Describing this as an allegory is not quite right, but I heard Yancey describe it as an allegory in a podcast interview and I think that gets at a truth that other descriptions do not. There is not an allegorical story here (like Pilgrim’s Progress), but the book is largely taking the wisdom of Paul Brand’s years as a surgeon and a researcher into Lepersy and uses that knowledge to apply to the individual Christian life and the body of Christ.
Philip Yancey has rewritten and modernized the two books Fearfully and Wonderfully Made and In His Image into a new and updated book, Fearfully and Wonderfully. The science and many of the illustrations are recent, but the wisdom and stories from Brand are those from the older books.
Even though I read the older ones as a teen, I still regularly think about the central ideas, especially around pain frequently. I am not sure I would have picked this book up if it were not part of the Renovare Book Club, but because it was, I started reading the hardback. I sent the hardback to a friend and finished the book in audiobook.
I am a bit mixed on the updating. The metaphors and illustrations and science are current. But the whole book is also in Paul Brand’s voice and he passed away in 2003. The voicing is not particularly distracting, but I do find it a bit odd, but I don’t think the alternative of writing it in a different voice would have necessarily been better.
That being said, Fearfully and Wonderfully is a great book of spiritual wisdom. The spiritual wisdom of this sort is not about persuasion, but insight. No one is going to be persuaded to become a Christian because of the spiritual insights into science by a doctor even if he was an accomplished doctor. Instead, I think this type of spiritual insight should be seen as expanding on the understanding of people who are already Christians.
I think this would make an excellent book to discuss in a small group or a Sunday school class. I think the balance of personal story, science, and spiritual work keeps the book moving and interesting. And I think that Yancey, in Brand’s voice, particularly hits a number of theological points that are particularly helpful in our current cultural era.
This is one that I will pick up on kindle when it is on sale at some point in the future and read it again.