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Reinhold Niebuhr: A Biography Paperback – Jan 1987


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Paperback, Jan 1987
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Synopsis

A profile of the life and teachings of Reinhold Niebuhr discusses the career of this distinguished American theologian, pastor, social critic, political activist, and educator at Union Theological Seminary and examines the evolution of his message and its impact. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Author

This edition has new afterword and updated bibliography.
The new afterword discusses material added to the Niebuhr Papers at the Library of Congress since the original edition of the book was published in 1985, and the bibliography evaluates recent books and articles about Niebuhr. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
The Vital Centrist 25 April 2001
By Mark Koerner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) was--and probably still is--America's most famous theologian. From the 1920s to the 1960s, hw wrote numerous books on religious and political issues, as well as articles for LOOK, THE ATLANTIC, and THE NEW REPUBLIC among many other magazines. One of his lesser known works ("God grant me the strength to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot and the wisdom to know the difference") still adorns the bric-a-brac sold in Christian bookstores. And, not far from his old office at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, a street is named after him. Richard Wightman Fox argues that beginning in the 1930s, Niebuhr became disenchanted with the "social gospel" theology that had come to dominate the so-called "mainline" Protestant churches. Niebuhr concluded that man is an inherently imperfect creature (and therefore all attempts to create a perfect society are futile), but that Christians still have to try to Christianize the social order. Such efforts are doomed to fail if their ultimate goal is the perfectability of man, but they can succeed if they have more limited goals. In other words, the world could be made better but it could not be re-made. In this way, Niebuhr reconciled in his own mind two opposing groups: the social gospel liberals and the conservative theologians who believed in sin. Niebuhr's belief in the reality of sin combined with his quest for social justice is generally called "neo-orthodoxy," though Fox uses this term only a few times. Fox does an excellent job of demonstrating how well Niebuhr's ideas fit with the assumptions of American liberals from the 1940s through the 1960s. Cold War liberals prided themselves on being both idealistic and realistic. To borrow one of Niebuhr's own phrases, American liberals were the optimistic "children of light" when it came to wiping out poverty and racial discrimination at home, but they were the pessimistic "children of darkness" when they dealt with Soviet Communism. No wonder Reinhold Niebuhr was the intelligentsia's favorite theologian. If Fox fails to capture anything about Niebuhr, it is just how un-spiritual (non-religious?)so much of Niebuhr's writings now seem. Niebuhr focused on four topics: God, Sin, Man, and the Social Order. But somehow Sin, Man, and the Social Order frequently crowd God out of the picture, and we're left wondering if we're dealing with a theologian or a social theorist or the Democratic Party's leading intellectual. To put it only slightly unfairly, Niebuhr was a brilliant and profound theologian, but he was the kind of theologian who maybe spent too much time wondering about who the next President ought to be.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"A great man with flaws" 1 Dec 2013
By Paul E. Hanna - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fair,honest,candid account of Niebuhr's amazing life from small town Midwestern son of a minister to international stature as theologian and political thinker. Fox does an excellent job of pointing out the flaws in Niebuhr as well as his great gifts. He describes very well his incredible energy as well as his difficulty in handling things after his stroke. Niebuhr will probably be remembered far more for his incisive political views than his theology.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
History, but not theology 25 Nov 2008
By History Buff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For those interested in ONLY the historical Neibuhr, this book might fit the bill. There is almost no attention given to his theology, so I do not recommend it to readers who have no prior knowledge of Niebuhr. Without some understanding of his theology it's very difficult to understand why he has historical importance. Fox also (surprisingly) does not include much information on Niebuhr's influence on later important historical figures such as Martin Luther King.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Niebuhr, a Nihilist? 24 May 2012
By Thomas J. Bieter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have not read this book, so this is really just a comment, but I have recently read the excellent work Why Niebuhr Now? by the late historian John Patrick Diggins.Why Niebuhr Now?

I recently read The Pragmatic God - On the Nihilism of Reinhold Niebuhr, by Professor Harry J. Ausmus, The Pragmatic God (American University Studies. Series VII. Theology and Religion) , a book that, strangely, has been universally ignored by scholars in history, philosophy, and religion. Ausmus contends that the logical consequence of Niebuhr's thought is nihilism, a rather serious charge to lodge against a Christian theologian and preacher.

Why has this work, published in 1990, been ignored?

I suspect that Niebuhr scholars and others fear that accepting the challenge to examine Ausmus' thesis may just disclose some nihilism in their thought.
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