I’m Warren Smith, and today you’ll be listening in on my conversation with author, speaker, musician, and evangelical thought leader Andy Crouch. His new book is: The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World.
ANDY CROUCH, GUEST: It's sort of a ubiquitous thing in Silicon Valley. They're like, oh, we're gonna give you, you know, superpowers. And the superpower zone is this feeling of elation, and efficacy, effectiveness, efficiency that you feel when you are leveraging technology to get stuff done. … But it's really dangerous, because it's actually detached from the fullness of heart, soul, mind and strength, and often very much detached from love.
Andy Crouch has emerged to be one of the wise men of the evangelical movement with outstanding books such as Culture Making, Playing God, and The Tech-Wise Family.
If there is a theme to Andy Crouch’s work, it may be the simple, deeply biblical message that God is a creator, and we are made in his image, so we are creators ourselves. And just as God is a Triune God—one God and three Persons in intimate relationship with each other—so are we designed to be in relationship to God and to each other.
One of the implications of these ideas is that all creative endeavors are best done in community, in relationship. As Andrew Peterson is fond of saying, “Art nurtures community, and community nurtures art.”
Because we live in a technological age, Andy Crouch has thought deeply about the impact technology has had on relationships, community, and creativity. Technology, like fire, can be a good thing. But if fire escapes the stove or the fireplace, it can burn the house down. So it is with technology. In its place, technology can make our lives better, but it can also overtake our relationships, our time.
Andy Crouch’s new book, The Life We’re Looking For, helps us understand the promises and perils of technology, and how to live lives in this technological age that glorify God and love both God and our neighbors well.
Support for Listening In comes from Samaritan Ministries, a community of Christians who care for one another spiritually and financially when a medical need arises.
Samaritan Ministries is a Biblical solution to health care, where members are committed to honoring Christ through prayer and sharing the burden of one another’s medical expenses. Just ask Cameron and Roanna, whose son fractured his wrist. Hospital bills started to arrive, but they weren’t concerned about the financial impact because fellow members came alongside them through prayer and financial support for their medical bills. More at samaritanministries.org/worldpodcast.
WS: Well, Andy, welcome to the program. It's great to chat with you. And even though this is, we're using technology, and your book is about technology and about personal relationships. So there is, I don't know, there's a little irony in that maybe.
AC: No, no, we're using technology for a personal relationship. It's perfect.
WS: Well, I guess that's right. Because I think that is one of the things that I came away from both this book and The Tech Wise Family is that you are not a Luddite by any stretch of the imagination. You are, you are an active embracer of technology. But like Neil Postman, you understand that technology has both benefits and dangers, right? Benefits and costs. And we've got to, you know, God in His providence gives us creativity and our brains to create this technology. But we also have to be aware that we live in a broken and fallen world and that these technologies can do damage if we are not careful, if we don't guard against it.
AC: Yes, exactly, exactly. All I'm trying to do is make sure it stays in its proper place, and does not mess up the best things about life, which I think are, are not technological, per se.
WS: Yeah, let's start with the book. I've got a lot of things I would like to chat with you about, I'm sure we won't have time for all of them. But let's start with the book. You, you begin the book by talking about this idea of recognition. And I took that, at least in part to say that, you know that we have wired into us a re-, a need for significance, a need to be noticed. The need to be noticed by others in, you know, our proximate area, in a community. Say a little bit more about that idea about recognition, about even the youngest babies will, you know, have that sort of yearning in them.
