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Featuring guest Philip Yancey

Philip Yancey - What Good is Disappointment?

In this episode’s conversation, Philip Yancey and Language of God host Jim Stump discuss rediscovering faith after messy first encounters, disappointment with the state of the world, and stepping into a life colored with hope.

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In this episode’s conversation, Philip Yancey and Language of God host Jim Stump discuss rediscovering faith after messy first encounters, disappointment with the state of the world, and stepping into a life colored with hope.

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Description

A podcast that shows the harmony between Christian faith and current scientific discoveries by sharing the stories of interesting people who have found a better way of understanding science and Christian faith.
  • Originally aired on April 11, 2019
  • With 
    Jim Stump

Philip Yancey is one of the most compelling and popular Christian authors of our time. But faith has not always been easy for him—growing up in Atlanta included absorbing the confidently racist doctrine his childhood pastor distributed from the pulpit. He is not free from the pangs of doubt and disappointment today, but he gathers courage from the selfless love played out in people like Dr. Paul Brand, a medical doctor who dedicated his life to treating leprosy. In this episode’s conversation, Philip Yancey and Language of God host Jim Stump discuss rediscovering faith after messy first encounters, disappointment with the state of the world, and stepping into a life colored with hope.

You can find a full list of Yancey’s books on his website. For more on his longtime friend and co-author Dr. Paul Brand, see Dr. Brand’s Wikipedia page.

This episode of Language of God was hosted by Jim Stump and produced by Colin Hoogerwerf. Additional help from Nate Mulder.


Transcript

Philip :

I hope every Christian is disappointed. I hope every Christian is disappointed that there are people who didn’t have enough food today, that there were nine year olds in India sold into slavery and in Hindu temples to be a temple prostitutes. There are lots of reasons to be disappointed in the world and we’re called to feel that disappointment and not just sit around feeling bad about it, but to do something about it that is part of our mission and in the world. 

Jim:

That’s Philip Yancey, one of the most widely read Christian authors of his generation. Welcome to Language of God. I’m your host Jim Stump.

Philip Yancey has sold some 16 million books, including Where is God When it Hurts, What’s so Amazing about Grace?, The Jesus I Never Knew, and Soul Survivor. I think one of the reasons for his popularity is that he has not been afraid of asking hard questions, questions that too many in the church didn’t want to hear, or at least didn’t have any quick and easy answers to. Yancey’s books have resonated with people because he didn’t try to force quick and easy answers to these questions. He acknowledges the difficulties and the messiness of faith. 

We talked about some of those difficulties and the messiness, starting with the church itself and the all-too-familiar fact that many of our church communities have poorly presented the Good News. But then our main topic of conversation went back to his 1988 book, Disappointment with God. It is just as relevant today to wonder about the seeming silence and inaction of God when we think he ought to be speaking and doing things to relieve the suffering around us. One of the subtle ironies that comes out in our conversation is that God has chosen to work primarily through the church, which so poorly represents him and often frustrates us, and so our disappointment with God might be more accurately understood as disappointment with ourselves, for our failure to be the people of God. This is not a quick and easy answer and takes some sorting out. 

Let’s get to the conversation.

Interview Part One

Jim:

Maybe for the record, can you give us, uh, your name and what you take your occupation to be?

Philip :

Hi, my name is Philip Yancey. I’m a freelance writer, which comes from the Middle Ages when knights who weren’t assigned to a particular castle would work for anybody. They were mercenaries and that’s what freelancers do. They’re free-lancers. Your lance is not assigned to anyone in particular.

Jim:

I’ve heard you talk a couple of times about growing up in a dogmatic church, and it sounds like you’re a little frustrated with the way they conditioned you to think about science. Is that a fair characterization?

Philip :

Actually, they conditioned me to be frustrated with anything they said and I think that’s one of the real dangers that dogmatic churches can pose for curious thinking young people particularly because for example, I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia just before, just as the civil rights movement was getting underway and at my church they talked straight from the pulpit, the curse of ham theory in genesis from genesis nine. 

