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The Theological Vision of Reinhold Niebuhr's The Irony of American History“In the Battle and Above It”$
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Scott R. Erwin

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199678372

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199678372.001.0001

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The Irony of The Irony of American History

The Irony of The Irony of American History

(p.119) 4 The Irony of The Irony of American History
The Theological Vision of Reinhold Niebuhr's The Irony of American History

Scott R. Erwin

Oxford University Press

This chapter turns to Irony, where Niebuhr, more than in any other work, relied on his theological vision to address the American conflict with the Soviet Union. Niebuhr develops from this vision an ironic perspective that he would wield throughout the course of the work to warn the United States against its own illusions on one hand while pointing out the injustices perpetuated by the Soviet Union on the other. Niebuhr was not explicit in Irony about the Christian basis for his ironic perspective, however, so this chapter will broaden its scope to include his writings both prior to and following the work’s publication in order to reveal the pertinence of his specific religious beliefs and overall Christian disposition. This chapter also looks to Niebuhr’s complete writings on Abraham Lincoln, many of which were published in the late 1950s, to reveal the theological significance of Niebuhr’s identification of Lincoln in Irony as the historical figure exemplifying his theological vision.

Keywords:   reinhold Niebuhr, the Irony of American History, irony, soviet Union, cold War, Karl Barth, christian interpretation of history, arthur Schlesinger, jr, christianity and Crisis

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