The subject for the present review is the book Powers that Be by Walter Wink published in 1999. The topic of the book is spiritual and religious; it is the continuation of previous works of the author on the exploration of the powers that guide human lives, and the way they may provide a positive or a negative impact on people (Wink, 1999, p. 13). Wink (1999) also speculates on the philosophy of redemptive power of violence nurtured in Christianity and offers a new concept of active non-violence that can substitute both violence and passiveness in oppression (p. 42, 112).
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The main themes of the book circle around the ways Christians react to oppression, and the challenges in the way of Christians to react to violence conducted over them. The concept of “Jesus’ Third Way” is introduced as an alternative standpoint regarding both violence and perception thereof that should be nurtured by genuine Christians as a way to the peaceful future.
Speaking about the evaluation of the book and the critical review of the author’s goals, one should first of all note that the author seems to have coped with the established goals quite well, which can be seen from the comprehensive outlook at the history of religion, history of violence and non-violence, and the delineation of objectives for the future action for all Christians to reform their lives. Wink offers a deep insight into what non-violence represents, and how it has been successfully introduced in many countries’ practices. One of the examples he provides is one of treating Nazis after all evil they have done to Jews and other nations:
“the churches as a whole were too docile or anti-Semitic, and too ignorant of the nonviolent message of the gospel, to act effectively against the Nazis. Because the churches had failed to train members in the nonviolent resistance, no alternative to violence was available” (Wink, 1999, p. 153).
However, the most remarkable part is that Wink (1999) offers a deep and thoughtful, historically based reconsideration of the modern Christian perception of their religion’s history and main postulates. This way, Wink (1999) deconstructs the notion of violent response to the threats to religion, believers, etc. However, the author does not offer Christians to sit and patiently wait while they are abuse, discriminated, and neglected (p. 128). Wink (1999) has something alternative to offer instead of violence, and the way he proves violence is not a way out for the genuine Christian. It is through a detailed and skillful historical review that the reader can understand the true meaning of some Biblical truths in the way they were initially designed. The author explores the fundamental guideline of the gospel – to turn the right cheek to the offender who has already beat one in the left cheek:
“The left cheek now offers a perfect target for a blow with the right fist; but only equals fought with fists, as we know from Jewish sources, and the last thing the master wishes to do is establish this underling’s equality. This act of defiance renders the master incapable of asserting his dominance in this relationship” (Wink, 1999, p. 102).
The way out supposed by Wink (1999) is very logical and innovative, giving both the freedom of action to a Christian, but letting him or she has an alternative standpoint about good and bad events occurring in each person’s life. Wink (1999) explains that the Bible in its original, true meaning supposes that people should not make enemies of those who have done evil to them, but should give them space for transformation, as every person in the world has capabilities for improvement and change for the good (p. 101). Thus, the “Jesus’ Third Way” is the new interpretation of redemptive violence as an empty and wrong dogma. The “Jesus’ Third Way”, instead, offers the way of non-violent change and resistance to violence and aggression, which includes positive and constructive efforts to transform bad objects, people, and institutions into good ones (Wink, 1999, p. 98).
Coming to personal critical remarks, one can consider it appropriate to note that the book is truly transformative and innovative for all Christians, all believers who were critical about adopting either a violent response or passive submissiveness to aggression from the powers that rule the world. Brussat and Brussat (n.d.), for example, characterize the work as “ethically challenging reframing of angels, demons, principalities, and powers”, which is totally true about the book. Since it is not a new dogma, and not a new rule or direction for people, but an interpretation of what most believers already know, it offers much space for personal reflections and considerations.
Reflecting on the present book, I may personally say that it produced a tremendous impression on me as I was reading it, realizing from chapter to chapter that there are some ways to fight the injustice, evil, and aggression in a positively easy and non-violent way. I found so much new about interpretations of Biblical truths, and I was excited about how much it explained in Christianity. It is by means of such books like the work of Wink (1999) that people can learn to pursue their religious beliefs correctly and thoughtfully, for their own delight and pleasure, for their spirituality, and not to be misguided by false assumptions and propaganda.
Brussat, F., & Brussat, M.A. (n.d.). Book Review: The Powers That Be. Theology for a New Millennium. Spirituality Practice. Web.
Wink, W. (1999). The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.