Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Ragamuffin Gospel: A Book Review

From Barnes & Noble

The Book

The Ragamuffin Gospel 
Brennan Manning

I decided to read this classic work again due to current events. I noticed that Brennan Manning was a trending topic on Twitter during the late hours of April 12. Several Christian artists and writers posted little tributes to him and I knew that he had passed on into glory. I added my own tribute to the author.

I posted a short tribute on this blog (By the Grace of God Go I), decided that this was a good time to re-read The Ragamuffin Gospel and even announced my intentions to my twitter friends:

Unfortunately, my reading life suffered that week due to the Boston Marathon Bombings, which merited another blog post (Thoughts on the #BostonMarathon Tragedy). However, I finally began and finished this small manifesto on grace last week.

Technical Merit

Brennan Manning was a cerebral writer. You can tell that he carefully chooses his words and illustrations for maximum effect. At times, he flirts with stream of consciousness writing, but always returns to his structured argument. I give him 4.5 out of 5 stars for technical merit. I feel that he uses just a tad too many quotes in this book. I understand that there are times when other men's words are more potent than your own, but I found myself wanting more of Brennan Manning's thoughts but got a curated list of phrases from others. Those quotes were potent and relevant, they were just a little more numerous than I expected.

Brennan Manning was also very candid with his life story. He generally uses himself as the negative example and other as positive example. This format is generally acceptable in order to avoid a condescending tone in the piece. In other words, his illustrations are graceful.


This book, as mentioned earlier, is an unabashed manifesto on God's grace which never ceases to amaze us. His premise is simple: God's every attribute is more immense than you can imagine, especially his grace. God's grace stretches past what we think we understand. As a corollary, a proper view of God's grace instills a humility in the Christian's life that properly orients us to both God and each other.

The Gospel of Grace is Brennan's preoccupation in this book. He argues that Grace is for those who feel they need it. Those who are too proud in themselves to receive grace miss out on it. This is where the ragamuffin comes in. He argues that the beat up, bedraggled, burnt out ragamuffin is the prime candidate for reception of God's grace. Christ came to seek and save the lost, those who are well have no need for a doctor, Christ was accused of identifying himself with sinners by going to their houses to eat and drink, the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus, the disciples--all of these cases strengthen the argument that God gives grace to the humble.

While Manning makes this argument, he makes a point of declaring that God's grace is not given as part of a meritocracy. Just as one cannot be good enough to deserve God's favor, there is no minimum required length for one's rap sheet in order to merit grace either. He clearly states that grace is distributed according to the Father's good pleasure. He gives grace because that is what he likes to do. Those who recognize their need are the ones who capitalize on it.

At Sunday worship, as in every dimension of our existence, many of us pretend to believe we are sinners. Consequently, all we can do is pretend to believe we have been forgiven. As a result, our whole spiritual life is pseudo-repentance and pseudo-bliss.

I featured this quote in a previous post on pseudo-spirituality because it encapsulates the essence of this book's importance to today's church. The chances of a non-believer picking up this book and realizing that God's gace extends to them is not impossible, but they are quite slim. Chances are, this book's impact is far greater on those who at one time considered themselves to be ragamuffins and accepted grace, but have since grown cold to grace as their sense of personal morality increased.

I suppose I can only speak for myself and my own experiences, but the church tends to grow in morality and shrink in grace as they progress with their spiritual lives. More emphasis gets placed on what activities please God and less emphasis is paced on God's desire to shed his grace abroad. When we pretend to be redeemed then we only pretend to have forgiveness. This make-believe Christianity is detrimental to our spiritual growth and well-being. Therefore, Brennan Manning argues that the only way to live the Christian life is in constant awareness of and reliance on the marvelous grace of God.


The grace of God is an immense thing. It truly is greater than all our sin. It is greater than we can fathom. Brennan Manning, if nothing else, reminds us of the enormity of God's grace and it's cleansing power. I place this book on my shelf right next to Max Lucado's "In the Grip of His Grace" and rate it similarly with regard to the topic. It is a must-read for all Christians, but it's especially pertinent to the Christian whose life has been turned around. It serves to check the pride that wells up in the heart of the redeemed, reminding them that without God's grace, we would be hopeless.
Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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