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newsPlaying God has arrived!

Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power is in print! It can be ordered in hardcover from Hearts and Minds Books or directly from the publisher, InterVarsity Press, where you can also buy a DRM-free eBook version. The Kindle edition is available now for Amazon, and the hardcover should be in stock at Amazon by the end of September.

With Playing God, Andy Crouch explores the subject of power and its subtle activity in our relationships and institutions. Giving more than a warning against abuse, Crouch turns the notion of “playing God” on its head, celebrating power as the gift by which we join in God’s creative, redeeming work in the world.

“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

“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

“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

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in The Praxis Journal, 4 November 2022.

An entrepreneur, in essence, is a process innovator with a high tolerance for risk—someone who is willing, or indeed driven, to find a new way to live and work in the world while accepting the possibility or even probability that their new way could fail.

At Praxis we focus on three axes of entrepreneurship . There can be risk-tolerant process innovation in the area of strategy, the goods and services we aim to produce in order to create and capture value, and equally often in the axis of operations, the processes and systems we deploy to see that strategy enacted.

But in many ways, the most fundamental axis is that of leadership, or the deep story by which founders and builders live and make their most important choices. That deep story is at the root of process innovation. So often, strategy and operations emerge out of the entrepreneur’s own imagination, rooted in explicit and implicit dreams and assumptions about the direction of our life.

While our society tends to notice and celebrate the innovations in strategy and operations that entrepreneurs bring into being, reshaping our inner story is, in a sense, the ultimate process innovation — and because we generally have very good reasons for holding on to the stories we have been living by, any dramatic change in one’s inner story always involves an element of risk.

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in, 21 September 2022.

I was listening to a “modern worship” song this week when a bunch of things clicked at once.

If you spend any amount of time in churches that have a notable proportion of people under the age of 40, you have heard this genre of music. The chords are simple, the melodies are exceedingly singable (except when the lead singer takes them up an octave into a range only reachable by professional voices), the sentiments are sincere, and the lyrics are brief.

I actually love some of these songs. Like all genres, modern worship has individual examples of real quality, and the one I was listening to (Elevation’s 2018 song “Worthy”) has a lot of merit on its own terms. I would gladly lead a congregation in it myself.

But as I sang along with the recording, I couldn’t help feeling, not for the first time, that on its own it was incomplete and just a bit thin.

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2022.

Effortless power is a defining feature of what we began, roughly 150 years ago, to call “modern” life. In countless domains, technology has equipped human beings to vastly increase the sensation of strength while vastly reducing the sensation of effort. A world-class weightlifter is physically powerful, but anyone can see that performing an Olympic deadlift requires tremendous physical, mental and even emotional strain, prepared for by years of training. Someone operating a forklift, on the other hand, can lift far more weight than any athlete with almost no exertion at all.

The sensation of extraordinary capacities without effort has a name, long applied to comic book heroes but now available to all of us: superpowers.

Social media, for example, has given almost everyone a taste of the kind of recognition and affirmation that used to be available only to a handful of movie stars and television personalities. From Facebook to Instagram to the latest app on a 15-year-old’s home screen, a series of platforms have granted us low-friction relationships, along with highly visible cues of our status and standing with others. They have given us recognition and influence at a distance: social superpowers.

This afternoon I read a report from Christianity Today, where I worked and had leadership roles from 2005 to 2016, on instances of harassment experienced by women there over many years. I feel great grief for the experiences described in the report, and above all for the fact that they follow a consistent pattern. I feel remorse that I shared responsibility for sustaining an environment where such behavior could happen without being promptly and fully addressed.

Here is a truth that is incredibly hard to put into practice: the more the world is in apparent crisis, the less benefit you get from the news. In fact, the more you live in a time of apparent crisis, the more you need deep reading — mostly books. Conversely, the more you live in a time of apparent calm, the more you need to be carefully paying attention to “the news.”

I say “apparent” crisis and calm because from a Christian point of view, the world is always in crisis (Greek krisis, “judgment”) — always under God’s judgment and always full of urgent threats to true flourishing. And from a Christian point of view, even in the moments of greatest chaos, we have access to peace that surpasses understanding, such that we never need to live in anxiety or fear.

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in The Praxis Journal, 17 April 2019.

