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Reform Magazine | July 21, 2017

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20 Questions: Philip Yancey

Author Phlip Yancey gives 20 answers

Are things getting better or worse?
Be serious: Syria, Brexit, the Middle East, North Korea, Donald Trump. Would anyone answer ‘better’?

Where would you like your mortal remains to go?
Long ago, when we were young and healthy, my wife and I donated our bodies to medical schools to dissect. Now we’re just two more old codgers for them to cut apart.

When did you last pray?
This morning, around 6:30am.

Why did you last pray?
I begin every day with prayer, because I believe in it.

Who was your first pet?
Buster Brown, a mongrel dog named after a shoe store. He was my favorite pet until he fell into a septic tank and never smelled the same again.

Pick three words to describe your faith.
Strong, tortured, essential.

What is your favourite hymn?
‘O Word of God Incarnate’

Do you dance?
Not by anyone’s definition but my own.

Does God have a sense of humour?
Only in the Commonwealth – over here in the US God has a sense of humor. Consider the animals outside my Colorado home, which include a skunk and a porcupine. Could a humourless Creator have come up with those?

Where is a ‘thin place’ for you?
The Rocky Mountains. I’ve climbed the 54 highest peaks in Colorado, all over 14,000 feet. It’s a wonderful way to feel close to God – 14,000 feet closer than most people.

What was your favourite school subject?
English literature, of course. Thank you, dear mother country.

What is your proudest achievement?
Probably climbing the mountains. Although I’d have to say, writing is much harder.

Which Old Testament character would you most like to meet?
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. I love his vulnerability and stubborness.

What is your karaoke choice?
Never done it. I don’t listen to much music written after, say, 1913.

What is in your pockets?
A Swiss Army knife, a handkerchief and a cough drop. I’m still recovering from bronchitis after a week in the UK winter.

Who was your childhood hero?
Mostly they were baseball players, which you likely wouldn’t know.

What is your favourite bit of the Bible?
I like the passionate books, such as Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Hosea, Job. For doctrine, Paul is hard to beat. The Gospels leave me shaking my head, marvelling.

What is your least favourite bit of the Bible?
All those atrocity stories in the history books, and the detailed Levitical laws that seem so odd today.

What is the best thing in the zoo?
The okapi – a hybrid mammal that was only discovered a century or so ago.

What is your favourite phrase from another language?
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

What would be your one question to God?
If you plan an eternity that includes free will yet excludes pain and suffering, why didn’t you go with that plan in the first place rather than making us endure the agony of history on earth?

Is there life after death?
I believe yes. It’s the only way to believe in a God of justice and power, in light of the
injustices of history.

Philip Yancey is the author of 30 books on Christian faith and spirituality

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This article was published in the March 2017 edition of  Reform.

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