Hans Küng on “Why I Am Still A Christian”

Who is Hans Küng?

Hans Küng is a famous Swiss Catholic priest who was peritus at Vatican II, and is professor emeritus at the University of Tübingen. He is a PostBarthian darling, because his doctoral thesis was Karl Barth's Doctrine of Justification that fostered ecumenism between Catholics and Protestants. He's also a darling, because he protested the papist doctrine of Infallibility, and was censored for it, and lost his right to teach in the Catholic Church, yet he remains to be a proponent for the Catholic Church and for reunification of the universal Christian Church.

Hans Küng explains "Why I Am Still A Christian"

In Hans Kung's short book Why I Am Still A Christian, he provides a three bulleted list explaining why he is still a Christian. I am always mesmerized when basic questions are put to world famous theologians, because their answers are always surprising! Hans Kung has written many theological tomes, and this book is his attempt to epitomize his three larger books On Being A Christian, Does God Exist? and Eternal Life? into a short 100 page book written in plain language for common folk.

So, why am I a Christian?

I. First of all, simply because—despite all my criticisms and concerns—I can nevertheless feel fundamentally positive about a tradition that is significant for me; a tradition in which I live side by side with so many others, past and present.

II. Because I would not dream of confusing the great Christian tradition with the present structures of the church, nor leaving a definition of true Christian values to its present administrators. 

III. In brief, because—despite my violent objections to what is called Christian—I find in Christianity a basic orientation on the question of the great Whence and Whither, Why and Wherefore, of humanity and the world: a basic orientation for my individual and social self. And at the same time I find in these things a spiritual home on which I do not want to turn my back, any more than I want in politics to turn my back on democracy, which in its own way has been, and is, no less misused and abused than Christianity. But admittedly, all this only hints at the decisive factor. I must make myself clearer still.[1] 

—Hans Küng

An Analysis of Hans Küng's Answer

Hans Küng provided a three-part answer to why he is still a Christian.

First, Küng says that he has a positive feeling towards Christianity, and those are code words for religious pietism and spirituality.  Küng also say his positive feeling is not isolated or individualistic religious spirituality or piety, but he feels connected to all other Christians who lived before him and contemporaneously with him in the world. 

SecondKüng affirms that he is part of the great tradition of the Christian Church, but he also believes that the Christian Church is not identical with the Roman Catholic Church today. Küng's comment is a reference to his two books on The Church and The Structures of the Church (which is a polemic for ecunemical coucils that included all churches and private individuals). Küng is a Protestant who protests from inside the Catholic Church! He's neither a papist nor a catholic basher, but one who fights from within with those who fight without.

Thirdly (and lastly), Küng provides a rational justification for his Christian faith, that parallels his first spiritual justification. Küng believes Christianity provides the most rational explanation for life, and the basic questions that confront every living person, such as where do we come from and where do we go? Or in other words, why are we here and what is our purpose? Kung believes Christianity provides the best answers to these questions. 

In conclusion, Hans Küng provides a fascinating explanation to why he is a Christian, that consists of spiritual and pietistic belief, that is also rationally critical, yet still grounded in the Christian tradition. Küng's final words "I must make myself clearer still", means that I recommend reading this entire chapter 3, and even better still, this entire book, Why I Am Still A Christian, to see Hans Küng's explanation as to why he is still a Christian.


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[^1] Küng, Hans. Why I Am Still a Christian. Ed. E. C. Hughes. Trans. D. Smith. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1987. 36-7. Print.

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