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The Politics of Jesus

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  2,547 Ratings  ·  97 Reviews
Using the text of the New Testament, this engaging study critically examines the traditional portrait of Jesus as an apolitical figure and clarifies the true impact of Jesus' life, work, and teachings on his disciples' social behavior. This second edition is updated and expanded.
Paperback, 2nd Edition, 257 pages
Published June 9th 1994 by Eerdmans (first published December 1972)
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Aug 30, 2012 Sharon added it
I don't usually review books that I didn't finish, but in this case I thought the reason I didn't finish it was relevant to a review.

Yoder asserts that complete non-violence is an ethical imperative for every follower of Jesus. In his view, noble ends cannot justify violence. Instead, we should act peacefully and trust the outcome of all our actions to God. We are obligated to lives of peace, fairness and love, and no end-goal can abrogate those obligations. At all times, we must put the welfare
Jan 18, 2013 Joanne rated it did not like it
Yoder is apparently regarded as one of the pre-eminent theologians of the twentieth century, I think because of his emphasis on pacifism and his questioning of the Church's relationship with government and political authority. Perhaps his ideas have been so absorbed into the Christian mainstream that I am not struck by their novelty. Certainly his writing is abysmal: meandering and circling back upon itself, full of double negatives and endless subordinate clauses, heavily footnoted with long wa ...more
Jul 17, 2009 Aeisele rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
I think I've been close to considering becoming a pacificist for a while, but Yoder moves me that much closer. And the reasons for this have very little to do with philosophical argumentation, i.e. I would not become a pacificist as an "intellectual" position. They have much more do to with my Christian convictions that our behavior ought to be modelled on the form of Jesus' life and ministry. Yoder, first of all, convinces completely that this form of life was political in character (crucifixio ...more
Nick Klagge
Jan 24, 2011 Nick Klagge rated it really liked it
Shelves: christianity
I got interested in Yoder through Stanley Hauerwas and decided to read this book. For some reason, probably at least partly bias because of the Amish last name, I had assumed that this book would be simple and folksy. It is far, far from that--even if its message is reasonably simple, Yoder's style is heavily-footnoted, erudite academic (which I don't mind). In fact, I learned six new words from this book, which may be a record:


The main
marcus miller
Jan 29, 2011 marcus miller rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
I tried reading this when I was in college. I remember bogging down somewhere in the middle and never finishing the book. Reading it 30 years later I found the book much more understandable which says much more about me and where I was at in college than it does about John Howard Yoder and his writing. If I understand him correctly, Yoder states that we should read the New Testament through the person of Jesus and that we should pay attention to the political dimensions of his message. Some of m ...more
Jacob Aitken
While I think this book is wrong on several levels, it marked a valuable turning point in Evangelical ethical reflection. To say Jesus's message was political is commonplace today. It wasn't when Yoder wrote.

Thesis 1: Jesus’s ministry has a political claim that we often hide from ourselves (Yoder 2).

Yoder is against a “Creation Ethic” (8). While his primary target is natural law ethics, he also lists “situation ethics” under the same label: we discern the right be studying the realities around u
Apr 09, 2014 Spencer rated it it was amazing
I am rereading this for my dissertation on James McClendon, a Southern Baptist theologian that regarded reading this book to be a "second conversion" in his faith.

This book came out in the heyday of Nienuhr-style "realist" Christian political engagement, which ended up supporting the status quo on a lot of issues, namely race and economic injustice. "Realism" meant compromise. Yoder's study, at the very minimum, demonstrates that Jesus was enacting a new political strategy for liberation throug
Feb 09, 2013 Andrew rated it liked it
I am not, strictly speaking a pacifist, and I don't view Constantine or so-called "Constantinianism" in the same way as people like Yoder. However, it is a generally well-argued point Yoder makes regarding the root of Christian social action being in Christ's renunciation of violence AND coercion. For any on the Left or Right who want to use political power to further their social agenda, or who (more likely) are manipulated by the "powers" (politicians, ideologies, structures, etc.) to sanctify ...more
Leroy Seat
May 20, 2012 Leroy Seat rated it it was amazing
This is a most significant book, and one that needs to be read slowly and thought about deeply.

John Howard Yoder (1927-97), the premier Mennonite scholar of the twentieth century, made a major contribution to Christian theology/ethics with the publication of this book, and I have profited greatly by reading it again.

This book is primarily for Christians. At least, those who are not Christians will doubtlessly not agree with the central themes of the book. But most "liberal" Christians who have a
Jul 09, 2012 Michael rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up
I have exhausted my reading of Christian pacifists. I got about 20 pages into this book and realized I had made an mistake. Mr. Yoder--an Anabaptist and pacifist--posits the Jesus was a complete pacifist, and that those who call themselves Christians should be pacifists as well.

