Playing God, Power, and the Gospel

Playing GodIn a good book, there will there be one real gem—a new idea, insight, or way of looking at the world—that is both illuminating and profound. In Andy Crouch’s latest, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, there is a treasure of new insights related to the notions of power, idolatry, and the gospel story that make this a great book.

Academic discussions of power tend to presuppose that power is essentially about coercion. Crouch argues power is not coercion,[1] but creation:

“Power is the ability to make something of the world….[it is] the ability to participate in that stuff-making, sense-making process that is the most distinctive thing that human beings do.”[2]

At its best then, power leads to human flourishing: “Power creates and shapes an environment where creatures can flourish, making room for the variety, diversity and unpredictability [of the created world].”[3] At its worst, it is the “unmaker of humanity.”[4]

Crouch argues that we are all playing God. We are all exercising power. We are all makers of stuff and makers of meaning. “The question is, which god are we playing?…The question is whether we are making idols—investing created things with ultimate significance—or whether we are being “idols” in the sense of Genesis 1:26, images and signs of the ultimate truth about the world.”[5] Thus Crouch grounds the use of power in the image of God—we are meant to be idols, or better, icons, of the true God whom we image in our daily lives. As image bearers we are to flourish. And we flourish by using our power to create a world where others can experience life the way it was meant to be.

Power then, like everything else we have, is a gift from the Creator. It is meant to bless. It is meant for good. It is meant to create room for more “being,” more “teeming,” more “flourishing.”

And in this truest and best sense, power is intimately connected with love: At the heart of the gospel we find the Father’s love for the Son and, through the Son, for the world, demonstrated by the most outrageous and astonishing act of power the world has ever seen: the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. God, as the continual giver of good gifts, has not left us without an example to follow. Jesus has dealt decisively with idolatry and injustice, and has shown us the way forward. Love transforms power—no longer does it need to corrupt and coerce; no longer does it need to lead to injustice. Because of Jesus, we can us this gift of God to make the world a better place.


Check out these videos from Andy Crouch on key themes of this highly recommended book (scroll through the playlist on top left):








[1] Witness the influential discussion of culture and cultural change by James Davison Hunter in his To Change the World (Oxford University Press, 2010), where power is understood largely in Nietzschean terms such as the will to become masters over all space, coercion, and abuse.

[2] Andy Crouch, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2103), 17.

[3] Ibid., 35.

[4] Ibid., 25.

[5] Ibid., 97.

One Response to Playing God, Power, and the Gospel

  1. Pingback: Playing, God, Power and the Gospel | A disciple's study

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