The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

Manning is a former Roman Catholic priest who left the priesthood to marry. He has recently divorced his wife. He is a recovering alcoholic who lapses every so often. He is a product of pop-psychology and Roman Catholic mystics rather than Scripture. He is on the cutting edge of the contemplation prayer movement which is steadily leading evangelicals toward Eastern mysticism. He is questionably a universalist who has nothing good to say about the church but adores AA. Yet somehow he is all the rage among many evangelicals. The Ragamuffin Gospel is praised and endorsed by Michael W. Smith, Rich Mullins, Max Lucado, Eugene Peterson and Philip Yancy. It is the testimony of a beat-up, knocked-down sinner being saved by the grace of God. That’s the good news; no doubt this message centering on the grace of God is the primary draw of the book. There is nothing wrong, actually there is everything right, about that message. It is in the details where Manning strays.

•The sources for his philosophy of life range from Catholic mystics to Paul Tillich to Norman Mailer to Carl Jung.

•His use of Scripture is scanty but when he attempts to support his views from the Bible he usually goes astray (e. g. pp. 37, 142, 166-7, 220).

•He confuses “loving sinners” with “accepting their sin” (p. 33) and believes that forgiveness precedes repentance (pp. 74, 167, 181). This leads to continuous hints of universalism (pp. 21, 29, 31, 33, 37, 74, 223, 232) although he never directly claims to be a universalist.

•He is heavily soaked in pop-psychology which taints all he says: accepting self (pp. 49, 152, 229); self-intimacy (p. 49); loving ourselves (pp. 50, 168); inner child (p. 64); forgiving yourself (p. 115); self-image (pp. 147-148); self-worth (p. 148).

•He accepts a postmodern worldview and calls for us to be open-minded about truth, reality and Christ (p. 65).

•He consistently presents a lopsided view of God. God is loving and forgiving but never a judge, disciplinarian or punisher (p. 75), contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture.

•God is not man’s enemy, contrary to Romans 5 that says we are the enemy of God if we are not saved (p. 76).

•We are told that God does not test us or promote pain (p. 76).

•He believes that God speaks today outside of Scripture (pp. 94, 117, 186-187, 229) and that the presence of God is a felt experience that we should seek (pp. 45, 46, 94, 162, 229).

Add all of this up and we have a book that makes some good points, especially about God’s grace, but distorts so much about God and truth as to render it worse than useless—it is downright dangerous.