By Scott R. Paeth
WJK Press, Louisville, Ky. 200 pages
Another volume in a wonderful and well-received series, this book is especially welcome at a time that calls out for the Niebuhr brothers. It’s a bonus that Reinhold and Richard are featured together rather than the usual separation that tends to favor the more famous Reinhold. (While recent presidents often quote Reinhold, one rarely hears them speak of Richard.) In truth, both of them are important American theologians that have much to say about the current crisis in American life. This book combines biography with an introduction to the works that make each valuable for study. Paeth is an able guide and the accompanying illustrations from Ron Hill make the commentary accessible to armchair theologians. Concepts such as Christian realism, the church in the world vs. against the world, revelation and responsibility are explored with clear prose that will make this a handy guidebook for study. As Europe and the United States are once again entangled in a confrontation with Russia, it will do us well to return to “The Irony of American History” (Reinhold) and remember the limits of power. On the other hand, the book includes a chapter describing their sharp critics and lifting up the various reasons why, in the eyes of their critics, their theology and politics failed to sustain the public. The author has provided a valuable introduction with suggestions for further reading that will send you deeper.