Religion: The Definitive Reinhold Niebuhr

An admirable new biography of the apostle of Christian Realism

He attended two second-rate church schools, a boarding academy and a seminary. Raised in a German-speaking home, he entered Yale Divinity School in 1913 still struggling to master English. When he joined the faculty of New York City's Union Theological Seminary in 1928, the Old Guard grumbled because this novice with the Midwest twang had no doctorate. He raised eyebrows when he wore a rumpled suit to a tuxedos-only reception and poured hollandaise over his entire artichoke instead of dipping the leaves into the sauce.

The "uncouth country bumpkin with decidedly dubious scholarly credentials," as Historian Richard Fox characterizes him, was...

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