What gives most trouble to Christians of all epochs is neither lack of faith nor excess of criticism; it is Jesus himself, who bestows freedom so open-handedly and dangerously on those who do not know what to do with it. The church always gets panic-stricken for fear of the turmoil that he creates when he comes on the scene; and so it takes his freedom under its own management for the protection of the souls entrusted to it, in order to dispense it in homeopathic doses where it seems necessary. They are allowed to possess this freedom in the form of hopes and feelings, but only in exceptional times may it be turned into action and vehemence, as otherwise it would blow up the church’s structure. The church shares with Caiaphas the opinion that it is better that one man should die for the people — and how it extols such a sacrificial death afterwards! — than that the whole nation should perish. Jesus’ gift is taboo to it, and his demand illusory. That is official Christianity’s drama right through all creeds and denominations — or perhaps one should say, drama and comedy. For the truth is that he is unwelcome, not only to Gentiles and Jews, but to each of us, and that his presence results in the death of the old Adam in devout people. How can the church have continuity if it gives him a free hand? All the heretics put together cause less trouble on the earth than he does when, instead of remaining an icon, he comes to life and delivers us over to the fire that he came to light.
Ernst Käsemann, “Freedom under the Word”, in Jesus Means Freedom (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969), pp. 149-50.