I recently re-read Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey. Subtitled “How My Faith Survived the Church,” it follows his journey through disillusionment to a stronger, smarter faith, informed not only by experience but by books that gave him glimpses into great minds.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the writers who influenced Yancey, who grew up in what he describes as “apartheid conditions” in Atlanta. Raised in a racist white church that actively opposed the civil rights movement, Yancey was years in coming around to see the good in the movement. His chapter about MLK should be required reading for all of us.
So should the chapters about John Donne, Frederick Buechner, Henri Nouwen, G.K. Chesterton, Annie Dillard and the rest. All of them challenge me to take another look at my place in the world and in God’s heart. This is one of my most-marked-up books, its pages glowing with bright slashes from my highlighter. These are great minds, great lives, yet as Yancey points out, every one of them is flawed. Like the rest of us.
A quote from Yancey: “Chesterton readily admitted that the church had badly failed the gospel. In fact, he said, one of the strongest arguments in favor of Christianity is the failure of Christians, who thereby prove what the Bible teaches about the fall and original sin. As the world goes wrong, it proves that the church is right in this basic doctrine.”
I agree. Even our failures as churches and as individuals can point to the gospel and reveal the grace of God. We’re all sinners in need of a Savior, and in need of each other.
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