Back to All Events

Powers, Principalities, and the Spirit: Biblical Realism in Africa and the West


There is a visible difference, almost tension, today between the culturally different churches, in the North/West and the South which could be read as focused around the language of the principalities and powers and its attendant mythos. It is a question of how to understand what the concept meant in Hebraic thought and in the life and practice of the early Jesus followers and what if any their implications are for ecclesiology in our day. What was then and now the nature of exousiology? While we cannot draw a red cause-effect line between belief and attention to the spirit(s) and the numerical growth in the South, and lack of belief in the spirit(s) and the declension in the North, the experience and expression of Christian witness in the two spaces point us in the direction of adducing such a relationship in our account of the Church.  But if the Church is to experience and express itself to the world in its catholicity, and if the Church is to claim its identity as demonstrated in its affirmation of “One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism” surely the kind of schizophrenic stance it currently depicts, where especially North compares its dwindling numbers to the South’s numerical strength and South celebrates is expanding numbers both at home and the diaspora, needs to be stemmed. Is there a way forward from this current stance, a way to provide parameters within which to, as it were, sit at the hermeneutical table as Christian North and South, the one with its formal structured liturgical style that often allows for little affect; the other with its often informal and unstructured style that allows for the affect and charismatic fervor which it equates with the presence and influence of the Spirit, so they can learn from each other? What would be the implications for a global missional church in the 21st Century and beyond.
In this seminar we will explore some of the sources and causes of the current tensions in interpretation and understanding of key passages that speak of the principalities and powers in Christian Theology. What is at heart is really how to understand and live into what presents as an enchanted world with integrity especially when it is clear that disenchantment has no real cure for enchantment gone awry in both the Global South and West. The goal will be to help us refine current theologies and by extension pastoral practice, as it relates to belief in and about the principalities and powers and life in the Spirit in the light of contemporary global Christian questions and their implications for mission and evangelism.

Seminar Schedule:

Tues., 6th Nov.  
9:00 am  Worship 
9:30 am Enchantment and Disenchantment: A question of Perspective
11:45 am  Lunch Break
2:00 pm Disenchantment of Enchantment: Fleeing from or Embracing the Spirit?
4:00 pm Seminar concludes for the day
Wed.,7th Nov.  
9:00 am Re-enchantment of Enchantment: Reclaiming “Myth” After Bultmann
11:45 am Lunch Break
2:00 pm A Theology of the Spirit and the Powers in Christian Contexts
4:00 pm Seminar concludes for the day
Thur., 8th Nov.  
9:00 am Worship 
9:30 am Interpreting Ephesians on the Powers: A Historical Survey
11:45 am  Lunch Break
2:00 pm Biblical Realism and the Demands of Contextual Hermeneutics
4:00 pm Seminar concludes for the day
Fri., 9th Nov.  
9:00 am Discussion and closing 
11:30 am Seminar concludes

Resource Person:

Rev. Dr. Esther Acolatse, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Intercultural Studies at Knox College, University of Toronto.

Esther explores the intersection of psychology and Christian thought, with interests in the gendered body, methodological issues in the practice of theology of the Christian life, and the relevance of these themes in the global expression of Christianity.

Her current research focuses on issues around care and counseling with migrant families and implications for intra/interfaith dialogue and spiritual care. She is also interested in cultural anthropological dimensions of medicine, health, and healing, and their implications for suffering, death, dying, and care at the end of life.

Later Event: November 14
Intercultural Theology