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 â€” the gods of human manufacturing â€” 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.