Contents of Volume
October 2000 Number Four
Confessions of a Mennonite Camp Follower
STANLEY M. HAUERWAS*
GETTING TO KNOW YOU, GETTING TO KNOW ALL ABOUT YOU
I am aware that I have a certain reputation among Mennonites. I felt honored that Craig Haas and Steve Nolt in their book The Mennonite Starter Kit: A Handy Guide for the New Mennonite included me in the list of “Non-Mennonites Whom Mennonites Wish Were Mennonites.” Since theirs is the most incisive book on contemporary Mennonite life, I clearly have been given a status I cannot pretend to deserve. It does give me pause, of course, that the list also includes Lloyd Bentsen (from Texas’), Rembrandt (catering no doubt to Mennonites’ pretension that they care about art), Thomas Mntzer (they have to be kidding!), Ronald Reagan and Alice Parker (who is Alice Parker’). So I am extremely pleased to have been asked to contribute to this issue of the Mennonite Quarterly Review on how my “thought” has been shaped by an engagement with Radical Reformation theology.
My initial encounter with Mennonites did not go well. Growing up in Texas, I had never heard of the Mennonites. If I knew one or two, they did not make themselves known to me as Mennonites. I learned nothing about Mennonites at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. They may have been mentioned in some history or religion course, but I do not remember it. I must have read about Mennonites in Williston Walker’s A History of the Christian Church, but whatever I read made no impression. Only when I ran into actual Mennonites did I realize that there was something different about them-and I did not like the difference.
The first Mennonite I ever knew must have been Mel Schmidt, who appeared during my second or third year in seminary. He and his wife lived in married student housing, where we became acquainted. I vaguely remember that Mel withheld his taxes, or at least we had a discussion about tax withholding. Vietnam had not yet become the issue that made tax resistance the “thing to do.” All I remember is that I thought it very strange that anyone would do anything that radical. Years later Mel and I recalled my stupidity when I gave a lecture at Bluffton, Ohio when Mel was pastor at Bluffton Mennonite.
However, the encounter with a Mennonite that I remember in some detail occurred in 1966 or 1967, during a trip to Harvard for a joint colloquium of Harvard and Yale graduate students in ethics. By this time the Vietnam war was the subject for endless discussions. In the car on the way to Cambridge we were debating whether or not the war was or was not just. In the course of the discussion a new and very quiet graduate student made statements that suggested he might be a pacifist. He even mentioned John Howard Yoder, of whom, of course, none of us had ever heard. I was shocked that the Yale Graduate School would actually accept anyone so naive. I, of course, tried to intimidate him, using Niebuhrian arguments. His name was Leroy Walters, and he is now the distinguished ethicist at the Kennedy Center for Bioethics at Georgetown University. Given Leroy’s gentle demeanor, I suspect I got the better of the argument in the car on the way to Cambridge, but I hope Leroy finds some satisfaction in knowing that I now believe what he believed, even if he may have some uncertainties about what he once believed.
But at least Leroy (and the Vietnam war) had gotten my attention. I was busy, of course, writing about character and sanctification, so I did not think I had any reason try to solve the ethical problems about war in general and the Vietnam war in particular. After all, I was a student at Yale, where we were taught to think critically about convictions even if we discovered we did not have any convictions of our own. Sometime during my last years at Yale, perhaps when I was finishing my dissertation, I was wandering through the Yale Divinity School Bookstore, which I did once a week or so in an effort to keep up on the “new stuff” coming out. My eye fell on a pamphlet entitled Karl Barth and Christian Pacifism by someone called John H. Yoder-by this time I had forgotten that Leroy had mentioned Yoder to me. Since Barth played a major role in my dissertation, and the pamphlet cost only a dollar (the paper was cheap and the printing was just a step above mimeograph), I bought it.