[musical notes]

Jim: 

Jim here from the studio in post production. When you hear that sound, it means we want to share some background and fill in a gap. Here, Philip Yancey refers to the curse of Ham. Ham was one of Noah’s sons, and the story in Genesis 9 tells of a curse placed on his descendents. Unfortunately there have been people who have tried use this as a Scriptural justification for slavery.

[musical notes]

Philip: 

For those of you who don’t know it, I’m so glad you don’t know, but seriously, but it’s one of these racist theories about the origin of race and it’s just, it’s just nonsense. And yet it was taught to me as truth. 

Well, later I found out it wasn’t true at all. I was told, uh, the curse is that the children and family, the descendants of ham, are good for servants, but they could never be a CEO of a company. Well, I happened to win a scholarship at the Center for Disease Control, then called the Communicable Disease Center. And I walked in. I had studied my mentor for the summer, I had studied his papers. He’s a Ph.D. in chemistry and I walk in and it’s a black man. And suddenly, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding. I realized my church lied to me, they are wrong. And if they’re wrong about race, maybe they’re wrong about evolution, maybe they’re wrong about the Bible, maybe they’re wrong about Jesus. And it was a huge crisis of faith. And the only way I dealt with it was just a backoff from faith for a period of time. It took me and is taking me a long period of time to sort out. That’s what I do as a writer, to sort out what is worth keeping and what is, what needs to be shed because the church doesn’t always get it right. And if you get it wrong on science, if you get it wrong on one of these topics, you are opening the door to people just dispensing with everything that the church thought.

Jim:

So I would guess that most people in those communities of faith that you’re describing are not intentionally misrepresenting the world, are they? I mean, I, I’m trying to. I’m trying to sort out, how should we feel toward those communities today? We’re fellow believers in Christ at some level. And yet the destruction, some, maybe destruction is too strong of a word, but at least the harm that is done in the names of some of them is difficult. And you’ve been the recipient of that. I’ve been the recipient of that. How do we, what’s the right attitude toward these communities today? If they’re mistaken, that’s one thing.

Philip:

Mmhuh

Jim:

And wrong, that’s one thing, but intentionally so? Maybe a few sometimes for other agendas, but I don’t know. What’s your, how do you, how do you feel toward those communities today, your community that you, you came from?

Philip:

Well, I have written several books about grace and, but I would have to say that those are the people I have the hardest time having a spirit of grace toward, I have no problem having grace toward migrants, having grace toward poor people, having grace toward, you know, the third world, the developing world. But, I go back to Jesus’ attitude actually, who got under Jesus skin? The people who did most were the people who we would call Bible believers at the time they were Bible thumpers. The Pharisees took the Bible more seriously than any other group. They oriented their entire lives around keeping every little minuscule rule in the Old Testament. And Jesus at one point said to them, you’re so legalistic, you tithe your kitchen spices. So, so for example, you know, oh, here’s salt and pepper, we’ll give 10 percent to God. Here’s, here’s cumin, here’s basil, whatever it is, we’ll give 10 percent to God.

And meanwhile these, these great issues of the day, you don’t care about justice, you don’t care about poverty. And I think that is the real danger. The more dogmatic a group gets about one particular area, the more they risk missing the whole point of the Gospel. The Gospel is good news and there are a lot of people–and I was one of them growing up–who didn’t really sense that good news-ness of the Gospel. And if we spoil that, we really are in danger of threatening faith, which is a scary proposition.

Jim:

Okay. Let’s play your story forward a little bit. Maybe to some of the episodes that caused you to rethink Christianity’s relationship with science. How did you come to the point where you are open to hearing what scientists had to say, even if it seemed to impinge on your understanding of the Christian doctrine as you had received them?

Philip:

I remember clearly in high school, this would have been about the 11th grade, I think an advanced biology course where I took on Charles Darwin and the origin of the species and I of course wrote a term paper exposing all the flaws in evolution and one of my, my professor there, a man we all called doc, who was, who was a very good scientist and great teacher. And actually he showed me grace because he could have ripped my paper apart, but he didn’t do that. He just said, keep thinking. But as you think, think about this also. I think about that as well. And maybe you should track this book down. Maybe you should track that. And I’m not sure you really understood what Darwin was trying to say. So that was, that was an important moment.

