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Niebuhr, H. Richard - Radical Monotheism and Western Culture

Niebuhr, H. Richard - Radical Monotheism and Western Culture

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Published by Cocceius
In Radical Monotheism and Western Culture (1960), Niebuhr set forth, more fully than in The Meaning of Revelation, his conception of radical monotheism, by comparing it with polytheism and henotheism in the modern, non-mythological setting. Western culture is involved in a conflict of these three basic forms of faith.

Polytheism offers many gods, i.e., many objects of devotion; so, the believer's loyalties are divided amongst various causes such as the family, economic success, scientific knowledge, and artistic creativity. Henotheism demands loyalty to one god as the priority over many gods that may have the same rank. In the modern setting, henotheism expresses itself in the exaltation of one social group to the exclusion of others, and its examples include racism, nationalism, fascism, and communism. Monotheism, by contrast, asserts that there is only one God as the value-center.

So, a community of radical monotheism is no closed society. Whatever participates in such a community has equal value derived equally from the only center of value without the presence of any privileged group: "It [i.e., radical monotheism] is the confidence that whatever is good, is good, because it exists as one thing among the many, which all have their origin and their being, in the One—the principle of being which is also the principle of value." Therefore, the religion of the Old Testament, for example, was just and fair to the poor as well as to foreigners, and the religion of Jesus showed love of neighbor.

If political life is ordered by polytheistic and henotheistic patterns of devotion, there are problems. Polytheists point out that humans are not equal about their contributions to economic success, or to knowledge, or to creativity in the arts. Henotheistic loyalties such as racism and nationalism also reject the principle of equality in light of their faith in the supremacy of a particular race or nation.

The egalitarianism of radical monotheism is fiercely attacked by polytheistic and henotheistic loyalties, but it should not be defeated in its crucial battle of faith. For it is to bring forth the positive transformation of our ethics. Here, we can see the overtones of the Augustinian and Edwardian modes of thought.

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/H._Richard_Niebuhr#Monotheism.2C_henotheism.2C_and_polytheism

Helmut Richard Niebuhr (1894 – 1962) was an American Christian ethicist best known for his books The Meaning of Revelation (1941), Christ and Culture (1951), and Radical Monotheism and Western Culture (1960). He taught for several decades at Yale Divinity School. Niebuhr illuminated from many perspectives the disjunct between the oneness and absoluteness of God and the division and relativism in religion and culture. His way of mediating these polarities made him not only a prominent ecumenist but also an ethicist of universality who recognized God as the value-center for every human being in the world.

He promoted a theology of personal responsibility based on an existential faith in the transcendent God. As such, he was critical of both the conservative use of religious doctrine as a crutch and of liberal social activism as an adequate path to salvation. His crowning work on Christian ethics, The Responsible Self (1963), was published after his death, but its importance was basically ignored because in the 1960s and afterwards Christian ethics became fractured into various partisan schools or groups. Perhaps Niebuhr will be rediscovered from now.

http://bibliosources.blogspot.com/
In Radical Monotheism and Western Culture (1960), Niebuhr set forth, more fully than in The Meaning of Revelation, his conception of radical monotheism, by comparing it with polytheism and henotheism in the modern, non-mythological setting. Western culture is involved in a conflict of these three basic forms of faith.

Polytheism offers many gods, i.e., many objects of devotion; so, the believer's loyalties are divided amongst various causes such as the family, economic success, scientific knowledge, and artistic creativity. Henotheism demands loyalty to one god as the priority over many gods that may have the same rank. In the modern setting, henotheism expresses itself in the exaltation of one social group to the exclusion of others, and its examples include racism, nationalism, fascism, and communism. Monotheism, by contrast, asserts that there is only one God as the value-center.

So, a community of radical monotheism is no closed society. Whatever participates in such a community has equal value derived equally from the only center of value without the presence of any privileged group: "It [i.e., radical monotheism] is the confidence that whatever is good, is good, because it exists as one thing among the many, which all have their origin and their being, in the One—the principle of being which is also the principle of value." Therefore, the religion of the Old Testament, for example, was just and fair to the poor as well as to foreigners, and the religion of Jesus showed love of neighbor.

If political life is ordered by polytheistic and henotheistic patterns of devotion, there are problems. Polytheists point out that humans are not equal about their contributions to economic success, or to knowledge, or to creativity in the arts. Henotheistic loyalties such as racism and nationalism also reject the principle of equality in light of their faith in the supremacy of a particular race or nation.

The egalitarianism of radical monotheism is fiercely attacked by polytheistic and henotheistic loyalties, but it should not be defeated in its crucial battle of faith. For it is to bring forth the positive transformation of our ethics. Here, we can see the overtones of the Augustinian and Edwardian modes of thought.

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/H._Richard_Niebuhr#Monotheism.2C_henotheism.2C_and_polytheism

Helmut Richard Niebuhr (1894 – 1962) was an American Christian ethicist best known for his books The Meaning of Revelation (1941), Christ and Culture (1951), and Radical Monotheism and Western Culture (1960). He taught for several decades at Yale Divinity School. Niebuhr illuminated from many perspectives the disjunct between the oneness and absoluteness of God and the division and relativism in religion and culture. His way of mediating these polarities made him not only a prominent ecumenist but also an ethicist of universality who recognized God as the value-center for every human being in the world.

He promoted a theology of personal responsibility based on an existential faith in the transcendent God. As such, he was critical of both the conservative use of religious doctrine as a crutch and of liberal social activism as an adequate path to salvation. His crowning work on Christian ethics, The Responsible Self (1963), was published after his death, but its importance was basically ignored because in the 1960s and afterwards Christian ethics became fractured into various partisan schools or groups. Perhaps Niebuhr will be rediscovered from now.

http://bibliosources.blogspot.com/

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Published by: Cocceius on Apr 15, 2011
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Radical Monotheism and Western Culture
Radical Monotheism and Western Culture by H.Richard Niebuhr
H. Richard Niebuhr, for many years Sterling Professor of Christian Ethics at Yale University Divinity School,was one of mid-century's most respected teachers and writers. This book presents in revised and expanded formthe Montgomery Lectures on Contemporary Civilization which Dr. Niebuhr gave at the University of Nebraska in1957. The six chapters were originally three lectures. To them are added four supplementary essays that expandand complement the ideas in the Lectures.Published in Louisville, KY by Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993. Originally published, New York, Harper,1960. This material prepared for Religion Online by Richard and Sue Kendall.
(ENTIRE BOOK)
Niebuhr gives a thorough analysis of faith as confidence and loyalty, and theforms of faith as henotheism, polytheism and radical monotheism. He then analyzes theimplications of radical monotheism for western religion, the political community, westernscience, and ethical value systems.
Dr. Gustafson introduces Niebuhr's book as making theology and theological thinking intellibleby showing their continuities with other forms of thinking and activity, while at the same timereintepreting other forms of activity in the light of theology.
This introduction deals with the conflict of faiths in our Western Culture ...a conflict betweenradical monotheism and polytheism, or henotheism (a social faith which makes a finite cultural orreligious society the object of trust and loyalty).
This chapter contrasts polytheism, social faith and radical faith in the One God.
This chapter focuses upon the persons and movements through whom radical monotheism findsexpression in human history and in all of human life.
47
http://www.religion-online.org/cgi-bin/relsearchd.dll/showbook?item_id=409 (1 of 2) [2/4/03 6:20:37 PM]
 
Radical Monotheism and Western Culture
Dr. Niebuhr asks, how has monotheistic faith affected human religion as piety, (reverence andprayer); and how has it affected the "organized religions," Judaism and Christianity.
Is the conflict between polytheism, henotheism and radical monotheism also expressed in thepolitical community, and if so, in what ways?
The struggle between henotheistic and monotheistic faith in the West appears in natural scienceas well as theology; in national as in church life.
This essay was originally entitled, "Theology--Not Queen but Servant," from
The Journal of  Religion,
January 1955. Dr. Niebuhr examines what a modern university would be like which isdirectly responsible not to a nation or a culture or religion but to a radical monotheism of theuniversal and transcendent.
This essay is from
 Moral Principles of Action,
Edited by Ruth Nanda Anshen (Harper and Bros.,1952). Dr. Niebuhr contrasts relational value theory and a monotheistic central value theory, withthe recognition of many other possible, relative value systems--each of them tentative,experimental and objective., none of them an absolute. God only is absolute.<
This essay distinguishes active faith from belief. Faith is not an intellectual assent to certainpropositions, but a personal, practical trusting in, reliance on, counting upon something. Faith inGod is God's gift. It happens in human history, and in personal history. The essay first appearedas "The Nature and Existence of God" from
 Motive
Magazine, December 1943.
This essay looks at the morality of the scientist, as scientist. It requires commitment, continualself-examination and self-criticism, faithfulness to truth-telling in personal relations with thescientific community and the human community in general. The essay originally was a lecturedelivered at St. John's College, Annapolis, Md., Feb. 28, 1959, as part of a symposium on thetheme, "The Scientist as Philosopher."Viewed 3570 times.
http://www.religion-online.org/cgi-bin/relsearchd.dll/showbook?item_id=409 (2 of 2) [2/4/03 6:20:37 PM]
 
Radical Monotheism and Western Culture
Radical Monotheism and WesternCulture by H. Richard Niebuhr
H. Richard Niebuhr, for many years Sterling Professor of Christian Ethics at YaleUniversity Divinity School, was one of mid-century's most respected teachers andwriters. This book presents in revised and expanded form the Montgomery Lectureson Contemporary Civilization which Dr. Niebuhr gave at the University of Nebraska in 1957. The six chapters were originally three lectures. To them areadded four supplementary essays that expand and complement the ideas in theLectures.Published in Louisville, KY by Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993. Originallypublished, New York, Harper, 1960. This material prepared for Religion Online byRichard and Sue Kendall.
Forward by James M. Gustafson
H. Richard Niebuhr was working on several projects during the 1950sand until his sudden death in 1962. Theological education in NorthAmerica is the beneficiary of his willingness to interrupt these projectsand study it; out of that project came
The purpose of the Church and Its Ministry: The Advancement of Theological Education,
co-authored withDaniel Day Williams and myself; and
The Ministry in HistoricalPerspectives,
co-edited with Williams. Another book,
Faith on Earth,
edited by Richard R. Niebuhr (New Haven, Conn.: Yale UniversityPress, 1989), was in manuscript form and was set aside during 1954-55when the study of theological education absorbed his full attention. TheMontgomery Lectures, which form the main body of 
 Radical Monotheism and Western Culture,
were delivered in 1957 at theUniversity of Nebraska in Lincoln. In May 1959 Niebuhr delivered theRobinson Lectures at the University of Glasgow, which were publishedposthumously as
The Responsible Self.
The proofs of 
 Radical Monotheism
were delivered to our home in Lund, Sweden, when theNiebuhrs visited us there between their time in Scotland and Englandand their trip to Bonn, Germany, where he received an honorary degree.
The Responsible Self 
is only part of what he would have included in amore comprehensive hook on Christian ethics, a book that hundreds of 
http://www.religion-online.org/cgi-bin/relsearchd.dll/showchapter?chapter_id=156 (1 of 6) [2/4/03 6:21:13 PM]

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