I do not remember when I read Yoder’s account of Barth’s ethics, but I remember very clearly my reaction to Yoder’s presentation of Barth. I thought, “That is the best critique of Barth’s ethics I have ever read, but you would have to be crazy to accept Yoder’s ecclesiology.” He was, after all, a “sectarian.” Even though Yoder’s account and critique of Barth’s understanding of the Grenzfall was analogous to the criticisms I had developed in my dissertation concerning Barth’s occasionalism, I had no reason to think I should find out anything more about Yoder as I went to teach at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. I thought that being a Methodist sanctificationist was enough of a challenge for the Lutherans at Augie.
Of course I managed to alienate the Lutherans, but I was rescued by the Catholics who hired me to teach at Notre Dame. What is important about Notre Dame, however, is that South Bend is close to Elkhart. Sometime during my first summer in South Bend, before I had begun teaching at Notre Dame, I thought it might be a good idea to get to know this Yoder. So I drove over to Goshen, assuming that he taught at Goshen College. I discovered that that was not the case, but in the process I wandered into College Mennonite Church, where I found a rack of pamphlets for twenty-five cents each. So I bought three that had been authored by Yoder: his earlier pamphlet on Barth, his essay on capital punishment, and one on Reinhold Niebuhr.
His criticisms of Reinhold Niebuhr were particularly important for me. I began to realize that I was not only reading the work of an extraordinarily powerful mind, but also that I could not have my account of the virtues and Reinhold Niebuhr too. Put differently, I began to understand that my “Barthianism,” which is just another way of saying my Christology, was incompatible with Niebuhr’s project to provide a theological justification of political realism. I had earlier begun to see the inadequacy of Niebuhr’s understanding of political realism by reading political theorists such as William Connolly, Robert Paul Wolff and Ted Lowi. But reading Yoder made me realize that I lacked an ecclesiology that could provide an alternative politics. I simply had to learn more about this Yoder guy.
Soon thereafter, I discovered a journal I did not know existed, the Mennonite Quarterly Review, by looking in the periodical index under Yoder’s name and finding that he published in this journal. That was in l970, so The Original Revolution had not been published. I think the first essays I read in the MQR were “The Otherness of the Church” and “Peace Without Eschatology,” both of which made an extraordinary impression on me. I was all the more convinced that I had to get to know Yoder. I had somehow learned that Yoder was not at Goshen College, but taught at Elkhart. With my usual disregard for academic etiquette, I called John up and asked if I could come see him and he invited me over. Sometime that summer I barged into his office armed with a load of arrogance that only Yale can breed.
I do not remember much about that first encounter except that John was his usual diffident self and certainly did not try to charm me into agreeing with his work. Charm and Yoder are not exactly words that belong together. But I suppose the same might be said about me! John responded to my questions with his well known exactness, saying no more or less than needed to be said to answer what I am sure he thought were ill-formed queries. Because I did not yet know enough to really talk with John, I finally resorted to the academic game: “So what are you working on now'” He said, “Not anything very significant.” He was mainly writing things for Mennonite audiences that would probably not interest me. He added that most of what he was doing remained unpublished.
I allowed (Texans “allow”) that I was really interested in anything he was doing. So he went through his shelves and I left with a stack of papers about a foot high. I do not remember everything that was in that stack, but it did contain what we now know as The Politics of Jesus. I did not comprehend the significance of what I was reading, but I knew it was different. My problem was that I had been well enough educated at Yale to recognize what an extraordinary argument Yoder was making. I had taken a Christology course with Hans Frei in which we had studied not only the classical Christological debates and confessions, but also the work of some Protestant liberals. I had become, and remained, convinced that Chalcedon was and is normative for how we understand the full reality of Jesus as Israel’s Messiah. But I was uneasy with Chalcedon insofar as so-called “high Christologies” threaten to make the life and teachings of Jesus secondary for Christian life and thought. So I read The Politics of Jesus, which Yoder claimed was merely a report on the consensus of New Testament scholarship, as an extraordinary Christological proposal.
I began to read everything of John’s I could get my hands on. I was particularly impressed by The Christian Witness to the State, which I wanted to use in a course I had developed in response to the student rebellion, called Christianity, Ethics and Democratic Society. Discovering that it was out of print, I desperately called Faith and Life Press to see if I could get a hundred copies. In my first discovery of how community works in the Mennonite world, they were more than pleased to crank up the press to make sure I could get the copies I needed.
