While I don’t listen to top-40 Christian radio, I do enjoy Christian music that isn’t really mainstream. I went through a period of listening to Rich Mullins in the late 90’s; recently I was listening to some of his older albums again and I came across a movie based on his life: “Ragamuffin.” Although the movie was different, my wife and I enjoyed it quite a bit – and it did get us thinking and talking! After watching the movie I ordered this book: The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. In case you don’t know the story, Rich Mullins was deeply moved by a sermon in which Manning was preaching on grace.
I’m not completely impressed with Manning’s book; it is a little unorthodox, a little harsh, and not something I’d recommend to just anyone. The book kind of reminds me of Karl Barth’s work: some of it is not helpful, some of it is not so clear, and some of it is quite good. Even though I don’t heartily recommend this book, I do want to quote a few of the better phrases – phrases which are thought provoking:
“Though lip service is paid to the gospel of grace, many Christians live as if only personal discipline and self-denial will mold the perfect me. The emphasis is on what I do rather than on what God is doing. In this curious process God is a benign old spectator in the bleachers who cheers when I show up for morning quiet time. …At heart we are practicing Pelagians. We believe that we can pull ourselves up by the bootstraps – indeed, we can do it ourselves.”
“The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us. As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me. When I go to church I can leave my white hat home and admit that I have failed. God not only loves me as I am, but knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to him. I accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.”
“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. …To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. …Grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is a gift. All that is good is ours, not by right, but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. …We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer.”
“Even our fidelity is a gift. ‘If we but turn to God,’ said St. Augustine, ‘that itself is a gift of God.’ My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to deserve or earn it.”