Archives For John Howard Yoder

 

“Back-Stories and St. Benedict

A Review of
Unlearning Protestantism:
Sustaining Christian Community in An Unstable Age.
By Gerald W. Schlabach.

Reviewed by
Gregory A. Clark.

Unlearning Protestantism:
Sustaining Christian Community in An Unstable Age.
Gerald W. Schlabach.
Paperback: Brazos Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

UNLEARNING  PROTESTANTISM - Gerald SchlabachThe back-story is everything.

Alasdair MacIntyre’s  After Virtue laid down a broad and devastating critique of modernity, and his call for another, “very different” St. Benedict makes sense only against that critique.  Gerald Schlabach’s Unlearning Protestantism follows MacIntyre’s narrative with two differences:  first, the critique of modernity is tied to an analysis and critique of Protestantism, and second, the St. Benedict we need isn’t so different from the first.

The first two chapters of Unlearning Protestantism show that Protestantism has been one important force in the development of modernity.  Protestantism came to be through narration of the context called for deep and thorough reform, and we properly consider as virtues the qualities of character that enabled the reformers to act as they did.  But soon that drive for reform detached itself from the context and set itself up as a principle valid on its own merits.  Schlabach articulates “the protestant principle” in the language of Paul Tillich: “because all human institutions fall short of God’s standard, they are always subject to ‘prophetic’ critique and reform” (24).  Making the principle the basis for community life leads to “the Protestant dilemma”: all institutions, including Protestant churches, are always subject to critique, to being rejected, overthrown, or dismissed as superfluous.  Protestantism is the principle of instability.  The Enlightenment has seen itself as completing the Protestant Reformation ever since.  Schlabach’s second chapter, “The Matter of Continuity,” shows how the drive for perpetual reform played itself out in Mennonite “tradition of dissent” in the 20th century.

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“The Active and Persistent Pursuit
of Ecumenical Reconciliation

Part Two of a Two-Part
Review of
Radical Ecumenicity:
Pursuing Unity and Continuity after
John Howard Yoder
.

John Nugent, Editor.

Reviewed by Stephen Lawson, Chris Smith and Nate Kerr.

[ Read this Book’s Intro Here… ]


Radical Ecumenicity:
Pursuing Unity and Continuity after
John Howard Yoder
.

John Nugent, Editor.
Paperback: Abilene Christian UP, 2010.
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]

[ Editor’s note:  This review of Radical Ecumenicity, edited by John Nugent is blazing new trails in its format for us here at The Englewood Review.  First, this review represents the first time that we’ve had several reviewers do a part-by-part review of a single book.  It is also the first time we have had a review that spanned two issues.  We reviewed the first half of the book last week and the second in this Friday’s issue.  We welcome your feedback on these new experiments with format. ]

Chapter Six, “John Howard Yoder’s Reading of the Old Testament and the Stone-Campbell Tradition,” by Paul Kissling attempts to appropriate Yoder’s reading of the Old Testament in the Stone-Campbell Movement (SCM). For those familiar with the SCM, it is no surprise to hear that Kissling finds the traditional postures of the SCM in regard to the Old Testament as problematic and short-sighted. Early leaders of the SCM felt the need to affirm the Old Testament as inspired Scripture, but struggled with how to conceive of that inspiration in light of the witness of the New Testament. Most of these founders leaned on doctrines of differentiation and dispensationalism (e.g., the idea that the Abrahamic covenant was starlight, the Mosaic covenant was moonlight, while the Christian covenant is sunlight). Others attempted to demarcate the progress of revelation in ways that hindsight tells us were ill-conceived. These muddled views can often result in a ‘practical marcionism.’

Kissling offers Yoder’s emphasis on the macro-narrative of the Old Testament as a corrective to this tendency. He posits that Yoder’s inclination to read the Old Testament as a whole corrects some of the struggles that readers of the Old Testament have (e.g. ,the monarchy, holy war, etc). As such, Yoder’s posture offers some real insight and a viable alternative to those who implicitly divide between the God of Abraham and the God of Jesus. Furthermore, this narrative reading of the Old Testament prevents the abuses that can arise when the ethics of the church are formed more by the conquest of the first Joshua than by the sermon of the second Joshua (i.e. Matthew 5-7). Yoder “helps those of us in the Stone-Campbell tradition to see that the narrative trajectory of the Old Testament leads us to reject violence and trust in the Lord to secure our future” (133).

