Manning does a remarkable job revealing the true nature of grace. It's not an easy sell for many of us who have been raised to think that God is sitting in a cloud keeping score, hoping we are good enough to join Him someday. God's love is pretty tough to describe, but this book does it better than any other I have encountered.
One more thing . . . God does not hate anyone, especially not us "sinners." Romans 5:6-8 is the perfect scripture: 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (1)
Buy this book. It's the truth!
(1) The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed.) (Ro 5:6-8). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Brennan Manning did a phenomenal job on his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel. His wit and wisdom are one of a kind. Using words that go straight to the heart, Manning has packed this edition with real life stories told in such a well-formulated manner and figures of speech that rival that of contemporary Anne Lamott, but told in a respectful way.
This book specifically speaks to the broken down, burned out, and, well, ragamuffin. Jesus spent most of his time with such people and Manning pleads with the reader that this is how it reflected Jesus' ministry. The gospel is for the poor and needy. It is for the outcasts of this world. This book is about graceâ€”the relentless and unmerited grace of God. It is by grace we have been saved and by grace we live, moment by moment. Every breath we take is by the grace of God. Reading this book will open any reader's eyes to the marvelous and awesome gift of grace. If reading this book does not leave the reader even more lost in with Creator God and his grace and love, they have yet not experienced that grace and love.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.
I was initially excited about reading the book. My excitement was because the book has sold so many copies, because it was accepted well by many Protestants, and because Michael Card blurbed on it. I am not a crazy fan of any of the people who blurbed on the book, but I have always heard good things about Michael Card and it made me curious whether the book would be good or not. I also was really confused as to why so many protestant would blurb on a former Catholic priest's book that seeks out to define the gospel. The book is about Raggamuffins. Raggamuffins are ""the burdened, the wobbly and weak-kneed, the inconsistent, unsteady disciples... the smart people who know they are stupid... the honest disciples who admit they are scalawags." The book seeks out to demonstrate that Christ loves you, no matter where you are in your life and no matter what you are doing/ have done. The gospel according to Manning is that Jesus Christ so much loved these Raggamuffins that he would do anything to be in relationship with them. Manning then calls the reader to love others in a similar fashion.
"To evangelize a person is to say to him or her: you, too, are loved by God in the Lord Jesus"(The Ragamuffin Gospel p. 120).
"You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now. . . . Do not try to do anything now. . . . Simply accept the fact that you are accepted." If that happens to us we experience grace. (p. 29).
This is not a proper form of evangelism or even evangelism at all. Sinners need to be confronted by the fact that they are sinners and that they need an alien righteousness in Christ Jesus. Sinners are not loved by God they are actually hated (e.g. Romans 5:6-8, Proverbs 6:17, Proverbs 6:19, Ps. 139:22, 2 Peter 3:9, Romans 9:13, Proverbs 11:20, Psalms 5:5, Ps 16:6-9, Hosea 9:15, Lev 23:23). The gospel is not that you are accepted by God, but that you are alienated from God and an object of his wrath unless you repent and turn to Christ as Savior. Manning's gospel is a gross misinterpretation of the bible gospel. I recognize with Manning that Christ came for the sick, but the sick recognize that they were sick and need a doctor. Without the realization that one is alienated from God and that God hates his sin, one would be hard pressed to find a reason why we would even need Christ. Manning's gospel makes Christ apathetic to sin. For Manning, Christ does not care about your sin. This is problematic for the fact that the majority of the NT addresses the seriousness of sin, especially in the life of the church. 1 Cor 5 discusses what the church is to do if sexual sin is found within the church and that involves excommunication of an unrepentant sinner. In the story the woman at the well, Jesus forgives her sins, and calls us to sin no more. This story is not an example of the Christ being carefree in regards to sin, but Christ forgiving sin and calling for righteous living out of thankfulness from His grace.
Here are some other problematic issues within the book
Manning says, "God is a kooky God who can scarcely bear to be without us" (p. 165).
Acts 17:24-25, Job 35:6, Psalm 50, Rev 4:11 demonstrate that God needs nothing and that only by his good pleasure did He create us. Creation was not out of necessity, but out of his good pleasure.
Manning says: "The Story goes that a public sinner was excommunication and forbidden entry to the church. He took his woes to God. â€˜They won't let me in, Lord because I am a sinner.' â€˜What are you talking about?' said God. â€˜They won't let Me in either (p. 30)."
This is another example of Manning critiquing a scriptural command given to the church to discipline those who are living in unrepentant sin (1 Cor 5).
Manning says: "Something is radically wrong when the local church rejects a person accepted by Jesus: when a harsh, judgmental and unforgiving sentence is passed on homosexuals; when a divorcee is denied communion; when the child of a prostitute is refused baptism; when an unlaicized priest is forbidden the sacraments" (The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. -28-9).
Yet another example by Manning of God's apathy toward sin.
Brennan Manning has written a masterpiece on grace with The Ragamuffin Gospel. In Manning's own words, the book was written for "the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out". In fact, those were the very types that Jesus ministered to most frequently.
Ragamuffins are simply marginalized, ordinary, overlooked, common people. People like the woman at the well, beggars, thieves, tax-collectors, little children, and fishermen were the ones Christ most often associated with. Why? Simply because these were often the ones, not only with the greatest needs, but the ones who realized they had no means of receiving grace on their own. They needed help, they needed love, and they were rewarded for the faith in the person of Jesus Christ. Humility and brokenness, coupled with desperate pleas are heard by God.
I believe Brennan Manning is an eloquent writer. The Ragamuffin Gospel helped me in my faith journey. It encouraged me to abandon myself to grace - that unmerited, undeserved, freely given love of God. I have read this book multiple times, wearing it out with a highlighter and writing in the margins. Manning has been a major influencer in reminding me of the depths of Christ's love during some difficult days. I want to love more like Christ did as a result of reading this book! I would gladly recommend this to anyone wanting to challenge their perceptions of God as a small-minded, cold-hearted, distant "man". That God does not exist except in the errant person's warped mind. The God I know and serve consumes my life and loves me unashamedly. He loves us all and desires a personal relationship with anyone who will come to Him by faith in His precious Son.