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Monday, December 19, 2005

cover of Soul Survivor

This book deals somewhat with Yancey's own wounding by the church, and most of the pages are dedicated to the people that Yancey believes helped him to survive, and even thrive, as a Christian. In each case, he provides biographical data, and his own interactions with these people-- whether he has met them (which he has, in many cases), or how their writing or work have affected him. It is a book that takes a while to read, because there is so much to digest and take in, but it is well worth the time.

The book is made up of 13 chapters, and each one focusses on a different person (or people, in the case of Tolstoy & Dostoevsky, who are paired together). Each person provides different kinds of lessons and encouragement.

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. - the courage to make moral choices, despite being a flawed person
  • G. K. Chesterton - the joyous, energetic outlook of the prolific journalist and author
  • Dr. Paul Brand - a physician who studied pain and made great progress working with leprosy patients
  • Dr. Robert Coles - an insightful psychologist who studied the poor and downtrodden, among others
  • Leo Tolstoy and Feodor Dostoevsky - two Russian authors who understood the human psyche and could portray it so well, and who grasped different parts of the gospel; Tolstoy understood the call to perfection in spite of human flawedness, while Dostoevsky understood grace.
  • Mahatma Ghandhi - one man who accomplished amazing things, often more than armies could do; while not a believer, Ghandhi adopted principles from the life of Jesus, and lived more like him than most believers did.
  • Dr. C. Everett Koop - a Surgeon General who did his best at his job, remained upright in a corrupt political world, and alienated many because of the stands he took
  • John Donne - the poet and pastor who dealt with death and faith honestly in the meditations he wrote when he thought he was dying
  • Annie Dillard - the contemporary author who observes the things around her so carefully, and can see such horror and splendor in the world of nature.
  • Frederick Buechner - the author who wrote sermons and theological works that read more like novels and memoirs
  • Shusako Endo - the Japanese author who experienced alienation in so many ways, and instead of the martyrs and heroes of the faith, identified more with the Japanese Christians who renounced their faith in order to survive
  • Henri Nouwen - the priest and professor who gave up worldly success in exchange for "downard mobility" and "inward mobility", choosing poverty and life in a community of the kind of people society does not value

Many of the people Yancey writes about are authors, so the topic of writing and what it means to be a writer comes up more than once, in interesting ways and with different insights. At the end of each chapter, Yancey also provides suggestions for books to read as a starting point to find out more about each of these amazing people.

Title:Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church
Author:Philip Yancey
Date published:2001
Genre:Spiritual Biography
Number of pages:336
Notes:Read over a couple of months.


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