on November 9, 1999
To the disappointed reader in Boston: I'm sorry you finished this book with the notion that Brennan is condoning sin. I disagree completely; I believe that Brennan challenges us to move past regret and shame, and to move forward to seeking God's love again, eschewing sin in the process.
The more you love God, the more you will _want_ to be free from sin to please Him. The important part of that statement is that love comes first. The goal of a Christian should NOT be to eliminate sin from one's life. Rather, it is to learn to love Christ more and more, and seek out his transforming power in your life. In doing so, sin becomes less desirable as your desires begin to match His; and your strength to resist sin becomes greater, as He lends you more and more of His own.
If you focus on your sin, you succeed neither in eliminating it nor truly feeling God's love. If you focus on the love, you will succeed in both with abundance. Yes, there are times when we must take active steps to change our lifestyle, our habits, our actions, our words, our thoughts---but again, the question you must ask is, "where is my focus? Is it on God or on my performance?"
For everyone who was raised in a performance-oriented household or church, I dare you to read this book, and then tell me: would you _want_ to sin if you could really believe in your heart that God loves you _that_ much, _that_ unconditionally?
on May 6, 2001
I opened the cover to this book, filled with a lot of skepticism. I was pretty certain that I was about to endure 200+ pages of hollow, feel good, Christian cheerleading. The title put me off more than anything else. 'Ragamuffin' is a word I associated with old ladies who had weathered the Great Depression -- the same old ladies (sweet though they were) who, with their toughness, scared me when I was a little kid in the 1960s. 'You look like a complete ragamuffin,' they would say as we stumbled in from a day playing in the woods. What?? I had NO idea what Raggedy-Ann dolls and muffins had to do with how I looked!
Even as a grown adult, I have kept a dislike for the term that Manning likes to use to describe so many of us. But, as I turned the pages of the book on a train ride from New York to Boston this winter, I found that sometimes the message is greater than the aesthetics of language.
This book is a wonderful reminder of God's Grace. Much more than cheerleading, this book highlights a mistake we often make in our understanding of God...and corrects it. Sometimes it is so easy to feel that we are not good enough, or that we must somehow 'earn' our place in the heart of God. But Brennan Manning reminds us that this is not the way of God. The One Who Loves Us accepts and Loves us just the way we are...as <cringe> ragamuffins. (If you don't know what that means -- read the book. You?ll be glad you did.)
on June 26, 2000
I read the original version of this book over 4 years ago and it changed my life. I am so excited to see this book reissued.
The message of Manning's book is The Gospel, pure and undefiled...God loves you, no strings attached. Not only does God love you but He is pleased with you and His saving grace is always there for you.
The book helped me out greatly because I was in a spiritually abusive situation at the time I read this it and it helped me to realize that there was nothing I could do to earn God's love. Many Christians accept God's Grace freely when they first dedicate their lives to Him. They then spend the rest of their spiritual walk trying earn that love and forgiveness (which we can never do).
Brother Manning's book is a refreshing Oasis in a Christian world full of works-oriented deserts.
Even if you think you completely understand what Grace and Love are all about there will be something for you in this book. This book will challenge the very way you look at God.
Included in this book is a foreward by Contemporary Christian Music giant, Michael W. Smith, plus a 10 year's after update by Manning, a study guide.
If you have yet to read this book, what are you waiting for? If you read this book a long time ago, now is the time to re-read it.
on January 18, 2004
My appreciation for the message in this book is overwhelming and resurges if I simply glance at its cover. The writing is intelligent, creative and engaging: Brennan paints a masterful picture of a loving God who reaches out for even (and especially) the worst of us.
To explain why this book spoke so beautifully to my heart, as the saying goes, "the taller you stand the farther you fall". I was for most of my young adult life a devoted and sincere Christian; I loved God and enjoyed His constant presence, was active in college Christian fellowship groups and mission trips and had intended on a life of mission work overseas. But during the year after I graduated from college, unforeseen circumstances - and weaknesses I didn't even know I had - cancelled my plans to "work for God".
