Like many Christians, Philip Yancey has often felt kicked around, abused, and damaged by the institutional church. And like many Christians, he has found solace in reading about and getting to know some extraordinary individual believers. He profiles 13 of those believers in Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church
. "I became a writer, I now believe, to sort out words used and misused by the church of my youth," Yancey writes in the book's first chapter. The church of his youth, which described itself as "New Testament, Blood-bought, Born-again, Premillennial, Dispensational, fundamental," Yancey now describes as a frightening place where racism and bigotry were regularly preached from the pulpit. After graduating from Bible college, Yancey became a writer and chose to direct his attention to "people I could learn from, people I might want to emulate," such as C. Everett Koop and Robert Coles. He also read widely and passionately--Leo Tolstoy, Martin Luther King Jr., G.K. Chesterton, and Annie Dillard, to name a few. Soul Survivor
offers probing, honest profiles of 13 individuals who have "helped restore to me the mislaid treasures of God." For most readers, these profiles will serve as starting points to explore the lives and minds of the individuals who have inspired Yancey. --Michael Joseph Gross
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From Publishers Weekly
Fans of Yancey's bestseller What's So Amazing About Grace? may not know what to do with this book. In some ways, it is his darkest work ever, chronicling his own lover's quarrel with the institutional church specifically, the church of his childhood that promulgated racism and practiced a pharisaic legalism. In other ways, this book is one of his most hopeful, for in it he charts a spiritual path through all of the muck made by organized religion. As guides, he looks to "a baker's dozen" of thinkers, writers, doctors and activists who have taught him about Christianity. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life shamed Yancey into confronting his own racism and then helped his heart be transformed by Christ's love. Leo Tolstoy taught him self-forgiveness, while Fyodor Dostoyevsky modeled grace as a lived reality. John Donne taught him to wrestle with the ultimate enemy, death; Annie Dillard demonstrated ways to appreciate God in creation; Mahatma Gandhi showed him the power of one individual to change the course of history. The most moving chapter is perhaps the tribute to Paul Brand, an orthopedic surgeon whose work on leprosy helped Yancey to understand how pain can become a gift from God. It's not a perfect book; the chapter on G.K. Chesterton is too short, and the essay on former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop seems superficial in a book with such theological depth. Despite these minor flaws, this multibiography is a much-needed signpost, stubbornly pointing to the life of faith.
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