April 28, 2017

Some Thoughts On Brennan Manning (and The Furious Longing of God)

The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning

Justification by grace through faith is the theologian’s learned phrase for what Chesterton once called “the furious love of God.” He is not moody or capricious; he knows no seasons of change. He has a single relentless stance toward us: he loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners. False gods — the gods of human manufacturing — despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. But of course this is almost too incredible for us to accept. Nevertheless, the central affirmation of the Reformation stands: through no merit of ours, but by his mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of his beloved Son. This is the Good News, the gospel of grace.-Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel.

I have owned every book that Brennan Manning has ever written.

As Christian books go, they are among the most divisive and provocative you’ll ever read or discuss. A reviewer of the current book at the discernment blog The Discerning Reader is typical of the kind of assessment Manning elicits from the Knights of Reformed Orthodoxy. I could use up blog space, but there’s no real point. You can read it for yourself. If you’ve spent much time around Manning, you’ll soon be able to write this kind of criticism in your sleep. It’s been going on for years.

I remember when one of my co-workers asked me for something good to read. I’d just finished Abba’s Child, a book quite similar to The Furious Longing of God, and I passed it on to her. In a couple of weeks, the book was returned with a note in between the pages. The note was angry, and like the review cited above, pronounced the book a waste of time.

Brennan isn’t for everyone. I learned that long ago. But he sure is for me, I can tell you that.

Let’s be honest. Brennan Manning isn’t an exegete or a expositor. He’s a Catholic. He’s a mystic. He’s a story-teller. He’s sloppy. He makes no attempt at neat Systematics. He quotes other writers, some of them a bit off the farm. He repeats the same ideas and stories in almost every book. He never seems to be anything other than weak and in desperate need of help from God. His prose is occasionally excessive and sometimes obscure. He can be frustrating, puzzling and disturbing.

And Brennan Manning is, for my life (and the lives of thousands of other devoted readers), simply the most indispensably authentic writer on the God of Jesus Christ I’ve ever encountered. Brennan knows Jesus and can bring you right there like no other writer of our time.

One thing I can say for every critic who finds Manning “a waste of time:” They are not longing, in the midst of the wreckage of their own souls, to hear, existentially and constantly, the assurance of God’s absolute love and affection. I can say this with some certainty, because no one can compare to the ability of Brennan Manning to stop you and embrace you with the astonishing love of God.

The Furious Longing of God is almost a brief review of ideas Brennan’s communicated many times before. He says as much. There is a kind of weariness and finality to this book. Unlike a book like Ragamuffin Gospel– a book written when Manning was at the height of his powers- Furious Longing of God gives evidence of a Manning who has delivered his best words many times, and now wants to point to and underline them once more.

Brennan’s health has not been good and his traveling ministry has been postponed. I’m sure Brennan needs the support of those who love and appreciate him these days.

There’s a reason people like Rich Mullins, Richard Rohr, Eugene Peterson and Michael Card love Brennan Manning, and there’s a reason discernment ministries despise Manning. You’re big boys and girls. I don’t need to do your thinking for you. Read it for yourself. Manning has committed his entire life to speaking the word of God’s love and to encouraging people to CONSTANTLY be flooded, liberated and changed by that love. He, above anyone I know, teaches the necessity of simple prayer. No popular writer is more on target with the heart of God that comes to us in Jesus. No one has more compassion and helpful application to the last, least, lost, broken, dying, hopeless and weighed down.

Brennan Manning has been a gift to the church. The Furious Longing of God reminds us why.

For the sake of the bound-up minds and imaginations who believe Manning is some version of Eckhart Tolle, I hope he sells a million copies.

Comments

  1. dubbahdee says:

    I have not read Manning, but some of what is said of him here reminds me of the sort of themes I have experienced in the writing of Robert Farrar Capon. He has had a profound effect on me, similar to what some of you write regarding Manning. Anyone sufficiently familiar with both to compare/contrast?

  2. Yes.

    Different ways of writing. Capon is extremely “blue collar” while Manning is a bit more poetic and polished. But both have the same view of grace, though Capon is more about working with scripture and theology and Manning is about Christian experience.

  3. I chose my moniker as a nod to the influence and help Manning’s book (and Rich Mullins’ music) had on my life. “The Ragamuffin Gospel” was one of a handful of books I read 3-4 years into my Christian walk that talked me off the ledge and gave me hope again. The spiritual beatdown of legalism and a view of God that was way out of balance in favor of being harsh and unyielding left me worn out and ready to give up on this whole notion of Christianity.

    Thank you, Brennan. I love a good systematic theology study as much as the next guy, but your books and the way you live literally saved me from ruin.

  4. Your post puts into words how I feel about Brennan Manning. His “theology,” if you could call it that, is for the broken ragamuffin’s club for which I am a card-carrying member.

    It’s not for everyone because not all are broken ragamuffins. Good for them… (I suppose)!

    I visit your blog now and again and I think I have even quoted you off to the right on mine.

    I also favorite you.

    Keep up the good work. “E.”

  5. One thing I have learned from Brennan is that it is much more important to come to the reality that I am loved than thinking that I have my theology down pat.

    I have jumped through all the religious hoops I care to jump through. So as a reminder to myself… my 4 month old boy has this author’s namesake.

    More than anything, I want my son and also my daughter to know that they are loved. Moreso than being right. No matter how much they ever screw up like their father has.

    Thank you for shining a little light on this ragamuffin author.

  6. Thank you for your post on Brennan Manning. I do share your thoughts about him and his works. I do confess that his words, that “God loves me as I am and not as I should be”, were used by God to begin the transformation of my life. They gave me the courage to leave the road of a performance-oriented and head-centered faith and journey the road less travelled: the one of weakness, of grace and of learning to experience the great and tenacious love of my abba within my heart.