Philip Yancey still doesn't get it. : LUSENET : Bethany Bible College : One Thread

I recently finished reading a book titled The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. This was a definite waste of my time and money. I concluded that the Jesus that Yancey never knew was the Jesus I always knew, and I couldn't understand his problem. Or then again, maybe I did. The man (Yancey) is not an in-depth thinker. This is a book that served no purpose in being written (unless you are a babe in Christ). In the book Yancey admits his past hang-ups, and then hangs them out to dry. Who needs this? Some of his conclusions are downright bizarre. He observes that Jesus had many sinners around him and that they enjoyed His company. Then he complains, "Why don't sinners like being around us?" As if somehow today's Christians they have flunked the course. But 2nd Cor. 2:15,16 seems to indicate that sinners should feel uncomfortable around Christians. They should have the smell of death about them. When you are in a group and someone brings up the Bible or religion, did you ever notice how some people get up-tight and immdediately want to change the subject? That's because Christians make them feel uneasy. Christians are supposed to make sinners feel uneasy! It goes with the turf. Siners enjoy being around Christians if the Christian keeps his mouth shut. But if the Christian has any kind of living witness this make the sinner nervous. (Yes, there are of course exceptions, but generally speaking things move this way.) But Yancey indicates that we have failed if sinners do not feel comfortable in our presence. But notice the surface-type thinking behind his presentation. If your thinking goes no deeper than your dandruff, and you are easily impressed with catchy conclusions, you might easily buy Yancey's analysis of the situation. Butif you allow the Word to lead your thinking, and if you have some solid life-experience behind you, then the basic shallowness of his deductions become apparent. He is incapable of "getting it." Yet in the evangelical world Yancey is considered a leader, and his book was voted Best Of The Year. Is it any wonder that the evangelical movement is losing its footing?

-- Ralph Filicchia (, May 07, 1999


Ralph... at first I thought maybe you were being a little rough on Yancey, until I thought about it and realized that basically, you're right! And I will go one step farther, and say that the Christian publishing industry just doesn't get it. What they do get is $$$$ and lots of it!

Nothing wrong with making money per se...the author is a workman worthy of his wage. But every time I walk into a Christian bookstore I look around, and I have to wonder "is THIS what God had in mind?"

Almost to a book, every time I've been captured by a "catchy" title off the "top ten"...I've been sorely disappointed. These books by and large (with some exceptions of course) use slick marketing and buzz-words to sell little more than fluff to the mass market in Christendom who have little spiritual maturity and even less discernment.

I try my best to stay away from the "pop" Christian books and spend my book dollars on the true, time-tested classics of the faith. As I look through my library I see A.W. Pink, J. Dwight Pentecost, J. Sidlow Baxter, Matthew Henry, John Owen ...on my top shelf. These will go to my grandchildren!

On my bottom shelf, I see a few "pop theology" mistakes which are awaiting the next yard go for twenty five cents!

-- Mark Jones (, May 08, 1999.

I guess I'm not the only one who has noticed this about Christian publishing. When I first began freelance writing I was told, "If you want to make money writing make sure you write about one of these 3 things: Money, sex, or health. Money, because everyone thinks they should have--or wants to make--more money. Sex, because everyone thinks their love life should be better. And health because no one wants to get sick and end up in the hospital. These subjects will always provide a ready-made audience. Authors of popular Christian books have picked up on this formula and are burying us with books about personal finance, happy marriages, and beating depression, weight loss and all the rest of this ego centered goo, ad infinitum ad nauseum. They write the same fluff that one finds in Readers Digest and The Ladies Home Journal--only they sprinkle it with Bible verses and get away with calling it Christian literature. I'm not surprised that some Christians almost gag when they begin browsing through Christian bookstores. Has anyone read Yancey's book Disappointment With God? That was another beaut. A friend named Richard complained that everything in his life was screwing up. His parents were getting divorced, his girl jilted him, he had some physical problems,etc. He was very disappointed with God because nothing in his life was working out. So he took his Bible and religious books outside and burned them all. Yancey admits that to this he didn't know what to say. Well as far as I'm concerned, anybody with a degree from Daily Vacation Bible School could have said, (1) "Hey, kid, grow up!" (2) "Whoever told you that everything in life is supposed to work out ginger peachy?" and (3) "It's a good thing the early Christians who were persecuted in sewers and thrown to lions in the arena weren't pansies like you. Christianity never would have gotten off the ground." But Yancey never said that to the kid. Instead he tries to figure out the question of why people are disappointed with God. But how does one become disappointed with the One who gives him eternal life freely? It's simple. Don't focus on that. Focus instead on the mounds of goodies you are supposed to receive in this life if you follow the formulas of popular Christian authors who are turning the faith into a system for finding personal happiness and fulfillment. Do that and we will find Richards all over the place.

-- Ralph Filicchia (, May 08, 1999.

I am happy to admit that I checked Yancey's book out at the library. Didn't cost me a dime. But Ralph is right. I didn't finish it.

Yancey still has some learning to do if he thinks that sinners should like being around Christians. The only "sinners" who liked being around Jesus were monotheistic Jews and gentile proselytes. He didn't go into the pagan world. That was not His mission. His mission was to His people, Israel.

Paul, on the other hand, went into the pagan world and they couldn't stand him. As legend has it, eleven of the twelve were killed by "sinners".

