Things Hold Together: John Howard Yoder's Trinitarian Theology of Culture

By Koyzis, David T. | Journal of Markets & Morality, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

Things Hold Together: John Howard Yoder's Trinitarian Theology of Culture


Koyzis, David T., Journal of Markets & Morality


Things Hold Together: John Howard Yoder's Trinitarian Theology of Culture

Branson Parler

Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario: Herald Press, 2012 (264 pages)

Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder is best remembered as the author of The Politics of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), an effort to set forth a distinctive christological ethic predicated on the assumption that Jesus' life is normative for our social and political life. Although Yoder's efforts have been criticized over the decades by, especially, Reformed theologians, Branson L. Parler, a theologian at Kuyper College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has written an engaging and sympathetic analysis of Yoder's thought that is well worth reading and reflecting on.

Parler's principal aim in this volume is to dispel what he views as misconceptions Reformed Christians have concerning Yoder. In so doing he gives almost a Kuyperian reading of Yoder, showing how seriously the latter takes creation and its redemption in Jesus Christ. In Yoder, creation and redemption are continuous, such that "what God desires of humanity's cultural life in creation does not contradict what God desires of humanity's cultural life in redemption and reconciliation" (25). Parler is at pains to emphasize this because Yoder's critics, perhaps reading him through his better-known protege Stanley Hauerwas, have often accused him of focusing too much on the church at the expense of the larger society.

After setting out his thesis in the introductory chapter, Parler surprisingly departs from the principal subject of his study and devotes his second chapter to an analysis of Reinhold and Richard Niebuhr on Christ, creation, and culture. Admitting that his readers might well skip to chapter 3 to pick up the main line of his argument, Parler takes up a topic that might better have been dealt with in a separate volume. Nevertheless, this chapter is valuable in that it shows rather convincingly that the Niebuhr brothers, often compared favorably to Yoder, are less orthodox than is commonly assumed. In this respect, the Niebuhrs, despite their vaunted Augustinianism, in reality conflate creation and sin, thereby leaving us lacking "any criteria by which to judge faithfulness or unfaithfulness to [our] Lord" (68).

In chapter 3, Parler responds to critics who charge Yoder with discounting creedal orthodoxy. Given Yoder's well-known criticism of Constantinianism, and given the Emperor Constantine's role in the Council of Nicaea, Yoder would seem to be a dissident from the creeds. Not so, says Parler. Although Yoder did find the early ecumenical councils procedurally flawed due to emperors' inappropriate influence, Yoder was far from despising the creeds: "Nicea and Chalcedon want to be faithful to Scripture; so does Yoder. Yoder takes the divinity of Jesus seriously; so does Nicea. Yoder takes the humanity of Jesus seriously; so does Chalcedon" (99).

In chapter 4, we see Yoder emphasizing the continuities between the Old and New Testaments rather than the discontinuities that critics associate with the Anabaptist tradition. For Yoder, the move from Old to New takes us, not from law to grace, but "from grace to grace" (105). Accordingly, there is no dualism between the respective ethics of old and new covenants. God is concerned with the whole life of his people in both, including politics, economics, and society. Here Parler raises a major issue on which Yoder most differs from the Reformed tradition, namely, his conviction that Jesus' humanity is normative for our humanity. This troubles Reformed Christians for two principal reasons.

First and foremost, Jesus' work in salvation was singular and cannot be repeated by his followers. Yes, Jesus calls his disciples to take up their cross and follow him, but the deaths of the martyrs are not redemptive in the same way as Jesus' death because Jesus is the unique Son of God. Without sufficient clarity on this point, one might be tempted to embrace a moral example view of the atonement, an error accepted by so many theologians in the past. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Things Hold Together: John Howard Yoder's Trinitarian Theology of Culture
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.