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Credo: The Apostles' Creed Explained for Today.

The film version of "Alive," the true story of a group of Uruguayan youths who survive a plane crash in the Andes, begins with the statement by one of the survivors that the event was a deeply spiritual experience. "There is the God they taught me about in school, and then there is the God I met in the mountains," he says. Hans Kung's new book, Credo, is, unfortunately, more about the God taught in school than the God in daily life.

The subtitle of Credo suggests it is a reflection on the Apostles' Creed aimed at a general audience. Indeed, the publisher claims the book is "the summation of a lifetime of theological thought by one of Christianity's most profound and original thinkers ... written simply for all readers." Credo is an ambitious, challenging and occasionally lucid book, but it is not written simply for all readers.

Kung takes the creed, perhaps better known to Catholics as the profession of faith, and examines each truth it affirms. The questions raised are worthy: Is it possible to believe in an almighty God? Is it possible to believe Jesus is the son of God? What does the resurrection mean? What is heaven? What is the final judgment? What is the holy Catholic church?

The articles of the creed are examined one by one, in a question-and-answer format. Nearly every discussion is introduced with a hypothetical question raised by a theoretical person Kung refers to as "a contemporary." This device gets a little annoying, both as a way to make a transition between points and as an attempt to speak for real men and women.

For example, raising the question, "Can we believe in God in the age of cosmology?" Kung responds:

If under the conditions of modernity

(Hegel and the consequences)

God is to be thought of in the light

of a modern unitary understanding

of reality, then God can only be

thought of in the word and the world

in God, and God's activity in the

world cannot be understood as being

finite and relative, but only as the

infinite in the finite and the absolute

in the relative.

Hmmm. Written simply for all readers?

On the question, "What does it mean to say that God has a son?" Kung claims:

There is no trace either in the

Hebrew Bible or in the New Testament

of a physical-sexual procreation

as in the case of the Egyptian

god-king and the Hellenistic

sons of God, or even of a metaphysical

procreation in the sense

of the later Hellenistic ontological

doctrine of the Trinity.

I'm not so sure that these questions, of which there are 75 or so, are what contemporaries' are asking. I mean, I really can't remember when, confronted with the notion of Jesus as God's son, I began to ponder the Hellenistic ontological doctrine of the Trinity.

Kung routinely puts these unlikely words in the mouths of the nameless contemporaries. He seems to think that when people consider the Christian faith they think first about its credibility in academic debate. Credo is disappointing not because there is anything wrong with what it says, but because it seemed to promise to be much more pastoral.

The Apostles' Creed might be treated as the early Christians' attempt to find words to express their experience of Jesus Christ. Reflecting on the creed might help us put our experience of Jesus into our own words. Instead, the reader, as a so-called contemporary, is given the language of historical criticism to ask what are at best improbable questions.

The richest section of Credo is the discussion of the question, "Should we remain in the church?" Kung presents his own reasons for remaining in the Catholic church, and is quite frank about the compelling reasons to leave. In the question on the forgiveness of sin, he touches on the experiences of failure, shame and guilt. These sections are moving and they clarify what Credo could be about: not whether it is still intellectually credible to agree with the creed, but whether it is still possible to experience it.

How do contemporary men and women experience the breathtaking almighty God; the barrier-shattering presence of Jesus Christ; the ecstasy of the Holy Spirit; the liberation of forgiveness of sins; or the intimate community of the church? Such a book, written simply for all readers, would be a tremendous gift for those of us who struggle to articulate the God we experience in the mountains of our own lives.
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Author:Peatman, Bill
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 24, 1993
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