13/04/2005

Finding God in Unexpected Places (by Philip Yancey)


I have two favourite modern Christian writers: Adrian Plass (British) and Philip Yancey (American). Very different styles of writing, of course. Recently I've had one of Yancey's on the go alongside my regular diet of fiction; I find his work relaxing and refreshing, and usually read a chapter or two each morning.

Today I finished 'Finding God in Unexpected Places', a book I very much enjoyed. Much of it consists of anecdotes written during Yancey's travels around the world as a journalist. He visits high-security prisons, some of them with appalling conditions: yet there he finds criminals converted to Christianity, who have the most incredible serene faith. He speaks to leaders in ex-communist countries and finds them hungering for spiritual teaching, for news of the church in the West, and for God.

All this is contrasted with the sad condition of much of the church in Europe and the USA, where our lifestyle is so comfortable - and often separated from the rest of the world - that we can barely understand why the poor and the broken-hearted are blessed. Because it's amongst the most unlikely places that Philip Yancey discovers evidences of God - where culture and conditions are such that there is no logical or rational explanation for the peace and love which people find.

He asks thought-provoking questions, and ponders them in the book. How can we appreciate the finer things in life without becoming snobbish? Does religious commitment damage psychological health? Knowing that God can forgive anything ('grace') can we sometimes be justified doing something we know to be wrong, in the confident assurance of future forgiveness?

I don't suppose this would be of much interest to anyone other than Christians, but I recommend it anyway. I'll be re-reading this frequently.

I wrote another review on re-reading 'Finding God in Unexpected Places' five and a half years later.

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