Interviews are a kind of loving pursuit. My job as an interviewer is to take a relentless interest in another person’s life, times, ideas, and story. I’m there to help them pursue the truth of their own life and, through their life, the truth that all of us are looking for.

Our first podcast from Praxis, The Redemptive Edge, has been an exercise in that kind of pursuit. It started with the pursuit of the guests themselves. We were looking for people in the Praxis community who had a few key qualities. Above all, they needed to have built something redemptive — that rare and somewhat elusive quality that we think is summed up by the phrase “creative restoration through sacrifice.” While Praxis is a Christian organization, we are never looking just for entrepreneurs who happen to share our faith — that’s far too coarse a filter. Instead, we are looking for people whose work has been both costly and creative, with restorative effects in the world.

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in the Barna Group Blog, 7 January 2019.

The response to The Tech-Wise Family has been one of the happiest surprises of my life. When my friends at Barna Group asked me to write a book with them on technology and family life, I knew I wanted to do it. But I wasn’t at all sure I could do it well enough to be helpful to others.

Over many years, my wife, Catherine, and I had arrived at some commitments for our family that were awfully countercultural—as I say in the book, maybe not Amish or even “almost Amish,” but definitely “almost almost Amish.” Those commitments had clearly been good for us and our kids. But how to write about them in a way that left room for the inevitable complexity and diversity of other families? How to write about technology changing so fast that I knew, as I wrote in 2016, that whatever app would be causing excitement and distress in 2018 hadn’t even been released? (Turns out, by the way, its name is Fortnite.) And the issue caused me maybe the greatest anxiety: How to write about countercultural choices in a way that wasn’t legalistic or judgmental?

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in The Praxis Journal, 16 October 2018.

At Praxis we’re committed to the idea that redemptive entrepreneurship comes from rethinking three fundamental dimensions of every enterprise: its strategic intent (the goods or services the enterprise produces), its operating model (its internal culture and way of treating all the people in its sphere of influence, from vendors to customers), and perhaps most fundamentally, its leader’s script, a phrase we’ve come to use to identify the history, motivations, and aims of the founders of a venture. The stories of influential companies are almost always deeply tied up with the personal stories of their founders — for better and for worse.

For that reason, we’re always looking for models, both in the present and in the Christian tradition, of entrepreneurs who clearly lived out a redemptive story.

And if you’re looking for a model of a redemptive entrepreneur from the New Testament itself — maybe the whole Bible — it’s hard to beat the Apostle Paul.

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in The Gospel Coalition online, 24 March 2018.

It was not a great week. In three separate cases in my immediate circles, a person with significant power at the top of an organization, each one a subject of flattering major media exposure during their career, was confronted with allegations of sexual misconduct and related misdeeds. In one case, the person resigned from his role and board memberships, accompanied by a direct and remorseful confession. In the second, the person resigned, but not without posting a defiant denial of all allegations against her. In the third, the person likewise denied all allegations in the strongest terms—at one point with physical force, banging on a table—and, as I write, remains in his position.

All three were, or at least had once been, seen as among the most exemplary Christian leaders of their generation, including by many who worked closely with them. While I wasn’t personally close to any of the three, I have experienced and benefited from their exceptional gifts in leadership and ministry, as have thousands or millions of others.

I am not naming them here. If you are in their sphere of influence, you’ve already had the wind knocked out of you by the week’s revelations, and there is no need to redouble the trauma. If you are not, then the desire to know their names, though understandable and very human, is a prurience I will not indulge. And while I pray that such a tragic trifecta will not happen often in a single week, the truth is that I could have written this essay many times in the past few decades, and will have occasion to do so many times in the future. The names are actually not that important for my purposes—it is the system in which not just they, but we, are so deeply complicit.

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in Comment, 2 November 2017.

Do you need to be part of an institution to flourish as a person and to make a real difference in the world?

From the seemingly trivial (bowling leagues) to the most consequential (churches), institutions are shared human enterprises, bigger than any one person, that extend human culture both over space and through time. They aim to endure at least to the third generation (our children’s children), if not to the thousandth. They are, in the words of political scientist Hugh Heclo, “authoritative communities” that ask us to engage in a sustained common project, sometimes at significant cost to our own autonomy and self-determination.

