Wisdom to Know the Difference: Why Reinhold Niebuhr Isn’t the Theologian We Need Today

Posted on September 20, 2021 by PLT Staff

Lecture given by Eugene McCarraher at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA (September 15, 2021). McCarraher asks, “Why do ‘very serious people’ like Reinhold Niebuhr so much?” and ultimately argues that Niebuhr’s philosophy of political realism cannot provide what we need for our time. McCarraher shows how Niebuhr’s famous Serenity Player illustrates both philosophical strengths and limitations. According to McCarraher, public theologians and intellectuals must therefore reclaim the language of political realism because Niebuhrian realism is not realistic or visionary enough. For example, Niebuhr compromised himself due to his associations with Cold War policies as well as his advocacy of a gradual approach to civil rights. For a listing of all our Occasional Lectures, click here.

Excerpt: “I have to say, unlike Marc Antony from Julius Caesar, I’ve come here to both praise and to bury Reinhold Niebuhr. The praise I am going to offer in this talk is genuine, but I also think the internment is long overdue because I think that Niebuhr continues to cast a far too restrictive and censorious specter over our public intellectual life.”

  • Video Information
  • Date Recorded:September 15, 2021
  • Location Recorded:Charlottesville, Virginia
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