Friday, January 27, 2006

Küng – Der Anfang aller Dinge. Section B, pt 1.

I’m sorry, I wanted to make this review of Küng’s book far shorter, but I’m finding it too interesting to simply skim over. And writings these words down is helping my think through matters myself!

The following is part 1 of the overview of Section B.

(To orientate yourself as to which part of the book I am presently overviewing, click here for the introductory post. Previously, I examined section A in two parts: part one, and two).


Section B deals with the question: ‘God as beginning?’ – not from the perspective of cosmology, but rather based on philosophical-theological reflection.

1. The question concerning the beginning of the beginning.
First, through a brief analysis of the ‘original singularity’ (die Anfangssingularität), Küng argues for the impossibility of explaining the absolute beginning (the t = 0 moment) without some recourse to meta- or proto- physics. Second, Küng argues that science certainly cannot determine God is irrelevant to such considerations. He attempts to demonstrate this, based on Kant’s critique of ‘pure reason’: the limits of reasons must be admitted, and this is not to be taken to be the same things as limiting Reality. ‘Das heißt: Was die Vernunft nicht erkannt, kann dennoch wirklich sein! Auch Gott?’ (63 – if a translation is desired, please indicate in the comments). Turned around this means that scientific proof of God is also, according to Kant, impossible.

2. Science blocked through religious criticism?
This is all agreeable enough, but in the light of Kant, Küng turns his guns on the likes of Sagen, Dawkins and Atkins, and other such ‘prophets of science’, who come along proclaiming an atheistic critique of religion in the name of science. Their scientific work, he argues, has no real relevance for the truth or falsehood of most religious claims.

Through an overview of the contributions of famous religion critics (Feuerbach, Marx and Freud), Küng rather helpfully points out that their conclusions may well be accepted, but that hardly determines the absolute truth of Reality. For example, along with Feuerbach we may agree that ‘God’ is a human projection, but only a projection? Küng is adamant: Science must leave God out of their considerations, they simply have not the tools to deal with such questions. God is not an object of the observable universe to be placed under a microscope. And while atheism may be understandable, it is therefore most certainly not necessary.

3. Where do the nature-constants (Naturkonstanten) come from?
In all of this, Küng is, of course, setting his argument against certain apologists who want to suggest that an Absolute Beginning is positive proof for a creator. Things are not so simple. However, does this mean that we can forget about such questions as ‘what are the conditions of the Absolute Beginning’? Certainly not, he insists. It is simply that such questions cannot be answered by science as they overstep the boundaries of ‘pure reason’. Rather, and this is a point he will expand on later, it is that they need to be addressed by a decision of the entire human (eine Entscheidung des ganzen Menschen).

Once again, ‘where do the cosmic Ordnungsprinzipien come from?’ Of course, astrophysics cannot answer this. The generally accepted ‘expanding universe’ model helps to explain some things, but not the basic cosmic ordering principles. It cannot describe the conditions for the beginning of the universe. This doesn’t mean that we should import God into a scientific lack of knowledge ( a God of the gaps), but that this is rather an invitation to think over the fundamental conditions of the scientific world model, one upon which scientists themselves recourse to feeling and instinct, rather than to scientific arguments.

To be continued …

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At 1/28/2006 12:32 AM, Blogger Ben Myers said...

Don't apologise for offering so much detail -- I'm loving this series, and your overview of Küng's argument is excellent. I'm looking forward to the rest of this series as well.

Have you had any luck getting an enormous discount on that set of Barth's KD?

At 1/28/2006 2:18 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Ben!

As for the KDs, I haven't been back to the shop yet (still plucking up courage). I have an idea as to what to do though - something I learnt from a Bavarian on my honeymoon! I'll keep you updated on that one.

At 1/30/2006 4:34 PM, Anonymous Chris T. said...

I appreciate the detailed posts as well!

You've actually inspired me to just buy the book from and work harder on my German. I am hoping to start the book after finishing Modern Theological German: A Reader.

At 1/30/2006 7:17 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Thanks Chris!

I can tell you that the German is not too complicated. Küng's earlier works, I find, tend to be a bit more of a test, but this is a goo dplace to start. I would even suggest that you read this while you learn German - then you'll automatically be motivated to learn, at least that's how I've improved my German.

BTW, I've just discovered your great blog, so I look forward to your future posting.
All the best

At 1/31/2006 11:38 PM, Anonymous Chris T. said...

Hi Chris--

I may just take your advice. Reading little Bible passages in the Reader is all good and well, but I am hankering to get into some real theology, and that's still eleven or so sections away. (I believe Barth is one of the first theologians I'll read in the Reader, though!)

Incidentally, I hadn't realized until now that you didn't actually grow up in Germany. Did you emigrate to study theology?

My wife got her degree in music and German, so she has been helping me along. She is starting law school soon and we have discussed moving to Germany afterwards--one of the programs she's applying to is a 2/2 program that would get her an American JD and a German law degree. It would certainly be a good move for me to get my theology degree(s)! :-)

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