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Tradition has painted a portrait of a Savior who stands aloof from governmental concerns and who calls his disciples to an apolitical life. But such a picture of Jesus is far from accurate, according to John Howard Yoder. This watershed work in New Testament ethics leads us to a Savior who was deeply concerned with the agenda of politics and the related issues of power, Tradition has painted a portrait of a Savior who stands aloof from governmental concerns and who calls his disciples to an apolitical life. But such a picture of Jesus is far from accurate, according to John Howard Yoder. This watershed work in New Testament ethics leads us to a Savior who was deeply concerned with the agenda of politics and the related issues of power, status, and right relations. By canvassing Luke's Gospel, Yoder argues convincingly that the true impact of Jesus' life and ministry on his disciples' social behavior points to a specific kind of Christian pacifism in which "the cross of Christ is the model of Christian social efficacy." This second edition of The Politics of Jesus provides up-to-date interaction with recent publications that touch on Yoder's timely topic. Following most of the chapters are new "epilogues" summarizing research conducted during the last two decades - research that continues to support the outstanding insights set forth in Yoder's original work.


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Tradition has painted a portrait of a Savior who stands aloof from governmental concerns and who calls his disciples to an apolitical life. But such a picture of Jesus is far from accurate, according to John Howard Yoder. This watershed work in New Testament ethics leads us to a Savior who was deeply concerned with the agenda of politics and the related issues of power, Tradition has painted a portrait of a Savior who stands aloof from governmental concerns and who calls his disciples to an apolitical life. But such a picture of Jesus is far from accurate, according to John Howard Yoder. This watershed work in New Testament ethics leads us to a Savior who was deeply concerned with the agenda of politics and the related issues of power, status, and right relations. By canvassing Luke's Gospel, Yoder argues convincingly that the true impact of Jesus' life and ministry on his disciples' social behavior points to a specific kind of Christian pacifism in which "the cross of Christ is the model of Christian social efficacy." This second edition of The Politics of Jesus provides up-to-date interaction with recent publications that touch on Yoder's timely topic. Following most of the chapters are new "epilogues" summarizing research conducted during the last two decades - research that continues to support the outstanding insights set forth in Yoder's original work.

30 review for The Politics of Jesus

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    I don't usually review books that I didn't finish, but in this case I thought the reason I didn't finish it was relevant to a review. Yoder asserts that complete non-violence is an ethical imperative for every follower of Jesus. In his view, noble ends cannot justify violence. Instead, we should act peacefully and trust the outcome of all our actions to God. We are obligated to lives of peace, fairness and love, and no end-goal can abrogate those obligations. At all times, we must put the welfare I don't usually review books that I didn't finish, but in this case I thought the reason I didn't finish it was relevant to a review. Yoder asserts that complete non-violence is an ethical imperative for every follower of Jesus. In his view, noble ends cannot justify violence. Instead, we should act peacefully and trust the outcome of all our actions to God. We are obligated to lives of peace, fairness and love, and no end-goal can abrogate those obligations. At all times, we must put the welfare of others on par with our own. This may be visionary or this may be preposterous. Either way, it is not matched by the way Yoder practices scholarship. His book seems instead focused on achieving a particular goal by whatever literary means possible. His readings of biblical text are often tendentious. He insists on plain, literal readings when it benefits his ideological goals; he insists as passionately on complicated spiritualized readings when they suit his ideological goals better. He denies the presence of any real problems in the text that have led to the interpretations of his opponents. He summarizes the theology of opponents in ways they might not recognize. Fairness to others is a requirement in life; it is not, apparently, a requirement in writing theology. All of this is common in scholarship, and I probably wouldn't comment on it in most books. But it grew increasingly painful to read it here because it smacked so strongly of hypocrisy. Maybe Yoder is right, and the refusal to regard our personal welfare is an essential part of a righteous life. But that is not the book he wrote.

  2. 5 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    Probably the most misunderstood and misquoted thinker since Adam Smith (or Richard Simmons?), the Jeez, as I call him, actually had a lot of nice things to say about other people, even the ones that hated it. And his call to his followers to emulate him with the idea of spontaneous unconditional love for others (I know, right, white-guy America? Feelings?! Gross!) is definitely not cited enough. In fact, as Yoder points out, there are lots of arguments and exegesis trying to justify all the shit Probably the most misunderstood and misquoted thinker since Adam Smith (or Richard Simmons?), the Jeez, as I call him, actually had a lot of nice things to say about other people, even the ones that hated it. And his call to his followers to emulate him with the idea of spontaneous unconditional love for others (I know, right, white-guy America? Feelings?! Gross!) is definitely not cited enough. In fact, as Yoder points out, there are lots of arguments and exegesis trying to justify all the shit that Christ didn't say, but little attention paid to him as a daring, revolutionary social critic who thought, shit, why can't everyone just get along? You don't need to be any kind of religious person to appreciate this work, which nicely and snugly places J.C. into the pantheon of socially radical nice guys throughout history.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    While I think this book is wrong on several levels, it marked a valuable turning point in Evangelical ethical reflection. To say Jesus's message was political is commonplace today. It wasn't when Yoder wrote. Thesis 1: Jesuss ministry has a political claim that we often hide from ourselves (Yoder 2). Yoder is against a Creation Ethic (8). While his primary target is natural law ethics, he also lists situation ethics under the same label: we discern the right be studying the realities around us While I think this book is wrong on several levels, it marked a valuable turning point in Evangelical ethical reflection. To say Jesus's message was political is commonplace today. It wasn't when Yoder wrote. Thesis 1: Jesus’s ministry has a political claim that we often hide from ourselves (Yoder 2). Yoder is against a “Creation Ethic” (8). While his primary target is natural law ethics, he also lists “situation ethics” under the same label: we discern the right be studying the realities around us (9). Thesis 2: Because of Jesus’s “humanness,” there is the possibility of a distinctively normative, Christian ethic (10). Yoder is against any kind of “natural law ethic,” and for him natural law = creation = nature = reason = reality. While I suspect Yoder paints with a rather broad brush, one can’t help but note a few points he scores: these models are usually “ascribed a priori a higher or deeper authority than the ‘particular’ Jewish or Christian sources of moral vision” (19). His exegesis on “Kingdom” anticipates many of the gains found in NT Wright’s own work. Yoder’s argument concerning “Jubilee” is quite interesting, though not without difficulty. He sees Jesus in Luke 4 as inaugurating the New Jubilee. In fact, he can call the “Lord’s Prayer” a “Jubilee” prayer, since debts are wiped away (64). Bottom line: Those in the Kingdom must practice Jubilee. Corollary: to practice the Sabbath without practicing deliverance and Jubilee is not to practice the Sabbath. (3) The point of OT violence was not violence, but that God acts to save his people without their needing to act (76-77). (4) Jesus’s kingdom is not simply “internal” but is outward and social. (5) The universe was made in an ordered form and is called “good” (141). Be that as it may, Yoder insists “we have no access to the good creation of God” (141). Strong stuff. He does expand upon this language, drawing upon Paul’s words in Acts 17:22-28. (5a) These power-structures were created by God and today provide a network for our existence (142). (5b) They rebelled and fell. (5c) God uses them for good. My only problem at this point is (5b) seems to think that the powers = angels of one sort or another. That could work but the evidence is slim. Romans 13 This is the most controversial chapter in the book. I’ll begin by noting some positives. Yoder is correct that Paul is not arguing for a positivist reading: i.e., whatever the state says is just/right by definition (this is the official position of the United States Supreme Court regarding its own rulings). Most controversially, he asserts that the sword, the machaira, is not a weapon as such but a symbol of authority. Therefore, this can’t mean that the state is just in war or taking a life. By way of response: >He says God did not create the powers that be, but only orders them (201). Assuming that these powers are not self-existing, then yes, God did create them. >He says Rom. 13 cannot be used as a proof-text for police/military functions (203). But what of the soldiers who came to John the Baptist? What of the centurion whom Jesus commended so highly? In neither case were they told to quit their unjust professions. >His claim that the machaira can’t be used for death simply won’t hold. The state is said not to wield it in vain. But if it is merely symbolic and can’t restrain my actions, then the state is wielding it in vain. Jesus reaffirms the death penalty in Matt. 15. Positives *Yoder does a fine job demonstrating that Jesus didn’t come to offer a Kantian kingdom and a Kantian, spiritual ethic. Critique ~1. It’s hard to reconcile Yoder’s claim that the State is the embodied evil of the demonic powers with Paul’s claim that it is a minister of good. ~2. Yoder wants to posit a good creation with good structures (as he should), but given Romans 13 and the fact that God commanded wars in the Old Testament, how can one then critique Just War Theory and the use of the sword? ~3. Yoder almost always dismisses dissonant voices as “unaware of Jesus’s social dimension,” of whom he usually means “Christendom” (whatever that means). ~4. Yoder’s claims in (5a-c) need an additional premise: (5d) Creation has been restored and reaffirmed in the resurrection of Christ. To be fair, Yoder approaches this point (144-145). Yet, in this section he doesn’t mention the Resurrection. He does hint at it on p.239. ~5. While correctly rejecting the Enlightenment project, Yoder uses a lot of its rhetoric. He continually contrasts the “traditional” or “Constantinian” reading with a fresher reading. ~6. What’s the value of positing a good creation if we have no cognitive access to it (141)? In fact, and most devastatingly, how does Yoder even know creation is good if we have no cognitive access to it? In any case, the Bible doesn’t follow this reasoning, since it tells us to look to nature and creation for wisdom (“Go to the ant, thou sluggard!”). Conclusion: A valuable and welcome read. His exegesis of Luke is outstanding and he doesn’t opt for easy answers, even when I think he is wrong.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

