Religion: Death of a Christian Realist

In the decade before World War II, liberal Protestant theology in the U.S. had become a stagnant residue of the social gospel. There was an uncritical assumption that the sins of society would be inevitably overcome with education and religious good will; the concept of individual sin was formally acknowledged but widely ignored as a potentially meaningful element in normal life.

Into this comforting, wan world of theological thought came Reinhold Niebuhr, loosing the sobering wind of "Christian realism." Original sin stemming from Adam's fall was to be taken seriously but not literally,...

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