Book Review: Playing God By Andy Crouch

From The Catalyst Summer 2014

Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power
By Andy Crouch
IVP Books, 2013

Reviewed by Janelle Vandergrift

In Playing God, Andy Crouch defines power as the ability to “make something of this world” and the deepest form is creation. He argues that power is not essentially coercive and violent, though it can often be misused for domination. We can “play God,” Crouch suggests, by using our power redemptively (through institutions, for example) but we can also “play God” through injustice (playing gods in the lives of others) and idolatry (making gods). It’s up to us to discipline our power towards true image bearing. Crouch unearths several assumptions we may hold about power that lead us to disengage, divest, and even underestimate our power instead of acknowledging it as a gift that is essential for image bearing.

Crouch’s book is an apologetic, reorienting, and persuasive piece seemingly written for those who might be more apt to abuse their power through ignoring or underplaying it (“after all, power corrupts you know!”).

Crouch’s outlook on power is much too optimistic and hopeful. An essential part of this conversation is acknowledging where power is currently and historically situated, seeking ways to share it with the oppressed, and re-orienting how it is distributed. Given these vast and growing injustices and idolatries of our world, a more practical approach to addressing power imbalance would have been useful.

Nevertheless, the main take-away from Playing God remains: as we seek to reclaim and redeem power, our job as image-bearers is to acknowledge the power we have and use it for the common good.

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