    Yoder is apparently regarded as one of the pre-eminent theologians of the twentieth century, I think because of his emphasis on pacifism and his questioning of the Church's relationship with government and political authority. Perhaps his ideas have been so absorbed into the Christian mainstream that I am not struck by their novelty. Certainly his writing is abysmal: meandering and circling back upon itself, full of double negatives and endless subordinate clauses, heavily footnoted with long Yoder is apparently regarded as one of the pre-eminent theologians of the twentieth century, I think because of his emphasis on pacifism and his questioning of the Church's relationship with government and political authority. Perhaps his ideas have been so absorbed into the Christian mainstream that I am not struck by their novelty. Certainly his writing is abysmal: meandering and circling back upon itself, full of double negatives and endless subordinate clauses, heavily footnoted with long walks off topic. Our book group forgave him that verbal meandering a little bit, because the book seems to have been cobbled together from a series of conference papers rather than written with one unifying purpose. So we finished the book, and I was glad in the way that I finish a tough workout, not that I enjoyed it, but am glad that I did it and feel better for having endured, and then we looked Yoder up on Wikipedia to try to figure out how the book fits into his life's work and why (?) it's considered to be so great, and it happened to mention the sexual allegations against him. Whaaa...? We dug deeper. (E.g., this Chicago Tribune article.) Turns out that he harassed / assaulted at least eight -- and they named eighty more -- women throughout his professorial career. He was apparently trying to come to some new sexual ethic within the church, and tried it out with students, colleagues, women in the church, women at conferences, lots and lots of women. No intercourse, but lots and lots of creepy and perverted behavior. And that makes me angry. So angry that I don't really care what he has to say about ethics (insert derisive snort!) or what he might say about the politics of Jesus.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Aeisele

    I think I've been close to considering becoming a pacificist for a while, but Yoder moves me that much closer. And the reasons for this have very little to do with philosophical argumentation, i.e. I would not become a pacificist as an "intellectual" position. They have much more do to with my Christian convictions that our behavior ought to be modelled on the form of Jesus' life and ministry. Yoder, first of all, convinces completely that this form of life was political in character I think I've been close to considering becoming a pacificist for a while, but Yoder moves me that much closer. And the reasons for this have very little to do with philosophical argumentation, i.e. I would not become a pacificist as an "intellectual" position. They have much more do to with my Christian convictions that our behavior ought to be modelled on the form of Jesus' life and ministry. Yoder, first of all, convinces completely that this form of life was political in character (crucifixion, of course, was a political death), and he's pretty convincing too on Jesus' complete non-violence (through his rejection of the Zealot option). Another of the best contributions of this book is speaking of the church as having an apocalyptic identity. What that means is that, through the resurrection, the church has a foretaste ("first fruits," as Paul says) of the ultimate hope of a new heaven and a new earth, and as Jesus as its true sovereign (not Caesar), and that Christian identity is to life in this world acknowledging this Lordship and this ultimate hope, through non-violent resistance. I'm not sure what the practical outcomes of this are, but it has set my mind on a completely new path, a completely new way of conceiving social action.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Lindsey

    Dont let the word politics scare you away - in this book, politics doesnt refer to the nasty mess of modern politics. No, here the political truly means the social or civil society. Cushioned in hundreds of footnotes, Yoder lays out a compelling and powerful case for a church that promotes social justice, peace, and perfect love and rejects nationalism, consumerism, and hyper-individualism. I am convinced that when the next reformation happens, this text will be seen as a groundwork for that Don’t let the word “politics” scare you away - in this book, “politics” doesn’t refer to the nasty mess of modern politics. No, here “the political” truly means “the social” or “civil society”. Cushioned in hundreds of footnotes, Yoder lays out a compelling and powerful case for a church that promotes social justice, peace, and perfect love and rejects nationalism, consumerism, and hyper-individualism. I am convinced that when the next reformation happens, this text will be seen as a groundwork for that needed movement. For an absolute layman when it comes to academic theology, this was one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read - but also one of the most rewarding.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nick Klagge

