their arguments are too carefully made, repititive to the extreme, in an attempt to hermetically seal their theses against criticism from other theologians, who seem to be their primary audience. They are often more reliant on obscure points of p I have read and been inspired by many modern German and Swiss theologians: Jurgen Moltmann, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and Hans Urs von Balthasar, among others. But reading their books, though ultimately rewarding, has always been hard work. I often feel that their arguments are too carefully made, repititive to the extreme, in an attempt to hermetically seal their theses against criticism from other theologians, who seem to be their primary audience. They are often more reliant on obscure points of philosophy and the work of other theologians than on the Scriptures. Hans Kung's "On Being a Christian" is a completely different sort of book. While based on learned arguments, it is accessible, drawing the grist for its arguments almost solely from Scripture. Kung writes in a conversational style, which is captured even in translation. While "On Being a Christian" is essentially a one-volume systematic theology, it has a natural flow from near-current issues (it was originally published in 1974) to formative Judeo-Christian thought and back. I think this fine book could easily be read by those with only a very basic education in theology and Church history. I found this encounter with Kung's thought to be both stimulating and sad. He clearly represents the liberal wing of the Roman Catholic Church which held sway during the Second Vatican Council and made such great strides to bring the Church of Rome into the Twentieth Century. Of course, in ensuing years, Kung's writing has been officially suppressed and the reactionary approach of Wojtyla, Ratzinger, et al., has cast its shadow over the Church. Kung and Ratzinger were close colleagues and friends in their younger days and the final irony of this book is that Kung lists several books he found to be useful to his own writing in a short appendix at the end. One of them is Ratzinger's "Introduction to Christianity."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Pishowi

    Hans Küng (born 1928) is a Swiss Catholic priest, theologian, and author, who was famously censured by the Vatican in 1979 and declared no longer authorized to teach "Catholic theology," though he remains a priest in good standing. He has written many other books, such as Does God Exist?: An Answer for Today, Eternal Life?: Life After Death as a Medical, Philosophical, and Theological Problem, etc. He wrote in the Introduction to this 1974 book, "This book is written for all those who, for any re Hans Küng (born 1928) is a Swiss Catholic priest, theologian, and author, who was famously censured by the Vatican in 1979 and declared no longer authorized to teach "Catholic theology," though he remains a priest in good standing. He has written many other books, such as Does God Exist?: An Answer for Today, Eternal Life?: Life After Death as a Medical, Philosophical, and Theological Problem, etc. He wrote in the Introduction to this 1974 book, "This book is written for all those who, for any reason at all, honestly and sincerely want to know what Christianity, what being a Christian, really means... It is an attempt... to discover what is permanent: what is different from other world religions and modern humanisms; and at the same time what is common to the separated Christian Churches." He states that theology claims "to be no more than scholarly reflection on its object from ONE particular standpoint, which is anyway one legitimate standpoint among others." (Pg. 87) The most decisive characteristic of Christianity is that "it considers this Jesus as ultimately decisive, definitive, ARCHETYPAL for man in these various dimensions of his." (Pg. 123) He suggests that the resurrection cannot be "proved by historical arguments... It is itself the object of faith." (Pg. 360) Jesus' suffering shows us that "even manifestly senseless suffering and death CAN have a meaning, can ACQUIRE a meaning. A hidden meaning." (Pg. 433) He argues that there is no God other than the one who manifested himself in Jesus; "the face he showed in Jesus is really his true and single face." (Pg. 446) The Bible, he states, "does not simply contain God's word: it becomes God's word for anyone who submits trustfully and in faith to its testimony." (Pg. 467)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    A Catholic theologian that can hold his own with most social scientists. Read the second chapter for sure!

