"Christianity: Essence, History, and Future," by Hans Kung (Continuum, 936 pp.; $39.50, hardcover). Reviewed by Donald G. Bloesch, emeritus professor of theology, University of Dubuque (Iowa) Theological Seminary.

In this work, which the author presents as the culmination of a lifetime of study and reflection, noted Catholic theologian Hans Kung undertakes a comprehensive theological history of Christianity, showing its biblical roots and global implications. Kung differentiates the ceremonial and doctrinal embellishments of the Christian faith from its essence—the historical person of Jesus Christ. Kung seeks to get beyond a "Eurocentric" understanding of the Christian religion to a "universal historical view" that nevertheless maintains continuity with the original New Testament message. He sees Christianity not as an outmoded traditionalism but as a "radical humanism"—"being human to the full."

He calls for a Christology from below—beginning with the historical life and teachings of Jesus rather than the creedal interpretation of the early church, where he discerns a shift from the New Testament paradigm to the Hellenistic paradigm in which the faith was articulated and in some instances drastically altered by Greek ontological categories. He believes that a Christology from below also has ecumenical promise, for it would facilitate dialogue with Judaism and Islam, both of which could never accept Hellenistic Christianity and the Trinity.

According to Kung, the process of Hellenization created a church burdened by hierarchy, ritualism, and creedalism. The call to discipleship, which characterized the ministry of Jesus, was overshadowed in the patristic church by a mounting concern for right doctrine. He ...

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