Reinhold Niebuhr

Reinhold Niebuhr (rīn´hōld nē´bŏŏr), 1892–1971, American religious and social thinker, b. Wright City, Mo. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, he served (1915–28) as pastor of Bethel Evangelical Church in Detroit, where he became deeply interested in social problems. In 1928 he began teaching at Union Theological Seminary, becoming professor of applied Christianity in 1930; he remained in this post until his retirement in 1960. In the early 1930s he shed his liberal Protestant hopes for the church's moral rule of society and became a political activist and a socialist. A prolific writer, he urged—notably in Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932), Christianity and Power Politics (1940), and The Nature and Destiny of Man (2 vol., 1941–43)—clerical interest in social reforms as well as the beliefs that men are sinners, that society is ruled by self-interest, and that history is characterized by irony, not progress. After World War II, he dropped much of his social radicalism and preached "conservative realism." In his later works, such as Faith and History (1949), Niebuhr argued for balances of interests and defended Christianity as the world view that best explains the heights and barbarisms of human behavior. In A Nation So Conceived (1963) he analyzed aspects of the American character. He also wrote Man's Nature and his Communities (1965), Faith and Politics (ed. by R. H. Stone 1968), and The Democratic Experience (with P. E. Sigmund, 1969).

See biographies by R. H. Stone (1972) and R. W. Fox (1987, repr. 1995); D. F. Rice, Reinhold Niebuhr and His Circle of Influence (2012); studies by H. P. Odegard (1956, repr. 1972), J. Bingham (1961, repr. 1972), N. A. Scott, Jr., ed. (1975); bibliography by D. B. Robertson (1984).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Reinhold Niebuhr: Selected full-text books and articles

The Thought of Reinhold Niebuhr By Gordon Harland Oxford University Press, 1960
The Promise of Reinhold Niebuhr By Gabriel Fackre William B. Eerdmans, 2011 (3rd edition)
Reinhold Niebuhr: His Religious, Social, and Political Thought By Charles W. Kegley; Robert W. Bretall Macmillan, vol.2, 1956
The Character of God: Recovering the Lost Literary Power of American Protestantism By Thomas E. Jenkins Oxford University Press, 1997
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "The Social Gospel and its Critics"
Christian Faith and Social Action: A Symposium By John A. Hutchison Scribner, 1953
Librarian's tip: "Christian Faith and Social Action" by Reinhold Niebuhr begins on p. 225
Communism and the Theologians: Study of an Encounter By Charles C. West Westminster Press, 1958
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "An American Encounter: Reinhold Neibuhr"
Christianity and Liberal Society By Robert Song Clarendon Press, 1997
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Reinhold Neibuhr and the Liberal Philosophy of History"
The Protestant Search for Political Realism, 1919-1941 By Donald Meyer Wesleyan University Press, 1988 (2nd edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. 13 "Reinhold Niebuhr: Political Morality" and Chap. 14 "Reinhold Niebuhr: Religion and Politics"
Designing the Industrial State: The Intellectual Pursuit of Collectivism in America, 1880-1940 By James Gilbert Quadrangle Books, 1972
Librarian's tip: Chap. 9 "Reinhold Niebuhr: The Theologian As Power Broker"
A Book That Shook the World: Anniversary Essays on Charles Darwin's Origin of Species By Julian S. Huxley; Theodosius Dobzhansky; Reinhold Niebuhr; Oliver L. Reiser; Swami Nikhilananda University of Pittsburgh Press, 1958
Librarian's tip: Contains "Christianity and Darwin's Revolution"
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