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On Being a Christian

Continuum, 2008 edition
RRP $56.95

Reviewed by Karyl Davison.

BORN in 1928, Hans Kung is a Roman Catholic priest, theologian and author.

Ordained in 1954, he was appointed as professor of theology at Eberhard Karls University in 1960.

Like his colleague Joseph Ratzinger he was, in 1962, appointed as an expert theological advisor to members of the Second Vatican Council until its conclusion in 1965.

Mr Kung has been serving as an emeritus professor at the University of Tübingen since 1996.

On Being a Christian is the second edition of what Kung himself regarded as his magnum opus and it’s quite a tome at 602 pages.

Originally published in 1974 and translated from Mr Kung’s native German, On Being a Christian is definitely a product of its time.

Its language is thoroughly masculine, and while he notes a decline in the church, his response sits firmly in Christendom.

For example, Mr Kung puts declining church numbers to a lowering of liturgical standards rather than an enormous shift in culture and the church’s inability to speak into the changing world.

Essentially this book wrestles with questions about what it means to be a Christian.

He looks at evidence in the scriptures, at questions concerning death, the church, both local and universal, and the challenges of modern humanism and of world religions.

With its 100 pages of endnotes and a comprehensive index those who want to read further or use it for study are well served.

I have to admit that while this book has been on my shelves for quite some time, I have yet to get through it.

It is quite a difficult read.

Complex and multi-layered, some of Mr Kung’s greatest insights come in the midst of pages and pages of hard and impersonal theology.

Not for the feint hearted.