Philip Yancey

Philip Yancey is essentially my contemporary, and he has been writing (Evangelical) Christian books from our early adulthood if not before we were 21. I’ve been familiar with his name from his early books, but for whatever reason, I’m not certain I’ve read even one of them.

Maybe I thought someone our young age would have nothing to teach me. Then in a few years my convictions turned Calvinist and I read few mainstream Evangelical books. Then in a few more decades, I was Orthodox and read almost no Evangelical books.

But Peter Wehner has placed Yancey back in my field of vision, and I’ve learned his backstory. It ain’t pretty. He was a product of a racist church and a broken family (his Father essentially killed himself by leaving an iron lung against medical advice, thinking he’d be miraculously healed) that was probably even sicker than the Church (his mother was vicious and mentally unstable). Then he went to a Bible College with 66 pages of detailed rules and taboos — far more legalistic than I’d ever heard of (any my Christian schools did have some extrabiblical taboos).

Yancey didn’t finish that Bible College, but instead transferred to Wheaton College, which his mother treated as an apostasy. He probably would have been my classmate had I not left Wheaton after my Freshman year.

Over then ensuing 50 years, he has written 25 books, and though I have read few if any, I had the impression that he wrote thoughtfully, betraying no lingering craziness from his youth.

Now, motivated by his survival of a grievous auto accident, has added a 26th, a memoir, Where the Light Fell. He explains:

I had written two dozen books, but they were all idea-driven books; they’re things that helped me come to terms with what I believe about Jesus, about grace, about prayer, about the Old Testament. And I wanted to write a book that explains why I believe those things. I call it a prequel. And it’s not a prequel that I could have written until all these other books were written, because I had to work through the ideas, figure out what I did believe, where I did land on some of these issues before I could go back and understand that backstory that relates all the way to childhood.

(Italics added)

There’s a big gulf between even the best Evangelicalism and Orthodox Christianity, but I think this brother’s memoir is one I’m going to want to read.

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