I object. As I said in an earlier book review (Toward a Theology of Peace), I'm all for peace, but let's not kid ourselves about who God is or the world He made for us to live in. I admit I find Anabaptists a trifle anno
Clif Hostetler
Mar 09, 2012 Clif Hostetler rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
Since being published in 1972 this book has been widely recognized as an explanation of anabaptist theology. The book’s approach is to study the Gospel of Luke and parts of Paul’s letter to the Romans to show that Jesus’ message was one of radical Christian pacifism in behalf of the cause of the week, poor, and disenfranchised. The book makes the case that Jesus had a social agenda that proclaimed the cause of a new society while not using violence to achieve those ends which in turn resulted in ...more
Aug 18, 2013 A.J. rated it really liked it
John Howard Yoder does not want to uncover so much the politics of Jesus as much as he wants to show that everything Jesus did was incisively political. Yoder’s aim is to disengage Jesus from the conceptions that he was a catatonic spiritual teacher whose aim was to mend one’s inner struggles and sate one’s spiritual ennui. The popular-pietistic understanding of atonement in Protestant circles, the idea that Jesus died for the sins of others through a precise mechanism of debt remission, is equa ...more
After reading Christian Witness to the State I felt like re-reading this book. The re-read confirmed that this as one of my all time favorite books. Yoder's thesis is rather simple: Jesus Christ is the norm for Christian ethics. He is responding to the argument, made by many Christians, that Jesus' ethic, his way of life, is just not practical or was never intended to be the way that Christians live. Yoder makes no claim at this being a full systematic study, but the ground he does cover in maki ...more
Jun 13, 2011 Trevor rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
I moved between liking this book and not liking it. On the one hand, Yoder is an able thinker and writer who has great faith in the power of God to change people/places by the alternative witness of the church in society. On the other hand, I don't see how forming what amounts to convents and monateries affects the public at-large. I know he insists that it's not sectarianims that he's talking about, but I'm not clear on how his vision works out in the world of laws, law enforcement, and war.

I t
Scott Cox
Jan 18, 2016 Scott Cox rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, theology
Modern theology, as with modern philosophy, can be characterized as both dialogue and response. John Howard Yoder published “The Politics of Jesus” in 1972. At the time, Yoder’s Christian pacifism can be seen as a response to Reinhold Neibuhr’s view of Christian realism (“Moral Man and Immoral Society”) wherein liberal neo-orthodox theology had accepted a “just war” theology in an effort to combat the evils of Adolph Hitler and Nazism. In response, Yoder’s landmark work attempts to utilize a “Bi ...more
Noah Adams
Feb 28, 2014 Noah Adams rated it it was amazing
No matter what you believe about Christianity and politics, social responsibility, and pacifism, this book is a challenging and interesting read. His argument is both convincing and convicting. He challenges the idea that obedience to Christ and following him is some sort of higher spirituality. There is a direct calling to live and behave in a certain way - the way that Jesus modeled and taught. Personally, I found the first few chapters particularly invigorating, insightful, and challenging. C ...more
Jul 24, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Yoder's arguments are very compelling and now I understand why many Christians believe the church cannot support war at all in any circumstances. Yoder first argues that Jesus is socially relevant and that the way we are called to be like him is in the realm of social ethics. He concludes by explaining that we are called to the way of the cross, which means giving up any attempt to take control of history and instead obey in a radical way by submitting to suffering.
Joel Morris
Aug 09, 2007 Joel Morris rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: humans
Possibly the most influential book in my spiritual development thus far... its value lies its cunning exposure of some very fundamental assumptions that we make when approaching God and determining what he wants from us.

Do not get side-tracked by his seemingly simplistic agenda towards non-violence. It is more nuanced than it appears at first look.
Paul Batz
Apr 19, 2016 Paul Batz rated it really liked it
While this is not a perfect book, I was profoundly challenged by its central thesis. According to Yoder, Jesus' message was political; the terms he used were political; his actions were political; the community he formed was political. Jesus is less "spiritual" than I originally thought. But how, exactly, is Jesus political? What does his politics include?

Central to Yoder's argument is his belief in Jesus' pacifistic message. Apparently, Jesus wasn't one for violence. Accordingly, this point sho
Aug 23, 2015 Scott rated it liked it
3 1/2 stars. The book said a great deal that makes excellent sense, and provided a lot of great insights to deepen the slightly Anabaptist leanings of my my own beliefs. However, detracting points were that he:

1) Spent entirely too much time in dialog with scholarly Biblical critics, thus wasting valuable opportunities to provide practical insights that the Christian could be living out today, and why. I suppose this is understandable, given that it was a quasi-scholarly book.

