ON BEING A CHRISTIAN
Twenty Propositions

(By Hans Kung, "The Christian Challenge", pages 313-316, 1979)

A. Who is a Christian?

  1. No one is a Christian simply because he or she tries to live in a human or in a social or even in a religious way. That person alone is a Christian who tries to live his or her human, social, and religious life in the light of Jesus Christ.
  2. The distinctive Christian reality is Jesus Christ himself.
  3. Being a Christian means: By following Jesus Christ, the human being in the world of today can truly humanly love, act, suffer, and die, in happiness and unhappiness, life and death, sustained by God and helpful to men.

B. Who is Christ?

  1. The Christ is no other than the historical Jesus of Nazareth. Neither priest nor political revolutionary, neither ascetic monk nor devout moralist, he is provocative on all sides.
  2. Jesus did not proclaim any theological theory or any new law, nor did he proclaim himself. He proclaimed the kingdom of God: Godís cause (=Godís will), which will prevail and which is identical with manís cause (=manís well-being).
  3. For the sake of menís well-being Jesus effectively relativized sacred institutions, law, and cult.
  4. Jesus thus asserted a claim to be advocate of God and men. He provoked a final decision: not for a particular title, a dogma, or law but for his good news. But in this way, too, the question of his person was indirectly raised: heretical teacher, false prophet, blasphemer, seducer of the people or what?
  5. In the last resort the conflict centers on God. Jesus does not invoke a new God. He invokes the God of Israel understood in a new way, as Father of the abandoned, whom he addresses quite personally as his Father.
  6. Jesusí violent end was the logical consequence of this approach of his to God and man. His violent passion was the reaction of the guardians of the law, justice, and morality to his nonviolent action: the crucifixion becomes the fulfillment of the curse of the law; Jesus becomes the representative of lawbreakers, of sinners. He dies forsaken by both men and God.
  7. Jesusí death, however, was not the end of everything. The faith of his community is: The Crucified is living forever with God, as our hope. Resurrection does not mean either a return to life in space and time or a continuation of life in space and time but the assumption into that incomprehensible and comprehensive last and first reality which we call God.
  8. The resurrection faith, therefore, is not an appendage but a radicalizing of faith in God: of faith in God the Creator.
  9. Without faith in the risen Christ, faith in the crucified Jesus lacks confirmation and authorization. Without faith in the cross, faith in the risen Christ lacks its distinctive character and decisiveness. The ultimate distinctive feature of Christianity is Jesus Christ as the Crucified.
  10. The emergence of the Church can be explained only in the light of faith in Jesus raised to life: the Church of Jesus Christ as the community of those who have committed themselves to the cause of Jesus Christ and bear witness to it as hope for all men.
  11. The essential distinction between "Catholic" and "Protestant" today no longer lies in particular doctrinal differences but in the diversity of basic attitudes which have developed since the Reformation but which can now be overcome in their one-sidedness and integrated into a true ecumenicity.
  12. The ecumenical basis of all Christian churches is the biblical profession of faith in Jesus as the Christ, as the criterion for manís relations with God and with his fellow men. This profession of faith must be freshly translated for each new age.

C. Who acts as a Christian?

  1. The distinctive feature of Christian action, therefore, is the following of Christ. This Jesus Christ is in person the living, archetypal embodiment of his case: embodiment of a new attitude to life and a new way of life. As a concrete, historical person, Jesus Christ possesses an impressiveness, audibility, and realizability which is missing in an eternal idea, an abstract principle, a universal norm, a conceptual system.
  2. Jesus then means for modern man a basic model of a view of life and practice of life to be realized in many ways. Both positively and negatively he is in person invitation ("you may"), appeal ("you should"), challenge ("you can"), for the individual and society. He makes possible in the concrete a new basic orientation and basic attitude, new motivations, dispositions, projects, a new background of meaning and a new objective.
  3. For the Church, too, Jesus must remain the authoritative standard in all things. The Church is credible only when it follows in his way as a provisional, serving, guilty, determined Church. At all times practical consequences must be drawn from this for constant internal church reform and for ecumenical understanding.
  4. It is particularly in coping with the negative side of life that Christian faith and non-Christian humanisms have to face their acid test. For the Christian the only appropriate way to cope with the negative is in the light of the cross. Following the cross does not mean cultic adoration, mystical absorption, or ethical imitation. It means practice in a variety of ways in accordance with the cross of Jesus, in which a person freely perceives and attempts to follow his own way of life and suffering.
  5. Yet, despite all demands for action, looking to the crucified Jesus, the ultimately important thing for man will not be his achievements (justification by works), but his absolute trust in God, both in good and in evil, and thus in an ultimate meaning to life (justification by faith).