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A Review of

War, Peace, and Social Conscience:
Guy F. Hershberger and Mennonite Ethics
.
Theron Schlabach.
Hardback: Herald Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith

As a young college student in the shadow of the first Iraq war and trying to sort out what I thought war (and peace), I picked a book off my Dad’s shelf that had been a textbook during his college days at Goshen College.  That book was Guy Hershberger’s War, Peace and Non-Resistance, and it helped to nudge me in the direction of a commitment to nonviolence and to reflect upon the logic behind the many varieties of Christian nonviolence.  I have re-read this important work several times over the intervening years, and as I mature, I find myself agreeing less with Hershberger and at the same time, having a deeper understanding of why this was such an important book.   And now, Theron Schlabach has written an authoritative work on Hershberger’s life and ethics.  Hershberger was likely the most significant Mennonite ethicist prior to John Howard Yoder, and thus Schlabach’s new book is an important contribution to Mennonite thought.  Schlabach chronicles how Hershberger rose from his humble beginnings among the Amish-Mennonites of Southeastern Iowa to become professor at Goshen College and one of the most respected Mennonite thinkers of his time.  Although little known outside Mennonite circles, one of the most significant contribution of Hershberger’s work was the distinction — introduced in his book War, Peace and Non-Resistance — between non-resistance (a literalist interpretation of Jesus’ teaching to “resist not the evil man”) and non-violent resistance.  One of the most striking facets of Schlabach’s book is that it narrates how Hershberger’s perspective evolved over the course of his life after the publication of War, Peace and Non-Resistance.  Schlabach’s description of this development is focused primarily on Hershberger’s engagements the the Civil Rights movement and particularly with Martin Luther King, Jr.  Schlabach makes a compelling case that — at least later in his life — Hershberger’s understanding of non-resistance was more complex than mere passivity.  Schlabach says:

In 1975, at age seventy-eight, Hershberger was still pondering his exact position on nonviolent resistance.  And he was taking counsel from various voices in his church.  He was not at all fickle, not quick to move away from the convictions he had long held.  He still approved deeply of King’s kind of nonviolent action, yet he did not give it simple, unqualified, blanket endorsement.  Ultimately he wanted to be a disciple of Jesus, not of King.

Yoder scholars will be interested in Schlabach’s account of how Hershberger’s work in the later years of his life was influenced greatly by Yoder’s theology, particularly Yoder’s critique of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christian ethics.  I don’t imagine that this new book on Hershberger will find a huge audience, but nonetheless it is a well-researched and graciously-written work that is a major contribution to the history of Mennonite theology.

 

“The Active and Persistent Pursuit
of Ecumenical Reconciliation

Part One of a Two-Part
Review of
Radical Ecumenicity:
Pursuing Unity and Continuity after
John Howard Yoder
.

John Nugent, Editor.

Reviewed by Michael J. Bowling, Chase Roden and Stephen Lawson.

[ Read this Book’s Intro Here… ]


Radical Ecumenicity:
Pursuing Unity and Continuity after
John Howard Yoder
.

John Nugent, Editor.
Paperback: Abilene Christian UP, 2010.
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]

[ Editor’s note:  This review of Radical Ecumenicity, edited by John Nugent is blazing new trails in its format for us here at The Englewood Review.  First, this review represents the first time that we’ve had several reviewers do a part-by-part review of a single book.  It is also the first time we have had a review that spanned two issues.  We will review the first half of the book this week and the second in next Friday’s issue.  We welcome your feedback on these new experiments with format. ]

