Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power” as Want to Read:
Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  568 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Power corrupts—as we've seen time and time again. People too often abuse their power and play god in the lives of others. Shady politicians, corrupt executives and ego-filled media stars have made us suspicious of those who wield influence and authority. They too often breed injustice by participating in what the Bible calls idolatry. Yet power is also the means by which w ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 6th 2013 by IVP Books (first published September 1st 2013)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Playing God, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Playing God

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.26  · 
Rating details
 ·  568 ratings  ·  79 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power
James Smith
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Provocative, timely, important, written with some stellar prose and the poignancy Crouch is known for as a speaker. The end of the book takes a bit of a memoiristic slide in which Andy seems to be the constant example, but elsewhere he draws on the stories of others--in India, China, and elsewhere. I can't imagine who shouldn't read this.

I'll be writing a review for Comment magazine. Watch for it at
Barnabas Piper
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Crouch remains one of the best authors I have ever read at crafting a paradigm and a framework into which vital concepts of life fit. In this one he looks at the complexities of power and our abuses and misunderstandings of it as well as what God intends for it. It is transcendent book in parts, but plods a bit here and there. Over all it is well worth reading and a valuable, helpful book.
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I think many of us have developed our understanding of power from Lord Acton's axiom: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. For most of us, that is the end of story and this accounts, at least among many Christians I know, for a deep aversion to anything like the exercise of power.

Andy Crouch has a different take that is evident in the word play in his title Playing God. We often think "playing God" is the worst manifestation of abusing power. But Crouch would argue that as imag
Fraser Perrett
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great, read. Very convicting while being encouraging. Very recommend
Justin Burkholder
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very solid read. At times it got a bit slow. I was hoping for more clarity on dealing with relationships where there is or could be a power disparity. However, this book deeply challenged my thinking about power.
Grant Hartley
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Andy Crouch may be best known for his former role as the executive editor of the evangelical magazine Christianity Today (and known by a smaller group, Christian sexual minorities who submit to the traditional sexual ethic, like myself, for his leadership on the advisory council of Revoice). In Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, Crouch offers, and spends the rest of the book supporting, a thesis that is simple but profound and, for many, fairly shocking: power is not something which must ...more
Mark Jr.
Dec 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, favorites, 2013
Andy Crouch’s title Playing God has a double meaning. 1) Idols play God by lording it over and ultimately enslaving those underneath their sway. 2) But this doesn’t mean playing God is necessarily wrong—we were created to mimic our Creator not just in service but in what Genesis calls “dominion.” The difference between 1) playing God and 2) playing God is the difference between using your God-given power to enslave or limit other divine image-bearers and using it to enable their flourishing. ...more
Oct 05, 2013 rated it liked it
“I can respect an honest pacifist, though I think he is entirely mistaken” writes C.S.Lewis in Mere Christianity. “What I cannot understand is the sort of semi-pacifism that you get nowadays which gives people the idea that, though you have to fight, you ought to do it…as if you were ashamed of it.” According to Lewis, this attitude “robs magnificent young Christians in the [armed] Services” of “gaiety and wholeheartedness”.

It is undoubtedly one of the more bizarre paragraphs in Lewis’ oeuvre.
Justin Lonas
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quite good, quite helpful. Andy is more philosopher than theologian, and that works in his favor for books like this, where he takes a high-level idea (power and power dynamics) and brings it back from its cultural captivity to enable a more theological understanding of it (power as God's character, image-bearing as a calling to rightly used power) to emerge.
Cory Shumate
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my top books this year

So good. One of the best books I’ve read this year. Crouch, as usual, provides a different way of looking at the world, with nuance and insight, while shining fresh light on power from personal relationships to institutions to eschatology. Delightful.
12/1/2016: switching this audiobook to my never-finished shelf. I find some of his thoughts interesting, but I've been disappointed so far that it's just not at a level to interact with the poli sci books of various sub-divisions that I'm reading about power. I think it's probably a good resource at a popular level, but I found some of his explanations frustratingly over-simplified myself. I've kept his list of references to check out, and actually, I already have one of the Oliver O'Donovan boo ...more
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cultural-studies
My highest praise for this book is that I can't help but keep bringing it up in conversation over the last few weeks while reading it. Timely, and informing so many of my thoughts already.

I've read two books by Andy Crouch this month, both of which caused me to make significant, joyful alterations to my schedule and budget. A book that influences my thoughts, conversations, time, and down to even my checkbook is a good work indeed.
Mitchell Dixon
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Crouch does an incredible job at portraying what biblical power should look like, how power is abused today, and what power will one day be. He goes from such grand scales of institutions and governments to the personal disciplines and stories of real people. I think this should be a required read for those on politics and in CEO positions.

What I really appreciate is that Crouch gives a very optimistic and realistic dimensions of power, with what could be and what ultimately always is with huma
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a book. Penetrating and paradigm-shifting examination of power. Certain sections could have been shortened or eliminated, but overall this is a gift of a book.
Samuel Kassing
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most important books that I’ve read in the last five years.

This is the best theological treatment of power that I’ve ever encountered.

Crouch’s illustrates wonderfully, his prose are clear, and he is wonderfully centrist.

Pick this book up!
John Alsdorf
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An important subject, handled with truth and grace

Andy Crouch has written a book that every Christian will benefit from. He helps us realize the true nature of the power we all have, beginning even in infancy....and how it can be used to contribute to the flourishing of family, neighbors...all.
Oct 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that I think will be really impactful for me. Crouch examines God's creative intent for human power (flourishing and imagebearing). Here is my full review: ...more
Jul 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, religion
Highly intriguing look at what is, for me at least, an increasingly complicated subject. Most interesting were Crouch's thoughts on the Tea Party and privilege. Great read.
Peter Neumann
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The gift of power

This is an engaging and reflective work by Crouch. He argues that power is not something to be viewed as evil, but is a gift given by God, to be wielded carefully by his image-bearers. Of course humans have not always used this gift well. And because it is power, its misuse causes tremendous damage.

