Review: What Good Is God?

What Good is God: In Search of a Faith that Matters
by Philip Yancey

Does God matter? I mean, sure, Jesus died and all that, but does any of it matter today? If God is real, we should see him and his followers doing things that matter in this world, right? In this book, Philip Yancey investigates ten different places where Christians have made a difference. For each place, he writes a chapter of background, and then presents a talk he gave at each location. Places vary from a convention for former prostitutes to Mumbai during terrorist attacks to a Bible college he graduated from. In each place, he asks: Does God matter?

Yancey wrote the excellent Where Is God When It Hurts?, and as such I was eager to read this book.

Sigh.

OK, the good stuff: Yancey’s prose style remains excellent. He knows how to suck a reader in, and employs that skill to great effect. In each section, he gives good background. He tells the stories well, not shying away from pain. In particular, the part talking about the women who attended the conference for former prostitutes brought tears, as well as the panic in Mumbai during the terrorist actions. He talks about visiting South Africa repeatedly, as well as the Middle East and China. He shows a world desperately in need of something, and he shows that Jesus is what they need.

If you want to read a short primer on places that hurt and how Christians have responded, yes, this book shines. We see Christians bringing healing in South Africa, in Chicago, in Memphis. We see their love breaking down walls and suffering.

But then… then we read the talks he gave at each location. And I have to say… I was often disappointed. His talks gave thanks for the Christians working in such hard conditions and encouraged them to keep working. He told their stories back to them, and in that he did well.

But he didn’t talk a lot about Jesus.

I’m not entirely sure how you can encourage Christians without talking about Christ, but Yancey apparently did it. Is it possible he or an editor removed those references after the talks were given? I suppose so, but that seems very silly to me. Judging by what I read here, I don’t feel I grew in the grace and knowledge of Christ. I did grow in the knowledge of how Christians suffer around the world, though.

What that means is half this book is very useful to get a good feel for the global church, as well as how Christians have responded to sorrow they see around them. However, the half that’s Yancey’s talks could often enough be skipped and I would feel very little loss.

So if you find the book cheap (as I did), go ahead grab it. I wouldn’t pay full price, though. Instead, grab Where Is God When It Hurts? by the same author. You’ll be much better off.

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