Does anyone have power anymore?

Richard Cohen reviews The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be
by Moises Naim.

“Power is decaying,” Naim writes — and he provides all sorts of examples. Companies that once ruled the world (sort of) suddenly disappear. Kodak went bust (in a flash). Two huge American auto companies came to Washington with a tin cup. BlackBerry was once supposedly so addictive it was called “crackberry.” Now it’s nearly a goner. CEOs come and go at a dizzying pace — about 80 percent of the leaders of major companies are forced out before their terms are up, gridlocking golf courses all over America. Belgium veers to the ungovernable; the United Kingdom may not be united for long, the Northern League wants out of Italy, and in this increasingly fractured world, South Sudan in 2011 became the world’s 193rd nation, up from 51 in the 1940s. [Read more...]

“When He sees that their power is gone”

We had a wonderful Palm Sunday service, and the sermon was on a text that I don’t think I’ve ever noticed before, Deuteronomy 32:36-39.  Moses says that “When he sees that their power is gone,” that is the time when “the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.”  When their power is gone!  What a passage for Law & Gospel and the Theology of the Cross vs. the Theology of Glory!

Postmodernists reduce everything–culture, law, government, morality, religion–to power.  One group is exercising power over someone else, and all of the veneer of civilization is just a mask to hide that fact.  So goes postmodernist cynicism.  (Notice how we Christians play into that mindset and confirm it when we create the impression that what we seek is political power.)

One line of apologetics to the postmodernists is to say that, yes, that does explain a lot.  But there is one counter-example.  One religion that is all about not power but the abdegnation of power.  God who emptied Himself of power:  Jesus on the Cross.

And this text reminds me that Christians too meet Jesus when our “power is gone,” when we admit that we are broken sinners, that we are powerless.  And that’s when the very different power from what postmodernists cynics bemoan manifests itself.  Not an oppressive power but a liberating power.  A saving power that raised Jesus from the dead and that in compassion will “vindicate” us too, raising us from every kind of death.

Pastor Douthwaite did a lot with this text.  Read the whole via sermon, which includes the quotation I gave above.  I remain haunted by this:

Besides, no matter how powerless you are, no matter how low, no matter how tired and weak and piled upon, you will never be at the bottom of the pecking order.

That spot is reserved for one person: Jesus.


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