Lo-Fi Tribe

A daily and evolving almanac of pithy religious sayings.


The Niebuhr brothers’ (H. Richard & Reinhold) dueling articles concerning the “how” and “what” inherent to the Christian question regarding the need to deal redemptively with sinful nations or individuals presents the discerning reader with a very clear choice. Christians, on one hand, can do nothing (save the act of non-involvement itself and repentance for personal and corporate sin) and thus be sure that their own impure motives do not complicate the situation further (H. Richard); on the other hand, one can admit the tragedy that is life and one’s own place within the tragedy (sin), and act righteously for change (involvement) in spite of it all (Reinhold). The choice between the two acts is clear, and articulated very, very well by both of their theological/philosophical representatives (H. Richard & Reinhold). It also greatly affects a Christian’s choice between ideological positions re: redemptive involvement and/or non-involvement, i.e., pacifism and/or realism (for lack of a better word). Which will you choose? Me? I’ll camp with those dedicated to non-violent redemptive processes, and only after much, much thought on the matter. The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls for it.

See full text articles: H. Richard Niebuhr: The Grace of Doing Nothing & Reinhold Niebuhr: Must We Do Nothing?

4 Responses to “Christian Involvement and/or Non-involvement”

  1. Hi Shawn, good post. John Yoder in his book “What Would You Do?” He makes a point of arguing that there are many more options than the Neibuhr brothers leave us with. It’s a short and wonderful read.

    C. Wess Daniels

  2. Wess - Hey man. Yeah, I agree re: the existence of more choices beyond the two provided above by the bros. Neibuhr. The above is just an early paragraph in a paper I wrote this afternoon for class. I actually say (further along in the paper) that I need to implement aspects of both Neibuhr positions, thus substantiating the idea that there is indeed more to the discussion than their two respective sides appear to address.


  3. Martin Marty (U Chicago) was on Speaking of Faith this morning (a rerun?) and talked about the Niebuhrs briefly in his discussion of the evangelicalism(s) in the US today. It was an interesting hour–you can probably find the podcast online.


  4. Missed it ck. I’ll search around for it. BTW: Thanks for the Merton. I love it, and you. Be well. :)


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