Who is Reinhold Niebuhr?June 26, 2021
American Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who popularized political thought and criticized the prevailing theological liberalism of the 1920s, was born in America in 1892.
Niebuhr, who influenced the intellectual climate of American Protestantism, witnessed the problems of American industrialism and joined the Socialist Party while working as a pastor in Detroit. He called on Christians to be more active to support the war against Hitler and became an influential figure in the US foreign policy after the Second World War. His most important theological work is the book “The Nature and Destiny of Man”, in which reform theology is synthesized with Renaissance understandings.
Having completed his theology education at Yale University, the theologian became a candidate for the Evangelical Ministry. He served as pastor of Bethel Evangelical Church in Detroit from 1915 to 1928. His early work focused on religious liberalism and social idealism, embracing the theological atmosphere of the time. However, due to problems with unions and social laws in Detroit, he began to develop anti-capitalist socialist ideas. Leaving his ministry in 1928, Niebuhr went to New York and started working as a professor at the United Theological School. He continued his intellectual activity there until his retirement in 1960.
As a theologian, Niebuhr is best known for his “Christian Realism” work, which highlights the enduring roots of evil in human life. In The Moral Man and the Immoral Society (1932), he emphasized egoism and the pride and hypocrisy of nations and classes. He argued that these phenomena would eventually become the source of human insecurity and anxiety. He criticizes the religious and political view of destructive pride, which he calls “original sin,” and especially claims to perfection, as a human achievement. He argued that there were “uncertain possibilities” for humanity in history, with the thought that the absolute solutions of historical problems are under the control of man.
Thanks to Niebuhr’s significant influence on political thought both inside and outside the church, he has been described by the distinguished political scholar Hans J. Morgenthau as “America’s greatest living political philosopher.” His knowledge, original, convincing and persuasive thoughts have made him the subject of many theses and other scientific articles.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook