Title: What Good is God? In Search of a Faith That Matters
Author: Philip Yancey
Genre: Christian non-fiction
Publisher: Faith Words
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
Goodreads blurb: “Religion author Philip Yancey described his approach to his books this way: “I’m not a professor or academic or ordained pastor. I’m an ordinary pilgrim. When I tackle a project, I try to represent my readers.” In What Good Is God?, he sets out on a spiritual pilgrimage that takes him to scenes of trauma and healing at several far-flung locales. His search for answers about the value of belief leads him to crowded Mumbai, India streets that were rocked by terrorist attacks; to the backstreet motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated; to the Virginia Tech campus still recovering from a student massacre; to an AA convention and to a conference for women attempting to survive in prostitution. A journey where every stop brings new answers.”
As has happened with previous selections, the Faith and Fiction Round Table group’s thoughts on What Good is God? were mixed. One of the main problems some readers had was with the title. When you call a book “What Good is God?,” it sets the reader up to expect an answer.
Another problem some readers had was with the format. Each section consists of two parts: Yancey’s personal thoughts on the place he has traveled to and the suffering that occurred there; and a sermon or lecture Yancey gave in that locale. Almost everyone – including me – agreed that his personal thoughts were the more insightful sections. I’m not sure if it was the fact that the lectures were recycled material, or the fact that they had to be written in a lecture format, but they seemed less personal. Yancey travels a lot for his work, and I would love to read another book about his travels that was in the format of a travelogue or personal travel journal.
While I don’t think that this was Yancey’s best work (I would recommend What’s So Amazing About Grace? or The Bible Jesus Read over this one.), I did still appreciate his thoughts and the way he provoked me to rethink things for myself. One thing that Yancey does very well is to point out that traditional church does not always meet the needs of the most broken and damaged people. I love that he challenges the Church’s assumptions in the light of Scripture.
Some of the most spiritual addicts I know avoid church because they view it as a place for people who already have it together. Oh, my! I can think of far more entertaining ways to spend my Sunday mornings if I already have it together. I go to church as an expression of my need for God and God’s family – the same reason you go to 12-step groups. So often, however, I leave with an empty feeling because church covers reality with a veneer of respectability. What have we done that we communicate church as a place for well people rather than a place to get well? ~ p. 248-249
While Yancey does not give a direct answer to the question posed in his title, he does use real-life stories to demonstrate that, even in the midst of the darkest suffering, God is there.
Read through the Gospels and you’ll find only one scene in which someone addresses Jesus directly as God: “My Lord and my God!” Do you know who said that? It was doubting Thomas, the disciple stuck in sadness, the last holdout against believing the incredible news of resurrection. Jesus appeared to Thomas in his newly transformed body, obliterating Thomas’s doubts. What prompted that outburst of belief, however – “My Lord and my God!” – was the presence of scars. Feel my hands, Jesus told him. Touch my side. Finger my scars. In a flash of revelation Thomas saw Almighty God, the Lord of the Universe, stooping to take on our pain, to complete the union with humanity.
Not even God remained exempt from pain. God joined us and fully shared our human condition, including its distress. Thomas recognized in that pattern the most foundational truth of the universe, that God is love. To love means to hurt, to grieve. Pain manifests life. ~ p. 27
The sufferings of Jesus show us that pain comes to us not as punishment but rather as a testing ground for faith that transcends pain. In truth, pain redeemed impresses me more than pain removed. ~ p. 31
Where is God when it hurts? Where God’s people are. Where misery is, there is the Messiah, and now on earth the Messiah takes form in the shape of the church. That’s what the body of Christ means. ~ p. 34-35
Faith and Fiction Round Table Partcipants:
~ Heather at Book Addiction
~ Julie at Book Hooked Blog
~ Sheila at Book Journey
~ Jennifer at Crazy for Books
~ Ronnica at Ignorant Historian
~ Nicole at Linus’s Blanket
~ Amy at My Friend Amy (our gracious hostess)
~ Thomas at My Random Thoughts
~ Liz at Roving Reads
~ Sherry at Semicolon
~ Florinda at The 3 R’s Blog
~ Tina at Tina’s Book Reviews
~ Brooks at Victorious Cafe
~ Hannah at Word Lily