Transforming the Powers – book review

October 9, 2006

Transforming the Powers: Peace, Justice and the Domination System
Ray Gingerich and Ted Grimsrud, eds.
Augsburg Press, 2006

The contributors to this book are Seminary ethics professors, seeking to elaborate Walter Wink’s work on the Powers.

This book provides a comprehensive understanding of the Powers, as well as gives practical ways for Christians to transform corrupt powers, bringing about God’s kingdom.

Worldviews and Powers
Worldviews are our perceptions about reality which dictates how we view society (p. 17). Walter Wink asserts that unless we take the time to understand our own personal worldviews, they can control our behavior in unknown ways (p. 17). Wink lays out a number of worldviews and then claims that we are moving towards an integral worldview in which all things are connected. Christians, then, are called to live our out faith and proclaim the good news in light of this new worldview. Nancy Murphy elaborates on Wink’s work, and asserts that we must allow social scientists to be apart of this conversation, because it is already taking place without us. Ted Grimsrud and Daniel Liechty highlight the influence of the powers over human action and advocate for non violence resistance.

Understanding the Powers
Wink addresses providence and the role of the Powers in evil. He claims that we must acknowledge God’s providence and the Power’s providence to more fully understand the workings of the world. Willard Swartley then looks at Christ’s role in defeating the corrupted powers and structures. Christ’s work was overthrowing the principalities and powers of the world and we are invited to participate in this work by radically following Jesus’ teachings. Ray Gingerich addresses the fallen powers of economics and violence and demonstrates how they can be redeemed by a community dedicated to following Christ.

Engaging the Powers
Glen Stassen agrees with Wink’s advocacy for nonviolence and offers a number of practical ways for Christians to follow Christ’s “transforming initiatives” (p. 130) found in Matthew 5:38-48. Along with 10 practices for peace making, he advocates for grassroots peacemaking organizations, strengthening the UN and conflict resolution. Stassen also fleshes out the type of justice that Christ pursued, and the various ways that he sought justice. William Swartley lays out the different trends in Mennonite peacekeeping and challenges the church to use both our resistance and nonresistance to demonstrate Christ’s love.

I am convicted by Wink’s statement that unless we understand the Powers and our own worldviews, they will control us. Though this is a new field of study to me, this book helped me to examine my own perspectives and to look at the societal Powers that I interact with on a day to day basis. Comparing this book to Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution, it is good to see some theology put behind Claiborne’s radical lifestyle. Claiborne’s ministry can be seen as an attempt to redeem the fallen powers of economics, social justice and poverty. Transforming the Powers does an excellent job of describing the things that control us, and then offering practical suggestions of how to break free from these Powers. Focusing on Christ’s teachings, the contributors give a clear vision of nonviolence and justice, calling the church to live radically in order to spread the Good News of the Gospel.


One Response to “Transforming the Powers – book review”

  1. Isaac Butterworth said

    Thanks for the very helpful review of the book. I like the way you structured your remarks. Your summary gives me a good idea of what the authors have to say.

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