Two common temptations lure us away from abundant living—withdrawing into safety or grasping for power. True flourishing travels down an unexpected path: being both strong and weak. We see this unlikely mixture in the best leaders—people who use their authority for the benefit of others, while also showing extraordinary willingness to face and embrace suffering. We see it in Jesus, who wielded tremendous power yet also exposed himself to hunger, ridicule, torture and death. Rather than being opposites, strength and weakness are actually meant to be combined in every human life and community. Only when they come together do we find the flourishing for which we were made.
This book is going to have a profound impact on our world. It's built on a clear, deep, life-changing insight that opens up vast possibilities for human flourishing. Classic, elegant and utterly illuminating.
— John Ortberg, senior pastor, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, author of Soul Keeping
An intellectually insightful, socially relevant and prophetically passionate book that shows us how to multiply our power to create a world where people from every tribe and nation can flourish and reach their full God-given potential. I love it!
— Brenda Salter McNeil, Seattle Pacific University, author of Roadmap to Reconciliation
One of the most anticipated books among thoughtful and widely aware Christian readers. It certainly will be one of our Best Books of 2016.
— Byron Borger, Hearts and Minds Books
No one can turn hidden vulnerability into flourishing without friends. We will never be able to fully reveal our vulnerability to the wide world—but we will never survive it without companions willing to bear it with us.
Strong and Weak, p. 141
To laugh, to really laugh out loud, is to be vulnerable, taken beyond ourselves, overcome by surprise and gratitude. And to really laugh may be the last, best kind of authority—the capacity to see the meaning of the whole story and discover that our final act, our only enduring responsibility, in that story is simply celebration, delight and worship.
Strong and Weak, p. 183
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
Creativity is not something just for “creatives”—we all have given being to some sentence the world had never heard before, and may never hear again. In all likelihood, unless we are stuck in a dull job and have dull friends, we have done so this very day. Where did that sentence come from? It was potentially present in the grammar and vocabulary of our language; it may well bear a resemblance to words we and others have thought and said before; but it did not exist before, and it does now. Had we not spoken it, it would have gone unsaid.
Culture Making, p. 104
Precisely because our power is the result of genuine image bearing, . . . the human hunger for power is insatiable. . . . It is not wrong to want to “expand our territory” (in the words of the Old Testament figure named Jabez). But the more our territory expands, the more we must embrace the disciplines that make room on the margins for others to also exercise their calling to image bearing.
Playing God, p. 248
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
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
"Then Andy Crouch wrote a book called Culture Making / And I knew I had to make a slight change"
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
For some reason, any kind of fasting prompts questions about logistics. So, to start with the F.A.Q.: Did you really turn off all screens for all of Lent? Mostly, yes. My laptop and tablet disappeared into a cabinet. I turned off my email altogether. Same with Twitter, Instagram, Feedly, and the rest of my familiar digital companions—all gone. I deleted nearly every app on my smartphone except those relating to weather and travel plans. And I kept my phone and message apps active to communicate with family and friends. So it wasn’t a total fast. But compared to my normal life, in which a rectangle is glowing in front of me seven to nine hours a day, it was a dramatic and initially disorienting change.
If you’re a Christian, you don’t have “a calling.” You have three. Two of the three are fundamental and universal—that is, they aren’t optional and they aren’t individual, but they are by far the most important callings in your life. The good news (and hard news, actually) is they each come with a community who can help you fulfill them—in fact, without that community you won’t fulfill them at all. Your first fundamental calling is shared with every other human being: to bear the image of God. We are here to reflect the Creator into the creation, and to reflect the creation’s praise and lament back to the Creator. To bear the image is to exercise dominion, caring for and cultivating the good world and making it very good through our creative attention. Most human work falls under this heading, which is why Christians work gladly alongside neighbors who don’t share our faith, and also why almost all human work is perfectly appropriate for Christians. It requires no more justification than this: bearing the image by working fruitfully in the good world is what we were always meant to do.
The statesman and theologian theologian Abraham Kuyper is all but forgotten in his native Netherlands, but his reputation continues to flourish in the United States among Christians looking for better ways to imagine their role in Western society. They often come to Kuyper for his account of the “cultural mandate”—the biblical theme of responsibility for the world so often neglected in narrower versions of conservative Christianity. But they stay for Kuyper’s most distinctive contribution, his carefully developed account of culture’s “spheres,” each with its own features, functions, and significance. The family, government, science, art, education, and more are each essential. None can be reduced to the other, and each requires particular virtues and bequeaths us particular forms of flourishing. Now, the Dutch Reformed heartland of western Michigan has given us a cultural product that Kuyper surely never imagined, but that would surely make him proud. It is designed to help the church reclaim our true calling: to live out our salvation, in the words its title borrows from the Orthodox writer Alexander Schmemann, “for the life of the world.”
Technology keeps getting more and more personal. First “personal computers,” which sat on your desk, gave way to laptops, which sat in a rather more intimate position. Now laptops are giving way to tablets and phones, which nestle in your hand and slip into your pocket. And early next year, the Apple Watch will wrap around quite a few wrists, which it will tap gently to signal that a friend is calling or a message has arrived. You could say the Apple Watch will be the ultimate personal computer, but more to the point, it is one of the first intimate computers. It promises to be with you every moment of the day (though it will part with you at night for recharging—such sweet sorrow), aware of your every motion, responsive to your touch. It will be close enough, Apple promises, to feel your heartbeat—and share that heartbeat, in a feature that is either sweet or slightly creepy, with a friend. I think Sting sang about this kind of intimate watchfulness a generation ago: “Every move you make, every breath you take, I’ll be watching you.” Oh, that song was not so much sweet as slightly creepy? Well, it won’t feel that way with the Apple Watch—unlike Sting’s hovering would-be lover, it is watching you in order to serve you. After all, in the reverent tones of Sir Jony Ive, narrating the watch’s introductory video, this is technology that “embraces individuality and inspires desire.” What could possibly go wrong?
If we lived in normal times, few would notice if the Supreme Court agreed that a group had the right to practice its religious views without government interference. The plaintiffs would sigh in relief, the chastised government agency would formulate new rules, and we’d all move on. Obviously, we do not live in normal times. The farther we get from the Supreme Court’s decision on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, the less it feels like a victory for anyone. Instead, it reminds us that fewer and fewer of our neighbors understand how religious organizations—and all communities smaller than the state—contribute to human flourishing and the common good.
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).
The Uncanny Valley of Death Heroic medical procedures can leave us in a limbo between life and accepting what’s beyond. — Time Magazine, 20 January 2014
The Real Problem With Mark Driscoll’s “Citation Errors” And it isn’t plagiarism. — Christianity Today, 10 December 2013
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
In his new book Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing, Andy Crouch continues the compelling exploration of faith and culture found in his previous books Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power and Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling.
Andy is executive editor of Christianity Today. He serves on the governing boards of Fuller Theological Seminary, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, 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—and, most importantly, received a shout-out in Lecrae's 2014 single "Non-Fiction."
Andy was executive producer for the documentary film series Where Faith and Culture Meet and Round Trip, as well as the three-year project This Is Our City. From 1998 to 2003, he 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. He lives with his family in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.
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