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Reinhold Niebuhr and Contemporary Politics$
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Richard Harries and Stephen Platten

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199571833

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199571833.001.0001

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The Nature and Destiny of Serious Theology

The Nature and Destiny of Serious Theology

Chapter:
(p.71) 5 The Nature and Destiny of Serious Theology
Source:
Reinhold Niebuhr and Contemporary Politics
Author(s):

Samuel Wells

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199571833.003.0006

This chapter is organized into five parts. First, it takes Niebuhr's essay ‘Why the Christian Church is not Pacifist’, and sets out its arguments as a characteristic Niebuhr manifesto. It then explores two weaknesses of the essay — its inadequate account of pacifism and its impoverished account of realism. Third, it is argued that at the heart of Niebuhr's theology, and significant in both the weaknesses already named, is his particular reading of the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13). This parable concerns the nature and destiny of humanity in the face of evil, and Niebuhr's treatment of the parable is seriously flawed. Fourth, the chapter suggests what a Christian pacifism free of Niebuhr's assumptions might look like. Finally, it explores what might make for a more appropriate sense of Christian realism than that offered by Niebuhr.

Keywords:   Reinhold Niebuhr, Christian Church, pacifism, realism, parable of the wheat and the tares

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