Book Club Channel
This Thing Called Grace: A Q and A with John Blase
What is your relationship with Brennan Manning and how did you come to co-author All Is Grace?
Initially Brennan worked with another writer but that didn't go so well. I was asked to step in and pick up the pieces. I had worked as editor on two of his previous books, so he trusted me. He always has. I don't know why that is, but it has felt special. I'm extremely grateful and consider him a dear friend.
What conversations do you hope this book inspires?
Hopefully it prompts questions around this thing called grace . . . It's a word that is relatively easy to sing about and is very familiar, especially in faith circles, but the ways in which that word plays out in our everyday lives is another matter entirely. This is a book where grace gets personal, very personal.
Do you expect this book to change anyone's mind? About what?
Brennan's intent is to witness, not persuade, so the design is not there to change anyone's mind. Brennan would be pleased if it unsettled the heart though.
What book, or which author, was your model for this book?
As his co-writer, my hope for the book's tone was honest but tender, and honoring to those who shaped his life for good or ill. I read Ivan Doig's This House of Sky a few years ago; that beautiful book was no doubt in my mind as we crafted these pages.
Name one person you hope reads this book. Why?
I hope his ex-wife, Roslyn, reads it. The memoir is dedicated to her. Brennan made that decision early on in the life of this book. Another hoped-for reader would be the Christian who has failed one too many times, the man or woman that everyone has either written off or tolerates from a distance—those described as 'just too much.'
Was there anything that surprised you in writing this book?
I was surprised at how many people have been touched by Brennan Manning's life and ministry. I guessed there were a lot out there, but I really was not prepared for how many. Countless people have told me that The Ragamuffin Gospel literally changed the course of their life . . . that statement is not a slight thing.
What did you learn about grace in co-authoring this book with Brennan?
A lot of people have a 'flat earth' theory of grace: you go so far, past some moral point on the horizon, and you fall off the edge of God's mercy. I was one of those people. Working with Brennan has blown that theory to smithereens. God's grace knows nothing of horizons, it goes round and round. We also used a phrase near the end of the book: vulgar grace—'a grace that amazes as it offends.' There is a haunting truth in that phrase that I am still learning . . .
What do you think Brennan learned—or received—through the writing of his memoir? How was this book an experience of grace for him?
In a very real way I believe this memoir allowed Brennan to say 'Thank You for my life, all of it, every bit.' Maybe that's what 'finishing well' means.
In the introduction, Brennan says that he signed the contract to write this book five years ago. Why did it take so long to complete this book?
He fell a couple of times due to failing eyesight and broke a shoulder and ribs, all which necessitated significant recovery times. There was also a season of drinking and depression; not much writing happened there. A couple of times I wasn't sure if the book would come to pass or not.
What was the hardest thing about writing this book?
I had to travel from Denver to New Jersey to do interviews with Brennan. That didn't make it impossible, obviously, but it did make it hard.
Which chapter was the hardest to write? Which was the easiest to write?
The book contains an intro piece titled 'A Word Before.' It's a nod to the same approach he took in The Ragamuffin Gospel. Those two pages came early and easy; they almost wrote themselves. The most difficult chapters were those that involved early childhood memories. Recalling those experiences were quite intense for Brennan; we had to go very slow in those pages.
What do you hope people take away from All Is Grace?
There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God . . . nothing, nothing at all.
Visit the Patheos Book Club for more conversation on All Is Grace.