In the seminary class Pauline Theology and Ethics, 40% of our grade is class participation, which includes both in-class conversation and postings on an online forum. Below is a conversation two of us had about Paul and King, submission and civil disobedience (see references for class reading at the end). The week’s topic was Paul and the powers.
Jeff: How are believers and the collective church to relate to the powers—the prince of the air and worldly governmental authority?
In the first of his “powers” trilogy, Walter Wink looks at the various words the Bible (especially Paul) uses for the powers (Naming the Powers, pp. 13-35). Wink concludes that the language for principalities, rulers, authorities and powers “is imprecise, liquid, interchangeable, and unsystematic” (p. 9). Furthermore the “Powers are both heavenly and earthly, divine and human, spiritual and political, invisible and structural” (p. 11). However, to the degree that we are able, we must consider the two types of powers as discrete in some way in order to make comprehensible Paul’s admonitions about how Christians should relate to each.
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