Power corrupts—as we’ve seen time and time again. People too often abuse their power and play god in the lives of others. Shady politicians, corrupt executives and ego-filled media stars have made us suspicious of those who wield influence and authority. They too often breed injustice by participating in what the Bible calls idolatry. Yet power is also the means by which we bring life, create possibilities, offer hope and make human flourishing possible. This is “playing god” as it is meant to be. If we are to do God’s work—fight injustice, bring peace, create beauty and allow the image of God to thrive in those around us—how are we to do these things if not by power?
Perhaps no question with such urgent life-and-death consequences is more poorly understood among Christians in our era than the stewardship of power; but gloriously, in Playing God, Andy Crouch provides the clarity we need in this once-in-a-generation work of sweeping theological and sociological depth. It is fresh, rigorous, profoundly helpful and a delight to read.
—Gary A. Haugen, President and CEO, International Justice Mission
Once again, Andy Crouch cuts to the heart of the matter by challenging us to take seriously the One whose image we bear. Playing God is a clear and compelling call for Christians to steward the kind of power that enables flourishing.
— Gabe Lyons, coauthor of UnChristian
Andy Crouch presents an essential treatise on one of the most important yet undiscussed topics for the promotion of justice in American Christianity--the issue of power. The work of God's justice in the world requires an understanding of the dynamics of power. Crouch shines the light of Scripture on what could be a divisive topic. Playing God should spark this long overdue conversation.
—Soong-Chan Rah, author of The Next Evangelicalism
The Holy City, by definition, is already a cultural artifact, the work of a master Architect and Artist. The citizens themselves are the redeemed people of the Lamb, drawn from “every tribe, language, people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9). But God’s handiwork, artifacts and people alike, are not all that is found in the city. Also in the city are “the glory and the honor of the nations”—brought into the city by none other than “the kings of the earth.”
Culture Making, p. 166
Like the electric current that runs, with the rarest of interruptions, through my home, power is a fundamental feature of life. And as with electricity, those who have the most unfettered access to power are the ones who are likely to think about it the least—unless and until it suddenly disappears or violently appears.
Playing God, p. 16
The Messiah wrapped in a servant’s grimy towel is not giving up power. He is restoring it to its original purpose, cleansed of its distortions—the power to love a lovely and loveless world to the uttermost. None of his power is reserved for carefully guarding privilege or meticulously accounting for status; every bit of it is poured into this one end.
Playing God, p. 166
It is not enough to condemn culture. Nor is it sufficient merely to critique culture or to copy culture. Most of the time, we just consume culture. But the only way to change culture is to create culture. For too long, Christians have had an insufficient view of culture and have waged misguided “culture wars.” But we must reclaim the cultural mandate to be the creative cultivators that God designed us to be. Culture is what we make of the world, both in creating cultural artifacts as well as in making sense of the world around us. By making chairs and omelets, languages and laws, we participate in the good work of culture making.
Are Christians to be countercultural? Or protect ourselves from 'the culture'? Or be 'in' culture but not 'of' it? In this bracing, super-smart book, Andy Crouch changes the terms of the conversation, calling Christians to make culture. I am hard-pressed to think of something that twenty-first-century American Christians need to read more.
—Lauren F. Winner, Duke Divinity School
Culture Making is a book that's been needed for decades, but it arrives at just the right moment. People of faith--now poised to use their influence--have much to contribute to the common good as creators and advocates, not just as critics and judges. But that requires careful thought and clear insight, both of which are abundantly found in this profound and practical book. Andy Crouch has long had a knack for observing the culture around us and then showing us how we can make it better. With Culture Making, Crouch offers all that and more. Anyone who cares for the renewal of our culture must read this book!
—D. Michael Lindsay, coauthor of Faith in the Halls of Power
I’m loving your book. Parts of it are making me jump out of my skin. Molting, I think it’s called.
—Alf, composer and musician living in New York City
Here are two simple questions. Can we have Jesus without justice? And can we have justice without Jesus? The answer to the first question is straightforward enough. If you define “justice” as “bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor,” then Jesus himself makes justice central to his ministry in his “inaugural address” in Luke 4. These sweeping promises from Isaiah are fulfilled in the person of Jesus himself: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:22).
Omari Sealey seems like a good man, the kind you’d want at your side during life’s hardest moments. He is the uncle of Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old who was declared dead by doctors three days after a tonsillectomy went horribly wrong on Dec. 9. He has bravely stepped before the cameras, along with Jahi’s mother Latasha Winkfield, to explain why they refuse to remove the equipment keeping Jahi’s body alive. “Our faith is so strong that we don’t even think about the possibility of death,” he told CNN in December. “We believe with all the prayers from everyone around the world and the prayers with our family that she will wake up.” I admire such faith. I am moved by the outpouring of love and concern from around the world and the donations (almost $55,000 and growing) to the family. But I’m afraid Jahi’s family is putting its faith in the wrong place, in technology that can never give them the miracle they seek.
For an ancient holiday, Christmas has had a surprisingly cozy relationship with the modern world. The commercial radio age began on Christmas Eve, 1906, when "O Holy Night" was sung on the first AM radio broadcast. You could write a whole history of Christmas broadcast television, from sleepy Whoville and its Grinch to Charlie Brown specials (not to mention Gian-Carlo Menotti's NBC opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, broadcast in 1951). Christmas provides the leitmotif for It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, Elf and Home Alone. And 2013 brought us Christmas albums from Mary J. Blige, Erasure, Nick Lowe, and (no joke) Bad Religion. Without Christmas, our popular culture would be as flightless as Santa's sleigh without its red-nosed reindeer.
The Twittersphere lit up this past week with the revelation that Mark Driscoll's new book includes passages that bear a striking resemblance (though not quite word-for-word equivalence) to material from the book that is cited as their source. Further digging found a Bible study guide published by Driscoll's church in 2009 that did lift an entire passage, word-for-word, from an InterVarsity Press commentary on 1 and 2 Peter. The ensuing controversy has revolved largely around one of the last truly scandalous words in the English language: plagiarism. I believe this scandal is largely misplaced.
This Sunday, thousands of pastors will prepare for worship. Some of them will wear distinctive clothing—the albs and stoles of liturgical churches echo ancient priestly garments. But many more pastors will wear nothing that marks them out as different from their congregations. Walk into many of our churches today, especially the ones that are growing fastest and spreading their influence widest, and you could never pick the pastors out of the crowd. Except, perhaps, for one difference.
When Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII are canonized as saints later this year, the world will be reminded that there is no other Christian tradition approaching Catholicism’s rigorous process of naming saints. The Vatican administers an internal process that includes a “devil’s advocate,” a lawyer dedicated to making the case against the candidate’s sanctity, and the requirement of two verified miracles attributed to the deceased. (Saints always are deceased—the church borrows the Greek maxim, “Call no man happy until he is dead,” and applies it to holiness as well.) Even the Vatican’s strictness on sainthood may be easing, however. When the coming canonizations were announced last month, Pope Francis waived the miracles requirement for John XXIII. But the church still remains unique in its sainthood practices. The only non-Catholic denomination that has something like it is the Eastern Orthodox church, whose worshippers bestow a kiss on the icons that crowd the sanctuary, greeting them like members of their family. For Catholics the saints are “up there,” well placed to whisper special requests in the divine ear. For the Eastern Orthodox, the saints are “right here,” surprisingly intimate presences in the earthly church.
A World Without Jobs The gospel of a secular age. — Culture Making, 18 January 2011
Finally Real A birthday thank-you note. — Culture Making, 9 February 2010
The Pleasures and Perils of Fermentation Alcohol, shame, nakedness, and grace.
Being Culture Makers An interview with “StudentSoul.” — StudentSoul.org, January 2007
Culture, Power, and Worship A conversation with the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.
On the Journey to Greatness Jonah, Jeremiah, Jeff, and the impact of faithfulness.
Instant Messages Christian fiction in a virtual world. — Address to the Christy Awards banquet for Christian fiction, 9 July 2005
The Emergent Mystique The ‘emerging church’ movement has generated a lot of excitement but only a handful of congregations. Is it the wave of the future or a passing fancy? — Christianity Today, November 2004
Eating the Supper of the Lamb in a Cool Whip Society Albert Borgmann’s post-technological feast. — Books & Culture, January/February 2004
Roaring Lambs or Bleating Lions? — re:generation quarterly 6.4
For People Like Me The myth of generations. — re:generation quarterly, Fall 1999
Andy is the author of Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, published in October 2013. His book Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling won Christianity Today’s 2009 Book Award for Christianity and Culture and was named one of the best books of 2008 by Publishers Weekly, Relevant, Outreach and Leadership. In December 2012 he became executive editor of Christianity Today, where he is also executive producer of This Is Our City, a multi-year project featuring documentary video, reporting, and essays about Christians seeking the flourishing of their cities.
Andy serves on the governing boards of Fuller Theological Seminary and Equitas Group, a philanthropic organization focused on ending child exploitation in Haiti and Southeast Asia. He is also a senior fellow of the International Justice Mission’s IJM Institute. His writing has appeared in Time, The Wall Street Journal, and several editions of Best Christian Writing and Best Spiritual Writing. He lives with his family in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.
From 1998 to 2003, Andy was the editor-in-chief of re:generation quarterly, a magazine for an emerging generation of culturally creative Christians. For ten years he was a campus minister with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Harvard University. He studied classics at Cornell University and received an M.Div. summa cum laude from Boston University School of Theology. A classically trained musician who draws on pop, folk, rock, jazz, and gospel, he has led musical worship for congregations of 5 to 20,000.
Unfortunately Andy is not able to respond to inquiries relating to college writing assignments.
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