As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and I am very lucky that my church has it’s own book club to help me with this. In May, we read and discussed the classic Christian memoir, God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew. Next up, for our June meeting, was Vanishing Grace by best-selling evangelical author Philip Yancey.
Yancey’s international best-seller What’s So Amazing About Grace? explored Christianity’s great distinctive element from all other faiths: grace. Now in Vanishing Grace he returns to this theme and vigorously questions what exactly the church has to offer the broken world of today, and why, to outsiders, Christians often seem the bearers of bad rather than the good news! (I haven’t read the previous book, but I didn’t find this a problem as I found this book didn’t refer back to it or presume you had knowledge from it.)
Yancey discusses this whilst reflecting on the current, depressing state of the evangelical church in the USA. Honestly, I found this first half of the book slow and pretty hard going. Mainly because I found it difficult to relate to as – while the Church of England church I attend is evangelical in style – I am not an American evangelical and thankfully, I have never faced such negative and angry views against my faith.
Fortunately, Yancey then moves on to explain how it doesn’t need to be this way and draws our attention to modern-day pilgrims, activists and artists as examples of how to communicate the gospel to a world that thinks it is less and less relevant to them. Most importantly he suggests that Christians need to remind themselves about the good news at the heart of their own faith. This second half of the book was a lot easier going for me and I read it in less than half the time than the first half took me! Which means I finished this book just in time for my church’s book club meeting in mid-June.
At the meeting, I was relieved to find I wasn’t the only one who struggled a little with the structure of this book, in particular the first half. We all agreed we much preferred the second half, where Yancey highlighted inspiring individuals who live out and share the good news in simple, fresh ways, even though we felt the final chapter was superfluous as it added nothing new. Several members shared that they had read and enjoyed other books by this author, and that this was perhaps not his best. So I am definitely keeping an open mind about reading more by Yancey.
Overall, I thought Vanishing Grace was a challenging read and sometimes we need to be challenged, especially about our faith. Whilst I didn’t feel this had the best structure and style, I did think it had some real gems of wisdom, advice and inspiration within. Good read.
Have you read this? Or anything else by Philip Yancey?