Powers, Principalities, Spiritual Forces

Charging Toward the Dies Irae

In Ephesians 6, the Apostle Paul writes, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (6:12).  Political scientist and lay theologian Jacques Ellul went beyond the usual interpretation of these “spiritual forces” as demons to see in them a kind of aeonic spiritual structure.  They are not personal in the sense of evil demons, but they take on a kind of personal power in molding and, in some cases, deconstructing the society around them.  There was a demonic spiritual force in Nazism, strongly influenced by a frenzy of antisemitism.  It forced the Nazi leadership totally to disregard and reject all of the contributions made by Jews to Germany and European culture.  The power of this frenzy over the Germans—and, to some extent, over other Europeans as well—was so great that, in large measure, they tolerated, and often actively supported, Hitler’s morally, theologically, biologically, and strategically insane persecutions of the Jews and other Untermenschen.

It is hard for us today to understand how this happened in a population that was one of the most educated and highly developed groups in the world.  It is not enough to blame the Germans as a race or cultural group, as Daniel Goldhagen did in Hitler’s Willing...

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