2) Went into a disc
Jun 25, 2012 Davis rated it liked it
A little repetitive and overly academic at times, but this is a very thorough and convincing book explaining the social relevance of Jesus, something I never thought much about before.
Johnna Sturgeon
Jul 04, 2014 Johnna Sturgeon rated it really liked it
This is an enormously challenging read for the non-specialist but worth expending the stamina to get through it. Yoder's central argument is familiar to readers of many holiness, evangelical, or radical reformation traditions: Jesus really did mean for his followers to practice the ethics he taught and exemplified, and those ethics were not simply predicated on a belief that the world was about to end and therefore to be considered irrelevant by moderns. Where Yoder departs from some other evang ...more
Oct 18, 2016 Leonardo marked it as to-keep-ref
Entre los teólogos contemporáneos, fue John Howard Yoder el que, en The Politics of Jesus (1972), condenó este compromiso de la Iglesia en el siglo iv con el emperador Constantino, considerándolo un funesto alejamiento del pacifismo y de la desconfianza hacia la riqueza del Nuevo Testamento, un alejamiento hacia una ética «responsable» apropiada para las clases dominantes que no reconocían a Jesús como el Señor. Yoder llamó «constantinismo» a este acuerdo por el que el Estado y la Iglesia se apo ...more
Logan Isaac
Sep 23, 2015 Logan Isaac rated it it was amazing
In 1972, John Howard Yoder set out, in his Politics of Jesus, to recapitulate a kind of “biblical realism” as an alternative to the reigning theological framework of his day. The Christian realism of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Ramsey supposed that a solidly scriptural “ethic of imitation [of Christ]” was an irresponsible model for Christian politics, since it failed to account for the persistence of political states and their right to survive. Biblical realism, on the other hand, “sought to take ...more
Jan 05, 2015 Jonathan rated it really liked it
Shelves: all
In The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder wrote a controversial book that covers many ideas worth discussing. I understand why some Christians have attacked the book, but the actual contents weren't at all what I was expecting based on their attacks. Instead, I saw a surprising theme develop, the idea that "God is in control", from which all of our actions proceed accordingly. I was challenged by Yoder's call to see nonviolent actions and other Christ-dictated responses not as the most effecti ...more
Rodney Farrell Sr
Jan 26, 2013 Rodney Farrell Sr rated it liked it
First I must say that Eerdmans Publishing dropped the ball by not editing JHY’s writing to give us non-academic-layman better insight to the thesis and discussion of each essay. The Politics of Jesus is a compendium of essays and conference presentations causing the flow of thought and clarification to be disjointed. With the second edition one would think that the editors would have cleaned up the writing - JHY added more clarification using Epilogues at the end of each chapter for some relief ...more
Mar 22, 2010 Larry rated it really liked it
This is, in many ways, a foundational book for Christians, and has been influential among those who might be called new evangelicals. Yoder does a good job in pointing out the many ways in which the ministry of Jesus involved a confrontation with the political principalities and powers present in 1st Century Judea.

In my opinion the latter chapters are stronger than the earlier. The book is polemical in nature against those who claim that Jesus was apolitical or that his ethic presupposed his ea
Feb 05, 2013 Christopher rated it it was amazing
My summary:

The issue at stake is how humans are to obtain good ends. Yoder rejects any strategy that would use illegitimate means to gain control of history and bring about good ends because Jesus himself rejected this (genuine and tempting) option. Illegitimate means are any and all that contradict the life (ethic) of Jesus and the way of the cross. But Yoder doesn’t leave the discussion here; instead, he pushes beyond this point and challenges the assumption that it is appropriate to for human
Apr 20, 2010 J.D. rated it really liked it
This was a book I've been wanting to read for quite a while so I definitely went in with high expectations. As I read through the introduction, I was extremely happy to find out that this would not be a book that simply perpetuated(or supported those who perpetuate) the social justice Jesus. In my opinion this does what many who support this do in providing for a narrow Jesus who has a very one dimensional agenda. Yoder makes it very clear that it will be a thorough study and will not settle for ...more
Jul 01, 2012 Aaron rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual, political
This book took me just under two years to read. I read a number of other books during that time, but John Howard Yoder's writing is so rich and full (and technical) that I found myself reading a few pages when I had a few minutes, and then re-reading them, or chewing on it for a week or two before picking it back up again.

I read the revised addition which contained the original book plus additional commentary at the end of each chapter. I really enjoyed reading the original plus updates, I thoug
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Yoder was a Christian theologian, ethicist, and Biblical scholar best known for his radical Christian pacifism, his mentoring of future theologians such as Stanley Hauerwas, his loyalty to his Mennonite faith, and his 1972 magnum opus, "The Politics of Jesus".
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