The Christian witness in the earthly city

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.

 

Abstract:

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?

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