(December 29, 1927 – December 30, 1997) Yoder was a Christian theologian, ethicist, and Biblical scholar best known for his radical Christian pacifism/Third Way, his mentoring of future theologians such as Stanley Hauerwas, his loyalty to his Mennonite faith, and his 1972 magnum opus, The Politics of Jesus.
Yoder is best remembered for his reflections on Christian ethics. Rejecting the assumption that human history is driven by coercive power, Yoder argued that it was rather God—working in, with, and through the nonviolent, non-resistant community of disciples of Jesus—who has been the ultimate force in human affairs. If the Christian church in the past made alliances with political rulers, it was because it had lost confidence in this truth.
He called the arrangement whereby the state and the church each supported the goals of the other Constantinianism, and he regarded it as a dangerous and constant temptation. Yoder argued that Jesus himself rejected this temptation, even to the point of dying a horrible and cruel death. Resurrecting Jesus from the dead was, in this view, God's way of vindicating Christ's unwavering obedience.
Likewise, Yoder argued, the primary responsibility of Christians is not to take over society and impose their convictions and values on people who don't share their faith, but to "be the church." By refusing to return evil for evil, by living in peace, sharing goods, and doing deeds of charity as opportunities arise, the church witnesses, says Yoder, to the fact that an alternative to a society based on violence or the threat of violence has been made possible by the life, death, resurrection and teachings of Jesus. Yoder claims that the church thus lives in the conviction that God calls Christians to imitate the way of Christ in his absolute obedience, even if it leads to their deaths, for they, too, will finally be vindicated in resurrection.
In bringing traditional Mennonite convictions to the attention of a wider critical audience, Yoder reenergized stale theological debates over foundational Christian ecclesiological, Christological, and ethical beliefs. (Following Barth,) Yoder rejected Enlightenment presuppositions, epitomized by Kant, about the possibility of a universal, rational ethic. Abandoning the search for a universal ethic underlying Christian and non-Christian morality, as well as attempts to "translate" Christian convictions into a common moral parlance, he argued that what is expected of Christians, morally, need not be binding for all people.