Niebuhr, Helmut Richard

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Niebuhr, Helmut Richard

Helmut Richard Niebuhr, 1894–1962, American theologian, b. Wright City, Mo., grad. Elmhurst College (Ill.), 1912, and Eden Theological Seminary, 1915, M.A. Washington Univ., 1917, B.D. Yale Divinity School, 1923, Ph.D. Yale, 1924. He was the younger brother of Reinhold Niebuhr. He was ordained (1916) a minister in the Evangelical and Reformed Church and for a short time was a pastor in St. Louis. Niebuhr then taught (1919–22 and 1927–31) at Eden Theological Seminary and served (1924–27) as president of Elmhurst College. In 1931 he joined the faculty of Yale Divinity School and in 1954 was named Sterling professor of theology and Christian ethics at Yale Univ. Niebuhr was early influenced by the work of Kierkegaard and Barth; later, however, he turned his attention to the personal nature of human relationship to God and advocated a reworking of Christianity in the light of the 20th cent. Among his works are Social Sources of Denominationalism (1929), The Kingdom of God in America (1937), The Meaning of Revelation (1941), Christ and Culture (1951), The Purpose of the Church and Its Ministry (1956), and Radical Monotheism and Western Culture (1960).

See biography by J. Diefenthaler (1986); studies by J. D. Godsey (1970), L. Hoedermaker (1971), and J. W. Fowler (1974).

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