27/08/2005

Soul Survivor

I often find myself reading one of Philip Yancey's books on Christianity. Not that they're books to read straight through: I prefer them in half-hour slots, early in the morning when I'm on my own and the air is cool and fresh. Yancey's writing is itself a breath of fresh air amidst so many Christian books on doctrine, end times, family dynamics and other hot topics. He doesn't write from a position of authority, but from the point of view of a questioner, learning as he writes.

This particular book gives potted biographies of thirteen men and women who have had profound influences on Yancey's life and faith. They're not great campaigners of the modern church, or even martyrs of old. Instead, these are flawed people of the 20th century, often struggling themselves with questions of life and faith. One of them, Mahatma Ghandi, never became a Christian at all although his life of peace was in many ways Christlike. Most of them were writers - Tolstoy, Donne, Chesterton, for instance - who left behind powerful legacies of the written word, yet whose lives were tormented in various ways, physical or emotional.

Because this book is written from Philip Yancey's perspective, his personal relationship with each is explored - whether or not he met them - and their influences on his life, which pulled him from the racist fundamentalism of his childhood through to the thoughtful Christian writer of today.

I didn't find this as thought-provoking as many of Yancey's books, but it was an interesting read and certainly showed me new ways of looking at the various writers he describes. Probably not a good introduction to Yancey but for someone like me who has read and enjoyed most of his other books, it was helpful to see some of the ways he changed his attitudes and thought processes, and was able to see himself as yet another flawed individual, like the rest of us.

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