ATLANTA – Philip Yancey‘s ascension to the top of the Christian book world has been as unusual as the subjects he writes about.
While most best-selling Christian authors have offered answers, Yancey presents questions. His books include titles such as “Where Is God When It Hurts?” and “Church: Why Bother?” He profiles Christians who have been wounded – not liberated – by church.
Yancey takes on more provocative questions with his latest book, “Rumors of Another World” (Zondervan, $22.99). He has written a book for people who exist in the “borderlands of belief.”
The borderlands of belief is Yancey’s phrase for those who say they are spiritual but not religious. They experience intimacy with God not through church but through nature, music, the birth of a child.
Yancey calls those sublime experiences “rumors of another world.”
“I grew up with an image of a frowning God,” Yancey said in a phone interview from his home near Denver. “When I looked at the rumors around me, I saw that the world is full of beauty, goodness and love. I started tracking those things to their source.”
That source, according to Yancey, is God. Yancey says he once wanted dramatic proof of an unseen reality, but he learned to pay more attention to his own experiences. Like C.S. Lewis, Yancey’s belief in God was made possible by his appreciation for art and nature.
“I sense in beauty and in nature marks of a genius creator for which the natural response is worship,” Yancey writes. “I sense in desire, including sexual desire, marks of a holy yearning for connection. I sense in pain and suffering a terrible disruption that omnipotent love surely cannot abide forever.”
Yancey, 52, did not always have this view of Christianity. As a child, he attended a church in Atlanta that barred blacks. But he began to have misgivings about his church after reading the speeches of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and books such as “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Yancey has sold 7 million books and won Christian publishing’s highest awards. Yet almost all of his work goes back to his childhood church experiences. He, too, lived in the borderlands of belief.