Philip Yancey: Knowing a good God in his good world

What inspires us? What gives expression to who God is? What fills us with a recognition of the Spirit of God moving through beach_sunrisethe earth and stirring in our souls?

Is it simply the songs we sing in worship services? The prayers we offer in our small groups? The words of a sermon?

Or is the truth we seek and find in these settings also threaded throughout our larger lives and broader landscapes?

Philip Yancey addresses these questions in a reflection in Christianity Today, drawing heavily on creation as one mode for inspiration and holy communion outside the physical walls of the church building. According to Yancey (paraphrasing Eugene Peterson), we rely upon “the whole good world” to deepen and extend our understanding of and connection to God:

“It was this whole good world outside as much as anything that brought me back to Christian faith. I emerged from childhood with a distorted image of God: a frowning Supercop looking to squash anyone who might be having a good time. I have since come to know God as a whimsical artist who fills the world with creatures like the porcupine and skunk and warthog, who lavishes the world with wildflowers and tropical fish more beautiful than any design on display in an art museum.”

What we find in “the whole good world” gives texture, taste, color—ultimately, a rich, swelling, fleshing-out—to what we know of God, and what we make of this life he’s given us.

After all, says Yancey, referring to the words of historian Mark Noll, “the rest of the world grows clearer, not dimmer, in the light of Christ. God created matter; in Jesus, God joined it.”


  1. John Silvius says:

    In my often faltering and feeble pursuit of God, He often reminds me that His pursuit of me is much more passionate and persistent than mine is toward Him. Francis Thompson wrote of God as “The Hound of Heaven” and I believe his metaphor is consistent with Romans 1: 19 which states, “that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.”

    God made the first move in pursuit of me, through the order and splendor of His creation–“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20).” Thanks for reminding me of the joys of communing with God in the fresh stillness of the morning of a new day.

    God also has pursued me by speaking forth His Word through men and women who were “not ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:15-16).” Thanks for reminding me of my Dad, and of Leroy and Pearl who revealed God’s truth to me as a young boy. Indeed, God’s pursuit of me began before the beginning of time when He determined to send forth the Living Word, Jesus Christ, Who created all things and in Whom all things in creation hold together, and Who is now reconciling all things to Himself through His Spirit (Colossians 1:16-20).

    With the psalmist, I say, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence (Psalm 139: 7)? How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them (v. 17)! Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way (v. 23-24).

  2. vennessa ilg says:

    I love it! Especially agree with “the rest of the world grows clearer, not dimmer, in the light of Christ”. We all should live this out every day!

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