Although I was reading Yoder, I had still not decided that I could really endorse his project. Of course, he did not understand it to be his project. However, I felt I could not treat Yoder as representing merely one more position to fit into a Yale typology. Among the papers Yoder had given me was an early draft of his critique of H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture, an argument I found convincing. My chance to come to terms with Yoder came shortly thereafter when I was asked to do the paper for the yearly “ecumenical” meeting of the departments of theology at Valparaiso University and Notre Dame. I decided to write an essay pulling together what I had learned from Yoder.
I began my presentation by noting that what I was going to do before these Lutherans and Catholics was a genuine ecumenical effort. It featured a Methodist with a doubtful theological background (if you are Methodist you have a doubtful theological background) representing a most Catholic department of theology, reading a paper to a group of Missouri Synod Lutherans and saying that the Anabaptists had been right all along. I said that it was an ecumenical gesture because, by the time I finished, the Catholics and Lutherans would discover how much they had in common-namely, thinking it a very good thing to kill the Anabaptists. And, of course, that is exactly what happened, as the Catholics and the Lutherans joined forces to try to show me why we should not take Yoder seriously. Serious people understand that sometimes you do need to kill somebody. I was not convinced, and the rest, so to speak, is history.
I became a Mennonite camp follower. Now the image of “camp follower” may not be appropriate for anyone pretending to have learned much from the Mennonites, since “camp follower” suggests both a military encampment as well as a lady who makes her living in a manner offensive not only to Mennonites but also to most Christians. However, like a camp follower I do not have an ecclesial home, so I whore after what I think is faithful to the gospel. I cannot pretend that such a position can be made ecclesially intelligible. My only defense is that God in our time seems to have led many of us to that point. We live in a time when the theological battles of the past that seemed so important and justified Christian divisions simply no longer matter. (Consider, for example, the issue of being a “free will baptist.”) That God has made some ecclesially homeless we can only pray will be the beginning of a unity, as John would put it, from the bottom up. Yet the problem of the military imagery remains.
HOW BEING A PACIFIST MADE ME A WARRIOR
I had become convinced that Yoder was doing work towards which I could not help but be sympathetic, given my own theological convictions. But I was not yet ready to declare myself a pacifist. I remember clearly the first time I said I was a pacifist-a year later, I think. Robert Wilken had joined the Notre Dame faculty and I had begun to press David Burrell, the new chair of the department, to hire Yoder full time. Wilken, then a deeply committed Lutheran and, even worse, a graduate of the University of Chicago, was giving me a ride to faculty meeting and asking me about Yoder. He had great respect for what he had read of Yoder’s work, but observed that he was unconvinced by Yoder’s ecclesiology, in particular, his pacifism. For some reason I blurted out that Wilken was wrong and then I said it: “I am a pacifist.”
Yoder had convinced me that you could not separate Christology and the question of nonviolence. So if I was to be fully Chalcedonian in my Christology, if I was to be fully Trinitarian in my doctrine of God, if I was to trust in God’s providential care of creation through the calling of the church, then I had to be a pacifist. I have never regretted having so declared myself even though it has never felt like a decision “I made.” Rather I am a pacifist because, given the way Yoder had taught me to think, I could not be anything else.
However, being a pacifist creates an entirely different way of thinking about theology. Of course, it is not just pacifism that does so, but rather the way Yoder teaches us to think about theology as a practice of the church. Indeed, it is a mistake to make pacifism the practice that isolates Christians from the many other practices necessary for the life of the church. For example, the obligation of Christians to tell one another the truth, to not lie, requires us to develop skillful modes of speech in order to say no more than needs to be said. I would not pretend that I learned all this from Yoder, but what I learned from Yoder has helped me see connections I otherwise might have missed.
