Monday, March 5, 2012

John Howard Yoder: Supposed Rabid Political Sectarian

"[The] notion of 'rights' borne by each person is the best way we have yet found to interpret in our time, and to defend against encroachment by the authorities, the dignity of every person as created by God in his image. . . .

"Constitutional democracy . . . provides a wholesome way to discipline the innate tendency of the bearers of power to abuse the prerogatives of their office. . . .

"[The] system of checks and balances represents more adequately than does any modern alternatives the biblical vision for a government that acknowledges its limits and provides to its subjects the instruments whereby it may itself be held in line. . . .

"If [the natural moral law] really were evident to all, there would be no argument. That should invite to greater modesty anyone making the claim to interpret revelation with final authority. It tends to mean that when Christians converse with their fellow citizens in the public arena, they properly should express their values in terms the neighbors can follow. . . .

"[Looking] back at these developments taken all together[,] we may speak of them as cultural transformation under the pressure of the gospel, or as humanization. Some socially conservative Christians, for reasons which they have not yet thought through carefully, have come to speak as if 'humanism' were opposed to Christian commitment. . . .

"Yet we must refuse to concede 'ownership' of the 'human' to those who deny creation and redemption. The God of creation, making humankind in his image, was the first humanist. The story of the 'humanization' of Western culture -- limping, imperfect as it is, but real -- is part of the work of the God of Abraham, Father of Jesus, partly done through his body, the church. That humanization of cultures is not the same as the salvation of individual souls, nor is it the same as the praise of God in gatherings for worship, nor is it the same as the coming of the ultimate kingdom of God, but it is a fruit of the gospel for which we should be grateful, and for whose furtherance we are responsible. The fact that persons believing in other value systems share in the humanization process, and that some of them may overvalue it as if it could do away with evil, is not reason for followers of Jesus to disavow it or leave it to unbelievers to carry out."

--John Howard Yoder, The End of Sacrifice: The Capital Punishment Writings of John Howard Yoder, ed. John C. Nugent (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2011), 121-122, 125-126

4 comments:

  1. Love it...especially the last quote!

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  2. Which becomes don't kill killers which becomes life means life which becomes overcrowded prisons which becomes rapists and murderers released early which becomes breakdown of implied social contract whereby the 'state' provides security for its' citizens which becomes vigilante violence or naked rule of power which becomes oh no Mr Yoder, a Christian ethic is most definitely not a humanist ethic which at the least suggests the perfectibility of the human and a consequent over valuing of bare human life as valuable in itself which becomes both overpopulation and consumer abortions, and finally through environmental collapse and feral competition for dwindling resources that 'consummation devoutly to be wished for.' Still we all get high through living our lie, so pass me what you smoke cause I sure need a toke.

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  3. Yoder says some similar things about the justice system in The Politics of Jesus. He basically makes the case that the checks and balances of the constitution and courts make legal proceedings fundamentally more ethical than war for Christians.

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