The difference between I-it and I-Thou is not carried over from the German to the English in translation, but the difference is important in indicating the two stages of Buber’s insight into man — first, that he is to be understood, in general, in terms of his relationships rather than taken in himself; second, that he is to be understood specifically in terms of that direct, mutual relation that makes him human.
The vast industrial and social system by which we are enveloped does not threaten to crush us, or to rob us of our soul. The energy emanating from it is free in the sense that it represents forces that can be used and also because, in the Whole no less than in the least of its elements, it arises out of a state that grows.
All experience necessarily takes place within the time sequence. It is not possible to speak meaningfully about anything which is outside time. Religion, if it is anything at all, to the average person is a set of beliefs about the "supernatural", "the eternal", "the future life", "heaven and hell", "immortality", "resurrection", or the "Day of Judgment". It is important to indicate an approach to the interpretation of these ideas in the light of an analysis of religious experience.
All turns upon whether the “resurrection” really and objectively occurred. The claims of Jesus to represent the character of God, his claim to be the master of men and of their ultimate destiny, and his claim to be sent by God to effect the reconciliation between man and God would remain as the lunatic arrogance of a disordered mind if everything ended in the judicial murder of a field-preacher on a Roman Cross.
Man is an organic and organized whole, possessing a future consisting not merely of successive years but of higher states to be achieved by struggle, not merely survival, but some form of higher life or super-life.
The Christian message may be briefly summarized in the single assertion "Jesus is the Messiah." It would seem right to regard as truly "saved" anyone who has been given the grace of a high and noble purpose which draws him out of preoccupation with self into a full creative life which serves the development of community. Without underestimating the relevance of the positive Christian message, it is still important to recognize and gratefully to benefit from the other saving influences at work in human life.
Unless we are prepared to deny the historical evidence altogether, all of Jesus’ qualities spring from one unforgettable demonstration — that after a public execution Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. To the early Church this well attested fact proved his claims to the hilt.
Neither universal causality nor destiny prevent a man from being free if he is able to alternate between I-It and I-Thou. But without the ability to enter relation and cursed with the arbitrary self-will and belief in fate that particularly mark modern man, the individual and the community become sick, and the I of the true person is replaced by the empty I of individuality.
The church is an organism brought into being by the unique series of events associated with the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. Divine inspiration can be intelligibly interpreted to mean that the Scriptures are very particularly transparent to and vehicles of the basic experiences called religious. The prophet is an interpreter because he is able to see the religious dimension in what appear to others as ordinary events. Miracle stories are faith-symbols, fundamentally ways of expressing the conviction that the nature of things is not just what it appears to be, but that there are resident in the world hidden depths and heights of possibility, for which from time to time there is at least some evidence.
Each individual has a duty to develop his own personality, to be placed in circumstances as favorable as possible to his personal development and not to be deformed by external coercion but inwardly super-organized by persuasion, in conformity with his personal endowments and aspirations.