Saturday, November 28, 2009


John Howard Yoder
On binding and loosing (Matthew 18:15-18)

"Moral discernment and forgiveness condition and enable one another in complex ways. Admonition presupposes prior discernment; otherwise the criteria for admonition would not be common to both parties. Conversation with reconciling intent is the most powerful way for a community to discover when the rules they have been applying are inadequate, so that they may be modified. Asking whether there has really been an offense helps determine which differences need to be resolved by coming to unanimity by means of dialogue and forgiveness and which call for an agreement to differ. Having experienced forgiveness together enables a community to deliberate in an otherwise inaccessible mode of mutual trust.

Before moving on toward the present, let me summarize the primary components of this mandate; some of them differ from the way our world usually works:
1. Believing men and women are empowered to act in God's name.
2. What the believers do, God is doing, in and through human action.
3. God will not normally do this without human action.
4. If we receive forgiveness, we must give it.
5. This dialogical reconciling process must come first. Only then must we turn to talk of the set of standards that this process enforces. Much Christian debate about moral issues makes the mistake o concentrating on what the standards ought to be rather than on how they are to be discerned and implemented.

Taking seriously this apostolic witness would seem to put us at the mercy of a number of ecclesiastical scarecrows. It gives more authority to the church than does Rome, trusts more to the Holy Spirit than does Pentecostalism, has more respect for the individual than does liberal humanism, makes moral standards more binding than did Puritanism, and is more open to the new situation than was what some called "the new morality" a quarter-century ago. If practiced, it would radically restructure the life of churches. Thus the path to the rediscovery of Christian faithfulness might lead through some positions contemporary Christian "moderates" have been trying to avoid."


Josh said...

Great book. Yoder's brief critique of the Lutheran and Reformed understanding of vocation (an understanding that allows for easy participation in war) is excellent.

Travis Greene said...

Yeah, I really like his point about the way concepts like sphere sovereignty subtly allow us to put our real trust in the world, or the created order, rather than in Jesus.