And then someone gave me a little bit, there were very few books back and say, the late 1960s on science and faith, it wasn’t a real ripe topic for at least. But Kenneth Taylor who did The Paraphrase of the Living Bible, had written a book called evolution and the high school student and someone gave me that book and he didn’t say this is what you should believe. He basically said there’s more than one way to look at this. And different Christians have come to different conclusions and it’s not a matter of salvation. It’s not a central matter of faith. And it’s a matter that we’re, we’re still exploring. That was a very helpful message to me at the time as opposed to the dogmatist from either side, some who were saying, you know, God did it all in exactly six days, 4,000 years before Christ. Or the total naturalists, materialists who were saying, you can explain everything without a god. You know, he basically gave him a different spirit. 

And then I mentioned earlier Dr Paul Brand.

[Harp Stab]

Jim:

Yancey worked for a number of years with Dr. Paul Brand, a medical doctor who treated leprosy. He and Yancey co-authored a book, “The Gift of Pain” which claimed that a world without pain would not be a good world.

[Harp Stab]

Philip:

And then I mentioned earlier Dr Paul Brand, who, who was a very good scientist and had thought long and deep about these things and uh, was, was a deeply reverent person who, who saw God’s hand all the way through creation, including his specialty which was pain, you know, he tried to, you tried to invent, create a pain system to protect his leprosy patients who lack pain and therefore went ahead and destroyed themselves. So he actually had to think like the creator and he realized the challenges that God faced in coming up with our bodies. His influence on me was profound.

And I had already, as a reader, been deeply enlightened by great science writers. There’s this whole tradition, Lewis Thomas and Oliver Sacks and Henri Fabre and people like that. And I had, I had read their books, Annie Dillard and another, you know, a writer who’s kind of an amateur naturalist, and they made the world come alive for me. And just recently I read this book called Lab Girl. It’s a memoir of a woman who’s a botanist, a New York Times bestseller. And again, she makes trees come alive for me. I mean, they are alive, but I had never really thought much about what goes on inside a tree. I am more into animals and science gives us the data that we need and that we can rely on for praise, for a sense of wonder, for a sense of gratitude for the creation that God has given us. And the more I learn, the more I can praise.

Jim:

Is there another side to that at all? In the tensions that we come up against as we learn more of the scientific explanations. You’ve said you’re not, you’re not a professional scientist, but you’re obviously well read and acquainted with the claims of science. Are there lingering questions there that are difficult to square with faith, with your understanding of the world and the universe and humankind?

Philip:

I’m not sure there are questions that are real barriers to be an understanding of the world and the universe. There are serious questions about putting together the account of nature that’s recorded in the Bible with what we know about science. And BioLogos has been very good. People like John Walton who takes a verse by verse, word by word, the accounts of creation in Genesis and exposes them in a very different way than certainly I was told. And then some take even a step back further and take it in a more kind of mythic poetic way. And again, Christians disagree and I understand that. I would have a hard time saying exactly what I believe, but the Bible is full of that recognition of gratitude and praise and reverence.

I’ve been going through the Psalms just a couple of chapters at a time for the last month or so, and it, it’s, it’s full of nature talk. And if David indeed wrote some of the Psalms, he was a man who spent a lot of time outdoors either by his choice as a shepherd or running from guerilla armies or whatever. And he knew the natural world and he saw the natural world as one of God’s words. BioLogos, and Francis Collins particularly, often talk about the two books, the book of Nature in the book of revelation. And I think that’s an important concept.

I have had conversations with superb scientists. Most of them that I’ve had these conversations with were from a Jewish background. And they say, and I think they’re right, that what they lack is a belief in revelation. That they believe that science stands on its own and that there is no further word from God. Well, as a Christian, I believe there is a further word from God and of course Jewish people, many Jewish people do as well. And I believe the trick is putting together those two books. I don’t believe they are inherently contradictory, but they look at the world and they start from different foundational assumptions. In my conversations with the scientists they quickly admit there are some things that science can’t tell you. It can’t tell you why there is something rather than nothing. It can’t tell you why something that is here is so beautiful and orderly and it certainly can’t tell you how to live, how to behave. Science doesn’t teach you that.

