Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Roger L. Shinn, fully Roger Lincoln Shinn

American Author, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City

"Christian freedom is neither the lonely rebellion of an atheistic existentialist nor the self-will of the rugged individualist. It is freedom-in-community."

"The stumbling block of revelation is the belief in God in time, God in history."

"One reason the Golden Rule is so popular is that it seems to require no specific faith and no specific religious beliefs. Men may argue over many questions, but often they can agree on the Golden Rule. Religious teachers all over the world, many of them long before Jesus, taught one form or another of the Golden Rule. Look at a few examples. 1. The Hindu Mahabharata teaches: "Men gifted with intelligence and purified souls should always treat others as they themselves wish to be treated." 2. A Jainist writing, also from India, says: "A man should wander about treating all creatures in the world as he himself would be treated." 3. When Confucius was asked for a single word to sum up the rules of life, he answered: "Is not reciprocity such a word ? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others." 4. The Taoists taught: "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and regard your neighbor's loss as your own loss." 5. In the generation before Jesus a man asked the great Rabbi Hillel to teach him the Law while standing on one foot. Hillel answered: "What thou thyself hatest, do not to thy neighbor. This is the whole Law. The rest is commentary. Go and learn it.""

"Now history under God's providence has reached the era of perpetual emergency, when man's age~old sin combined with his new technology threatens the survival of the human race. Even the most violent of men must recognize that there can be no satisfaction in destroying an enemy by thermonuclear weapons while he is destroying us. But the world is caught in the mood of bitter, tragic necessity. The Sermon on the Mount offers no program to present to Congress or the United Nations. But something of its vision and daring, combined with wise statecraft, offer the only hope for mankind."

"With all our failings, we are not helpless. The spirit of Christ can make a difference in us. Let's be honest in acknowledging our wrongs, but let's be sincere about our discipleship. Men can forgive. They can love their enemies. Granted the resentments that we all feel from time to time, the question is: What will we do about them? Will we let them erupt in violent antagonisms, or seethe inside us until they produce ulcers or nervous breakdowns or plain misery? Or will we find that Christ's spirit can move us to turn hatred to love? We can nurse our anger, cherish our vindictiveness. Or we can come clean and find peace with God and ourselves, and even with our enemies. When we are most disappointed in others we can say, with the old African pastor in Alan Paton's novel, "God forgives us. Who am I, not to forgive?""

"The Perils of Worship - The life without reverence is barren and insensitive. And worship is the proper expression of reverence. The Sermon on the Mount leads to adoration, thanksgiving, and prayer as truly as it leads to acts of service. But there are perils in worship. Some of the worship that goes on in our churches is merely lip service, talk takes the place of activity. True worship is the expression of the reverence of a human personality for his Lord and Creator. Reverence makes us eager to serve and obey. But false worship and lip service can be worse then open defiance. The story is told of Mark Twain's encounter with a man who managed to combine the appearances of piety with a predatory career in business. "Before I die," said the hypocrite, "I mean to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I will climb to the top of Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud." "I have a better idea," answered Mark Twain. "Why don't you stay right at home in Boston and keep them?" After the warmth of the worship that says, "Lord, Lord," there is a chill in the words, "Do what I say." But if we do not meet the chill, the warmth is not the warmth of life. Bishop Gore ended his book, The Sermon on the Mount, by saying: "Many will come to him in that day with a record of their orthodoxy and of their observances, of their brilliant successes in his professed service; but he will protest unto them, 'I never knew you.' He 'knows' no man in whom he cannot recognize his own likeness." (The Sermon on the Mount by Charles Gore, p. 188. John Murray Ltd., London) His own likeness? If we understand the Sermon on the Mount, we will never claim that. But if it sinks in, it does begin to remake us."

"Anyone approaching the Sermon on the Mount is wise to remember a saying from Mark Twain, who was more honest about his troubles than most of us are about ours. He had heard people complain that the Bible is hard to understand. But he said he was bothered more by the parts of the Bible that he could understand than by the parts he could not understand. This statement fits the Sermon on the Mount. Occasionally, as we study it, we find ourselves bothered by the first problem. We do not understand, and we wish we might know with certainty exactly what Jesus meant. But more often the words are so clear that we can have no doubt about their meaning. Then the real trouble comes, because we know what a change they call for in our lives, and we hesitate to make that change. We feel uneasy when we face a description of ourselves as God would have us be."

"A portentous ethical agenda faces all of us who live in this world of rampant economic forces that shape life, often more quickly than we can understand them. Thinking new thoughts, we might-possibly-learn from our past successes and failures."