In the last post we summarized Berkhof's view that the Powers were initially created by Christ and for Christ and will be, in the end, reconciled back to Christ (Col. 1.15-20). Thus Berkhof argues that the Powers are not inherently and intrinsically evil they are, rather, fallen and in rebellion to the Lordship of Christ.
So how is the church to relate to the Powers in their fallen and satanic state?
To begin, Berkhof makes the argument that the mere existence of the church is an act of defiance and resistance to the Powers. Resistance occurs where there are people confessing Jesus as Lord of all in the face of the Powers. Berkhof:
[T]he very presence of the church in a world ruled by the Powers is a superlatively positive and aggressive fact...All resistance and every attack against the gods of this age will be unfruitful, unless the church is resistance and attack, unless she demonstrates in her life and fellowship how men can live freed from the Powers.To resist the Powers means that the church is to exhibit in her life the rule and reign of Jesus Christ over against the "gods of this age." In her life the church rejects the Powers of mammon, nationalism, injustice, prejudice, and oppression. These Powers are unmasked, delegitimized and rejected in the church as she confesses Jesus as Lord of all. In confessing and living under the lordship of Jesus in the face of the Powers the church "builds a new world in the shell of the old." The church isn't seeking the overthrow and eradication of the Powers but is, rather, creating locations where the legitimacy of the Powers is routinely questioned and where new patterns of social, moral, political and economic relations are established under the lordship of Jesus in the Kingdom of God. And when this happens, when the territory of the Powers is circumscribed in the world by the existence of the Kingdom of God, the church creates a crisis for the Powers:
Just by being simply the church, she is the instrument whereby Christ brings to crisis the rule of the Powers even far outside her borders.All this goes to the point made in the last post. Resistance to the Powers is about idolatry, resistance is about rejecting the divine ultimacy of the Powers where we live our lives under their direction and rule.
How, then, are we to combat this idolatry?
Berkhof argues that we must "Christianize" the Powers.
Now that suggestion might start freaking some of you out as it sounds like the way we might, say, make a nation come under the lordship of Jesus would be to make a "Christian nation." But that isn't what Berkhof is suggesting.
By "Christianizing" the Powers Berkhof means shrinking them down to size. Again, the Powers serve legitimate functions in staving off general chaos and social disintegration. Cultures, value systems and social contracts (laws, politics) have some positive functions. But they only function well when they are, well, functionaries, tools of service that aid human flourishing. The problem is that the Powers are now ascendant and "in charge" of the world. Humans are serving the Powers--nations, religions, corporations, "our way of life"--rather than the Powers serving us. The created order has been reversed. In the language of Paul we have "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles." As creatures we are worshiping other created things, things we ourselves made, things like America. We built America and now we worship it, live for it, die for it and kill for it. We built this corporation and now we worship it, live for it, die for it and kill for it. We built this religious denomination and now we worship it, live for it, die for it and kill for it.
Just because it doesn't look like a Golden Calf doesn't mean it isn't a Golden Calf. Today Golden Calves look a lot like national flags, political parties, stock market portfolios and church buildings.
So the way you "Christianize" these Powers, according to Berkhof, it to knock them off their thrones, to shrink them back to their proper size, to return to them to their proper function as servants of the greater good. Berkhof's summary of this:
From this discernment there springs forth a basically different way of dealing with creaturely reality. The Holy Spirit "shrinks" the Powers before the eyes of faith. They may have inflated themselves to omnipotent total value systems, but the believer sees them in their true proportion, as nothing more than one segment of creation, existing because of the Creator, and limited by other creatures...In faith life is seen and accepted in its smallness and modesty...I like those phrases.
That [the Powers] are "Christianized" means they are made instrumental, made modest; one could even say "neutralized."... [T]he Powers are relativized, made modest. They no longer pretend to offer an inspiring center for all of life...[The church strives] to neutralize the Powers and de-ideologize life...
The Holy Spirits shrinks the Powers before the eyes of faith.
To resist the Powers means to de-ideologize life.