Christ’s victory over the forces of darkness was a regrettably neglected topic in my own Christian heritage and I suspect that my experience is symptomatic of a larger trend in evangelicalism. It’s not necessarily the case that we disbelieve in spiritual beings (in fact, I suspect we talk more about them in Calvary Chapel circles than some others), it’s just that I hadn’t always put together all the pieces, particularly the significance of Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension, and return as a story of victory. All this to say that when I saw Moses’ Practices of Power on the Fortress Press website, I knew I would need to check it out.
Much ink has been spilled in the history of scholarship about the powers and principalities in Paul’s letters, but Moses wants to take the discussion further by bypassing two traps that have ensnared much of the scholarly discussion. These are the preoccupation on the identity of these powers, and the belief/practice dichotomy. Moses’ proposal is that we need to shift our focus towards what Paul says believers should do about the powers: “Paul’s conception of the powers is unintelligible without a developed account of the practices he advocated for the early believers” (p5). What are these ‘practices’? Here is Moses’ own definition:
Practices of power are either activities that guard believers from the dominion of the powers, or activities that expose believers and unbelievers to the dominion of the powers. — (p5)
Since Moses walks through representative passages in Paul’s letters (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Colossians), and his discussion is dense, I plan to do a post on each “practice of power”. Check back next week for the first practice: baptism, in the letter to the Romans.
Many thanks to Fortress Press for providing a copy of Practices of Power in exchange for a review. Their generosity has not affected my opinion of the book.