soul survivorPhilip Yancey
Galilee Trade
2003

Christian writer Philip Yancey documents the 13 individuals that helped him come to grips with his faith, detailing their lives, their beliefs, their faults, and their triumphs, and how they impacted his world view…

After 17 years of being a professing Christian, and after years of reading anything and everything that had the label “Christian literature” on it, there are now a precious few authors in Christian nonfiction that I consider personal required reading. This list of authors consists of Billy Graham, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, and this I’m writing about, Philip Yancey. Since picking up his previous book, The Bible Jesus Read, I discovered a very profound writer that shed a light on the very basics of Christian theology in a way that was simple yet intriguing, and very personable.

In Soul Survivor, Yancey details his days growing up in a very Fundamentalist church that turned him off to Christianity, and sheds light on the individuals he discovered that were, in his words from the first chapter, “people I could learn from, people I might want to emulate.” These included the previously mentioned G. K. Chesterton (which is where I discovered this incredible writer), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., C. Everett Koop, Leo Tolstoy and Ghandi.

In all these, Yancey explores their lives, their hopes, their struggles, and their accomplishments. I found the sections on Tolstoy, King, Chesterton and Ghandi rather interesting, particularly Ghandi. While some may question the wisdom of including a renouned Hindu leader in a Christian book (and in a favorable light nonetheless), I found it facinating that this person essensially grew up in a Christian atmosphere that was a major influence of British-dominated India, saw the strong contradictions between the Jesus of the Bible and those who called themselves Christians , and rejected Christianity because he didn’t want to be identified with a religion he precieved to be hypocritical and ineffective. While Ghandi wasn’t a Christian, what he had to say about Jesus and Christianity is important for every one of us to listen to.

On a personal level, while I didn’t grow up in a “New Testament, Blood-bought, Born-again, Premillennial, Dispensational, fundamental” church, I did spend time in one in my young adult life that squeezed the joy out of my faith in Jesus Christ. And while that many in that situation are very bitter about this experience (I know I was for a time, GOD being patient as He is and letting me vent, all praise to Him), Yancey chose not to dwell on that negative experience, and chose instead to focus on the 13 people that influenced him positively. Those looking for another book that is mostly complaining about the flaws of this church body or that will want to look elsewhere, as Soul Survivor seeks to build up the reader and challenges to see the difference between Christianity and Jesus Christ. Very much recommended reading, in my not-so-humble opinion…

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