5. Yoder does apologetics
4. You get Yoder's theology of culture in a nutshell
Yoder's theology of culture centers on the church itself as a new way of life together. The church is a paradigm for the world as a whole. This book brings together a concise and readable introduction to the practices that comprise this new culture, including baptism, the Lord's Supper, binding and loosing, the rule of Christ, economic sharing, the universality of giftedness in the body, and others. Though Yoder addresses these issues all throughout his writings, the essays in this book are concise, clear, and give clear Scriptural grounds for these practices.
3. An absolute gem on evangelism
2. Yoder on singing
I found one particular suggestion from Yoder interesting and compelling. While discussing Psalm 136, which tells the history of Israel while echoing the refrain "for his love endures forever, Yoder asks what it would look like to extend this way of talking about church history. What if we didn't stop with Jesus and the early church but continued to includes the saints of church history, including God's working through the saints at our particular local church? So Yoder asks, "What if we named specific names and events and then responded, 'For his mercy endures forever'? Would we not have a different feel for God's power? Would we not have a different feel for our own identity? We would have a feel not only for the past, but for the future. That is the funny thing about the past--if you know from where you have come, you know where you are going." (158)
1. Two for one: how to read the Bible and Christian social strategy
I've learned a lot from Yoder. Whether as a historian or biblical interpreter, Yoder is constantly on guard to read and assess texts and people based on their own time. So rather than first lamenting how "oppressive" the Bible is, he seeks to understand the text in its own terms. A lot of contemporary readers get mad that the biblical authors and audiences weren't as enlightened as we are, but Yoder's hermeneutics help us to avoid that kind of cultural imperialism and arrogance that imperils both good biblical interpretation and good historiography.
Second, Yoder articulates a social strategy here that is sure to offend both your liberal and conservative friends alike (I like it already!). Conservatives, says Yoder, often fail to recognize the new creation brought into being in Christ. Quietists, says Yoder, are people who recognize the newness but don't think it is important to witness to this newness in word and deed. Revolutionaries, says Yoder, are people who believe newness has come but that open and often hostile confrontation with the old age is the only way for truth to be known. Yoder takes issues with all three: "The kingdom of God means change in the direction of equal dignity for all people. Some conservatives are not really sure about that. The kingdom of God sparks an urge to witness, make something known, and show it to all people. Contemporary quietists are not very keen on that. The kingdom of God means trusting God's power and exhibiting uncommon patience. Modern-day revolutionaries are still not convinced of that." (108) In contrast, Yoder casts a vision for God's people that witnesses to the new creation not by might, nor by activism, but by the patient movement of God's Spirit. The kingdom is radical in its newness and revolutionary in its patience. If our fellowship exhibits both that newness and patience, we'll be neither liberal nor conservative but, with God's grace, simply the church.