Philip Yancey: The Question Man

April 2014 - Cover Story
by Dawn González

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April 2014 - Cover Story

With a writing career that spans almost 40 years, Philip Yancey has sold more than 15 million books worldwide, making him one of the best-selling evangelical Christian authors. He’s penned numerous award-winning books, including two winners of the Evangelical Christian Publisher Association (ECPA) Book of the Year Award. He’s made a career of delving into difficult issues such as Disappointment With God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud (Zondervan, 1988), Prayer: Why Does It Make Any Difference? (Zondervan, 2006), What’s So Amazing About Grace? (Zondervan, 1997), and The Gift of Pain: Why We Hurt and What We Can Do About It (Zondervan, 1993), co-authored with physician Paul Brand.

Yancey doesn’t shy away from the difficult questions. Instead, he asks them humbly and honestly, as one of the masses. This approach has made him universally appealing, and his books have been translated into 35 languages. “Even today,” he says, “I cling to the stance of a solitary pilgrim struggling through difficult questions of faith—not an authority figure dispensing the church’s official position.”

Yancey is a 1970 alumnus of Columbia International University, where he met his wife, Janet. With graduate degrees in Communications and English from Wheaton College and the University of Chicago, he began his career as a journalist. He joined the staff of Campus Life magazine, a sister publication of Christianity Today, where he worked as writer, then editor, and eventually publisher. For years, he wrote a monthly column in Christianity Today magazine, where he continues to serve as Editor at Large.

Early in his career as a journalist, Yancey wrote for a variety of publications, including Reader’s Digest. In a column called “Drama in Real Life,” he chronicled the stories of people who had suffered tragedy. A recurring theme was the contradictory and confusing counsel from Christians attempting to bring meaning to those who survived tragic circumstances. He began grappling with Christianity’s failure to give a good answer. His attempt to answer the niggling question was a 336 page book entitled Where Is God When It Hurts?, published in 1977. The book sold more than 1.5 million copies and garnered the Gold Medallion Book Award from the ECPA.

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