In the universe of thinking about Christianity and culture, Andy Crouch may be as close to Yoda as you’ll get.
He is Executive Editor of Christianity Today and a popular speaker at churches, colleges, and conferences. His book, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, was named one of the best books of 2008 by Publisher’s Weekly, Relevant, Outreach, and Leadership. His newest and long-awaited book, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, has just released and is unsurprisingly creating waves. Here, we discuss how Christians have misunderstood power and how he believes they are meant to steward it.
JM: What is your definition of power? How does it differ from, say, Nietzsche’s?
AC: My definition of power is “the ability to make something of the world.” It’s about both the ability to actually transform your environment, and about your ability to interpret and make meaning from the world (the more metaphorical sense of “make something of”).
Nietzsche believed power was ultimately about the strong compelling the weak. You could say that Nietzsche’s ultimate form of power was violence. My definition of power focuses much more on creativity–because I believe the power to create and make is actually much deeper, truer power than the ability to compel or force.
JM: Is power the same thing as authority? If not, what’s the relationship between the two?
AC: Usually we use “authority” to refer to power that is seen as legitimate–that is, power that has earned the right to be used. You could say that authority is “authorized” power. But there are many forms of power that aren’t necessarily “authority” in that sense. If you are young and beautiful, you have power in American culture—even if you haven’t earned authority. If you are a celebrity, you have power—whether or not you have earned it.
JM: Can you say something about Christian attitudes toward power? I don’t hear a lot of Christian leaders and thinkers discussing power.