The Unfortunate Legacy of Brennan Manning

The Unfortunate Legacy of Brennan Manning April 18, 2013
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Brennan Manning died last week. Yet another in a strikingly long list of notable deaths over the span of just a few short weeks here in April, including Edith Schaeffer, Margaret Thatcher, and, most recently, George Beverly Shea (may their righteous memories be a blessing). The news of Manning’s death prompted me to do a bit of digging on exactly what kind of gospel he taught. I knew that The Ragamuffin Gospel was a profound influence on one of my favorite songwriters, Rich Mullins, whose Ragamuffin Band was named after Manning’s book. But I also knew that he’s been quoted, claimed and cited as an inspiration by a lot of openly liberal Christians (as just one example, Christian worship leader Carlos Whittaker has a blog entitled Ragamuffin Soul). The fact that so many different people thought he was so wonderful left me a little confused, and curious.

After my research, I could only sigh and echo Master Yoda: “Expected this is. And unfortunate.”

Briefly, Brennan Manning grew up in a broken home but converted to Christianity as an adult, entering the Holy Orders in the 1960s. In 1982, he left the priesthood to get married.  However, this marriage sadly ended in divorce in 2000 because of his alcoholism, which was a lifelong struggle for him from his teen years on up. But even while his marriage was deteriorating through regular relapses, Manning was developing what can only be described as a massive cult following among evangelical Christians, largely on the strength of his 1990 book The Ragamuffin Gospel. It spread like wildfire among the CCM community, receiving endorsements from prominent names like Rich Mullins and Michael W. Smith. Manning went on speaking tours and continued to write more books through the 90s. But by the time he got divorced, he had developed “wet brain” syndrome, a debilitating alcoholic’s illness that gradually robs one of mobility and independence. He required live-in care for the last years of his life. His last book, a memoir entitled All is Grace, read almost like a last confession, a chronicle of regret that juxtaposed the depths of his failure with the wonder of God’s forgiveness.

I’m not going to go so far as to say that Manning taught outright heresy in every book he wrote. He himself was quoted as denying that he believed in universalism, of which he’d been accused. And clearly there was enough gospel truth in his work to attract folks I respect to his work, like Michael Card and Max Lucado. Nevertheless, when you step back and look at the whole picture he painted, you can see how easy it is to abuse his re-packaging of the gospel. In fact, you can see how it led to some of the false positions Manning himself took on theology and morality later in life.

At times, Manning’s rhetoric was very similar to somebody like Tony Campolo. Politically, he tipped his hand even as he fancied himself to be above both parties. I refer my readers to this blog post quoting a long section of Manning’s on the life issue, which is hopelessly muddled and badly confused. To explain just how badly confused it is would require a post unto itself, so I’ll let anyone who feels like it have a go in the comments section. I would also refer them to this account from Andy Comiskey of Exodus International, who tried to get a clear answer from Manning on homosexuality after reading passages in his books which criticized “homophobia” without taking a clear stance on the sin itself. Manning was very dismissive of these questions but, when pressed, “advocated for committed homosexual couples.” That tells you all you need to know on that point.

Manning’s theology was a strange cocktail of gospel truth, gospel half-truth, Eastern mysticism, and Jungian psychology. The central theme of all his work was that God is crazy (or, in Manning’s words, “kooky”) about us and the root of all our sin is our failure to believe how crazy he is about us. Clearly, this is a one-sided view of the gospel. He placed a great deal of emphasis on self-esteem and the importance of learning to like oneself (there’s the Jungian part), which led him to view repentance as something which should be done “quickly” and moved on from. He promulgated the notion that meditating extensively on one’s own sin is a form of arrogance, and more time should be spent focusing on how loved and accepted we are. Again, not the whole truth. Here is just one disconcerting quote from The Ragamuffin Gospel:

If we are open, we rarely resort to either-or, either creation or evolution, liberty or law, sacred or secular, Beethoven or Madonna. We focus on both-and, fully aware that God’s truth cannot be imprisoned in a small definition. … But the open mind realizes that reality, truth, and Jesus Christ are incredibly open-ended.

We can see seeds of the emergent movement in quotes like this. Here’s another quote from a different book that sounds uncomfortably close to something Rob Bell might say: “[T]he god whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger … the god who exacts the last drop of blood from his Son so that his just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased, is not the God revealed by and in Jesus Christ. And if he is not the God of Jesus, he does not exist.” Meanwhile, Manning accused right-wing fundamentalists of “bibliolatry,” a term of his own coining.
So, despite the good that many folks found in Manning’s work, I believe there were enough red flags that it should have been taken with a few more grains of salt than it was. One can also trace a direct line from this watered-down gospel to his ultimately weak stance on moral issues like homosexuality. As Andy Comiskey aptly puts it, “Grace without the clear and authoritative truth of Scripture is deadly. The goalposts change. We lose the revelation of God’s will for our humanity. We are left instead to construct an identity based upon our experience of reality. ‘I feel gay; therefore, I am gay; therefore, God blesses my gayness.’ ” Man-centeredness inevitably leads to a form of sin-centeredness.

Manning’s legacy is also unfortunate in this respect: It provides fuel for the fire of people who would disregard Paul’s clear teaching that those in positions of leadership within the church must be “above reproach.” Instead, they believe the opposite—that if anything, being a dysfunctional wreck (somehow) makes you better qualified to teach and lead others. Because it’s better to be a dysfunctional wreck than a self-righteous Pharisee, and anyway (smirk), we’re all “dysfunctional” so look who’s talking. I like to take the Peter Falk approach to this attitude: Yes, you’re very smart. Shut up.

