Reinhold Niebuhr

by Howard G. Patton

A Symposium by Five Women on the Seminary Campus.


(ERROR) Reinhold Niebuhr was published in 1977 by Word, Incorporated. This book was prepared for Religion Online by Harry W. and Grace C. Adams.


SUMMARY

(ENTIRE BOOK) Dr. Patterson presents an overview and summary of Niebuhr’s thought and its relevance to the theological and secular issues of his day, and offers a running dialectical critique that also reveals areas Niebuhr neglected or even misunderstood.


Chapters

  • Editor’s Preface

    The editor gives the rationale for the series Makers of the Modern Theological Mind that includes this volume on the thinking of Reinhold Niebuhr.

  • Preface

    The author.who is also editor of this series Makers of the Modern Theological Mind, explains his reasons for writing this volume.

  • Chapter 1: The Making of a Christian Realist

    Along with relevant biographical facts, this chapter outlines the development of Niebuhr’s thought over a fifty-year period, and discusses briefly his more significant books as they throw light on his evolving ideas from liberalism to the more classical theological concepts that have profoundly affected American thought in both Christian and secular life.

  • Chapter 2: Existential Anthropology

    Niebuhr’s theology is based on his doctrine of man as self-transcending yet finite and capable of evil in not accepting his finitude. This anthropology forms the basis of Niebuhr’s ethics, view of history, Christology and eschatology, and is the foundation of his rejection of idealism, naturalism and romanticism as inadequate to deal with man’s paradoxical nature.

  • Chapter 3: Man the Sinner

    Niebuhr’s inordinate emphasis on the doctrine of sin derives from the anxiety inherent in the paradox created by the conflict between man’s freedom and his tendency toward the prideful self-dependency which is a universal human tendency.

  • Chapter 4: The Triumph of Grace

    Niebuhr’s later writings reveal a shift in emphasis from human sinfulness to God’s grace as found in Christ who offers both the truth that clarifies man’s inadequate reason as well as the power to obey this truth. This grace is paradoxical in that man can never achieve righteousness himself, and must await full completion of his life eschatologically in divine action beyond history.

  • Chapter 5: Love and Justice

    Niebuhr’s later writings reveal a shift in emphasis from human sinfulness to God’s grace as found in Christ who offers both the truth that clarifies man’s inadequate reason as well as the power to obey this truth. This grace is paradoxical in that man can never achieve righteousness himself, and must await full completion of his life eschatologically in divine action beyond history.

  • Chapter 6: Relevance and the March of Time

    With an acknowledgment that some of Niebuhr’s thought and actions were flawed and dated, the author insists he remains relevant, and emphasizes five things we might consider. First, he was a thinker and doer who united faith and practice. Second, he defined the basic sin as pride rather than sensuality. Third, sin persists on every level of human achievement. Fourth, we can be ruggedly realistic about our illusions and those of others. Fifth, we can learn something about how to communicate the gospel in a secular age by taking seriously the biblical revelation that God revealed in Christ.

  • Selected Bibliography