AC: It is this incredible thing. And, you know, the the idea of wiring, although it's drawn from computers, it's close to the truth, in the sense that built into our neurons, you know, which are transmitters of chemical and electrical signals, built into our neurons is the capacity for and the need to have another person or other persons over time, pay attention to us, respond to us, mirror back to us who we are. And you know, a generation ago, even when I was born, I'm in my 50s now, doctors might well have told a mother who was giving birth, oh, your child really is a blank slate. Like they just come into the world, you know, they won't do anything very interesting for a while. And we now know this is so not true. That babies arrive, and literally in the moments after birth, they open their eyes. And they can't focus their eyes, they don't have the muscles to focus, you know, to adjust the focus of their eyes. But their eyes are built to focus if they're a normal sighted baby, six to eight inches away, which is exactly where a baby is when the mother is holding the child. And, and when a baby sees a face, I mean you can see it on their face, they pay attention. They focus on it. And then studies of this show, literally, neurologically, you're like lighting up, your brain is ready to see a face the moment you're born. So I start the book that way, because I want us to keep in mind, like what we most need as human beings is this connection with other persons. We absolutely require it to survive. And I actually think it's something that is a bit in peril and in danger in our technological world, is so many people kind of miss out whether early in life or later in life on that recognition we all need.
WS: Yeah, and that also provides context for another key point that you make fairly early in the book, but I think, I would say pervades the book. And that is this idea that with technology, with the growth and the ubiquity of technology in our lives and in our culture, there also comes this pathology or this condition of loneliness that has also become ubiquitous in our culture, as well. In other words, this deep need for recognition, which now we too often satisfy with technology, which is not really an appropriate satisfaction of that need - it's impersonal and and not proximate and all of the rest - has created this pervasive loneliness in our culture. You quote for example, Ben Sasse, and others to make that point. Can you, can you say a little more about this idea of loneliness?
AC: Yeah, I mean, if you imagine what, what it was like, not that long ago. I mean, a few generations ago, you would live in a world where every day, you'd be interacting with other people to get things done. Like that, that's the only way human beings got things done was together, often in fairly stable communities. And then of course, you'd have animals that you worked with, and animals recognize us as well, domesticated animals do. And you, you would also live, if you lived back in the kind of fully Christianized era of Western history, you would live in a world that you saw as personal. You believed you were in a world made by a God who was known as Father and you were part of that whole system, and everything you saw around you was somehow a reflection of God. All those things have been eroded by technology. So first, modernity started to lose the idea that the world was a personal place inherently. And we started to think of the world in terms of kind of, you know, Newton's science, that was much more like a machine, like a clock. And then we started using machines to get a lot things done. And that means we have fewer, I don't know, you know, I won't get into this in the book, but I think it's kind of striking, we have very lot fewer animals in our lives, actually. The other fewer creatures around us that we care for, starting from when we're children, and then in the way that agricultural households would have done. And then we start to be able to get things done without actually being in the presence of persons. So we've lost the personal world. We've lost our connection to kind of these fellow creatures that we have a responsibility for. And then we have, we've lost the kind of face to face relationships that human beings have always had. And we have these substitutes, and, but there's a big difference between personalized and personal. So my devices are very, I mean, they recognize me now. You know, I look at my phone, and it recognizes my face. But that is not the same thing. As you know, even seeing your face on Zoom. And we've met, we've been together a few times in person, and I remember you and you remember me. But Zoom is a thin version of a thing that every human being needs to thrive. And, and because we have these simulations, or these substitutes, and because we can get a lot done with them, more and more of us live more and more of our lives actually cut off in all these dimensions from what we were actually made for, I think, which is ultimately love. I mean, we're made for love we're made, and that starts with recognition and presence with other people.
WS: Yeah. Well, you know, Andy, I think that in fact, since you brought up the the word love, the topic of love, the idea of love, I do want to pivot just a little bit. Because I think it's fair to say, and I would welcome your correction, if it's not fair, that a lot of what you've said, so far, a lot of what we have said together, a lot of what is in your book is not exactly earth shattering critique. It is, you know, I mean, honestly, people like Neil Postman, Sherry Turkle, and others have commented about the effects of technology on the body politic, on, on sort of taking the thick culture that we, you know, might have had several generations ago, and how it has been thinned out. I think about, you know, Robert Putnams’ Bowling Alone, and, you know, other books. But it seems to me that what you are introducing to this conversation that I think is extraordinarily helpful is this idea of love and the sort of the, the foundation of the biblical worldview. The fact that the reason that this is so is because we have a truer story that we have largely forgotten, but nonetheless, not completely forgotten. And that is the biblical story, which tells us among other things, for example, that Jesus came to be with us. The incarnation is a central part of who you are. That you mentioned that the speed of God is three miles an hour, because that's the speed at which Jesus, you know, got around. And I think one of the ways that you introduce these ideas early in the book is by talking about a man named Gaius, sort of the forgotten characters of Scripture, at least forgotten maybe to many. He's not, you know, not Moses, not Adam. Not, you know, Peter, whatever.
