Archives For Andy Crouch


Review of Merold Westphal’s
Whose Community? Which lnterpretation?
From Christian Scholars’ Review

Whose Community? Which Interpretation? belongs to a series by Baker Academic called “The Church and Postmodern Culture.” The editor, James K. A. Smith, provides the rationale for reading Merold Westphal’s contribution: “For ‘peoples of the Book’ whose way of life is shaped by texts, matters of interpretation are, in a way, matters of life and death” (9). Based on “To Read or Not to Read,” a2007 report from the National Endowment of the Arts, we are living in a post-literate or sub-literate culture where, it is safe to conjecture, the biblical text plays a diminutive role in the formation of Christian identity.  Friedrich Nietzsche’s once controversial claim-“there are no facts, only interpretations”-seems irrelevant in the absence of a text to interpret.

For the remnant of Bible-reading Christians, “matters of interpretation are, in a way, matters of life and death” (italics added). Do not miss the qualifying clause. While we are no longer witnesses to the violence behind sixteenth-century Protestant and Catholic persecution of Anabaptists, such violence is sublimated behind present-day Orthodox anathemas of iconoclasts or Emergent denunciations of Calvinist creeds. In short, interpretative practice
often fosters animus among brothers and sisters in the household of faith.

Read the full review:

Whose Community? Which lnterpretation?
Merold Westphal.

Paperback: Baker Books, 2009.
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Andy Crouch Reviews Two Recent Books on
World Christianity and American churches

Both Robert Wuthnow’s and Mark Noll’s new books puncture a number of commonplaces about global Christianity and America’s place in it, although they do so from notably different angles. Wuthnow is an eminent sociologist of religion who possesses a formidable capacity for memory and analysis combined with an abundance of research assistants. He synthesizes a vast amount of background reading, original research, and reinterpretations of standard datasets to survey the ways American Christians currently relate to the wider world.

One of Wuthnow’s stated aims in Boundless Faith is to refute what he calls the “Global Christianity paradigm,” a narrative of Western Christian decline and Southern ascent that has given rise to many of the hasty conclusions summarized above. (Inevitably, Wuthnow finds the source of this paradigm in Philip Jenkins’ influential book The Next Christendom, though Jenkins does not focus nearly as much on Western decline as readers of Wuthnow might be led to believe.) Wuthnow musters evidence from far and wide to push back strongly against the idea that the United States is a fading force in global Christianity. To the contrary, wherever his sociologist’s gimlet eye turns, whether to sources of funds, centers of theological education, or activities of local church members, he finds continued American activity and influence, and in many ways he finds that American Christians may be more internationally minded than they have ever been.

Read the full review:


Scot McKnight critiques Andy Crouch’s Culture Making.

[Editor’s Note: Scot’s reading here offers a perfect example of why our churches need to dialogue about what we’re reading.  Even good books (including the books we review here), are not perfect ones and it is helpful for us to see their limitations and shortfalls.  Thank you, Scot!]

I recently read Andy Crouch’s new book, Culture-Making, a winding book on culture and how Christians can be cultivators of culture.


Andy’s favorite letter is “C” — and he’s got more C’s in this book than any book I’ve seen. But, he’s not being cute. The C’s are genuine and they make the book more useful. But I have to put my big impression of this book up front: this book has too many ideas and not enough of them settled. The best book I have read on this topic, surely for a slightly different audience, is John Stackhouse, Making the Best of It.


There are three parts to the book: culture, gospel, and calling. This book attempts to take complex issues and simplify them for a more general Christian audience. Hence, the absence of footnotes. My own view here is that those who read books on culture making can handle, and want, footnotes — and more direct, sustained, philosophical interaction with prominent thinkers. But Crouch’s approach makes the book accessible.


The whole book is summed up in the introduction: “What is most needed in our time are Christians who are deeply serious about cultivating and creating but who wear that seriousness lightly — who are not desperately trying to change the world but who also wake up every morning eager to create” (12).

Read the full review (and comments):

Culture Making.
Andy Crouch.

Hardcover: IVP Books, 2008
Buy now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $16 ] [ Amazon ]

“How to live what Michael Pollan preaches.” reviews Mark Bittman’s new book FOOD MATTERS.