In all honesty, I do sympathize with Manning’s state. When I read his last confession, I see a broken man who got tragically caught in a downward spiral that was not entirely within his control. I also see genuine pain and remorse over his lies and his sinfulness. Nevertheless, I believe that even addiction cannot completely take away our own free will. It was still his choice to lie about his condition—to his wife and to the people who were supposed to keep him accountable. It was still his choice to buy the alcohol, thereby misusing the money he earned from selling his books and collecting speaker fees. To Manning’s credit, he wrote at the end of his life that he “honestly didn’t know” how valuable his work from that time had been. Perhaps he sensed, subconsciously, an undercutting effect from his own sin. It’s clear that he was not physically or psychologically equipped to handle the responsibility of his success. He admitted frankly that he abused the time spent away from his marriage, deliberately over-booking himself so he could hide from his wife and drink more. He summarized his life journey thus:

[A]nything but a straight shot, more like a crooked path filled with thorns and crows and vodka. Prone to wander? You bet. I’ve been a priest, then an ex-priest. Husband, then ex-husband. Amazed crowds one night and lied to friends the next. Drunk for years, sober for a season, then drunk again.… I’ve been John the Beloved, Peter the coward, and Thomas the doubter all before the waitress brought the check. I’ve shattered every one of the Ten Commandments six times Tuesday. And if you believe that last sentence was for dramatic effect, it wasn’t.

This is not a man who deserved a place as a revered Christian leader or mentor. This is a man who should never have had a platform in the first place.

And yet, people are still revering him as a leader and a mentor. And that’s a problem, because once you accept that people like Brennan can be leaders, it changes your whole perspective on ministry, pastoring, mentoring and other positions of responsibility in the church. It leads to a lowering of standards in the name of “grace” which ultimately does more harm than good. By the same logic, one could argue that a pastor who struggles with sexual addiction but feels bad about it could keep pastoring his church as long as he didn’t pretend to “have it all together” and admitted it was wrong. This is obviously a disastrous conclusion.

Ultimately, we should look on the tragedy of Brennan Manning’s life story with no small measure of pity and compassion. At the same time, we should not hold it up as an example to be imitated. To have pity for the man is not the same thing as revering him. To point out that the Holy Spirit still worked through him for good merely emphasizes the truth that God can work through many things and many people. And to acknowledge that God’s grace is indeed amazing is not enough by itself unless we also acknowledge the fullness of God’s truth.

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  • Lydia

    This rather famous C.S. Lewis quotation from _The Problem of Pain_ (I had at one point thought it was from the Four Loves but was mistaken) seems pertinent:
    “You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of terrible aspect,” is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes. How this should be, I do not know: it passes reason to explain why any creatures, not to say creatures such as we, should have a value so prodigious in their Creator’s eyes. It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring…” (pp. 46-47)
    And, had Lewis been responding specifically to Manning, he might have added, “Not the irrational and uncritical passion of a lover in the first flush of infatuation.” It’s notable that what Lewis says here about love between the sexes is not that they are “crazy about each other” but that such love is “exacting,” a term that makes one stop and think.

  • Excellent quote. Thank you for sharing. Very apt here indeed.

  • James

    To the original response…why is there no reference to what you are accusing Brennan of speaking. Please debate the words he spoke with the bible.

  • James

    Brennan’s ministry was effective because of his absolute humility. I would have to judge the person who first responded to a middle class republican who has lived a very nice life. Maybe his grandma died and he’s graced the food kitchen a few times. Anyone who has experienced the yaw a pitch of moral struggle truly gets the gospel. I don’t look at Brennan’s faults but the message he brings. God makes good out of bad. When I look at Brennan’s story I see the prodigal son returning home… If you look at Rembrandt’s painting I picture god hugging Brennan while the brother…writer of the article…stands in judgement. Welcome home!!
    Number one problem with Christianity… Christians!!! Not Christ

  • Hi James, thanks for your comments. Sorry I don’t have time for a fuller response, but if you look carefully, I never claimed that Brennan wasn’t saved (though some of his doctrine and teachings do concern me). What I said was that he wasn’t equipped to have a platform of leadership in the church. His personal well-being and his marriage suffered for it. We have to make the care of our own souls and the care of those relationships God has directly given to us our first priorities.

  • Lydia

    Certainly, I will be happy to cite the Bible.
    The first epistle of the Apostle John, chapter 3, verse 3:
    “And every man that hath this hope within him purifieth himself even as he is pure.”
    Note that it does not say, “And every man that hath this hope within him accepts himself just the way he is.”
    I John 2:28 “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”
    I John 3:9 “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him.”
    The Bible never, never teaches that the main thing is for us to accept ourselves as we are. The Bible never, never teaches that God’s love means that he does not want to _change_ us. On the contrary, the emphasis is precisely on God’s intent to change us, to be “conformed to the image of his dear son” (Romans 8:29). That is why Lewis, quite biblically, refers to God’s love as _exacting_, as demanding, as jealous. Because God loves us, he doesn’t want us to remain “just the way we are.” God isn’t just “crazy about us” like some infatuated fourteen-year-old girl. He is, rather, an artist who wants to make us into something we are not, and he demands that we go along with and submit to this process.
    The teaching of Brennan Manning is obviously skewed and destined to create confusion, because it is not biblical. There are numerous other relevant Bible verses, as well. For example,
    Paul on Christian leaders. A Christian leader should be
    “above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness [!]…” (I Timothy 3:2-3)
    Notice what bourgeois, non-ragamuffin values the Apostle Paul is espousing here, and does in many, many other passages.
    James, the brother of Jesus,
    “Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18)
    Again and again Scripture speaks of our need to purify ourselves, our deeds, and our behavior. Manning, in contrast, obviously preached a gospel of cheap grace.
    As to your childish reference to being a “Republican who has led a nice life,” there is a name for that: That’s called the genetic fallacy.
    What matters is the truth, not who says it.
    YGG has written carefully showing compassion for Manning. That doesn’t mean he was a guru to be heeded. Someone can deserve compassion but not deserve admiration and followers.