    I got interested in Yoder through Stanley Hauerwas and decided to read this book. For some reason, probably at least partly bias because of the Amish last name, I had assumed that this book would be simple and folksy. It is far, far from that--even if its message is reasonably simple, Yoder's style is heavily-footnoted, erudite academic (which I don't mind). In fact, I learned six new words from this book, which may be a record: -parousia -elenchtic -docetic -ebionitic -exousiology -paraenesis The main I got interested in Yoder through Stanley Hauerwas and decided to read this book. For some reason, probably at least partly bias because of the Amish last name, I had assumed that this book would be simple and folksy. It is far, far from that--even if its message is reasonably simple, Yoder's style is heavily-footnoted, erudite academic (which I don't mind). In fact, I learned six new words from this book, which may be a record: -parousia -elenchtic -docetic -ebionitic -exousiology -paraenesis The main thrust of the book is to argue that Jesus stands as a normative example for Christian people, in a very specific way--not in his barefooted itinerancy (a la St. Francis' interpretation), but rather in his complete rejection of violence to achieve his ends. (In fact Yoder encompasses violence under a larger umbrella called "the compulsiveness of purpose that leads the strong to violate the dignity of others.") He counterposes this position against a number of more "classic" interpretations, which include interpreting Jesus' life in only metaphysical terms or assuming that he simply represents an ideal type which is so unreachable as to be non-normative. While I found the book interesting throughout, by far the most insightful part for me was Chapter 8, "Christ and Power". In this section Yoder addresses carefully the language of "powers and principalities" (i.e., angels, demons, etc.) in the writings of Paul, something that is either skipped over or discomforting to the modern reader. Yoder makes a very compelling interpretation that this language was intended to be mapped on to what modern readers would understand as "power structures" in society--systematizing forces that can provide beneficial order to human life, but which are "fallen" in that, and to the extent to which, they claim for themselves absolute value and sovereignty. This to me was a very powerful image, and Yoder provides a strong interpretation of the meaning of the life of Jesus with regard to these Powers. Unfortunately, the copy of the book that I checked out of the library (the only one available at the NYU/NY Public/Brooklyn Public libraries) is missing about 30 pages, not because they fell out, but because 30 other pages were printed twice, once over where the missing pages should be. I checked the Google Books preview to see if I could use that to fill in the missing space, but the same problem is there as well!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I have exhausted my reading of Christian pacifists. I got about 20 pages into this book and realized I had made an mistake. Mr. Yoder--an Anabaptist and pacifist--posits the Jesus was a complete pacifist, and that those who call themselves Christians should be pacifists as well. I object. As I said in an earlier book review (Toward a Theology of Peace), I'm all for peace, but let's not kid ourselves about who God is or the world He made for us to live in. I admit I find Anabaptists a trifle I have exhausted my reading of Christian pacifists. I got about 20 pages into this book and realized I had made an mistake. Mr. Yoder--an Anabaptist and pacifist--posits the Jesus was a complete pacifist, and that those who call themselves Christians should be pacifists as well. I object. As I said in an earlier book review (Toward a Theology of Peace), I'm all for peace, but let's not kid ourselves about who God is or the world He made for us to live in. I admit I find Anabaptists a trifle annoying, as I do all pacifists. It's wonderful that they have sworn off violence and conflict, especially since they are protected by the most powerful military the world has ever seen. I would have much more respect for Christian pacifists who lived in places like, say, Pakistan. They would really have an opportunity to live out their ideals there, since Christians are routinely brutalized, murdered, have their children stolen and sold into sexual slavery, and are not allowed to own anything. Having read the Bible, and read about the Bible, a great deal, I have come to the conclusion that it says what is says to each and every individual. There is background, certainly, one needs to understand the context of the stories in the Bible. Likewise, there are issues of translation that need to be taken into consideration. There are communities of interpretation that have given rise to certain beliefs and traditions. There are bad readings, better readings, and spot-on readings. Some people seem to 'get it' more than others. Others don't get it at all. Ultimately, though, the Bible is a book that you yourself will have to wrestle with, interpret, and live with. My reading is no more or no less authoritative than yours. So, to Mr. Yoder and all the others who believe that God is love, and that the answer to all of life's problems is nonviolence, I wish you well, and I ask you to remember just who it is that allows you the safety to live out your values.They are not sheep, my friends. They are wolves.

  9. 5 out of 5

    marcus miller

    I tried reading this when I was in college. I remember bogging down somewhere in the middle and never finishing the book. Reading it 30 years later I found the book much more understandable which says much more about me and where I was at in college than it does about John Howard Yoder and his writing. If I understand him correctly, Yoder states that we should read the New Testament through the person of Jesus and that we should pay attention to the political dimensions of his message. Some of I tried reading this when I was in college. I remember bogging down somewhere in the middle and never finishing the book. Reading it 30 years later I found the book much more understandable which says much more about me and where I was at in college than it does about John Howard Yoder and his writing. If I understand him correctly, Yoder states that we should read the New Testament through the person of Jesus and that we should pay attention to the political dimensions of his message. Some of my professors were steeped in JHY and so even though I didn't finish the book back then, elements of his ideas were certainly familiar. Those who want to focus on Jesus as the Messiah who came to "save the lost," and those who focus solely on conversion will probably be appalled by the book. Those who believe Jesus and the early church had something to say to the social and political structures of their day, and by extension, the structures of today will find this book to be thought provoking and stimulating. The ideas presented by Yoder are important. They hopefully will continue to impact the Christian church and broader society.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    After reading Christian Witness to the State I felt like re-reading this book. The re-read confirmed that this as one of my all time favorite books. Yoder's thesis is rather simple: Jesus Christ is the norm for Christian ethics. He is responding to the argument, made by many Christians, that Jesus' ethic, his way of life, is just not practical or was never intended to be the way that Christians live. Yoder makes no claim at this being a full systematic study, but the ground he does cover in After reading Christian Witness to the State I felt like re-reading this book. The re-read confirmed that this as one of my all time favorite books. Yoder's thesis is rather simple: Jesus Christ is the norm for Christian ethics. He is responding to the argument, made by many Christians, that Jesus' ethic, his way of life, is just not practical or was never intended to be the way that Christians live. Yoder makes no claim at this being a full systematic study, but the ground he does cover in making his argument is convincing. He focuses on the gospel of Luke (chapter 2) and then picks up on themes from the Old Testament in the implications of Jubilee from Leviticus and declared by Jesus (chapter 3) and the trust that God will fight for us as in the Exodus (chapter 4). After some interesting examples of nonviolence in Jesus' day, showing such an idea was possible (chapter 5), he moves on to look at other parts of the New Testament. Often people, including Christians, see a wide gap between Jesus' focus on life and action versus Paul's focus on belief and abstract theology. Yoder challenges this dichotomy, arguing that Paul's ethic is completely in line with Jesus (chapters 6-7). One of the most thought-provoking chapters is on the "powers" (chapter 8). Yoder shows that for Paul the powers (structures) had a good purpose in the original creation but are now fallen. But Christ has defeated these powers and set up the church, therefore the real story of history is in the church, not in the powers (governments). The powers are a mix of good and bad: they still serve a good purpose but they are still fallen. Chapter nine is about revolutionary subordination. Here Yoder discusses the many passages in Paul about submission (wives to husbands, slaves to masters). His central point is that in a world where such submission was already the norm, something had to have happened for such a teaching to be included. This was that Paul had taught that in Christ a new world had come where all people were equal. Thus, for example, the Christian woman has a newfound freedom in Christ which allows her to speak in the congregation, yet also in Christ she could accept her place in that society. Yoder does not draw this out to a full argument of the place of, for example, women in churches/ministry now. But the point is that all are equal in Christ, yet in certain cultural contexts Christians submit just as Christ did. Yoder continues looking at Paul in chapters ten and eleven. First he examines Romans 13, reminding us that this passage must be read in context with Romans 12. In this, it does not justify rebelling against unjust states, rather it calls us to the same ethic Jesus' sermon on the mount does. In the next chapter he argues that in the doctrine of justification by faith there is a key component, often overlooked, of bringing Gentile and Jew together. He does not deny that Jesus' death was a sacrifice for sins, as some have charged, he instead seeks to emphasize the social aspect of justification. The final chapter takes a brief look at other parts of the New Testament, specifically Revelation. Yoder's point is clear: Christians are called to live an ethic like that of Jesus which is a life of radical nonviolence. Importantly, in this last chapter he argues that Christian nonviolence only makes sense rooted in Jesus Christ. A nonviolent Christian does not reject war/violence in order to show the same ends can be achieved by nonviolent means. Christian nonviolence is not pragmatic. Instead, it is obedient: Christians should be nonviolent in obedience to Christ and in that take whatever comes. This is an issue I have studied and thought on a lot. I agree with Yoder that the way of Christ is nonviolence. But I still think that in a fallen world it is not wrong for a Christian to support a state going to war. Perhaps this shows my still lack of faith in Jesus, maybe that is what Yoder would say. That aside, it is clear that to follow Jesus is to follow the way of peace, revolutionary subordination and self-sacrifice even unto death. This call blows my mind and challenges my heart, and it comes across clearly in this book which is why I give it five stars.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Greg Williams