And some of the greatest scientists have come up with some pretty terrible ideas. I mean the first group who fell in behind Hitler were scientists in the eugenics movement and they gave an ethical rationale for what he was doing. Destroying people who, who were of a different race or a different mental capability or whatever. So the two books, the book of revelation, the book of God, the Word of God and the book of nature, they’re not mutually exclusive, but if you have just one and not the other, it’s like standing on one leg. Eventually you fall over.

[musical interlude]

Break

Interview Segment 2: Disappointment

Jim:

I got into this habit of writing the date and the place when I got a book on the front cover and I pulled this one off the shelf when I was getting ready for this and I see March the 18th, 1998 from the Trident Booksellers Cafe in Boston, Massachusetts where I got this book and as you can tell by looking at it, it’s since a sustained a bit of water damage from a flood in our basement not too long ago, but it’s still readable and usable. And at the time I got that in 1998, I was in Boston, I was in graduate school and I remember reading it intently because it seemed to acknowledge and take seriously some of the questions that weren’t always socially acceptable in the conservative church society that I grew up in. Isn’t it a bit unholy to say you’re disappointed with God? What led you to write such a book?

Philip:

I don’t think it is unholy at all, and the reason is I started reading the Bible, especially the Old Testament, and the book came, came out of an experience I had where I read the entire Bible all the way through in two weeks, taking notes on why God would sometimes act in, sometimes not act. And I got this bird’s eye view of God’s actions. And I’m in the process of doing so in books like Psalms, Lamentations, many of the prophets, Habakkuk, Job, disappointment with God is paramount. And I became impressed with a God who not only gives us the freedom to rebel, to lament, to cry out in anguish. That gives us a word, to use the words all the way through.

Two thirds of them are Psalms of lament, which really are ways of saying, “God. I don’t like the way you’re running the world.”    I started with three questions. Why does God hide? Is God unfair? And is God silent? And I found out that there was a period of time when God, those questions did not apply, where God was not silent, where God was not hidden in God was very fair. If you go back, particularly when the Israelites were freed from Egypt, God met with Moses in person. There were no little Jewish atheists in those days because the tent of meeting was glowing and if you doubted God’s existence, just go over and touch Mount Sinai and you would believe in God about one nanosecond before you were incinerated.

And fairness, my goodness. Go through and read the contract in Deuteronomy as Moses spelled it out. If you keep these laws, you’ll never lose a war. All of your crops will be fertile. All of your women will be fertile. You’ll always prosper. But do we look back on that time as a time of great faith? No. In fact, Paul says this was, this was the proof that that style of working doesn’t work. That here, God was answering these questions in certifiable ways and yet that really wasn’t a problem.

And I started thinking, we want God to act like one of us. We want God to come down magically and fix our health problems. You know, the calf muscle that I just tore or whatever it is, and so many of our prayers are along that line, wait a minute. If God is a spirit, doesn’t God have the right to decide how God wants to act? In the Old Testament scenes, God did intervene. But when, when the holy omnipotent God steps into the laws of planet earth, there are usually body bags, usually scorch marks. So you touched the Ark of the Covenant and you die. You touched Mount Sinai and you die. You know, it’s, it’s not easy. And gradually God withdrew in a sense from doing it God’s own self, through doing it through his son who did become one of us, who was vulnerable, who got power, yes, but he didn’t exercise that he could have called on legions of angels. He didn’t. He let himself be crucified. 

And then gradually Jesus said, when I leave, it’s actually for your good that I’m going away because the spirit will come and the spirit’s your comforter and God will live in you. And you will go places, Judea, Samaria, the ends of the earth, China, the United States, Japan, where I never got to go. So get going guys. And he turns it over to us. And so God primarily, as I read the Bible story, has been weaning us away from that direct intervention and in a sense, turning over the mission to us, God is a spirit. He wants to relate to us in a spiritual way. So the Holy Spirit is not an inferior way of God acting. The Holy Spirit was what God intended from the beginning. That’s the most personal, intimate kind of communication. And yet we keep kind of yearning for that Old Testament style. Oh God, if you would just win our wars for us, if you would just solve our problems for us. And so often it doesn’t happen and then people are disappointed.

