Defending Yoder: Part One—Responding to Peter Leithart’s Critique

Ted Grimsrud—May 29, 2011

When John Howard Yoder passed from the scene in 1997, I can’t imagine even his strongest supporters would have expected that his importance would have continued to grow in the realm of theological ethics as it has. I certainly didn’t. Once indication of Yoder’s importance is the presence of a recent book, Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom by Peter Leithart (IVP Academic, 2010), with a clear agenda of trying to counter Yoder’s growing influence.

Leithart’s is a curious book. After I finished reading it, I tried to figure out how to summarize what precisely he is trying to do. And I have had a difficult time. I suspect there may be some hidden agenda at work, because Leithart simply does not give a clear statement of his own constructive concerns. And, though he seems to have some profound disagreements with Yoder and routinely slips in sharp words disparaging Yoder’s scholarship, he has not produced a simple hatchet job. Actually, when the smoke clears he has affirmed Yoder almost as much as condemned him. I would attribute Leithart’s less than total rejection of Yoder’s ideas to the fact that he actually did read Yoder with some care. Continue reading “Defending Yoder: Part One—Responding to Peter Leithart’s Critique”