I’ve been reading The War of the Lamb, the most recent posthumous work of John Howard Yoder’s to be released. I’ll have more to say about some of the problems of the published form of the book later. (Short version: I deeply suspect that Stassen has taken too many editorial liberties in the interest of enlisting Yoder in support of his “just peacemaking” program. But I have to investigate more before I make any strong accusations of that sort.)
However, despite what the back cover claims, that in this book Yoder argues that “Christian just war and Christian pacifist traditions are basically compatible,” Yoder’s true voice cannot be edited away. The book actually provides the most clear statement of Yoder’s firm rejection of just war theory as a credible form of moral discourse:
This is a conversation [between just war and pacifism] I have already analyzed more deeply than most people have. I know from having tested it for thirty years from inside that the just war tradition is not credible. I don’t dialogue with the just war tradition because I think is is credible, but because it is the language that people, who I believe bear the image of God, abuse to authorize themselves to destroy other bearers of that image. (p. 116)
This is perhaps the clearest statement I’ve yet seen from Yoder about his own rationale for his dialogical engagement with just war theory. Those who construe it as some form of advocating “compatibility” between just war and pacifism are doing violence to Yoder’s work. Yoder’s engagement with just war was of a distinctly pacifist sort. He engaged the just war tradition because he loved both those who held to it and those who suffer under its abuse. Indeed, as Yoder makes clear in the The War of the Lamb, his discourse with just war is simply one of the ways he tried to practice the gospel call to love our enemies (see pp. 110-11).