Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary


Religion, Theological Studies PhD

First Advisor

Raoul F. Dederen

Second Advisor

Robert M. Johnston

Third Advisor

Fernando Canale


This investigation deals with the concepts of orthodoxy and heresy in the thought of the Swiss theologian Hans Kung.

Chapter I sketches the broad outlines of the development of Christian orthodoxy and, by implication, of the heresy which opposed it, starting with the New Testament times. The most relevant elements constituting the structure of the orthodoxy-heresy antithesis are identified, described, and analyzed. The attention is thus focused on the traditional and modern principles, criteria, norms, and theological issues which have interplayed in the church's efforts to understand the Christian message correctly.

Chapter II shows that the pastoral concerns which constitute Kung's theological starting point originated during the years of his priestly formation in Rome. These concerns are his interest in contributing to the ecumenical understanding among all Christian traditions and his preoccupation for proclaiming the gospel in terms both intelligible and relevant to modern humankind. Some important shifts in the development of Kung's theology and his hermeneutical principles are described as well.

Chapter III endeavors to describe and analyze Kung's understanding of the principles, criteria, and norms of classical orthodoxy. It presents the manner in which the Swiss theologian stresses the normativity of the original deposit of faith over against the sub-apostolic traditions and magisterial pronouncements of the church. Kung's concept of heresy as a selection from the totality of revelation is addressed at the end of the chapter.

Chapter IV deals with the modern criteria and norms of orthodoxy. Kung's dynamic, dialectical, and historical concept of truth as such is described and analyzed. In this context, his views on the fallibility of human propositions are also addressed. Kung's theory of the changes of paradigm in theology is briefly enunciated This theory explains how the revolutionary changes in the basic assumptions and in the world-view of one paradigm originate a crisis which entails the replacement of the old paradigm by the new, thus turning past orthodoxies obsolete.

This study ends, in chapter V, with a critical appraisal of Kung's model of orthodoxy-heresy. It is concluded that his decisive norm of Christian truth is the modern scientific-historicist horizon of understanding. As for the gospel of Jesus Christ, which Kung claims is his ultimate criterion and norm of Christian truth, it is considered, rather, as the center of the theologian's personal faith. Finally, some of the contributions of Kung to the understanding of orthodoxy-heresy are mentioned, as well as the inner tensions of his model.

Subject Area

Küng, Hans, 1928- --Theology; Truth--Religious aspects--Christianity; Catholic Church--Doctrines


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