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Powers, Principalities, and the Spirit
Biblical Realism in Africa and the West
PAPERBACK; Published: 2/27/2018
ISBN: 978-0-8028-6405-5
255 Pages
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Among the many factors that separate churches in the West from those of the global South, there may be no greater difference than their respective attitudes toward supernatural “powers and principalities.” In this follow-up to her book For Freedom or Bondage? African theologian Esther Acolatse bridges the enormous hermeneutical gap not only between the West and global Christianity but also between the West and its own biblical-theological heritage.
REVIEWS
Willie James Jennings
— Yale Divinity School
“In this groundbreaking book by one of our leading global pastoral theologians, Esther Acolatse offers insight into the continuing significance of the biblically configured spiritual world for understanding the social, political, and economic worlds of African peoples and the forms of pastoral invention and care that would support thriving life. There are few scholars with her grasp of African and African diaspora life and fewer texts that match this theological brilliance.”
Craig S. Keener
— Asbury Theological Seminary
“Acolatse’s theologically informed approach takes Scripture seriously and welcomes all interpretive locations to the table. Although she remains unfailingly gracious, it seems clear that the traditional modern Western approach to the Spirit and spirits has remained blind to its own biases. Acolatse exposes our more impoverished approach and opens us to the wealth of global perspectives more consistent even with our own biblical and theological heritage.”
Nimi Wariboko
— Boston University
“In this book Esther Acolatse goes to the core problem of the church today: the church is fleeing from the Holy Spirit in its engagement with the world and its interpretation of Scripture. With penetrating insight, searing candor, and unflinching loyalty to Scripture, she wields the double-edged sword of biblical realism and African Christian spirituality to execute modern and postmodern theologies that have contributed to this problem. . . . Eye-opening.”
Amos Yong
— Fuller Theological Seminary
“If Christianity’s center of gravity has shifted decidedly to the global South, then Esther Acolatse is at the vanguard of the surging and irresistible theological wave swelling up from out of those tectonics. In this book her majority-world sensibilities critically retrieve and creatively reappropriate the theological tradition, constructively engaging in cross-cultural dialogue the most prominent pneumatologically relevant programs from Bultmann and Wink to Barth and Levison, among others, to fuel dialogue and debate about life in a spirit-filled late-modern cosmos.”
Elias Kifon Bongmba
— Rice University
“A remarkable hermeneutical dialogue on the presence and power of the Spirit and other principalities whose powers are downplayed in modernist interpretations in the global North but treated as real forces to reckon with in the theologies of the global South. Acolatse calls for returning to a biblical realism that presents a balanced view of the spirits as a key component of pastoral theology. Her rich and welcome theological analysis is conducted in dialogue with such major thinkers as Kwesi Dickson and Karl Barth.”
Michael McClymond
— Saint Louis University
“Acolatse’s call for dialogue and synthesis across cultural and theological divisions on the theme of ‘the powers’ will be welcomed by those who seek to understand not only the diversity of the Christian world but also its prospects for mutual understanding and for ecumenical unity.”

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