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The Fullness of Christ: J.H. Yoder – Part I

Posted by Radical Resurgence | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 10-01-2012


Perspectives on Ministries in Renewal.  John Howard Yoder.

(Author of The Original Revolution & The Politics of Jesus)

(What follows are excerpts from the above article which appeared in Concern ~17th February 1969, pp. 33-93.   The whole article is excellent. Since it is no longer available, I have tried here to capture some of Yoder’s key points, in order to highlight some foundational concerns. – Jon Zens)

The following text is presented to provide a focus for conversation.  The attempt is not made to carry on a conversation with the major alternative positions.

1.   The Universality of the Religious Specialist.

There are few more reliable constants running through all human society than the special place every human community makes  for the professional religionist. We may consult comparative religion, anthropology, sociology, or psychology…… the report is always the same.  Every society, every religion, even the pluralistic and “secular” civilisation  makes a place for the religionist.  The basic cultural-anthropological parallel is all the more striking in view of a great variety of superficial differences.

A.       How this man becomes qualified may vary:

–          he may have received a special education or initiation;

–          he may have been born into a priestly family;

–          he may have been equipped by sacramental action;

–          he may demonstrate exceptional “charismatic” capacities;

–          he may be authorised by someone qualified to assign that status.

But in every case he disposes of a unique quality, which he usually possesses for life, which alone qualifies him for his function, and besides which the mass of men are identified as “laymen”, i.e; non-bearers  of this special quality. Normally one such person is needed per social group.  One person per place is needed per social group.

B.       The public performance indentifying his office may vary:

–          In Catholicism he renews the miracle of the sacrament.

–          In magisterial Protestantism he proclaims the Word as true teaching.

–          In revivalism he moves his hearers to repentance and commitment.

–          In (Norman Vincent) Pealism he encourages people to be happy.

–          In suburbia he counsels them to be authentic.

But in every case it is what only he can do right, and it is that function around which that happens which people think of as a “church”.

C.       It is, in fact, his presence  which is the presence of the church; he is the definition (sociologically) of the church. …. where the sacramental man is present.  Where he is absent, the church is not engaged.

D.   Despite the outward appearance of his liturgical service (B above), what the religionist’s presence means to the individual and the society, and the reason he is given his status, is perhaps more basically the “blessing” he brings to life……

–          He may be encountered at the landmarks of the individual’s life: puberty, (confirmation, baptism); marriage; parenthood; (baptism or “presentation”); death.

–          He may be expected to stand by especially in crisis and catastrophe: accident; sickness; drought or storm; war…..

Whatever the mix of these various dimensions, in all of them the clergyman mediates between the common life and the realm of the “invisible” or the “spiritual”……… which one needs to lean on especially at those critical points of life.

E.    No one balks at what his services cost.

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