    This is an older book initially published in 1972, long before the conservative Christian preoccupation with right-wing politics in the US. So don't be misled by the title to think it is concerned with the Moral Majority of the 80's or the conservative Christian attachment to the Republican party in the US. Instead, it is a scholarly argument against the idea that the New Testament is focused on spiritual truths that have no bearing upon a Christian's political loyalties. This is a more difficult This is an older book initially published in 1972, long before the conservative Christian preoccupation with right-wing politics in the US. So don't be misled by the title to think it is concerned with the Moral Majority of the 80's or the conservative Christian attachment to the Republican party in the US. Instead, it is a scholarly argument against the idea that the New Testament is focused on spiritual truths that have no bearing upon a Christian's political loyalties. This is a more difficult read, since it is targeted toward a scholarly audience. So it took me a while to read, but I found it personally worthwhile as a Christian. Yoder points out that the very nature of what it means to truly follow Jesus will be counter-cultural and will go against the grain of what the financial and political institutions of the world are striving for. To be generous with others in the same way that God is generous with us will be considered foolish and wasteful. To forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (which includes monetary debts as well as sin) will rub against the grain of the justice and financial systems. To love our enemies just as Christ does will rub against the grain of the military-industrial complex. To proclaim that 'Jesus is Lord' is a direct challenge to all the political systems of this world. The result of following Jesus in this way is necessarily persecution of one sort or another (John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12). And what sets Christians apart is how we respond to persecution. A person who is following Jesus will try to respond as Jesus did (1 Peter 2:21). A follower of Jesus responds to persecution in a non-violent way by blessing those who are persecuting him/her (Roman 12:21 , 1 Peter 3:9). The most impactful insight I got from this book is that we often confuse subordination with submission or subjection when reading the "be subject to the authorities" passages in the New Testament (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13). Yoder points out that the Greek word used in these passages is best rendered as subordination (willingly accepting one's place below an authority). It does not mean that we should blindly obey everything those in authority tell us or that we should just play along with what our government wants. This matches what we see Jesus doing in the Gospels. He did not play along with what the religious leaders or the Roman government wanted. He freely criticized both and continued to be faithful to His purposes regardless of what the authorities wanted Him to do. Instead, He willingly accepted the punishment given to Him on the cross. He subordinated Himself to the authorities without compromising His purposes or values. This idea of "subordination does not mean obedience" also applies to the New Testament passages teachings related to wives, children, and slaves. Another insight I got from this book is that, for a follower of Jesus, it is more important to be faithful than to be effective. We live in a world that worships progress and effectiveness. I am often guilty of being a pragmatist, which can lead to compromising my own values for the sake of being more effective. However, Yoder points out that this is not how Jesus lived his life on earth. Jesus did not compromise Himself for the sake of making His mission more effective. Instead, He remained faithful to His Father and accepted the consequences of that. Bottom line: This is a tough read, not just because it is written in a dense, scholarly fashion but also because it exposes attitudes in our hearts that are contrary to the Way of Christ. Nevertheless, I highly recommend it because, in this age of political division and rage, it pointed me back to Jesus and the way of life He has called me to.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Spencer

    I am rereading this for my dissertation on James McClendon, a Southern Baptist theologian that regarded reading this book to be a "second conversion" in his faith. This book came out in the heyday of Nienuhr-style "realist" Christian political engagement, which ended up supporting the status quo on a lot of issues, namely race and economic injustice. "Realism" meant compromise. Yoder's study, at the very minimum, demonstrates that Jesus was enacting a new political strategy for liberation I am rereading this for my dissertation on James McClendon, a Southern Baptist theologian that regarded reading this book to be a "second conversion" in his faith. This book came out in the heyday of Nienuhr-style "realist" Christian political engagement, which ended up supporting the status quo on a lot of issues, namely race and economic injustice. "Realism" meant compromise. Yoder's study, at the very minimum, demonstrates that Jesus was enacting a new political strategy for liberation through faithful non-violence, that did have the expectation of actuallly "working." Jesus was not being a hopeless idealist or just an evangelical soul-saver. Many baulk at pacifism. In fact, I did as I was raised solidly in a just-war tradition of thought. But it seems inescapable that Jesus engaged oppressive powers with the strategy of the cross, and that the cross' character is the central ethic of the NT writers. What does that mean today in all the different sorts of political conflicts? I don't know if pacifism is the solution for every conflict. But, as I recommend to my congregation, Christianity's "default setting" is a skepticism against the all notions of "justifiable" war (How rare is that actually the case, when we get through the fog of propaganda!) as well as a commitment to non-violence and even self-renunciation (the way of the cross) as the means to bring peace. Yoder's work now is several decades old, but there is still tons of insights for the average reader. His discussion on justification on faith pertaining more to reconciliation between Jew and Gentile is still relevant as it has been picked up by the New Perspective on Paul guys. His treatment on demonstrating a Christological basis for God's attributes and our ethic (who God is = who Christ is = how we ought to act) will teach any fundamentalist the error of their ways when they elevate, for instance, holy wrath or omnipotence over perfect love in God's being. Indeed, the only reason God is powerful is because of the embrace of weakness on the cross! For those interested, I would recommended looking up McClendon's Systematic Theology. In particular his chapter in Ethics (Vol. 1) on the "anastatic" dimension of pacifism and Doctrine (vol. 2) on the atonement. These fill out Yoder's work. As well, Ched Myer's commentary on Mark, Binding the Strong Man, fills out Yoder's thinking in a wonderful commentary.

  13. 5 out of 5

    A.J.

