Principalities and Powers: Revising John Howard Yoder’s Sociological Theology

By Jamie Pitts

An analysis of the sociological thought of the American Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder.

ISBN: 9780718893316


Principalities and Powers is an ambitious critique of John Howard Yoder’s complex sociological theory. Jamie Pitts’ work transcends ideological boundaries, which have perplexed the many writers who have approached the legacy of John Howard Yoder after his death in 1997. Although there is much disagreement, a broad consensus is forming that his theology was, on the one hand, focused on the social and political meaning of the New Testament accounts of Jesus Christ and, on the other hand, sociologically reductive, hermeneutically tendentious and ecclesiologically ambiguous.

Pitts proposes a revision of Yoder’s theology that maintains its broadly sociological emphasis but corrects for its apparent methodological, political and metaphysical problems. Specifically, adjustments are made to his social theory to open it to spiritual reality, to hone its analytical approach, and to clarify its political import. To do so his preferred framework for social criticism, the theology of the principalities and powers, is examined in the context of his wider work and its critics, and then synthesized with concepts from Pierre Bourdieu’s influential reflexive sociology.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationLPOD

About the Author

Jamie Pitts is Assistant Professor of Anabaptist Studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana.



1. Revising Yoder’s Theology of Creation
2. Revising Yoder’s Theological Anthropology
3. Revising Yoder’s Theology of Violence
4. Revising Yoder’s Theological Method
5. Revising Yoder’s Ecclesial Politics
6. Revising Yoder’s Theology of Christian Particularity



Endorsements and Reviews

Principalities and Powers is an audacious revision of John Howard Yoder’s thought. Pitts expands the current debate about Yoder’s thought by addressing the hard questions Yoder brings with him. He proposes a way of overcoming the tension between particularity and universality. He lays out a historicism that is not prey to reductionism. His interpretive key is the Trinity. Those who have a stake in Yoder’s legacy will need to come to terms with the originality of Pitts’ proposal.
John Rempel, Director of the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre