Monday, October 02, 2006

Reviews: The Ragamuffin Gospel

We're just about finished with Brennan Manning's Ragamuffin Gospel in my small group, so I thought I would share my thoughts. To be blunt, it's over-rated. I expected a great book. A life changer. What I actually read was a pretty good book with some obvious issues.

The point of Ragamuffin Gospel is that God loves you despite your flaws. We are all screw-ups. We're ragamuffins. We're squalid beggars in the eyes of God. Yet because God's love is unconditional, he still loves us and he will always love us. So just accept his love. Don't beat yourself up about not being good enough or not doing the right things. God knew how much of a screw up you were when you were saved and he knew what a total screw up you were going to be too. So stop it and embrace the love of God already.

I learned this lesson when I went through a rough spot in college and grad school. I think it has the potential to be a life changer for a lot of people who, like Manning himself, have suffered under false legalistic approaches to righteousness and have issues with their own self worth. If there is anything this book does well, it is hammering repeatedly against those things for chapter after chapter. And often this is a lesson that needs to be hammered on repeatedly, so it works.

But the lesson wasn't new for me and in the end I found the book unbalanced. Ragamuffin is like someone who had a legalistic crisis of faith and so they went in the complete opposite direction: love and freedom. In defeating legalism and legalistic righteousness, Manning generally overcorrects. The right way is the middle way. Love of God informed by the Word including the law. Manning is so busy scathing legalists, that he never discusses the proper Biblical purpose for the law, to inform people of sin and therefore bring about repentence.

In the end I found the Ragamuffin Gospel to be a one trick pony, but it is admittedly a very good trick that some people need to see.

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