    John Howard Yoder does not want to uncover so much the politics of Jesus as much as he wants to show that everything Jesus did was incisively political. Yoders aim is to disengage Jesus from the conceptions that he was a catatonic spiritual teacher whose aim was to mend ones inner struggles and sate ones spiritual ennui. The popular-pietistic understanding of atonement in Protestant circles, the idea that Jesus died for the sins of others through a precise mechanism of debt remission, is equally John Howard Yoder does not want to uncover so much the politics of Jesus as much as he wants to show that everything Jesus did was incisively political. Yoder’s aim is to disengage Jesus from the conceptions that he was a catatonic spiritual teacher whose aim was to mend one’s inner struggles and sate one’s spiritual ennui. The popular-pietistic understanding of atonement in Protestant circles, the idea that Jesus died for the sins of others through a precise mechanism of debt remission, is equally targeted as facile. The Jesus that emerges from Yoder’s reading is a stridently political figure, an insurrectionist who, proclaiming a coming order (the terminology of Basileia tou Theou or “Kingdom of God” could not but have political connotation), was crucified as a threat to the Romans. Of course, Yoder is hardly new in this. And nothing here would be really controversial to New Testament scholars, of which Yoder’s work is merely popularizing. E.P Sanders comes to mind in this regard. Yoder, as a theologian, basically relates this reading of the historical Jesus and applies it to social ethics. Yoder also has little time for the theological readings of Jesus that have employed hermeneutical stratagems to dilute the sharpness of Jesus’ ethics. One cannot underestimate how sweeping this can be. There are a number of other interesting things Yoder does. He grounds the historical Jesus with the Christological Jesus, or what Pannenberg would call the Christologies from below with ones from above. Whether Yoder’s resolution is satisfactory, his project is a uniting of the so-called “Jesus of faith” with the “Jesus of history” radicalizes the Jesus of faith by using the Jesus of history. But for Yoder this category is mistaken completely, they are both the same. Yoder also brooks no tolerance to the idea that Jesus’ crucifixion was ‘caused by the Jews.’ Jewish-Christian self-definition would come up later in his work. It is only this kind of reading of Jesus that can be useful for emancipatory politics.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I am not, strictly speaking a pacifist, and I don't view Constantine or so-called "Constantinianism" in the same way as people like Yoder. However, it is a generally well-argued point Yoder makes regarding the root of Christian social action being in Christ's renunciation of violence AND coercion. For any on the Left or Right who want to use political power to further their social agenda, or who (more likely) are manipulated by the "powers" (politicians, ideologies, structures, etc.) to sanctify I am not, strictly speaking a pacifist, and I don't view Constantine or so-called "Constantinianism" in the same way as people like Yoder. However, it is a generally well-argued point Yoder makes regarding the root of Christian social action being in Christ's renunciation of violence AND coercion. For any on the Left or Right who want to use political power to further their social agenda, or who (more likely) are manipulated by the "powers" (politicians, ideologies, structures, etc.) to sanctify means and goals potentially not so worthy of Jesus, this is a good book for taking a second look at things. Yoder's chief problem is in beginning with his assumptions related to church history, the "purity" of the gospel and the early church in contrast to "post-Constantine," and his Radical Reformation background - and interpreting the Scriptures through these assumptions rather than letting the Scriptures speak for themselves. The effect is to produce confusion or guilt in the naive reader who disagrees: it's hard to disagree with Scripture as a faithful believer. The result is that it becomes a "What would Jesus think?" kind of thing which, of course, Yoder uses the Scriptures to answer more definitively than is really possible. His second problem is that he makes very selective use only of Scriptures that explicitly support his views. He does little or nothing with Scripture examples that contradict his views - even in order to attempt to reconcile the paradox in support of himself. How that differs from how Marcion or Thomas Jefferson chopped and pasted their Bibles to support their views, I don't know. But that isn't to call Yoder a heretic by any means. I actually think his views, while methodologically deficient and theologically incomplete, are extremely well-argued and fit within the parameters of what can indeed be accepted as "A Christian approach" - as opposed to any notion of "THE Christian approach." This is a book worth taking very seriously and doing further Scriptural study on one's own while reading.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Leroy Seat

    This is a most significant book, and one that needs to be read slowly and thought about deeply. John Howard Yoder (1927-97), the premier Mennonite scholar of the twentieth century, made a major contribution to Christian theology/ethics with the publication of this book, and I have profited greatly by reading it again. This book is primarily for Christians. At least, those who are not Christians will doubtlessly not agree with the central themes of the book. But most "liberal" Christians who have This is a most significant book, and one that needs to be read slowly and thought about deeply. John Howard Yoder (1927-97), the premier Mennonite scholar of the twentieth century, made a major contribution to Christian theology/ethics with the publication of this book, and I have profited greatly by reading it again. This book is primarily for Christians. At least, those who are not Christians will doubtlessly not agree with the central themes of the book. But most "liberal" Christians who have an Enlightenment worldview will likely not agree with much of Yoder's book either. When I finished read this book a few minutes ago, it dawned on me that probably the worldview of many contemporary Christians is formed far more on the basis of what they hear on CNN (or, God forbid, on Fox News) or read in "Time" or "Newsweek" than on the basis of what they read and understand about the Bible. Many such people would perhaps realize that that is so by comparing their worldview with that expounded in "The Politics of Jesus."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    Since being published in 1972 this book has been widely recognized as an explanation of anabaptist theology. The books approach is to study the Gospel of Luke and parts of Pauls letter to the Romans to show that Jesus message was one of radical Christian pacifism in behalf of the cause of the week, poor, and disenfranchised. The book makes the case that Jesus had a social agenda that proclaimed the cause of a new society while not using violence to achieve those ends which in turn resulted in Since being published in 1972 this book has been widely recognized as an explanation of anabaptist theology. The book’s approach is to study the Gospel of Luke and parts of Paul’s letter to the Romans to show that Jesus’ message was one of radical Christian pacifism in behalf of the cause of the week, poor, and disenfranchised. The book makes the case that Jesus had a social agenda that proclaimed the cause of a new society while not using violence to achieve those ends which in turn resulted in his crucification -- a punishment used for political rebels. This view of Jesus is generally accepted as being compatible with the thinking of anabaptist Christians because of its emphasis on how Christians live their lives in this world; as opposed to considering the message of Jesus to be strictly spiritual and not concerned with earthly injustices. The Politics of Jesus was ranked by evangelical publication Christianity Today as the 5th most important Christian book of the 20th century.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    I moved between liking this book and not liking it. On the one hand, Yoder is an able thinker and writer who has great faith in the power of God to change people/places by the alternative witness of the church in society. On the other hand, I don't see how forming what amounts to convents and monateries affects the public at-large. I know he insists that it's not sectarianims that he's talking about, but I'm not clear on how his vision works out in the world of laws, law enforcement, and war. I I moved between liking this book and not liking it. On the one hand, Yoder is an able thinker and writer who has great faith in the power of God to change people/places by the alternative witness of the church in society. On the other hand, I don't see how forming what amounts to convents and monateries affects the public at-large. I know he insists that it's not sectarianims that he's talking about, but I'm not clear on how his vision works out in the world of laws, law enforcement, and war. I think John Stackhouse makes some VERY worthwhile counterpoints to Yoder (see Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ian Caveny