  • Michael A. Coughlin

    Good article.

  • Thanks Michael!

  • Andy

    The Lord uses whatever is at hand to get the job done. If any of us wrote an honest account of our inner lives they would all be the ‘unfortunate legacy’ I’m afraid.
    “This is not a man who deserved a place as a revered Christian leader or mentor. This is a man who should never have had a platform in the first place.”
    Do we reject the Reformation because of Luther’s writings about Jews? Do we disbelieve the Bible when it says King David (the murderer, the adulterer, the census taker, the abomination of a father figure) was a man after God’s own heart? I believe no one should be put on a platform, because if you dig deep enough everyone is a fraud somehow. It’s our nature.
    “…pastor who struggles with sexual addiction … disastrous conclusion.”
    St. Augustine of Hippo? Solomon?
    I think it’s particularly insightful to use C.S. Lewis as a guiding light (a man I greatly admire!) – considering the first poster uses him to skewer Manning. For decades he lived with Mrs. Moore, who by all accounts, treated him absolutely horrendously while he stayed even after his conversion. Why didn’t he leave? His moral failings, his addiction to masochism? The sexual nature of it? Or his marriage of a divorcee with 2 children (which amounts to adultery, according to Jesus; Mark 10:12) to circumvent immigration law while he was the most well known Christian apologetic worldwide? I know at the end of Mere Christianity there is a troubling passage about sincere Buddhists that I consider heretical. Also – he was a heavy smoker and a drinker. Not exactly the Southern Gospel stereotype.
    Does Lewis’s reoccurring lifestyle choices (sin) made while being sanctified and regenerated through Christ (slavery to an abusive woman, marrying a divorced woman for legal evasion) preclude him from teaching others about hope, wisdom, and expositing biblical worldviews, in short, being a leader of the Church? Certainly not. Does his inclusive worldview destroy all of his credibility? I hope not! Should we remove the Narnia books from our children’s shelves? Probably not.
    “God’s grace is indeed amazing is not enough by itself unless we also acknowledge the fullness of God’s truth.”
    God’s grace is not enough?
    2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

  • “I believe no one should be put on a platform, because if you dig deep enough everyone is a fraud somehow. It’s our nature.”
    Sigh. You’re articulating EXACTLY the attitude I’m trying to address. I’m sorry, but some people have more and more serious problems with leadership than others. I’m curious, what is your take on the Timothy passage that Lydia and I have referred to? Do you think Paul is misguided to be laying out all these standards for being a pastor? By your philosophy, all that stuff shouldn’t matter. In that case, I can only say that you’ll have to take it up with Paul, because he seems to disagree.
    Also, if you’ll look carefully, I spent time addressing the theological and ideological problems with Manning’s writing and rejected them on their own terms. I didn’t say we should reject good ideas from flawed people across the board. In Manning’s case, he had more than one problem.So I’m not sure what Martin Luther really has to do with this. Also, did I say King Solomon would have made a great pastor??? He was an Eastern monarch, for crying out loud! Let’s get some cultural perspective here: A king does not equal a pastor. Neither Solomon nor David were in “ministry” positions. They were rulers and military leaders. The “board of elders” was God. And in fact, you can find many places where God brings dire consequences upon kings of bad character. For that matter, he brings dire consequences upon David.
    I have no idea what you think you’re talking about with Lewis. A bit of googling reveals that you’re not alone in your theory that Lewis’s relationship with Paddy Moore’s mother was sexual, but I don’t see what that reveals except that the post-modern mind is obsessed with sex. She was overbearing and treated him poorly in that way, but I’d never heard the theory that sex entered into the equation until now. We have no real evidence to that effect, just guesses, so your assertion that it did is completely uncalled for. And merely continuing to take care of her despite her poor treatment of him wouldn’t qualify as “sinful.” As for his marriage to Joy, we don’t know the circumstances of her divorce. Jesus leaves a possible option for divorce and remarriage due to adultery. As for Lewis’s theology, I wouldn’t say that I necessarily agree with every jot and tittle of it, but he came a lot closer to the truth than Manning on many core issues. And I’m sorry, but it’s clear that he did NOT have the slavish relationship with alcohol that Manning did. Did he drink more than I would? Most likely. However, he doesn’t seem to have had a destructive addiction on Manning’s level. Also, I’m not looking for a “Southern Gospel stereotype” (whatever the heck that’s supposed to mean!) I like southern gospel music. I’m also a well-read person who likes history and literature. I find people interesting. What’s the big deal?
    Also, thank you for garbling my final sentence and then proceeding to take away something completely different from my intended meaning based on that garbled version. I said “To acknowledge that God’s grace is indeed amazing is not enough unless we also acknowledge the fullness of God’s truth.” My point was that Manning taught a lot about God’s grace, but his teaching was one-sided. He didn’t have a proper view of sin or the nature of God, and he continued in the ministry despite the fact that he was clearly disqualified by the standards for ministry leadership in God’s word. Blindly applying the phrase “God’s grace is enough” to cover up continual sin and false teaching is an abuse of that same grace.

