Blessed assurance? Reason and certainty of knowledge of God in Karl Barth and Hans Kueng

Paul Casner, Marquette University


This dissertation addresses Hans Kung's critique of Karl Barth concerning reasonable justification of divine revelation, The thesis is that Kung's critique is misguided and this fact casts a shadow on Kung's larger assessment of Barth's contribution toward a future approach to theology. In his 1987 work, Theology for the Third Millennium, Hans Kung contends that Karl Barth asks the contemporary person simply to embrace the Christian God in blind faith, ignoring the need for Christian revelation to dialogue with that person's experience of reason. Because of this, Kung adds, Karl Barth cannot be seen as paving a way for a future approach to knowing God. While Barth is an "initiator of a 'postmodern' paradigm in theology," he is not its "perfector." Kung insists that the perfection of this paradigm must be grounded in a consistency between human reason and divine revelation--the kind of consistency which Kung believes he offers in his approach to knowing God. This study shows that Karl Barth does offer a consistency between human reason and divine revelation. In Church Dogmatics II/1, Barth states that God's infinite love to humanity in Jesus Christ makes God worthy of humanity's trust. Barth maintains that the beauty of this love can be assessed in terms of its consistency with human standards of beauty. Indeed, it is on the basis of this consistency that: people can see how the beauty of God's revelation in Christ transcends other beauties. Barth maintains that this consistency therefore assures contemporary people that they are intellectually responsible in placing faith in the God of Jesus Christ. This study thus concludes that Hans Kung is incorrect in characterizing Barth's approach as a call for blind faith in the Christian God. In light of this, the study suggests reversing Kung's model for assessing the theological contributions of himself and Karl Barth--viewing Hans Kung as an initiator of a postmodern paradigm in theology while seeing Karl Barth as offering key insights toward the refinement of that paradigm.

Recommended Citation

Casner, Paul, "Blessed assurance? Reason and certainty of knowledge of God in Karl Barth and Hans Kueng" (1997). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9811380.