Relation between Christian Realism of Reinhold Niebuhr and Neo-orthodoxy

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.32420/2020.90.2095

Keywords:

Christian realism, idealism, dualism, Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth, neoorthodoxy

Abstract

The article considers the development of the ideas of Christian realism as a philosophical and ethical concept of Reinhold Niebuhr. The background of the development of Christian realism’s ideas is described. It is noted that the most impact had Niebuhr’s personal attitude to philosophy and epistemology, as well as the practical experience of serving in Detroit. The methodological approach of Niebuhr is defined as a contrast between the ideal and the real, with the subsequent solving of the conflict between them. It is noted that from the Niebuhr’s point of view, the transforming power of Christianity is rooted in moral and metaphysical dualism, where ethics subordinates metaphysics and gives strength to social and cultural transformations of humanity. It turned out that the ethical concept of Christian realism includes the classification of people as idealists, realists and cynics. Idealists are people who are mainly focused on idealistic concepts that are not represented in the real world. Idealists usually have distorted worldview because they deny taking into account the realities of the world. That also makes them vulnerable to manipulation of cynics. Realists are people who take into account all factors and all known sources of power in the real world, and have a pragmatic position, which is based on moral and ethical qualities. Cynics are those who have a pragmatic position to the world and relations with others, but they guide themselves only by personal interest and egoistic needs, and do not bother with moral restraints. In addition, the relationship of Niebuhr and other neo-orthodoxy theologians is described. Among them there are Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Emil Brunner and Rudolf Bultmann. The polemic between Niebuhr and Bart is noted. It is shown that the main difference between Bart and Niebuhr was in the theological perspective: for Bart it was mostly dogmatic, and for Niebuhr - ethical and apologetical. The most similar to the theological position of Niebuhr is Brunner's theology, but the differences between them are in relation to the natural law. It is noted that the discrepancy between Niebuhr and Bultmann was an interpretation of the concept of myth. Finally, the contribution of neo-orthodoxy to the development of theology of the twentieth century is considered. It consists of five main achievements: the definition of theology of revelation as a concept of knowledge of God, the rethinking of biblical texts as carriers of kerigma, the historical contextualization of theological tradition, the rethinking of the Reformation’s ideas, and the ecumenical emphasis in theology.

References

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Niebuhr, H. R. (1959). The Kingdom of God in America. New York: Harper & Row Publishers.

Niebuhr, R. (1953). Christian Realism and Political problems. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Niebuhr, R. (1928). Does Civilization Need Religion. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Niebuhr, R. (1965). Man’s Nature and His Communities. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Niebuhr, R. (1960). Moral Man and Immoral Society. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Robertson D.B. (ed.). (1959). Essays in Applied Christianity. New York: Meridian.

Published

2020-03-31

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Section

Articles