50 Leaders of the Evangelical Generation: #46 Philip Yancey. Literary Plumb Line

[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

#46 Philip Yancey. Literary Plumb Line b.

One of the most popular evangelical writers of modern times, Philip Yancey is the product and victim of a hyper-fundamentalist upbringing. He considers himself a survivor of the church, and today he is a literary plumb line for believers being dragged to the abyss of legalism.

Yancey tackles the difficult questions of the Christian life and explores the richness of deep faith through his many books and as editor-at-large and regular contributor to Christianity Today magazine. Yancey’s books have won 12 Gold Medallion Awards from the Evangelical Christian Publishers’ Association and two Christian Book of the Year Awards–for The Jesus I Never Knew in 1996 and What’s So Amazing About Grace in 1998.

Yancey was born in Atlanta and grew up in a strict, fundamentalist church. He viewed God as an abusive parent-—rigid, legalistic, angry, ready to bring the gavel down for one wrong misstep. His only window to a larger world as a young man was reading. So, he devoured books that opened his mind and challenged to teachings of his church, books such as 1984, Animal Farm, and To Kill a Mockingbird. The more he read, the more frustrated he became.

“I was an angry, wounded person emerging from a toxic church, and I’ve been in recovery ever since,” says Yancey. “I went through a period of reacting against everything I was taught and even throwing my faith completely away at one point. I began my journey back to faith mainly by encountering a world that was quite different than I had been taught about; a world of beauty and goodness. As I experienced that, I realized maybe God had been misrepresented to me. So, I went back, warily circling around the faith.”

“I write books to resolve things that are bothering me, things I don’t have answers to,” Yancey says. “For those who struggle with my books, I just say, ‘Then you really shouldn’t be reading them.’ But some people do need the kinds of books I write. They’ve been burned by the church or they’re very upset about certain aspects of Christianity. I feel called to speak to those living in the borderlands of faith.”

–Jim Jewell

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About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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