Transforming the Powers: Peace, Justice, and the Domination System.

Author:Chapman, G. Clarke
Position:Book review

Transforming the Powers: Peace, Justice, and the Domination System. Edited by Ray Gingerich and Ted Grimsrud. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2006. 227pp $20.00.

This anthology pays tribute to Walter Wink and his pioneering trilogy on the Powers (Fortress Press, 1984-92), deepening a modern conversation on what the biblical language of the "Principalities and Powers" may mean for today. The essays come from a conference on Wink's thought held at Eastern Mennonite University in March, 2001. Wink wrote two germinal essays for the book.

Wink's thesis is that the Powers, far from mere remnants of ancient worldviews, represent even today the inner momentum and mind-fogging compulsions of public institutions in political, economic, and ecclesial life. By recognizing the spiritual core of human structures and systems--the inward side of outward collectivities in society--we can begin to grasp the insidious yet redeemable nature of the networks of "Domination Systems" affecting us.

The essays range from the metaphysical to the practical, the erudite to the pastoral. Nancy Murphy argues that so-called "secular" social sciences smuggle in ethical assumptions, thus describing egotistical behavior in our fallen social structures as normative. Her second essay seeks to broaden Alasdair MacIntyre's epistemology through four practices of the Radical (Anabaptist) Reformation. Daniel Liechty holds that pacifism and Wink's analyses can refine the social sciences when they depict the compulsive death anxieties that spawn our cultural surrogates for immortality. Since pacifism sees the rich interconnectedness of all life, argues Ted Grimsrud, it offers urgently needed critiques of modernity's worldview, a malady exemplified in the havoc wreaked in Germany's forests by "scientific forestry."

Wink's second essay is one of the best, an agonized probing of concepts of providence, which are usually more pagan than biblical when they ignore the Powers, fixating instead on the post-biblical issue of theodicy that ends up legitimizing America's worship of success and the Domination System. Early Christians by contrast, expected suffering as long as the Powers remain fallen. In a wistful compromise, Wink replaces providence with belief in (Jungian) synchronicity, the mysterious opportunities for human cooperation with forces (good or evil) around us

Willard Swartley's first essay is a tour d'force of the Christus Victor theme. The entire Bible as well as early...

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