Im not sure what I was expecting from this book, but I don't think it was what I found, at least in terms of its structure. What Good Is God? In Search of a Faith That Matters is a collection of talks that Philip Yancey has given in various places around the world, each prefaced with a chapter reflecting on the circumstances under which they were given.
In some instances, Yancey addressed communities in the wake of traumatic events; in others, he spoke to groups who were marginalized and persecuted. He spoke in Memphis, Tennessee - a place I know pretty well, and one where nearly every issue is quite literally black or white - on the day after the 2008 presidential election, discussing the healing influence that the Church Health Center has had on this city with a notorious civil-rights history. He talked in South Africa about how the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has approached its mission. He brought survivors of the Columbine shootings with him to a talk at Virginia Tech just after it suffered its own similar tragedy, knowing that they'd be able to reach each other as few could. He spoke at a Cambridge University conference about C.S. Lewis, and that chapter may have been the one I least expected; it actually made me want to read C.S. Lewis writings on Christianity.
Yancey was brought up in a narrow-minded, fundamentalist church, but has arrived at a more expansive worldview - and God-view, which is what he communicates to his listeners. He comes across as evangelical in some ways, but with a rather non-sectarian approach, and the more time I spent with the book, the more appealing I found that. He takes a pretty strong stand against what he calls legalism, or the excessive focus on rules about the proper way to believe and express one's faith that often seems to lead to "my Christianity is better than your Christianity" competitiveness - not especially Christian behavior, in my opinion. In contrast, he seeks to convey what Christianity is by going back to its roots, the teachings of Jesus and writings of his early followers.
Despite some redundancies that I think are at least partly the fault of the book's structure, I think that Yancey does a pretty effective job of getting his Christian worldview across to his readers and listeners; I rarely felt that I was being preached at, and I was surprised to find that I shared some of the viewpoints he expressed. I'm not sure that what's presented in this book truly matches the premise of its title, however. In Search of a Faith That Matters implies, to me, a personal faith journey in some form, and thats really not what's chronicled here. On top of that, the central question What Good is God? really doesn't seem to be answered. I'm not uncomfortable with that, personally - as I've said before, the questions are what interest me - but I do think that some readers might feel a bit misled. Having said that, I'm not sorry I read this one, and it's left me with some real food for thought.