Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Yancey works under the Evangelical Christian beliefs that Jesus was God in the flesh and that the Gospels offer true accounts of Jesus’ life. His central concern is that modern Christians, particularly middle-class American believers like himself, too easily lose sight of Jesus as he is truly presented in the Bible and as historical scholarship tells us he must have been. He discusses his own struggle to go beyond the familiarity of the Gospels and church traditions and find new perspectives on Jesus the man and Son of God.

Yancey applies historical knowledge of first century Jewish culture to emphasize that Jesus was born in dangerous circumstances, grew up in a Jewish family, and lived as a Jew. Yancey also explains that Jesus, in blessing the poor and meek, refusing to be crowned king, and ultimately accepting his own death at Roman hands, utterly failed to meet traditional Jewish expectations of the Messiah as someone who would free them from political and religious oppression. When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, it was not a political entity with earthly power.

Yancey looks at the problem of how Jesus’ uncompromising teachings could realistically be applied to everyday life; he offers a personal perspective that has allowed him to accept God’s grace and forgiveness while hoping to achieve a higher standard of holiness. He revisits Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection by imagining what it would have been like to witness those events as a disciple, then applies that perspective to his own response as a modern Christian.

Yancey notes that Jesus provided a picture of God’s respect for humankind’s free will; Jesus showed that God longed to love and be loved, but would not force people to follow him. Ultimately Jesus’ abdication of earthly power at Calvary was proof of God’s love, and those who believe in the Resurrection can hope the world will be restored in spite of its violence and squalor.