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Reinhold Niebuhr

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Reinhold Niebuhr (June 21 1892 – June 1 1971) was an American Protestant theologian most famous for his efforts to relate the Christian faith to the realities of politics and diplomacy. He is a crucial contributor to modern thinking about what a just war would be.

Quotable

All human sin seems so much worse in its consequences than in its intentions.

Democracies are indeed slow to make war, but once embarked upon a martial venture are equally slow to make peace and reluctant to make a tolerable, rather than a vindictive, peace.  Reinhold Niebuhr

Democracy is finding proximate solutions to insoluble problems.

Evil is not to be traced back to the individual but to the collective behavior of humanity.

Family life is too intimate to be preserved by the spirit of justice. It can be sustained by a spirit of love which goes beyond justice.

Forgiveness is the final form of love.


God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Goodness, armed with power, is corrupted; and pure love without power is destroyed.

I think there ought to be a club in which preachers and journalists could come together and have the sentimentalism of the one matched with the cynicism of the other. That ought to bring them pretty close to the truth.

If we can find God only as he is revealed in nature we have no moral God.

If we survive danger it steels our courage more than anything else.

Life is a battle between faith and reason in which each feeds upon the other, drawing sustenance from it and destroying it.

Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in a lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.
Original sin is that thing about man which makes him capable of conceiving of his own perfection and incapable of achieving it. 
Our age knows nothing but reaction, and leaps from one extreme to another.

The final wisdom of life requires not the annulment of incongruity but the achievement of serenity within and above it.

The mastery of nature is vainly believed to be an adequate substitute for self mastery.


The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world.


The tendency to claim God as an ally for our partisan value and ends is the source of all religious fanaticism.

There are historic situations in which refusal to defend the inheritance of a civilization, however imperfect, against tyranny and aggression may result in consequences even worse than war.

There is no cure for the pride of a virtuous nation but pure religion.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Quotes[edit]

Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932)[edit]

 

Man is endowed by nature with organic relations to his fellow men; and natural impulse prompts him to consider the needs of others even when they compete with his own.

 

Reason is not the sole basis of moral virtue in man. His social impulses are more deeply rooted than his rational life.

Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study of Ethics and Politics, Charles Scribner's Sons (1932)

The Nature and Destiny of Man: A Christian Interpretation (1941)[edit]

 

Human existence is obviously distinguished from animal life by its qualified participation in creation. Within limits it breaks the forms of nature and creates new configurations of vitality.

The Nature and Destiny of Man: A Christian Interpretation, from the Gifford Lectures, (1941)

The Serenity Prayer (c. 1942)[edit]

This statement, or variants of it, have often been attributed to others, including St. Francis of Assisi, but without sources. Though similar prayers may have existed, the work seems to be Niebuhr's. He never copyrighted the prayer, and it has been used in many variants.

Faith and History: A Comparison of Christian and Modern Views of History (1949)[edit]

The Irony of American History (1952)[edit]

 

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own; therefore, we are saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.

The Irony of American History, Charles Scribner’s Sons (1952)

The Mike Wallace Interview (1958)[edit]

The Mike Wallace Interview ABC TV (27 April 1958)


Quotes about Niebuhr[edit]

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about:

Reinhold Niebuhr



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The Last but not Least


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