AC: Definitely smaller, a smaller role.
WS: A smaller role. Tell us who Gaius is and why he is significant to your story.
AC: Yeah, I'm so glad you framed it this way. So Gaius, we encounter him only once and extremely briefly in Romans 16. The least preached on chapter of the most preached on letter in the New Testament is this long list of greetings in Romans 16, where Paul who's written this very, very dense and beautiful and powerful, theological, or whatever you call it, you know, this incredible letter. Now, at the end of his letter, he wants to greet all these people. And we only find out about Gaius, because the scribe who has been taking dictation, because probably Paul did not write, most people in the ancient world didn't write very well at least. So you would you would dictate your letters. And this, and normally the scribe is completely anonymous. But in this case, the scribe speaks up in Romans 16 and says, I Tertius who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. We are guests in the home of Gaius. And so we'd get just this one little glimpse that there's this, in the ancient world, he would have been called a pater familias, the head of the household. He has a home. It's a big enough home to accommodate, actually turns out a whole church because the church meets in his home. And then Tertius tells us who else is there. Erastus is there and he turns out to be like the city treasurer, or CFO, you might say. And then there's a guy named Quartus there. Don't know anything more about Quartus except his name. We also know Phoebe is there. Phoebe is going to actually carry the letter to Rome, and all these people are gathered, presumably around a table, and they're all part of this church. Phoebe's from just down the road in Cenchreae, she's a deacon of the church there. And we get this little glimpse of the community that would have made absolutely no sense. In fact, it would have been fairly scandalous to people walking by to realize that all these people are sitting at a table. We have here Jews and Greeks. We have Tertius and Quartus, their names being number three and number four in Latin. They barely have names, they're there, they're probably slaves. Tertius, a scribe may well be a slave. He's very low status, in any case. On the other hand, you have Gaius and Erastus who were prominent men. But then you have Phoebe, who's a woman. You have this sort of ex rabbi, rabbinical student, named Saul, turned Paul. And they're all around a table. And they are living out, I want to go back to what you said about love. Because I actually think one way to put the gospel is that we, in our fallen world, in our fallen state, I should say, we think the thing that matters most is power. I think this is what Satan thinks. Satan thinks the thing that matters most, if you want to get something done in the world, you need power. And the Christian story in one way says, actually, there's a, it's not that love doesn't have power, but there's a deeper power than the power we imagine. And it's, it's love. It is embedding yourself in relationships of interdependence and vulnerability and openness in the way that Jesus did when he joined our story, and Gaius and Erastus and Tertius and Quartus and Phoebe and all these people that are greeting in this world that absolutely 24/7 celebrated power. I mean, that is what Rome was about. They were living a very, very different story. And I think this is important in our technological world, because technology is basically developed to give us power. There's really almost no one, especially at the cutting edge of technology, who's thinking, well, what we really need is to create better conditions for human beings to love. Like that, just, that is just not the thing that it's about. And I'm not saying you can't use technology to love, but the driving force behind technology is the expansion of human power in the world, not human love in the world.
AC: And so part of what it means to live as Christians in a technological world is to keep in mind, all of this stuff we're using, right down to the, you know, devices and so forth we're using right now, people did not invent this to make us better at loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. They invented it because they thought what we needed was more power. And the gospel basically says, actually, you don't need more power. You'd be surprised how little power you need to have a 2000-year effect on the world if you live a life of total love. And that's what Gaius and his friends had discovered, obviously through, in the book, I don't really, like, spell it all out. But through an encounter with the gospel of Jesus, they had been, like, invited into this total parallel way that would have made no sense to their neighbors, but actually turns out to have had way more influence 2000 years later than anything else that was happening in their world.
