29/10/2015

Open Windows (by Philip Yancey)

I’ve enjoyed just about everything I’ve read by the American Christian writer Philip Yancey, over the years, and I’ve gradually started re-reading those of his books which I haven’t read for some time. I didn’t remember much about this particular one, other than that it was a series of vignettes of people or situations, through which the author found new ways to meet with and discover God.

I previously read ‘Open Windows’ in 2005. Re-reading over the past couple of weeks, I found there were parts I recalled, but much that felt fresh. In the first section, the author looks at the Arts in general; he covers music in the first chapter, looking not just at ‘religious’ music (ancient and modern) but secular as well, including that inspired by Christian topics.

He then looks at nature, particularly through the eyes of one of Yancey’s favourite writers on the subject, and then eventually spends a couple of chapters on Francis Schaeffer who was quite an outspoken communicator and prolific writer, although I would not have called him an artist.

The second section focuses more on communicating in general - the ways that Christians try to pass on the message of Jesus, and the importance of being a good writer. I was struck by his insistence that readers (or listeners) need to be led slowly into new ideas, to form their own conclusions, rather than told what the writer believes, followed by his or her own logical arguments. This is something that, I feel, many preachers should take note of!

The final section is more political, and took me rather longer to get through as I found that just a few pages were enough. There’s a lot in these sections, much to think about and ponder, but after three or four pages I found my mind wandering.

The writing is good, as with everything Philip Yancey produces, with plenty of thought-provoking comments and vividly recounted experiences. I found the book rather ‘bitty’; the three broad themes seem a bit forced, and each chapter is complete in itself. There isn’t a great deal that was directly about God; I should think the book could be read by anyone interested in Yancey’s views, whether or not they are believers.

The style is a little long-winded in places, and there are some sections which seem to be repeated in others of the author’s books; he has a great admiration for some writers and other famous people (Annie Dillard, Paul Brand and Mahatma Ghandi in particular) and his comments about them crop up regularly in his books.

But still, overall I enjoyed it and am glad to have it on my shelves. It's out of print on both sides of the Atlantic but can sometimes be found inexpensively second-hand.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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