[Two weekends ago, Tim and I went to epiphaneia's The Evolving Church: Amidst the Powers conference with plenary speakers Walter Wink, Stanley Hauerwas, and Marva Dawn. Below is my reflection on Walter Wink's lecture. Please also see Tim's reflection for more.]
Part of understanding “the powers” that surround us is to understand that the powers have a physical and spiritual dimension. Walter Wink believed that angels for each church in the beginning of Revelation represent the ethos of each congregation. Thus, from here and other places, he concluded that everything has a spiritual dimension to it.
Though I’m not sure where I stand with Wink on his interpretation of Revelation, I have to say that I agree that everything is, indeed, spiritual. As Paul reminds us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12 TNIV; emphasis mine).” So, when we wrestle with the powers we must remember that we wrestle against an ethos, a spiritual dimension, which is not seen at face value.
The main crux of Wink’s lecture surrounded three major points, which are as follows:
- The powers are good
- The powers are fallen
- The powers can (and must) be redeemed
This travels us down the road of the biblical narrative – creation, fall, redemption [and I would add “restoration,” but, for sake of the argument, I’ll move on without it].
The powers are Good: Walter explained that God created the powers and saw that they were good, as Romans explains, “The authorities that exist have been established by God” (13:1b), and, ultimately, the powers were created as part of God’s “good” creation.
The powers are Fallen: The world’s “fallen-ness” is seen in Genesis 3, where death is brought into the world. Thus, death inhibits God’s good creation. As Wink said, “We all are not what we are meant to be” [wonderful line!], and the powers are in the same boat.
The powers must be Redeemed: If we remember, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 Jn. 3:8b), then, the purpose of God and his people is to be part of the “redemption project.” Thus, as Wink said, we must show the powers what they were meant to be, that is, they are to serve the welfare of all humanity.
Personally, I find Wink’s lecture to be incredibly helpful. Often, I disregard the powers (in the physical nature) so much I find myself believing that the powers are essentially evil. Thus, I can border sectarianism. However, God, in Christ, does not call us to sit back and “let the world run its course,” for, if we do so, we delve into Deism, and we deny our purpose of redeeming the powers to show them what they are meant to be in God’s creation. We do not promote a “Christian nation” or some type of theocracy. Instead, when we call the powers to be what they are meant to be, the Church works in bringing all things under the authority of Christ.