John Howard Yoder
Mennonite theologian/ethicist John Howard Yoder was one of the most influential theologians of the latter part of the twentieth century. Believing that pacifism is inseparable from Christian theology and practices, he tirelessly preached and taught this good news to any who would listen, first reaching a wide audience when he published The Politics of Jesus in 1972, a strong defense of Christian pacifism and critique of Constantinianism. Yoder had a distinctive reading of Christian history. He followed most Anabaptists in arguing that while the early church subscribed to Christian pacifism, the fourth century church compromised with Constantine and went to war. The church succumbed to Constantinianism. Constantinianism is an arrangement in which the church’s attitude towards violence and money shifts away from the New Testament pattern of pacifism and suspicion of wealth, towards a “responsible” ethic suitable to dominating and ruling people who do not confess Jesus as Lord. Yet Yoder located the most prominent sign of unfaithfulness in the early pacifist church, which shunned the Jewishness of its faith in favor of respectability and power. Though a Mennonite himself, he would even castigate Mennonites to the extent that they have left the diaspora for a settled and compromised existence with the powers.
Some of his other works include, The Christian Witness to the State (1964), The Original Revolution (1972), Nevertheless (1972), Priestly Kingdom (1985), The Royal Priesthood (1994), and For the Nations. In April 2009 Brazos Press will release Yoder’s Christian Attitudes to War, Peace and Revolution, edited by Ted Koontz and Andy Alexis-Baker (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2009).