Monthly Archives: May 2012

A Tribute to Walter Wink

Ted Grimsrud—May 12, 2012

Walter Wink, one of the greatest peace theologians of the past half-century, has passed from the scene. He died in his home in Massachusetts Thursday, May 10, 2012. He was 76 and had suffered for some years from dementia.

Wink has been one of the thinkers who has influenced me the most. On two different occasions I wrote short summaries of what I found most profound in his thought. As a tribute to his life and work, I offer excerpts from each of these.

Engaging Walter Wink

[In March 2001, Eastern Mennonite University hosted a conference that featured Wink as the main speaker. My colleague Ray Gingerich and I gathered a number of the papers from the conference and published the resultant book: Transforming the Powers: Peace, Justice, and the Domination System (Fortress Press, 2006).]

Walter Wink is that rare, and much appreciated, cross-disciplinary scholar and committed activist who informs and inspires.  Trained as a New Testament specialist, Wink’s first publications in the late 1960s made still-cited contributions to the study of John the Baptist. John the Baptist in the Gospel Tradition remains in print.  He began reaching a wider audience with his provocative The Bible in Human Transformation that forecast his broadening his concerns to psychological and ethical ramifications of how we read the Bible.  Transforming Bible Study emerged from Wink’s work as Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, work paying special attention to the study of the Bible among lay people.

Fortress Press published the first volume of Wink’s “Powers trilogy,” Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament in 1984.  As Wink recounts in that book’s preface, it originated as a book review, critiquing another book on the principalities and powers in the New Testament that Wink disagreed with.  Wink had been working on the theme of the powers for a number of years, originally stimulated by the pioneering work of the notorious Episcopalian lawyer and lay theologian William Stringfellow.

What eventually emerged were two additional full-scale books, Unmasking the Powers: The Invisible Forces That Determine Human Existence (1986) and the magisterial Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (1992), and several shorter works fleshing out the trilogy’s core insights. Continue reading

An ethical eschatology

Ted Grimsrud

At various times since 1525, groups of Anabaptists have gained notoriety for their eschatological views, particularly the Anabaptists who gained control of the city of Münster in 1534–5, proclaiming it to be the New Jerusalem.  As a rule, though, the Anabaptist tradition has been characterized by caution concerning views of the “last things.”

Anabaptist convictions, at their heart, have focused on faithfulness in this present life much more than on speculation concerning the future.  Implicit in such a focus, we may see a sense of trust in God.  As we follow the way of Jesus we may be confident that the God who remained faithful to Jesus will also remain faithful to Jesus’ followers.

What follows are two meditations on these convictions concerning importance of the call to discipleship for viewing the doctrine of eschatology.

The End of the World

At the turn of the millennium, many Christian bookstores and the Christian airwaves included an extra large number of “end times” types of writings and sermons.  Reflecting on “the end of the world” is called “eschatology,” the doctrine concerned with the end of the world.  However, what follows here more accurately could be seen as “anti-eschatology,” or, at least, a different kind of eschatology than that found on the Christian airwaves.

“End” as purpose. This is my main point: In the Bible, and I want to propose, for us today, the point in talking about the “end of the world” is not so much to focus on what is going to happen to the world in the future.  Rather, to talk about the “end of the world” biblically points us to the purpose of the world.  Or, more directly, our purpose in living in the world. Continue reading