Within the next year alone, my disappointment, feelings of being suddenly lost in world in which I'd previously thought to know my place and purpose, and a sudden sense of complete worthlessness left me reeling. I went from being what one might call a cookie-cutter Christian, admired as "shining with the light of Jesus", to struggling through severe depression, abusive drinking, eating disorders and unhealthy relationships. I contemplated suicide and often lied in bed crying with grief over what I thought must be God's deep, deep disappointment in me.
When I was introduced to The Ragamuffin Gospel by a dear friend "who knew me back when", I felt an inexplicable sense of relief after reading just a few pages. I felt I was engaging in a conversation with that rare type of person -- someone who understood how I felt, and better yet, had a sincere answer and hope to share.
In this book, Brennan tells many stories of people he has encountered along with other anecdotes that provide honest emotional moments to which each ragamuffin can relate. The author writes with a sincerity, which the reader comes to understand through his story, that stems from his also having to face inadequacies and disappointments with courage fueled by God's mercy.
This book will not be useful to anyone unaligned with the Christian faith, as its message is very Christ-centered. And for those whose faith is Christ-centered, Brennan points out in his foreword that this book is not for the Christians "who live only on the mountaintop and have never visited the valley of desolation." His proceeding illustrations of Ragamuffins includes this to which I most identify, "It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God."
My copy of this book, like my spirit, has faded, been tattered and used. I will read it again and again -- it is truly enriching food for the soul.
on April 17, 2000
I was raised a Catholic and am now a United Methodist. Never have I been told the material that resides in this book. I picked it up because I wanted to understand the reference Rich Mullins used in naming his Ragamuffin Band. It did far more for me that I can explain. I have spent my life listening to how God would "strike me down" with every sin and that my fate would be hell if I could not keep myself sinless. This impossible task drove me away from the church and nearly kept me away. Manning's message of grace was a shot in the arm to my faith. Never have I felt closer to God than after reading this book. I no longer doubt my destination.
on November 24, 2007
At first I started to dislike this book. Grace is a wonderful thing, learning of the Lord is needed, but all of this seemed a little too much for me. Maybe I am a legalist or a moralist, but it seemed to cheapen grace. One line resounds in my head, "in heaven there will be prostitutes, con-men, and corporate CEO's." There will be certainly these people in heaven, for the grace of God has no limits on forgiveness. But the author presented them as acting in these sins. Just a little too much for me. But as I read, I did enjoy and needed the message of resounding love ringing in my heart. The book motived me and inspired me to preach more on the merciful love of God. The book was too unbalanced for me, but the message of love warmed my heart and soul.
on March 11, 2000
I would recommend reading this book over and over, and over. Leave it alone for a while, and then if you're truly bored with life, read it again! Brennan Manning captures the real message about the wonderful grace and unconditional love of God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Open your heart to what Brennan presents to us and look at what Jesus gives us in a whole new light. But, of course, don't substitute what is contained in this book for what is so well-established in the Bible, God's Holy Word. The truth does set us free!
on December 9, 2006
"The Ragamuffin Gospel" is a well-written and emotionally persuasive book that tells the truth--but stops short of telling the full truth. In a conversational, sometimes autobiographical, and often eloquent style, Manning aims his message at Christians who have been crushed by the legalism that some religious people feel compelled to pass off as the Gospel. We should not pretend to be better than we are, says Manning. Instead, we must admit that we are all "ragamuffins," believing absolutely in God's love and forgiveness. As spiritual "children" we do not have anything we can give God; all we can do is trust in God's grace and we will be justified in His sight. This is the heart of Jesus' message, exemplified most beautifully in the parable of the prodigal son. Followers of Christ desperately need "to join Magdalene and Peter in witnessing that Christianity is not primarily a moral code but a grace-laden mystery; it is not essentially a philosophy of love but a love affair; it is not keeping rules with clenched fists but receiving a gift with open hands" (p. 211).
