A Critical Study of Hans Küng s Ecclesiology

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1 A Critical Study of Hans Küng s Ecclesiology

2 Other works by Corneliu C. Simuţ Richard Hooker and His Early Doctrine of Justification. A Study of His Discourse of Justification (2005). The Doctrine of Salvation in the Sermons of Richard Hooker (2005). The Ontology of the Church in Hans Küng (2007).

3 A Critical Study of Hans Küng s Ecclesiology From Traditionalism to Modernism Corneliu C. Simuţ

4 A CRITICAL STUDY OF HANS KÜNG S ECCLESIOLOGY Copyright Corneliu C. Simut, Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition All rights reserved. First published in 2008 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y and Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, England RG21 6XS Companies and representatives throughout the world. PALGRAVE MACMILLAN is the global academic imprint of the Palgrave Macmillan division of St. Martin s Press, LLC and of Palgrave Macmillan Ltd. Macmillan is a registered trademark in the United States, United Kingdom and other countries. Palgrave is a registered trademark in the European Union and other countries. ISBN ISBN (ebook) DOI / Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Simut, Corneliu C. A critical study of Hans Küng s ecclesiology : from traditionalism to modernism / by Corneliu C. Simut. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. 1. Church. 2. Küng, Hans, 1928 Strukturen der Kirche. 3. Küng, Hans, 1928 Christ sein. 4. Modernism (Christian theology) Catholic Church. I. Title. BX1746.K853S dc A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Design by Newgen Imaging Systems (P) Ltd., Chennai, India. First edition: July

5 To my brother, Ciprian Simuţ

6 Contents Acknowledgments A Brief Introduction ix xi Part 1 Traditional Ecclesiology in Structures of the Church (1962) 1 The Unity of the Church 3 The Church and the Holy Spirit 3 The Church and Salvation 5 Unity as Spiritual Reality 8 The Necessity of Unanimity 9 2 The Catholicity of the Church 13 The Church, History, and Religious Experience 13 Variety as Essence of the Church 15 The Importance of the Holy Spirit 16 The Church between God and History 18 Healing the Schism by Ecumenicity 20 3 The Holiness of the Church 25 The Church and the Trinitarian God 25 Personal and Communitarian Morality 27 The Authority of the Holy Spirit 29 In the Spirit of God for the Gospel of Christ 32 4 The Apostolicity of the Church 35 A Definition of Apostolicity 35 The Church and Morality 38 The Church and the Apostles 39

7 viii Contents Part 2 Modern Ecclesiology in On Being a Christian (1974) 5 The Scripture of the Church 53 Scripture and Inspiration 53 Scripture and Revelation 58 6 The Spirit of the Church 65 The Spirit and the Historical Reality of the Church 65 The Spirit and the Doctrine of the Trinity 70 7 The Diversity of the Church 77 The Church and Christ 77 The Church and Its Calling to be a Congregation of God 79 The Church as Local and Universal 81 The Church and Its Trinitarian Constitution 82 The Church and the Priesthood of All Believers 84 The Church and Its Freedom, Indiscrimination, and Brotherhood 86 The Church and Pluriformity 88 The Church and Mission 89 The Church and Its Ministries 93 The Church and Petrine Ministry 99 8 The Work of the Church 101 The Church as Catholic and Protestant 101 The Church and Its Temporary Character 106 The Church and Service 108 The Guilt of the Church and the Sinfulness of Christians 109 Conclusion 113 Appendix: Reading Hans Küng s Ecclesiology Today 119 Notes 143 Bibliography 179 Index 187

8 Acknowledgments The list containing the names of the persons to whom I ought to say thank you for helping me bring this work to completion is almost invariably the same: my wife, Ramona, for being so sympathetic in putting up with me for such a long time when I was writing; my little children, Ezra and Lara, for constantly asking me what I was writing and whether it was a book or not; my colleagues, especially Professor Paul Negruţ, the rector of Emanuel University, for allowing me to leave aside my daily duties at our research centre whenever I needed to do some research abroad, and Dr. Ioan Gh. Pop, for asking me a thousand times when I was going to finish the book; Professor Heinrich Löwen, formerly Rector of the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Leuven, Belgium, for hosting me at the ETF campus during my stay in the city; Professor George Newlands from the University of Glasgow, for his valuable comments on the final draft of the manuscript; and the last but not the least, my brother, Ciprian, to whom this book is dedicated for helping me in any way he could whenever I asked him and we both know I asked more than dozens and dozens of times. Corneliu C. Simuţ Oradea, March 1, 2008

