Philip Yancey is Spreading Rumors
- 2003 15 Oct
If Chicken Little is correct and the sky really is falling, then we have two choices: run for the hills or get a ladder, climb up and fix it.
Philip Yancey prefers the ladder approach.
A self-professed "experiential" believer, the award-winning author thinks it's about time the Christian community reaches into its collective tool chest and fix what's broken with the world.
And there's plenty to work on.
"Jesus taught us to pray the Lord's prayer - your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Well, if you read the papers, you know that's not happening," Yancey said. "But it's still what we Christians are called to do."
That calling is partly what prompted Yancey to pen his latest book, Rumors of Another World, which addresses the issue that our culture is much better at tearing things apart than putting them back together.
"The only thing I have to offer is my point of view ... for me, it is seeing the entire world as God's world," he said. "When Jesus was walking around on this planet he saw it as God's world and he fixed things that he saw were not right - and that's what we Christians are called to demonstrate to the world."
Righting wrongs does not happen through "holy huddles" that hide behind doctrine, but by seeking, finding and living life to the fullest, Yancey said. But that doesn't mean we should turn to materialism to make us happy. Quite the opposite. The key to living a full life is to act selflessly, not selfishly, he said.
"Jesus said you don't find life by acquiring more and more but by giving yourself away," Yancey said.
The new book tells stories of those fulfilled through service and exploring and examining clues of God's goodness.
"If God did create this world there are going to be rumors of that," he said, explaining how we can "know" God through such wonders as the Rocky Mountains.
Yancey's latest book is a departure of sorts in that he does not deal so much with his wounded past as with a hopeful future. More specifically, he sees the book as a tool that Christians can use to share their faith in a less threatening way. Rather than espouse theology, Rumors offers insights on a softer level.
"There are lots of people out there who are spiritual but not necessarily religious," he said. "They live on the borderlands of belief. Something like Sept. 11 happens and they don't know what to do with their thoughts and feelings. I'm trying to relieve that nervousness, not dump a boatload of theology on them.
"I hope it's the kind of book where if Christians have a relative, neighbor or colleague at work ... it's a friendlier way to share."
Yancey saw a need for that method of sharing while traveling in Europe, where he saw that faith in God is much more flimsy than it is in the United States.
"I realized a lot of my energy (in writing earlier books) had been in addressing Christians and trying to make corrections and point out things that had been misrepresented to me," he said. “What I began to understand (during the European trip) is that a lot of people didn't grow up in the church. They're just wondering, 'Is there anything out there?'"
The question/challenge struck Yancey, "What could I say to these people?"
What he decided to say is that God can be found in such things as nature, classical music and romantic love.
Yancey put much of his original manuscript on the chopping block as he gained a better understanding of potential readers.
"I cut 25,000 words out of the text, because I had been making certain assumptions about my audience," he said. "I would quote the Bible, then realize that there are people who don't know the Bible ... so it doesn't work."
Ultimately, Yancey hopes Rumors awakens hearts to see that God wants the best for us.
"If you had asked me 20 years ago the definition of sin I'd have said it was God's way to keep us from having a good time," he said. "Now, I'd say God is trying to keep us from hurting ourselves. I am learning to view sins as spiritual dangers - much like carcinogens, bacteria, viruses and injuries - that must be avoided at all costs, for my own sake.
"I am learning to trust that God wants the best life for me in this world, not some diminished, repressed life."
And the rumors of that are everywhere.
Read an excerpt from Rumors of Another World here.
Visit the Rumors of Another World website.