  5. 5 out of 5

    David Bisset

    In some respects this book is still the author's magnum opus; it belongs to its era, but in his opinion it needs no updating. He has a valid point, for updating would clearly display the lack of ecumenical progress, and the failure of the Roman Catholic Church to fully implement the conclusions of the Second Vatican Council or to effect for the reforms in church polity or ethics. But, apart from these matters, we have a theologian who challenges all by his radicalism, who refutes errors, who res In some respects this book is still the author's magnum opus; it belongs to its era, but in his opinion it needs no updating. He has a valid point, for updating would clearly display the lack of ecumenical progress, and the failure of the Roman Catholic Church to fully implement the conclusions of the Second Vatican Council or to effect for the reforms in church polity or ethics. But, apart from these matters, we have a theologian who challenges all by his radicalism, who refutes errors, who respects scholarship, and who has no sympathy for obscurantism. This is no easy read, but the effort was worth it!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Br. Thanasi (Thomas) Stama

    Currently rereading Hans Kung's brilliant work. Read it in late 1970's while onboard a US Naval ship. Yes, I was in the Navy. At the time, I found the sentences laborious to read being translated from the German into English. I was able to plow thru the tedium due to research skills from my science background at Auburn University. To this day the Old Testament, Kung, Edward Schillebeeckx and the many sentences of St. Paul are some of the hardest reading one can do. (After rereading this classic wo Currently rereading Hans Kung's brilliant work. Read it in late 1970's while onboard a US Naval ship. Yes, I was in the Navy. At the time, I found the sentences laborious to read being translated from the German into English. I was able to plow thru the tedium due to research skills from my science background at Auburn University. To this day the Old Testament, Kung, Edward Schillebeeckx and the many sentences of St. Paul are some of the hardest reading one can do. (After rereading this classic work, I still feel this is absolute must for any liberal Christian who wishes to be considered well read on modern theology. It is a brilliant work and is lightning for one's walk in Faith.)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Royce

    I finally finished this mammoth of a book -- but I suppose it's short compared to the Summa Theologica or Church Dogmatics! Kung presents a complete Christian theology for the intelligent, critical, modern mind. It does not gloss over the many errors of the Church, but instead points to the reasons for his continued faith and his optimism for the future of the Church and creation. As Kung says, everyone has to make a choice about their faith: even the decision to NOT make a choice is a choice! I I finally finished this mammoth of a book -- but I suppose it's short compared to the Summa Theologica or Church Dogmatics! Kung presents a complete Christian theology for the intelligent, critical, modern mind. It does not gloss over the many errors of the Church, but instead points to the reasons for his continued faith and his optimism for the future of the Church and creation. As Kung says, everyone has to make a choice about their faith: even the decision to NOT make a choice is a choice! I can't really explain any of his conclusions, because they are meaningless without the 500 pages of discussion beforehand.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Angela Joyce

    If I had read this before getting my degree in Religious Studies, I would have been the Hermione Granger of the class. Perhaps it's for the best that I read it later; it was an excellent review of everything I learned, and then some. Not only is it intellectually enlightening, it's been good for my personal faith as well.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    gave up for now... the first ~150 pages are pretty good and occasionally really excellent, but then you realize you're only 1/3 through! i'll be back.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stevejs298

    One of the hardest books I can recall reading. But, it was very, very informative, enlightening, comforting and meaningful.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    Have read several times.

  12. 5 out of 5

    JAKe Hatmacher

    I was drawn to read this book by reading a magazine article. What the author of the article said regarding the views of the author were intriguing to me. I found that I wrote in the margins often and for several reasons. One reason was for the usual, in that I did not want to forget where in the book something was at. A second reason was I agreed with what the author said. A third was I didn't partially or fully agree with what the author said. And perhaps finally, what was said gave me pause to I was drawn to read this book by reading a magazine article. What the author of the article said regarding the views of the author were intriguing to me. I found that I wrote in the margins often and for several reasons. One reason was for the usual, in that I did not want to forget where in the book something was at. A second reason was I agreed with what the author said. A third was I didn't partially or fully agree with what the author said. And perhaps finally, what was said gave me pause to wonder about it and to perceive parallels to present, past, and even future happenings. The author used many words I was not familiar with, so you may be able to expand your vocabulary if you may also not be familiar. You may also want to be prepared to reread passages to grasp more fully what is said. Overall, I must say I enjoyed reading this 601 page book because it showed me that there is a very learned man out there that has not only pondered but expressed in print many of the same things I have. This is not a book for a pure conformist, for one who is not prone to question. There is probably a reason that I've heard that the author is not allowed by the Church to teach Catholic theology.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cutenerd scraped an O OWL in Charms

