From everyone’s favorite Neo-Orthodox-turned-Liberal-Protestant existentialist heretic, a truly moving passage concerning what makes the Christian worldview distinctive:

51NF6ECTF9LChristian faith believes that man does not have the freedom which is presupposed for historical decisions. In fact, I am always determined by my own past by which I have become what I am and of which I cannot get rid, of which in the last resort I am unwilling to be rid, although unconsciously. For everyone refuses to give himself up without reservation. Certainly everyone can be conscious of his responsibility and has a relative freedom in the moments of decision. But if he recognizes that this freedom is only a relative one, that means that his freedom is limited by himself as he is coined by his past. Radical freedom would be freedom from himself. The man who understands his historicity radically, that is, the man who radically understands himself as someone future, or in other words, who understands his genuine self as an ever-future one, has to know that his genuine self can only be offered to him as a gift by his future. Usually man strives to dispose over the future. And indeed, his very historicity misleads him to this attempt, because his historicity includes responsibility for the future. His responsibility awakes the illusion of having power of disposal. In this illusion man remains ‘the old man’, fettered by his past. He does not recognize that only the radically free man can radically really take over responsibility, and that he is not allowed to look round for guarantees, not even the guarantees of a moral law, which take off or lighten the weight of responsibility, as it is expressed in Luther’s famous words: pecca fortiter [roughly, ‘sin bravely’]. Man has to be free from himself or to become free from himself. But man cannot get such freedom by his own will and strength, for in such effort he would remain ‘the old man’; he can only receive this freedom as gift.

Christian faith believes that it receives this gift of freedom, by which man becomes free from himself in order to gain himself. ‘Whoever will save his life shall lose it, but whoever will lose his life shall find it.’ The truth of this statement is not yet realized when it is only comprehended as a general truth. For man cannot say this word to himself, it must be said to him – always individually to you and me. Just this is the meaning of the Christian message. It does not proclaim the idea of the grace of God as a general idea but addresses and calls man and imparts to him the grace of God which makes him free from himself.

This message knows itself to be legitimated by the revelation of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the eschatological event, the action of God by which God has set an end to the old world. In the preaching of the Christian Church the eschatological event will ever again become present and does become present ever again in faith. The old world has reached its end for the believer, he is ‘a new creature in Christ’. For the old world has reached its end with the fact that he himself as ‘the old man’ has reached his end and is now ‘a new man’, a free man.

(From History and Eschatology, lectures 1955)