More on the Politics of Jesus: The Early Church and Subordination

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In the second half of The Politics of Jesus (1972), J. Howard Yoder asserts that the early church took a stance of subordination, where they put forth a set of rules to the Christian faithful about the roles they should play in society. This kind of concept, in my view, is about the dialectic relationship between the Christian and the world. In other words, in order to exist in the world as a Christian –to have what I might refer to as a Christian “being” –that existence is always predicated on what I will describe as certain transcendental ideas. The three “ideas” that Yoder points out are the following: the State, Faith, and history. What I find particularly interesting about these three ideas is that they are, as I have stated, transcendental ideas that are predicated on a Husserlian notion that they must be bracketed as a means of finding and interpreting epistemological value in them. This means, then, that the concepts of “the State,” “Faith,” and “history” are objects of transcendence that require a different degree of objectification than traditional objects such as materials objects. I find that Yoder is aware of this, at least on some very important level.

In my view, by drawing a dialectic relationship between Christian existence and the transcendental ideas of the State, Faith, and history, there is credence in why the early church would define Christian existence in subordination with them, since our consciousness and our awareness of our existential limitations are construed through how well or how effective we embrace those three transcendental ideas. This is particularly the case, of course, if understanding that the way those three ideas are bracketed through Husserl’s phenomenological reduction, they come to embody an inherent value that is relative to our lived experiences. To that end, then, Yoder is creating the following dialectics: Christian-State, Christian-Faith, and Christian-history –all three shape what it means to exist as a Christian, but also do a great deal to structure human existence. I would only extend Yoder a bit further by suggesting that these dialectics are not only, as I have asserted, aspects of the existential limitations to the Christian existence, but also, to a more important degree, gesturing to the Heideggerian “being-in-the-world.” It is this, I would argue, is at the heart of the “social ethic” that Yoder describes –a social ethic that not only addresses the individuality of “being” and the notion that that “being” is construed through the lived experience, but that “being” as Christian is one that is connected to the world: the State, Faith, and history, all of which are transcendental ideas that inform Christian consciousness in a decidedly Hegelian way.


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