The Roads Both Takenrnby Michael M. Jordanrn”Sin maketh nations miserable.”rn—Proverbs 14:34rnA Reinhold Niebuhr Reader: SelectedrnEssays, Articles, and Book Reviewsrnedited by Charles C. BrownrnPhiladelphia: Trinity Press International;rn208 pp., $18.95rnNiebuhr and His Age:rnReinhold Niebuhr’s PropheticrnRole in the Twentieth Centuryrnby Charles C. BrownrnPhiladelphia: Trinity Press International;rn400 pp., $34.95rnIn “On the Reading of Old Books,”rnC.S. Lewis bemoans the fact that sornmany modern readers study recentlyrnwritten books rather than the classics,rnwhich have stood the test of time. Thisrnis true even of theology students, aboutrnwhom Lewis writes: “Whenever yournfind a little study circle of Christian laityrnyou can be almost certain that they arernstudying not St. Luke or St. Paul or St.rnAugustine or Thomas Aquinas or Hookerrnor Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritainrnor Mr. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers orrneven mvself.” Actually Lewis’s view inrnMichael M. Jordan is an assistant professorrnof English at Hillsdale College.rnthis essay is quite temperate, for thoughrnhe believes the ancients are better guidesrnthan the moderns, he still recognizesrnthe importance of reading modern writers.rnHe suggests that for every modernrnbook we read we should also read an oldrnone.rnConcerning literature in general, Irnwould go farther than Lewis. It would bernbetter for us to read more of the classics.rnBut in regard to the theologians, Lewis’srnone-for-one rule is in order. Certainly wernneed to read Augustine and Aquinas,rnLuther and Calvin, but we also need tornread contemporary theologians, for theyrncan bring the eternal perspective of theologyrnto bear upon the ideas and eventsrnof our time; they can apply biblical insightsrnto contemporary affairs in waysrnthe ancients, no matter how propheticrnthey might have been, cannot. It seemsrnto me that Reinhold Niebuhr is one ofrnthe theologians whom we ought to bernreading. Theological students and intelligentrnlaymen (Christian and secular)rnought to welcome these two books, thernone a collection of Niebuhr pieces editedrnby Chadcs Brown, the other Brown’srnwell-written and carefully researched intellectualrnbiography of one of the mostrnprominent 20th-century Protestant theologians.rnA Reinhold Niebuhr Reader containsrnabout 60 Niebuhr selections; all but twornhave never been reprinted before. Thesernarticles, essays, and reviews, many ofrnthem only a page or two in length, originallyrnappeared in magazines, quarterlies,rnand journals such as Fortune, Commentary,rnthe Nation, the New Republic, thernAmerican Scholar, Union SeminaryrnQuarterly Review, and Christianity andrnCrisis. The Reader has five sectionsrntreating Niebuhr’s theology, his socialrnphilosophy, his response to c’ents and issues,rnhis book reviews, and his remarksrnon such miscellaneous subjects as Americanrnmaterialism and the theology, heroism,rnand martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,rnNazi tyranny and communistrnideology, the state of Israel, the SecondrnWodd War, the use of atomic weapons,rnracial injustice and conflict, tcchnologv,rntelevision’s threat to culture, the moonrnlanding, labor unions, and the VietnamrnWar.rnThe virtues of Brown’s biography arernmany. As its title mdicates, the bookrnexamines Niebuhr and his age, whichrnmeans examining the pervasiveness ofrnthe Social Gospel in American seminariesrnin the 20’s and 30’s; the impact of thernGreat Depression and Roosevelt’s NewrnDeal; the growth and threat of Nazismrnand of pacifist and isolationist currents inrnthe 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s; the spread ofrnOCTOBER 1993/33rnrnrn