Jim:

So disappointment is a relationship of some sort, right? Between my expectations I have for something and what that other something does or doesn’t do. So it sounds like the problem with disappointment is not with God, it’s with what our expectations are that our expectations are for God to act differently than God has chosen to do now. Is that a fair summary?

Philip:

That’s an excellent point, Jim. No fan of the Cleveland Browns was disappointed that they weren’t in the superbowl. They were ecstatic because they almost won as many as they lost! Whereas last year they didn’t win a single game. Our disappointment is completely determined by our expectations.

Jim: 

So throughout the course of the book, I think it’s fair to say that you’re not attempting to somehow solve the problem of evil in this intellectual sense where you’re convincing atheists or something that have rejected God because of evil in the world or something. Rather, this is a meditation working through–for people who already believe in God but are wondering about why is, why are some of these things happening? Why won’t God act in this way? Is addressing more of that emotional side, is that fair to distinguish between the intellectual problem of evil versus the emotional response that we might have?

Philip: 

Very much so. The way that book came about, I had written a book, my first book called Where is God when it Hurts, and that was pretty much on the physical problem of pain, why there is such a thing as physical pain and Dr Brand with working with leprosy patients made very good points about that that I’d never considered before. So he changed my whole way of thinking and then I got letters from people who said, well, that’s helpful, but that’s not really my problem. My problem is my child who doesn’t, who makes one self destructive choice after another and I pray and pray and pray and he just keeps doing the same thing.

Jim: 

And do you have a recurring character in here? I assume it’s a real person.

Philip:

It is a real person

Jim:      

That is working through some of those issues as well as responding to.

Philip:

And, and often disappointment works kind of like Chinese water torture. It’s just one little thing after another. It’s the child who keeps crying. It’s the child who keeps going back to alcohol or drugs. It’s the parent with Alzheimer’s, you know, maybe it’s not your own pain but you’re just in this orbit of suffering and it just wears away at you and you cry out to God. And even C.S. Lewis, who wrote a great book, the philosophical problem of pain was dealt with very well in his book, The Problem of Pain, but then when it was his wife, he wrote A Grief Observed. He said right when you need God most, you hear the sound of the bolting on the door and nothing else than silence, and that’s the emotional side.

Break

Interview Segment 3:  

Jim: 

And yet this, so the character Richard in your book that you’re responding to, sounds like he’s asking questions that he wants to know something. That, that some sort of knowledge might help that emotional side. I’m. I’m wondering what, how blurry that line can be sometimes between the emotional response and the intellectual side that if we had answers, would that help us emotionally or maybe not?

Philip: 

I go back and forth on that Jim. In one sense doctors tell me that a person who was a lifelong smoker, if you told them that they have lung cancer, it’s a little easier for them to take. They’re not that surprised they’ve been watching these ads on TV for 30 years, you know. On the other hand, if it’s a, if your child is four years old and comes down with leukemia at that’s a slap in the face. That child is innocent. That child didn’t do anything. So it’s in some ways maybe knowing a why would ease it a little bit, but it doesn’t solve the problem. You’re still dying of cancer, you know, either one. And, and so you have to step back and, and ask the larger questions, why did God put together this planet in the way that God did? 

If you look at this planet and only look at the book of science, not without the book of revelation, you would have, you would have a pretty mixed idea of what God is like. Unless you look through the eyes of Jesus, because Jesus, if you wonder how God feels about people who are sick, people who are dying, whose children are dying, just follow Jesus around. See how he dealt with a person who, a widow who just lost her only son or even a Roman soldier whose servant fell ill. He didn’t give any lectures about “well you just got to get used to it,” Or, you know, some theoretical problem of pain. He cried. He set it right. This is wrong. And that’s a promise that we have. And of course Jesus joined us in our suffering. And in the resurrection, we believe we have a template of what God plans to do with the entire planet to set right, to resurrect what was wrong, what was incomplete, what was displeasing about creation. 

Jim: 

Isn’t that response to that often though, why not set it right now? Or why not at least relieve some of that? So your point of how God has changed in the way he relates to people in the world, uh, from the Old Testament Times where we could point at him and see him. You countered with saying, well, miracles, those miracles did not necessarily foster deep faith in those people at that time. Right? But they could–miracles–relieve some suffering, couldn’t they? If God would stop the Sandy Hook massacre or a little bit later you say in the book, miracles are about love, not power, but wouldn’t it be the loving thing to do to relieve some of that suffering now?

Philip: 

Absolutely. And my answer to that is I have no idea. I’m going to ask God one day myself. In Exodus, you, you hear, you see, God says, I have heard the cry of my people and I will step down and liberate them. But that’s after 430 years of them being enslaved and brutalized. Or the Holocaust, the plot that Bonhoeffer on the margins participated in. And the bomb actually exploded, but it happened to be by a big thick oak stand to a table and Hitler was not injured. What if, what if that had been just a little, you know, six inches to the right and it would have killed Hitler that would have saved how many people? Who knows? I have no idea. I have no idea why God makes those decisions.

I have known of a few, of very few apparent miracles in my lifetime, including one good friend who was apparently healed of stage four pancreatic and liver cancer, which I had never heard of that. And she to this day says, I have no idea why me? Why me? It’s as urgent a question as you often hear that, why me from the people who came down with cancer, you know, why me? And here she’s saying, I was healed and I have no idea why. And I don’t think any of us know. Certainly God didn’t attempt an answer to Job. We just have to go by what, by the character of God that is revealed in Jesus. That is primarily what we do as Christians, and then save up some of those questions. God doesn’t mind the questions. That’s why the Bible is full of those questions.

Jim: 

I think one of the ways you start to answer some of that question in the book is again, with this progression and how God has seemed to work as Father in the Old Testament there on the mountain, as Son in the person of Jesus, and then as Spirit of working through the church and one of the lines you write in here: “Is God silent? I answered that question with another question. Is the Church silent? We are his mouthpiece, his designated vocal cords on this planet.” In some sense then is the claim that disappointment with God really turns out to be disappointment with the church? With the people who are his image bearers now. Quite often throughout the book to you, you invoke God risking, risking his reputation, risking his entire plan for all of creation on these people that he’s given his Spirit to now, that don’t always represent him so well.

Philip:

Right. I believe in that book I quoted Dorothy Sayers, who said that God has undergone three great humiliations, one was in Jesus deciding to become a human being. The second was in the cross–dying–not just dying, dying a brutal agonizing death reserved for criminals. But the third one she said was the church. That’s God’s great humiliation, in trusting divine reputation to the likes of us. And I remember once I was being interviewed on a secular radio program after having written this book, Where is God, When it Hurts and the person didn’t want to be talking to, religious talk, didn’t want to be talking to a person who had just written a Christian book and said, you and I didn’t really have time to read this book. Can you just answer that question in a sentence or so? And I said, let me think. A part of the answer to where is God when it hurts is where whereas the church, when it hurts? We are God’s representatives on earth.

And as a journalist, I have again and again seen that when the church is doing what it’s supposed to do, and it’s on the front lines, when it’s reaching out after a tsunami or an earthquake or a hurricane in Houston or flood, in places like that, often it is the Christians who were there and the Christians who stay after the government has done their work and left. Even today in places like Houston and in New Orleans, there are church groups this weekend who will go, who have been going for several years now, rebuilding houses that the government gave up on.

And you don’t have people sitting there thinking, does God care about me? They know God cares because God’s people are caring and demonstrating that caring. I remember being in Japan just after the devastating tsunami. These are not believers. They’re nominal Buddhists, if anything, don’t really have an idea of God. But people from Samaritan’s Purse, Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, had spent months building their houses, rebuilding their houses. And they, and people say, why are you doing this? Well, because we believe God is unhappy. That God grieves with you, God wants you to have a house, and we’re followers of God. So we’re building you this house. Here are the keys, absolutely free. It’s yours now.

I think it was Miroslav Volf, the Croatian theologian who said, maybe the best apologetic today goes like this. It’s hand to heart to head. You reach out with acts of mercy with your hands. When you do that, you touch people’s hearts and then they want to know why. Why did you do that? Why did you care ? You live 10,000 miles away. Well, because we believe God cares and the only way we can communicate that is to, on God’s behalf, serve you, rebuild this house for you.

