Taking the Long View of History
Chapter 2 examines the sense of history (awareness of the heights and depth of our existence) set forth in Niebuhr’s masterful book, The Nature and Destiny of Man, as an ever-present motif of his thought. He shares the view of the prophets of ancient Israel and Jesus of Nazareth regarding human moral blindness and hypocrisy. Like them, Niebuhr draws from past cultural, political, and religious experience to illumine events of the present day. The human self’s capacity for self-transcendence and freedom lies at the center of our grandeur as well as folly. An acute sense of the contingency and unpredictability of history goes hand in hand with a need for hope beyond the suffering love that marks the human story. In this biblical perspective the sense of God as supreme mystery coincides with a deep human need to appreciate the basic goodness and grace of the created order that surrounds us.
Keywords: the nature and destiny of man, Jesus of Nazareth, prophets of ancient Israel, the human self, self-transcendence and freedom, contingency and unpredictability of history, God as supreme mystery, basic goodness and grace
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