The Theological Vision of Reinhold Niebuhr's "the Irony of American History": "In the Battle and Above it"

ISBN : 9780199678372

Scott R. Erwin
208 Pages
148 x 220 mm
Pub date
Jun 2013
Oxford Theology and Religion Monographs
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Reinhold Niebuhr remains at the center of a national conversation about Americas 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 Niebuhrs 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 with current events, as seen in his many journalistic writings during this period. By focusing primarily on Niebuhrs writings between 1931 and 1952, 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 underlies his writings on current affairs.


1. From Tragedy to Beyond Tragedy: The Development of Niebuhr's Christian Understanding of History
2. In the Battle and Above It : Niebuhr's Nature and the Destiny of Man and World War II
3. Discerning the Signs of the Times: The Relevance of Niebuhr's Theological Vision to the Cold War
4. The Irony of The Irony of American History

About the author: 

Scott R. Erwin completed his doctorate in theology from the University of Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship. Erwin previously worked at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and the U.S. Department of Defense in Iraq.

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