    Stanley Hauerwas once claimed that American theology would be forever divided into "pre-Yoder" and "post-Yoder." If only he could have been right! Realizations of Yoder's own personal (sexual) ethics in recent years have sullied his presence in theological circles in recent years, creating a new (complicatedly unfortunate) kind of divide: "Yoder-defenders" and "Yoder-opposers." It is a sad situation. (Hauerwas, of course, would never claim that American theology will be forever divided into Stanley Hauerwas once claimed that American theology would be forever divided into "pre-Yoder" and "post-Yoder." If only he could have been right! Realizations of Yoder's own personal (sexual) ethics in recent years have sullied his presence in theological circles in recent years, creating a new (complicatedly unfortunate) kind of divide: "Yoder-defenders" and "Yoder-opposers." It is a sad situation. (Hauerwas, of course, would never claim that American theology will be forever divided into "pre-Hauerwas" and "post-Hauerwas," and perhaps his ethical integrations of Yoder's insights will last longer than Yoder's own influence...?) It is a sad situation because Hauerwas' praise is so thoroughly merited: The Politics of Jesus is a theological-ethical masterwork in every way, rhetorically discrete and socially savvy. Yoder isn't the smoothest or lyrical of writers (like Hauerwas is), nor is he the most amusing. As a good "university man formed in the third quarter of this [= last] century," he is brusque and to-the-point. He cuts off side-points quickly and aims undistractedly at his central goal, which is the uncovering of the political content of Jesus' radical life-and-message. Speaking in his context as a black sheep already (at least, I'm pretty sure there were no other Anabaptists employed by Notre Dame at the time), Yoder deftly navigates both historical-critical and evangelical approaches to Scripture in order to arrive at a complex, nuanced, holistic picture of Jesus' refutation to the "powers" of First Century political life, whether those "powers" were the Romans, the Pharisees, the high priests, or the Zealots. Yoder's exegesis and observations are so thoroughly insightful that I (who have started reading theology from my contemporaries backward) take them for granted. This is Yoder's greatest legacy, theologically: forcing politically-engaged liberal Protestants to re-assess the centrality of Jesus and His unique death and resurrection, and forcing politically-estranged (at the time, of course) conservative evangelicals to re-assess that same Jesus' political presence. By now, so many of his cultural-hermeneutic insights have become the "ground floor" of Bible-background studies (e.g. C.S. Keener's IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament). Still, there are observations that occasion surprise that should gain more traction: Yoder's explication on why the "Powers" must crucify Jesus and how Jesus' radicalism is a real threat to their "power," his discourse on "power" more generally (contra, I must observe, Michel Foucault), his reading of Romans 13, and his landmark final chapter on Revelation, pre-figuring some of N.T. Wright's observations, all need additional attention (although some has already been brought by figures like Hauerwas). I recently read and reviewed Fleming Rutledge's The Crucifixion, and if I were to say one thing her work needed in addition, it is Yoder's practical, political reading of the crucifixion. (Not that she really needed to add anything to that perfect book!) All this being said, a serious question mark (as mentioned earlier) can be well-placed atop Yoder's doctrine of "radical subordination." It has recently surfaced, and discussed at much depth, that Yoder was a serial sexual abuser. This is a serious contention to his works on ethics. With other "failed" theologians or philosophers or thinkers, we can recognize the allure of pride or fame and perhaps easily pass over their failings. Martin Heidegger strikes me as one such example. Some would discard him because of his relations with the Nazi party, and, yet, Heidegger was never an actual Nazi. He is perhaps best understood (as many academics can be understood) as someone whose selfish, prideful, egoism blinded him to serious wickedness. Academics would be cautious to throw the first stone at him. We can see this too in theology with Karl Barth, whose marital infidelity brings to question his theological work; we seem to have no such trouble with inconsistencies in the marital faithfulness of other intellectuals. But Yoder's insistence in his theology and ethics is a principle of rejecting violence, rejecting power, rejecting, in essence, Nietzsche's "will-to-power." He spent not only his whole life advocating for this claim theologically, but also proclaiming it in his lifestyle (something Hauerwas was often starry-eyed about). Yoder's sexual philandering (and more) was more than just a simple moral failure of a man who presumed himself "great" (like Heidegger's egoism), or than the oft-seen tragedy of infidelity that emerges when thinkers and leaders separate themselves time-and-again from their wives (like Barth's affair). Yoder's sexual indulgences are an epistemological threat to his whole project. If a Mennonite who thought and considered his Christian pacifism so thoroughly couldn't, at the same time, recognize his own, repeated, indiscretions, abuses, and assaults as contradictory to his rigid ethics, are those ethics even valid? Are they even possible? I think Hauerwas has made much work in this regard, salvaging what is salvageable from Yoder's sinking ship (or, to mix metaphors, falling star). But it has left The Politics of Jesus, a great, masterful work, in purgatory, perhaps to be gutted and skinned as a fish, leaving only a skeleton behind on the side of the river while the flesh becomes something useful. One questions, at the end of the day, how the fish really died: was it the exposure to the air, or some mercury consumed long ago? And if it is the latter, should we really eat its meat?

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Yoder's arguments are very compelling and now I understand why many Christians believe the church cannot support war at all in any circumstances. Yoder first argues that Jesus is socially relevant and that the way we are called to be like him is in the realm of social ethics. He concludes by explaining that we are called to the way of the cross, which means giving up any attempt to take control of history and instead obey in a radical way by submitting to suffering.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susie

    Great book for all those who, like me, grew up learning that Jesus primarily wanted to cultivate inner goodness in people. Instead, this book examines how Jesus' ethics were social and political by nature, and that it was always his intention that his followers have a correspondingly challenging, integrated ethic--both inward and outward. SUCH a good read!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joel Morris

    Possibly the most influential book in my spiritual development thus far... its value lies its cunning exposure of some very fundamental assumptions that we make when approaching God and determining what he wants from us. Do not get side-tracked by his seemingly simplistic agenda towards non-violence. It is more nuanced than it appears at first look.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Davis

    A little repetitive and overly academic at times, but this is a very thorough and convincing book explaining the social relevance of Jesus, something I never thought much about before.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Logan Isaac

