Christo-Morphic, Hermeneutical Theology of H. Richard Niebuhr

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The Christology of H. Richard Niebuhr is an outgrowth – and a creative synthesis – of the two dominant streams of theological reflection manifest in the works of Ernst Troeltsch and Karl Barth. As such, it is best understood as a theo-centric Christo-morphism. Just as for Calvin the Scriptures are the spectacles without which God cannot be seen, for Niebuhr Jesus Christ is that lens by which and through which and in which we are able to see God as God. In order to demonstrate the soundness of this interpretation of Niebuhr, the study first locates the dynamic tension – material and formal – in which Niebuhr’s thought moves. Next, it shows how Niebuhr came to formulate his great theological principle of radical monotheism, and how this largely inchoate principle is uniquely and decisively shaped by the storied presence of Jesus Christ. An application of this Christo-morphic hermeneutic is then applied, not just to God, but to the great stage of the natural and historical world. The study then addresses inconsistencies in Niebuhr’s program, with some final thoughts on how a Christo-morphic construal can lead to a profound understanding of the Trinitarian reality of God.


“This book by Terrence Sherry comes as a forthright challenge to much of this secondary reflection about Niebuhr’s contribution to the themes revolving around the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Sherry presents a resounding demurrer to the view of Niebuhr’s christological weakness with a penetrating analysis that elaborates in a fashion unmatched in previous Niebuhr interpretation the importance of his Christology. He not only demonstrates that christological themes are crucial to Niebuhr’s overall theology but persuasively argues that Niebuhr’s position is one that has a claim as a significant direction for theology now…. A noteworthy feature of Sherry’s study is the fact that he draws upon several of Niebuhr’s unpublished sources not utilized or available for previous interpreters. Niebuhr’s ‘Lectures in Christian Ethics’ is one very important instance of this…. Sherry consummates his explorations with a rendition of Niebuhr’s christologically based Trinitarian view which goes well beyond what is found in previous studies of Niebuhr. Sherry’s book is a most informative study that deserves and rewards careful reading.” – Jack Verheyden, Cain Professor of Theology and Ecclesiology (Emeritus), The School of Theology, Claremont, California

Table of Contents

Table of Contents (main headings):
Preface by Jack Verheyden
1. Niebuhr’s Theological Background and Hermeneutical Turn
2. Niebuhr’s Theological Metanoia
3. Niebuhr’s Christological Reformulations
4. Providence, Crucifixion, Faith and War
5. Some Critical Comments
6. A Christo-morphic Trinitarianism for Our Time
7. A Concluding Unscientific Prescript
Bibliography; Index

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