The Promise of Reinhold Niebuhr

The Promise of Reinhold Niebuhr

The Promise of Reinhold Niebuhr

The Promise of Reinhold Niebuhr

Synopsis

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) -- whom President Barack Obama famously named as his "favorite philosopher" in a 2007 interview -- was arguably the most influential American theologian of the twentieth century. Gabriel Fackre's Promise of Reinhold Niebuhr has long provided a compact introduction to Niehbuhr's life and thought.

With Niebuhr's enduring legacy again rising to prominence in political and religious circles, Fackre has reworked his standard account of this iconic "visionary realist" for a new generation. In this revised and updated third edition, Fackre crystallizes key themes in Niebuhr's writings, addresses and debunks "Tall Tales" that have sprung up around Niebuhr's legacy, and applies Niebuhr's thinking to twenty-first-century theological and cultural issues.

Excerpt

No native-born American more readily became a candidate for inclusion in this series of books on futures [The Promise of Theology, 11 vols., Martin E. Marty, general editor, Lippincott, 1969-71] than did Reinhold Niebuhr. For over a third of a century he has been a shaping influence in theology, social ethics, and public policy. Those who speak in faintly condescending tones about other twentieth-century giants in religious thought, as if their days are past and their contributions forgotten, are more reluctant to do so when Niebuhr’s name is brought up.

For one thing, the longtime Union Theological Seminary professor is a moving target. As both his biographer and Professor Fackre have pointed out, he has always had “the courage to change.” Today’s radicals cannot dismiss a man who so early saw prospects in Marxian thought. the people on the New Politics part of the spectrum cannot deny that he helped set a basis for them in his Christian realism. Mainline theologians applaud the way in which he was grounded in classical Christian themes, not even shunning some unpopular doctrines like “original sin.” and even innocent bystanders live with policies developed by men who acknowledge that Niebuhr’s thought informed theirs.

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