  • Your comments make me think of a speaker I heard once who was hymning the praises of Martin Luther King, Jr. When a friend of mine timidly commented that his personal life left something to be desired, the speaker glibly replied, “Well so does mine.” One is tempted to reply “Really? You cheated on your wife multiple times too? I had no idea!” His response is completely shallow and deliberately evades the point. The point is that, to put it bluntly, some people sin more than others. Maybe it makes you uncomfortable to be hit with the revelation that Hitler was a worse sinner than Mother Theresa, but I’m afraid you’ll have to lump it. Like all of us, Mother Theresa couldn’t have gotten to heaven without the grace of God, but merely repeating that fact over and over doesn’t change the reality that Hitler was a moral monster and she was a saint.

  • Lydia

    There is _zero_ evidence that Lewis made any sinful “recurring lifestyle choices” after his conversion vis a vis Mrs. Moore. The origin of that relationship, which occurred _long_ before, when he was very young and an atheist, may have been wrong in some way (e.g., romantic), but his later care for her was, we have every evidence, a result of a virtuous sense of duty to care for those who have become dependent on us. Hence his portrayal of it (accurately as far as we know) in those years as the relationship of an adoptive son to a mother. Believe it or not, some people think they’re obligated to take care of their mothers even if the mothers aren’t very nice people. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.
    His marriage to Joy was entirely on the up and up. It is not immoral to marry someone so that that person can stay in a country. The divorce issue is of course a contentious one, but he came to believe that her own first marriage was null at the time. This is recorded in his letters.
    He was not an alcoholic, though he worked very hard to care for his brother, who was indeed an alcoholic. The comparison of Lewis to Manning is laughable on this point.
    In short you are garbling pre-Christian and post-Christian matters concerning Lewis (as in your reference to sexual sin) and are exaggerating other things to make him sound like a disreputable character while he was writing Christian works. This is not only silly but also gossip and slander. Maybe it’s based on your reading some muck-raking “biography,” but you should learn to do your own research in that case.

  • Andy

    “…didn’t have a proper view of sin…nature of God…continued in the ministry…applying the phrase “God’s grace is enough” to cover up continual sin and false teaching is an abuse of that same grace.”
    Romans 3:10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;
    First off – full disclosure. I was raised ultra-conservative Baptist. No drinking, no smoking, no dancing, no dating, no bad movies, no secular music, Catholics are going to hell – church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Thursday, and Friday night youth group. Brennan Manning (as you can presume) was a pretty big breath of fresh air. However, my church had the most air tight theology possible – so tight that Jesus had a hard time squeeking in! I never saw my pastor without a suit on, because he would have been fired without it.
    I agree that Brennan Manning was sinful. I used CS Lewis as an example (crudely, I admit) to show that Lewis wasn’t a paragon of Christian orthodoxy. Biblical inerrancy was my big bone with Lewis. I think Brennan only really preached about one thing, Grace- just as Jonah came with a specific message so did Brennan. He may seem like he erred, or that he didn’t understand justice, simply because he wasn’t trying to be all things. Something to consider.
    I’ve been giving this honest thought, however. If the question was ‘Should a reformed Christian that was a convicted pedophile be allowed to teach Sunday School?” would I be comfortable with ‘Grace” as Manning teaches it to inform my decision? My whole being says No. Emphatically No. I’m a father of 2, with 1 on the way.
    Should a defrocked, alcoholic, divorced, gin sodden priest who makes excuses for homosexuality be used as an example of how leaders should be excused for repeat habitual sins because of Grace? No.
    But I don’t think Brennan is arguing for this either. I brought up David and Solomon because they are hard men to admire – impossible to put on a pedestal. Yet, God used them to create scripture. Luther’s anti-Semitism is horrendous and unforgivable, but in my church we celebrate his nailing the manifesto on the doors of the church. Every year. Same with Calvin – who seemed to have the grace thing all muddled up with the burning of his opponents – is preached about the great things he accomplished in Geneva.
    I’m not even sure if this opposed to what you’re saying, or if it’s just meandering side-long your thoughts – but if Manning isn’t to be put on a pedestal, NO ONE should be put on a pedestal. No one has earned any right to be a leader of the church – and the leader should be the lowliest of servants. When you look at a Christian you see the mud, when you look through them you should see Jesus.
    I think it’s important to note that Manning wasn’t really a Billy Graham figure popularity wise (and look at the sad state of affairs when it came down to Mormonism), and he was defrocked. It wasn’t until my wife read his biography that I even knew about him. But I had a knee jerk reaction when I read that grace had to be somehow tempered (which perhaps I did misconstrue, but the bible verse does seem to be in direct conflict with your statement) and saying that Manning was somehow ‘less worthy of his title’ then other evangelists.

  • Yes, your comment about the strict fundamentalist background is actually quite predictable. 🙂 I may respond to your comment in full a little later.

