26/01/2006

The Ragamuffin Gospel (by Brennan Manning)

Apparently this book was first published in 1990 and is now considered a classic, but I had never previously heard of Brennan Manning. I started to read the book because I was given it... and continued because I was so impressed by the writing, and encouraged by the content.

The book is, as the final chapter says, 'unbalanced'. It focuses on God's unconditional love for mankind, and the saving power of Jesus. It tries to help Christians to understand what they mean when they use the oft-quoted phrase about 'saved by grace'. It points out that we're all 'ragamuffins' - he deliberately doesn't use the word 'sinners', perhaps because that flows all too easily off the tongue. Instead, the picture of a ragamuffin is used throughout. Someone like Oliver Twist, perhaps: with nothing of beauty, no reason for anyone to care for us, nothing in ourselves that merits attention. Yet God loves us anyway, with the deep and passionate love of a father. We don't have to do anything to merit his grace. As Philip Yancey says in his book on the same subject: there's nothing we can do that will make God love us more, and nothing we can do that will make God love us less.

Does that mean we can do whatever we like, that our lifestyle doesn't matter? Of course not. Manning doesn't focus on our response, or Christian living, but there are many books which do. Of course God has standards, and we're called to holiness. But we don't have to strive for it, or struggle in our own strength. We accept God's love, take hold of his hand, and then find ourselves motivated to follow his commands and guidance. Will we ever succeed? Of course not, but every little step in the right direction is worth taking.

All in all, I thought this an excellent book. Well-written with an interesting style, including relevant anecdotes now and again, and often inspiring. There weren't any brand new insights, to be sure, but for those struggling with the concept of works vs grace, or caught up in legalistic forms of Christianity, I recommend it most highly.

(Note: you can also read my slightly longer review of 'The Ragamuffin Gospel', written after re-reading this book in 2012)

1 comment:

Michael said...

Sue,

Raggamuffin is my favorite Manning book and Manning is one of my top Christian authors. I saw him speak in person at a church in Tacoma, WA a few years ago, and he's mind-blowing.

If anyone one needs an antidote to performance-oriented christianity, then Manning is the prescription. After hearing him speak, I was dumbfounded over the difference between his message (unconditional grace) and the messages at my church (which I've since left). If you really understand Manning, you walk away overwhelmed with God's love for you and wanting to love Him and other people--rather than overwhelmed with guilt and feeling manipulated to love God and other people, like some churches leave you.