As I began to write about Yoder-and in a manner that I had learned from him, at least to some extent-I began to be claimed by and to learn more about the world that had created John. I was invited several times to speak at the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, where in l978 I was given a copy of Martyrs’ Mirror in lieu of an honorarium. Well, that is not quite right. They said I could be paid twenty-five dollars or be given a copy of Martyrs’ Mirror. I was not stupid so I took the book, which had a lovely inscription naming me an “honorary Mennonite.” Students from AMBS began to come to Notre Dame and take my courses. In the process I learned from them, from what I was reading, as well as from John that neither he or his work was universally accepted by other Mennonites. In other words, I quickly learned to distinguish Mennonite reality from Mennonite theology-but then that is a distinction that any good Mennonite makes. After all, it was from John that I learned to think of Mennonite farm culture as a form of Constantianism.
Yet I also had learned to see, in Mennonite life, habits that I might not have learned to see if my seeing had not been trained by John’s work. For example, I learned to see how the lack of money can became a resource that enriches a community as it makes cooperation and agreements necessary for survival. Money or wealth can impoverish by robbing us of our need for one another and of the goods we hold in common-goods as basic as shared tractors. From this perspective, the liberal presumption that a community must find a way to balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the whole community makes no sense once the practices of the community are seen as being more primary than whatever we mean by individual or community. John also taught me to see in Mennonite life that theology had to be understood as just one more practice of a people who have learned that their lives depend on learning how to share their lives.
John probably thought I continued to read more philosophy than was good for me, but then I was not fortunate to have had the philosophical foundation that he had, nor did I-or do I-possess his extraordinary intelligence. He could never understand my difficulty in learning other languages. I needed to read more in order to learn how to do theology in the apparently effortless manner that I saw in John.
If my “thought” or “scholarship” reflects my encounter with Anabaptist thought, that direction is more clearly exhibited in the “how” than in the “what” of my work. In particular, I do not think that theology is “thought” that can be abstracted from the practices of a people. In the current academic world this understanding of theology is obviously problematic. I have tried to develop the polemics needed to gain Yoder a hearing in the university as well as the wider church. John, I suspect, thought I was and am far too “contrary”-but then he did not come, as I did, from the mainstream. If “my work” is understood as but a footnote to Yoder, I will think God has used me well indeed.
John, however, would probably worry about how Mennonites might be influenced by me, since my theological work does not appropriately attend to the actual text of the scripture in the manner that John so wonderfully exemplified in his work. For example, I would love to be able to write a book like He Came Preaching Peace, but I simply do not have John’s extraordinary knowledge of the Scriptures or his uncanny ability to see the connection between texts. Some readers tell me that my work is “biblical,” but being “biblical” is not enough. The text and the words matter, and Yoder knew how to make them matter. I hope someone may soon try to show how Yoder did not simply “use” scripture, but rather how he reasoned scripturally.
That is no small matter. I currently have three Mennonite graduate students: Chris Huebner, Alex Sider and Peter Dula. They represent different streams in Mennonite life but they are all “well formed” Mennonites. I want the training they receive at Duke to serve the upbuilding of the church. I do not want to hurt them, but all I can do is teach them what I have been taught. Of course they read Yoder, but do Mennonites really need to know much about Aristotle, Aquinas, MacIntyre and Milbank in order to do theology in the Anabaptist tradition? Will they pick up bad habits-at least bad habits for Mennonites- from me? I hope not, but all I can do is hope. At the very least I hope that as they are “reintegrated” into the Mennonite world, what they have learned will help all of us know better how to survive as people committed to Christian nonviolence and how that commitment shapes the way theology should be done.
WHAT BUGS ME ABOUT MENNONITES
It would be pretentious for me to pontificate about what I do not like about Mennonite theology or Mennonite life, since I obviously do not know that much about either. What I know is Yoder, but I do not know what Yoder knew. Of course, I have read books here and essays there by and about Mennonites, but I certainly do not know Mennonite sources or developments in Mennonite theology over the centuries. Having three Mennonite graduate students is helpful, however, because they make me read what I otherwise would not even know existed. For example, Sider and Dula recently asked me to read Marpeck’s “Judgment and Decision.” I was struck by how similar Marpeck is to Yoder, which, of course, gets it backwards. But then that is how I learned it-backwards.