9 A Brief Introduction Although this book is quite short, its history is a bit longer. Everything started in October 1998, when I had a seminar on modern and contemporary theology with my students at Emanuel University of Oradea, Romania. We had been talking for a while about Hans Küng and other contemporary Catholic theologians when a student suddenly remarked that Küng s theology looked (actually, she said sounded ) so traditional while it was, in fact, considerably liberal. As I am primarily a historian of the church, not a dogmatician, I said I preferred the word modern instead of liberal, but I have to confess that I was not bothered too much about her dubbing Küng s thought as liberal. Being an Evangelical Christian I could not but agree with her at least partially. Our discussion went on and, at the end of the session, some of my students suggested I should write something on this dual aspect of Küng s theology, namely the fact that it looks traditional when it is actually modern. Despite the fact that theological discussions with my students are very stimulating and rewarding for me, I do not normally pay too much heed at every single suggestion that comes from them (although I have to admit that a significant number of them are at least extremely interesting) because I am only a limited human being who cannot process the constant flood of their never-ending intellectual fervor. This one, however, I simply could not get off my mind. Almost ten years have passed since this incident when I finally decided I should set up to work and write a book about Küng s transition from traditionalism to modernism. I have to say that choosing a doctrine that reflects this transition was not the easiest thing in the world, but I eventually identified the doctrine of the church as a suitable example. Thus, in order to exemplify Küng s transition from traditionalism to modernity, I needed to find two reference points: the first is in connection to his traditional theology and the second to his modern outlook. As far as I am concerned, one book that contains Küng s traditional theology is Structures of the Church (1962), so I thought it would

10 xii A Brief Introduction be a good starting point for my study. The second book that I picked up for Küng s modern view on theology is his On Being a Christian (1974). I have to underline that three aspects will become obvious from an early stage. First, my book is both a historical and a dogmatic study of Küng s ecclesiology. It is historical because I trace Küng s transition from traditionalism to modernism in his ecclesiology, namely I foster examples of traditionalism as reflected in his Structures of the Church as well as find elements that prove his modernity in his later On Being a Christian. My book is also dogmatic because I critically analyze his modern ecclesiology from the classic perspective of traditional Christianity. Second, readers will easily notice that, on the one hand, I define Küng s traditionalism as applied to his doctrine of the church in close connection to his ontology of the church that as seen in his Structures of the Church is given by the four traditional signs of the church: unity, catholicity, holiness, and apostolicity. On the other hand, his ecclesiological modernism is reflected by his later reluctance to describe the church in ontological terms. As a matter of fact, in his On Being a Christian, Küng prefers an approach that highlights the functional elements of the church (such as the understanding of Scripture, the Spirit, the diversity, and the work of the Christian community), not its ontology. Third, my book is highly selective. Any attempt to even talk about Küng s transition from traditionalism to modernism could easily involve more doctrines than just ecclesiology as well as a considerably larger number of books than just his Structures of the Church and On Being a Christian. For a wide range of more or less obvious reasons that transcend my limited human condition, I eventually decided to restrict my research to Küng s doctrine of the church as reflected in his two above-mentioned books. The way I organized the book is anything but complex. My work has two main parts. The first is concerned with Küng s traditional ecclesiology of his Structures of the Church and has four chapters that describe his view of the ontology of the church based on the traditional signs of the church. The second part is an analysis of Küng s modern ecclesiology of his On Being a Christian, which is built on his undeterred conviction that the church should be primarily described in functional terms. Thus, the church should be understood as a community that functions based on its ideas about Scripture, a common spirit, a fundamental diversity, and a constant work characterized by active involvement in society.

11 A Brief Introduction xiii The book ends with a rather lengthy appendix in which I suggest a traditional reading of Küng s modern doctrine of the church for which I decided to use his more recent The Catholic Church (2001) as a starting point because it is one of his latest books in which he undoubtedly reconfirms his adherence to a nontraditional understanding of Christianity. It will be obvious from the very start that, unlike Küng s position, my appendix as well as my entire book is a personal plea not only for a traditional theology of the church but also for a staunch conservatively Evangelical approach to Christian theology in general.

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