The Best Reinhold Niebuhr quotes

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Reinhold Niebuhr was an American theologian, ethicist, and public intellectual who is widely regarded as one of the most important Christian thinkers of the twentieth century. He has been called the preeminent Protestant theologian of the twentieth century.
In his early years he rejected Christianity’s supernatural elements such as divine grace, but later argued that God will redeem humanity out of love for Jesus Christ.

Discover the best phrases from Reinhold Niebuhr.

Here are the best Love, Religion, Faith, Human Beings, Life, History, Justice quotes from Reinhold Niebuhr, and much more.


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About Reinhold Niebuhr

birth of the author

June 21, 1892

death of the author

June 1, 1971

date of the author

Years Active:

award of the author

Presidential Medal Of Freedom

religion of the author


college of the author

Alma Mater:
Elmhurst College, Eden Theological Seminary, Yale University

movement of the author

School Or Tradition:
Christian Realism, Neo-Orthodoxy

institution of the author

Union Theological Seminary

award of the author

Notable Works:
Moral Man And Immoral Society

knownfor of the author

Notable Ideas:
Christian Realism


Forgiveness is the final form of love. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr


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Every experience proves that the real problem of our existence lies in the fact that we ought to love one another, but do not. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

forgiveness is the final form of love Reinhold Niebuhr quote

The significance of the law of love is precisely that it is not just another law, but a law which transcends all law. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

The cross symbolizes a cosmic as well as historic truth. Love conquers the world, but its victory is not an easy one. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Goodness, armed with power, is corrupted and pure love without power is destroyed. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

I cannot worship the abstractions of virtue: she only charms me when she addresses herself to my heart, speaks through the love from which she springs. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr


Life has no meaning except in terms of responsibility. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

life has no meaning except in terms of responsibility Reinhold Niebuhr quote

The society in which each man lives is at once the basis for, and the nemesis of, that fulness of life which each man seeks. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

The final wisdom of life requires not the annulment of incongruity but the achievement of serenity within and above it. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

A genuine faith resolves the mystery of life by the mystery of God. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Reason is not the sole basis of moral virtue in man. His social impulses are more deeply rooted than his rational life. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Religion is so frequently a source of confusion in political life, and so frequently dangerous to democracy, precisely because it introduces absolutes into the realm of relative values. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

a genuine faith resolves the mystery of life by the mystery of god Reinhold Niebuhr quote

Family life is too intimate to be preserved by the spirit of justice. It can be sustained by a spirit of love which goes beyond justice. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Life is a battle between faith and reason in which each feeds upon the other, drawing sustenance from it and destroying it. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Change is the essence of life; be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Nothing worth doing can be accomplished in a single lifetime. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in a lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr


We have had to learn that history is neither a God nor a redeemer. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

The Communists do have a god, the Dialectic of History, which guarantees everything that they’re going to do and guarantees them victory; that’s why they’re fanatic. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

History is a realm in which human freedom and natural necessity are curiously intermingled. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

That’s why history is not an answer to our problem, because history complicates, enlarges every problem of human existence. Now, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries didn’t believe this. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Politics deals with a commonโ€“sense approach to the imponderables of history, that I think are obscured by a certain kind of rationalism. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

we have had to learn that history is neither a god nor a redeemer Reinhold Niebuhr quote

To the end of history, social orders will probably destroy themselves in an effort to prove they are indestructible. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

History may defeat the Christ but it nevertheless points to him as the law of life. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

The history of mankind is a perennial tragedy; for the highest ideals which the individual may project are ideals which he can never realize in social and collective terms. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr


A republic properly understood is a sovereignty of justice, in contradistinction to a sovereignty of will. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

the sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world Reinhold Niebuhr quote

It is the evil in man that makes democracy necessary, and man’s belief in justice that makes democracy possible. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Redundant Thematics

In Reinhold Niebuhr Statements


The fence and the boundary line are the symbols of the spirit of justice. They set the limits upon each man’s interest to prevent one from taking advantage of the other. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

In the 17th and 18th centuries there was a kind of Protestantism that said, ‘If you could only get rid of the Bishop, then you’d be a true Christian’. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr


Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are unsure that we are doubly sure. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

humor is a prelude to faith and laughter is the beginning of prayer Reinhold Niebuhr quote

Faith is the final triumph over incongruity, the final assertion of the meaningfulness of existence. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

I think there is and ultimate answer in a true religious faith, but it doesn’t give you any immediate answers, it doesn’t. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Humor is a prelude to faith and laughter is the beginning of prayer. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Humour is, in fact, a prelude to faith; and laughter is the beginning of prayer โ€ฆ Laughter is swallowed up in prayer and humour is fulfilled by faith. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Whenever a church does anything for its own group, it has that right. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

That is one of the flagrant misconceptions about Catholicism in America that if a man is a Catholic he owes allegiance to what they say a foreign sovereign, or something like that. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr


There is no cure for the pride of a virtuous nation but pure religion. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

If you equate God’s judgment with your judgment, you have a wrong religion. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Religion mustn’t interfere with the stateโ€“so one of the basic Democratic principles as we know it in America is the separation of church and state. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

there is no cure for the pride of a virtuous nation but pure religion Reinhold Niebuhr quote

The separation of church and state is necessary partly because if religion is good then the state shouldn’t interfere with the religious vision or with the religious prophet. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

The nuclear age has refuted the idea of progress and Marxism has been refuted by Stalinism. Therefore people have returned to the historic religion. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

I don’t know whether any religious leader would say that we must ultimately win, because we’re on God’s side. If they do say that, it’s bad religion. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Religion, declares the modern man, is consciousness of our highest social values. Nothing could be further from the truth. True religion is a profound uneasiness about our highest social values. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

You can’t say that religion or irreligion will give us a particular answer to the nuclear dilemma. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

All this talk about atheistic materialism and Godโ€“fearing American I think is beside the point; it’s a rather vapid form of religion. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

The dimension of depth in the consciousness of religion creates the tension between what is and what ought to be. It bends the bow from which every arrow of moral action flies. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr


All human sin seems so much worse in its consequences than in its intentions. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

Human Beings are just good enough to make democracy possible…just bad enough to make it neccessary. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

The pretensions of final truth are always partlyan effort to obscure a darkly felt consciousness of the limits of human knowledge. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

all human sin seems so much worse in its consequences than in its intentions Reinhold Niebuhr quote

Human beings are endowed by nature with both selfish and unselfish impulses. โ€” Reinhold Niebuhr

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