im• age noun \’i-mij\ : a reproduction or imitation of the form of a person or thing; especially: and imitation in solid form: exact likeness.
Before The Black Keys, or the swinging keys of jazz, were the black keys of Johann Sebastian Bach.
When Andy Crouch took the stage last week at the A. J. Gordon Memorial Chapel, so did the baroque-era composer. It was Deep Faith Week 2014, after all. Crouch was playing the “Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C major,” the tones striking a chord that came to string together the themes of the annual spiritual emphasis week. Consonance transforming through dissonance into beautiful crescendo.
“When you play through the arpeggio of the piece, you go through the harmonics toward the tension of the minor keys,” said Crouch as he took helm of the Chapel’s grand piano. “Even dissonance is a part of God’s creation, even tension is part of what God intends as he calls us to be fruitful and multiply.”
Crouch is the author of Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, the executive editor of Christianity Today, and (not of the least of these) a prolific writer. His pieces have appeared everywhere from Time to the The Wall Street Journal. He and his family, all classically trained musicians, live in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.
As the keynote speaker for Gordon’s annual Deep Faith Week, Crouch encapsulated the week in this fugue. Beginning at the beginning, Crouch re-introduced us to the creation narrative of Genesis. God creating the good of the earth for the cultivation by the very good: us.
He was introducing the compelling themes brought together in his most recent book, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. Power is humanity’s special inheritance from God, to be as a tool for meaning-making. Crouch calls these image-bearers, “a special kind of creature that doesn’t merely follow instinct, but has this kind of quest to make something of the world.”
But power must be redeemed. The narrative from Genesis is only Bach’s beginning chord—the 1st 2nd 3rd4th and 5th. You can’t continue with the piece without dissonant chords. The composition continues as we forget our role as image-bearers and drift down a different harmonic path, one filled with tension. But it is all purposed as the same piece.
In our evening chapels, Crouch described how our power was forgotten, even abused. How we forgot the very good of humanity. How we began playing God and running to other gods. “We continued our talk about the joy and responsibility of bearing the image of Christ,” Said Gordon sophomore Mary Hierholzer. “Andy talked about how we have the choice between either living in full authority by abusing our power, living in full vulnerability by ignoring our power, or living fully in our vulnerability and authority.”
Gordon students and staff responded to this call by turning to a time of prayer after one of the chapels. We were being reminded what it meant to live as Christ, to live like him in vulnerability and authority. “Being able to pray with student after student and connect with their deep pain but also say to them, ‘God loves you and he cares for you and he wants to comfort you in that pain,’” said Gordon Chaplain Tom Haugen, “that was a real highlight for me.”
This moment was only a vignette of the week. Friday night, students had the opportunity to participate in a 12-hour worship service lasting into Saturday morning. The service welcomed several student groups representing a diversity of different student worship styles. Like the evening chapels, it brought a renewed call toward the gospel (even for the students who couldn’t stay up). Gordon senior Ben Boossarangsi collaborated with the groups to make it possible. “Deep Faith Week is a great way to spend an entire week diving into different ways, traditions, and spiritual questions we either wrestle or take something away from,” said Boossarangsi.
The week of spiritual renewal was as raw and transparent as it was thematically deep. The vulnerability that Gordon’s community experienced grew out of the week’s guiding themes of power, injustice, and idolatry. “I find at Gordon an amazing combination of engagement in the community and engagement in ideas,” said Crouch. “The questions I’ve gotten have been great, but also just the personal interactions have been incredibly encouraging.” The call as image-bearers doesn’t end at Gordon. “My hope is that each one of us that leaves here,” said Haugen, “brings that into the world, that we’re here for a season but then we’re sent out as God’s image-bearers.”
In his last talk, Andy concluded the narrative of the image-bearers. Just like the arpeggio of Bach’s fugue, “The story is not just from good to very good. It’s from good to very good, to suffering, and then glory.” If you want to know where the real ending is, read Revelation 21. Instead of a garden God creates a city. The streets are of transparent gold, covering over the old blemishes of our image-bearing before the Cross. As Crouch succinctly put it, “God is not making all new things, he is making all things new.”
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
–Romans 8:19-21 (ESV)