Yancey, Philip D. 1949- (Philip David Yancey)

views updated

Yancey, Philip D. 1949- (Philip David Yancey)

PERSONAL:

Born November 4, 1949, in Atlanta, GA; son of Marshall Watts and Mildred (a teacher) Yancey; married Janet Norwood (a social work director), June 2, 1970. Education: Columbia Bible College, Columbia, B.A., 1970; Wheaton College, Wheaton, M.A., 1972; University of Chicago, M.A., 1990. Religion: Protestant.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Campus Life/Christianity Today, 465 Gundersen Dr., Carol Stream, IL 60188.

CAREER:

Campus Life, Wheaton, IL, editor, 1971-77, publisher, 1978-79; freelance writer, 1980—.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Eleven Golden Medallion Awards, Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, including awards, 1978, for Where Is God When It Hurts?, 1980, for Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, 1985, for In His Image, 1989, for The Student Bible, 1990, for Disappointment with God: Questions Nobody Asks Aloud, 1996, for The Jesus I Never Knew, and 1998, for What's So Amazing about Grace?

WRITINGS:

After the Wedding, Word Inc. (Waco, TX), 1976.

Where Is God When It Hurts?, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1977, revised edition, Walker and Co. (New York, NY), 1996.

(With Tim Stafford) Unhappy Secrets of the Christian Life, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1979.

(With Paul Brand) Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1980.

Open Windows, Thomas Nelson (Nashville, TN), 1982.

(With Paul Brand) In His Image, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1984.

(With Tim Stafford) The Student Bible, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1988, published as The Student Bible: New International Version, 1996, revised edition published as The Student Bible: Updated New American Standard, 1999.

Disappointment with God: Three Questions Nobody Asks Aloud, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1989.

A Guided Tour of the Bible: Six Months of Daily Readings, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1990.

I Was Just Wondering, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1990, revised edition, 1998.

Reality and the Vision: 17 Christian Authors Reveal Their Literary Legacy, Word Inc. (Waco, TX), 1990.

(With Paul Brand) Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.

Discovering God: A Devotional Journey Through the Bible, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1993.

Finding God in Unexpected Places, Moorings (Nashville, TN), 1995, revised edition, WaterBrook Press (Colorado Springs, CO), 2005.

The Jesus I Never Knew, Walker and Co. (New York, NY), 1996.

(With Brenda Quinn) The Jesus I Never Knew Study Guide, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1997.

What's So Amazing about Grace?, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1997.

(Contributor) Destiny and Deliverance (companion volume to film The Prince of Egypt), Thomas Nelson (Nashville, TN), 1998.

Church, Why Bother? My Personal Pilgrimage, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1998.

The Bible Jesus Read, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 1999.

When Life Hurts: Understanding God's Place in Your Pain, Multnomah (Sisters, OR), 1999.

(With Brenda Quinn) Meet the Bible: A Panorama of God's Word in 366 Readings and Reflections, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 2000.

Reaching for the Invisible God: What Can We Expect to Find?, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 2000.

Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2001.

(Compiler and author of introduction) More Than Words: Contemporary Writers on the Works That Shaped Them, Baker Books (Grand Rapids, MI), 2002.

(With Tim Stafford) Student Bible: New International Version, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 2002.

(With Tim Stafford) The NIV Student Bible, Revised, Compact Edition, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 2002.

(With Tim Stafford) The NIV Student Bible, Revised Complete Edition, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 2002.

Rumors of Another World: What on Earth Are We Missing?, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 2003.

(With Paul Brand) In the Likeness of God: The Dr. Paul Brand Tribute Edition of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made and in His Image, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 2004.

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 2006.

When We Hurt: Prayer, Preparation, & Hope for Life's Pain, Inspirio/Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI), 2006.

Contributor of about 800 articles to magazines, including Reader's Digest and Saturday Evening Post. Editor at large, Christianity Today.

SIDELIGHTS:

Philip D. Yancey's books are "fast becoming classics of the evangelical literature," according to Publishers Weekly contributor Miriam Berkley, in an interview with Yancey. Using many of the same techniques Jesus employed in his own ministry, Yancey tackles tough theological questions in a style that general readers can easily understand. He uses anecdotes from the modern world and from his own spiritual search to highlight the issues facing Christians today, such as how to find a relationship with God in an increasingly hectic and secular world. A number of Yancey's books have been bestsellers in the Christian market, and a few—including The Jesus I Never Knew and What's So Amazing about Grace?—have sold well enough to find places on the mainstream bestseller lists. Booklist correspondent June Sawyers called Yancey "one of the most approachable evangelical Christian writers."

