John Howard Yoder
“It is my conviction that we are only beginning to understand and receive the extraordinary contribution John Howard Yoder has made for helping us rediscover our common task as Christians. “ — Stanley Hauerwas, from the Foreword
In this volume of essays John Howard Yoder projects a vision of Christian social ethics rooted in historical community and illuminated by scripture. Drawing upon scriptural accounts of the early church, he demonstrates the Christian community’s constant need for reform and change.
Yoder first examines the scriptural and theoretical foundations of Christian social ethics. While personally committed to the “radical reformation” tradition, he eschews “denominational” categorization and addresses Christians in general. The status of Christian community, he argues, cannot be separated from the doctrinal content of beliefs and the moral understanding of discipleship. As a result, the Christian’s voluntary commitment to a particular community, as distinct from secular society, offers him valuable resources for practical moral reasoning. From a historical perspective, Yoder reviews the efforts of sixteenth-century radical (or Anabaptist) reformers to return to the fundamental ethical standards of the New Testament, and to disengage the community, as a biblically rooted call to faith that does not imply withdrawal from the pluralistic world. Rather, radical commitment to Christianity strengthens and renews the authentic human interests and values of the whole society. His analyses of democracy and of civil religion illustrate how Christianity must challenge and embrace the wider world.
“In this collection of essays . . . John Howard Yoder presents a powerful and provocative brief for the radical reformation as the demonstratively classical form of Christian faith. Those who know Yoder’s work will not be surprised by the stance, but will be stimulated by the depth and rigor with which its foundations and implications are explored. The radical reformation of free church is, to Yoder, not a historical curiosity, a minor movement to be respected or tolerated by the mainstream, but a paradigm for all times and peoples. . . . Yoder’s is a significant voice in contemporary Christian thought.” — Journal of the American Academy of Religion
“The essays in this volume merit careful reading . . . because they stimulate thought about how we should live as Christians in a world that is no longer Christendom, and they will, by provoking reaction, help us to consider how characteristic Lutheran emphases (upon Jesus as Savior, not just Example or Lord; upon infant baptism as a freely given grace in which one can grow; upon God’s two ways of governing the world and preserving it against Satan) may lead to a somewhat different social ethic.” — Concordia Theological Quarterly
“In this collection of essays Yoder develops a constructive alternative to Reinhold Niebuhr. Yoder’s case for Christian nonviolence draws on Christological and eschatological connections that reveal that any attempt to separate theology and ethics is erroneous. Yoder may provide the kind of ecclesiology that Lindbeck suggests we need.” — The Christian Century