Crucial faith : the theology and ethics of H. Richard Niebuhr
The argument of this thesis is that H. Richard Niebuhr has produced a distinctive, indeed, unique theological crucis. Although Niebuhr never made this motif the explicit focus of his work, his writings, nonetheless, demonstrate a perennial reference to, and penetrating grasp of, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as the defining events of the Christian gospel. After a short introduction to Niebuhr's life and work, and a brief discussion of that tradition which gives prominence to the theology of the cross (theologia crucis), an exposition and interpretation of Niebuhr's theologia crucis is carried out by means of six distinct, though interrelated perspectives: existential; evangelical; ethical; ecclesiological; ecumenical and eschatological. Despite his reluctance to present a full-blown dogmatics of systematics, I use these six perspectives to trace the contours of the coherent, yet largely, implicit theologia crucis that lied just below the surface of his corpus, so that my thesis may allow its form and content to crystallise more clearly in the mind's eye. Beginning with an existential exploration of Niebuhr's phenomenology of faith in terms of trust and loyalty, we are enabled to more fully apprehend the multi-faceted faithlessness of the social self-as exposed by the theologia crucis. In the next chapter, written from an evangelical perspective, we see how God in Christ has transformed the human situation by converting the various forms of faithlessness into that faithfulness which Niebuhr calls radical monotheism. Chapter three considers the ethical consequences of this faith-stance as depicted by Niebuhr in terms of response to the creative, governing and redemptive actions of God. Next, we analyse his ecclesiology, and see that this largely takes the form of a constructive critique in order to help clarify the mission of the ecclesia crucis.