And for a good half century now, the ascendant answer to the question of whether we need institutions to flourish, at least in the dominant culture of North America, has been, “No, thanks, I’m good.”

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in The Gospel Coalition, 7 June 2017.

Winston Churchill’s tribute to the architecture of the House of Commons—“We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us”—has endured as an aphorism because material culture, like buildings, so often slips into the background. Only when we’re compelled to pay attention—as happens when we experience the disorientation of cross-cultural travel or when, as in Churchill’s generation, we must rebuild buildings that had been suddenly destroyed after standing for centuries—do we really see the reflexive power of culture, the ways that human life is shaped by material things.

But none of us can miss the most striking change in material culture in our lifetime. In a single decade we have dashed from a world with zero smartphones (if you don’t count the clunky pre-2007 ancestors of the iPhone) to a world with 2 billion of them. We’ve taken a kind of cross-cultural trip to a new world stuffed with glowing rectangles—and apparently, we’re traveling on a one-way ticket. We’re still getting over the jet lag, and the queasy discovery that although we bought these devices because of what they promised to do for us, they’re also doing something to us.

Jason Snell, former editor of MacWorld, is a very fine journalist who has been covering Apple for decades. A couple weeks ago, he posted his best guess of how Apple would announce a “Siri speaker” (an announcement that may well happen this coming Monday, 5 June). He called it “speculation, analysis, and a little bit of fan fiction all in one.”

Snell does a good job of channeling the Apple-exec diction that’s become so familiar from a couple decades of keynotes: “an amazing new product … sound so rich that it can fill a room … eight beam-forming microphones and a powerful signal processor embedded into the new Apple H1 chip.”

But the heart of his little essay is a treatment for a product video showing how the “Apple Home” would help a typical suburban family … well, help them do what exactly? Take a look—first at Snell’s treatment, presented without commentary, and then with some notes.

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in Christianity Today, July/August 2016, p. 33.

I have two or three social media accounts, created in moments of inspiration or boredom, that I have never actually used. The companies that provide those accounts naturally want to turn me into an active user. But since they know nothing about me, the promotional messages they send, rather than being tailored to my actual interests, are the most generic form of popular culture you can imagine. “Here are some people we think you might like to follow,” Twitter gamely suggested recently to one of my dormant accounts—Ellen DeGeneres, CNN Breaking News, and Kim Kardashian West.

Those generic promotions come to mind when I hear fellow Christians talking, as they so often do, about “the culture”—as in, “the culture” is becoming more secular, or we need to engage “the culture.” Talking about “the culture” in this way causes us to stab blindly in the dark, much like Twitter’s email. It also causes us to miss our actual cultural responsibility and opportunity.

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in Christianity Today, 3 December 2015.

We can say with some confidence that all the following are true.

1.a. When news of a tragedy reaches us, almost all of us find our thoughts overwhelmed for minutes, hours, or days, depending on the scope, severity, and vividness of the loss. This is called empathy—our ability to put ourselves in the place of others and imagine their suffering and fear, as well as heroism and courage, and to wonder how we would react in their place.

1.b. Almost all human beings, whatever their formal religious affiliation, find themselves caught up in a further reaction to tragedy: reaching out to a personal reality beyond themselves, with grief, groaning, and petition for relief. Even those far from the church will find themselves, almost involuntarily, addressing God in these moments. This is, in a way, another and perhaps higher form of empathy. It reflects our instinct that our own experience of personhood, identification, and love must ultimately reflect something—or Someone—fundamental to the cosmos who is personal, who has identified with us, and who responds to us and all the world with love.

In recent years, many new colleges and universities have embraced a new tradition: “The Last Lecture,” in which a beloved professor is asked to give the lecture they would give if they had just one final chance to address their students and colleagues.

The Last Lecture was already a popular series at Carnegie Mellon in 2007, but everything changed when a computer science professor named Randy Pausch was asked to speak. When he gave his lecture, Dr. Pausch was about to turn 47 years old, and he and everyone at Carnegie Mellon knew that he was a few months away from dying of stage four pancreatic cancer. You can watch the 75-minute lecture on YouTube—millions of people have—and you’ll see a man who clearly loves his work, loves his colleagues, loves his students, and loves his wife, and most of all loves his children. The real reason he wanted to give and record his last lecture, he said, was so that his elementary-school-age children would understand what was most important to him.

