While browsing at a used bookstore earlier this week with a friend, I came across a book by H. Richard Niebuhr, The Meaning of Revelation. I read his brother’s first book a couple months ago, Reinhold Niebuhr’s Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic, and absolutely loved it, so I figured this would be worth reading, not to mention that it is on a topic which holds a lot of interest for me at the moment. Before heading over to a friends’ house to watch (read: wrestle with) their kids while they went to a New Year’s Eve party, I read the preface to The Meaning of Revelation. The paragraph outlining the convictions underlying the study begged to be read several times. Seems like these are good convictions to affirm as we stand at the threshold of another year.
Among the convictions which in part appear explicitly in this study and in part underlie the argument even where they do not become explicit, three seem to be of fundamental importance, though I may presuppose others of which I am less aware. The first is the conviction that self-defense is the most prevalent source of error in all thinking and perhaps especially in theology and ethics. I cannot hope to have avoided this error in my effort to state Christian ideas in confessional terms only, but I have at least tried to guard against it.
The second idea is that the great source of evil in life is the absolutizing of the relative, which in Christianity takes the form of substituting religion, revelation, church or Christian morality for God.
The third conviction, which becomes most explicit in the latter part of this essay but underlies the former part, is that Christianity is “permanent revolution” or metanoia which does not come to an end in this world, this life, or this time. Positively stated these three convictions are that man is justified by grace, that God is sovereign, and that there is an eternal life.