Date of Award

Spring 1986

Degree Type

Master's Essay - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Human and sinful are two adjectives that have been linked in varying degrees of intensity throughout the history of religion. Reinhold Niebuhr, like many theologians before and since, describes and defines these words in terms of each other. To be human means to be sinful; the inevitability of this connection is as much a part of humanity as life itself. However, inevitability does not mean that sin is a necessary condition of our existence. In the nuance between inevitable and necessary, we find the crux of Niebuhr's analysis. Reinhold Niebuhr strives to describe rather than define the existence of sin in human life. Sin exists; it is rebellion against God -- it is present inevitably but not of necessity. In his analysis, Niebuhr explores the human condition and the sinfulness that seems to spring from its creation. In these three works: Moral Man and Immoral Society, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics, and The Nature and Destiny of Man : I. Human Nature, his analysis is both comprehensive and revelatory.