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Blog // Thoughts
August 3, 2006

Returning to Niebuhr

Although he was almost totally absent from my undergraduate curricula, I spent a good deal of my time at theological college reading Reinhold Niebuhr. In fact, were it not for my off-piste adventures with Niebuhr, Barth, Rauschenbusch and co, I’m not sure how depth my “theological” education would have had (maybe a series on off-piste […]

Although he was almost totally absent from my undergraduate curricula, I spent a good deal of my time at theological college reading Reinhold Niebuhr. In fact, were it not for my off-piste adventures with Niebuhr, Barth, Rauschenbusch and co, I’m not sure how depth my “theological” education would have had (maybe a series on off-piste theology is called for?).

In the light of recent events, I have been pondering this prayer, which Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford often quotes, in whole or in part,

“We pray for wicked and cruel men, whose arrogance reveals to us what the sin of our own hearts is like when it has conceived and brought forth its final fruit. We pray for ourselves who live in peace and quietness, that we may not regard our good fortune as proof of our virtue, or rest content to have our ease at the price of other men’s sorrow and tribulation.”

This, and listening to a Union Seminary podcast on Niebuhr, led me to look for more quotes from him (while I searh for some books to re-read),

“If the ministers of our great urban churches become again the simple priests and chaplains of this American idolatry, subtly compounded with a few stray Christian emphases, they will merely add one more dismal proof in the pages of history that a religiously sanctified self-idolatry is more grievous than its secular variety. This is how the gospel becomes a salt that has lost its savor.

The gospel cannot be preached with truth and power if it does not challenge the pretensions and pride, not only of individuals, but of nations, cultures, civilizations, economic and political systems. The good fortune of America and its power place it under the most grievous temptations to self-adulation. If there is no power and grace in the Christian church “to bring down every high thing which exalteth itself against the knowledge of God,” the church becomes not merely useless but dangerous.”

Both rather timely quotes for us to consider.

[tags] Reinhold Niebuhr, Idolatry, Just War [/tags]

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