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The theological vision of Reinhold Niebuhr's "The Irony of American history"

  • Rasmussen, Joel
  • Erwin, Scott Robert
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2013
OpenGrey Repository


Reinhold Niebuhr remains at the center of a national conversation about America's role in the world, and commentators with divergent political and religious positions look to his 1952 work, The Irony of American History, in support of their views. In this study, Scott R. Erwin argues that an appreciation of Niebuhr's theological vision is necessary for understanding the full measure of Irony and his perspective on life more broadly. Such a study is important because many individuals reading Irony today fail to acknowledge the central role that his Christian beliefs played in his writings. Niebuhr described his theological vision as being 'in the battle and above it,' and, it was this perspective that led Niebuhr, in Irony, to assert that America must both take 'morally hazardous action' in combating the aggression of the Soviet Union and engage in critical self-evaluation to prevent the country from assuming the most odious traits of its Cold War foe. Niebuhr developed his theological vision over the course of the 1930s and 1940s through engagement with Christian doctrine, as most readily seen in his academic works such as The Nature and Destiny of Man, and engagement with current events, as seen in his many journalistic writings during this period. By focusing primarily on Niebuhr's writings between 1931 and 1951, Erwin traces the development of his Christian interpretation of human nature and history, establishes how it informed his theological vision, and reveals how that theological vision underlay his writings on current affairs. / EThOS - Electronic Theses Online Service / GB / United Kingdom

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