Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. — Reinhold Niebuhr
In yesterday’s post, saved by faith, I shared some of why Reinhold Niebuhr is one of my favorite theologians. I want to continue that this morning.
Niebuhr’s Christian idealism was forged on the anvil of of modern industry. Serving a 13 year pastorate in Detroit taught him firsthand the perils of a pious unreality disconnected from the everyday world of real life. That led him to a passionate concern with the practical bearing of Christianity on the ever present political and economic problems of his day.
The value of Niebuhr’s theology for me is that he shows that no matter how important the church’s work is in saving men and women from the sins of the world, the church still must function in the world. It is a social institution. That means its achievements and its limitations needs the same critical examination as other social institutions.
The church should provide the indispensable resources necessary for the building of a good and moral society. Without the moral foundation provided by the gospel (which has to be a social gospel) we can never hope to achieve the vision of an ideal society where love and justice is fully realized. But, when the church is successful in providing those resources there is real hope.
Whenever religion concerns itself with the problems of society, it always gives birth to some kind of millennial hope, from the perspective of which present social realities are convicted of inadequacy, and courage is maintained to continue the effort to redeem society of injustice.