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Niebuhr, H. Richard (1884–1962)

  1. Brett Chandler Patterson

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0992

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Patterson, B. C. 2011. Niebuhr, H. Richard (1884–1962). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


A notable 20th century Christian ethicist, H. Richard Niebuhr belongs to a theologically oriented family, which includes his brother Reinhold, who also became a well-known Christian theologian in the United States, and his sister Hulda, who was a professor of Christian education. Richard grew up in Missouri, guided in theology by his father, Gustav Niebuhr, a German Evangelical Synod pastor, and in literature and music by his mother, Lydia Hosto Niebuhr, the daughter of an Evangelical pastor. Richard attended Elmhurst College (1908–1912) and Eden Theological Seminary (1912–1915). Ordained in 1916, he served a short term as pastor in Saint Louis. In 1919 he took a teaching position at Eden while also studying at Washington University and the University of Chicago, where he studied with G. H. Mead, a pragmatist philosopher. In 1920 he married Florence Marie Mittendorf; the couple would later have two children, Cynthia and Richard Reinhold. After completing doctoral studies at Yale (1922–1924) and tenures as president at Elmhurst College and academic dean at Eden, he in 1932 accepted an invitation from Yale Divinity School to teach Christian ethics. He served there over 30 years and influenced a number of students, including Paul Ramsey, Hans Frei, and James Gustafson — and indirectly influenced Yale's postliberal school of theology (George Lindbeck, Stanley Hauerwas, etc.).


  • Niebuhr, H. Richard (1884–1962);
  • notable 20th century christian ethicist;
  • the social sources of denominationalism;
  • revelation, and relationship with God;
  • christ and culture