HDS 2318

The Niebuhr Brothers and Their World

K. Healan Gaston


This course will explore the lives and works of the Protestant theologians and ethicists Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) and H. Richard Niebuhr (1894-1962). Throughout their long careers, the Niebuhr brothers carried on a remarkable intellectual dialogue in both their published and unpublished writings and their private correspondence. In addition to surveying the similarities and differences between the brothers and their intellectual projects, we will also consider how their thought was shaped by various interlocutors, including Max Weber, Ernst Troeltsch, William James, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Emil Brunner, John Dewey, and Will Herberg, and by the broader historical contexts in which they lived and worked. We will pay particular attention to how the Niebuhr brothers viewed God and human nature, democracy and politics, secularism and pluralism, church-state relations, and the meaning and character of history. In addition to completing the assigned readings and posting a short quote and question to the course website each week, students will write either a 25-page original research paper or three shorter analytical papers.

Enrollment Limited: Limited to 15 students. Instructor's permission required.
Open to BTI Students: Yes
Jointly offered as Religion 1582

Course website


0.50 credits
Spring 2015
Thurs 4pm-6pm
Divinity Hall Room 320

Relationship to Program Requirements

Program Requirement Area / Category / Art / Designation
MTS Area(s) of Focus
  • History of Christianity
  • Religions of the Americas
  • Religion, Ethics, and Politics
  • Theology
MDiv Distribution Category/ies
  • Christianity
MDiv Art(s) of Ministry None
Language Course Designation(s) None