John H. Yoder as Augustinian Interlocutor
Presented at conference on “Assessing the Theological Legacy of John Howard Yoder,” University of Notre Dame, 7-9 March 2002
For final published version see chapter 11 in Ollenburger and Gerber Koontz, eds., A Mind Patient and Untamed: Assessing John Howard Yoder’s Contributions to Theology Ethics and Peacemaking, Cascadia Publishing, 2004.
Intriguingly, both Augustine of Hippo and John Howard Yoder ended their long reflections about the role of the church in the world at the same point — exhorting Christians to follow the model of Jeremiah’s exiles in Babylon. This is no a mere coincidence. Augustine’s last word on how the “heavenly city” of Christians still on pilgrimage amid the “earthly city” has served Christian traditions in the West not so much as a final answer but rather as a definitive statement of our question. Over against the putative Augustinianism of Reinhold Niebuhr, Yoder’s pacifist, ecclesial social ethic can thus be construed as a late and rival answer to the question that Augustine did so much to sharpen but ultimately left hanging — just how are Christians to seek the peace of the city?