Philip Yancey is a Christian writer who is not afraid to show the real grittiness of life. In his books there are no easy answers to life’s struggles, and he doesn’t console people with the superficial, sickly-sweet “God loves you”. There are few happy endings in the factual stories that he writes about.
Although I don’t often read Christian books that aren’t related to apologetics, I was particularly intrigued by Yancey’s account of Richard, a young Christian who looses his faith. Richard, who is writing a book on Job, slowly finds his faith falling apart. Despite the fact that Richard does everything right as a Christian, his life is plagued with struggle and pain. Eventually, he ends up loosing his faith entirely, and as a result he burns all his Christian books in his backyard. Yancey captures the de-conversion struggle well, and succeeds in painting a realistic picture of what it is like for someone to loose his or her faith. I can relate to this story. When I lost my faith I felt the same as Richard who says in the book: “A great weight had lifted. I had been honest with myself. Any pretense was gone, and I no longer felt the pressure to believe what I could never be sure of. I felt converted – converted from God”.
However, although Yancey accurately outlines what de-conversion can be like, he implies that Richard lost his faith as a result of the church and of the bad experiences in his life. Although these can be reasons why some leave the faith, Yancey doesn’t consider the third possibility that Christianity itself can be a major factor leading to de-conversion. From my own experience, I did not leave Christianity as a result of the church or of life’s struggles. Rather, I left because the claims and precepts of Christianity did not make sense to me any longer. I did not want to give up my faith, but I could no longer adopt a life philosophy that, in my mind, did not match what I observed in the world around me.
The rest of Disappointment with God was less interesting to me as a skeptic. Yancey’s guided tour of the Bible, highlighting the way God’s relationship changed with regards to humans, and offering of possible answers for life’s struggles from the book of Job, are all based on the assumption that the bible is true. This is okay, as Yancey himself admits that he does not write apologetics. For this reason I think this book is focussed more towards the struggling believer than the ex-Christian.