Unmasking the Powers (Powers, Vol 2): The Invisible Forces That Determine Human Existence Paperback – 5 Jan 1986
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From the Back Cover
'In his remarkable trilogy on the principalities and powers, Walter Wink has biblically verified what more and more of us have come to realize intuitively: namely, that underneath and within the social, economic, and political crisis we face, there are profoundly spiritual realities which must be confronted.' -Jim Wallis, Sojourners
About the Author
Dr. Walter Wink is Professor Emeritus of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. He received the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Prize, awarded by the Fellowship of Reconciliation for 2006.
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Top Customer Reviews
It certainly provides some very interesting and plausible explanations for what I've observed/ experienced at work and in church. I don't agree with everything that Mr Wink says, but that may be because I don't have a theology degree, or at this point in my faith journey I am unable to accept what he is saying is true, and no human being is infallible, therefore its possible that he doesn't have everything right. I am trying to keep an open mind and will wait and see whether my opinions on Mr Wink's book change with time and growth along my own spiritual journey.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"The Powers" Trilogy by Walter Wink are three of the most challenging books I've read in a while. I'm not saying I agree with everything in them, but the concepts in these books are so "otherworldly" that it will take me some time to grasp and process what he says. For these reasons, all three books have a place on my "Burning Books" list.
I have previously reviewed "Naming the Powers" in which Wink provides most of the exegetical and Scriptural data for his study.
In the second volume, "Unmasking the Powers", he delves deep into explaining several of the key forces behind human existence, and how they govern our lives. The topics Wink discusses are not often taught about in churches or seminaries, and if a pastor were to teach some of what Wink believes, it is likely that he or she would get fired.
Well, let me give you some examples. In his chapter on "Satan" he writes this:
"We have so moralized [Satan] that we fail to see that the most satanic temptation of all is the temptation to become other than ourselves. When people try to be "good Christians"--what is that but Satan's crowning victory? For "being a good Christian" is always collectively defined by some denomination or strong religious personality or creed. One does not need to "live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" in order to be a "good Christian"; one need only be pliant, docile, and obedient" (p. 19).
"[William Blake writes that] Every religion which preaches vengeance for sin is the religion of the Enemy and Avenger, and not the Forgiver of Sin, and their God is Satan, Named by the Divine Name. Blake is not talking about Satanism, but about Christian churches that behave satanically under the banner of Christ. To his criterion for discerning satanic "Christianity" we might add these: hostility toward those who are different; projecting evil on other who are then demonized; claiming doctrinal certitude; breeding psychic dependency, unconsciousness, stagnation, fear, guilt, or hatred; depicting God as a monster (as in ascribing the death of loved ones to God). Satanic Christianity can be rigidly legalistic or morally slack...but these are characteristics of much of what passes as Christianity" (p. 36).
Try preaching that in your church and see how long you last.
Quotes like this are found on nearly every page, and what Wink says will challenge everything you believe about the spiritual realm, not only about Satan, angels, and demons, but also about politics, government, science, and nature.
The last half of the book was incredibly uncomfortable reading for me, as much of what Wink wrote seemed to border on spiritism, animism, polytheism, mysticism, and maybe even some Gnosticism. But I think that in the end, he was able to demonstrate that when Christianity moved away from such errors, we let the pendulum swing too far.
The call of Walter Wink is for followers of Jesus to return to a proper and biblical understanding of the powers that are around us, in us, and through us, and which share creation with us. Only in this way can we truly worship God with all of creation.
If I can summarize his view of angels/demons it goes something like this: they are personified moments of the Archetypes’ acting upon the human psyche. This isn’t necessarily wrong but it doesn’t always square with Wink’s analysis in other places. Some aspects of the Christian tradition did suspect that paganism’s gods and Plato’s “Forms” were probably similar to what we would call angels and demons (and it is important to keep in mind that Plato thought the Forms had causal power).
His chapters on angels engage in a unique interpretation of Revelation. Wink suggests that aggelos in Revelation 2-3 refers not to a specific bishop, nor to what we normally call “angels,” but that the church in its totality refers to an angelic manifestation. There are some problems to this, but a case can be made for it. The “you” in these chapters is always singular, not plural. Further, if aggelos does refer to a messenger or bishop, then why does the term never refer to that afterwards?
Wink suggests that “angel and people are the inner and outer aspects of the same reality” (72). Bizarrely enough, the angel is held accountable for the church’s action. This allows Wink to acknowledge that each church has a “spirit” that manifests the collective subconscious of the church. All psycho-jargon aside, there might be something to this. Anyone who has dealt with church problems can usually sense the “spirit of the church in the air.”
The angel can only be confronted by Christ via a human, prophetic intermediary. God does this, rather than speaking directly to the corporate angels, because, as Wink suggests, heaven is the realm of transcendence latent within human possibility (81). Okay, that’s just silly but he does capture an important truth: heaven is not “up there,” but rather that which is beyond the veil.
Criticisms and Problems
~Wink acknowledges the reality of “guest spirits” via occult paraphernalia (58). However, he defines demonic possession as “an estrangement from one’s self as imago Dei and full social being” (59). The problem with this definition is that it doesn’t make sense of his previous acknowledged “guest spirits.” Further, he admits that “outer personal demons do possess knowledge beyond that of their hosts, albeit a meager knowledge.” Very true, but it doesn’t fit with his definition of demonic activity.
He speaks of “this primordial power of evil” (25) as opposed to a Satan-personality (not sure why they are mutually exclusive?) yet this raises the question: from where (whom?) did this primordial power of evil originate? He wrestles with this very question (27ff), even coming across various insights and questions (e.g., does Satan gain access by our neuroses? Washington and Moscow are actually on the same side), yet dodges any real answer.
~Is he saying that the fragmentary nature of evil (i.e., the Satan, if you will) is what prevents our realizing self-transcendence (30)? What is this but Gnosticism?
~He defends paganism (24, 36). Seriously, I am not kidding. Perhaps he is saying we shouldn’t demonize (oops!) the Other. Fair enough, but has he done research on Moloch worship?
~He engages in emotional blackmail (182 n94). He tells the story of a woman who grew up Roman Catholic, wanted to become a priest but denied access. She got angry, became a prostitute, and joined the church of Satan (later she was redeemed). A sad story, to be sure, but what conclusion does he want us to draw?
~Wink engages in inflammatory rhetoric, as in Spanish “thugs” (74). Mind you, I have no love for colonial Roman Catholicism, but this seems more like “sneaking in a cheap shot.”
~He pushes his own agenda. Either a church is “self-engrossed or engaged in social justice” (76), which usually means the Democratic National Convention.
~Advocates a one-world government (102). This follows upon a particularly astute discussion of nationalism and how nations are biblical. Not sure how his two theses mesh.
He regularly engages with fresh insights and interesting exegesis. Unfortunately, it is marred by a polemical and deeply political tone reminiscent of his era.
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