Ethics Niebuhr Essay

2162 words - 9 pages

Kim 1Andrew KimETH 2050Professor Wilson04.03.14Niebuhr and King on Christianity and WarReinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King Jr. offer contrasting views on the compatibility of war and Christianity and the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance. King believes that instead of violence and war, Christians are able to use nonviolent resistance to effectively combat injustices. On the contrary, Niebuhr is convinced that men are all sinful by nature and that because modern pacifism ignores this truth, it is ineffective in matters of politics and war. Though Niebuhr makes some valid arguments in regards to how modern pacifism can be ineffective in matters complicated by sin, King shows that when used properly, nonviolent resistance can be a tool more powerful than violence, which is supported by Gandhi's success.In "Why the Christian Church is not Pacifist," Niebuhr argues that modern pacifism is not the solution to politics and war. Furthermore, he claims that there is a place for violence: if it is a means to achieving a greater good. He begins his justification of this stance by dividing pacifism into two separate groups: heretical and non-heretical. Niebuhr finds that the non-heretical pacifists are an asset to the Christian faith, as they serve as a reminder to the community to avoid becoming too normative. These pacifists "…regarded the mystery of evil as beyond its power of solution. It was content to set up the most perfect and unselfish individual life as a symbol of the Kingdom of God" (Niebuhr, pg. 5). The non-heretical pacifists lived their lives modeled after Christ and did not attempt to use this standard of living as a solution to the political conflicts of the world. Unfortunately, in Niebuhr's view, most modern types of Christian pacifism are heretical. Heretic pacifists believe that the failure of Christian pacifism lies in the Christian society's inability to apply it properly. They argue that, "…the Church's failure to espouse pacifism unanimously can only be interpreted as apostasy, and must be attributed to its lack of courage or to its want of faith" (Niebuhr, pg. 1). Niebuhr argues that this failure is not apostasy, but rather the inability of the "law of love" to be the sole identity of Christianity. To define them, Niebuhr explains that heretical pacifists are focused on the goodness of man and ignore the Doctrine of original sin that afflicts all mankind. He finds this faith in man to be misguided and without any historical evidence to support it. There is also a sense of moral self-righteousness and perfectionism, which are results from corruption through secular beliefs. They are absorbed in the idea that, "…that perfect love is guaranteed a simply victory over the world, and have rejected all other profound elements of the Christian gospel as "Pauline"…" (Niebuhr, pg. 5). These individuals view the 'law of love" as a solution to all the struggles of the world. To Niebuhr, this view was too...

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