Chapter 8 – Denouncing the Powers and Principalities



“According to Paul, principalities and powers are the personalities and forces that dominate our lives and our world.  These personalities and forces are visible and invisible, earthly and heavenly.  They include human rulers, large world structures, angelic beings like Michael, and demonic beings like Satan.” (113)

“These unseen powers and principalities seem to reveal themselves through human beings and the institutions we create.” (113-114)

“ . . . an unhealthy focus on the demonic dimension of racism does more harm than good.  If we try to take on these forces and cast them out in nonbiblical or extrabiblical ways, as some people teach, we put ourselves at risk.” (115)

Powers and Principalities at Work:

·    Spirit of pride (or, spirit of empire) – “drives people to conquer and vanquish others based on the evil, insidious ideology of racial and ethnic superiority.  This supernatural entity refuses to submit to God and produces a human arrogance that attempts to make God and others in one’s own image . . . There is possibly no greater pride than the belief that God is just like us!” (116)
·    Spirit of mammon – “propagates the lie that money is more important than human life . . . where the spirit of mammon is operating, human beings are objectified and reduced to commodities, property that can be bought or sold.” (118)
·    Spirit of fear – “this spirit propagates the xenophobia—hatred of strangers or foreigners—that is prevalent in our world.  Blind fear of anything or anyone different from one’s own people group has produced heightened suspicion, hostility and distrust between people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.” (118)

“The spirit of pride and the spirit of the empire can also be seen whenever we start to feel a sense of manifest destiny to save the world and police all the bad guys.  It is true that governments are called to protect their people and to trade with their neighbors; however, when we cross the line of being one nation among many and start to think of ourselves as the chosen nation, the best nation and the Big Brother of all the other nations, we have fallen into self-worship and idolatry.” (118-119)

“In the West, we fool ourselves into thinking that if we understand a problem, we have solved the problem.  We believe that knowledge is power, and so when we articulate a brilliant critique we think we have gained the victory.  But critique is not enough.  Though truth makes freedom possible, it is only love for the least and the lost that brings the kingdom of God near.” (121)

“We will never discern the principalities and powers that distort and dehumanize our ethnic group or nation unless we begin to ask for discernment.” (123)

Think on these questions in prayer.

·    “What is our people’s particular theory of specialness or chosen-ness?”
·    “What institutions especially support that theory?”
·    “What images in our common life symbolize the main things that we worship about ourselves?”
·    “What people are excluded or looked upon as inferior as a result of our theory of our specialness?”
·    “What human personality and demonic presence might lie behind our theory of our specialness?  What false gods might our fathers and mothers have worshiped?” (125)


“The good news of the kingdom finds its richest, deepest and most powerful expression as we seek the alienated and excluded.” (127)

McNeil, Brenda Salter, and Rick Richardson.  The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change.  Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009.