WS: Yeah, it's a beautiful story. And I really appreciate encountering it early, for one reason because the story of Gaius and the context in which you, you know, place that story was, you know, even though I've been raised in the church and raised raised with scripture, it was, it was a new learning for me, and I'm grateful for that. I also want to ask you about this, Andy. The, this idea of, you know, I don't want to necessarily say love versus power, right, as though there were a dichotomy. Because as you said there is a, there is power in love. The power, you know, love has its own kind of power. And, of course, we refer to God as omnipotent, as one of his core characteristics. So it's not that power is evil. It's just, the problem, it seems to me in the world that you've identified is that we replace power, that power becomes more important than love. And that's where the pathology shows up. But it seems to me that what's particularly tragic about that insight, is, if I could put it that way, is that that's also shown up in the church, as well. That Christians of all people should understand that love is more important than power. You mentioned that in the household of Gaius, that idea was preeminent. You know, God says, love him. You know, what are the two great commandments? Love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and then love your neighbor as yourself. So no mention of the word power in close, in the two great commandments. It seems to me that that's where a lot of our celebrity culture comes from today. It's where a lot of the pathologies and divisions in the church come from. Am I over-reading what you're saying here?
AC: Oh, no, no, no, you are absolutely spot on. And, you know, this happened, of course, to the first Christians as well, over a few centuries. They grew through the power of love, because they had no other power for a couple hundred years. In fact they were oppressed, repressed by the state, by the Empire. But then you have this turn of events where Constantine, probably partly because half the, half the Empire is Christian, and he sort of sees where the wind is blowing, perhaps, I don't know. It's hard to know what to think about Constantine's conversion, but the emperor suddenly becomes Christian. And now the church is like, oh, well, good. Now we can, A, we're not being, no longer being persecuted, which is a good thing. And B, now we can use the power of the empire to advance the gospel. This turns out to be a very complicated legacy, let's say. But what's happened today is, I think, a replay. The empire we live in doesn't have a Caesar, in my view. I mean, of course, we still have powerful political leaders, even autocratic leaders in parts of the world, who we can sort of recognize Caesar-type leadership in different parts of our world. But to me, the power that is loose in our world that, specifically the kind of power that says you don't actually need love to get things done is technology. And, and what ties these threads together, you mentioned celebrities, it’s the idea that if you have enough charisma for a certain form of media, and that was could have been radio back in the 30s, and 40s, or TV in the 60s, 70s, 80s, or Tiktok in 2022. If you have a certain kind of charisma, and ability to mobilize that, you can have power that really does not depend on how much you love God and love neighbor. It transcends that or floats free of whatever character you may have is irrelevant to whether you can get power on these platforms. And I think technology, as well, gives us all these, all kinds of access to power that you can wield without becoming any more like Jesus than you were, in your, you know, on day one of your journey, assuming you're a Christian at all. And the church, I think just continually in its history, is tempted to get intoxicated with these forms of power that are not built on genuine transformation, that leverage power in the world as we know it, whether it's the world of the fourth century in Rome, or the world of the seventh century in you know, Constantinople, or the world of 2022 on TikTok. And, and we feel like, well, that gets stuff done. And it definitely gets stuff done. Whether it gets the work of the Kingdom done is a different question.
WS: Yeah, it seems like we're measuring, you know, one of the things that we're doing is measuring the wrong things, right? I mean, you know, we, we measure, you know, the fruitfulness of a church, by the number of fannies in seats, or the number of, you know, the size of their budget or the size of their staff. And, you know, not that any of those things in and of themselves are evil, they're just the wrong measurements. They're just the wrong outcomes that we, you know, fruitfulness and faithfulness are not in those calculations at all. You know, Andy, and I am getting around to a question here. In fact, many, several questions because let's just stipulate for the record that you know, you and I are just touching the surface of what's in your book. If, you know our listeners want to know what's in the book, go get the book, go read the book. But there are a couple of ideas that kind of in a lightning round status here, Andy, I'd like for you to unpack. One of them is the superpower zone. You've got a whole chapter devoted to the superpower zone. And, and I think it's an unpacking of some of these ideas that we've just talked about. That we seek power. And since we seek power, having superpowers is even better than just having regular power.
