“What a stimulus to seek after the true and full knowledge of Christ is the realized conviction of the utter vanity of all things else without Him.”
…the Christian infinite belongs to an ontology of original and ultimate peace, and as a consequence allows a construal of beauty and peace inconceivable in terms of the ontology that Christian thought encountered first in various schools of pagan metaphysics, and encounters again in the thought of Nietzsche and his heirs.”
There has developed in effect a kind of corpus which practically all Christian groups accept but which has nothing in common with the biblical message, whether in the Hebrew Bible that we call the Old Testament or the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament. All the churches have scrupulously respected and often supported state authorities. They have made of conformity a major virtue. They have tolerated social injustices and the exploitation of some people by others, explaining that it is God’s will that some should be masters and others servants, and that socioeconomic success is an outward sign of divine blessing. They have transformed the free and liberating Word into morality, the most astonishing thing being that there can be no Christian morality if we truly follow evangelical thinking. The fact is that it is much easier to judge faults according to an established morality than to view people as living wholes and to understand why they act as they do.
~ Jacques Ellul, Anarchy and Christianity
But the “excitement” of Easter cannot be given to man by man himself. Even more than his exinanition, Christ’s exaltation is the consequence reached by God himself through his power in action. God himself is the rector and the master and the king of this whole history which is his covenant with us. Either we understand God as master and subject of this history or we do not understand this history at all. Thus the question we have to answer now is not: “Can I admit that all this has occurred?” but: “Where do I stand vis-à-vis God the master? Do I live ‘with’ God? Do I live in keeping with God’s deeds?” And since we know these deeds mainly and primarily through the Scripture, the question of faith is first a question of reading the Bible. One cannot pray without reading the Bible, without getting a knowledge of the divine history directed by God wherein we discover what we need: faith in God the rector and sovereign and living master of Christ’s history which “comprehends,” that is, embodies, sums up, locates and fulfills our own history.
~Karl Barth “The Faith Of The Church”
I think, at least regarding society and politics, this sums up well how I view the differences between the capacity of human society to grasp after and its actual limitations.
…it will never be possible to insure moral antidotes sufficiently potent to destroy the deleterious effects of the poison of power upon character. The future peace and justice of society therefore depend upon, not one but many, social strategies, in all of which moral and coercive factors are compounded in varying degrees. So difficult is it to avoid the Scylla of despotism and the Charybdis of anarchy that it is safe to hazard the prophecy that the dream of perpetual peace and brotherhood for human society is one which will never be fully realised. It is a vision prompted by the conscience and insight of individual man, but incapable of fulfillment by collective man. It is like all true religious visions, possible of approximation but not of realisation in actual history. The vitality of the vision is the measure of man’s rebellion against the fate which binds his collective life to the world of nature from which his soul recoils. The vision can be kept alive only by permitting it to overreach itself. But meanwhile collective man, must content himself with a more modest goal. His concern for some centuries to come is not the creation of an ideal society in which there will be uncoerced peace and justice, but a society in which there will be enough justice, and in which coercion will be sufficiently non-violent to prevent his common enterprise from issuing into complete disaster. That goal will seen too modest for the romanticists; but the romanticists have so little understanding for the perils in which modern society lives, and overestimate the moral resources at the disposal of the collective so easily, that any goal regarded as worthy of achievement by them must necessarily be beyond attainment.
~ Reinhold Niebuhr “Moral Man and Immoral Society”
Ours is a secular age. While the conditions of secularity — the nonaxiomatic nature of belief in God, the contestability of all ultimate beliefs — are not unrelated to the prescriptive project of secularism, there is no necessary connection between the two. A secular society could undergo religious revival where vast swaths of the populace embrace religious belief. But that could never turn back the clock on secularization; we would always know we used to believe something else, that there are plausible visions of meaning and significance on offer. We would also believe amidst the secular condition; indeed, conversion is a response to secularity, not an escape from it.
— “How (Not) To Be Secular” ~ James K. A. Smith