Sunday, 23 January 2011

What good is God?

Just finished Philip Yancey's latest, What good is God? A very helpful read.

He reflects upon ten journeys made in the last few of years, some to places of recent trauma, such as Virginia Tech scene of a truly awful massacre in 2007, or Mumbai where he was on a book tour at the same time as the bombings. Other visits are made to a conference on CS Lewis where Yancey reflects upon Lewis' understanding of 'ordinary men and women and the role they have to play' in the grand scheme of things. There are visits  to a conference of AA and another to a meeting of Christian ministries reaching out to sex workers, attended by many of the men and women for whom the ministries exist.

Each chapter has an essay setting the scene of wherever Yancey is visiting, followed by the script of a talk given at the time. I found these talks truly inspiring, challenging and very moving. So many quotes, but for now just a few, at Virgina Tech he said,

One of my favourite authors, Frederick Buechner said, 'I am not almighty God, but if I were, maybe I would in mercy either heal the unutterable pain of the world or in mercy kick the world to pieces in its pain.' God did neither. Rather, God sent Jesus, joining our world with all its unutterable pain in order to set in motion a slower, less dramatic solution-one that crucially involves us.

Visiting his former Bible seminary, a place for which he feels both grateful and yet sad because of the hypocrisy and repression he experienced there, he comments,

The Bible college I attended attracted some weird students. One young man in my dorm said his parents used to ground up poison ivy and mix it with orange juice so he would develop an immunity to the noxious plant...after hearing this I reflected with Flannery O'Connor, 'You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd'!

On a visit to South Africa he met Joanna Flanders-Thomas who regularly visited a particularly violet prison, 'bringing a simple gospel message of forgiveness and reconciliation'. Yancy found himself amazed at the impact she was making,

'These guys are monsters-rapists, murderers. And from what I see you were simply holding Bible studies, playing trust games and having prayer meetings. What really happened to transform Pollsmor prison?'
Joanna looked up and said, almost without thinking, "Well, of course Philip, God was already present in tte prison. I just had to make Him visible."
A great read. Treat yourself.
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