John Howard Yoder on the kingdom of God

Yoder never ceases to put into words the gnawing sense of discontent I feel from time to time in my life. What is the kingdom of God, John? (Hint, his answer is exactly what John Piper thinks)

“The kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe the good news!” To repent is not to feel bad but to think (and act) differently. Protestantism, and perhaps especially evangelical Protestantism, in its concern for helping every individual to make his own authentic choice in full awareness and sincerity, is in constant danger of confusing the kingdom itself with the benefits of the kingdom. If anyone repents, if anyone turns around to follow Jesus in his new way of life, this will do something for the aimlessness of his life. It will do something for his loneliness by giving him fellowship. It will do something for his anxiety and guilt by giving him a good conscience. So the Bultmanns and the Grahams whose “evangelism” is to proclaim the offer of restored selfhood, liberation from anxiety and guilt, are not wrong. If anyone repents, it will do something for his intellectual confusion, by giving him doctrinal meat to digest, a heritage to appreciate, and a conscience about telling it all as it is. So “evangelicalism” with its concern for hallowed truth and reasoned communication is not wrong; it is right. If a man repents, it will do something for his moral weakness by giving him the focus for wholesome self-discipline, it will keep him from immorality and get him to work on time. So the Peales and the Robertses who promise that God cares about helping me squeeze through the tight spots of life are not wrong, they have their place. But all this is not the gospel. This is just the bonus, the wrapping paper thrown in when you buy the meat, the “everything” which will be added, without taking thought for it, if we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness![1]

[1] Yoder, John Howard. The Original Revolution: Essays on Christian Pacifism. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1971.


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