Book Review > Gingerich/Grimsrud, Transforming the Powers, 2006, Fortress

I was jolted in the contrast of Claiborne’s story telling (last week’s book review of Irresistible Revolution) to the academic essays that make up this week’s book, Transforming the Powers, edited by Ray Gingerich and Ted Grumsrud.

Centered on the work of Walter Wink, a professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City, six different authors, as well as Wink himself, expound on the Powers (primarily based on Wink’s trilogy, Naming the Powers, Unmasking the Powers, and Engaging the Powers). These essays were originally presented at a conference in 2001 at Eastern Mennonite University (6). The purpose of the collection is as Grimsrud puts it, “to converse deeply with [Wink’s accomplishment], to challenge his insights, and to seek to continually test them and apply them in ever-broader spheres of life (6).”

First thing first, what are the powers?
Its important to grasp what Walter Wink was getting at before reading additional voices and their offshoots. Wink’s thesis is based on even earlier work by John Howard Yoder, that named “powers” as social forces of religious, intellectual, moral, and political structures (40). Walter Wink builds on this to elaborate, “The Powers are good. The Powers are fallen. The Powers must be redeemed (2).”

What a balanced view! It mimics our own humanity so closely: we have goodness along with evil and must be redeemed by God in our own lives. It’s natural to apply this pattern in social powers as well.

The essays are grouped in three parts, “Worldviews and the Powers”, “Understanding the Powers” and “Engaging the powers”.

All the work is fascinating and presents, as Dan Liechty puts it, “a much more intellectually rigorous Christianity (39)”. This is exciting to read these conversations in the midst of culture wars where Evangelicals are typically stereotyped as anti-intellectual (as perhaps some are). But here Christian thought carries faith into what Wink calls an Integral worldview (21). This view does not dismiss the onset of science as the Traditional view (18), or even create a Dualistic view (19) that values both, but keeps them separate. Instead he and the others engage the powers and argue for pacifistic social action to bring about redemption of the powers (This group demonstrates this in the format of their book, exploring one topic through several thinkers and academic spheres).

Ironically the academic rigor of the book is also my critique (I wonder, did I just cancel out my review?) This content is not accessible to the layperson, and I had a hard time accessing a lot if it. From my viewpoint as a designer (trained to make things as clear as possible), this heavy reading will not stir church attendees to carry out the redeeming work if they don’t understand it. Of course I realize the focus of this book is to capture dialogue of a past conference and not mobilization, yet I fear these new and relevant applications for faith will stay in the academic world and not be brought into general Christian dialogue.


One Response to “Book Review > Gingerich/Grimsrud, Transforming the Powers, 2006, Fortress”

  1. Transforming the visuals « Design Ministry Says:

    […] had to review the book for class back in October, and am still impressed by Walter Wink’s take on redeeming […]

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