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Power’s Deep Magic

Friedrich Nietzsche once told us that all people secretly wish to maximize their individual power, which comes recurringly into conflict with the individual power-desires of everyone else.

While this can be observed in countless historical examples, one of the most visually memorable is when Jean-Luc Picard, in Star Trek, would raise his hand and utter the words, “Make it so.” What power…to speak and have one’s wishes carried out—immediately.

The verb tense being used here reflects grammar that we might associate with Washington politics: the imperative. This brand of power asserts control.  As it commands, others are required to do what they otherwise wouldn’t.

By contrast, in a recent AEI talk, Andy Crouch of Christianity Today explains that when God brought about the universe, he uttered a different verb: the jussive, literally meaning “let us make.” Such power stewards, assuming as its end not zero-sum victory but the well-being and flourishing of others.

It turns out that the biblical purpose of power—like healthy parenting or coaching—is that those on the receiving end learn to exercise their own creativity and unique agency.  And to do so freely, image-bearers need both authority and vulnerability.

Something to think about, especially when other dynamics like idolatry, safety, poverty, and injustice are also at work. But save all that for Andy’s graph—and enjoy an outstanding talk that can help you discover new ways to move beyond Nietzsche, and toward flourishing: