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Neibuhr's major work on ethical imperatives drawn from the life of Jesus and their relevance for the individual in our complex and fast-paced society. Neibuhr's major work on ethical imperatives drawn from the life of Jesus and their relevance for the individual in our complex and fast-paced society.


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Neibuhr's major work on ethical imperatives drawn from the life of Jesus and their relevance for the individual in our complex and fast-paced society. Neibuhr's major work on ethical imperatives drawn from the life of Jesus and their relevance for the individual in our complex and fast-paced society.

30 review for An Interpretation of Christian Ethics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    I must confess this is probably the most challenging book I've ever read. Composed of eight lectures Niebuhr gave at the Colgate-Rochester Divinity School in 1934, the intended audience was several times removed from me. I have a weak background in the enlightenment philosophers Niebuhr contends with and only a passing familiarity with John Dewey and the controversies of his time so much of it was over my head. In the lectures, Niebuhr seeks to examine the relevance and practicality of "Christia I must confess this is probably the most challenging book I've ever read. Composed of eight lectures Niebuhr gave at the Colgate-Rochester Divinity School in 1934, the intended audience was several times removed from me. I have a weak background in the enlightenment philosophers Niebuhr contends with and only a passing familiarity with John Dewey and the controversies of his time so much of it was over my head. In the lectures, Niebuhr seeks to examine the relevance and practicality of "Christian Ethics" against a backdrop of rising Fascism in Europe, widespread oppression of humanity by unrestrained Capitalism, and the failure of Humanism. He's especially interested in pointing out the practical impossibility of a number of Christ's teachings both in one's personal life and in society as a whole. ("If one were to follow the words of Jesus, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone, " without qualification, no criminal could ever be arrested"pg. 239) How are we to make sense of these impossible teachings? His overall points were difficult for me to wrap my head around, but I really enjoyed a number of his incidental observations: On Marxism: "Both liberalism and Marxism are secularized and naturalized versions of the Hebrew prophetic movement and the Christian religion But Marxism is a purer derivative of the prophetic movement . . . It has a better understanding of the depths of evil which reveal themselves in human history, and hence its philosophy of history contains a catastrophism, completely foreign to the dominant mood of popular culture, but closely related to the catastrophism of Jewish prophecy . . . The weakness of the Marxian apocalypse is that it's naturalism betrays it into utopian fantasies." On the fallacy of theological absolutism: "It is, therefore, impossible to construct a socio-moral policy from the religio-moral insight of Jesus', as for instance, Tolstoi attempted in his objection to jails and other forms of social punishment. Society must punish criminals, or at least quarantine them, even if the executors of judgment are self-righteous sinners who do not realize to what degree they are involved in the sins they seek to suppress." On a mythic approach to reading scripture: "That the basic motive of the myth of the Fall, expressed in the idea of the jealous God and the human rebellion against the divine, is not the fruit of primitive fantasy but a revelation of a tragic reality of life, is attested by every page of human history . . . The vice of all mythical religion is that its interpreters try to reduce its supra-history to actual history. Thus the myth of creation is constructed into an actual history of origins when it is really a description of the quality of existence . . ." On religion and social justice: "The importance of the political and economic problem increases in every decade of modern existence because a technical civilization has so accentuated the intensity and extent of social cohesion that human happiness depends increasingly upon a just organization and adjustment of the political and economic mechanisms by which the life of the common life of man is ordered. Even though it may be true that the human spirit faces ultimate problems which transcend the relationship of man to his society . . . a socially imperiled generation will have both the inclination and the right to dismiss profound and ultimate interpretations of life which are not made relevant to the immediate problems of social justice. Men whose very existence is imperiled . . . may be pardoned if they dismiss any "profound" religion which does not concern itself with these problems." Addendum: I received this book as a gift from my brother-in-law. It was an original 1936 edition! I loved turning the thick, yellowed pages and luxuriating in the age that emanated from them!!!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gordon Howard

    A dense, complicated work, but still worth reading. His points: 1. Christianity is a prophetic religion, unlike other world religions except for Judaism. The other world religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, are religions of culture, where mysticism is used to find the eternal truths. Prophetic religion uses myths to reach for an utlimate fulfillment of meaning through God. 2. The ethic of Jesus, the ideal of love, is virtually impossible to attain in our world, but we must strive to a A dense, complicated work, but still worth reading. His points: 1. Christianity is a prophetic religion, unlike other world religions except for Judaism. The other world religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, are religions of culture, where mysticism is used to find the eternal truths. Prophetic religion uses myths to reach for an utlimate fulfillment of meaning through God. 2. The ethic of Jesus, the ideal of love, is virtually impossible to attain in our world, but we must strive to attain it. 3. Sin arises when men strive to become God-like, as in the story of the Fall and expulsion from the Garden of Eden. 4. The problem of traditional Christianity is that it sees the world from an unduly pessimistic viewpoint, and cedes control of secular life to whoever is in power, no matter whether they are good or evil. 5. The problem of modern liberal Christianity is that is unduly optimistic, thinking man is perfectible. This leads to the sin of men believing they are God-like, with disastrous consequences. 6. Absolute forgiveness is an impossibility in secular life, so it must be tempered by reality.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Deeply challenging. I obviously don’t agree with many things he says, but the book is helpful in thinking through the realities of eternity and temporality and their relation to Christian ethics.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This was another dense book, but I liked it better than the previous Niebuhr book I read because Niebuhr is now trying to apply his ideas to real life. As before, I'm not sure I understood everything he had to say, but the main point seems to be that Jesus' law of love must be recognized as an impossible possibility. That understanding, coupled with a personal understanding of our own sin and other shortcomings, forms the basis for an attitude of forgiveness toward others. Niebuhr also continues This was another dense book, but I liked it better than the previous Niebuhr book I read because Niebuhr is now trying to apply his ideas to real life. As before, I'm not sure I understood everything he had to say, but the main point seems to be that Jesus' law of love must be recognized as an impossible possibility. That understanding, coupled with a personal understanding of our own sin and other shortcomings, forms the basis for an attitude of forgiveness toward others. Niebuhr also continues to hammer home the point that there is a difference between personal and organizational morality. Essentially, once there are group interests involved in a situation, it is impossible to arrive at a truly fair and satisfactory resolution. Still, Niebuhr sees the hope (the "possibility" of Jesus' impossible possibility) that Christianity offers as a motivational driver behind efforts to reach a better resolution than whatever the current situation is. In his eyes, there is always room for improvement. Tough going at some points, but worth the read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Drew

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael Laminack

  7. 4 out of 5

    Austin

  8. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bengt Andréasson

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jipson Lawrance

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chris G.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Allan Bevere

  14. 4 out of 5

    Richard Ouellette

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

  16. 4 out of 5

    Keith Daw

  17. 5 out of 5

    W

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve Greenleaf

  19. 5 out of 5

    David H.

  20. 5 out of 5

    deven

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steve Spencer (he, him.his)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Neal Hayes

  23. 5 out of 5

    John Schwirtz

  24. 4 out of 5

    Glen Pettigrove

  25. 4 out of 5

    Justin DaMetz

  26. 5 out of 5

    John

  27. 5 out of 5

    Claire

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carl

  29. 5 out of 5

    Greg

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

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