  • Lydia

    Andy, the Apostle Paul is utterly explicit that Christian leaders have to be above reproach, and drunkenness is _explicitly_ named as something they mustn’t be enslaved to. (And, no, that doesn’t mean they have to be teetotalers, either. But an alcoholic through and through, not even reformed, like Manning, no.) You can call this putting people on a pedestal, but it doesn’t really matter what one calls it: Sets of standards like this for those in Christian leadership are just simply biblical, period. They’re all over the place in the pastoral epistles.
    Now, you can argue that because Manning wasn’t a priest anymore he wasn’t “in Christian ministry” or “in Christian leadership.” I suppose that’s a point one could debate, but it seems that his on-going influence, the fact that he apparently made his living by speaker fees as a Christian speaker, and I gather from his books, and his treatment as something of a guru is evidence on the side of considering him to have been, in his lifetime, a person in Christian leadership and hence subject to such higher standards for those in leadership positions.
    Manning’s theology also is not accurate theology. It definitely encourages a “cheap grace” mentality, and this is legitimate to point out and criticize as an independent matter.
    There is a disturbing interaction between resistance to these two points: Those who defend Manning and his on-going position as a speaker, etc., and defend ignoring standards for Christian leadership, often do so precisely by reference to his theology!
    Note that by that argument, even those who are *undeniably* in *precisely* the positions Paul was discussing, pastors, for example, could be continuing drunkards, drug addicts, and sexually promiscuous. And no, I don’t mean reformed from earlier in their lives. I mean on-going (a distinction that should be maintained). The argument would be that we’re all broken, no sins are any worse than any others, we need leaders who exemplify the “ragamuffin gospel” in their own persons, and so on and so forth. You should be able to see that _that_ argument would be more or less taking the pastor epistles with their requirements for leadership and flushing them down the toilet.

  • Andy

    I would like to know how you feel about the story of Jonah. Did God strip him of his authority and just use someone else?

  • stephanie

    I have to agree….through out the new test., Jesus teaches us to be Transformed in him, not conformed into the order for us to be set apart in what Christ has delivered us from (sin). we must transform, and be like we were, that is why when we are Saved, John 3.16; turn from our wicked ways 2 Chronicles 7:14 , Acts 3:19 Repent and sin no more….Im not a fan of Manning, I am however a fan of Rich Mullins, and I dont believe that he was a true follower of Manning, but a follower of Christ. There are several people in leadership, who well for lack of a better word are Sinners, but lets face it, Jesus hung out with the lowest of the Low, he used them to preach his word, so there is only One True absolute in life, Christ died for us, so that we may be cleansed of all sin, and only thru him will we be saved, not by any teachings of a Man on earth.

  • I think Mullins was sincerely charmed by Manning, as many were. But a lot of people have found him compelling while still being sincere Christians. He obviously had a magnetic sort of personality.

  • PJ

    Good replies Lydia–each one! I sure am glad Jesus has required more of me than He found in me when I committed my life to Him. Heaven’s sake—what a disaster that would have been. Day to day we are being transformed, and the older I get the more I realize I am not there yet. I still know He loves me—enough to want to change me.

  • He gave Jonah a one-time commission to teach him a lesson. Besides, Jonah’s problem was stubbornness. Nothing a little time in a fish belly couldn’t cure.

  • r3bornson

    I want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts on both Brennan’s last book and on his life in general. I agree that there is a great deal of what Brennan preached about grace that is absolutely spot on, yet I too, question whether or not he deserves to be venerated in the way that he is. I have pondered this for some time, and have come to the following conclusion.
    I have been a Christian for many years. I began walking with the Lord in my pre-teen years and became active in international missions and a witness to the power of God, the power of prayer, and the absolute truth of the Gospel in my early teens and continued throughout my teenage years.
    Sadly in my late teens I became the recipient of what I then thought was a pretty harsh interpretation of deaconal, “church discipline” for a sin that I had confessed to my pastor, was repentant of, and had discontinued. This began for me a 15 year time where I was completely disillusioned with the “church” but never abandoned my faith in Christ. I did however begin to question much of what I deemed to be pharisaical morality, so often preached in the church, and decided to experiment with “forbidden fruits”. You won’t be surprised to hear that I learned through that time that the word of God is true and that sin ALWAYS brings death to something and I have, as Brennan experienced a great deal of hardship because of this. I have been plagued with addictions and habitual sins that have been and continue to be a constant struggle for me.
    This brings me to my point. I am now a pastor. Reading the life of a man like Brennan who was so completely enthralled with God, made his life a ministry, and went out of his way to preach the Good News of God’s grace through faith, to any and all he could, in the face of his own withering inadequacy and failure, is to me the greatest proof of the scripture that “Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am chief”. These words, penned by Paul, are not “Jesus came to same sinners of whom I WAS chief”, but “of whom I AM chief!”
    You and I both know that all pastors, all spiritual leaders, all who follow the gospel, are constantly waging a war, by the power of the Spirit and the Grace of God, against sin and it’s eternal consequences Yet we, without exception, continue to have sin in our lives. To take the term “above reproach” as meaning “without sin” is an absolute impossibility, and has been the downfall of many a great man of God, and the disillusionment of a great many lay Christians, who having placed their pastor upon a pedestal, have had their faith rocked by the very sin that necessitates our constant reliance upon the saving Grace and constant intercession of Jesus Christ our great High priest (Hebrews 4 and 6).
    Brennan Manning, in the books of his I have read, never made peace with his sin, never attempted to justify it, often hated himself for it, and to my mind, this is the very definition of “above reproach”. Not a life impossibly lived without sin, or a life constantly trying to cover, hide or make excuse for sin, but one lived in transparency, humility, repentance, and the eternal hope that in Christ there is and will be freedom!
    I would suggest that his veneration, or elevation to a position of prominence was not a result of his desire to be venerated. Nor the elevation of his own holiness, desire, or lack there of. It was instead the result of the amazing abundance of Grace, love, forgiveness, and justification that we all receive in the person of Jesus Christ, and Brennan’s willingness to never permit his own failure stop him from constantly preaching that with all his might!
    Isn’t that what the gospel is all about? Isn’t that what Jesus demanded of Peter in John 21:17, immediately after Peter’s incredible, seemingly impossible, failure and denial?? You are correct, Brennan Manning wasn’t worthy of any status, or veneration. I think he would have agreed with you completely. But his message didn’t elevate himself, it elevated God’s grace in Christ Jesus, and for that his message has grown incredibly loud, something I think he is now smiling about as he drinks in the freedom and love he so faithfully longed for!!