Yancey was raised in Georgia, in an atmosphere of strict Christian fundamentalism, where "anything you could think of that was fun was wrong." He remarked to Berkley: "You cannot imagine, unless you've been in a background like that, how narrow it is." He eventually rejected the fundamentalist tradition, in part because of exposure to Orwellian literature, which he says "shattered my airtight framework of what the world was like. That's probably one of the main reasons why I'm a writer today: because there are millions of people in a [closed] world like [the one in which I was raised]. Literature for me … opened the cage door that let me fly out." "Though he comes from a conservative upbringing, he is not stuck there but has moved past any labels we might try to put on him," wrote Zander Dunn in the Presbyterian Record. "His openness and transparency are appealing, and he writes with love."

Despite his renunciation of strict fundamentalism, Yancey remained religiously active and, after college, he began writing for the Christian magazine Campus Life. He told Berkley that many of his assignments were "‘drama in real life’; articles, where people have been involved in tragedy, and as a Christian I was puzzled by this problem of pain. Why would God allow it? Why does He let us suffer?" His musings on these questions eventually formed the basis for his book, Where Is God When It Hurts?, an award-winning volume that has sold over 500,000 copies.

Yancey discusses his own spiritual journey in the book Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church. "I've written pretty openly about my unhealthy church background," Yancey told Sojourners interviewer Jim Wallis. "I get a lot of letters from people in whom that strikes a chord, even though their own experience may be very different. Mine was specifically Southern fundamentalist—angry, legalistic, and racist. The church had mocked Martin Luther King—the pastor called him ‘Martin Lucifer Coon’ from the pulpit. We would cheer in the church as they showed the films from Selma of the police dogs and the fire hoses. Later I realized that we were the bad guys." "When you grow up in a very tight, almost cultic environment, you have a corner on truth," Yancey explained to interviewers Gordon Preece and Paul Mitchell in Zadok Online. "You perceive yourself as a besieged minority of truth and everyone else is out there straying. But then I discovered that a lot of those things I was taught were wrong. Then you feel betrayed." "I went through a period of feeling betrayed," he said to Wallis. "That was the period where I rejected the church. If they lied about this, then maybe they're lying to me about the Bible and Jesus and God and everything else as well."

Over time, Yancey writes in Soul Survivor, he was able to dispense with the hatred and racism while keeping the faith. He did this in part by learning from the examples of others, some of them church figures, some of them outside the church—some of them even outside Christianity itself. They included major world figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, poet and novelist G.K. Chesterton, seventeenth-century Protestant mystic and writer John Donne, modern novelist Annie Dillard, and former surgeon general C. Everett Koop. These men and women had in common a commitment to the goals of Christianity, explained Booklist contributor Ray Olson; "each realized and then taught and lived for the great concerns of Christianity—cheerfulness, justice, grace, truth, humility, healing, compassion." "Their lives had meaning because of their service and their connection with God," Yancey told a Publishers Weekly interviewer. "This was something I wanted for myself."

"By focusing on the journeys and discoveries of his spiritual mentors," Wayne A. Holst declared in the Christian Century: "Yancey traces his growth from his early reactive years to his more self-confident mid-life. Some readers may recoil at Yancey's need to revisit old wounds again and again, but this book will speak to a wide range of Christians whose experience with the church has been, at least at some point, unhealthy. What shines through the brilliant writing of this once bigoted man is a redeemed vision of hopefulness and spiritual vitality." "In this book, we see why [Yancey] is so effective" as a mediator or bridge between conservative and liberal Christians, John Congram stated in the Presbyterian Record. "When some of us attempt to be a bridge, we often end up making both sides angry. Yancey is somehow able to keep both sides together and talking." Soul Survivor, a Publishers Weekly contributor declared, "is one of his most hopeful [books], for in it he charts a spiritual path through all of the muck made by organized religion."

Yancey tackles the issue of prayer in Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? The author examines the discipline of prayer, not as a mindless recitation of church doctrine, nor as a laundry list of requests for God, but instead as an invitation to create a dialogue with the Divine. For Yancey, prayer involves listening as well as speaking—and often the listening is the more important of the two. Yancey told Janna Riess in a Publishers Weekly interview that, in the church in which he grew up, prayer fell into two different categories. "One method," he said, "was to inform God of something he didn't already know, or else to talk God into doing something that God was probably reluctant to do. Both of those ideas start with a pretty small idea of God." But God—and prayer, Yancey concluded—is much more complicated than that. "Prayer," explained a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "is a window into knowing the mind of God, whose kingdom is entrusted to all of us frail, selfish people on earth."

