John Howard Yoder's Biblical Realism

This paper attempts to identify the context, tasks, concern, content, purpose, and source of John Howard Yoder's theological method - biblical realism. Through putting Yoder in conversation with other biblical realists such as Claude Tresmontant, Edmond Cherbonnier, Hendrik Kraemer, and Paul Minear, this paper argues that the task of Yoder's biblical realism is to study the Scripture straightforwardly and on its own terms, and is concerned with reproducing the formal model of Scripture in speaking about God. Its purpose is to assist the church to hear the Word of God. Regarding the content of biblical realism, Yoder consolidates and expands Minear's position by specifying God's acts in the historical objectivity of Jesus Christ and of the Church that Jesus founded. The Scripture – the early Church's witness to God's historical and real saving acts in Jesus – thus serves as a guiding norm for all later Christians who seek to be faithful to the eschatological, saving reality of Jesus in their contexts under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Yoder's emphasis on the historical objectivity of Jesus and of the church as attested by Scripture is underpinned by the theological sources that Yoder uses for his constructive task: Yoder's Anabaptist historiography, especially his investigation of the Christology, Ecclesiology, and Biblicism of the Swiss Brethren, who Yoder calls "the first Anabaptists." The result is that, contrary to Minear's subjective approach to biblical realism, Yoder's biblical realism is concerned with God's particular, historical, and real acts in Jesus Christ and the Church that Jesus founded, as attested by the biblical point of views.