Growing up in a strict, fundamentalist church in the southern USA, a young Philip Yancey tended to view God as “a scowling Supercop, searching for anyone who might be having a good time—in order to squash them.” Yancey jokes today about being “in recovery” from a toxic church. “Of course, there were good qualities too. If a neighbor’s house burned down, the congregation would rally around and show charity—if, that is, the house belonged to a white person. I grew up confused by the contradictions. We heard about love and grace, but I didn’t experience much. And we were taught that God answers prayers, miraculously, but my father died of polio just after my first birthday, despite many prayers for his healing.”
For Yancey, reading offered a window to a different world. So, he devoured books that opened his mind, challenged his upbringing, and went against what he had been taught. A sense of betrayal engulfed him. “I felt I had been lied to. For instance, what I learned from a book like To Kill a Mockingbird or Black Like Me contradicted the racism I encountered in church. I went through a period of reacting against everything I was taught and even discarding my faith. I began my journey back mainly by encountering a world very different than I had been taught, an expansive world of beauty and goodness. Along the way I realized that God had been misrepresented to me. Cautiously, warily, I returned, circling around the faith to see if it might be true.”
Ever since, Yancey has explored the most basic questions and deepest mysteries of the Christian faith, taking millions of readers with him. Early on he crafted best-selling books such as Disappointment with God and Where is God When it Hurts? while also editing The NIV Student Bible. He coauthored three books with the renowned surgeon Dr. Paul Brand. “No one has influenced me more,” he says. “We had quite a trade: I gave words to his faith, and in the process he gave faith to my words.” More recently, he has felt the freedom to explore central issues of the Christian faith, penning award-winning titles such as The Jesus I Never Knew, What’s So Amazing About Grace? and Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?
Yancey’s books have garnered 13 Gold Medallion Awards from the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association, including two “Book of the Year” awards. His volumes have sold more than 17 million copies since his first book was published in 1977, and his titles have been translated into some 50 languages worldwide. Yancey was honored to be named 2020 Alumnus of the Year, by Wheaton College.
“I write books for myself,” he says. “I’m a pilgrim, recovering from a bad church upbringing, searching for a faith that makes its followers larger and not smaller. I feel overwhelming gratitude that I can make a living writing about the questions that most interest me. My books are a process of exploration and investigation of things I wonder about and worry about.” Yancey writes with an eye for detail, irony, and honest skepticism.
In 2021 Philip released two landmark books, starting with A Companion in Crisis: A Modern Paraphrase of John Donne’s Devotions, followed by Where the Light Fell: A Memoir. Philip Yancey lives with his wife in Colorado.
The Bible Jesus Read (1999), Zondervan
Church: Why Bother? (1998), Zondervan
A Companion in Crisis: A Modern Paraphrase of John Donne’s Devotions (2021), Yancey
Disappointment With God (1988), Zondervan
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, with Paul Brand (1980), Zondervan
Fearfully and Wonderfully: The Marvel of Bearing God’s Image (2019), IVP Books
Finding God in Unexpected Places (2005), Doubleday
The Gift of Pain, with Paul Brand (1993, 1997), Zondervan
Grace Notes (2009), Zondervan
Grace: Visual Edition (2003, 2010), Zondervan
I Was Just Wondering (1998), Eerdmans
In His Image, with Paul Brand (1984), Zondervan
In the Likeness of God, with Paul Brand (2004), Zondervan
The Jesus I Never Knew (1995), Zondervan
Jesus: Visual Edition (2010), Zondervan
Meet The Bible, with Brenda Quinn (2000), Zondervan
The NIV Student Bible, with Tim Stafford (1996, 2002), Zondervan
Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference? (2006), Zondervan
The Question That Never Goes Away (2014), Zondervan
Reaching for the Invisible God (2000), Zondervan
A Skeptic’s Guide to Faith (2009), Zondervan (formerly titled Rumors of Another World)
Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church (2001), Doubleday
Vanishing Grace: Bringing Good News to a Deeply Divided World (2018), Zondervan
What Good Is God? (2010), Hachette/FaithWords
What’s So Amazing About Grace? (1997), Zondervan
Where Is God When It Hurts? (1990), Zondervan
Where the Light Fell: A Memoir (2021), Convergent