Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 118

VOLUME 11 NUMBER 1 2015 Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power By Andy Crouch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013. 288 pp. $25.00 hardcover. The subtitle of Andy Crouch’s book lays bare a problem endemic to our age and others: power is susceptible to the worst of reputations. As I write this review, the news is intensely focused on a soap opera featuring the leadership of the National Football Association and some of its prominent stars because of incidents of domestic violence, a frightening example of power gone awry. It is also impossible for us to escape the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, and any of us could create a list of all the ways that we see power expressed in disconcerting, un-redemptive ways. Crouch challenges his readers to take a different view of power, not by denying all the horrors before us, but by asking us to consider that “power at its best . . . is the current of life. It is dangerously good” (26). Crouch defines power in a manner resonant with his prior book, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. It is the ability to make something of the world. Following an introduction, the book comprises four parts. The first part, chapters 2 through 5 along with a specific section dedicated to evangelism and social action—and an exploration of the wedding at Cana in John 2, argues that power is a gift, though one often distorted by idolatry (ch. 3) and injustice (ch. 4). In this part, one of the most important things to highlight is Crouch’s connection of power to the activity of humans as divine image bearers. Looking back to God’s creational intent, he links power to image bearing and flourishing. Though the Fall leads to diminished power and the antithesis of flourishing, power is ultimately about the opportunity to properly bear the image, a possibility that remains even now in spite of the distress and distortion that follows Genesis 3. Also worth highlighting is Crouch’s antithetical response to Nietzche’s notion of power as bodies in competition. In contrast, we find a view of power oriented to the flourishing of others and cooperation with others toward the creation of more power for others. Rather than viewing power as a zero sum game where power gained by one means power lost for others, we find a view of power that is generative, expressive of God’s boundless generosity. Part 2, consisting of chapters 6 through 8 and bracketed by explorations of “The Ten Words” in Exodus 20 and Jesus’s countercultural display of service in John 13, considers the grip of power, specifically its hidden dimensions (ch. 6), coercion (ch. 7), and privilege (ch. 8). There are many sweet spots in DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11630/1550-4891.11.01.113 113