Saturday, November 27, 2010

What Good is God? by Philip Yancey

Regardless of how Yancey begins his book, this is not a book you would give a nonbeliever to encourage him to understand that belief in God is a good thing for society.  (There are other books that do a much better job in that area.)
Yancey's book contains stories of his travels and the texts of talks he has recently given.  "I go in search of faith that matters," he says in his afterthoughts.  (284)  While he does give some great examples of faith that is making a difference, he also gives many glaring failures.  "Admittedly," he writes, "the church has at times contributed more to the problem than to the solution...in my writing I bend over backwards to acknowledge rather than deny the historical flaws of the broader church."  (284)
Atheists don't need any more reminders of how the church and Christians have failed to live out the gospel! 
I think Yancey truly wants to encourage Christians to live out their faith.  He concludes that God has called us (believers) "to demonstrate a faith that matters to a watching world."  (287)  There are books that do a much better job at that, however.  The Hole in Our Gospel (Richard Stearns) and Radical (David Platt) are two that come to mind.
Perhaps Yancey should have titled his book, "What good are Christians today?"  And I would have to answer, based on Yancey's book, not much.  While he does give some great examples of Christians living out the gospel he also reminds his readers of so many failures to do so (his Bible college experience, apartheid, the civil rights movement).  He even asks the quesion he admits atheists must delight in, "...for what will the church be apologizing 150 years from now?"  (177)
I puzzle as to why Yancey wrote this book.  I've like his earlier books.  But the message this book conveys is certainly mixed.  I'd skip it.  If the title suggests to you that you give it to someone, please read it first!  You may very well change your mind.

FaithWords (Hachette Book Group), 287 pages.

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