Does Reinhold Niebuhr believe in God?

Around the middle of the twentieth century, Reinhold Niebuhr was the most prominent Protestant theologian in America.  He was on the cover of Time magazine (March 8, 1948).  More recently, Barack Obama called Niebuhr his favorite philosopher (Brooks). Niebuhr is author of the well-known serenity prayer. 

God give us the grace to accept things that cannot be changed.

Courage to change the things that should be changed.

And the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.

While many readers admire Niebuhr’s wisdom, fewer have been able to discern his theology.  Some find none at all.  Arthur Schlesinger Jr. spoke for many agnostics in wondering whether Niebuhr’s wisdom on human nature had anything to do with his Christian theology (Crouter, p 96).  He was wrong.  Niebuhr’s theology is deep, sophisticated, and informs the two concepts by which he understands the day-to-day world: idolatry and sin.  Yet about one of the most terrible issues of our age, annihilatory evil, Niebuhr is led astray by his own theology.

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Blogging about God has created a problem for me

Blogging about God has created a problem for me.  I realize that I pray to an interventionist God while I believe in a distant God.  Since I blog about God to help me figure out what I believe, this is good.  It just doesn’t bring me peace.

Most of my posts are about what other people believe about God.  Since they are smarter than I am that seems a good start.  None seem to believe in God quite like I do, but that’s OK too.   

I believe in a creator God, one who has stepped back from his handiwork.  Why is there something rather than nothing?  Philosophers ask this question, and they are serious.  People, zebras, bugs, the earth, the cosmos: everything there is has no need to exist.  It just does, and I can see no other ultimate answer than God.  Alfred North Whitehead believed something like this.    

This works on a less cosmic level as well.  Every night I thank God for the gift of my life that day, and for the wonder and beauty that exists in this world.  I pray for those I love and care about.  And I pray for desperate, afflicted people, such as the Rohingya Muslims.  That’s about it. 

I try not to pray for myself.  That seems too much like asking God for a bicycle for Christmas.  But, what would I pray for if I were seriously ill?  That I be open to God’s presence.  I’d pray for the same thing for my wife, and others whom I love.

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