For example, Marpeck comments on who should be avoided:
But I will have nothing to do with any other sect, faction, or gathering, no matter what they are called in the whole world. I will especially avoid those who use bodily sword, contrary to the patience of Christ, who did not resist any evil and who likewise commands His own not to resist tribulation or evil, in order to rule in the kingdom of Christ. I also avoid those who institute, command, and forbid, therewith to lead and rule the kingdom of Christ. I also avoid those who deny the true divinity, Spirit, Word, and power in Jesus Christ. I avoid those who destroy and deny His natural, earthly humanity which was received from man, of the seed of David, born without man’s seed and sin, born of Mary the pure virgin; He was crucified and died a natural earthly death, from which He arose again, and has now seated Himself at the right hand of God. I also avoid those who, living in open sin and gross evil, want to have fellowship in the kingdom of Christ but without true repentance, and I avoid all those who tolerate such a thing. I avoid all who oppose and fight against the words and the truth of Christ. With all such regardless of what they are called in the world, I will have no part or fellowship in the kingdom of Christ unless they repent.
This may seem to be an unremarkable passage, but what I find so interesting is Marpeck’s list, as well as how it is ordered. The use of the “bodily sword” and the confession that Jesus was fully God and fully man are all part of what makes the body of Christ the body of Christ. Indeed the disavowal of the sword and the confession that Christ is who he said he was are not separable. As I suggested above, I learned from Yoder that the practice of nonviolence must be shaped by Christological convictions. But the items on Marpeck’s list are connected in another way that is equally important in terms of the crucial challenges before Mennonite life: Marpeck and Yoder both assume that in spite of Anabaptist dissent, Anabaptists remain in continuity with the church catholic and, in particular, with Christological developments. Yet this presumption as well and its implications are denied by many Anabaptists.
That continuity with Catholic Christianity is often denied by Anabaptists is quite understandable. You seldom find yourself in continuity with those who kill you. Moreover, the very fact that Anabaptists were forced to become “Anabaptist” could not help but underwrite the assumption that Mennonites have to “reinvent” Christianity. Yet the idea that somehow the Mennonites are “starting over” is not only theologically doubtful but particularly dangerous in modernity. Theologically it is simply a mistake to assume that God has ever left the world without a faithful witness. The fact that the church is often a witness against itself is but a testimony to God’s care of God’s church and world. The crucial issue, of course, is what ecclesiological form is best equipped to tell the story of God’s faithful care of the church.
Even though I think Denny Weaver is wrong to argue that the ecumenical creeds are compromised by the Constantinian character of the church that produced them, we are in his debt for raising the issue so forcefully. Indeed I believe the recent discussion initiated by Gerald Schlabach and Ivan Kaufmann between Mennonites and Catholics is an extraordinarily important development. We now have a forum where these questions can be investigated with the kind of thoroughness they deserve. What makes this development so promising is that it is not a matter of Mennonites opposing Catholics, since we have Catholics (such as Mike Baxter) who, without being any less Catholic, represent Anabaptist commitments, and we have Anabaptists (like Schlabach) who, without being less Anabaptist, have deep Catholic sensibilities.
Moreover, it would be a mistake to think, that the question of the relation between Mennonites and Catholics is primarily about “doctrine,” even the doctrine of the church. As I tried to argue in “Whose Church? Which Future? Whither the Anabaptist Vision'” the challenge facing Anabaptists is to discover the implications of living in a world in which they have won. Constantinianism has been defeated. There is no established church for Anabaptists to oppose. Christianity has become voluntary, but the voluntary-ness constituted by modernity makes it impossible to maintain the disciplines necessary to be nonviolent. As is often the case, the terms of the battles of the past may not prepare us well for the challenges we now face.
To suggest that Mennonites need to reconsider their relation with Catholics may only confirm the presumption of many that my unhappy state as a Methodist tempts me to romanticize Mennonites and Catholics. I cannot pretend to be free of that temptation, but Catholic and Mennonite reality is always a welcome check on any form of such romanticization. There is much more at stake in the Mennonite/Catholic interaction than mutual sharing of the other’s “insights.” The unity of Christ’s body I take to be the crucial issue-the “issue” that is also at the heart of what it means to be nonviolent.
