Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 16:4 (Fall 1973) p. 235
Infallible? An Inquiry. By Hans Kung. Translated by Edward Qwin. (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1972.) 235 pp. $1.45.
Like Karl Barth’s Romerbrief of 1918, so Hans Kung’s “inquiry,” titled Infallible, exploded like a bombshell upon the theological world (Bombshells, it must be admitted, do explode more frequently nowadays, and don’t seem to make quite the same stir as formerly). First appearing in German in 1970, this slim volume has now been translated into English and has just begun to extend its influence to the American theological scene. Kung, of course, was not the first to defend the idea that “the Pope is not infallible even when exercising the full authority of his office… he passes judgment on a matter of faith and morals.” He is not even the only voice within the Roman Catholic church. But then, neither was Barth the first nor the only one to lift his voice against liberalism half a century ago. Rather Kung epitomizes, as did Barth for his day, what many others are saying; and in Kung’s case he does so having already made his reputation as one of the scintillating stars of Roman Catholic theology.
Kung begins his work with an array of statistics that penetrate immediately into the very heart of the issue. Chapter One begins with the heading: “The errors of the ecclesiastical teaching office.” King cites errors in the past history of the church beginning with the ex-commuuication of Photius, the prohibition of interest at the beginning of the modern era, the condemnation of Galileo, the maintenance of the secular power of the Pope, the condemnations of modern critical and historical studies relating to the authorship of the books of the Bible and to the history of the text including the Vulgate, and concluding with the condemnations set forth in the encyclical Humani Generis).
These errors have been met in bungled fashion by the church through the desperate expedient of claiming in each case that the church was not in errormuntil such time as it became absolutely plain to everybody that, as a matter of fact, the church was in error. As a last recourse the church then switched invariably to the viewpoint that the pronouncement was, as a matter of fact, not an infallible decision but merely an opinion of church or pope.
This ridiculous procedure, so Kung avers, has been brought to an ultimate crisis in our day by the encyclical Humanae Vitae on birth control. This recent papal decision had little effect on the actual practice of birth control, but it has become a crucially significant document for the evalua-
JETS 16:4 (Fall 1973) p. 236
tion and re-examination of the authority of the Roman ...
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