  • Lydia

    “Brennan Manning, in the books of his I have read, never made peace with his sin, never attempted to justify it, often hated himself for it, and to my mind, this is the very definition of ‘above reproach’.”
    No, I’m quite sure that is _not_ the sum total of what the Apostle Paul meant by “above reproach.” Look, Paul is absolutely explicit that a drunkard cannot be a pastor. It’s in I Timothy 3:3. He lists other things as well, such as not being a brawler. If some guy is out there getting into fist fights repeatedly because he’s got such a hot temper and having to be bailed out of jail by the deacons, it simply isn’t enough for him not to “make peace with his sin.” He’s a habitual brawler, he brings scandal and disgrace to the name of the gospel, and he is not qualified to be a pastor.
    Paul was “into” lists, and he wasn’t exactly ambiguous in what he was saying. It’s a false dichotomy to say that either we demand someone be “without sin” or else we continue to support people’s being in ministry despite their being, in an on-going manner, enslaved to disqualifying sins. One can pity someone who is, presently, an alcoholic who keeps on getting drunk, lying to people, getting drunk again, and so on and so forth, but he can’t be in ministry. It’s that simple. It’s not enough for him to “hate his sin.” He has to be free of the addiction and not continually returning to it, for particular types of sins that are disqualifying. Some of these are sexual. Some have to do with substance abuse. Others have to do with a violent temper. Paul also mentions being out for money. If you have a pastor who embezzles church funds or is addicted to gambling, he’s disqualified from ministry.

  • r3bornson

    Disqualified from serving as an elder or pastor in a church. Not from ministry nor from proclamation of the truth. We are all ministers of the gospel. Some more devoted and effective than others. I agree as per 1 Timothy, and Titus, he had no business being in a place of leadership in a local church body. He wasn’t a pastor though, he wasn’t in a position of leadership in a church body anymore. But that doesn’t mean he should stop preaching the truth!! The problem is, the church has somehow taught that if you aren’t perfect, or at least pretty squeaky clean, you have no business being in ministry, and no business proclaiming or preaching or evangelizing, and this is the reason 95% of our congregations never have and never will share the gospel with anyone!!! That’s total garbage!

  • There’s a difference between a congregant who’s sharing the gospel with his friends and co-workers and someone like Manning, who made his living from books, speaking tours, and regular spiritual retreats. The fact that he was an alcoholic meant that he used the money he made *from ministry* irresponsibly. I think that should have some relevance here.

  • Patience Reeder

    please take me off your subscription

  • Regrettably, there seems to be no way for me to do that with this type of blog. I’m sorry! Just delete the updates as they come into your inbox.

  • r3bornson

    I agree it has relevance, but there are a great many pastors, ministers, and church leaders, who make their living solely from the tithes and giving of their congregations, who have and do use their money irresponsibly. In fact I would argue that there are a great many who have fallen prey to Pauls warning to Timothy in 1Tim 5 in relation to money. Many, many many many Pastors!! I would also guess that the number of pastors and elders who deal daily with chronic, habitual, and debilitating sin is also very very high.
    All I am saying is that Brennan was one of the few who was, without excuse, justification, or minimization of the problem, honest and humble enough to admit that there was something within him far darker, far more evil, than any of us would like to admit. The eye opening thing is that if you spend enough time interviewing and talking with pastors, in a pastor-to-pastor setting, you will find, that every single one of us, has something that is deeper, darker, and more evil inside us than we would ever like to admit. Often, we don’t want to admit even to ourselves just how depraved we are still capable of being! We are at war with that all the time. The only ones I have ever known who ever get relief, and healing, are those who in keeping with James 5:17 actually humble themselves enough to confess their sins to each other.
    I’m not excusing Brennan’s behavior, nor advocating for his elevation nor esteem. I am not excusing sin. I preach about it regularly. I think your most poignant point, was he is to be both admired, but mostly pitied. He surely experienced, first-hand, the sharp and chastening love of a perfect father, who in the end stripped him of everything but His enduring love. I see that as the saddest, and also the most reassuring point of Brennan’s life; Our father never ceases to “discipline those he loves and chasten all who he calls sons” (Hebrews 12:6) I think the testimony here, is that of a man who knew His father loved him, and continued to chasten him, right up to the end. But the love he felt, he never doubted, and his faith never wavered, and because of that he brings hope to so many in our churches who feel like they somehow have been overlooked by the Father, because they still struggle with sin.
    Anyway, I appreciate the conversation, and your thoughtful original blog. I just finished “All is grace” last week and was looking to see what kind of responses there were to it. Yours was one of the most thoughtful, and least snarky, so thanks for that as well. Not that it matters, but it was reading the “Ragamuffin Gospel” ten years ago in a jail cell, that convinced me that maybe, just maybe, God wasn’t finished with me yet. I’m so glad I did, and that He wasn’t!

  • Okay, and I appreciate your comments too. I do find some of your argumentation confusing and inconsistent here. On the one hand you’ve indicated that all it takes to be “above reproach” is to feel guilty about your sin, which I would take to mean that you don’t think there should be standards about addictive behavior when it comes to church pastors. Then you say that you do think Brennan shouldn’t have pastored a local church body, but leading retreats and having a ministry was different. So I guess I’m just not following your reasoning.

