Brennan Manning is a bit of a controversial author. A former Catholic priest, Manning’s alcoholism ultimately led to his death. He was a well-studied man with a deeply rooted understanding of the love and grace of God, but also a man who was plagued by (and never fully delivered from) an addiction to alcohol. Manning wrote freely and confessionally of that struggle.
My first encounter with Manning’s writing was not The Ragamuffin Gospel, which was given a boost in popularity by the late Rich Mullins. Instead, it was his book “Ruthless Trust.” I was so impressed by that book that I began to form intentional practices of gratitude as a part of my personal Christian disciplines. I finally picked up The Ragamuffin Gospel only recently, when I was offered a free copy from the publisher in exchange for this review. (Don’t worry – the free copy didn’t influence my positive remarks!).
As in Ruthless Trust, Manning is a master of contrasting the painful situations of life, from moral failures to victimhood, with the mercy and grace of God. “Ragamuffin” is a term of endearment, used to express how Manning believes God sees us; his sinful creation who he continues to love.
I appreciate this about Manning’s writing. And “Ragamuffin” is a rather beautiful term. I also recognize the reality of deliverance from sin, and I can’t help but wish I could have sat down with Manning to discuss sanctification. “Brennan,” I would have asked, “does God desire to sanctify the Ragamuffin?”
Make no mistake, I am fond of Manning’s writing, and his description of God. I am, at the same time, shaped by the Wesleyan tradition, which encourages me to recognize that a Ragamuffin Gospel is incomplete if it does not include the sanctification of the Ragamuffin.
To be fair, sanctification isn’t the point of the term “Ragamuffin” or the book. The point is love, grace and mercy. And Manning nails it.