The Nature and Destiny of Man

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Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#1 Jun 15, 2012
Best book I've ever read. Reinhold Niebuhr. Volume 2.

Here's a snippet:

The defeatism of the Lutheran, and the tendency towards obscurantism in the Calvinist, Reformation must be regarded as a contributory defeat of the Reformation by the Renaissance. It failed to relate the ultimate answer of grace to the problem of guilt to all the immediate and intermediate problems and answers of life. Therefore it did not illumine the possibilities and limits of realizing increasing truth and goodness in every conceivable historic and social situation. pgs. 204-206

Etc.
Bruce Deile

Seattle, WA

#2 Jun 15, 2012
P.152:

..."The Reformation insistence upon the authority of Scripture, as against the authority of the church bears within it the perils of a new idolatry. Its Biblicism became, in time, as dangerous to the freedom of the human mind in searching out causes and effects as the old religious authority."..."When the bible becomes an authoritative compendium of social, economic, political and scientific knowledge it is used as a vehicle of the sinful sanctification of relative standards of knowledge and virtue which happen to be enshrined in a religious canon."

P.203:

...." Calvin's ethical system is pretentious as well as obscurantist; for it gives the Christian an unjustified confidence in the transcendent perfection of the moral standards which he has derived from Scripture and obscures not only the endless relativities of judgement, involved in applying a Scriptural standard to a particular situation, but also the historical relativities which are imbedded in these Scriptural standards themselves."

Etc.
Bruce Deile

Seattle, WA

#3 Jun 15, 2012
Typical of Niebuhr:

p. 176:

"sectarian pietism...makes perfectionist claims which obscure the realities of historic existence as effectively as secular utopianism;..."
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#4 Jun 19, 2012
"Though Reformation Bibliolatry (to which, as we have previously observed, Calvinism was more prone than Lutheranism) is thus one explanation of the fanaticism of the Reformers and their disciples, it is an explanation which must itself be explained."

"Perhaps it was possible for the Reformation to take this simple jump out of the relativities and ambiguities of history, becasue it did not labour with sufficient earnestness and seriousness on those ultimate problems of human culture, where both the possibilities and limits of human wisdom are discovered and defined. When this is done, the gospel truth, which both negates and fulfills human wisdom, cannot be claimed as a simple possession. For men are persuaded to the contrite recognition that their effort to explicate this truth by human wisdom (which is the task of theology) is subject to historical contingencies, influenced by egoistic passions, corrupted by sinful pretensions and is, in short, under the same judgement as philosophy." Pgs. 229-230
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#5 Jun 19, 2012
Undoubtedly one cause of the failure of the Reformation in the field of culture was that its Bibliolatry implied 'sanctificationist' principles in the realm of culture and truth, despite its generally more paradoxical conception of grace. Thomas Hobbes was one, among many, critics of the church, who observed this effect of the Reformation:'After the Bible was translated into English,' he wrote,'every man, nay, every boy and wench that could read English, thought they spoke with God Almighty...and every man became a judge of religion, and an interpreter of the scriptures to himself.' The certain conviction of the faithful that the Bible gave them the final truth, transcending all finite perspectives and all sinful corruptions, thus contributed to individual spiritual arrogance, no less intolerable than the collective arrogance of the older church. This pride expressed itself despite the fact that contrary interpretations of scripture, against which the arrogance was directed, contradicted the pretension of an absolutely valid interpretation. For they proved that men interpreted Scripture variously, according to the variety of social and historical perspectives from which they severally approached it." P.229 (precedes quote above)
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#6 Jun 19, 2012
Footnote 15 pgs. 193-4:

"Luther declared that the peasant demand for the abolition of serfdom 'would make all men equal and so change the spiritual Kingdom of Christ into an external worldly one....It is a malicious and evil idea that serfdom should be abolished because Christ has made us free....'"

Niebuhr explains Luther empowered rulers to "hit, stab, kill" while peasants were admonished to live by the Sermon on the Mount (non-resistance). Thereby Luther "places a perfectionist private ethic in juxtaposition to a realistic, not to say cynical, official ethic." .."The inevitable consequence of such an ethic is to encourage tyranny; for resistance to government is as an important a principle of justice as maintenance of government." Luther placed "exaggerated emphasis" on Romans 13. Etc.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#7 Jun 21, 2012
Footnote 2; Pgs. 270-271--

Romans 13:1-3: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordiance of God...for the rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil."

"This unqualified endorsement of government and the unqualified prohibition of resistance to its authority is justified by the mistaken assertion that government is no peril to virtue but only to vice. History proves that the power of government is morally ambiguous. It may on occassion imperil not evil but "good works". The best possible government cannot completely escape from such a possibility. It must be recognized that the Pauline justification of government was valid enough in the particular historical context in which it was made. It was undoubtedly a warning against the irresponsibility towards government which the eschatological mood of the early church encouraged. The fact that it became a vehicle for a too uncritical devotion to government by its indiscriminate application in subsequent centuries illustrates one of the perils of Biblicism. Biblical observations upon life are made in a living relation to living history. When they are falsely given an eminence which obscures this relation, they can become the source of error and confusion."
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#8 Jun 21, 2012
I've always wondered if it was Romans 13 that influenced German Christians to go along with Nazism at the time. Dietrich Bonhoeffer resisted, but was one of the exceptions. Niebuhr probably adresses this somewhere else.
Bruce Deile

Everett, WA

#9 Jun 26, 2012
I wrote that this was the best book I'd ever read when only about 1/3 the way through. Just finished it recently and it's emphasis on "realism" gave too much a sense of evil rather than good. Similar to Kierkegaard (who Niebuhr refers to as a most profound Christian philosopher). It left me feeling dreadfully unhappy. But many of the points, like the one's posted above, are very thought provoking, and it's hard to imagine how they could ever be refuted.
Bruce Deile

Bellingham, WA

#10 Jul 16, 2012
Yes, there are many good points made. It brought to mind Chateaubriand's 'Atalya', wherein Atalya hadn't learned her sin could be officially pardoned until *after* she'd taken the poison--illustrating harm done through religious mystery.

