Rumours of Another World:
by Philip Yancey, Zondervan, 2003, 245 p.
In this latest book, Philip Yancey seeks to address people living on “the borderlands of faith.” This includes those who do not believe in an invisible world beyond the natural world as well as those who do but have difficulty articulating why they believe. The central question under discussion in this book, then, is whether there is an invisible world beyond the world we see, and if there is what difference that makes for humankind.
Yancey admits that it is impossible to prove the existence of God and an invisible world. As philosophers have pointed out through the centuries, every argument rooted in the natural world for a good God can be countered with an argument against God. Nature, at it’s ugliest, argues strongly in favor of a world of pure chance. Yet, argues Yancey, there are rumours of another world which we encounter in the natural world that can not be silenced.
Modernists find it hard to see anything beyond the natural world because of their reductionist tendencies. They have majored on taking things apart – reducing reality around them to its smallest components. Yet it has failed to put it back together in a meaningful and life-giving way. But, argues Yancey, when we move past the world of reductionism and train our senses on the rumours of another world, we will begin catching on to the hints of another world imbedded in the natural world around us.
Yancey sees these rumours in good art that speaks of something more than what we see literally, in romantic love and sex that rises above animal instincts, and in our many natural desires longing for fulfillment. He also sees rumours of another world in the outrage against evil that happens around us. There is a wide-spread sense within humanity that something has gone wrong in the world, that something is out of order, that there is a higher purpose to life than what is now experienced. And humankind’s tendency to deify nearly everything physical speaks of a vacuum left when only the reality of this world is acknowledged. But this is only the beginning of the list of rumours of another world Yancey sees.
In the end, Yancey challenges his readers to live with stereoscopic vision: seeing the natural world but also the signs imbedded within it of another world. His conclusion is that this is the worldview that best gives meaning to life and a chance for wholeness to emerge among us. His advice to those living in the borderlands of faith is to consider “…the thin places where the natural and supernatural worlds come together at their narrowest, with only a thin veil between,” as Celtic spirituality recommends.
The impact of this book in my life came largely with a renewed affirmation that the natural desires within me are pointers to the supernatural, not obstacles to be overcome in order to experience authentic spirituality. This is a book worth reading for anyone attempting to live authentically in this world while suspecting that there may be more to it than meets the human eye.