The End of Sacrifice: Capital Punishment Writings of John Howard Yoder

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He basically makes the case that the checks and balances of the constitution and courts make legal proceedings fundamentally more ethical than war for Christians. That should invite to greater modesty anyone making the claim to interpret revelation with final authority.

It tends to mean that when Christians converse with their fellow citizens in the public arena, they properly should express their values in terms the neighbors can follow.

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Some socially conservative Christians, for reasons which they have not yet thought through carefully, have come to speak as if 'humanism' were opposed to Christian commitment. The God of creation, making humankind in his image, was the first humanist. The story of the 'humanization' of Western culture -- limping, imperfect as it is, but real -- is part of the work of the God of Abraham, Father of Jesus, partly done through his body, the church. That humanization of cultures is not the same as the salvation of individual souls, nor is it the same as the praise of God in gatherings for worship, nor is it the same as the coming of the ultimate kingdom of God, but it is a fruit of the gospel for which we should be grateful, and for whose furtherance we are responsible.

The fact that persons believing in other value systems share in the humanization process, and that some of them may overvalue it as if it could do away with evil, is not reason for followers of Jesus to disavow it or leave it to unbelievers to carry out. John C. Michael Thompson March 5, at PM.

Anonymous March 6, at AM. Nathan Smith March 8, at PM. Newer Post Older Post Home. Subscribe to: Post Comments Atom. Mi Yodea? Mi yodea? And, as it happens, God is.

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So that is the overarching question for us as we practice theology: Who knows? Preview this item Preview this item. Through sophisticated biblical, sociological, and historical analysis Yoder demonstrates that capital punishment has always been a sacred sacrificial rite performed by religious specialists or public servants. Since the death of Jesus brought a decisive end to all sacrifices for sin, Yoder argues, Christians should proclaim its abolition. Read more Allow this favorite library to be seen by others Keep this favorite library private.

Find a copy in the library Finding libraries that hold this item The End of Sacrifice brings together four decades of John Howard Yoder's published and unpublished writings on capital punishment. Reviews User-contributed reviews Add a review and share your thoughts with other readers.

The End of Sacrifice: The Capital Punishment Writings of John Howard Yoder

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Cancel Forgot your password? Print book : English View all editions and formats. Yoder, John Howard. The state, they reasoned, exercised precisely the kind of coercive control that they decried in the institution of slavery. The nonresistants saw this to mean nonretaliation but they also extrapolated a political position in which the rejection of violence necessarily implied a renunciation of government, because human government relied on force to accomplish its purposes.

Christian Theory 43 come. The political implications are obvious. Christoyannopoulos still speaks, however, in terms of revolution, suggesting that it comes about by example and not force, requires repentance, and cultivates communities characterized by love, patience, and forgiveness—not just for one another but also for outcasts.


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That is, the very existence of the church is, in itself, a political statement. The apocalyptic eschatology that Christoyannopoulos associates with Christian anarchism articulates the hope that those who eschew violence, even if that disavowal leads to their own death, will ultimately be vindicated in the end.

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Ultimate effectiveness is pushed into an expected end times that will see justice done and all wrongs righted. Ultimately, for Christoyannopoulos and the kind of Christian anarchism he is describing, pacifism is a viable option because of a fervent belief that God will vindicate the martyrs and justice will be restored. But Christoyannopoulos does not consider him an anarchist as such because he had a theological place for the state—in other words, like postanarchists such as Todd May and Saul Newman, Yoder theorizes the state differently than classical anarchism insofar as his critique of the state does not call for an outright abolition of the state.

The state apparatus, problematic as it might be, serves a restraining purpose, and to call for its wholesale dissembly would be to foist upon millions of people an anarchism for which they are not prepared. It is in this sense that I think Yoder anticipated, in a theological key, a shift in anarchist thought. Postanarchism is not necessarily pacifist—at least not on the personal level— but it is to some extent predicated on an ethics of nonviolence.

Yoder does not directly engage the poststructuralist thinkers that inform postanarchism to any significant extent. But Yoder does not begin with a poststructuralist critique and then explore the political possibilities as does Todd May , nor does he begin with anarchism and then interrogate it in light of poststructuralist developments Saul Newman and Andrew Koch.

He also does not begin with activist practice and later find a connection to the poststructuralist critique David Graeber and Richard Day.