'The Nature and Destiny of Man' emphasizes the consistency of evil in this world as opposed to the inconsistency of good. It was dreadful to read but in a way necessary since the world is truly horrible.

I think the problem here is that this is used to wholly denounce religion (thus 'Atheists For Niebuhr').
Bruce Deile

Reno, NV

#11 Dec 28, 2012
Yes, just re-read this thread, and as good as the quotes are I was personally influenced by them to conclude "it's all relative", thereby using that as a rationalization to live very selfishly for the past six months (more so than usual). Lust of the flesh to be specific. Hetero to be even more specific (for those holding their breaths desiring to hear the titillating details). Strangely enough.
Bruce Deile

Reno, NV

#12 Dec 28, 2012
I was being facetious in last post in case that isn't clear: "...desiring to hear the titillating details" (I'm a homeless man with chronic halitosis, etc.).
Bruce Deile

Reno, NV

#13 Dec 29, 2012
Just to clarify....although The Nature and Destiny of Man influenced me towards relativity (as opposed to idealism however imperfectly), it really does have excellent insight into Christianity. Niebuhr gave voice to many things I've wondered about over the years. Interesting how he wrote in other places (way back in the 1920's) of U.S "oligarchy" and "plutocracy".
Bruce Deile

Reno, NV

#14 Dec 29, 2012
One last thought though....forgot to mention, and forgot to write down page number from The Nature and Destiny of Man, but Niebuhr not only favored the just war theory, he was pro-hegemony, explaining hegemony a political necessity. An interesting comparison would be Noam Chomsky's 'Hegemony or Survival'--strongly recommended by Hugo Chavez at the United Nations meeting wherein he referred to George W. Bush as the devil (while sprinkling the podium where Bush had just spoken from with holy water--funny, and to a standing ovation).

Since: Sep 11

Location hidden

#15 Jan 6, 2013
why did you leave bellingham?

Since: Sep 11

Location hidden

#16 Jan 7, 2013
hugo chavez sucks i bet

how much do you know about marsch arab culture in iraq?
donu

Kenmore, WA

#17 Jan 11, 2013
U suck
jeffry helms

Emeryville, CA

#19 Jan 18, 2013
Bruce Deile wrote:
One last thought though....forgot to mention, and forgot to write down page number from The Nature and Destiny of Man, but Niebuhr not only favored the just war theory, he was pro-hegemony, explaining hegemony a political necessity. An interesting comparison would be Noam Chomsky's 'Hegemony or Survival'--strongly recommended by Hugo Chavez at the United Nations meeting wherein he referred to George W. Bush as the devil (while sprinkling the podium where Bush had just spoken from with holy water--funny, and to a standing ovation).
the protestant, lutheran philosophy leads towards that if man sins-- he is not to be forgiven, so a sin is unforgivable in the eyes of the lord and heavens-- the people who sin and ask for forgiveness are not to be forgiven. The catholics forgive sins in the eyes of christ-- when the Pope did the largest mass conversion in the 70's and converted millions of sephardic jews to catholicism -- thus putting a wannabe cloak over poison,plague and treachery and SIN --which are the sephardic mainstays, does the world wide std plague which was pretty much fueled by sephardic/ashakenazi(sephardic s are from primate areas where monkey brains are sold as food--they are surrounded by bone and don't cook throughly thus eaten raw and infecting eater with a zoonotic std infection) foreign organized drug crime does THIS giant sin get forgiven?? All the innocent victims- all the undead kept alive by meds?? Does our society fail and crumble to std/drug healthcare get miraculously funded by some unknown source?? This "sin" of wannabe foreign organized drug fronts(drugs cause std's to spread faster-prostitution,careless sex etc.) are forever and might take out our planet in a std/drug healthcare money conflict in the future, when arab oil and mineral rights don't pay the bills -- where is our planet going to turn??? The meds can't be just handed out , the blood levels have to be monitored and amounts measured in a building with staff to a increasing std population. This catholic sin forgiveness error of wannabing the sephardic's from primate zoonotic std areas as members of foreign nationalist drug fronts is not forgiven in any sense of the word.
jeffry helms

Emeryville, CA

#20 Jan 18, 2013
Does Christ forgive the 10 lost tribes of Israel persecution of our Native American tribes??? Do the Bnei Meneshe, Bukharians , Pashtuns feel bad about stealing and conspiring on native identity and theft while spreading plague and poison???? To sin is forever and to forgive sin is condone sin and pave the way for more sin.
jeffry helms

Emeryville, CA

#21 Jan 18, 2013
To sin is to look into someone else's mirror AND push away the very thing you need to survive- The std rates of the 10 lost tribes and foreign organized drug crime proves just that!

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