Book Review: Transforming the Powers, Edited by Ray Gingerich and Ted Grimsrud, Fortress Press

October 9, 2006

Book Review: Transforming the Powers. Edited by Ray Gingerich and Ted Grimsrud


In Transforming the Powers various scholars look to Walter Wink’s writings and analysis of the Powers “or the realities of all human social dynamics—our institutions, belief systems, traditions, and the like” as a starting point for conversation  in a series of essays about how these Powers can be transformed from a biblical perspective (p.2).

Beginning with a look at worldviews, and their ability to lay the foundation for the way entire societies make meaning and understand reality, Wink, a contributing author, emphasizes the importance of the “Integral Worldview” that “sees all of life as an oscillation between visible and invisible, spirit and body, inwardness and activity, contemplation and social engagement” (p.22).  In this context Wink explains how this worldview works from a variety of scientific and theological perspectives and suggests that every institution has a spirit or personality that is within it. From this place, he and others in the book suggest that transformation of these Powers involves a spiritual reality that is often not addressed within the social sciences. 

Nancy Murphy specifically looks at the divide between the social sciences and the voice of Christian perspectives and practice.  She draws attention to the fact that social theory, though presumed to be unbiased, is so. “The so-called pure social sciences regularly employ ethically loaded conceptions of human nature, such as assumptions about the intrinsic egoism of individuals, the necessity of violence or the threat of violence in all social relations, concepts of human dignity…” which rationalize egoism, capitalism, militarism, and other “isms” and aspects of our fallen nature (p. 33).   

The authors together suggest that religion and the Christian church have the special task of exposing the idols and false ideologies of our culture and engaging in the process of transformation of the Powers. Ted Grimsrud suggests a “pacifist way of knowing” instead of a modern worldview that has legitimized domination of both others and our environment as a basis for transformative initiatives (p.62).  This involves “love, kindness, restorative justice, and healthy relationships with all of creation. (p.62).”  Willard Swartley proposes that transforming the Powers should draw together a number of approaches while studying the early church’s counterculture way of living. He specifically notes their rejection of involvement in military service, the practice of mutual aid and care for the poor and marginalized, and their emphasis on Jesus Christ’s victory over death that empowers Christians to overcome the power of evil through exorcism, non-resistance, and humble service (p. 111).  Others throughout the book expound on these basic principles and their value in transforming the Powers of our culture today.

I found Transforming the Powers to be very helpful in developing a deeper foundation of how the pacifistic worldview informs Christians about the redemption of culture. The discussion about science, religion, and providence, specifically as it relates to prayer, inspired faith in the power of the Spirit and helped me understand how various faith traditions that I have interacted with in my spiritual journey inform the process of transforming the Powers.  On another note, the book followed on the heels of last weeks reading of Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution quite well.  Transforming the Powers offered further food for thought about the negative impact of capitalism and a corresponding response that values the economics of sharing and communal living (p. 123).  I was again compelled to think more about how to practically live this out which does not usually leave me with easy answers.


One Response to “Book Review: Transforming the Powers, Edited by Ray Gingerich and Ted Grimsrud, Fortress Press”

  1. […] Book Review: Transforming the Powers, Edited by Ray Gingerich and Ted Grimsrud […]

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