AC: Sounds better. Must be better.
WS: Yeah, so could you say more about that?
AC: Totally. I mean, this is the way a lot of technology is sold today. It's sort of a ubiquitous thing in Silicon Valley. They're like, oh, we're gonna give you you know, superpowers. And the superpower zone is this feeling of elation, and efficacy, effectiveness, efficiency that you feel when you are leveraging technology to get stuff done. Or to play. It happens, I think this is what what it's like to play video games. I think it's what it's like to be on social media and be like scrolling and just constantly getting more input, intake, and also maybe posting things and seeing likes flow in and seeing the number of hearts increase, or however it's presented on different platforms. The superpower zone is really powerful because it simulates the kind of full engagement with the world we were meant to have. But it's really dangerous, because it's actually detached from the fullness of heart, soul, mind and strength, and often very much detached from love. So the superpower zone is this place technology invites us that we feel so powerful when we are in that thing. But we're actually dwindling in our real capabilities. And we're often then, thereby, doing a lot of damage in the world rather than actually contributing to the care and repair of the world. So that's the superpower zone. Very, very tempting place. Very familiar place, I think, but dangerous place.
WS: Yeah, it's it's dangerous, in part because of another idea that you unpack a bit. And that is this idea of, of boring robots. You have a fairly robust discussion of robots, which I found to be really fascinating. And that is that, you know, we want to build robots to do things for us. But what we end up discovering is that, and I'm a big fan, for example of the movie Blade Runner. And we'll, you know, one of the key motifs in the movie Blade Runner is that the robots themselves did not know they were not human. That they were so advanced that they didn't know that they were robots. But in a way, there's sort of an ironic, cruel twist to that story. And that is that in our quest for, desire for building these advanced robots that will maybe, you know, take over some of the more menial tasks of the world, we ourselves become the robots, right?
AC: It's the, I have never thought about this before, Warren, but in this way. But it's the absolute inversion of the Blade Runner thing. So, in the Blade Runner, the robots think they're human, they don't realize they're robots. In our world, we think we're, well, we are the human ones. But we have become more like robots than we appreciate. Because we are plugged into systems that force us to act like machines. I think the extreme forms of this are, frankly, a lot of jobs that never were high status jobs, but used to have a fair amount of independence and autonomy - for example, truck driving, or deliveries, making deliveries. These are manual labor jobs, more or less. But it used to be that when you got in your truck, if your job was like long haul trucking, or even short, you know, short load trucking, you got in your truck, and you were in charge of the truck. Well, now, truckers are tracked. Every foot their vehicle moves, every time they increase or decrease their speed, their efficiency in getting to places. Their, you know, all that is monitored, all that is like fed into a system that rewards them or punishes them, employs them or doesn't employ them. You know, Amazon watches its drivers as they walk up to my door to drop off a package. And so what happens, and then Amazon's factory workers are surrounded by actual robots picking stuff from the factory. And human beings have to, like, stay out of the way and sort of fit into the system, this highly mechanized system. And of course, this goes back to the Industrial Revolution. And it's not good for people. It's not good for persons. And the really sad thing is we keep thinking - this is the boring robots part - we keep, robots are very exciting before they arrive. We keep thinking, you know, you imagined like, well, if only I had a robot to like, dot dot dot. Well, probably someone's working on a robot to do that very thing. But it turns out once we introduce these, you know, highly complex cybernetic systems, which we already have, I have a dishwashing robot. You know, we call it a dishwasher, but it's a robot by any kind of technical definition. I have a vacuuming robot, the Roomba, you know. And when we, when we're imagining them, we think this will just be magical. It will be amazing. But the truth is, we all know once they've arrived, and they're part of our lives, they are useful, and they relieve us of some toil. And that's fine. I don't have a problem with that. But they do not change the human condition. And in fact, what is happening in the human story, as more and more technology gets introduced in more and more layers, is not that human beings are being freed up to live this kind of glorious life of creativity and abundance. It's more and more human beings, including even the ones who seem most to benefit, like knowledge workers, and people who work on screens, more and more feel like we're actually being constrained into this computational mechanical system.
