In his new book, Playing God, Andy Crouch explores the topic of power which we daily exercise, and sometimes abuse. He begins the book by stating the idea that power is a gift meant to be used by God’s image bearers for the purpose of the creating and flourishing. Power is from God and enables humans to live out the cultural mandate to be fruitful and multiply.
Let me begin by saying: This is not an easy book to read. It is not meant to be read, but rather to be studied. Therefore, I believe the best experience with this book will be through careful contemplation with God, review of the Bible passages that the author shares throughout the book, and in a safe, diverse community of Jesus-lovers who are not afraid to ask hard questions and are humble enough to admit what they don’t know and can’t see. Every contemplating Christian and leader with a heart for biblical justice and evangelism should read this book.
There is no doubt as we have witnessed throughout history that power can be used for good and it can be used for evil. Andy affirms that “violence is the worst way that power can go wrong…Violence is the last refuge of frustrated god players and idols gone bad, lashing out at those that will not bend to their demands and give in to their quest for control (137).” This is the reason why so many people are fearful of power, both the power they possess and the power endowed to others. The truth is, in Andy’s presentation, there is a crossroads to power. God’s creative power and the creative power gifted to us by God stands in contrast to violence. Destruction stands in contrast to creation and violence stands at the crossroads of flourishing (139). We do have a choice to make and this book calls us to embrace our true nature as image bearers of God and make choices to create and flourish.
With this resource, Andy has brought to the forefront a long overdue conversation about power. “Power” is such a loaded word and therefore, this conversation requires much education, definition of terms, confrontation of misunderstandings and perceptions, and interpretation. This is a daunting task in which Andy takes in stride. He takes the complex and separates into parts so that we can attempt to digest this massive presentation in smaller bites. He is cautious with his use of words and warns against interchangeably using words—like power, privilege, and status—that may be similar, but are not fundamentally the same. He does this by reminding the reader that Jesus gave up his status and privilege, but never his power, and by using Steve Jobs as a foil, a false god and idol who pales in comparison to the real King!
Through his writing, Andy Crouch has presented a preached and I dare say prophetic word about power for readers concerning God, His use and distribution of power, our worldview and even the nature of our work and the institutions that we create. He boldly declares that power at its best is the power that brings shalom (peace) and challenges violence. Now that we know this truth, what are we going to do about it?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013
One thought on “Natasha’s Study: “Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power” Book Review”
Nice review, Natasha. I agree with your assessment that this is a well-written book–and an important one!