Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christian Understanding of Peace

October 10th, 2006 / 0 Comments

I’ve successfully completed reading Reinhold Niebuhr’s The Nature and Destiny of Man. As its title and multiple volumes suggest, this reading was no light task. The volume’s were first delivered via the Gifford Lectures of Edinburough University in 1940, with Western Europe on the footsteps of war with Germany. The images of war and Nazi political ideals created a powerful backdrop over which Neibuhr describes the nature of sin and its effect on humanity as evidenced, not just in recent world wars, but throughout human history. This negative view of the world is philosophically understood as Christian Realism. Niebuhr’s solution, love as self sacrifice, is unattainable by man because of his sinful self interest, thus we hope and wait for the return of Christ whose example of pure self sacrificial love is the hope for humanities redemption.

While it will probably take some time and reflection for me to completely internalize the ramifications of Neibuhr’s theological ideas, a beginning might be with his definition of peace from the 2nd volume:

…peace which follows conversion is never purely the contentment of achievement. It is always, in part the peace that comes from the knowledge of forgiveness.

It’s interesting in that both parts echo the redemptive work of God, with the latter also realizing our dependence on Christ’s self-sacrificial love.

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