Jim: 

So there’s an irony in, in this again, in that, uh, those stories you just gave were primarily people outside of the church who were responding in some way to these generous acts that Christians have done for them where the book again was written for people within the church who are disappointed by people within the church, by these communities that we first started talking with.

Philip: 

You’re right. And I think that’s why Jesus stayed in connection with the Pharisees. He didn’t just say, I never wanted to speak to you people again. He spoke truth to them. But they were the ones you know who did God choose to be the hinge missionary of all time? A Pharisee of the Pharisees, the Apostle Paul. Because he knew they had the discipline, they had the knowledge, but they had the wrong spirit. They had that exclusive arrogance which, which the church has failed in again, and again. You know, we’re dogmatic, we think this is right and you’re wrong. And so we won’t have anything to do with you. We exclude you.

And part of our job within the church is of course, to communicate the good news to the rest of the world who don’t know it. And then part of our job is also to communicate to people, our fellow brothers and sisters who don’t act like it’s a good news and aren’t communicating it as good news. And if we do that, you know, we’re all piping the same tune, the tune of grace, It changes things. But boy, it recently in the United States, more and more that people see the church as bearers of bad news, not good news. Not a place of compassion, but you know, these are the evangelicals who are against the migrants. These are evangelicals who are against the poor people. You know, that’s how we are caricatured today.

Jim:

One more point on, disappointment with God here. So we’re looking to the church, these spirit filled believers to be the mouthpiece of God so that God is not silent. God is working through the church. He’s given his image, his reputation to this group of people. What I think that does for some people though is to say, doesn’t that distance God from these events that we’re concerned about here now that we wanted God to step in and intervene and do something about? If God has designated the church to be his hands and feet and mouth, does that take something away from our feeling that God is in control and that God will always look out for me and protect my kids and keep us safe?

Philip:

Yes, it does. And not all kids are safe and not all people are safe. There are Christians who were killed today because of their faith, who were in prison, who were beaten, and that has been true. That’s no surprise to Jesus. He told his disciples, here’s what’s going to happen to you. You’re going to be hauled into court. You’re going to be beaten. Some of you’re going to be killed. He’s told his 11 disciples to 11 of the after Judas left, 10 of those remaining 11 died martyr’s deaths from everything we know. So, there is a cost for sure in turning over the mission to the likes of us. And we do have a lot of promises in the Bible that it’s not always going to be like that. There will be a time when God will, in a sense, take the wraps off.

It’s a scary time. It’s the book of Revelation where God appears once again with power unleashed. You talk about body bags. The scenes in Revelation are horrific scenes and they’re the final onslaught of evil and the final destruction of evil for the new heaven and the new earth. So that’s the hope, the shining hope that we have and the lion lying down with the lamb. You know, there are indications that all of the rules of creation will be different, which is an indication that God is not satisfied with those rules of creation now.

Jim: 

So now you say at the end of the book, “the alternative to disappointment with God seems to be disappointment without God.” So is disappointment, just part of the human condition that we’re stuck with here?

Philip:

I hope we are. I hope every Christian is disappointed. I hope every Christian is disappointed that there are people who didn’t have enough food today, that there were nine year olds in India sold into slavery and in Hindu temples to be a temple prostitutes. Um, there are lots of reasons to be disappointed in the world and we’re called to feel that disappointment and not just sit around feeling bad about it, but to do something about it that is part of our mission and in the world. And, and again, as a journalist, I’ve seen it again and again, Dr. Brand being a prime example, so disappointed with people who are disfigured by the disease leprosy to dedicate his life to the lowest people on the planet. People who are in the untouchable caste in India who had leprosy. Here’s this brilliant surgeon–he didn’t, he didn’t throw away his life–he invested his life. And that’s what we’re called to do as Christians.

Jim: 

Thanks for talking with us.

Philip: 

My pleasure.


Featured guest

Philip Yancey

Philip Yancey, author of books like Disappointment with God, The Jesus I Never Knew, and What’s So Amazing About Grace, is one of the best selling Christian authors alive today. His interactions with Christians from around the world and his early church experiences inform his writing on faith, the problem of pain, and unexpected grace. He holds graduate degrees in Communications and English from Wheaton College and the University of Chicago. Yancey lives in Colorado as a freelance writer and avid hiker.


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