Late last night I heard the news that Walter Wink had died.
Today is a sad day. Like many others around the world Wink’s scholarly work has had an impact way beyond the typical academic reactions of interest, engagement, antithesis or synthesis. Wink’s work is a great example of scholarship in service of the Kingdom of God, good writing and teaching as a medium of human transformation by the Holy Spirit.
Wink is best known for his “Powers” trilogy, which are books that I have read over and over again. His writing style is clear and easy to read, and his writing content is relentlessly bold and challenging as he faces up to his own transformation under the lens of scripture and offers the possibility to the reader of a similar transformative experience.
When I came to Wink from a strongly charismatic background I had already met some very other-wordly interpretations of the language of power in the NT. Yes I remember all night prayer meetings to “bind the principalities and powers”. Wink’s contribution to the subject was two fold. First of all he uncovers the thoroughly political and institutional nature of the powers language, but secondly and vitally he does not let the demythologising move be the conclusion. No, he then goes back into the gospels and Paul to revisit the mode of engaging with the powers, and via some Jungian psychology and modern non-violence praxis he finds Jesus and Paul’s very spiritual promise and challenge that the powers may be overcome. This brings the NT from a flat, monochrome text into a dazzling three dimensional vision of God’s work in history paradigmatically through the life and execution of Jesus and by the power of the resurrection / Pentecost through the life and witness of a radical new transformed community of fully human beings.
I recently preached on two thirds of the well known Winkian exegesis of the three-fold examples of enemy-love in Matthew 5. I will dedicate the final third to the memory of this truly great follower of Jesus and whole Human Being. I do not know June Keener-Wink, but his widow is today in my heart.