Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Hans Küng’s Theological Memoirs

kung.gifChris Tilling recommends the first volume of Hans Küng’s memoirs and alerts us that the German edition of volume two will be out this year.  I look forward to these and am glad of Chris’ recommendations for a few reasons:  1) I love theological memoirs. I find that such personal accounts help me to understand a theologian’s work as a whole and appreciate said thinker better.  Maybe its my Baptist tradition of personal testimony, I don’t know. But I have read such memoirs from very conservative theologians, very liberal ones and every point in between and found them extremely helpful.

2) Küng ranked #5 on my list of Top Ten Favorite Liberal Theologians.  From his early work on Barth to his attempt, from within Catholic tradition, to show the falsehood of papal infallibility, to his careful apologetics (which, unlike most conservative Protestant apologetics, took the skeptics seriously), I have found Küng to embody the promise of Vatican II for Catholic theology (not quite as well as liberation theologians embody that promise, but still significantly).

3) Küng’s works on Judaism and Islam are so much superior to what usually passes for “interfaith dialogue.”  Here is a serious Christian theologian who attempts to see two other faiths “from inside” (as much as an outsider can) and interpret them to the outside world. He has been successful enough that his volume on Judaism has drawn great praise from Jewish scholars and his one on Islam the same for Islamic scholars.  If we are to avoid new rounds of destructive “wars of religion” in this scary 21st Century, we need to hope that this kind of cross-cultural, interfaith understanding becomes far more common. (Note: This is NOT an endorsement of a Paul Knitter-style soteriological pluralism!)

4) There are many aspects of Küng’s work which I do not yet fully grasp. As I said, theological memoirs usually aid me in such understanding.

So, thanks for recommendations, Chris.  This bibliophile’s wish list just keeps growing–even with a severely strained book budget. (This is why, even though the i-phone threatens to reawaken a long-buried techno-geek, I will NOT be purchasing one. I’ve done without cellphone, blackberry, pager, wii, x-box, and more–I can do without i-phone, too. Send books for Christmas, family! What’s that? Oh, my long suffering wife reminds me that all of us need new clothes, my daughters are growing, etc. Would I please blog less and write more for money? Yes, dear.)

July 9, 2007 - Posted by | autobiography, theology


  1. Thanks for the link, Michael. But what is this i-phone? Got the geek in me all interested now ….

    Comment by Chris Tilling | July 9, 2007

  2. Yes, the Küng book is superb — I found it compelling, couldn’t put it down. A lot of the first volume focuses on Vatican II, and there are delightful personal encounters with most of the major figures of modern Catholicism. And of course, reading about Küng’s rigorous Roman education is a very humbling experience….

    Comment by Ben Myers | July 9, 2007

  3. Chris, the i-phone,short for “internet phone” is Apple’s new touch-screen phone with the internet–aupposedly at broadband speed. The touchscreen technology looks amazing, but each unit costs close to $600 U.S. (without shipping and handling) and they have an exclusive contract AT &T.

    Ben, thanks for the comments. Now I want to read this even more. I know what you mean about the intimidation factor on Catholic education. I have a couple of friends who are Jesuit priests–and celibacy is not the only reason why Catholic theologians and biblical scholars write volumes that are so much larger/longer than Protestant ones!

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 9, 2007

  4. Thanks for the note. I’m anxious to read the memoirs, although I think Kung may be the most over-rated living theologian–well, okay, over-rated RC theologian.

    Comment by Maiden | July 9, 2007

  5. Well, Maiden, I have to disagree. The most overrated Catholic theologian is Joseph Ratzinger and the Cardinals went nuts and installed him in the See of Rome!

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 9, 2007

  6. Let me heartily second the recommendation of Kung’s memoirs! A most excellent book – especially in light of the question as to whether he or Ratzinger is the most overrated Roman Catholic theologian. For my money, it is Ratzinger, who Kung takes a few shots at in the first volume of his memoirs. I can’t wait until the second volume comes out in English, as my German sucks.

    Comment by Sandalstraps | July 9, 2007

  7. Ratzinger: You have me there! 🙂

    Comment by Maiden | July 10, 2007

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