powers and principalities

Kellermann’s collection gives an entire section to Stringfellow’s theology of the principalities and powers. He begins with part of the famous exchange between Stringfellow and Karl Barth where it appears that Stringfellow is already developing this sense of the captivity of our culture p.187-191).

On page 205, in a section from An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land, Stringfellow lays out a short definition and list of examples of principalities.


The very array of names and titles in biblical usage for the principalities and powers is some indication of the scope and significance of the subject for human beings. And if some seem quaint, transposed into contemporary language they lose quaintness and the principalities become recognizable and all too familiar: they include all institutions, all ideologies, all images, all movements, all causes, all corporations, all bureaucracies, all traditions, all methods and routines, all conglomerates, all races, all nations, all idols. Thus, the Pentagon or the Ford Motor Company or Harvard University …. or the Methodist Church or the Teamsters… 

and the list goes on all seminaries or economic plans or… and the list goes on and I am complicit, judging and judged. I want the principalities and powers to stand outside of my participation, to be an other I can stand against in righteous resistance, holding them in contempt the way I hold the Black Friday stores and shoppers in contempt on the day after the US Thanksgiving holiday.

I want to be the single righteous man waiting for the promised Messiah, instead I’m standing at the desk, cajoling the innkeeper to let me have the last room and put the nasty Nazarene travelers somewhere else, “send them to the stable, I need a bed I’ve been traveling for weeks promoting the business of Rome.”

Currently playing in iTunes: 1 John 4:16 by The Mountain Goats

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One Response to powers and principalities

  1. tgwpage says:

    Helpful, challenging post.
    Thanks for pointer to The Mountain Goats – that’s a poignant, meaning-laden track.

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