Magazine article The Christian Century

Christ & Culture Clash. (Letters)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Christ & Culture Clash. (Letters)

Article excerpt

PETER R. Gathje, probably in the interest of stirring some intellectual excitement over a sterile "debate," refers not at all to the burden of my Yale Lecture, which was adapted for the preface to the 50th anniversary edition of H. Richard Niebuhr's Christ and Culture ("A contested classic, " June 19-26). The burden of my lecture was to argue that one could not understand Niebuhr's purpose in writing the book without knowing the ideal-typical method he used. The historical context of the development of that method by Max Weber, Ernst Troeltsch and others was the Methodenstreit zwischen Naturwissenschaften und Geisteswissenschaften in Germany in the last decade of the 19th and the first of the 20th century.

For 50 years I interpreted the book in that light. I had written a B.D. thesis under James Luther Adams on "Max Weber's Methodology," which was accepted in the spring of 1951, the same quarter in which Niebuhr's book was published. I never claimed to be certain of authorial intent about that or any other book I ever interpreted, but was pleased to have Niebuhr's paper "Types of Christian Ethics" (included in the anniversary edition) sent to me last summer by Richard R. …

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