  • r3bornson

    I see your point. What I was trying to get across is that a life lived above reproach, can obviously not be a life lived without sin, for we all, pastors included, continue to “miss the mark”. I was trying to point out that above reproach must mean a life lived in humble transparency and constant repentance.
    I didn’t know about Brennan’s continued drinking until reading his last book, and I think that in that book I found myself looking at a man that admits he had, for a period at least, been unrepentant in the sense that he refused or was incapable of turning away from his sin. In that, I do not believe that he was a man who should have been in a permanent fixture as the pastor or leader of a congregation.
    Yet he had great gifts, exceptional gifts, of speaking and teaching and proclaiming the love and Grace of God in Christ Jesus, and in keeping with 1 Peter 4:8-11, I think he continued to use the gifts he had received to both serve God, administer God’s grace, and above all glorify God for His goodness and grace continually. Whether or not doing so as the leader of retreats and discipleship weekends I suppose is up for discussion, but I think that all scripture should be considered here and in every other case. That though his sin did certainly prohibit continued leadership in a local body, I believe that his calling to preach the gospel and his gifts in that area should also be taken into consideration. I think it would be tragic to assume the presence of sin in any Christian’s life should be a reason to avoid ministry. It should instead be an amazing opportunity for every Christian to more fervently proclaim the truth that “Jesus Christ came to seek and save that which was lost”.
    The church has done a terrible job of telling people that they need to be saved, and then spending the rest of its time gathered together in trying hide, judge, or blame-shift its way into looking like it never needed a savior in the first place! Brennan Manning, flies in the face of that mentality, and it’s offensive to many. Just as the pharisees were offended when Jesus said the tax collector who cried out “God have mercy on me a sinner” was more righteous than their squeaky clean, morally sound, law abiding brother.
    Any apparent inconsistency is only because on this issue, I believe, the scriptures in 1Tim and Titus and those in 1Peter, 1&2 Cor, Galatians, and the Gospels, (just to name a few) are ALL continually true. If the first are taken as singular, concrete, and black or white, as to all forms of ministry they end up silencing an enormous number of redeemed disciples, who should be continuing to proclaim Jesus is Lord, but think that they can’t until they’ve somehow conquered all sin, and earned a status that only God’s grace through Christ’s righteousness could give them in the first place.

  • larry

    More than 25 years ago I heard Brennan Manning speak at an evangelical church in suburban Washington, DC. The Brennan Manning who spoke that day bears only a modest resemblance to the Brennan Manning portrayed in this blog post. Yes, he shared about his battle with alcoholism, but he also made it clear that salvation was found only in Jesus Christ and that accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior meant leading a changed life.
    Roughly 15 years later I was debating whether to return to church after having been out for several years. This burnt-out, bedraggled, spiritually abused Christian found The Ragamuffin Gospel in a bookstore. To make a long story short, Manning’s best-known book strongly influenced my decision to return to fellowship. Today ‘m still involved with the evangelical, Gospel-centered church I visited while reading the book.
    The comments attributed to Manning regarding same-sex relationships are news to me, and I would have to firmly and respectfully disagree with Manning if he indeed said those words. That having been said, I’d rather see more of the humility Brennan Manning demonstrated in his writing and speaking than the celebrity-oriented Christian culture which prevails in too many churches and ministry conferences these days.

  • I’m glad God used Manning’s influence to draw you back to a gospel-centered Christian community. That’s wonderful. Having said that, I don’t think it’s illegitimate to point out things he said and wrote that were questionable. I think we can oppose celebrity pastors while still expecting theological soundness and personal accountability from the pastors we respect.

  • Marius B

    God bless you much! (He already did! Ephesians 1:3)
    Today I got to know about Brennan Manning for the first time, starting from the quote: “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today
    is Christians…”. Then I´ve wikki-ed a little and google-ed a little and youtube-ed a little and even follow through a whole sermon. I have recommended it to a friend. Thanks to God´s Grace I felt/knew for some reason this is not it. Maybe to radical and sweet in the same time.. anyway, I did some more google and came across your blog. God bless you! It´s good to have sisters and brothers taking time to study and write down objective critics based on the Word of God. Paul commends us and the Corinthians in his second letter 13:6 to examine and test ourselves. And in the next verse he hopes we have tested him (them) as well. This is such a blessing.
    Now I love this guy Brennan, but am a little more careful to pick up what is good and leave aside what is not so biblical (1 Thessalonians 5:20,21). This we ought to do anyway, but is good to help each other from time to time.

  • Thanks Mariozzo. The atheism quote doesn’t surprise me. It’s typical of a certain type of Christian who’s bitter at conservatives. (Tony Campolo, etc.) I’m glad you enjoyed my thoughts. God bless!

  • Thanks for the info, YGG. It gives me a lot to think about. I’ve only read The Ragamuffin Gospel and Abba’s Child, and I think there was great merit in both, though neither were perfect. I think I was able to use it as invitation to confess my sin more freely to a God that’s actually interested in healing me and freeing me from it, rather than as a way to continue hiding,
    On some level, I end up feeling like I felt when I read up more on Scott Peck, author of “The Road Less Traveled”. I have friends who’ve found that book very freeing, but I personally couldn’t get past the part where he advocated open marriage. I think that fell under the heading of not enough meat to get off of the bones I’m spitting out. Once I did some more reading on his personal life, I think I just concluded that at least for him, what he was preaching, was, in fact, not working out very well for him or anyone around him.

  • You’re welcome freeweaver. Thanks for reading.

