Niebuhr, H. Richard (1894-1962)

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H. Richard Niebuhr, as a younger brother of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, is usually associated, as is Reinhold, with the development of neo-orthodox theology in America. In contrast to the optimistic humanism of liberal Christian theology, H. Richard had a profound sense of the tragedy of human sinfulness, a sense sharpened by the human and political realities of the world wars. His theological work is also characterized and under-girded by an enduring faith in the sovereignty of God.

A "teacher of the church" most of his life and a scholar who helped introduce sociological analysis into North American theological and ethical reflection (The Social Sources of Denominationalism, 1929; The Kingdom of God in America, 1937; The Responsible Self 1963), Niebuhr has had particular import for Mennonites through publication of Christ and Culture (1951). There he outlines a typology of five ways Christians relate to culture and illustrates the "Christ against culture" type with reference to Mennonites. Many contemporary scholars accept Niebuhr's types rather uncritically, categorizing and dismissing Mennonites as "irresponsible" in relation to transformation of culture. Written material criticizing and responding to Niebuhr's typology as it related to Mennonites in 1987 was in manuscript or prepublication form.


Fowler, James. To See the Kingdom: The Theological Vision of H. Richard Niebuhr. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1974. Comprehensive bibliography.

Harrison, Beverly Wildung. "H. Richard Niebuhr: Towards a Christian Moral Philosophy." Dissertation, Union Theological Seminary, 1974. Comprehensive bibliography.

Kliever, Lonnie. H. Richard Niebuhr. Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1977.

Koontz, Gayle Gerber. "Confessional Theology in a Pluralistic Context: A Study of the Theological Ethics of H. Richard Niebuhr and John H. Yoder." PhD dissertation, Boston U., 1985.

Ramsey, Paul. Editor. Faith and Ethics: The Theology of H. Richard Niebuhr. New York: Harper and Row, 1965.

Scriven, Charles. The Transformation of Culture: Christian Social Ethics after H. Richard Niebuhr. Scottdale, 1988..

Yoder, John Howard. "Christ and Culture: A Critique of H. Richard Niebuhr." Manuscript, Yoder personal files, Elkhart, IN, 1964.

Author(s) Gayle Gerber Koontz
Date Published 1987

Cite This Article

MLA style

Koontz, Gayle Gerber. "Niebuhr, H. Richard (1894-1962)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 22 Jan 2022.,_H._Richard_(1894-1962)&oldid=122576.

APA style

Koontz, Gayle Gerber. (1987). Niebuhr, H. Richard (1894-1962). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 January 2022, from,_H._Richard_(1894-1962)&oldid=122576.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 629-630. All rights reserved.

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