Disillusioned by the distortions and hypocrisies of the church in which he grew up, Philip Yancey set out in search of a life enhanced by faith instead of diminished by religion. Having struggled to forge personal convictions about God amid the ironies of life and the incongruities of religion, he looks closer at those whose lives radiate spiritual authenticity rather than pious posturing.
From Dostoevsky to Martin Luther King, G. K. Chesterton to Paul Brand, Yancey pays homage to some of the most remarkable, selfless, Christ-like lives our world has known, and asks what both he and we can do to find such beautiful faith in our own lives.
Fans of Yancey's bestseller What's So Amazing About Grace? may not know what to do with this book. In some ways, it is his darkest work ever, chronicling his own lover's quarrel with the institutional church specifically, the church of his childhood that promulgated racism and practiced a pharisaic legalism. In other ways, this book is one of his most hopeful, for in it he charts a spiritual path through all of the muck made by organized religion. As guides, he looks to "a baker's dozen" of thinkers, writers, doctors and activists who have taught him about Christianity. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life shamed Yancey into confronting his own racism and then helped his heart be transformed by Christ's love. Leo Tolstoy taught him self-forgiveness, while Fyodor Dostoyevsky modeled grace as a lived reality. John Donne taught him to wrestle with the ultimate enemy, death; Annie Dillard demonstrated ways to appreciate God in creation; Mahatma Gandhi showed him the power of one individual to change the course of history. The most moving chapter is perhaps the tribute to Paul Brand, an orthopedic surgeon whose work on leprosy helped Yancey to understand how pain can become a gift from God. It's not a perfect book; the chapter on G.K. Chesterton is too short, and the essay on former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop seems superficial in a book with such theological depth. Despite these minor flaws, this multibiography is a much-needed signpost, stubbornly pointing to the life of faith.