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Helmut Richard Niebuhr

1894-1962. Neoorthodox theologian. Missouri-born Niebuhr, professor of Christian ethics at Yale University from 1931 to 1962, personified American Neoorthodoxy,* the product of social and intellectual travail between the two world wars. An Evangelical minister, he brought to Yale much experience as seminary professor, college president, pastor, and author, and continued there to struggle with historicism, a task reflected in his doctoral dissertation at Yale, “The Religious Philosophy of Ernst Troeltsch” (1924). His Social Sources of Denominationalism (1929) attacked the church's gullible acceptance of middle-class values and described the socioeconomic origins of sect, denomination, and church. Various factors led him away from his early liberalism, however, and in The Kingdom of God in America (1937) he hoped for the restoration of Reformation roots in American Christianity. The Meaning of Revelation (1941) and Radical Monotheism and Western Culture (1961) grappled with the nature of religious experience, and Christ and Culture (1951) further explored the nature of Christian association with the world. More scholarly than his elder brother Reinhold,* he attempted to explore the relationship of faith and civilization by combining belief in God's sovereignty with modern scholarship, in order to effect a creative tension between the church and society.