Book Review: Playing God

Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power by Andy Crouch was one of the most challenging books I’ve read. He addresses issues in this book that we don’t talk enough about: the use of power. In the beginning of the book, Andy says: “We speak of leadership, influence or authority. All these are important and beneficial forms of power. But these words can camouflage what is really at stake. The best word for it, with all its discomfort, is power.” 

We hear a lot of talk on leadership, influence, and authority. We do not hear about on how to use these things for God. We always want to be better leaders, have more influence, and  more authority. However, you need to ask yourself several questions about this: Why do you want these things? What will you do if you get more of them? Can God trust you with power?

This book will challenge every motive you have for wanting more leadership, influence, and authority. Too often, if we’re honest, our true motive for wanting these things is so we can play god. Until we learn  to use power in the way God intended us to, we will always leave a path of destruction in the wake of our leadership, influence, and authority.

God’s motive for allowing us to have power, influence, and authority is to do His will on the earth. If we’ll submit ourselves to God, we’ll use power correctly. This book teaches you how to do just that. Buy this book and read it… now!

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 Some Highlights: 

  • We speak of leadership, influence or authority. All these are important and beneficial forms of power. But these words can camouflage what is really at stake. The best word for it, with all its discomfort, is power
  • Why is power a gift? Because power is for flourishing. When power is used well, people and the whole cosmos come more alive to what they were meant to be. And flourishing is the test of power
  • Power is nothing—worse than nothing—without love. But love without power is less than it was meant to be.
  • This means power is a gift worth asking for, seeking and—should we receive it—stewarding.
  • idols ask for more and more, while giving less and less, until eventually they demand everything and give nothing.
  • The most powerfully addictive substances, like crystal meth, are the ones that can deliver the most dramatic sensations of godlike freedom, confidence and abundance—in other words, power
  • Idols do not give up their power without extracting an exit fee
  • Every idol makes two simple and extravagant promises. “You shall not surely die.” “You shall be like God.
  • Every idol intimates that life apart from God is within reach, within our grasp, available for our control. This is the first lie of power
  • The idol, originally invested with all the human hopes for power, ends up robbing human beings of their power
  • as our parents enter their old age and become deeply dependent on us, we face the same choice that they did when we were infants—to let absolute power summon us to greater reverence for the life that is entrusted to our care.
  • Status is an implacable idol; it can never deliver enough, and the more you pursue it, the more it will demand.
  •  Ultimately the best reason to be wary of status and privilege is how little they mattered to Jesus. “It will not be so among you”—the priorities of Jesus are to spend his privilege, not to conserve it.
  • The best test of any institution, and especially of any institution’s roles and rules for using power, is whether everyone flourishes when everyone indwells their roles and plays by the rules, or whether only a few of the participants experience abundance and growth
  • The society is shaped not so much by the choices of the incorruptible 15 percent, nor by the corrupt 15 percent, but the wavering 70 percent—the “underlords” who forfeit much of their image-bearing and image-restoring power to others.
  • Christian tradition has emphasized three practices that radically interrupt lives of power and privilege: solitude, silence and fasting. Each of these practices involves the intentional pursuit of secret defeat, the perfect antidote to a life of sociable success.
  • The solitary disciplines are fundamental precisely because they bring an end to our playing god: there is no audience, no one to play to except our severely merciful Creator, who graciously uses these disciplines to confront us with the depth of our idolatry and injustice.
  • Over and over in the Gospels, Jesus interrupts his agenda for those who have nothing to offer him but need everything from him.
  • Our ability to disengage from the activities that give us identity, meaning and agency in our public worlds will tell us volumes about whether our activity is fruitful image bearing or increasingly desperate god playing.
  • Without sabbath, I would be dangerously ignorant of the true condition of my soul.
  • The church exists to help us put to death our unholy addiction to playing god, to die to our selves and rise to the exercise of true selfhood, “having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Corinthians 6:10).
  • Either we will grip ever more tightly to our own power in fear of its disappearance, or we will become bolder and bolder in our use of our power to prepare for its ultimate end: the restoration of the world’s shalom by the world’s power-yielding, powerful Creator.

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