However, the word “Catholic” does name a reality that Mennonites desperately need. If I were forced to name any aspect of Mennonite life that I find problematic, it would be how Mennonites worship. Mennonite hymnody is obviously a great resource, but I have found Mennonite liturgy generally to be rationalistic and aesthetically thin. Zwingli’s rationalistic tendencies have won. For example, believer’s baptism invites presumptions that the baptized must “know what they are doing,” which in modernity makes the agent of this act the one being baptized rather than God. My problem with believer’s baptism has always been what it does for those we unhappily call the “mentally handicapped.” If the issue, as Yoder argues, is the question of the baptized being accountable to the church, I do not see why the profoundly mentally handicapped cannot be baptized and held accountable in using their gifts on behalf of the church. The body into which we are baptized is not the individualized body we think of as “ours,” but rather Christ’s body.
That same body is what we also receive in the Eucharist. When I taught at Notre Dame I often had Catholics who admired the witness of Mennonites say they did not know how Mennonites sustained their nonviolence with infrequent eucharistic celebration. I tried to defend Mennonite practice by pointing out that Mennonites use eucharistic language, but that language “fits” over the way they think their lives must be lived. I continue to regard that as a legitimate response. But I also think that the Mennonite practice-or the absence of the practice-threatens to makes Mennonites’ lives unintelligible. The Eucharist is not the sacrifice we make to an eternally angry God to try to buy ourselves some time; rather, the Eucharist is the good news that God would have us included in Christ’s sacrifice for the world so that the world may have an alternative to pointless and endless sacrifice.
The celebration of the Eucharist, moreover, cannot be separated from questions regarding the shape of the liturgy as well as who is to preside at the celebration of the Eucharist. Questions of ordination and authority cannot be kept at bay if Mennonites are to undertake any reform of worship, which I hope they will indeed do. The alternatives seem to be ethnic identity or church growth strategies. The former has been tried and found wanting; the latter is too ugly to contemplate. But I want to be clear. I am not suggesting that Mennonites should try to mimic Catholic liturgy. Rather, Mennonites need to consider, in a manner faithful to Mennonite life, why Word and Table cannot be separated.
When I described myself as a “high church Mennonite” many years ago I was not kidding. I am, after all, a Methodist and heir to that unstable brew that is, at least if we take Wesley seriously, at once evangelical and Catholic. Methodists are, or at least should be, free church sacramentalists as well as sanctificationists. Only God knows whether that finally amounts to a coherent ecclesiology, but it at least helps explain why it makes me so happy that some Mennonites find some of what I do useful. I can only pray that we-Catholics, Methodists, Mennonites-will arrive at the moment when we can only make sense of what God has done with us by sharing our stories.
. “Willie Walker,” which is what we called it at Yale Divinity School, was the text used in Church History classes at Yale. Since I did not want to “waste” my time taking church history, I just read the book and tested out of the course. That may explain why I failed to see the significance that Walker, or at least those who revised Walker’s often used textbook, gave to the Anabaptists. Of course, “significance” may be too strong a word for a book that seemed determined to report just “the facts.”
Return to Text
. John’s pamphlet was identified as “Work Paper No. 4.” Marlin Miller wrote a “Foreword” for the l966 version although John had written two prefaces, one from Basel, May 7, l957 and the other from Basel, July l6, l957. Michael Cartwright told me a story that Al Meyer told him about Yoder having given Barth a copy of his essay on Barth. That led Barth to say to Yoder (and Al): “Oh, Mr. Yoder, you Mennonites are so bellicose.” I am not sure how “Work Paper No. 4” found its way into the Yale Divinity Bookstore, but I suspect Jim Gustafson must have had something to do with that. I know Gustafson told me (perhaps at a meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics) that he was trying to get the book published in the new Abingdon Studies in Christian Ethics series under the title Karl Barth and the Problem of War (Nashville: Abingdon, l970). That John’s criticism of Barth was not well known may have been due to Abingdon’s decision not to continue that venture.
