Playing God, by Andy Crouch

Playing God is the exercise of power, and power is good. Power is a gift, a means of peacemaking, a God-sanctioned key to human flourishing.

This is the striking claim advanced in Andy Crouch’s insightful and engaging book Playing God. Crouch, the executive editor of Christianity Today, presents here an evangelical take on the Christian social ethic, offering criticism as well as affirmation of the movement in which he now plays a leading role. His argument says yes to power—he declares that the idea that Jesus “gave up” power is dead wrong—but he also addresses “idolatrous power,” the distortion that seizes advantage over others by means that can descend into brutality.

Lord Acton said that power “tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Crouch demurs, not dismissing the point altogether but saying that human well-being depends on generous employment of power. Distorted power is corrupt and corrupting, but not all power is distorted. True power is creative ability in the service of “comprehensive flourishing”; it is power exerted in the spirit of Christ, the “trustworthy image” of God. A focus on the “dark underbelly of domination” in human relationships may shed important light, but power can be redemptive, too. True power is creation, not compulsion. Instead of making winners and losers, it creates room “for more power”—more opportunity, that is, for more people to build abundance and blessedness on earth. Power as aggression is deadly; power that bears the image of God is life-giving.