Mark Bittman is the anti-foodies’ foodie, one of the few culinary writers around who don’t indulge in either the precious chefolatry of the Gourmet magazine set or the remedial pandering of Rachael Ray. In his instant-classic cookbooks and “The Minimalist” columns for the New York Times, he treats the preparation of food as an enjoyable daily activity that needn’t be fetishized but that also shouldn’t be reduced to layering prepared foods in a casserole dish, popping it in the oven, and chirping “Yummers!” At a time when one-half of America seems to view cooking as an elite hobby while the other regards it as an esoteric mystery, Bittman is that blessed thing, a practical cook.


The essence of the Bittman approach is simplicity, ease and quality, but that means he has to walk a fine and constantly shifting line. Americans’ attitudes toward what we eat are laden with class and cultural baggage. It’s no coincidence that when the conservative Club for Growth PAC produced its famous 2004 television commercial featuring an elderly couple telling Howard Dean to go “back to Vermont,” two out of the seven outré practices Dean and his “left-wing freak show” were accused of involved comestibles: latte drinking and sushi eating. Yet the rules keep changing. Some delicacies once considered exotic — balsamic vinegar and chipotle chile, for example — seem to have infiltrated every Applebee’s and Boston Market, while others — poor, blameless arugula — remain synonyms for yuppie pretension and self-indulgence. We invest food with a tremendous amount of meaning; you routinely hear people touting the ethnic harmony of their town or neighborhood by describing the diversity of its restaurants, as if an understanding of Hinduism or Mogul architecture can be ingested along with a plate of chicken tikka.


Now Bittman has waded even further into the fray by publishing “Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating With More Than 75 Recipes,” an unusual blend of manifesto, self-help manual and cookbook designed to convince people that they can drastically improve their diets with relatively little discomfort. Not only that, but in doing so, Bittman avows, they can also save the planet and relieve some of the pressure on their pocketbooks. As promises go, that’s a whopper, a super-trifecta encompassing the major obsessions of the current moment: weight loss, environmentalism and penny-pinching.

Read the full review:

Food Matters:
A Guide to Conscious Eating.

Mark Bittman.

Hardcover: Simon and Schuster, Dec. 2008.
Buy now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $20 ] [ Amazon ]

The NY TIMES review of
Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis.

Recent DVD collections of early “Sesame Street” episodes were called “Old School” and came with a peculiar warning: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.” That warning is a measure of how the series has changed in the nearly four decades since its debut in 1969. The old episodes not only have a handmade, anarchic charm that underscores the show’s debts to “Laugh-In,” the Marx Brothers and vaudeville, but they also are blessedly free of the uptight, sunnily upbeat, politically correct tone that has crept into more recent incarnations.


Back in the day, Oscar the Grouch was really grouchy (never mind that anger isn’t considered constructive), Cookie Monster really gobbled down cookies (never mind that empty calories aren’t healthy), and Big Bird’s invisible friend Snuffleupagus was really invisible to everyone but Big Bird (never mind suggestions that the giant yellow bird might have been hallucinating).


Like many long-running series — from Mickey Mouse to “Columbo” to James Bond (until its recent rebooting with the cold-eyed, Putinesque Daniel Craig in the title role) — “Sesame Street” grew softer and fuzzier over time, losing whatever edge it once possessed. The story of its evolution should make for fascinating reading. But Michael Davis’s new book “Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street” turns out not to be so complete, skimming quickly over the show’s development after the death of the Muppet creator Jim Henson in 1990 and more recent changes in its creative team.


Mr. Davis provides little in-depth analysis of the show’s social and cultural impact around the world, and equally little evaluation of the criticisms that have been leveled at it — for instance that its fast-paced visuals and music have contributed to children’s shortening attention spans.

Read the full review:

The Complete History of Sesame Street
Michael Davis.

Hardcover: Viking, Dec. 2008.
Buy now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $22 ] [ Amazon ]


[ For anyone who is keeping track of these things, we are forgoing the full issue that we had planned to release today and will return to our regularly-scheduled issue on this Friday Dec. 5.  The following interview with Andy Crouch was done by our friend Matt Conner and originally appeared on the lighthearted, yet thoughtful group blog that he coordinates.  Thanks Matt! ]


In our final of three interviews focused on the Christian’s response to social justice, our attention turns to one of my favorite interview subjects – Andy Crouch. Andy is the author of the fantastic new book, Culture Making – a much needed treatise for the intersection of faith and culture. He’s also director of the Christian Vision Project for Christianity Today.


