Monday, October 18, 2010

What Good Is God? by Philip Yancey

What Good is God: In Search of a Faith That Matters is the latest book by prolific popular Christian author Philip Yancey,. It will be released tomorrow in both hardcover and e-book formats.

The meaning of grace and the question of whether or not belief in God really makes any difference in a broken and hurting world are the twin themes of this book. Yancey has written extensively on these two themes before in previous books such as Where Is God When It Hurts, What's So Amazing About Grace, Grace Notes, and Disappointment With God.

What Good is God is a collection of Yancey's speeches (or sermons) given to audiences around the world. The book is divided into ten parts and each part has two chapters: one which explains who the audience is and one which contains Yancey's remarks. Audiences include survivors of the Virginia Tech massacre, Chinese Christians, survivors of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, and post-apartheid South Africans. 

I had to read several chapters before I figured out how to approach the book. Each part stands alone, but all are related in that Yancey explores the question of what difference God makes in the unique circumstances of each audience. This is not a book you can sit down and read straight through, but one that is more like a book of devotions  which is read one complete part at a sitting because each part prompts a lot of reflection.

Each reader will find different parts of the book more compelling, depending on one's own experiences and concerns. 

I found Yancey's address "Why I Wish I Was An Alcoholic" before an AA group in Chicago a thought-provoking comparison of the way an AA group accepts and supports its members versus the way church congregations tend to respond to members with chronic and difficult challenges in life. 

The chapters about the church in China and the stalwart Christians Yancey met there were a timely and inspiring reminder of the struggles of that growing church today in the face of oppressive persecution. Just this weekend I read a story in the newspaper about a group of evangelical Chinese Christians being denied permission to leave China to attend a Christian conference abroad for "their own good."

Yancey visits a small group of Christians in the Middle East  who represent a faithful remnant in the area of the world where Christ was born, and encourages them:
"those of you who work and pray in this hostile part of the world may sometimes feel as if you do nothing but move rocks, or dig furrows. Maybe so. God alone controls the harvest. Most of the Westerners who come here represent something other than Jesus...But you have a different calling: to make known the spirit of Jesus and to join the stream of liberation that broke free two thousand years ago."
What Good is God is a challenging journey with this popular journalist and Christian apologist that is sometimes uncomfortable because it forces reflection on your faith and actions. Yancey takes his message not only to those reeling from inexplicable tragedy, but also to those struggling with poverty, discrimination, sinful and addictive behaviors, and cynicism.

This book would be a good choice for a book club or a Christian adult study group because each part will elicit good discussion. Yancey's books are popular choices for adult Sunday School classes, but this one does not have a readers' or leader's guide or video to go along with it. (At least  there was none in the review copy I was furnished by the publisher.)

GIVEAWAY!! FaithWords, the publisher of this book, will send a copy of What Good is God? to one of my readers. If you are interested, leave a comment in the comments below with your email address (spell it out to avoid spammers!) so I can contact you. The winner will be chosen by a random drawing a week from today.