Reinhold Niebuhr

Theology

 

          Niebuhr took a teaching position in 1928 at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.  In one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, his religious life was expanded by the new life he encountered, as well as the readings of Karl Marx and other revolutionary thinkers.  In 1930, Niebuhr fulfilled his profession of being “politically to the left and theologically to the right” when he joined the Socialist party[1].   His right theology separated him from the many people who joined socialist parties in the 1930s[2].  He ran for Congress for his New York district in 1930[3].  He rejected the Marxist tendencies towards utopianism and man’s innate goodness[4].  He resigned from the Socialist party in 1940, helped charter the Liberal Party, and participated in the Union for Democratic America[5].

          Niebuhr championed a social gospel, which “contains[ed] trends of the piety of the Enlightenment, especially its individualism, rationalism, and unconquerable faith in human progress[6].”  The believed people were connected through a brotherhood which is connects through the Father[7]. A personal conversion was not valued and all emphasis was placed into activities that would save humanity.  But Niebuhr believed that the social gospel had many flaws and therefore created “Christian Realism”.  To promote his opinions, Niebuhr wrote many books and journal articles. 

 

Return to History 338 Supplements

Introduction

His Life

Social Causes

Theology

Christian Realism

Original Sin

Conclusion

Works Cited

Niebuhr's Books

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

 



[1] Fackre, Gabriel, The Promise of Reinhold Niebuhr, J.B. Lippincott Company: Philadelphia, 1970, 20.

 

[2].Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4]Ibid.

[5]Ibid, 21.

[6]Wurth, G. Brillenenbug, Niebuhr, Translated by David H. Freeman, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing CO.: Philadelphia, 1960, 13.

[7]Ibid, 14.