I have a related story at and what it is like to be a Christian in the workplace. I invite you to visit and read, "Persecution in the workplace."

-- Greg "Fudge" Miller (, May 08, 1999.

It seems that some people find a certain amount of glory in persecution and end up searching for persecution for 'perscecution's sake'. By this, I am referring to the people who come across as being, forgive the phrase, "so heavenly minded they're of no earthly good'. These are people who, for whatever reason, are incapable of carrying on a conversation on ANY level without constantly referring to God and their relationship to Him. (I'm not referring to moral discussions - I mean casual discussion) These people make themselves a target for ridicule as if their Christianity makes them superior to "mere humans". While on a spiritual level, they ARE elevated, on the level of personality and human interaction, they are NOT. Superiority begs for an attack and many Christians applaud themselves for the trouble they endure, when in fact, the cause is NOT their Christianity, but instead, their rotten personality. Of course, this is not always the case and their IS real persecution. But, I'm not aware of any Christians in America who've experien

-- Tony Rush (, May 10, 1999.

Hi, I thought Yancey's book was great. He has keen insight and theological depth.

In Christ, Barry Davis

-- Barry Davis (, September 07, 1999.

Dear Barry: Would you care to share with us exactly what you found in Yancey's book that you considered great? His book Disappointment With God was even worse. Yancey has a lot of hangups he has yet to outgrow. His brand of pablum might find an audience with the theological tyros among us, but if you've been around the track a few times you'll find that Yancey is basically kid stuff. So how about an example of some "great stuff" from Yancey? Ralph

-- Ralph Filicchia (, September 08, 1999.


Perhaps you not being able to understand Yancey's problem is the reason you seem to have missed the whole point of the book. I found the book to be a very good read, and if your too deep a thinker to appreciate Yancey's message then maybe you should not think so much.

The following is is a brief review of what I found when I read the book last year:

The main thesis in Yanceys book was that Christians need to take a fresh look at Jesus. We need to go back to the Gospels and immerse ourselves in them, seeing Jesus for who he really is. He contends that each of us have grown up with Jesus that are often very different from reality. Coming from a fundamentalist background, Yancey now writes about the Jesus he never knew, calling each of us to also look upon the Jesus that we think we know, and measure our own portraits of Jesus against the Gospels.

I found Yanceys book to be one of the most powerful books Ive read in a long time. The book fills a great need by calling Christians to leave behind our neat and tidy Jesus. Reaching out with passion and grace, Yancey draws his reader toward a Jesus that rocks us out of our religiosity, a Jesus who loves like we long to be loved, and a Jesus who is all to often not seen when people view his Church.

Powerfully and convincingly Yancey calls upon Evangelicals to leave behind any attempts to blend Gods kingdom with the kingdom of the world. All to often the focus moves away from Jesus, and toward political action. What society truly needs is to see is the real Jesus who does not attempt to control sinners with moral codes, but rather befriends them, reaches out to them, and finally dies for them. Only with this kind of love will others see the real Jesus. Without a doubt Yanceys points are well worth making.

Coming out of the fundamentalist culture, one may be tempted to think Yanceys old Jesus is not one which represent our Jesus. It may be true that people coming from different backgrounds do not have a fundamentalist Jesus, but I think many of us would have to admit we dont have the Jesus Yanceys book reveals from the Gospels. Universally the Church needs to see Jesus all over again. No matter what denomination we look at we see real discrepancies between the biblical portrayal of Jesus, and the public image of his Church. Fixing our eyes on developing better programs, more accurate theology, or better outreach techniques is not going to cure our sickness. Yancey has certainly put his finger on what will: Fixing our eyes on Jesus, and learning from him what it means to truly be a follower of Christ.

What I found most impressive about the book was how Yancey was able to bring the Jesus of the Gospels alive in a way that related him to our own day. Often we read about Jesus forgetting about the radical way he stood out, instead we often mold Jesus so he will fit in our own box. Yancey refuses to let us keep Jesus in a box, but instead paints a biblical picture of Jesus who cant be contained. It was also refreshing and encouraging to see how far Yancey has traveled with the Lord. The hope filled understanding regarding the reality of the Kingdom of God, was a very bright spot in the book, especially considering the Fundamentalist background from which he began. The only thing I found to disagree with was his view on The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (p. 252). There the traces of Fundamentalist prophecy conferences still seemed to taint Yanceys view, leaving him with a negative interpretation of a passage which I believe contains great hope and encouragement for the suffering church.

Of course all of us are very much tainted, no matter how far weve come, and Yancey has a message which fundamentally addresses our need. We should follow his lead and embark daily upon a search for the Jesus we never knew. Only then will the Bride of Christ shine brightly, lighting the way so the nations will stream toward the glorious Kingdom of our Lord.

-- Brother in Christ (, October 30, 1999.

Brother In Christ:

I, too, have comne from a fundamentalist background. In fact I'm still in one--and I never came to Yancey's conclusions. If you read and study the 4 gospels you get the right picture of the real Jesus. Evidently Yancey started out on the wrong foot by never doing that. He then writes a book telling us how he corrected his mistake. But if you did not make his mistake in the first place, then you really don't need his book. All that he "finally came to realize" were things most of us already knew anyway. (At least most of the Christians I know--and they are all from fundamentalist backgrounds.}

-- Ralph Filicchia (, October 30, 1999.

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