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What Good is God with Philip Yancey

What Good is God
Conversation with: Philip Yancey

In this video “Conversation,” Philip Yancey, Christian journalist and author, discusses the inspiration behind his new book What Good is God?

To discuss this video, see our post "Philip Yancey on his New Book, 'What Good is God?'" on our blog Science and the Sacred.

Video Transcription

This book came about by circumstances I found myself in. I happened to be in Mumbai, India the night of the terrorist attacks there and I had been on a speaking tour. We were supposed to be downtown that night. We were unable to hold that meeting. The whole area was cordoned off by police and as we flew away the next day, I turned to my wife and said, "We've been in some really interesting situations".

So, I pulled out the United Airlines napkin and actually made a list. And from that list came ten chapters, each of which show faith put to the extreme. They're not all instances of suffering or trauma; some are a different kind of challenge. Speaking to a group of alcoholics, speaking to a group of prostitutes, trying to get out of sexual slavery.

The two themes that keep coming up in my writing are suffering and grace, those two themes. And this book applies, I guess, what I've learned about grace, but in a particular context. So, for instance in Mumbai, although I didn't speak to the larger group we had planned, a smaller group met spontaneously in a church that night. I remember standing in front of them saying, "I've got to come up with some words that will give comfort, that will make sense out of this terrible thing that's happened". And out of that came this book.

I think one of the most important things that we as Christians need to communicate is that God is on the side of the one who suffers. I'm appalled and astonished that, to this day, when somebody goes through a hard time, a parade of Christians comes with these kind of Job's comforter words. You did something to deserve this. God's punishing you. No, it's not God! It's the devil. No, it's not the devil, it's God but because he likes you and he wants you to be an example. And the poor person is lying there just trying to feel better, and the Christians actually make them feel worse.

So, one strong point that I've gotten from the Bible, there are some questions nobody has the answers to. Why does a tornado hit this town and not that town? Why does this little girl get leukemia and not the girl next door? Nobody knows the answer to that and the Bible avoids it. The Bible doesn't answer it, but it does give a very clear answer to how God feels about someone going through a time like that.

The way we know that is because God gave us a face, the face of Jesus. We're Christians, we follow Jesus. All you have to do is follow Jesus around and watch how he responds to a person going through a hard time. He never lectures, never gives philosophical arguments. He responds with compassion and then with healing. So from that, we know how God feels about people who are going through hard times. God is on their side.

We live on a planet where bad things happen, a planet of freedom where human beings can be part of the bad things that happen, and there are a lot of questions surrounding that. But I start with my brightest clue being the face of Jesus, who responds to people who are going through suffering and difficulties.