“Reconciling the Biblical Story”
A Review of
The Politics of Yahweh:
John Howard Yoder, The Old Testament and the People of God.
by John Nugent
Reviewed by Chris Smith.
[ This book was chosen as an Englewood Honor Book,
as one of the Best books of 2011! Click Here for the full list… ]
The Politics of Yahweh:
John Howard Yoder,
The Old Testament and the People of God.
Paperback: Cascade Books, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]
Excerpt #1: Overview of the Old Testament Story
(Appendix B – PDF)
Excerpt #2: Yoder’s Reading of the Pre-Flood Era
For most Christians, the Old Testament is difficult. What sense can we make of all its wars, violence and crudity, and of the God who is guiding Israel through all of these things? There are undoubtedly many parts of the Old Testament that are difficult to reconcile with the person and mission of Jesus that we find in the New Testament. To resolve these tensions, some people turn to dispensationalism, but that turn raises some tough theological questions about the unchanging nature of God and about how we are to understand God’s mission in the world. Marcionism, the heresy of rejecting the Old Testament, is a temptation for others, and I imagine that many people – including myself at many times in the not-too-distant past – are attracted to a sort of functional marcionism that affirms the Old Testament as part of the Bible, but largely ignores it because we cannot make sense of it.
For those who believe that the Old Testament is an important part of the story of what God is doing in the world, but yet can’t make sense of how it relates to the life and mission of Jesus and his followers that we find in the New Testament, John Nugent’s new book The Politics of Yahweh will come as a breath of fresh air.
On one level, Nugent’s work here is simply articulating and clarifying John Howard Yoder’s interpretation of the Old Testament, but this task is no small one; Yoder was a theologian and ethicist who wrote frequently on the New Testament, but wrote on the Old Testament much less frequently and in a much more disbursed manner – a paper here or there, a mention in a book, and so on. Nugent’s primary work then is as a curator who is intimately familiar with all of Yoder’s work and is able to assemble all the relevant pieces from the broad sweep of Yoder’s writings and forge them into a theology of the Old Testament that is not only intelligible, but also compelling in the way that it addresses the tensions described above. Although The Politics of Yahweh is the first book that Nugent has written (he has previously edited two Yoder-related collections, including Radical Ecumenicity, which was featured last year in the ERB), it has merited the praise of some of today’s most renowned theologians including Stanley Hauerwas (who wrote a foreword for it), Walter Brueggemann and James K.A. Smith.
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