Public lectures by ACC&C scholars and affiliates. Based on academic research, but accessible to the general public, particularly anyone interested in theology or religion, or looking for intellectual stimulation and debate.
The horror of the 20th century Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder’s extensive and theologically-rationalized sexual harassment and assault of women is now well known. Recent scholarly evaluations have begun the hard and important work of interrogating Yoder’s scholarship in the dark shadow cast by his behaviour. These evaluations have also touched upon implications for Yoder’s account of church discipline which influenced the very disciplinary procedures to which he was subjected (but mostly deflected), and for which Matthew 18:15-20 served as the epicenter. This paper will extend the work begun in these analyses with an especial interest in rehabilitating Matthew 18 for developing a healthy account of church discipline. It will suggest that Yoder’s account of the church’s relation to discipline is overdetermined by his emphasis on reconciling dialogue at the exclusion of other layers and features of theological discourse, both within Matthew 18 and within the entire Gospel. Altogether, Yoder insufficiently attends to how these layers of dialogue – and Christ’s promise of presence – take place between heaven and earth, where the latter is where God’s will is not yet fully realized. What Yoder’s oversights ultimately indicate is that a healthy theology of church discipline should proceed from the sobering awareness that this important ecclesial activity takes place precisely where things are not yet on earth as in heaven.