More Apotropaic Arboreal Adventures:
A Response to Parler
By Paul Martens
[ Click here to read/ download (PDF) ]
CLICK HERE for the shorter version of Parler’s review of:
The Heterodox Yoder
When one writes a book suggesting that an important Christian thinker might best be understood as heterodox, one expects a swift and strong response. In these respects, Branson Parler has not disappointed with his thirty-eight page ebook—The Forest and the Trees: Engaging Paul Martens’ The Heterodox Yoder—that appeared a mere two and a half months after the publication of my The Heterodox Yoder. I sincerely appreciate the conviction evident in Parler’s engagement. Although the length of his review is oddly flattering, it is absolutely clear that his ebook is an energetic attempt to reject my rendering of Yoder: following a brief summary of my argument, it provides a lengthy explication of three central elements of Yoder’s authorship—politics, Christian particularity, and sacraments—that allegedly undermine my argument, ultimately leading to a pithy (and rather brazen) conclusion that not only overturns my application of the proverbial “forest for the trees” imagery but also appropriates and extends my invocation of heterodoxy in order to claim that my reading of Yoder is analogous to heresy.
Parler correctly observes that I view Yoder’s thought as a sort of cautionary tale and that I believe it is important to avoid reducing Christianity to ethics (not, however, because of my experience in Anabaptism but simply because reducing Christianity to ethics is problematic theologically – my experience in Anabaptism has simply illustrated this problem). Yet, Parler also claims that The Heterodox Yoder “only confuses rather than clarifies things” because I do not account for the “whole forest” of Yoder’s corpus (37). At the gracious invitation of The Englewood Review of Books, I offer the following comments of response in order to clarify what I take to be (a) missing from Parler’s analysis; and (b) misleading in Parler’s description of three central elements—very significant trees, to continue the metaphor—of Yoder’s thought.