    In 1972, John Howard Yoder set out, in his Politics of Jesus, to recapitulate a kind of biblical realism as an alternative to the reigning theological framework of his day. The Christian realism of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Ramsey supposed that a solidly scriptural ethic of imitation [of Christ] was an irresponsible model for Christian politics, since it failed to account for the persistence of political states and their right to survive. Biblical realism, on the other hand, sought to take full In 1972, John Howard Yoder set out, in his Politics of Jesus, to recapitulate a kind of “biblical realism” as an alternative to the reigning theological framework of his day. The Christian realism of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Ramsey supposed that a solidly scriptural “ethic of imitation [of Christ]” was an irresponsible model for Christian politics, since it failed to account for the persistence of political states and their right to survive. Biblical realism, on the other hand, “sought to take full account of all the tools of literary and historical criticism, without… letting the Scriptures be taken away from the Church.” Politics, Yoder reminds us in his 1994 reprint, was not fresh research, but merely a summation of work that corrected mainstream Christian ethics. Against Christian realism, Yoder argues throughout Politics that Jesus must be normative for ethics to be distinctively Christian – that his life and ministry does not constitute the avoidance of politics, but are themselves inherently political. This review will briefly recount the structure of the book before proceeding to focus on three distinctive aspects of the book; idolatrous causality, revolutionary subordination, and worldly impermanence. It must be understood that, throughout this work and others, Yoder is working to undermine the accusation that pacifism, while undeniably Biblically grounded, amounts to little more than “prophetic irrelevancy.” The entirety of his Politics of Jesus might be seen as a systematic and concerted reversal of this accusation, effectively implying that for such an accusation to stick, it must also be leveled against Jesus himself. Indeed, “mainstream ethics” necessitated a conviction that Jesus was not the norm, that “Jesus was simply not relevant in any immediate sense to the question of social ethics.” Yoder would argue that the politics of Jesus must be the politics of the Church, such that any Christian politics without Jesus are no politics at all. Structure Over several chapters Yoder develops a Christian ethic that refuses to relegate the life and teachings of Jesus to hopeless idealism. He moves fluidly between theology and exegesis, focusing his exegetical work on Lukan themes of “The Kingdom Coming” (ch.2) and Levitical “Implications of the Jubilee.” (ch.3) The issue of war is dealt with decisively in his fourth chapter (“God Will Fight for Us”) by exegeting a number of Old Testament passages that many pacifists are all too eager to avoid, defeating accusations of Marcionism in pacifist readings of the canon. Confusingly, however, he follows his chapter on war with possibly the shortest exposition on nonviolence in publication (“The Possibility of Nonviolent Resistance”), but may be excused if seen as a short transition from exegesis to theology, for chapters six (“Trial Balance”) onward explore ethical frames made possible if Jesus is taken as normative (ch.7, “The Disciple of Christ and the Way of Jesus”), essays he admits are “fragmentary.” His eighth chapter (“Christ and Power”) quotes his own translation of Hendrik Berkhof’s Dutch text so extensively that it is difficult to ascertain what new idea/s Yoder brings to bear. A compelling concept clearly attributable to Yoder is that of “Revolutionary Subordination,” the subject of his ninth chapter, which he argues via questions around the moral non-being of women and slaves. Later chapters once again incorporate exegetical work amidst his theological reflections, especially the tenth (“Let Every Soul Be Subject”) and eleventh (“Justification by Grace Through Faith”) chapters. Yoder concludes in his twelfth chapter (“The War of the Lamb”) by illustrating how a Niebuhrian ethic of realism that dismisses pacifism for its ineffectiveness is nothing more than an idolatrous attempt to control history. Idolatrous Causality By the time of Yoder’s writing, Niebuhr had rebuked the social gospel movement inaugurated by Walter Rauschenbusch by decrying its inherent humanistic idealism in presuming that the church could affect its own salvation. Yoder is aware of a similar criticism that Niebuhrian ethics level against his own very prominent pacifist convictions. However, Yoder responds by claiming that any attempt to manage global politics and history, by any means and toward any telos, is a failure to trust in the cross as the ultimate form of salvation in history. Yoder therefore combats this secularization of American Christian social ethics by insisting upon the primacy of Jesus for any ethic the Church might embody or espouse. In doing so, Yoder turns the tables on Christian realism by claiming that if pacifism is irrelevant to social ethics, so too is Jesus, for he consistently refused to rely on violence to control his own fate. Furthermore, his fate is determinative for ours as well, which is “the inevitable suffering of those whose only goal it is to be faithful.” The problem of mainstream ethics, then, is that they sacrifice faithfulness for effectiveness; they trade the possibility of suffering for the certainty of survival. Niebuhr, therefore, had simply reinvented the same idealism he had rejected in Rauschenbusch’s social gospel by moving the supposed locus of change from one institutional structure to another – in this case from the charitable social form of the church to the violent machinations of the state. In each case, however, the presence and future of Christ is denied; they are ethics without an eschatology. But in typical Anabaptist fashion, Yoder suggests that institutions were never the answer, whether religious or political; Jesus built not an institution, but a body that has and will suffer on behalf of others. Our end, our telos, is nothing but God, who cannot be controlled. Nothing can bring us to God but Christ in his body. However, structures are here and they are not going away; in fact, “We cannot live with them” and “we cannot live without them.” The only distinctively Christological response to the power of institutions is that of “refusing to support them” on their own terms, “in their self-glorification.” To fail to do so is to fail to exist particularly as the Church. The name Yoder gives the peculiarity of Christian ethics is “revolutionary subordination.” Revolutionary Subordination Right order is centrally important for Yoder, and he contrasts “willing and meaningful” subordination against forceful subjection and passive submission. Women and slaves serve as a case study for him, as they had no moral substance or legal status in the world of the Gospels. Paul and Jesus’ overt and deliberate attention to them is noteworthy in that it presumes that 1) the Christian moral order includes those previously excluded, and that 2) men “in the superordinate position” shared equally in the command to subordination (even to such non-beings). That “the subordinate person in the social order is addressed as a moral agent” was itself revolutionary. An attitude of revolutionary subordination makes a spectacle of the powers, it shames corrupt powers by going the second mile, turning the other cheek, and loving those we have a right to hate. Yoder would agree that power per se is not evil, but “the powers,” being human and fallible, may and do suffer from corruption. Christian response to corruption is limited by the command to love, within which we have little choice but to subordinate ourselves thereto in a manner that honors the dignity of those in power. In Jesus, even slaves enjoyed previously denied moral agency, for “The subordinate person becomes a free ethical agent in the act of voluntarily acceding to subordination in the power of Christ instead of bowing to it either fatalistically or resentfully.” This statement garnered Yoder severe backlash and set himself apart from liberation theologies of his day. What Christ did on the cross was to save humankind from the very disorderliness that makes war thinkable. Christ stepped outside the typical power dynamics that presumed acrimony and animosity by subordinating himself to the powers over him, even to the point of death on a cross. Animosity gives power to the person we hate, for we still desire their attention. The attention Christian realism gave to statecraft represented a kind of idolatry, as it loved violence for survival more than it did suffering for salvation. For death, we will see, is particularly the realm of humans and their institutions, and any denial of its persistence by a realistic ethic is a mark of idolatry. Worldly Impermanence That the Church failed for many centuries to delegitimize slavery has offended modern people, but it ignores the truth behind Christian realist claims that Yoder admits has some merit – Jesus and Paul each saw the world’s passing away as being immanent and unavoidable. Niebuhr used this against pacifist claims, since he saw imitating early Christian ethics as being therefore inadmissible to contemporary ethical inquiry – the world has not passed away as expected, so Jesus must not have anticipated or respected societal need for survival. Far from a fatalistic assent to slavery or gender inequality, Christians may work toward their abolition because, unlike Paul, they have stubbornly refused to pass away as finite human persons and structures should. However, any work against such structures that can distinctively be called “Christian” must reflect a “freedom from needing to smash them, since they are about to crumble anyway.” Jesus did not smash the politics of his day, nor are Christians of any day called to do so. We work within their rebellious nature as fallen structures, remembering that we too are in a similar state. Yoder’s exegetical and theological prowess have trod a path few have followed, “for the gate is narrow and the road is hard.” Jesus did not fight the politics of Rome because he knew it was passing away. The deep irony of Niebuhr’s claim is that Jesus was right! And not just because he was the Messiah; we can see that Rome has passed away, it is obvious that the world of the early Christians has died. Christians need not work toward national survival because such human structures, properly subordinate to God, will all return to dust. To grasp at power and resort to violence to save our lives or our culture is folly, but we may cling to Christ in whom our salvation is secured. Conclusion In the end (and there will be an end to everything human), any ethic that relativizes Jesus does so at the expense of bearing the title “Christian.” Yoder rightly criticizes American social ethics of the past century of having had to assume that because Jesus and the early church thought the world was passing away that they have nothing to offer the contemporary church. However, it was precisely their recognition of worldly impermanence that allowed them to worship Christ instead of Caesar. Every human person and structure is subject to death and is subordinate to Christ. Recognizing this proper ordering is revolutionary in a world that seeks to be permanently relevant (ultimately to itself). People and nations rose from the dust and they shall return thereto in due time. Yoder knew that the stubborn refusal to accept finitude by managing politics and history was a sure sign of idolatry. Attempts to control our telos reveal that our telos is not God, for God cannot be managed. Therefore, any ethic that turns its focus from Christ to Caesar has traded the cross for the sword. Christian ethics must begin and end with Christ; Jesus must be normative for ethics to be distinctively Christian, for his life and teachings do not reflect the avoidance of politics but are themselves inherently political. Our politics are not of this world – our politics are The Politics of Jesus.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Luke Wagner