    Fantastic.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I do not agree with the author on many points. I read it because it was referenced in one of Brenden Manning's books. I stuck with it because I appreciated that He doesn't take anything for granted and I wanted to expand my view as a seeker of truth. He does not seem to see the Bible as God's Word, but analyzes it from a historical and sociological perspective. He sees the miracles of Jesus as stories or exaggerations, yet, amusingly, he still comes to many of the same conclusions in terms of wh I do not agree with the author on many points. I read it because it was referenced in one of Brenden Manning's books. I stuck with it because I appreciated that He doesn't take anything for granted and I wanted to expand my view as a seeker of truth. He does not seem to see the Bible as God's Word, but analyzes it from a historical and sociological perspective. He sees the miracles of Jesus as stories or exaggerations, yet, amusingly, he still comes to many of the same conclusions in terms of who Jesus is. My final conclusion is that I'm glad I read a different perspective. I'd recommend this book for Christians and non-Christians alike, but be warned: this is not light, dumbed down reading.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mauberley

    Returning to this book in 2015 after first reading it shortly after its initial publication, I was amazed by its continuing relevance. This is without question the best introduction to Christianity that a thoughtful contemporary seeker could encounter. Kung is a fine writer and the work is ably rendered into English by his translator. It is not necessary to agree with each and every one of Kung's arguments nor do I think that the author expects that from his readers. The great achievement of the Returning to this book in 2015 after first reading it shortly after its initial publication, I was amazed by its continuing relevance. This is without question the best introduction to Christianity that a thoughtful contemporary seeker could encounter. Kung is a fine writer and the work is ably rendered into English by his translator. It is not necessary to agree with each and every one of Kung's arguments nor do I think that the author expects that from his readers. The great achievement of the book is to make Christianity alive for the contemporary world without pandering to current thoughtlessness or chauvinism or by entirely jettisoning the incredible history of the faith. Kung is a Catholic writing to a catholic faith and, in my view, he succeeds brilliantly.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Phil Arnold

    On Being a Christian will not satisfy the dogmatically inclined, nor the cynical existentialist, but it will help those seeking a middle way to religious understanding. It does not presume to champion Christianity, but explains clearly what makes the members of the Church unique. The chapters are arranged logically, and may be read in any order. In fact, Mr. Kung advises readers to skip certain passages depending on their views. His plausible explanations for some of the more controversial eleme On Being a Christian will not satisfy the dogmatically inclined, nor the cynical existentialist, but it will help those seeking a middle way to religious understanding. It does not presume to champion Christianity, but explains clearly what makes the members of the Church unique. The chapters are arranged logically, and may be read in any order. In fact, Mr. Kung advises readers to skip certain passages depending on their views. His plausible explanations for some of the more controversial elements of Christian theology, are brilliant and defended in a scholarly manner. Kung may be a critic, however, he promotes the inclusive nature of Christianity.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    A voluminous and scholarly work that is alternately highly engaging and dreadfully dull. I read this with the hope that it might provide some meangingful terms on which I could accept the possibility of Christianity as a viable personal worldview. It did not succeed.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    At 600 pages of translated German, this book takes perseverance to read, but is ultimately worth the journey. It is difficult to find a book by a current progressive theologian that does not quote this book, so I decided to go back to the source and read it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    P.S.

    Highly recommended by a friend for whom I have a great deal of respect. I look forward to tackling it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Read in 1991 - pre-Goodreads Review 12.01.17 Borrowed from a friend. I thought this was a very good, very intelligent book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Massive and dense at times...but really awesome. He speaks to the issues of contemporary theology.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Larry Taylor

    in depth, foundational, solid, biblical

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gerhard Venter

    If you have anything but a passing interest in theology, read this book. In English it is titled something like "On Being A Christian."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    rec. in Ragamuffin Gospel

  25. 5 out of 5

    Liquidlasagna

  26. 4 out of 5

    Wyatt Houtz

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sanne

  28. 4 out of 5

    Anthonywilson

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dusty Craig

  30. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

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