Sublime Grace

[This post is part of a conversation on the new book All is Grace by Brennan Manning, hosted at the Patheos Book Club here.]

Damn it. It happened again. I was convicted, converted, and saved.

It’s not often that a book kicks ass. Brennan Manning’s latest book, All is Grace, delivers a knockout punch that you’ll be glad you received.

As a boy, I had a recurring daydream, not one of horror but of hope. In the dream, a boy my age approached me and said, “I like you. Can we play together?”

This passage captures the essence of the book. It conveys a bleak life of quiet desperation and a heart-felt yearning for something “more.”

Sometimes less is more. This is not a thick book in terms of the number of pages, but it is a heavyweight. Imagine a cross between The Diving Bell and The ButterflyTuesdays with Morrie, and a transcript of the best and worst moments in the life of Johnny Cash (with a few slices of The Jersey Shore reality show thrown in) – and you’ll have a sense of the flavor of it.

Manning shares a tale laden with sinful tragedy and inexplicable grace. There are plenty of both in this moving memoire. Frankly, too much, but such is life.

In a word – this book is sublime – in both the older and modern senses of that term. It is sublime in that it presents the dark, horrific, and awful shadow sides of life.  And it is sublime in that it portrays absolutely awesome beauty, divinity, and transcendence. The combination is true nobility.

Manning wrote this in the twilight of his life. He is brutally honest and pulls few punches. He has nothing to lose and we have everything to gain. All is Grace should be required reading for all pastors and seminarians. People who dare to tread on the thin ice of people’s lives, and to potentially touch and interact with their souls, need to see blunt accounts of how sin and grace are at work in the world – they also need to own up to how both are at work in their lives too.

All is Grace is proof positive that God’s healing and transforming love flows mightily through broken, imperfect vessels.

We’re all on notice, as this means that God works through us as well.

Roger Wolsey is the author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity (http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com)


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