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You will not be the same. Mar 7, 2002
William Stringfellow was the only layman on a panel to interview Karl Barth on one of his few visits to America. During that interview, Stringfellow asked a question that fascinated Barth. In response, Barth asked Stringfellow what he thought. Stringfellow talked at some length. When he was done, Barth looked at the rest of the Panel and told them, and the rest of America, to "Listen to this man!"
Much of that response is contained in this book. I can truly say, this is one book that started me on a process that changed my life. I have since tracked down every book, new or used, that Stringfellow has written. Unfortunately, he died in 1985, so no more are on the way.
But this is the first of his books, and second to "Free In Obedience," perhaps his best. It lays the foundations of his thought. Here we find a man dedicated to "reading America Biblically rather than the Bible Americanly." In the process, you will find he restructures your thoughts along the same path. You will never be the same.
Stringfellow initializes his concept of the "powers and principalities" that are at war with every person in the World, a concept later expanded on by Walter Wink. Here, however, is the core of that worldview. The "powers and principalities" are the images, institutions, and ideologies that hold men captive and channel their lives and their thought. They are the institutions (the IRS, the "military/industrial complex, the "corporate world environment") and the "isms" (communism, capitalism, and even patriotism) that put themselves above God for the allegiance of men.
For Stringfellow, these powers or allegiances have a life of their own, independent of the people that either work for or under them. (For example, the "corporate" standard of dress and behavior of an institution works irregardless of the opinions of management or even the current C.E.O.-they may not even be aware of where the "policies" originated, but they enforce them just the same!) They are spiritual entities.
And these spiritual entities desire the unlimited and unquestioned allegiance of people. They want nothing less then the full captivity of men. As such, they are forces of the fall and forces of death.
For no one took the Fall as seriously as William Stringfellow. He saw its effects everywhere. Therefore, no one took the redemption and victory of Christ Jesus as seriously. He proclaimed with Paul, "Death shall have no victory over us."
This book, though short, will not be read quickly. Stringfellow wrote for the average man in that he did not use theological or obscure words. However, he wrote in a condensed fashion. What others take pages to say, Stringfellow would do in a sentence or two. It may take you the time that it normally takes you to read those two pages to "unpack" those one or two sentences. It may take you even longer to get to the mind behind those sentences.
But the effort will be well worth it. No one, barring Jacques Ellul, wrote and thought about the world through the looking-glass of the Bible as consistently as William Stringfellow. He will take you, perhaps kicking and screaming, to the same point.