What Good is God by Philip Yancey

April 30, 2011 6 Comments

I read What Good is God for a discussion with the Faith and Fiction Roundtable, though this work is non-fiction. This was my first experience reading this type of book, organized as a series of background articles on different issues like the shootings at Virginia Tech, missionaries in China, and the harrowing results of prostitution. Each article was followed by prepared remarks delivered by Yancy in front of an affected community. I loved the background Yancy provided, but I wasn’t all that impressed with his remarks. I was disappointed to find that they were mostly a collection of older speeches, and I didn’t think they sufficiently addressed the question that he sought to answer. After reading the first four sections fully, I skipped around more and read what interested me and kept my attention.

One of the arguments that I was taken with was included with the section on missionaries and the growing number of ministries that are popping up in China and the growing conversion rate of the Chinese. Through anecdotal evidence, Yancy seems comfortable implying that Christianity causes people to be better people – citing lower crime rates and greater responsibility in areas that have embraced the religion. I read the rest of that section with raised eyebrows. Having been raised in a Protestant religion, my main issues are usually not with the idea of faith, but with it (mis) application in terms of structure, indoctrination,  evangelism, and inflexibility. I think that people can be and do good without religion as well as be led astray within it. Yancy’s remarks prompted a long discussion with my mother on morality and values. For me, values can be apart of morality but they can also stand on their own in guiding behavior. My mother and I both agree that I got the values, but most of the religious indoctrination and ideas on morality, didn’t seem to stick.

When I think terms of fiction, the books where I have had the strongest negative reactions were morality tales, where the main point was to espouse one idea on and way of achieving goodness, or peace of mind, or whatever there is to be gained for doing the right thing. There are many reasons that people and communities exhibit certain traits and behaviors. No doubt, religious beliefs or lack thereof are a factor in that behavior, but to credit it entirely seems a little self-serving whether in religious texts or in the novels that I read.

For more discussions on What Good is God from the Faith and Fiction Roundtable, check out:

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