Sounds like a contradiction? It doesn't have to be.
In the introduction to "The Essential Reinhold Niebuhr", he is called a "pessimistic optimist"- the operative word being "optimist", with the qualifier being "pessimistic".
Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. (Rienhold Niebuhr)
We see both optimism and pessimism in this quote. Phil said (in a rather spirited political discussion with his dad) that democracy is the worst type of government...except for all the rest.
We see optimism in eternity...as Christians we know that eternity with Christ is the ultimate in optimism.
We see pessimism in the present...human beings are sinners. There is pain and trial in this world.
"Men may be quite unable to define the meaning of life, and yet live by a simple trust that it has meaning. This primary religion is the basic optimism of all vital and wholesome human life."
I cannot see eternity, but I trust that God does.
To know that there is meaning, but not to know the meaning...that is bliss (J. Middleton Murray)
Let that rattle around for a while.
The most adequate religion solves its problems in paradoxes rather than schemes of consistency, and has never wavered in believing that God is both the ground of our existence and the ultimate pinnacle of perfection toward which existence tends.
I can relate to that. Surety is a thing of the world - embrace the paradoxes. Finding freedom as a bondservant to Christ.
These paradoxes are in the spirit of the great religion. the mystery of life is comprehended in meaning, though no human statement of meaning can fully resolve the mystery. The tragedy of life is recognized, but faith prevents tragedy from being pure tragedy . Perplexity remains, but there is no perplexity unto despair. Evil is neither accepted as inevitable nor regarded as a proof of the meaningless of life. Gratitude and contrition are mingled, which means that life is both appreciated and challenged. To such faith the generations are bound to return after they have pursued the mirages in the desert to which they are tempted from time to time by the illusions of particular eras.
It is the mystery that gives life meaning.