Return to Text
. I, of course, wanted to get this essay published but I had a difficult time getting anyone to take it. I sent it to many journals, but no one wanted it. The rejections often were less criticism of my essay and more reaction to Yoder. One critic explicitly said that Yoder represented a pre-Bultmannian attitude toward scripture. I should have realized that these rejections meant that any identification with Yoder was not going to win me friends, but I was too taken with what I was learning and naturally too cantankerous to care. I think the essay was finally published in the Journal of Theology of South Africa, but I have never seen a copy of it. I had given it to Jim Childress, who gave it to a colleague at Virginia who was on that journal’s board. The latter must have sent it to South Africa. Following Paul Ramsey’s advice “to never waste a word,” I published the essay in my first collection, Vision and Virtue: Essays in Christian Ethical Reflection. The book is now published by Notre Dame (probably out of print), but was originally published by Fides Press in l974.
Return to Text
. In Good Company: The Church As Polis (Notre Dame: U. of Notre Dame Press, l995) is my most extended set of reflections on this strange ecclesial anomaly to which God seems to have called some of us.
Return to Text
. I give a brief account of this in the “Introduction” to The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics (Notre Dame: U. of Notre Dame Press, l983), xv-xxvi. When I reread the “Introduction” for this footnote, I realized that I’m going over some of the same ground I covered in the book. I apologize if I seem to be saying what I said before. It does make me wonder if I am the best reporter of how my thinking has developed. My inability to remember dates is well known.
Return to Text
. My book, Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America (Nashville: Abingdon Press, l993), has been misunderstood or ignored by most readers. That must be due to my inability to know how to proceed after my attack on sola scriptura in the first part of the book. What I did not and do not know how to do was make scriptural arguments in the manner of Yoder and Barth. All I could do in that book was exemplify how the words of scripture matter by providing sermonic examples. Probably few readers have thought it profitable to spend time checking my exegesis. The sermons, if read at all, are not read as my attempt to do scriptural reasoning, but rather as exemplifications of my “position.” But Yoder is right in saying that theology has gone wrong when it becomes a position rather than a reading.
Return to Text
[ ]12. Richard Hays certainly began that work with his analysis of Yoder in The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics (San Francisco: Harper/Collins, l996), 239-53. Michael Cartwright’s account of Yoder’s scriptural practice in many ways remains unsurpassed. See Cartwright, “Practices, Politics, and Performance: Toward a Communal Hermeneutic for Christian Ethics (Ph.D Diss., Duke U., l988), 298-405.
Return to Text
. Yoder tried to think through these issues in his more “methodological” reflections about historiography. For example, read his “Anabaptism and History,” in The Priestly Kingdom: Social Ethics As Gospel (Notre Dame: U. of Notre Dame Press, l984), 123-34.
Return to Text
. Gerald Schlabach’s “Deuteronomic or Constantinian: What Is the Most Basic Problem for Christian Social Ethics'” is one of the most promising developments for helping us to begin to think through the challenges that confront us. His essay appears in The Wisdom of the Cross: Essays in Honor of John Howard Yoder, ed. Hauerwas, Chris Huebner, Harry Huebner and Mark Nation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, l999), 449-7l. See also Ivan J. Kauffman, “Mennonite-Catholic Conversations in North America: History,Convergences, Opportunities,” MQR 73 (Jan. 1999), 35-60.
Return to Text
. This essay now appears in my In Good Company: The Church as Polis (Notre Dame: U. of Notre Dame Press, l995), 65-78; also relevant is my “Storytelling: A Response to ‘Mennonites on Hauerwas,'” Conrad Grebel Review 13 (Spring l995), 166-73.
Return to Text
. For this account of the body, see Joel Shuman, The Body of Compassion: Ethics, Medicine, and the Church (Boulder: Westview Press, l999).
The Mennonite Quarterly Review
Confessions of a Mennonite Camp Follower