'Ultimately,' or so H. Richard Niebuhr wrote as early as 1929, 'the problem of church and world involves us in a paradox; unless the church accommodates itself to the world, it becomes sterile inwardly and outwardly; unless it transcends the world, it becomes indistinguishable from the world and loses its effectiveness no less surely.' In the same context he went on to state, 'The rhythm of approach and withdrawal need not be like the swinging of the pendulum, mere repetition without progress; it may be more like the rhythm of the waves that wash upon the beach; each succeeding wave advances a little farther into the world with its cleansing gospel before that gospel becomes sullied with the earth.'
Niebuhr's thought on the paradox of church and world is an essential piece of our understanding of twentieth-century theology in America. In The Paradox of Church and World, Jon Diefenthaler collects for the first time over forty writings that trace the lineage of Niebuhr's thought, presents them in a single place, and makes a case for their enduring value in a postchurch religious environment. The volume is a treasury of little-known and hard-to-find pieces, making scholarship and understanding easier.