October 17, 2008

The Politics of Jesus

As I previously posted, one the required texts for Stassen's class I am taking at Fuller was John Howard Yoder's The Politics of Jesus. I read this book about six years ago and it effected me in huge ways! Things were so busy this week that I had very little time to re-read the book for class. But I had to have it read by tonight. If you're familiar with the book, you'll appreciate the undertaking. It is a dense book! But still an immensely formative book for me and one that I love! So, below is my brief synopsis of the scope of the book (How do you do this in 300 words or less, really?!) and it's application to our class conversation. Please offer your thoughts!

Jesus’ politics are in short, submission to the authority of God–as understood primarily through the lens of the Old Testament–in all realms of life, most significantly in how we organize ourselves as the Church. The politics that Jesus embodied evoke the supremacy of God. In our service to the Creator, we seek to be the servant to all of creation. The politics of Jesus therefore require the community of those that follow him to seek equity, justice and a wholeness that lacks any semblance of violence.

I do believe that Yoder succeeds in displaying the political nature of Jesus’ life and teaching. The Politics of Jesus offers a thorough analysis of the Gospel of Luke to prove his point. As well, Yoder surveys Old Testament texts to display Jesus’ political motivations. And he examines Pauline material to defend his argument that the Early Church was animated by Jesus’ politics as well. These, along with his explanation of the contexts within which each segment of Scripture was written make his argument convincing.

It is also must be stated that Yoder provides a convincing argument for the application of Jesus’ politics today. In regards to pacifism, he shares it’s nonviolent ethic, but he does not encourage the kind of passive, social withdrawal that it is often associated with it. Rather, he advocates a rigorous social engagement. This is most evident when Yoder sites Berkhoff’s, Christ and the Powers. But it is a social engagement that “plays by it’s own rules” rather than being subject to the Powers that be. In this way, Yoder argues Jesus’ ethic to be most similar a just peacemaking theory since just peacemaking at least assumes an alternative to violence is possible, whereas just war theory does not give much regard to nonviolent options.


brooke said...

Sounds good. I like the idea of pacifism in conjunction with social engagement. Those throughout history who truly made a difference using non-violence were surely socially engaged and not just passively letting others or the government accomplish change for them.

Jason Evans said...

I agree, Brooke. Unfortunately, many are not aware of the successes of nonviolent movements. In comparison to wars, nonviolent change is terribly under represented. I'm certain you'll change that with your first opus. ;)

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