Yoder is rewarding because he never says quite what I expect, or how I would expect it to be said. But is he right when he calls the church to missionary arrogance? My trajectory has been away from anything which smacks of that. Here is what he writes, back in 1963, collected in the new book of popular writings, Radical Christian Discipleship:
I do not intend to challenge the need for growth in modesty and cultural perspective, but I do intend to challenge the tendency to make a hobby out of a corrective. Today’s more urgent need is no longer perspective and modesty. What today’s world and church need most is a recovery of the missionary arrogance of the New Testament church. To arrogate (the verb from which we get the unpopular adjective arrogant) means to make claims for oneself or for one cause. If the claims we make are for ourselves, then it is understandable why we need to overcome our arrogance. But if the cause for which we are making claims is the cause of the one true God, then anything short of absolute demands is unfaithfulness. (p. 45)
I’ve met too many arrogant Christians arrogant about different things. Yet in the time since he wrote, surely he would only insist more strongly that the urgent need is ‘no longer perspective and modesty’? But which things to be arrogant about? Or maybe not ‘arrogant’ at all, in its normal usage – he is reclaiming the word, as he does so often. Instead, ‘make claims’ for the ’cause’: proclaim the kingdom without apologising.
(He was speaking to a Mennonite audience at Goshen. Would he have given the same address to an audience of conservative evangelicals? Maybe not, although I’m certain he would have given it to an audience of liberals for whom it would have been a hard saying.)
I need to digest this some more.