AC: And this is because, I think, we are not, in fact, as interesting as science fiction, like Blade Runner is, my own view is (that) being human is this divine gift of heart, soul, mind and strength that we will not be able to replicate in our own creations. So my own view is we will never have sentient or conscious or generally intelligent robots. And that's a very misguided dream, that's not going to happen. But what could happen is the creation of a world that has more and more mechanical computational complexity that human beings have to sort of squeeze ourselves into. And that is, is already the case. And that outcome, that we become like robots is much more likely than robots become like us.
WS: Right, right. You know, Andy, about 25, 20, more than 20 years ago, I was working for a large accounting firm called PricewaterhouseCoopers. And when I hit my five year, this is just a little side note, but I can't resist in this context. When I, when I hit my five year anniversary, I got this really nice letter in the mail saying, you know, congratulations, Warren, you've been here for five years, and we'd like to give you a gift to celebrate your five years. And just call just call this number, this gift, you know, fulfillment number, and, you know, we'll send you your gift. So I'm like, okay. Well, I called the number and it says, and then I had to type in what is your employee ID number, and I typed in my employee ID number. And then when I typed in my employer ID number, this automated system says, Congratulations, Warren, you have just reached your five year anniversary. You may now choose from one of the following three gifts. And I mean it was a perfect, you know. And this was 20, probably 25 years ago, a perfect example of some ways of what you were talking about, right? That I, I was conforming to this robotic system?
AC: Oh, gosh,
WS: It was just, yeah. Anyway.
AC: This might be part of the reason you no longer work for PricewaterhouseCoopers. You realize you are just an employee number here.
WS: Just for the record, it was a great experience for a while. But let me ,let me kind of come back to the book here just for a minute, Andy. But another concept, another idea that I want you to say a little bit more about, and I think you were beginning to get at it just a little bit ago, because you were talking about our humanity is this amazing gift from God. And that it will never really be replicated, you know, by technological, mathematical algorithms or, you know, automated systems. And you get at this idea a little bit in a chapter you call, Charmed versus Blessed, or From Charmed to Blessed. It's kind of in some ways, sort of how you land the airplane, I guess you could say, of your book. Can you say more about this idea?
AC: Yeah, I think in some ways, it's the very heart of the matter. I've come to see technology. You know, just, a slight detour here to explain maybe how I get to this idea. There's an interesting question, like, why do we talk about technology and not just talk about tools? Because human beings have had tools from the very beginning of the human story. And we look back in the archaeological record, and you see tools wherever you see people. So some people say, well, we just have, you know, more complicated tools now. And, and yet, we came up with this new word - technology - that we weren't using until 100 years ago. Why do we feel like we needed a new a new word? And the answer is, I think we actually did start doing something new about 100 years ago, once we had the financial revolution, then the Industrial Revolution, and then really, once we had the computational revolution. Something happened that is different from the tools of the past. And one way to put it is to use this quote by Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction author who said any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. And I think what was introduced in a new way, once we figured out some of the things that gave us modern computing and digital devices and so forth, was the ability to simulate what we imagine magic is like. And this is a very ancient dream. Human beings have always wanted to do magic. Many human beings, I think, have believed they could do magic. And I think we live in a world that is more porous and spiritually complex than most modern people realize. And I think you can do magic in the world, but not, not in a safe way. The Christian church has always taught its members they have to renounce this dream of magic. But technology is built on the dream of doing magic. And of course, we're very sophisticated, modern people. We don't believe that there's spiritual forces animating these devices, although I actually think that makes us incredibly naive, because I think there are spiritual forces, who attach themselves, if I can put it that way, to our dream of doing magic. So in the next to last chapter in the book, I try to get to the very heart of this. And I think it's it's the difference between wanting a life that's charmed, which is a pagan word, a magical word, and a word that's blessed, which is in some really significant ways, a purely biblical word. Which is to say, the, the biblical idea of blessing as it plays out, you know, starting extremely early in, in Genesis, in some ways starts