According to Yoder, this ‘Constantinian’ problem persists even though it has metamorphosed through history. Yoder’s task was to unmask this distortion and then to revision church and world in the light of the New Testament.
In his Stone lectures at Princeton, Yoder consolidated a number of earlier themes in scattered occasional articles to articulate more systematically an authentically Christian social vision that centred around the ecclesial community rather than the society at large but which turned the tables on H. Richard Niebuhr by suggesting that the Anabaptist vision and ecclesial practices were the true transformers of culture. Beginning with a section from the Church Dogmatics IV/2, Yoder claims that Barth is perhaps the only mainline theologian “for millennia” to take seriously as the “starting point for ethics” the confession of Jesus Christ as Lord: a confession that the Christian community makes but which the ‘civil community’ does not. It is the “only necessary dualism” for social ethics.
The Christian community in its own ‘order’ sets forth toward providing an exemplary social practice, provisional as it may be. It does not constitute another realm from the wider society or ‘the State’. In Yoder’s words: “The people of God is called to be today what the world is called to be ultimately.” Both ekklesia and State are public, outward, bodily, and historical. Further, they both fall under the lordship of Christ.
“What believers are called to is no different from what all humanity is called to. That Jesus Christ is Lord is a statement not about my inner piety or my intellect or ideas but about the cosmos. Thus the fact that the rest of the world does not yet see or know or acknowledge that destiny to which it is called is not a reason for us to posit or to broker some wider or thinner vision, some lower common denominator or halfway meeting point, in order to make the world’s divine destination… more acceptable or more accessible. The challenge to the faith community should not be to dilute or filter or translate its witness, so that the ‘public’ community can handle it without believing, but so to purify and clarify and exemplify it that the world can perceive it to be good news without having to learn a foreign language.”The old 'sectarian' charge cannot properly apply when this is understood. In Yoder's words:
“This should suffice... to state the confessional and christological logic of the claim that the order of the faith community constitutes a public offer to the entire society.”If we do not take the vocation of the Christian community seriously to be an alternative but parallel society, planted in the midst of the present order, our witness will be reduced to a vapid recommendation of 'values'.