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Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (September 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830837655
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830837656
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"In deft moves of integrating sound biblical theology with astute observations about culture, Andy Crouch wades into the immense topic of power--the powers, institutional power, cultural power, racial power--to offer the alternative Christian perception of power, a power that can be reshaped by the gospel about Jesus Christ, refashioned by love and reoriented by a new community called the church. In this book worldly power is deconstructed and replaced with a new kind of gospel power." (Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary)

"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)

"What do poverty, the cello, human trafficking, iPods, loan sharks, wine, the tower of Babel and the Olympics have in common? Crouch shows that all of these are expressions of power, God's unique gift to humanity. With unceasing eloquence, Crouch delivers a unique perspective on everyday life that opens readers' eyes to a whole new world of conflict, meaning and possibility. A truly transformative experience." (Brian Fikkert, coauthor of When Helping Hurts)

"This book plowed through my heart, leaving idol shards everywhere in its path. Andy Crouch, one of Christianity's most compelling visionaries on culture, examines power and the ways we should harness it for human flourishing and the glory of God. The book will prompt you to rethink assumptions and perhaps to reset priorities. It is a 'powerful' read, in the right sense of that word." (Russell D. Moore, president, Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission)

"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 & CEO, International Justice Mission)

"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, Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, North Park Theological Seminary, and author of The Next Evangelicalism)

"It's likely that most readers of this book will both possess more power than they realize and feel uncomfortable with the amount of it that they know they've got. This book holds keys to liberation. It illuminates that power is, foundationally, good. It offers 3D pictures of what power is for (flourishing) and what its right use looks like (creative image-bearing that expands our own and others' joyful 'meaning-making'). Crouch's Bible-saturated teaching frees us from guilt and guides us in the active, humble and, importantly, essential calling to steward our power, thus helping us avoid the equal dangers of abusing our power and neglecting it. Playing God is a wise, deeply insightful, imaginative work; by heeding its lessons, Christians will be far more fruitful in their efforts to advance Jesus' kingdom in our broken world." (Amy L. Sherman, author of Kingdom Calling)

"This is a thoughtful and compelling book about power. Thinking of power as a gift which is meant for flourishing gives the reader much to consider. Institutions are meant for flourishing. Therefore, leaders of institutions must ask the question about how they are using the power gifted to them. Are they image bearers of that power or god players? The author's biblical and personal stories help the reader work through these and many other great questions." (Mary Andringa, president/CEO, Vermeer Corporation)

More About the Author

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 The Wall Street Journal and in 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.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Written in such a way that, though filled with great content, it is a quick and enjoyable read.
There were sections of the book that I felt could've been moved a long a little quicker, but otherwise, it was a good read and I'd highly recommend it.
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.
Natasha Sistrunk Robinson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By David Swanson on September 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Playing God by Andy Crouch is a really good book. I'd heard the author allude to this project a couple of years back, if memory serves, and had been anticipating it ever since. As a white man who serves a multi-ethnic church in a predominately African-American neighborhood, I've thought about power a lot. I was curious what Crouch would say about it and am happy to report that his insights are fresh, theologically nuanced, and utterly intelligible. I assume many people will read this book and be helped by it.

There will be plenty of thoughtful reviews of Playing God; rather than add to that pile I'll share a few reasons why this book benefitted me and a few questions it raised.

As Crouch points out repeatedly, power, when it's talked about at all, is generally perceived negatively. For most of us, power is assumed to be a a zero sum game: one's attainment of power is equal to another's loss of power. Crouch points back to the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche as the most influential proponent of this view. In Nietzsche's world we each strive to extend our power over all space, competing with others on the same quest. In intentional contrast to Nietzsche, Crouch describes true power as the process of creating space for others to flourish. This, he says, is the vision we find in the Bible and represents power's gift.

Many readers, like myself, will not have realized how influenced they have been by Nietzsche's cynical view of power until they read Crouch's compelling case for a much more hopeful perspective. Later in the book the author helpfully (very!) differentiates power from privilege, dynamics I've made crudely analogous in the past. This is a somewhat common topic in our church; I'm convinced that white privilege is the achilles heel of most multi-ethnic churches.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Daniel S on October 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been waiting for a book like “Playing God” by Andy Crouch for years now, since I got more serious about reading (and applying what I read). There really is not a lot out there on Christian non-fiction related to the notion of “power”. It’s discussed somewhat in philosophy circles and even some theological circles, but even then it is under the umbrella of discussions around politics, economics, or social justice. All that is well and good, Crouch would say, but where is God in the midst of it and what do normal, everyday Christians, do with any of that?
In his book, Crouch offers an excellent portrayal and exposition of key narratives and events in the Bible within the meta-narrative scope of human history and experience. He also reflects deeply, yet with pristine precision of making sure his reading audience “gets it” a thought provoking and powerful (pardon the pun) discussion of power – its misuse and we can get regain or use it once more for good. Each chapter builds on its predecessor, with a common theme going through that of “idolatry and injustice”. This, argues Crouch, is at the core of what is really going on here. Why is it that “institutions” misuse their power? Idolatry and injustice. Why do some instigate violence as a means of power? Idolatry and injustice. Why do some use their privilege (which is not inherently evil) for evil instead of good? Idolatry and injustice.
The book talks about relatively “heady” objects of discourse, but in insightful and transparent ways – often times Crouch brings in personal examples in his life, which is always a good way to grab a reader’s interest (words without actions are just words).
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Adam Shields VINE VOICE on September 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have been looking forward to this book for a while. Andy Crouch's book Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling was an excellent look at why it is important to be making culture that reflects God.

Playing God seems like a natural follow up to Culture Making. Playing God starts with the simple (and somewhat controversial idea) that power can be used for good or bad, but we all have it, and we all need to think about how to use it to God's glory.

Christians have a mixed view of power. People with power have often used it poorly. So some Christians suggest that power and use of power is sinful But rarely do these Christians complain about either God's power, or of the positive uses of power that are all around us.

For Crouch the highest power is creation. God created us and expressed his power in the world. We, as images of God, also have the ability to create and through creation we give to others.

To over-simplify Crouch's argument, the difference between good and bad use of power comes down to whether that power is used to strengthen others or yourself.

This is a wide ranging book and hard to review in a few words. Crouch talks about everything from Nietzsche to Jesus' parables to his own exercise in learning to play the Cello as an adult to a good look at the necessary power of institutions.

He does not stay with easy topics, the role of privilege and unearned power and the unreflective use of power is probably the most important thing for many Christians that are unused to thinking about power to read.

I highly recommend this book and think it is probably the most important book I have read this year.
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