Review: Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel

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8 out of 10 Stars
Author: Brennan Manning
Publisher: Multnomah
Reading: Leisure

Brennan Manning is a skilled writer (I loved his telling of “a routine situation that every Catholic of my generation had to deal with” KL 480-492 of 3173) whose pen drips with a passion for sharing the love of God with people. His central message is God loves ragamuffins (sinners, downtrodden, prostitutes, et al). He ends a compelling introduction by saying, “The Ragamuffin Gospel is a book I wrote for myself and anyone who has grown weary and discouraged along the Way” (KL 88).

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Manning is a former Catholic priest turned ragamuffin evangelist who exudes a love for justification by faith. Reading Manning reminds me of Jesus's words to the Pharisees: great forgiveness creates great love. Manning knows he’s a great sinner and so he wades in the oceans of God’s love.

In effect, Jesus says the kingdom of His Father is not a subdivision for the self-righteous nor for those who feel they posses the state of secret salvation. The kingdom is not exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there. No, it is for a larger, homelier, less self- conscious caste of people who understand they are sinners because they have experienced the yaw and pitch of moral struggle. (184-94)

See also: John Paul Ortiz’s Review of Tullian Tchividjian’s One Way Love and “The Infinite Love of Our Suffering Savior

Reading The Ragamuffin Gospel brought to mind being surrounded by a firing squad. Manning surrounds you with gospel truth and pummels you with it, yet you feel alive after it’s all said and done. One last example, during an extended discussion of Jesus’s eating company in the New Testament, Manning says,

If Jesus appeared at your dining room table tonight with knowledge of everything you are and are not, total comprehension of your life story and every skeleton hidden in your closet; if He laid out the real state of your present discipleship with the hidden agenda, the mixed motives, and the dark desires buried in your psyche, you would feel His acceptance and forgiveness. (676)

That’s the kind of barrage of good news you can expect from Manning.

As with any writer, we have our differences. Manning seems more comfortable with mystic expression of Christian faith and also some sections had me scratching my head like at 812 seems to be saying there’s no room for talk of God’s divine justice or wrath. Especially for those who have been beaten over the head with law, Manning will provide healing through God’s gospel of grace and love. For those who are wearied, Manning will remind you God knows and loves you in the midst of your tiredness and failures.

Do you allow your feelings to control your perception of God’s love for you? Or do you trust his infallible and unbroken word? How would understanding the weight of God’s love for you change the way you live in this fallen world?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”