Monday, March 04, 2013

Book Review: The Ragamuffin Gospel

A while back, I asked about books on grace, and this one came highly recommended. Having never heard of it before, I spotted it in a secondhand bookshop and decided to have a read at it. Now, having finished it, I'm not entirely sure about it at all.

There's not doubt that it's about God's grace for ragamuffins (whatever they are), or in Brennan Manning's words, 'the bedraggled, beat-up and burnt-out.' He makes an impassioned plea for grace, free grace, without religious bondage or baggage; open for all to receive, all who know their condition and can't achieve, but simply receive.

As he makes clear, it's not about impressing God, scrambling for brownie points, or anything like that. He even talks about the Reformation and the rediscovery of justification by grace. My heart sang. Hallelujah! Especially for Brennan Manning, a former Catholic priest to talk so openly and welcomingly - preach it brother!

And yet. Let the reader be warned. It's about grace all right, but it seems to come with an awful lot of other baggage and unhelpful accompanying stuff. While rejoicing in the reformation, Manning is still caught up in Catholic structures and strictures. He freely dips into other religions, allying them with his cause; using them as illustrations of the grace of Jesus Christ (Zen, Jewish, Buddhist, Islam). There are all sorts of mystical experiences and visions and apparitions and 'words' presented as par for the course - which are certainly not part of the gospel of free grace!

In sum total, it appears to be grace plus all these wee extras - as if the precious and very great promises (2 Peter 1) are not enough for the believer. In places, my heart may have sang, but it was worryingly quieted by some of the presenting material and illustrations and experiences.

For that reason, I don't think I could recommend this book. At the very least, let the reader be aware and warned of the issues and problems - perhaps too great and overwhelming against the good parts. So my quest continues - a good book on grace, please?

PS - The version I read was a newer edition by Authentic Media (not the one in the picture below). Their spelling was very bad - perhaps a sub-editor was caught napping with the number of little errors that slipped through!

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