John Howard Yoder’s work has been engaged from many angles in recent years, and Radical Ecumenicity collects essays from scholars connected to the Stone-Campbell tradition of churches (Churches of Christ, Independent Christian Churches, and Disciples of Christ) who are engaging Yoder’s work, as well as three key Yoder scholars from outside this tradition (Mark Thiessen Nation, Gayle Gerber Koontz and Craig Carter). Most of these papers were initially presented at the 2009 conference “John Howard Yoder and the Stone-Campbell Churches” held here at Englewood Christian Church in Indianapolis and attended by academics, pastors, students and laity from the Stone-Campbell Churches.  Several other relevant papers that were not presented at the conference have been added in this volume, including two relevant, but previously-obscure essays by Yoder.  We have asked our reviewers, all engaged readers who are familiar with Yoder’s work, to engage the work in this volume chapter-by-chapter.

How appropriate that John Nugent, the architect of the conference to consider the works of John Howard Yoder by those of the Stone-Campbell Movement would introduce a collection of essays centered on the same endeavor. Nugent not only sets the stage for such work, he provides the playbill for the essays which follow. In addition to the excellent and challenging essays, the reader is teased with the promise of an encore from Yoder himself…two previously published essays that have been increasingly difficult to track down.

Nugent observes that although the essays in the book were not written with a particular theme in mind, “they nevertheless address two prominent themes in the Stone-Campbell tradition, unity and continuity, albeit in a Yoderian key” (12). Twice, he points to Yoder’s emphasis on “robust and patient” dialogue as a way to pursue unity “across particular traditions”. The editor clearly identifies the important work, the work which Yoder did so skillfully and faithfully throughout his life, which is not so much to resolve the “ecumenical conundrum” but to move “estranged parties closer together” and to provide “practical resources for more fruitful dialogue.” This was Yoder’s gift to the whole Church, but it would seem to be of particular value to a tradition like the Stone-Campbell churches which have their origins in an appeal for Christian unity.

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JH Yoder: NONVIOLENCEA Review of

Nonviolence: A Brief History.
John Howard Yoder.
Hardback: Baylor UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith

[ Click here to win a copy of this book!!!]

Over the last year, several previously unpublished works of John Howard Yoder have hit the shelves of bookstores.  The most recent in this series is a new volume from Baylor University, Nonviolence: A Brief History, which is comprised of the Warsaw lectures that he presented in Poland in May 1983.  There is much here that resembles other works by Yoder, particularly the recent books Christian Attitudes Toward War, Peace and Revolution ( Read our review )and The War of the Lamb ( Read our review ), as well as his classic work The Politics of Jesus.  In the first chapter, Yoder fleshes out the role of nonviolence in the work of Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi and also examines the influence that Tolstoy’s work had upon Gandhi.  This chapter is Yoder’s most thorough treatment of these key figures in the history of nonviolent thought.  Continue Reading…

 

JH Yoder: NONVIOLENCE

We are giving away a copy of two brand new books:

  • John Howard Yoder: NONVIOLENCE: A Brief History. (Read our review )
  • David Platt: RADICAL: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. ( Read our review )

How to enter to win:

  1. Announce the contest on Twitter, Facebook or your blog MENTIONING THE TITLE OF THE BOOK YOU WANT TO WIN:
    The Englewood Review (@ERBks ) is giving away a copy of JH Yoder’s NONVIOLENCE: A BRIEF HISTORY.  Enter here: http://ow.ly/1InoW


    or

    The Englewood Review (@ERBks ) is giving away a copy of David Platt’s new book RADICAL.  Enter here: http://ow.ly/1InoW
  2. (IMPORTANT!) Post a comment below with your name,  a link to your post for #1, and the title of the book you want.   We will choose our winner from among those who have left comments.
  3. You may enter to win both books, but please do so with separate entries (steps #1 and #2 above). You may enter one time per day for each book through the duration of the contest.
  4. We will pick a winner at random from the eligible contestants and notify them this weekend.

The contest will end at 4PM ET on Friday May 14th.

