The Church Against the World

by H. Richard Niebuhr, Wilhelm Pauck and Francis P. Miller

H. Richard Niebuhr was associate professor of Christian ethics at Yale University Divinity School from 1931. Prior to that he taught at Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Mo., served as President of Elmhurst (Illinois) College, and held pastorates in St. Louis, Mo., and in Clinton, CT. Wilhelm Pauch represented, it was said, the first important post-war gift of the theological faculties of Germany to the religious thinking of America. He came to the Chicago Theological Seminary as an exchange student in 1925, later serving there as professor of Church History. In 1931 Dr. Pauck became a force to be reckoned with in American church life by the publication of Karl Barth: Prophet of a New Christianity. Francis P. Miller was chairman of the World Student Christian Federation, having come to that responsibility after long service as one of the national secretaries of the federation in the United States and as administrative secretary of the world body. He was also the field secretary of the Foreign Policy Association, America’s foremost organization for the study of foreign affairs. These positions of leadership required extensive travel in America, Europe and the Far East, and enabled him to discuss the problems of International Christianity against a background of almost unrivaled political as well as religious knowledge. A graduate of Washington and Lee, he later studied at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, and at Yale.

Published in 1935 by Willett, Clark and Company, Chicago, New York. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Richard and Sue Kendall


(ENTIRE BOOK) The authors see Christianity threatened not only by the rival religions of capitalism and nationalism, but in America it is becoming a purely national religion, unintelligible to Christians of other lands, as their Protestantism is becoming unintelligible to us. This may be the beginning of a process, which in Germany resulted in a new national religion. The chapters speak about ways of dealing with this threat to the Christian religion.


  • Introduction: The Question of the Church, by H. Richard Niebuhr A "new" crisis is facing the Christian Church. The Church is in peril not only from an "external" worldliness, but a worldliness that has established itself within the church. Each of the contributing theologians brings his own view of how the Christian community can define and take its position against this crisis.
  • Part I: The Crisis of Religion, by Wilhelm Pauck The new crisis of the church results from the gradual secularization of life, the conviction that "man can lead the good life without believing in God". Humanistic, scientific, "modernistic" methods do not lead to a solution of this crisis. Only a new religious sense, rooted in a new certainty of God, can confront it.
  • Part II: American Protestantism and the Christian Faith, by Francis P. Miller In every part of the world the Protestant movement finds itself beleaguered by the forces of militant nationalism -- a nationalism which represents for the most part an utter denial of the Christian faith. The precariousness of the position of the Protestant churches consists in the fact that the nature of nationalism is such that it can isolate sections of the Protestant community and destroy these sections in detail. Though the destruction of the universal elements in the Protestant faith has progressed further in certain sections of the German church than anywhere else this same process is actively present in American life. An environment favorable to this process has been created by some of our foremost educators, philosophers and theologians. It has been created by men who are quite unconscious of the indirect consequences of their intellectual assumptions, and who as individuals would energetically oppose the extension of the authority of national culture over the whole range of life. Yet such an extension is actually taking place as a result of the religious attitudes which these men have adopted, and as this extension takes place it carries with it a mortal threat to the integrity of the Christian faith. This situation obviously requires the immediate attention of those who have at heart the future of the American Protestant churches.
  • Part III: Toward the Independence of the Church, by H. Richard Niebuhr Capitalism, nationalism, and an "anthropocentric" faith have made the church captive to their systems of worldliness. This has led to a revolt against the church by some, and a revolt within the church by others. The revolt within the church can only be effective with a return of loyalty to God and to Jesus Christ. If the church contents itself with any lesser task it is doomed as the instrument of God -- even though it survive as a human institution.