I’ve interviewed Andy twice now and each time is drinking from a mental fire hydrant and you come away refreshed and challenged by what Crouch comes up with. This time was no different than the first as he discusses the warnings for those of us charting toward the waters of social justice.


Culture Making.
Andy Crouch.
Hardcover. IVP, 2008.
Buy now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $16 ]  [ Amazon ]


Matt: What’s the balance for counter-cultural movements with their work toward social justice and the mainstreaming of those movements?


Andy Crouch: I think we have to recognize that the mainstreaming of alternative movements is a continual process in American culture since the 1960s. It’s been happening for a long time, so it’s not that new. It’s just the latest version of it now, where something that begins as even very consciously outside the mainstream is adopted for commercial purposes.


I think it’s really double-edged sword. Here’s the positive thing about it: to the extent that social movements that become part of a profitable enterprise, they are much more scalable than they are when they’re not-for-profit. Because a not-for-profit is always have to replenish its resources, whereas a profitable enterprise has found a way to provide something that’s of sufficient value for people that it can actually grow from the generation of excess income. In a way, I celebrate the fact. When anything becomes mainstream enough that people can make money doing it [Laughs]…



I am not of those who are firmly opposed to anyone ever making economic profit. I think economic profit is a sign that you’re connecting with people in a significant way. And the fact that companies are finding it economically profitable to align themselves with really important causes is really encouraging. It’s a sign of success.

  Continue Reading…


David Fitch Reviews Andy Crouch’s Culture-making

As some might know, I have a complaint concerning the way evangelicals engage culture. The way we engage culture is either to reject it all or embrace it all. Our culture habits, I contend, have been formed under a 50 year Niebuhrian hangover where we view culture in singular unilateral terms. To compound the problem, we regularly make Jesus Christ into a principle to be translated (or not) into it (instead of concretely embodying his way into the world). This is the influence of Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture.

Culture is more complex, multiple and diverse than that. It is ubiquitous as well. It cannot be escaped. And Jesus the Christ is not a principle but an historic incarnation of the second person of the Godhead. God began his work in the world (Missio Dei) by actually entering into the world for the reconciliation of the whole world to Himself. To be His people, is to engage the world in all its complexity for the incarnation of the gospel via the formation of a people. This people, is a cultural expression of the Holy Spirit as an extension of God’s Missio begun in the sending of the Son.

Read the full review:

Culture-Making:Recovering Our Creative Calling
Andy Crouch
Hardcover: IVP, 2008
Buy now [ Doulos Christou Books $16 ] [ Amazon ]

Dan Smith has engaged in a Chapter-by-Chapter
Conversation with ELECTING NOT TO VOTE

Ted Lewis, ed.
Paperback: Wipf and Stock, 2008
Buy now [ Doulos Christou Books $17 ] [ Amazon ]

FIRST THINGS reviews Daniel Siedell’s

In a recent book assessing the state of evangelical scholarship, Mark Noll refers to “a boomlet in evangelical art history [that] rests squarely on the work of the Dutch Reformed scholar Hans Rookmaaker.” Had Noll seen Daniel Siedell’s book God in the Gallery, he might have thought differently. Siedell is a long way from Rookmaaker, and his book—whether or not it can be called evangelical—is no boomlet. God in the Gallery is an impressive detonation in and of itself.

The Christianity-and-art conversation is gridlocked. The stalled traffic includes those who are profoundly suspicious of the art world, and those who are infuriated enough by this unforgivably “conservative” suspicion that they, in turn, write contemporary artists a theological blank check. A book capable of broaching this impasse has long needed to be written—but who would have suspected it would be this good? What makes God in the Gallery noteworthy is that it addresses another gridlock as well, that of contemporary art. The traffic in this case involves those liberated by the end of modernity to explore spiritual directions, and those committed to keeping art a staunchly secular enterprise. “The art world,” insists Siedell, “is growing increasingly uncomfortable with its collective unbelief.”

Siedell’s qualifications enable him to address both these dilemmas. He is a firmly ecclesial Lutheran with deep—one might say overriding—sympathies for the Orthodox Church. In addition, Siedell holds a Ph.D. in contemporary art (he studied with noted critic Donald Kuspit), and he is a seasoned curator with a decade of gallery experience.

Read the full review:


Daniel Siedell
Paperback: Baker Academic, 2008
Buy now [ Doulos Christou Books $20 ] [ Amazon ]