“Power is a gift.”

So begins Andy Crouch’s latest book, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. What follows is certainly the most comprehensive , thoughtful, and imaginative meditation on power I’ve ever read. Crouch’s first book, Culture Making, remains one of my favorite books of the last 10 years, so it comes as no surprise that I enjoyed Playing God as much as I did.

What, then, is power? May I begin with a deceptively simple definition: power is the ability to make something of the world. — Playing God, Andy Crouch

My original temptation was to summarize the book as a theology of power, but to do so would be to misread Crouch entirely. Playing God is theological, but it’s also social, cultural, historical, economical, political, practical, relational, and so on. In other words, the book considers what the Bible has to say about power, but it does not stop there.

Crouch wants to share with us a robust vision of who God is, who God made us to be, and how we might better pursue the flourishing of God’s creatures and creation.

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. — Playing God, Andy Crouch

And what does that pursuit look like? Playing God invites us to forsake our god-making and god-playing in favor of true image-bearing. To be image bearers, as Crouch so masterfully articulates, is to be empowered by the Spirit of God toward lives of grace, justice, creativity, community, humility, wisdom, and worship.

And doing justice is likewise the means to an end— shalom, that rich Hebrew word for peace, describing the conditions where every creature can be fully, truly, gloriously itself, most of all where God’s own image bearers bear that image in all its fullness, variety and capacity. The work of justice is to restore the conditions that make image bearing possible. — Playing God, Andy Crouch

This book will open your eyes to the power that both surrounds and indwells us. Watch the news and you’ll see power used and abused. Review your checking account activity or your calendar and you’ll see traces of god-making, god-playing, and image-bearing. Step inside what Crouch calls an “arena” — maybe a mall, a stadium, a church, or a school — and you’ll hear the hum of power above the din of the crowd.

Read this book, not because you’re hungry for power, but because you’re hungry for redemption of the power you already possess.

Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power