Faith And History - A Comparison Of Christian And Modern Views Of History
FAITH AND HISTORY A COMPARISON OF CHRISTIAN AND MODERN VIEWS OF HISTORY by REINHOLD NIEBUHR. PREFACE: THE theme of this volume was first presented as the Lyman Beecher Lectures On Preaching at the Yale Divinity School in 1945. Some of the same lectures were given, by arrange ment, under the Warrack Lectureship On Preaching at the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen in Scotland in the winter of 1947. Some of the chapters were used as the basis of lectures given under the Olaf Petri Foundation of the University of Uppsala in Sweden. I sought to develop various portions of a general theme in these various lectureships. In this volume I have drawn these lectures into a more comprehensive study of the total problem of the relation of the Christian faith to modern conceptions of history. While the total work, therefore, bares little resemblance to the lectures, it does contain consideration of the specific problems which were dealt with in the lectures. I shall not seek to identify this material by chapters as I subjected the whole to reorganization. Two of these lectureships usually deal with the art of preaching, though not a few of the actual lectures have been concerned with the preachers message. Since I had no special competence in the art of homiletics I thought it wise to devote the lectures to a definition of the apologetic task of the Christian pulpit in the unique spiritual climate of our day. Since several of the Beecher lecturers in the past half-century sought to accommodate the Christian message to the prevailing evolutionary optimism of the nineteenth and early twen tieth centuries, I thought it might be particularly appropriate to consider the spiritual situation in a period in which this evolutionary optimism is in the process of decay. This volume is written on the basis of the faith that the Gospel of Christ is true for men of every age and that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. It is, nevertheless, the task of the pulpit to relate the ageless Gospel to the special problems of each age. In doing so, however, there is always a temptation to capitulate to the characteristic prejudices of an age. The preaching of the Gospel was not immune to this temptation in the past centuries. The real alternative to the Christian faith elaborated by modern secular culture was the idea that history is itself Christ, which is to say that historical development is redemp tive. Typical modern theology accommodated itself to this secular scheme of redemption much too readily. Meanwhile the experiences of contemporary man have refuted the modern faith in the redemp tive character of history itself. This refutation has given the Christian faith, as presented in the Bible, a new relevance. It is not the thesis of this new volume that this new relevance could establish the truth of the Christian Gospel in the mind of modern man. The truth of the Christian faith must, in fact, be apprehended in any age by repentance and faith. It is, therefore, not made acceptable by rational validation in the first instance. It is important, nevertheless, for the preacher of the Gospel to understand, and come to terms with, the characteristic credos of his age. It is important in our age to understand how the spiritual com placency of a culture which believed in redemption through history is now on the edge of despair.
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