    John Howard Yoders work The Politics of Jesus has been recommended to me on more than one occasion, and after reading it I can understand why. This book, originally published in 1972, and later revised and updated in 1994, still speaks powerfully today. There have been few books in my life that I have wrestled with, engaged with, and sought to dig deeper into than this book. Yoders insight into Western Christianityprimarily since the time of the Reformation, but also since the beginning of John Howard Yoder’s work “The Politics of Jesus” has been recommended to me on more than one occasion, and after reading it I can understand why. This book, originally published in 1972, and later revised and updated in 1994, still speaks powerfully today. There have been few books in my life that I have wrestled with, engaged with, and sought to dig deeper into than this book. Yoder’s insight into Western Christianity—primarily since the time of the Reformation, but also since the beginning of Christendom—and how the Church in the West has understood Christian ethics and the impact of the divine and human Jesus of Nazareth on Christian ethics was both eye-opening and saddening. Anyone who is the least interested in or stirred by the topic or Christian ethics, or the lifestyle of a Christian in the midst of secular society, or the meaning of Jesus’ lifestyle as it pertains to the political or social realm should pick up this book. Much of Yoder’s goal in this work is to peel back the presuppositions and misconceptions that interpreters of Scripture have been bringing to the text for centuries, and rather, allowing—as best we can—for the text to speak for itself, and to indicate the relevance of both Jesus’ lifestyle and teaching, how this relevance was carried forth in the works of Paul the Apostle, and how this relevance has been tweaked, changed, and even entirely forgotten within much of mainline Christianity in the West. Above all, this is a book concerning the biblical text; it is exegetical and hermeneutical, and with any book revolving around biblical interpretation, there will be much discussion and debate. Yoder is not the final word on the subject or Christian ethics or Jesus as being political or socially relevant, and not should he be. But if the way of Jesus is to be normative whatsoever for his followers—and I believe it is—then I would encourage many, if not all, Christ-followers to consider how the ethics of Jesus himself point us to how we are to live within society.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Read this for a college religion class. Though I appreciate what Yoder is trying to accomplish, as a non-religion major--and a non-religious person--I did not at all enjoy reading this book. I do not want this to sound like a hateful review--there are many people whom I think would really like this book, but it is not a light read. I feel like I was supposed to have a lot of background knowledge about Christianity, which I simply did not have and barely was willing to obtain. For any religiously Read this for a college religion class. Though I appreciate what Yoder is trying to accomplish, as a non-religion major--and a non-religious person--I did not at all enjoy reading this book. I do not want this to sound like a hateful review--there are many people whom I think would really like this book, but it is not a light read. I feel like I was supposed to have a lot of background knowledge about Christianity, which I simply did not have and barely was willing to obtain. For any religiously oriented intellectual, I this may be an interesting and thought provoking read. I also took issue with what seems to be incorrect use of semicolons, and the overall formating of sentence structure, and the way things are often written extremely confusingly. Again, my respect to Yoder, and my encouragements anyone seeking to read this book. It is great if you are looking for a complex and unique religious read Jesus, society and the bible--and if you have a solid understanding of the bible (I can see how there are some ppl who would love this book).

  26. 5 out of 5

    Timothy

    I read this book back in the mid 70's. I was still of draft age and the Vietnam War was still outstanding in my mind. Although I never adopted the pacifist stand that its Anabaptist author advocates it is still one of the best expositions of Christian pacifism written for the general Christian reader. Yoder makes a very good argument that this is authentic Christianity. This book still stands up today as one of the clearest presentations of that view. I was always too much a pragmatist and, I read this book back in the mid 70's. I was still of draft age and the Vietnam War was still outstanding in my mind. Although I never adopted the pacifist stand that its Anabaptist author advocates it is still one of the best expositions of Christian pacifism written for the general Christian reader. Yoder makes a very good argument that this is authentic Christianity. This book still stands up today as one of the clearest presentations of that view. I was always too much a pragmatist and, perhaps an existentialist to follow Yoder though.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tommy Johnson

    Maybe the most important book Ive read in a long time. Although written almost 50 years ago, it provides solid groundwork to help answer modern questions by putting scriptures, that are often today misunderstood, in their proper context. What is / isnt the churchs role in the political realm? How was Jesus and the early church political? Why does the NT mention socioeconomic inequalities but not outright condemn them? What is the proper context of often misused scriptures about the church and Maybe the most important book I’ve read in a long time. Although written almost 50 years ago, it provides solid groundwork to help answer modern questions by putting scriptures, that are often today misunderstood, in their proper context. What is / isn’t the church’s role in the political realm? How was Jesus and the early church political? Why does the NT mention socioeconomic inequalities but not outright condemn them? What is the proper context of often misused scriptures about the church and state, such as Romans 13? This is the best book I’ve read to understand these questions and more.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Great book for all those who, like me, grew up learning that Jesus primarily wanted to cultivate inner goodness in people. Instead, this book examines how Jesus' ethics were social and political by nature, and that it was always his intention that his followers have a correspondingly challenging, integrated ethic--both inward and outward. SUCH a good read!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Splendid! Yoder does REAL exegesis and historical criticism in this seminal work. Should be required reading for seminary students and anyone seeking a higher understanding of the social impact of the Gospel in the world.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andrew McNeely

    Great arguments made by Yoder - theres plenty here to wrestle with. The cross of the Christian is the price which he or she pays for the social and political nonconformity which the King requires. The kingdom of God, then, is the new social order in which the faithful take up in the here and now. Great arguments made by Yoder - there’s plenty here to wrestle with. The cross of the Christian is the price which he or she pays for the social and political nonconformity which the King requires. The kingdom of God, then, is the new social order in which the faithful take up in the here and now.

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