in Genesis 1, is a very different thing from the idea of being able to charm the world. And so much of our imagination of technology, a lot of it comes more or less directly from fairy tales. Like, oh, if only I had a lamp, like Aladdin's. I could just, you know, say my wish, and the wish would come true. Or if only I was like the sorcerer's apprentice and could charm the broom and the broom would do its thing. And all these are dreams of doing magic, and I think they reflect a belief that my life is meant to be effortless. And blessing in the Bible never comes like a charm. You know, it's all, blessing in the Bible is very bound up with birth and death, and this side of the fall, at least, giving birth is always a passage of labor and love, but also suffering and vulnerability, in an extraordinary way. And then the end of life is is a passage of another kind. And that's when blessing shows up in the biblical story. So the quest to be charmed is the quest actually to escape our mortal condition to live as angels or spirits, or what we imagine angels and spirits are like, rather than the desire for blessing, which involves a kind of vulnerability. And passage through suffering, I think, is part of blessing. Jacob doesn't get his blessing, which he wants at the ford, the Jabbok ford, until he's his hip has been dislocated after this night long wrestling match, which is symbolic of the wrestling of his whole life, with the conditions of his life and the failures of his life and the cheating and the ways he's tried to kind of get a charm. And then he realizes he's been, you know, wrestling with God. And God blesses him, but not, God doesn't charm him. And to me, this is a really deep question. Like, do I want, if I want a life that's charmed, every time a new device comes along, I'll think, oh, maybe this time, or, you know, maybe this will add a little bit of magic to my life. But if I want a life that's, that is a life characterized by blessing, it's not that I won't make use of this technology, but I will never imagine that something that makes my life easier is going to be the path to a life of love. It's just not the way the world works.
WS: Well, you mentioned that that chapter on blessings, Charmed versus Blessing, is the next of the last chapter. Your last chapter is called The Chain of Persons. And I would assume that that is the antidote to that desire, right? That, that we need to realize ourselves as fully human, fully alive in the context of community, understanding what God made us for and not trying to substitute something else for that. Is that, is that a fair assessment?
AC: That's really beautifully put. And, yeah, in the last chapter, I go back to Gaius in some ways, and the group of people around that table, and try to make the case that what they were living out in their time has had more staying power and more influence on our world than basically anything else. I mean, if you consider them, especially as followers of The Way, as one little, you know, one little refraction of the kaleidoscope that was the way of Jesus, that was just getting started in the first century, 2000 years later, their life is continuing to bear fruit in a way that all the power of the Roman world, that's all, I won't say it's entirely gone because it's shaped our world in certain ways. But Gaius and his friends had more influence in the long run than they could ever have imagined. Because they had been rescued from a world of mere power and raised, you know, they would have said, of course, that they had already died in some ways, and they had been raised to life - into this new life of love. And in the last chapter, I try to argue, like, this is what we actually are all longing to be part of, and it's available. And it is, it's a story that's been going on, in some ways since the first century. In other ways, since Abraham. God's redemptive act of doing something in history that's going to outlast all our technology. It's going to outlast all the empires of the world. It already has. And it's going to outlast the empire we live in. And yet we can be part of this thing. That's, I'm so, I'm, I'm very, very critical of what technology is doing to human beings. I think it's really bad for us in many ways. But I am so hopeful that it's not the last word, because we are part of this incredible 2000 year or 4000 year story. It's just amazing that we got to be part of it.
That brings to a close my conversation with Andy Crouch. Andy Crouch has degrees from Cornell University and Boston University. He spent 10 years on the campus staff of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at Harvard University. His new book—the one we discussed today—is The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World.
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Tune in next week to hear my conversation with author and speaker Jake Meador. Jake Meador is editor in chief of Mere Orthodoxy. His new book is What Are Christians For? Life Together At The End of the World. This book has been getting rave reviews, and endorsements from such elder statesmen as Tim Keller. I’ve read the book, so now I know why. I look forward to introducing Jake and his new book to you in next week’s episode.
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