Originally posted May 15, 2012, at City Called Heaven. Republished with permission of the author.
I recently received news that Walter Wink, one of our greatest theologians and scholars, died peacefully earlier this month at his beloved home in the Berkshire Mountains.
Walter had an immense influence on me personally and on those who study and/or follow Jesus in this age. We justly laud him as a scholar. His declaration of the bankruptcy of historical criticism was timely and correct — especially in his formulation which did not reject the method, but the way it had become disconnected from the living life of faith. He helped pioneer the formal use of psychological criticism as a legitimate way of reading biblical texts. And his work on the powers not only helped make biblical language and worldviews more available to the modern reader but also sounded a clarion call for the Bible’s role in confronting and redeeming the systemic powers which dominate and oppress.
If his books were all he gave us, it would be a rich feast. But Walter’s own journey of liberation involved the engagement with the untameable world of the Spirit. His willingness not just to test, but to form his scholarship in engagement with the unconscious, in communion with living breathing people, and in the work of justice is his great legacy.
I am very grateful for his influence on my studies and my practice of faith and for the many gifts of grace that I knew through his ministry and our encounters. While I first approached him as a very junior student, Walter had a rare gift for working collegially and encouraged me and so many others as valued partners in the common work of discovering and sharing the gospel. With Walter you often saw something that illumined the Scriptures, and his kindness recalls to me that gift of Jesus to his disciples: “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15).
So it was with Walter. He gave freely of his many gifts.
Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him. May he rest in peace. And may we continue to walk in the never-failing light that he reflected so lovingly.
Find a link to Paul Bellan-Boyer’s blog City Called heaven at Lutheran Blogs.