Sunday, November 25, 2012

Yoder (not Yoda) on church and society

John Howard Yoder popped up in a conversation this week. Yoder is an Anabaptist, so I always find myself doing a double take when he pops up in a Uniting Church context (which this conversation most definitely was). My surprise was quickly accompanied by the warm glow that happens as one finds one’s roots affirmed.

John Howard Yoder popped up again yesterday, in a footnote in John Swinton’s, Dementia: Living in the Memories of God

The distinction between church and the world is not a distinction between nature and grace. It is, instead, a distinction that denotes the basic personal postures of men [sic], some of whom confess and some of whom do not confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The distinction between church and the world is not something that God has imposed upon the world by prior metaphysical definition, nor is it only something which timid or pharisaical Christians have built up around themselves. It is all of that in creation that has taken the freedom not yet to believe.” (Yoder, The Original Revolution: Essays on Christian Pacifism 116)

What is intriguing is the way that differences between gospel and culture, church and society, are located not in God, but in humans. People have choice.

What is also intriguing is how this allows creative conversations between church and society. Mutually learning is possible, discoveries of God in creation possible both inside and outside the church.

What is even more intriguing is how subversive this is of some expressions of Anabaptism, which very much focus on withdrawal from the world.

Posted by steve at 12:59 PM


  1. Was privileged to spend a week with Yoder some neatly 3 decades ago. He introduced me to his “Politics of Jesus” . A great experience.

    Comment by Bruce Grindlay — November 25, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

  2. Your response to Yoder raises a question for me. Do you find your inspiration in Anabaptist tradition rather than that of the General Baptists, or are you conflating the two?

    Comment by Paul Foord — November 25, 2012 @ 10:54 pm

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