Defending Yoder: Part Two—Earl Zimmerman’s Account

In response to a critical review of his book Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom by John Nugent that challenged his reading of John Howard Yoder, Peter Leithart suggests that it is important not to read his book as mainly about Yoder but mainly about his effort to rehabilitate the image of the Emperor Constantine. I certainly defend the right of an author to try to set the frame for how her or his writings should be read. However, I do tend to think the main point of Leithart’s book is to challenge Yoder’s influence among contemporary evangelical Christians. Or at least this is a main point.

In Part One of these blog posts on “Defending Yoder,” I critiqued Defending Constantine and gave reasons for why I see it as a flawed book. I will return to Leithart in Part Three and discuss several of the reviews I have read that also challenge his perspective. In this post, though, I want to step back and reflect on Yoder’s project.

The best study dealing with Yoder’s thought that I have read is my friend Earl Zimmerman’s book, Practicing the Politics of Jesus: The Origin and Significance of John Howard Yoder’s Social Ethics(Cascadia Publishing House, 2007). I think this book deserves more attention than it has gotten (Leithart shows no evidence of being acquainted with it); hopefully as Yoder’s stature continues to grow, those interested in his theology will recognize the importance of Zimmerman’s contribution. Continue reading “Defending Yoder: Part Two—Earl Zimmerman’s Account”