I confess being quite excited to board Amtrak at 5:17 am in Elizabethtown, PA, to travel to the Big Apple to hear Andy Crouch, Executive Editor for Christianity Today, present material from his new InterVarsity Press release Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. As some of you know, the Emerging Scholars Network has not only highlighted Crouch’s earlier InterVarsity Press publication Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (2008) in various posts, but also featured Culture Making as the focal point for the launch of a South Central PA Christian Scholars Network through a Christian Scholars Series.
At Imagebearer: Your Part in God’s Plan for Creativity, Justice & Flourishing (Q Session, September 17-18, 2013), Crouch walked participants through his understanding of . . .
- The good news about culture.
- The good news about who we are as created in the image of God.
- The bad news about our world.
- The heart of the bad news.
- How is God active in the world through us in bringing reconciliation and healing through providing particular examples of concrete human institutions and being a leader.
I particularly appreciated Crouch’s emphasis on not losing Genesis 1, Genesis 2, Revelation 21, and Revelation 22 when studying, reflecting upon, sharing/teaching, and living in the reality of the biblical story/narrative. From this perspective, he returned again and again to the importance of flourishing as “a good summary of God’s work.” From the Scriptural record he underscored God’s creating teeming groups of creatures and finding them “good,” contrasting this with how it was “not good” for man to be alone. Furthermore, he emphasized the value of abundance on the physical level, the chemical level, the biological level, and in sexual reproduction. In the beginning and “the end,” we cannot miss how much God longs for a rich diversity in the creation/new creation. To God be the glory!
At the end of the first day, small groups of delegates had the opportunity to connect with an “industry leader” and explore flourishing in their industry from a Christian perspective. Unfortunately there was not a group for those engaged in higher ed. To “fill the gap,” I extend the questions to my friends in the Emerging Scholars Network (Note: substitute ‘higher ed’ or even your particular ‘field’ for ‘industry’):
- What kind of flourishing does your industry enable? How do human beings come alive, and how is the wider world tended and kept, when your industry is at its best?
- What are the key skills, capacities, or character traits that people need to flourish in your industry?
- What tends to become an idol in your industry – a good thing that people begin to worship and serve as if it were an ultimate thing? What are the effects of that idolatry on the people and products of your industry?
- What tends to ‘play god’ in your industry? Who absorbs and hoards power rather than distributing and sharing power?
- Who tends to lose the ability to bear the image of God in your industry? Who loses their agency, their voice, their ability to create because of the way idolatry and god playing distort their role?
- What is the most hopeful thing happening in your industry right now?
- How has the church helped you flourish in your calling In what ways has the church missed opportunities to contribute to your flourishing/ is there something your pastor could do to significantly help you ‘bear the image’ in your calling?
Feel free to comment below or email/print to share in groups. Do not fear, much more to come from Playing God and Imagebearer: Your Part in God’s Plan for Creativity, Justice & Flourishing. Please let me know if you have interest in helping frame/discuss material from Playing God (e.g., wrestling with cultural context, diversity, relationships across generations, glory, idols/idolatry, imagebearing, injustice, institutions, leadership, power, privilege, shalom, status) and/or possibly even review Playing God.
BONUS: Andy Crouch on Flourishing (Interview by InterVarsity Press).
- Culture Making is included in The Campus Resources from InterVaristy Press: 2013-2014 Academic Year Edition. For Byron Borger’s (Hearts & Minds Books) reflections on the gathering click here. ↩
- Crouch contends, “Every idol makes two promises: you shall not surely die and you shall be like God.” Furthermore, he argues that God hates idolatry and injustice because they’re the same thing (See page 71 in the book). We will unpack this in future posts. ↩
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!