 

Continuing our series of essential works…

The Politics of Jesus:
Vicit Agnus Noster
.
John Howard Yoder.
2nd Edition.
Paperback: Eerdmans, 1994.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

 

“A Prime Season for Yoder Studies”

A Review of
The War of the Lamb:
The Ethics of Nonviolence and Peacemaking

by John Howard Yoder
and
The New Yoder
Peter Dula and Chris Huebner, eds.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

The War of the Lamb:
The Ethics of Nonviolence and Peacemaking

John Howard Yoder.
Paperback: Brazos Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]


The New Yoder.
Peter Dula and Chris Huebner, eds.
Paperback: Cascade Books, 201o.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

THE WAR OF THE LAMB - John Howard YoderWe are apparently in a prime season for the release of books by and about John Howard Yoder.  In the year beginning with the release of his Christian Attitudes Toward War, Peace and Revolution last spring (our review is here), there will be about ten new books on Yoder that hit bookstore shelves.  I have recently had the opportunity to read two of these books, and also have played host to the conference that produced a third (see an exclusive excerpt of this book below and watch for a thorough review of it coming soon in the ERB).  The two books that I have been working my way through of late are The War of the Lamb, an exploration of “the ethics of peacemaking”, which Yoder intended to be his final book (but he died before he could finish it), and The New Yoder, a diverse collection of engagements with Yoder’s work from Cascade Books.

The War of the Lamb is a wonderful supplement to Christian Attitudes Toward War, Peace and Revolution (both are recent publications of Brazos Press), which takes a historical look at Christian theology related to war and peace.  The War of the Lamb, extends this project by exploring how Christians committed to nonviolence can exist in dialogue both with other Christians who hold Just-War perspectives and with the (presumably violent) nation-state.  One of the major themes of the work, as highlighted by Glen Stassen in the book’s introduction is that the ethics that Yoder is proposing here is not sectarian.  Ultimately, I think Stassen and Yoder are correct in that the ethics of Jesus are for all humanity.  However, for those of us entrenched in deeply domesticated churches, some level of sectarianism will be needed in order to form our identity – as Phil Kenneson has poignantly argued in his little book Beyond Sectarianism.

Yoder’s text begins with a “theological critique of violence.”  His critique here is – as is characteristic of his work – distinctively Christological, namely that the sacrifice of the cross is necessary in overcoming our penchant to return violence for violence.  Violence, he observes, “is not a sin like any other,” but rather the fundamental nature of power in a fallen world, which must be overcome:  He says:

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An Exclusive Excerpt from

Radical Ecumenicity:
Unity and Continuity after John Howard Yoder.

John Nugent, Editor.
(Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2010),
238 pages, $24.99 trade paper,

ISBN 978-0-89112-042-1

Available soon from:
http://www.abilenechristianuniversitypress.com/

RADICAL ECUMENICITY: Unity and Continuity after John Howard Yoder.

 

“The Present Crisis”
James Russell Lowell

A Poem for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

[Editor’s Note:  John Howard Yoder mentions this poem in THE WAR OF THE LAMB (reviewed above) as significant in the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. ]



WHEN a deed is done for Freedom, through the broad earth’s aching breast
Runs a thrill of joy prophetic, trembling on from east to west,
And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels the soul within him climb
To the awful verge of manhood, as the energy sublime
Of a century bursts full-blossomed on the thorny stem of Time.

Through the walls of hut and palace shoots the instantaneous throe,
When the travail of the Ages wrings earth’s systems to and fro;
At the birth of each new Era, with a recognizing start,
Nation wildly looks at a nation, standing with mute lips apart,
And glad Truth’s yet mightier man-child leaps beneath the Future’s heart.

So the Evil’s triumph sendeth, with a terror and a chill,
Under continent to continent, the sense of coming ill,
And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels his sympathies with God
In hot tear-drops ebbing earthward, to be drunk up by the sod,
Till a corpse crawls round unburied, delving in the nobler clod.

For mankind are one in spirit, and an instinct bears along,
Round the earth’s electric circle, the swift flash of right or wrong;
Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity’s vast frame
Through its ocean-sundered fibres feels the gush of joy or shame;-
In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim.

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