I found two area of the book especially insightful. First, Crouch argues that institutions are a primary way that power is multiplied, and through which most good and lasting changes
Stuart Houghton
Aug 31, 2019 rated it liked it
A good effort from Andy Crouch; I liked the emphasis on using power to empower others by sharing of knowledge and skills. In the aid and development industry this is called "capacity building"; but capacity includes the capability to do something and the willingness to do it. I got the impression Crouch has never worked in a workplace where power is abused. This is because he has some good points about organisations needing over 15% of people who you can trust to always do the right thing - "tru ...more
Christina Brandsma
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a fairly good book with thoughtful reflections on power, privilege, and might. It examines ways to best reflect Christ to the world as image bearers instead of God-players. In looking at the ways we can live into our power, share power, and use our power to disperse power this book provides practical tips and helps the reader think through challenging topics and complex issues with a lot of fresh perspectives.
Josh Head
Jun 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Saw Crouch speak on the gift of power in 2013 at the Catalyst Conference. I was 23. His talk captivated me with thoughtful engagement of Scripture and I instantly bought this book. He has since become one of my favorite voices in any discussion he joins. Playing God is probably the first non-fiction book that captivated my imagination. His writing sent me down a very unique road and I am thankful.
Daniel Attaway
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an important book for our cultural moment and Andy Crouch shepherds readers through a way of viewing power in light of our design and the coming new creation—a positive, good news framework for power. Yes, it’s possible.

It’s already challenged me in areas where I enjoy privilege or power and how those ought to serve my neighbor, not increase my comfort or pleasure.
James A Kirk
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

A fantastic corrective to both typical secular liberalism cynicism about power as well as typical secular conservatives blind enthusiasm about it. Nuanced, wise, insightful, challenging, and ultimately hopeful that our power could be used redemptively.
Carter Phillips
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a fascinating piece and what it means to bear the image of God. It’s great at pointing out the goodness of power but also the idolatry of power and where it can, and has, go wrong. Totally changed my opinion that Christians should rid themselves of all forms of power.
Josh Berkey
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Crouch makes a good point. Not many people think positively about power. Many people view power as an evil, using authority to subtly suppress those not in power;but Crouch works to redeem power and explain ways in which power can be yielded for human flourishing.
Steve Frederick
Some helpfully provocative thoughts on the misshapen forms power can take, but far less attention given to what positive positive forms power can take, and next to no consideration of the relationship between authority and power, and ecclesiology
Brett Barnes
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: seminary
Establishes a very insightful theology of power.
Tara J.
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Incredible. Thorough discussion of power, it’s virtues and abuse in Christianity.
Ashley Wiersma
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Third time through. Exceptional, as ever.
« previous 1 3 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Introduction 1 2 Jun 20, 2015 09:53AM  
InterVarsity Pres...: My review of Playing God 1 4 Jan 19, 2015 06:02AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism
  • Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America
  • Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship
  • The Healing Path: How the Hurts in Your Past Can Lead You to a More Abundant Life
  • The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World
  • On the Incarnation
  • On the Road with Saint Augustine: A Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts
  • The Monster in the Hollows (The Wingfeather Saga, #3)
  • The Warden and the Wolf King (The Wingfeather Saga #4)
  • Disruptive Witness
  • Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community
  • Why I Am Not an Arminian
  • Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life
  • Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory
  • How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor
  • North! or Be Eaten (The Wingfeather Saga, #2)
  • Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation
  • Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality
See similar books…
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

For twelve years Andy was an editor and producer at Christianity Today (CT), including serving as executive editor from 2012 to 2016. He joined the John Templeton Foundation in 2017 as senior strategist for communication. His work and writing have been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Tim

News & Interviews

The must-read summer beach book is a kind of American tradition. The crash of the waves. The glare of the sun. The sand in the pages. Is t...
55 likes · 34 comments
“It is a source of refreshment, laughter, joy and life—and of more power. Remove power and you cut off life, the possibility of creating something new and better in this rich and recalcitrant world. Life is power. Power is life. And flourishing power leads to flourishing life. Of course, like life itself, power is nothing—worse than nothing—without love. But love without power is less than it was meant to be. Love without the capacity to make something of the world, without the ability to respond to and make room for the beloved’s flourishing, is frustrated love. This is why the love that is the heartbeat of the Christian story—the Father’s love for the Son and, through the Son, for the world—is not simply a sentimental feeling or a distant, ethereal theological truth, but has been signed and sealed by the most audacious act of true power in the history of the world, the resurrection of the Son from the dead. Power at its best is resurrection to full life, to full humanity. Whenever human beings become what they were meant to be, when even death cannot finally hold its prisoners, then we can truly speak of power.” 7 likes
“In his indispensable book The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen boldly invites us to imagine ourselves not just in the place of the younger son, and then the elder one, but also in the place of the father. Many of Jesus’ parables are waiting for this kind of attention—his shepherds, widows and vineyard owners are not just clues to the true nature and identity of God, but to what we are meant to become by grace. But for us the path to becoming the shepherd requires first recognizing that we are the lost sheep; to become the searching widow, we must understand that we are the coin lost in the cranny; and to become the father requires first coming to terms with ourselves as his equally foolish, equally prodigal children. And that is, in a nutshell, what discipleship is about. In the crucible of discipleship we come to see just how distorted our vision for our own power has been and how small we have become, but we also discover just how lavish our Father’s goodness is and how much glory is waiting for us, how much more we are meant to be.” 3 likes
More quotes…