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Reinhold Niebuhr was a twentieth-century American theologian who was known for his commentary on public affairs. One of his most influential ideas was the relating of his Christian faith to realism rather than idealism in foreign affairs. His perspective influenced many liberals and is enjoying a resurgence today; most recently Barack Obama has acknowledged Niebuhr’s importance to his own thinking.
In this book, Kenneth Hamilton makes a claim that no other work on Niebuhr has madethat Niebuhr’s chief and abiding preoccupation throughout his long career was the nature of humankind. Hamilton engages in a close reading of Niebuhr’s entire oeuvre through this lens. He argues that this preoccupation remained consistent throughout Niebuhr’s writings, and that through his doctrine of humankind one gets a full sense of Niebuhr the theologian. Hamilton exposes not only the internal consistency of Niebuhr’s project but also its aporia. Although Niebuhr’s influence perhaps peaked in the mid-twentieth century, enthusiasm for his approach to religion and politics has never waned from the North American public theology, and this work remains relevant today.
Although Hamilton wrote this thesis in the mid-1960s it is published here for the first time. Jane Barter Moulaison, in her editorial gloss and introduction, demonstrates the abiding significance of Hamilton’s work to the study of Niebuhr by bringing it into conversation with subsequent writings on Niebuhr, particularly as he is re-appropriated by twenty-first-century American theology.
About the Author
Kenneth Hamilton arrived in Canada from England in 1951 and served as a minister in Elmsdale, Nova Scotia, for seven years. In 1958 he joined the teaching staff of United College (later the University of Winnipeg) in the Faculty of Theology, where his career spanned three decades. Kenneth Hamilton was the author of over thirty published books and numerous essays on philosophy, theology, ethics, and literature.
Jane Barter Moulaison is an associate professor of theology and church history at the University of Winnipeg and a priest in the Diocese of Rupert’s Land. She is the author of Lord, Giver of Life (WLU Press, 2006) and Thinking Christ: Christology and Critics .
Table of Contents
Editor's Introduction 1
Part 1 Reinhold Niebuhr's Doctrine of Humanity: An Investigation
1 Niebuhr as a Theologian and His Relation to Theological Tradition 21
2 Niebuhr's General Theological Method 29
3 Human Nature: Self-Transcendence 39
4 Human Nature: Sin 53
5 Human Nature and the Norm of Love 65
6 Humanity and the Problem of History 77
7 Humanity and Its Faith: The Apprehension of Total Reality 91
Part 2 Reinhold Niebuhr's Christian Anthropology in Its Context
8 Away from Nineteenth-Century Religion 105
9 Christian Realism 115
10 Neo-Supernaturalsim 129
11 The "Christian Interpretation" of the Human Situation 143