John Howard Yoder

American theologian and academic

John Howard Yoder (December 29, 1927 – December 30, 1997) was an American theologian and ethicist best known for his defense of Christian pacifism. Allegations that Yoder had sexually abused, harassed, and assaulted women were publicly acknowledged in 1992.

The church will be most effective where it abandons effectiveness and intelligence for the foolish weakness of the cross.
What if nobody else acted like a Christian, but we did?
What was centrally new about Christ ... was His willingness to sacrifice, in the interest of non-resistant love, all other forms of human solidarity.
The "cross" of Jesus was a political punishment.
John Howard Yoder

Quotes edit

  • For the early Church, "church" and "world" were visibly distinct yet affirmed in faith to have one and the same lord. This pair of affirmations is what the so-called Constantinian transformation changes (I here use the name of Constantine merely as a label for this transformation, which began before AD200 and took over 200 years; the use of his name does not mean an evaluation of his person or work). The most pertinent fact about the new state of things after Constantine and Augustine is not that Christians were no longer persecuted and began to be privileged, nor that emperors built churches and presided over ecumenical deliberations about the Trinity; what matters is that the two visible realities, church and world, were fused. There is no longer anything to call "world"; state, economy, art, rhetoric, superstition, and war have all been baptized.
    • "The Otherness of the Church" (1961) in A Reader in Ecclesiology (2012), p. 200
  • The church will be most effective where it abandons effectiveness and intelligence for the foolish weakness of the cross.
    • "The Otherness of the Church" (1961) in A Reader in Ecclesiology (2012), p. 202
  • What was centrally new about Christ ... was His willingness to sacrifice, in the interest of non-resistant love, all other forms of human solidarity, including the legitimate national interests of the chosen people. The Jews had been told that in Abraham all the nations would be blessed and had understood this promise as the vindication of their nationalism. Jesus revealed that the contrary was the case: the universality of God's kingdom contradicts rather than confirms all particular solidarities and can be reached only by first forsaking the old aeon.
    • The Original Revolution (1971), p. 58

The Politics of Jesus (1972) edit

  • It is often mistakenly held that the key concept of Jesus' ethic is the "Golden Rule": "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This is stated by Jesus, however, not as the sum of his own teaching but as the center of the law (Mark 12:28-29, Matt. 22:40, citing Lev. 19:15). But Jesus' own "fulfillment" of this thrust of the law, which thereby becomes through his own work a "new commandment" (John 13:34, 15:12, 1 John 2:18) is different, "Do as I have done to you" or "do as the Father did in sending his Son."
    • p. 119
  • A dichotomy between the religious and the social must be imported into the [New Testament]; it cannot be found there. The "cross" of Jesus was a political punishment; and when Christians are made to suffer by government it is usually because because of the practical import of their faith, and the doubt they cast upon the rulers' claim to be "Benefactor."
    • p. 125

The Priestly Kingdom (1984) edit

  • God speaks where his people gather and are free to be led. The marks of the validity of the conclusions they reach are to be sought not alone in the principles applied but in the procedure of the meeting. Were all free to speak? Was every speech heard and weighed?
    • pp. 22-23
  • If truth were left to a market philosophy, there would be no point in continuing to make an argument for which there are no takers, or to ask a question for which there are no answers. The minority community has other grounds to sustain a wholesome discomfort and thereby keeps the door open for solutions not yet found.
    • p. 99
  • Pre-Constantinian Christians had been pacifists, rejecting the violence of army and empire not only because they had no share of power, but because they considered it morally wrong; the post-Constantinian Christians considered imperial violence to be not only morally tolerable but a positive good and a Christian duty.
    • p. 135
  • After Constantine ... the ruler, not the average person or the weak person, is the model for ethical deliberations. A moral statement on the rightness of truth-telling or the wrongness of killing is tested first by whether a ruler can meet such standards.
    • p. 138
  • What would happen if everyone did it? If everyone gave their wealth away what would we do for capital? If everyone loved their enemies who would ward off the Communists? This argument could be met on other levels, but here our only point is to observe that such reasoning would have been preposterous in the early church and remains ludicrous whenever committed Christians accept realistically their minority status. Far more fitting than "What if everybody did it" would be its inverse, "What if nobody else acted like a Christian, but we did?"
    • p. 139
  • Radical Protestants have always been concerned for the inwardly authentic quality of personal experience and commitment. From this perspective one judges the run-of-the-mill piety which is satisfied with conformity to easily attained patterns of expression. This critical perspective on hypocrisy and superficiality presupposes a more authentic alternative, which is very difficult to define. Once it is clearly defined, that new, more authentic form becomes inauthentic in its turn; yet that kind of preoccupation always belongs as part of the radical Protestant vision. The "civil religion" is judged for being feasible; its demands are too attainable.
    • p. 175

Radical Christian Discipleship (2012) edit

  • Jesus once said that the dead should left to bury the dead (Luke 9:60). This shows no disrespect for the dead. It shows an awareness that there are some functions in society that will be well taken care of without Christians investing their creativity in those functions. Someone else, in meeting such needs, can make a stable living. Burying the dead is still one of the businesses in which you can make a stable living. There are other such services that we can count on society handling by itself. Leadership in government and business are among these. Let us reserve our limited creativity for functions that will not be taken care of if we do not to it.
    • p. 41
  • The gods of all pagan faiths have been allied with the rich rulers. The priests of most religions are the employees of the landowners. But the God of Israel has always claimed to be with the poor—whether in the legislation of Deuteronomy, the words of the prophets, or the experiences of the New Testament. Our God is on the side of the poor.
    • p. 41
  • The particular temptation of contemporary Christian communities is to tailor our beliefs so that they are socially respectable. Whether our beliefs are respectable or not varies from place to place and from time to time. Right now it happens that in Western society there is a growing awareness of the relevance of Christian commitment. But if this were not the case, it should be no less surely and no less arrogantly our commitment. We must not let our decision about Christian obedience be measured by what our neighbors would consider "socially responsible."
    • p. 47

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