Up to this point I wholeheartedly agree with Manning. He is to be commended for assailing legalism, as it is certainly a distortion of the Gospel, and constitutes a grave threat to the spiritual life of Christians. Problems arise, however, in his understanding of the Pauline concept of faith, insofar as his thesis stands on an interpretation of "justification by grace through faith." Thankfully, Manning's purpose keeps him from the reductionist equation of faith with a mere "statement of belief" (i.e. faith is synonymous with assent to and/or denial of certain intellectual propositions, regardless of what devotion these propositions might require), as some Christians seem to have done with Paul's thought. Instead, in his zeal to undermine legalism, he effectively separates the concepts of "faith" and "works" from each other. The problem is that this separation is found nowhere in Paul's thought, and in fact, nowhere in the New Testament. It is, in truth, this separation of faith and works that lies at the root of both licentiousness and legalism. True faith always implies works; without works it is not really faith, since faith as "trust" is exemplified in the way we live. Similarly, true works are always "acts of faith;" stripped of faith they are not really acts of trustworthiness but a dead formalism. Legalism and licentiousness are merely opposite sides of the same coin. Manning rightly deplores legalism, but does not connect it to a lack of true faith; in this he is in unwitting danger of promoting the very thing he hates. And because he does not unify the concepts of faith and works, he is unable to grasp the full weight of the Pauline understanding of faith, or of grace working through faith, leading him to conclude that "grace stands in opposition to works" (p. 38). But to confess with Paul that humanity cannot "earn" its salvation by works does not require works to be the enemy of faith or of grace. By doing so the "Ragamuffin Gospel" offers a kind of "grace," but not a grace realized through faith.
Ultimately, grace is not grace without a crucifixion of sin. It isn't even "cheap grace," as Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it--it just simply isn't grace at all. And a crucifixion of sin involves not only Christ's crucifixion but ours as well. The lives of the great saints and martyrs of the Church testify to an unmerited saving grace, to be sure, but never to a salvation without effort or trial. "The Ragamuffin Gospel" preaches "Christ, and him crucified," but does so in order that we might avoid being crucified with him.
on January 5, 2000
"The tendency in legalistic religion is to mistrust God, to mistrust others, and consequently to mistrust ourselves. Allow me to become personal for a moment. Do you really believe that the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is gracious, that he cares about you? Do you really believe that he is always, unfailingly, present to you as companion and support? Do you really believe that God is love?"
With these words Brennan Manning challenges us to ask ourselves if we really believe. Are we willing to cast aside our action steps, our striving human effort, and make room for the God who is present, gracious, and who does care for us? Read this book and find out why you should.
on December 9, 2003
I grew up in an abusive, legalistic church, who stressed a life of utmost holiness as most pleasing to God, therefore my ultimate goal in my walk with Christ is to overcome sin. Unfortunately the more I try, the more I see my failures and my peace and joy in God fluctuates with my personal performance.
The Ragamuffin Gospel seeks to destroy the worldview of God that Christendom has created: You are saved by immense and passionate grace and mercy, but once you accept it, God has a checklist of sanctification and service that you must repay. Why would a God of unsearchable riches suddenly do a 180 and expect us to deliver a checklist of personal effort? Our "spiritual leaders" reinforce these lists often comprised of: Do your daily devotions, or God won't speak to you / Pray longer and harder or God won't know your heart / Do more service for church, you're not doing enough for God, you're spending too much time on yourself / If you don't have it all together, God can't use you, etc. etc.
Brennan Manning vehemently believes that God absolutely hates sin (as the other reviewers here focus on as their primary view of God), BUT, God's grace and mercy abounds all the more. IT IS THIS UNFATHOMABLE AWE OF EXPERIENCING AND KNOWING JESUS' LOVE THAT INSPIRES AND STRENGTHENS US TO FLEE FROM SIN, NOT OUR OWN RESOLVE.
A MUST read for anyone who has been raised in the modern institutional church.