Thinking Out Loud

February 29, 2016

Andy Crouch on the Strength/Authority Continuum

Filed under: books, Christianity, reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:45 am

Just when I was really comfortable thinking about strength vs. weakness as a linear continuum, Andy Crouch comes along with another dimension — a second dimension — that challenges my basic assumptions, and in his words, challenges a false choice or false dichotomy many of us held to.

Andy Crouch - Strong and WeakThe result is a vertical axis labeled “authority” and a horizontal axis labeled “vulnerability.” This in turn creates four different quadrants, and the one you want to strive for is “up and to the right” which he calls “flourishing.”

All that brings us to the title (and probably more importantly, the subtitle) Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk & True Flourishing (IVP, hardcover, March 2016).

There’s no spoiler here, the two-dimension model is presented at the outset. Much of the first half of the book defines each of the four quadrants. Vulnerability without authority is suffering. High authority with low vulnerability he calls exploiting. Low authority and low vulnerability he terms withdrawing.

But the big payoff is the second half of the book. Once you get inside the mindset of the paradigm — and an appreciation for it grows more enhanced the further you read — the rest of the narrative is powerful within the model’s context.

…I get to choose the books I want to review, and unless there’s a major disappointment, it’s already a given that I’m going to give a favorable review. So the answer here is a big ‘yes’ to those who ask, ‘Did the reviewer like the book?’ I found this very engaging reading.

But another question I seek to answer here is, ‘Who is this book for?’ In other words, I want readers to know who, in their sphere of influence, would be a likely candidate to be a recipient of a particular book. It’s hard for me to answer that succinctly, because I’ve been told I often think about things that nobody else considers.

In many respects, that is the nature of the titles which bear the InterVarsity Press (IVP) imprint. They publish books for thinking people. (Andy Crouch’s last two books, Culture Making and Playing God are also with IVP.)

Strong and Weak - Andy CrouchAs the following excerpt — from the unnumbered chapter between chapters five and six — shows, one certain target reader would be someone involved in leading others:

Leadership does not begin with a title or a position. It begins the moment you are concerned more about others’ flourishing than you are your own. It begins when you start to ask how you might help create and sustain the conditions for others to increase their authority and vulnerability together. In a world where many people simply withdraw into safety, where others are imprisoned in the most extreme vulnerability, where others pursue their own unaccountable authority, anyone who seeks true flourishing is already, in many senses, a leader.

If you’re looking for something that will challenge your assumptions and get you thinking about life differently, this is the title for you.

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July 23, 2010

Can’t Buy Me Love

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:44 am

I don’t care too much for money,

Money can’t buy me love

~The Beatles

We spent the last few days looking at the St. Lawrence River from the opposite to our usual side. The place we’re staying in Alexandria Bay, NY overlooks Heart Island, home to Boldt Castle.

Construction on the vast structure was halted when the owner’s wife died unexpectedly. His heart was broken and the castle was never finished.

Living in Toronto, we couldn’t help think of Casa Loma, built again as a man’s gift of love to his wife, and never completed. What’s that saying in the Bible about counting the cost before you build?

Anyway, yesterday we were on a luncheon cruise on the river – it sounds posh but it wasn’t, the chicken was inedible – and learned of a third man who set out to build the perfect summer home on an island for his wife. He gave her a choice of any of the 1,800 islands in the Thousand Islands and she didn’t like any of them, so he built her an island, too.

In the end, she left him.

The marina outside our window is full of yachts and powerboats that are also momuments to vast amount of personal wealth that exists in the United States. But pause and listen to conversations and the people who own them are not happy. Their lives seem filled with tension and angst.

Yesterday, one woman suddenly took off in her SUV, and her husband walked out of their cottage surprised to see her gone. He got on his cell to her and whatever discussion precipitated their argument continued phone to phone.

People like us often look at the boats and the cabins and the “good life” at a distance and forget the fundamental happiness and underlying joy just aren’t in the picture for these people.

And so I end this with words normally spoken in the “fellowship time” in many of our churches…

…The peace of Christ be with you.

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