on 30 October 2001
This book is just amazing. It would actually be a really good introduction to the Christian faith.
Yancey deals with tricky issues and finds unexpected ways of showing how it's better to plough on with Christianity even when thigns are very difficult, e.g.he has a brilliant thing about 'the problem of pleasure', i.e. how can atheism properly explain all the beautiful, enjoyable things in the world ? He starts the book off with a sort of enactment of divine intervention, by describing how the fish in his aquarium react to his attempts to help them.
He goes in search of communities outside the church where people find God, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. His treatment of age-old problems like adultery and idolatry is light-hearted on the surface but manages to make important points without judging people. He manages to turn these points back onto professing Christians:
'A friend of mine was stopped dead in her tracks by a sceptic. After listening to her explain her faith, he said this: 'But you don't act like you believe God is alive.'
Also Yancey is prepared to use examples of Christian spirituality from non-western countries such as Japan and India, which is a plus point, e.g. how the Japanese film-maker Shusaku Endo made a film about those Japanese Christians who recanted their faith under pressure from the shoguns. He even manages to weave into this story the need for people to know God's 'mother-love', a theme only recently taken seriously by the churches. Another very striking and difficult theme is the problem of pain. I agree with Yancey's comment that the modern obsession with the problem of pain is the preoccupation with middle-class westerners with time on their hands.
Third World Christians do not think like this.
What is more, Yancey compares this to the difference between seeing a relationship to God as a romantic marriage versus being an arranged marriage. Ironically it turns out that 'the spirit of arranged marriages' is what enables us to take the greater risk with God and with ourselves. His treatment of Job is succinct but helpful. His satire on modern America as Acirema, the land that does not behave as if it believes in an afterlife, is very telling.
I would recomment this book to anyone who is curious, who is a little bored with sermons, especially to a person struggling with faith and fed-up with pat answers or Alpha courses. You can tell that Yancey really believes what he writes and is unafraid to question himself.
on 8 July 1999
I Was Just Wondering is a collection of essays that Phil Yancey wrote for Christianity Today; he still writes the essays for the magazine. While I haven't read all of his books, I have read many. I read this book on my first sitting because I could see the genesis of his ideas for his other GREAT books (What is So Amazing About Grace, The Jesus I Never Knew, Where is God When it Hurts, etc.) So if you haven't read his other "true" books, read this book first. If you have read his other books, read this one as well. One sees that Yancey's ideas and theses are consistent, uplifting and God-inspired. I enjoyed the book and I am looking forward to reading Yaney's new book (The Bible Jesus Read).
on 12 May 2014
This is a series of articles Philip Yancey wrote, to answer some interesting questions about the Christian life. Where did racial hatred come from? What’s the value of fiction? Do gorillas have mid-life crisis?
It’s not the most in-depth or moving of his books; each chapter is just three or four pages long, looking at one particular question in the style of an article. But there are some good anecdotes, some thought-provoking comments, and the usual excellent writing style I’ve come to expect from Yancey.