What Good is God by Philip Yancey

What Good Is God?What Good is God? In Search of a Faith That Matters by Philip Yancey
Published by FaithWorks, an imprint of Hachette

Journalist Philip Yancey has always been one to question certain aspects of the Christian faith. In What Good is God?, he seeks to determine how God works for those Christians dealing with difficult situations. In his quest to answer this fundamental question of faith, he visits many parts of the world including Virginia Tech soon after the massacre, the motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, and a conference for former sex workers.

What Good is God? was the second selection for the Faith and Fiction Roundtable, the brainchild of Amy, in which a group of bloggers read and discuss a faith-based book and then post about our discussion and our feelings on said book. This particular book didn’t generate a ton of discussion, as it seemed that many of us didn’t much like the book. Personally I thought it had good points and bad but overall I enjoyed the experience of reading it and I found it to be a relatively meaningful discussion on the power of faith – and more specifically, faith in God – in difficult times.

The book was set up somewhat awkwardly, and most of us in the Roundtable agreed that it wasn’t the best format. Basically what Yancey did was talk about a place or people or experience for a chapter, and the next chapter would be a speech he gave in that particular situation/event/place. It felt like he was recycling previous works – republishing speeches he’d given already – and most of us didn’t like that. But most of us did agree that the chapters preceding the speeches were much better than the speeches themselves and most of us got a lot out of those chapters.

For me, I think the main question the book addressed was “Where is God when life gets painful?” rather than “What Good is God?” What the book reinforced for me is the fact that regardless of the circumstances, God is there. God shows His face through his Christians, through His missionaries, through His churches and the individual people who care enough to spread His word and His love throughout even the hardest hit parts of the world.

The other thing that I was reminded of, thanks mostly to our discussion, is the fact that Christianity doesn’t look the same for everyone, and that the way we practice and show our faith isn’t necessarily going to be the best fit for someone else. In places ravaged by disease, poverty, prejudice, and other realities of life, faith may need to be expressed and felt in different ways. A group of people doesn’t need to do Christianity our way for it to still be faith in and love for God. And God shows up, no matter the details of the faith – if you love and trust in Him, He is there, regardless of the specifics of your situation.

I can’t say that I found one concrete message to inspire me in this book, but throughout the book I felt inspired and lifted up by the faith of the people Yancey came into contact with. I think everyone needs a reminder sometimes that God is here, even when it hurts, even when it seems that He has abandoned us. And I think that’s a starting point for many people, and a good one too.

Please check out what the other participants thought of What Good is God?

Book Hooked Blog, Books and Movies, Crazy for Books, Ignorant Historian, Linus’s Blanket, My Friend Amy, My Random Thoughts, One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books, Roving Reads, Semicolon, The 3R’s Blog, Tina’s Book Reviews, Victorious Cafe, Wordlily

16 thoughts on “What Good is God by Philip Yancey”

  1. It’s been a long time since I’ve read this type of book, but I don’t know that I’d start with this one. Although I’d probably be inspired too by the stories of the people he talked to. Have you ever read Velvet Elvis? I don’t remember it at all now but I remember I liked it when I read it.

    1. No I have not read Velvet Elvis but I just looked it up and it seems interesting. I may have to check it out sometime – thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Though I am not sure I would like this book, I loved your thoughts and perceptions on it. It seems like you were able to pull out the meat of the text and make your own conclusions, despite the book’s repetitive nature. Great review!

  3. I also loved how he brought out the point that church doesn’t have to look a certain way to be church. That has been a theme in a lot of his books, one that has helped me deal with some of my dissatisfaction with the way we do church in America.

    1. Yes! Actually Carrie you were the person who helped me pick that out, so thank you. I would agree with your dissatisfaction most likely, I have personally found a church I love but overall there are things about church in America I don’t like.

  4. I really appreciated that the book showed a range of the ways Christianity “presents” itself – I thought that was one of its strengths. And I think you nailed its main question right on the head.

  5. We really like reading Philip Yancey’s books but this is one we have not yet read but plan to do so. Very interesting post and comments. Can understand why the chapters about specific situations would be much more appealing and engaging than republishing speeches or articles previously released by Yancey.
    Thank you for the post: one title added to the list to read.

  6. I did enjoy learning about the emerging Church in China even under the threat of persecution by the Chinese government. I probably would have enjoyed the book if I could have gotten over the format of the book and the title of the book. I allowed my displeasure of them affect my feeling for the book as I read it.


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