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None of these ways in which thinkers have arrived at postanarchism can be applied to Yoder. Yoder identifies these powers as the religious, political, and intellectual structures that make our lives intelligible. This is not to deny that there are points of concentration of power, or, to keep with the spatial image, points where various and perhaps bolder lines intersect.

Power does not, however, originate at these points; rather, it conglomerates around them. Tactical thought thus performs its analyses within a milieu characterized not only by the tension between what is and what ought to be, but also between irreducible but mutually intersecting practices of power. That myth has served us or we have served it This work originally appeared in Journal for the Study of Radicalism, , Spring , published by Michigan State University Press. The state is not inert; it is possessed of a particular kind of spirit.

Their relationship to human life has a tragic character; we need them, but that very need is subject to exploitation. The state is not an original good but a further corruption or metastasization of other powers—a need for order, perhaps, or organization. We can see this in The End of Sacrifice, where Yoder challenges capital punishment and anticipates the argument that what he is suggesting, taken to its logical conclusions, might lead to anarchy.

Christian Theory 47 Kingdom of God, but to expect this before the eschaton is utopian nonsense. Critique of the state is paramount, but an anti-statist revolution is not necessarily the answer. For Yoder, it is not an option as it would necessarily entail violence; in his theological account, the state plays a limited role in maintaining a semblance of order.

Postanarchism does not have the same theological resources to bring to bear but nevertheless seems to intuit that a simple or diametric opposition to the state is not a supple enough mechanism to account for the complex matrices of power in which we are entangled. Similarly, Yoder and May both are skeptical of a ruling elite or vanguard capable of representing and therefore leading the whole.

For Yoder, the church is not so much called to be the leading edge of change in society as a witness to the possibility of an alternative. Tactical thought, because of its perspective, rejects the idea of liberation through a vanguard. If power is decentralized, if the sites of oppression are numerous and intersecting, it is hardly likely that any one set of individuals will find itself peculiarly suited to a vanguardist role in political change.

The role of intellectuals is most definitely not to form an elite that can arrive at the correct strategic analyses and then lead the masses to follow. The connection between this group of practices and a comprehensive nonviolence has to do with the cultivation of patience.

Patience as an epistemological principle mitigates the temptation toward absolutism. Patience in practice is the outworking of a pacifist ethics.

Christian Theory 49 minority, so that the conflict remains. The other practices also relate to patience. It also calls the poor to forgo romantic dreams of wealth and power themselves. Everyone becomes fiscally committed to the time-consuming process of community formation. Baptism implies the patience of creating a voluntary group that does not expect everyone else to be ready for their particular ethical commitments. Yoder believed that a nonviolent ethics was the way of the future and thus ultimately binding on everyone, but did not believe it could be forced on those who did not or could not choose it.

Nonviolent conflict resolution calls for the patience to allow the involved parties to work out their differences on their own terms, only invoking the community if that process breaks down, even when authoritarian arbitration would be much more efficient. Even the ultimate sanction in the face of irresolvable conflict, dismembership from the group, requires patience in the form of a willingness to wait for the offending party to come back on his or her own.

The ecclesial practices advocated by Yoder are porous. Eucharistic sharing implies hospitality. Nonviolence means not just refusal to engage an enemy but commitment to extending love and reconciliation. Christian Theory 51 mythical these closures of history, and begin again and again to practice an alternative body politics, confident that the future belongs to caritas— even in the face of powers that seek to externalize subjugation and seem to exhibit enormous capacities to assimilate or brutally crush opposition and alternative hopes. Still, Coles warns, there is a potential weakness inherent in claiming Jesus as Lord in this way; there is a potential temptation to close off dialog.

It is not because Jesus told us to that we love even beyond the limits of reason and justice, even to the point of refusing to kill and being willing to suffer— but because God is like that, too. Patience is the connection between the radical pacifism of nonviolent witness and the radical egalitarianism of consensus process. The group that does not have the patience to make decisions that honor all members is not cultivating the patience necessary to resist resorting to violence to achieve its political objectives. We must admit a certain measure of incommensurability.

Nonetheless, there are points of possible dialog. Yoder has theological resources for answering questions within postanarchist discourse. Consider this passage from May: Traditional anarchism, in its foundational concepts—and moreover, in the fact of possessing foundational concepts— betrays the insights which constitute its core.