It can be hard to believe that we humans are essentially good. We’re amazingly proficient at destroying relationships, community, ecosystems and one another. As Reinhold Niebuhr often observed, original sin is the one empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith. And we seem to like it that way: Paradise Lost is much more popular than Paradise Regained.
Take the conflict—the evil—out of a novel, and what’s left is sentimental drivel. Take the topic of evil out of theology, and it turns into pious schmaltz. Romantic theology has little to say to the horrors of the Shoah, Cambodia’s killing fields, Rwanda’s and Sudan’s genocidal wars, and al-Qaeda’s attacks. In a precarious world, we need a theology that helps us face our night terrors.