One of the New Testament scholars who has captured both an academic reputation and a spirituality/church reputation is Walter Wink. Wink’s focus was on the powers, that is, on the principalities and powers. So his theory of spiritual warfare, the first discussed in Beilby and Eddy’s Understanding Spiritual Warfare, is all about the powers — it is a “world systems model.” It is about what Wink calls the “Domination System.” This is an impressive chp and a summary of Wink’s life work on the powers.
Satan, Wink contends, has nothing to commend himself to the modern world; he is evil; our culture thinks in terms of systemic problems; Satan has been whittled down “to the stature of a personal being whose sole obsessions seem to be with sexuality, adolescent rebellion, crime, passion and greed” (47). Evil is so large that this other portrait of Satan doesn’t own up to the problems.
Satan, for Wink, is the way of speak of an experience.
Wink traces Satan in the Bible as a servant of God, the accusing side of God, which speaks not so much about metaphysics and ontology but of our individual and collective guilt and self-accusations that rob us from being what God made us to be. Satan appears three times in the Old Testament: 2 Sam 24:1 and Zechariah 3:1-5 and Job 1–2. Here Satan is a servant of God, someone who sifts and tests and tempts on God’s behalf. Satan, Wink is arguing, is not unlike the earlier themes of YHWH testing (as in Exod 4:24-26a). In the Old Testament, he says, “Satan is clearly not demonic” (50). Satan is the accusing dimension of God. That is, “the inner or collective accusations of guilt or inferiority” (50).
Wink sees a similar approach to Satan in other New Testament texts: Luke 22:31-34 and 1 Cor 5:1-5 and 1 Timothy 1:20 and Matthew 4:1-11 (where Jesus is sifted about being the Mosaic prophet, the priestly Messiah, and the Davidic king).
Thus, “Satan is the real interiority of a society that idolatrously pursues its own enhancement as the highest good” (57). The “archetypal image of the universal human experience of evil and is capable of an infinite variety of representations” (58). Without the experience of accusation Satan is nothing. He sees Satan as real today — in the erosion of traditional religions, in treating humans as robots, a world that denies the inner world, in seeing money as the ultimate, and in exploitative economic systems.
History, Wink argues, belongs to the intercessors. Prayer is battling and haggling with God; it is genuinely a protest. Prayer is believing the future world of the kingdom into the present. This is the politics of hope.
He contends prayers are not answers simply because either we don’t believe or God says No. Some prayers are not answered because the powers thwart the will of God in this world. Our intercessions will ultimately and finally prevail.