Philip Yancey

Catholics may not be familiar with Philip Yancey, but he is a fantastic Protestant author (despite being alive).  The first book of his that I read was The Jesus I Never Knew.  I was instantly hooked.  Mostly by his candor.  He has a way of looking at an issue very honestly, whether it’s Jesus, prayer, grace, whatever.  I profited greatly by his thoughts, but the thing that was very interesting about him is that he quotes very liberally from other authors, irrespective of the tradition from which they come.  As long as they have something good to say about the topic at hand, he will quote them.  And so many times, his books turn out to be Greatest Hit collections of excerpts from a multitude of writers, be they Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox.  And as far as Catholic authors go, he was never interested in rehashing the long and tired debates of the 16th Century.  In other words, he quoted intelligent Catholics, and didn’t feel the need to caveat the quote with the usual disclaimers.  Briefly, to him, Catholics were Christians, and so what they had to say was pertinent.

This had an immeasurable impact in opening my mind to the Catholic Church.  Firstly, I have never been particularly anti-Catholic.  I certainly wasn’t raised that way.  But from the years I spent in the various Protestant denominations, I had certainly imbibed a certain amount of the latent skepticism regarding Catholicism.  It was just in the air.  I didn’t know much about it, but I knew it couldn’t be trusted.  Yancey went a long way towards diffusing some of that.

Secondly, the authors he quoted (especially, but not only the Catholics) spoke of things I had never heard of.  And they spoke of things I had heard of with such compelling depth that it was difficult to resist going straight to the source, and buying their books.  Especially intriguing to me were GK Chesterton (whose Everlasting Man I had already read), Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen.  I have actually never gone to the source with Nouwen.

I requested and received for Christmas one year, from my wife, The Seven Story Mountain.  And nothing has ever been the same since.  That book opened to me vistas I had never yet imagined.  I immediately wanted to join a monastery.  OK, so I was married, so I had to temper that a bit.  But what really stood out in my mind was the sacramentalism of it all.  I don’t remember much of the book anymore, but I do remember him traveling around somewhere, from church to church, receiving the Blessed Sacrament everywhere he went.  I remember a reference to the Little Flower, and not knowing what he meant.  This book created in me a very tangible longing for something, I knew not what.  But it turned out to be the Eucharist.

And with Chesterton, I just remember the joy and humor, and remember thinking he had something I wanted.


~ by Rob on May 16, 2008.

2 Responses to “Philip Yancey”

  1. […] Philip Yancey […]

  2. Ok, now I won’t be embarrassed to admit that I read “The Jesus I Never Knew” as a Catholic. I read it in college, actually a required text for a class and thought it was a great book. However I was reading with a slightly less developed theology and have wanted to re-read with the lens of someone who understands Catholic apologetics a bit better.

    BTW, this comment function is really hard to see and use on my computer, maybe it’s just the color settings on our ‘puter?

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