Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Yoder addresses Christian themes common in both Protestant and Catholic theology as expressed in varying degrees throughout history. Perhaps the key distinction of Yoder’s work, however, is his corporate, rather than a personal, reading of those themes. Instead of focusing on the Jesus story’s implications for individuals, for Yoder, all of the New Testament ideas coalesce into a messsage of social responsibility that is to be implemented, rather than ignored. He reads the traditional biblical concepts of justification, the Kingdom of God, discipleship, grace, and faith in light of the active, collective social and political involvement exemplified in the life of Jesus. Principally, this life is a life of nonviolent resistance. It is a call to the cross, by which Yoder seems to mean that Christians must be prepared literally to suffer at the hands of those who would inflict injustice. A collective, nonviolent response to injustice, however, not only demonstrates the methodology of Jesus; practically, it should also have an efficacious result. If collectively practiced by Christians, rather than ignored or misinterpreted, such nonviolent responses could render defenseless the motives of the oppressor. In the meantime, such a response bears witness to the action to which Christians are truly called.

Yoder’s exegesis takes seriously the problem of social unrest, and his writing underscores the fact that Christianity is not an easy religion. The fact of punishment, even death, as a result of resisting unjust powers within a given society, however, is not reason to ignore the biblical teachings and human example of Christ.