Walter Wink (1935–2012) was an icon of the progressive movement in Christian theology in the late 20th century and at the turn of the millennium. Arguably his most popular and enduring works are those he wrote on the concept of “powers” as understood in scripture. In this series, Wink utilizes his training in biblical interpretation to examine the nature of power and how the modern conception of it differs significantly from the way the biblical authors use the concept. His stirring analysis leads to many relevant social commentaries on the power structures of our own day and the capacity for evil to flourish within them. Through this lens, Wink encourages Christians and the churches to do their part to bring about social justice in the face of the powers of evil.
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In this brilliant culmination of his seminal Powers Trilogy, now reissued in a twenty-fifth anniversary edition, Walter Wink explores the problem of evil today and how it relates to the New Testament concept of principalities and powers. He asks the question, “How can we oppose evil without creating new evils and being made evil ourselves?”
Winner of the Pax Christi Award, the Academy of Parish Clergy Book of the Year, and the Midwest Book Achievement Award for Best Religious Book.
Angels, Spirits, principalities, powers, gods, Satan—these, along with all other spiritual realities, are the unmentionables of our culture. The dominant materialistic worldview has absolutely no place for them. … [But] materialism itself is terminably ill, and, let us hope, in process of replacement by a worldview capable of honoring the lasting values of modern science without succumbing to reductionism. … [Therefore] we find ourselves returning to the ancient traditions, searching for wisdom wherever it may be found. We do not capitulate to the past and its superstitions, but bring all the gifts our race has acquired along the way as aids in recovering the lost language of our souls. … In Naming the Powers I developed the thesis ... that the New Testament’s “principalities and powers” is a generic category referring to the determining forces of physical, psychic, and social existence. … In the present volume we will be focusing on just seven of the Powers mentioned in Scripture. Their selection out of all the others dealt with in Naming the Powers is partly arbitrary: they happen to be ones about which I felt I had something to say. But they are also representative, and open the way to comprehending the rest. They are: Satan, demons, angels of churches, angels of nations, gods, elements, and angels of nature.
Repressive authoritarian regimes are falling and fragile new democracies are emerging around the globe. How are long-standing conflicts and deep divisions to be healed and enemies reconciled without breeding further injustices?
To answer this question, Walter Wink here applies his compelling analysis of “the Powers,” as they appear in the New Testament, to the global scene. Surveying the wrenching religious and ethical dilemmas involved in transitions from despotism to democracy, Wink neatly summarizes key concepts from his Fortress Press trilogy on the Powers, including sections on “Jesus against Domination” and “Nonviolence.” He then shows how central concepts in the teaching of Jesus can clarify true and false ideas of forgiveness and reconciliation and apology—without sacrificing justice. The personal, political, and geopolitical pertinence of Wink's ideas shines in his discussion of specific situations in Africa and Latin America.
“And what of the churches? “Jesus” proclamation of God’s domination – free order”, Wink claims, “provides a framework for dealing with the role of the churches in helping nations move from autocracy to democracy. Far more is at stake than merely an orderly transition to a more representative form of governance: such moments in history open up to heavenly potentials. ... In such times, it is the vision of God’s domination-free order that prevents us from acquiescing to unworthy visions, or accepting political compromises as anything more than temporary pauses on the path to fuller justice.”
Wink’s new work demonstrates the power, promise, and practicality of Jesus’ ethic of nonviolence for today.
Gregory L. Fisher