Reinhold Niebuhr

Introduction

 

“O GOD, GIVE US SERENITY TO ACCEPT WHAT CANNOT BE CHANGED, COURAGE TO CHANGE WHAT SHOULD BE CHANGED, AND WISDOM TO DISTINGUISH THE ONE FROM THE OTHER[1].” - Reinhold Niebuhr

 

          The Serenity Prayer and Christian Realism have become a part of American culture, but not many people are aware that the origin of these ideas is Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the most prominent religious reformers in America.  He set forth new religious thought in the realms of Christianity, politics, and social causes.  He was involved in humanitarian and social causes, aligning him with the blighted, impoverished, and down trodden.  He chastised the capitalists who he felt had become wealthy by exploiting the masses.  A self-proclaimed political left wing and religious right wing, Niebuhr was a Socialist and a Fundamentalist.  He felt that Christ sacrificial love should become the norm for people’s everyday life[2].   If everyone would strive to fulfill the agape love that Christ inspired, Niebuhr felt that people would be spiritually free[3].

 

Return to History 338 Supplements

Introduction

His Life

Social Causes

Theology

Christian Realism

Original Sin

Conclusion

Works Cited

The Complete Serenity Prayer

Sara Manning created this web page.  It was last updated April 15, 2001.  Please email any questions to smannin0@georgetowncollege.edu.



[1]Niebuhr, Reinhold, Courage to Change: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE LIFE AND THOUGHT OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, June Bingham, Charles Scribner’s Son: New York, 1961, iii.  Niebuhr gave this prayer as part of a sermon he preached in 1934 to a small church in Heath, Massachusetts.  Following the service, a neighbor asked for a copy and Niebuhr gave him the original.  The Serenity Prayer has been in circulation since that day.

[2]Patterson, Bob E., Makers of the Modern Theological Mind, World Books Publisher: Waco, 1977, 128.

[3]Ibid.