Friday 4 October 2013

Andy Crouch on Power

Having thoroughly enjoyed as well as benefited from his Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (Downers Grove: IVP, 2008), I have been looking forward to the new book by Andy Crouch: Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power (Downers Grove: IVP, 2013).

At this point, the volume is not even out in the UK, but it has already received some substantial coverage online:

• A lengthy profile by Byron Borger here
• A Gabe Lyons video interview with Andy Crouch here, some of which is excerpted here
• An interview with Justin Taylor here
• A piece in Christianity Today here, from which the following is taken:

‘I believe we need a new conversation about power in the church. I say a new conversation, because it will be a genuinely new topic for many pastors and laypeople.... [T]here are surprisingly few times when pastors and people directly address power. And this is especially true in churches that participate in the culture of middle- and upper-middle-class America, where we can easily take power for granted.

‘I also say a “new conversation” because when we do talk about power, we often talk about it strictly as something negative – something dangerous to be avoided – rather than as a gift to be stewarded...

‘But from beginning to end – that is, from creation to consummation – the Bible is full of references to power. You will often hear pastors say that Jesus “gave up power.” And indeed, the climax of salvation is the cross, on which Jesus is stretched out, suffers, and dies, having refused to grasp the power within his reach. But as the early Christians reflected on his life, death, and resurrection, they came to a different conclusion. Precisely because they were witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection after a violent death, the New Testament writers could no longer acquiesce to the idolatrous fiction that violence is the truest form of power. Instead, they had seen with their eyes, and touched with their hands, evidence of a much greater power at work in the world than Rome could muster...

‘What would a new conversation about power include?

‘It would acknowledge, indeed insist, that power is a gift – the gift of a Giver who is the supreme model of power used to bless and serve. Power is not given to benefit those who hold it. It is given for the flourishing of individuals, peoples, and the cosmos itself. Power’s right use is especially important for the flourishing of the vulnerable, the members of the human family who most need others to use power well to survive and thrive: the young, the aged, the sick, and the dispossessed. Power is not the opposite of servanthood. Rather, servanthood, ensuring the flourishing of others, is the very purpose of power...

‘[I]f power is a gift, then we can be accountable for its proper use – to its Giver, and to one another.’

Update (5 October 2013) – another review, by John Nugent, starting here, and another review by John Starke here.

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