Archive for November 2nd, 2006


November 2, 2006

You will all be glad to know that we’re finally to the end of Walter Wink’s The Powers That Be (smile). Below, I will offer my overall summary of the book’s argument, followed by printing the epilogue from Wink.

My summary:
* Unseen world forces (i.e. “principalities and powers”) seek to dominate the world, and in so doing, war against God’s desire for justice.
* God’s war strategy (taught by Jesus) dismisses both the practice of violence (“morally illegitimate or excessive use of force”) and pacifism as commonly understood, choosing instead to fight the Powers in a third way: nonviolent, creative resistance.
* The reason for this choice of weaponry is a love for ALL mankind (including enemies).
* The path to war begins in prayer, calling on God to do what is right in the world (to the extent that God can act in the face of the Powers’ freedom), and realigning those praying with their role in social justice.


My friend Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer once found himself walking through the streets of Calcutta, so enraged by the poverty that he wanted to scream at God, “How can you allow such suffering?” Then he came to a painful realization: “In the suffering of the poor God was screaming at me, in fact at all of us and at our institutions and social systems that cause and perpetuate hunger, poverty, and inequality.” We end, then, with that divine cry ringing in our ears, exhorting us to engage these mighty Powers in the strength of the Holy Spirit, that human life might become more fully human.

This is the goal: not only to become free from the Powers, but to free the Powers. Jesus came not only to reconcile people to God despite the Powers, but to reconcile the Powers themselves to God (Col. 1:20). We seek not only to break the idolatrous spells cast over people by the Powers, but to break the ability of the Powers to cast idolatrous spells. “The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). We need to escape idolatry, not this planet. We do not seek to rid ourselves of subsystems and structures in order to secure an individualistic paradise on earth or an afterlife in heaven. We seek, rather, to relate these systems to the One in and through and for whom they exist, and in whom all things hold together (Col. 1:16-17).

The passion that drove the early Christians to evangelistic zeal was not fueled just by the desire to increase church membership or to usher people safely into a compensatory heaven after death. Their passion was fired above all by relief at being liberated from the delusions being spun over them by the Powers. Being thus freed determined them to set others free. In the final analysis, the gospel is not a message of escape to another world, but of rescue from the enticements of “this world” (the Domination System) and its ultimate transformation, when “all nations shall come and worship” God (Rev. 15:4). Eternal life is not something reserved for the future in another reality, but begins now, the moment we become alive to God and God’s revealer (John 17:3).

In a pluralistic world in which we are privileged to learn from all religious and philosophical traditions, Christians still have a story to tell to the nations. Who knows – telling it may do no one so much good as ourselves. And as we tell it and live it, we may see ourselves – and maybe even the world – a little bit transformed.