The Heterodox Yoder ? [Concluding our Conversation]

August 17, 2012


Page 5 – The Heterdox Yoder? Branson Parler’s Response

In conclusion, let me take Martens’ point a different direction: we do indeed serve the vanishing Jesus, the Jesus who ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. With Martens, I agree that this vanishing Jesus is not merely an exemplar of some general ethical principles, but a Jewish rabbi who was the creative Word incarnate and who inaugurated the kingdom of God with his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. How do the disciples explain what this vanishing Jesus continues to do through the Holy Spirit? Yoder points to Paul’s sermon at Athens: “It was by naming the risen Jesus that Paul ended his description of the providential plurality of peoples (Acts 17:30-32). In other words, in this proclamation of universality there is no backing away from the particularity of the Jesus story, no soft-pedaling of the missionary imperative.”[xxxv] In my view, Yoder likewise continues to the very end of his work to name the crucified and risen Jesus as Word and Lord.

In sum, I thank Paul Martens for his willingness to undertake this dialogue and I look forward to more of his contributions to the academy and the church. For reasons outlined here and elsewhere, however, I still remain unconvinced that Yoder betrays the uniqueness of Jesus, the particularity of Jesus, or the fact that Jesus reveals God. In that sense, I remain unconvinced that Yoder is heterodox.

[i] Jerome Neyrey, “Ceremonies in Luke-Acts: The Case of Meals and Table-Fellowship,” in The Social World Of Luke-Acts: A Model for Interpretation (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson, 1991), 362.

[ii] For example, William Cavanaugh, Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), vii.

[iii] For a helpful introduction to Yoder’s hermeneutic, specifically as it pertains to the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, see John C. Nugent, The Politics of Yahweh: John Howard Yoder, the Old Testament, and the People of God (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011), 10-13 and 211-215.

[iv] This is the point of Calvin’s third use of the law.

[v] Martens, The Heterodox Yoder (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2012), 138.

[vi] Martens, “More Apotropaic Arboreal Adventures: A Response to Parler,”, 6.

[vii] Yoder, “Creation and Gospel,” in Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought 3, no. 8 (Oct. 1988): 9.

[viii] Yoder, “On Not Being Ashamed of the Gospel: Particularity, Pluralism, and Validation,” Faith and Philosophy 9, no. 3 (1992): 285-300; Yoder, “Meaning After Babble: With Jeffrey Stout Beyond Relativism,” in Journal of Religious Ethics 24 (Spring 1996): 125-139.

[ix] Yoder, “The Anabaptist Dissent: The Logic of the Place of the Disciple in Society,” in The Roots of Concern: Writings on Anabaptist Renewal, 1952-1957, ed. Virgil Vogt (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2009), 32.

[x] Yoder, Preface to Theology: Christology and Theological Method (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2002), 308.

[xi] Yoder, Discipleship as Political Responsibility, trans. Timothy J. Geddert (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 2003), 61.

[xii] J. Todd Billings, Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 43. The doctrine of union with Christ is also central in Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011).

[xiii] Yoder, Preface, 312.

[xiv] Belgic Confession, art. 24, Ecumenical Creeds and Reformed Confessions (Grand Rapids: Faith Alive Resources, 1988).

[xv] Canons of Dort, 3/4, art. 12, Ecumenical Creeds and Reformed Confessions.

[xvi] Yoder, Preface, 312.

[xvii] Yoder, Preface, 312.

[xviii] See Yoder, “Anabaptist Dissent,” 32.

[xix] Martens, “Response to Parler,” 3.

[xx] Martens, The Heterodox Yoder, 142.

[xxi] Martens, “Response to Parler,” 3.

[xxii] Martens, Heterodox Yoder, 2.

[xxiii] Things Hold Together: John Howard Yoder’s Trinitarian Theology of Culture (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2012), ch. 4 on Yoder’s Christology.

[xxiv] Yoder, The Politics of Jesus: Vicit Agnus Noster, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1994), 226.

[xxv] Martens, “Response to Parler,” 3.

[xxvi] Martens, “Response to Parler,” 2.

[xxvii] See Yoder, “The Christian Case for Democracy,” in The Priestly Kingdom: Social Ethics as Gospel (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 163-164, for Yoder’s definition of politics.

[xxviii] Yoder, “A Theological Critique of Violence,” in The War of the Lamb: The Ethics of Nonviolence and Peacemaking, ed. ed. Glen Stassen, Mark Thiessen Nation, and Matt Hamsher (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2009), 38.

[xxix] Yoder, “To Serve Our God and Rule the World,” in The Royal Priesthood: Essays Ecclesiological and Ecumenical, ed. Michael G. Cartwright (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 129.

[xxx] Yoder, “The Experiential Etiology of Evangelical Dualism,” Missiology: An International Review 11, no. 4 (1983): 458.

[xxxi] Martens, The Heterodox Yoder, 145.

[xxxii] Ted Grimsrud’s reading of Yoder on this point is similar to mine. See (accessed 8/9/2012). On Yoder’s use of the term “politics,” see “Christian Case for Democracy,” in The Priestly Kingdom: Social Ethics as Gospel (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 163-164.

[xxxiii] This explains in part why Yoder does such a close, contextualized reading of Old Testament holy war, instead of just psychologizing those texts as Israel’s mistaken projection of God.

[xxxiv] See his chapter “The Pacifism of the Messianic Community,” in Nevertheless: The Varieties and Shortcomings of Religious Pacifism, rev. ed. (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1992).

[xxxv] Yoder, Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching World (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 2001), 39.