Wednesday, August 25, 2010

John Howard Yoder on God's Activity in History, and Sounding a Lot Like Jenson

"Radical reformation and Judaism have in common that they see God as active in correlation with historical change and criticism more than with sanctifying the present. For one tack of socio-cultural analysis, it is possible to distinguish 'religion' as that which sanctifies and celebrates life as it is, things as they are, the personal cycle of life from birth to death and the annual cycle of the sun and the culture from spring to winter. Over against this understanding of 'religion', the category of 'history' represents the morally meaningful particular processes, which may not go in a straight line but at least go somewhere; they are non-cyclical, stable, repetitive.

"Such a blunt pair of prior categories is far too simple to deal with many important distinctions we need to make: yet there is something to it. Where it does fit, we will find majority Christianity on the 'religion' side, and on the 'history' side we will find the Jews, radical Protestants, and (today) the theologies of liberation.

"This means that God is not only spoken about and prayed to as the One who once acted. God is expected to keep on acting in particular identifiable events within history, in discernible and in fact to some extent even predictable ways. The way God acts will be the same, yet will continue to challenge and to change. Salvation or wholeness or peace will come, often at great cost for God's best friends and at the price of surprise, paradox and humiliation for those who felt the power game was already clear."

--John Howard Yoder, The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited (edited by Michael G. Cartwright and Peter Ochs; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), p. 108


  1. How do you hear this sounding a lot like Jenson? Maybe the Jenson of Story and Promise, but not really of Systematic Theology. Thoughts?

  2. Hm, that's an interesting thought. I read Jenson's ST more than a year ago, while for the past four months I have ready his work between 1970 and 1995 (though I have also read most of the essays and articles he has written in the past decade). Am I projecting his earlier self onto his later? Tell me more of what you mean.