Yancey's books offer "no facile solutions, no panacea to suffering and misery," to quote Sawyers. Instead he shows how ordinary people, himself included, conduct their daily lives in a way that best magnifies God's grace. Having himself undergone crises of faith, Yancey understands the varying degrees of belief amongst his readers, and he challenges Christians to become less judgmental and more childlike in their faith. "Yancey considers honestly the predicaments of human existence," declared a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "With common sense and a poetic sensibility, Yancey poses fruitful questions and offers real insights."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 15, 1994, Barbara Diltz-Siler, review of Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants, p. 1702; October 15, 1995, Steve Schroeder, review of The Jesus I Never Knew, p. 368; July, 1997, Ray Olson, review of What's So Amazing about Grace?, p. 1772; August 1, 1999, Ray Olson, review of The Bible Jesus Read, p. 1995; September 1, 2000, June Sawyers, review of Reaching for the Invisible God, p. 36; September 15, 2001, Ray Olson, review of Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church, p. 167; January 1, 2002, Barbara Baskin, review of Soul Survivor, p. 876.

Choice, June, 1994, G.B. Rollman, review of Pain, p. 1612.

Christian Century, March 1, 1989, Mark E. DeVries, review of Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud, p. 236; April 17, 1991, review of Reality and Vision, p. 441; May 18, 1994, Frank Ramirez, review of Pain, p. 545; September 13, 1995, review of Finding God in Unexpected Places, p. 862; August 1, 2001, Peter W. Marty, review of Reaching for the Invisible God, p. 32; December 12, 2001, Wayne A. Holst, review of Soul Survivor, p. 25.

Christian History, August, 2002, "Exactly the Opposite: Chesterton Is Seldom What We Expect but Often What We Need," p. 44.

Christianity Today, November 19, 1990, Larry Sibley, review of Reality and the Vision, p. 40; May 15, 1995, review of Finding God in Unexpected Places, p. 66; August 9, 1999, Susan Wise Bauer, review of The Bible Jesus Read, p. 71.

Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), April 27, 1994, Bashir Qureshi, review of Pain, p. 1294.

Library Journal, January 1, 1989, Elise Chase, review of Disappointment with God, p. 90; September 1, 1989, Cynthia Widmer, review of I Was Just Wondering, p. 195; October 15, 1989, review of I Was Just Wondering, p. 51; March 15, 1990, Mary Margaret Benson, review of Reality and the Vision: 17 Christian Authors Reveal Their Literary Legacy, p. 91; July 1, 1995, Henry Carrigan, review of Finding God in Unexpected Places, p. 87; September 15, 2003, John Moryl, review of Rumors of Another World: What on Earth Are We Missing?, p. 64; October 1, 2006, Graham Christian, review of Prayer, p. 80.

Natural Health, May 1, 1994, Ben Brooks, review of Pain, p. 145.

Presbyterian Record, September 1, 1989, review of Disappointment with God, p. 28; December 1, 1989, review of I Was Just Wondering, p. 31; July 1, 2000, review of The Bible Jesus Read, p. 45; January 1, 2001, Zander Dunn, review of Reaching for the Invisible God, p. 2; February 1, 2002, review of Soul Survivor, p. 45.

Publishers Weekly, March 9, 1984, Miriam Berkley, interview with Philip Yancey, p. 116; December 20, 1985, William Griffin, review of Open Windows, p. 37; January 13, 1989, review of Disappointment with God, p. 66; September 27, 1993, review of Pain, p. 55; September 29, 1997, review of What's So Amazing about Grace?, p. 85; August 16, 1999, review of The Bible Jesus Read, p. 76; July 24, 2000, review of Reaching for the Invisible God, p. 88; July 31, 2000, review of Reaching for the Invisible God, p. 55; August 13, 2001, review of Soul Survivor, p. 308, and "PW Talks with Philip Yancey," p. 309; November 19, 2001, review of Soul Survivor, p. 43; August 4, 2003, review of Rumors of Another World, p. 74; November 17, 2003, review of Rumors of Another World, p. 37; August 28, 2006, "PW Talks with Philip Yancey: Why Pray? One of the Christian World's Most Thoughtful Writers Offers a Fresh Take on an Ancient Spiritual Practice," p. 48, and review of Prayer, p. 49.

Quarterly-Christian Legal Society, winter, 1990, Thomas L. Shaffer, review of Disappointment with God.

Second Opinion, October, 1994, Edwin R. DuBose, review of Pain, p. 111.

Sojourners, November 1, 1999, review of The Bible Jesus Read, p. 50; February 1, 2004, Jim Wallis, "Sex, Lies, and Life on the Evangelical Edge: An Interview, with Philip Yancey, the Best-selling Christian Author Who Is Surprised at How Much He Gets Away With," p. 32.

Today's Christian Woman, September, 2003, Corrie Cutrer, review of Rumors of Another World, p. 98; January, 2007, Lisa Ann Cockrel, review of Prayer, p. 10.

ONLINE

Zadok Online,http://www.zadok.org.au/ (July 9, 2007), Gordon Preece and Paul Mitchell, "Treasure Hunting with Philip Yancey," author interview.

About this article

Yancey, Philip D. 1949- (Philip David Yancey)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article