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Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster / John Knox Press (January 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0664251641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664251642
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 4.7 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 - 1971) was an ethicist, theologian, and political philosopher who taught at Union Theological Seminary in New York City from 1928 to 1960. Before that, for thirteen years, he was minister of Detroit's Bethel Evangelical Church.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 11 customer reviews
Comparatively easy to read.
Fred
This book was a real treat for me, to get into peer into his mind in those oh so important formative years as a pastor in Detroit, WOW!
Plantinganut2000
This little gem was probably my favorite book from seminary.
Darren Pollock

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
Reinhold Niebuhr's small book, Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic, is perhaps his most famous and popular book. It has informed and helped to shape the lives and ministries of seminarians, educators, ministers and other prophetic and ethical people since it was first published early in this century. Niebuhr recounts with astonishing honesty the difficulties facing those who would do ministry, and act ethically, in the church today. His criticism is not held back from any sacred topics.
`I make no apology for being critical of what I love. No one wants a love which is based upon illusions, and there is no reason why we should not love a profession and yet be critical of it.'
Niebuhr talks about the shock of coming to realise the limitations of his ministry, going from being a fresh-from-seminary full-of-grace minister to a person confronting another person in the 'real world'. He talks about
`...the difficulty of acting as priest. It is not in your power to determine the use of a symbol. Whether it is a blessing or a bit of superstition rests altogether with the recipient.'
This real world also presents problems. Parishioners tend to ask practical questions, rather than theoretical ones. They ask, Why won't Jesus heal me? Didn't he heal others? It is in the Bible, after all.
`I do believe that Jesus healed people. I can't help but note, however, that a large proportion of his cures were among the demented.'
He talks about the practical limitations of doing ethical ministry and prophesy for the average pulpit preacher.
`I am not surprised that most prophets are itinerants. Critics of the church think we preachers are afraid to tell the truth because we are economically dependent upon the people of our church. There is something in that....
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Scott Austin on June 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
It's too easy for us young ministers to dismiss a book that was originally published in 1929. This book drove from me the tendency to do so-forever, I hope.
A series of journal entries dating from 1915 through 1928, "Leaves From the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic" details a young minister's struggles, both inward and outward. Although there is some material that is somewhat irrelevant (mostly due to the fact that we are not experiencing the Great War at the moment), the vast majority of this little book hit home for me, a 22 year-old pastor just starting in ministry.
You are likely to lose count of the number of times you think, "I know that feeling!" while reading "Leaves." Join Niebuhr as he analyzes denominational systems, his parishoners, and ultimately...himself. Empathize with the cynicism of a young pastor struggling to make a difference. Come to realize that we have more in common with our older counterparts than we think.
Perhaps the most important of the many lessons found in "Leaves" is that as he grew in experience and age, he came to know himself, his people, and his God better. Reading this book was a step on that same road for me.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Darren Pollock on December 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
This little gem was probably my favorite book from seminary. Niebuhr takes you with him on the difficult journey through the first years of his parish ministry and teaches you how to think theologically about really practical dilemmas that arise as a clergyperson. My favorite thing about the book is that it is not written as a memoir, but in the moment, so you don't have an old, brilliant theologian reflecting on his years in ministry, but rather a young, brilliant pastor who doesn't know all the answers and doesn't pretend to. I feel like Reinhold has become a close friend though the end of seminary and my first year working in the church, because he gives words to and insight into many of the struggles I have had.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By D. Robert Hellekson on November 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
In this marvelous book, which has graced my library for more than forty years, Professor Niebuhr shows himself as a young pastor who grows into his Detroit working "man's" parish. He courageously confronts his struggles, inward and outward.
He writes with a wit that I didn't always find in his more explicitly theological writings. I particularly identified with an early observation, "It is easier to speak sagely from the pulpit than to act wisely in the detailed tasks of the parish."
Another early observation shows him realizing what most of us must experience in our youthful ministries, when he speaks of repeating himself in the pulpit, noting, "A prophet speaks only when he is inspired. The parish preacher mus speak whether he he is inspired or not. I wonder whether it is possible to live on a high enough plane to do that without sinning against the Holy Spirit."
I would whole-heartedly recommend this book for any young pastor.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Blessedbybooks on July 26, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a collection of Neibuhrs short essays. Each one stands on its own as a reflection of reality as applicable today as it was decades ago. I like it so much I am rationing it, reading one or two essays a day and stopping to think about the lesson in each one. These are sermons that are not "preachy" recognizing the human frailities and what should be expected of us. A book for the ages in my opinion
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Plantinganut2000 on January 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
I am a HUGE Niebuhr fan, and I strong suggest that anyone interested in politics, economics, social philosophy and/or theology should pick up as many of his works as possible. This book was a real treat for me, to get into peer into his mind in those oh so important formative years as a pastor in Detroit, WOW!

Even when he's just writing random thoughts on the passing scene, he's a fantastic writer. Here you have a demonstration of Bonhoeffer's views of the true Christian life which must "share in the problems of secular life, and teach all men what it means to live in Christ". You see the greater and greater emphasis on the role of repentence and the way Christ's oh so rigorous ethic acts as a judgment on all human behavior as time goes on. This will all become so important as he turns his mind to writing his great theological and social works in the 30's and 40's.

This book is a fairly easy read, none to technical, and relatively short, you can probably read it in 3 or 4 sittings. Pay attention to the way Niebuhr's doubts about his own position become theological fare, informing the way he thinks about theology and life in toto.
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