Now, though I am also 47 years old, as far as I know this is not my last lecture. And I want to assure you that this lecture will not last for 75 minutes! But I thought of Randy Pausch’s last lecture as I was preparing for this day. Because I want to let you in on something that every faculty member here knows, and almost no student knows. What gives the the “last lecture” such poignancy is that every professor knows what it’s like to give a last lecture. They do it every spring.

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in, 8 April 2015.

For some reason, any kind of fasting prompts questions about logistics. So, to start with the F.A.Q.:

Did you really turn off all screens for all of Lent? Mostly, yes. My laptop and tablet disappeared into a cabinet. I turned off my email altogether. Same with Twitter, Instagram, Feedly, and the rest of my familiar digital companions—all gone. I deleted nearly every app on my smartphone except those relating to weather and travel plans. And I kept my phone and message apps active to communicate with family and friends.

So it wasn’t a total fast. But compared to my normal life, in which a rectangle is glowing in front of me seven to nine hours a day, it was a dramatic and initially disorienting change.

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in Christianity Today, March 2015 (vol. 59, no. 2), p. 32.

Of the many new words that bubbled up from our technological culture in 2014, perhaps the most unsettling is doxxing.

Typically carried out by anonymous online users with axes to grind and little to lose, doxxing involves making someone’s private information public. That includes home addresses, phone numbers, financial histories, medical records—anything that can be found in the endless databases available to canny hackers.

Doxxing can be a drive-by prank on most anyone who draws attention. But more often its targets are singled out for humiliation. In a series of events last year that came to be called GamerGate, certain active video gamers targeted journalists, mostly women, who had criticized the outright misogyny found in many popular video games. The backlash began with the bilious insults that have become astonishingly common online. But it quickly escalated to “revenge blogs” purporting to reveal those journalists’ past indiscretions, and doxxing attacks.

Doxxing is extreme and rare. But it marks the limit of a trend that affects every one of us: aspects of our lives that were once private and fleeting can now be publicly, and permanently, exposed.

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in Christianity Today (October 2014), p. 72.

The statesman and theologian theologian Abraham Kuyper is all but forgotten in his native Netherlands, but his reputation continues to flourish in the United States among Christians looking for better ways to imagine their role in Western society. They often come to Kuyper for his account of the “cultural mandate”—the biblical theme of responsibility for the world so often neglected in narrower versions of conservative Christianity. But they stay for Kuyper’s most distinctive contribution, his carefully developed account of culture’s “spheres,” each with its own features, functions, and significance. The family, government, science, art, education, and more are each essential. None can be reduced to the other, and each requires particular virtues and bequeaths us particular forms of flourishing.

Now, the Dutch Reformed heartland of western Michigan has given us a cultural product that Kuyper surely never imagined, but that would surely make him proud. It is designed to help the church reclaim our true calling: to live out our salvation, in the words its title borrows from the Orthodox writer Alexander Schmemann, “for the life of the world.”

This article by Andy Crouch originally appeared in Time Magazine online, 10 September 2014.

Technology keeps getting more and more personal. First “personal computers,” which sat on your desk, gave way to laptops, which sat in a rather more intimate position. Now laptops are giving way to tablets and phones, which nestle in your hand and slip into your pocket. And early next year, the Apple Watch will wrap around quite a few wrists, which it will tap gently to signal that a friend is calling or a message has arrived.

You could say the Apple Watch will be the ultimate personal computer, but more to the point, it is one of the first intimate computers. It promises to be with you every moment of the day (though it will part with you at night for recharging—such sweet sorrow), aware of your every motion, responsive to your touch. It will be close enough, Apple promises, to feel your heartbeat—and share that heartbeat, in a feature that is either sweet or slightly creepy, with a friend.

I think Sting sang about this kind of intimate watchfulness a generation ago: “Every move you make, every breath you take, I’ll be watching you.” Oh, that song was not so much sweet as slightly creepy? Well, it won’t feel that way with the Apple Watch—unlike Sting’s hovering would-be lover, it is watching you in order to serve you. After all, in the reverent tones of Sir Jony Ive, narrating the watch’s introductory video, this is technology that “embraces individuality and inspires desire.” What could possibly go wrong?