  • Michael

    I can only hope that my own “unfortunate legacy” is that I also shared the exuberant love of Christ and the absurdness of the message of the Gospel with as many people as I possibly could. That I proclaimed at every opportunity, the God of the universe “furiously longs” to love sinners and that His love happened before we could ever even consider repentance, conversion, baptism, “holy living” or anything else.
    “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8
    I thought at first to write about the things Manning said, but it seems (after reading comments above) my response would just get picked apart for argument’s sake. I don’t have time for that. There are Youtube videos that the listener can hear what he had to say for himself ( Either hear what is said or only what the ears want to hear. Its really up to the listener.
    I am sad, however, that believers should be so bold as to judge a man’s heart, life, and legacy and seemingly not hear the heart of his legacy. His sole message was this. We are all sinners and God “furiously” loves us.
    That which happens after we realize God’s love for us is between a man (or woman) and God. The Bible spends a great deal of time discussing how we should live, how we should pattern our lives, and how to deal with sin now that the old man is dead, but how can anyone even get to that point if nobody tells them how madly in love with them God is? “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” – Romans 10:15 I can’t think of a gladder tiding than to hear that though I be scum, God loves me! Can you?
    I don’t know why I wrote this tonight. I never comment on forums or blogs, but I felt compelled in this situation. I do not try to glorify Manning and surely do not try to tear down this blogger. It was not my intent to do either. I can only speak to that which I know and that is Christ and His Word. I can only testify in the manner in which I was rescued. That the Good News is that I am not to be held captive by my sin but that Jesus became sin and was punished for me! Me!! A filthy, repulsive SINNER!! An enemy of God!! That Jesus desperately loves me (in spite of me) and wants to be with me (obviously as he was compelled to die so that it be made so..) For His Glory forever and ever. Amen.
    “…among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
    4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:3-10

  • Very well-written and insightful!

  • Thanks!

  • nemo

    I think yankeegospelgirl is a snob

  • nemo

    As I let reason have her perfect work, I realized that I was mean to you. I’m sorry. But, I would like to know what “old” books you like to read. And do you like the poets, even the heretical ones like Emily Dickinson(my favorite), or Walt Whitman. Or how about Wallace Stevens or Frost. I would guess that you like T.S. Elliot, since he was orthodox. I think he’s great too. I also like the Bronte’s, Austin, Proust, Shakespeare, Donne, Herbert, etc…And Virginia Woolf. I forgot to say: john Milton and Dante. And have you read “The Figure of Beatrice?” I’m prob. talking too much and not enough about God, but (to correct that), I think(know) the greatest book in world is the King James Bible. It is the Great Code of Art.

  • nemo

    I know I’m ranting and should be talking about Manning, whom I did enjoy in the 90’s, but I also wanted to say that I also hate post-modernity. And to apply one of Lewis’s ideas, there is no more “magic” in the world. There is only if you believe in Christ. Our world has been de-mythologized by the evolutionists, scientists, modern and post-modernists. This world by and large has lost it’s innocence, it’s childlikeness(without which we won’t enter heaven), it’s Poetry. Along with the belief in God, art is degraded in the process. And I believe art and religion are inseperable. And we need them both to feel and be, human. The world doesn’t know what it has lost in giving up God, the bible, faith, etc…..

  • Pingback: Perfection Is Not Boring | Southern Gospel Yankee()

  • Yes, you are ranting, and not very coherently either, but it looks like English might not be your first language so I’ll try to give you some grace here. I need to go start my day as a college student in a couple minutes, but just a few quick points in answer to your questions:
    1. I read a lot of old writers, including the majority of the ones you listed. We share many favorites.
    2. I’m not sure why you think enjoying an old poet whose theology might not be orthodox is incompatible with criticizing the idolization of a heteredox spiritual leader/thinker/author.
    3. I agree that the world has been greatly de-mythologized by the new atheists and post-modernists. I share your concern over their influence and think they don’t deserve the oxygen of publicity. What exactly that all has to do with Brennan Manning I’m not sure.
    4. In the future, please try to stay on topic with your comments, and get together a clearer idea of what you want to say before posting. Thanks!

  • RJR

    Brennan Manning was an amazing man of God!! I had the opportunity to get to know him! I believe that Brenna taught me of a Christ and a God I did not know as a child growing up. It was a church that you were sent to hell for more reasons than there to be sent to heaven. A God that if you made a mistake He would wipe you out!! I believe that Jesus came to show and present a different side of God. One that loved us so much that He sent His son to die for us. My first statement is to the man who wrote the original article. Do you not have anything better to do with your life and writing talents than criticize such an amazing writer who truly brought hundreds of thousands of people to have a better understanding of a loving Christ. Is Galatians not clear to you about grace!!! When will you have a real encounter with our Abba and experience a true transformation and realize it is not all about keeping the rules and pleasing people to look perfect! Most rule keepers I have met are very unhappy people on the inside! I believe they just desire for all of us to be as unhappy as they are because they have not received the fullness of what grace actually is. Once you do that you will get over judging and one uping people to make yourself look superior! You will extend your hand and be the loving hand of our Abba. In a dream I spoke these words and it began a new chapter in my life! “It is not until you experience the pain of the nails in my hands and the pain of the nails in my feet that you have fully experienced me!! Do you just not understand the ministry of the Christ you say you love? There are way to many hurting and rejected individuals out there to spend precious time splitting hairs!! The great thing about Brennan is he would not have cared about your critical comments about his writing!! The only thing that is sad is that to criticize his works is to say you have not experienced such a loving and compassionate Abba!!! Thank you Brennan for being a great teacher and friend!! May the ones of us who were our lives were touched and transformed by your ministry carry on what you began!!! I know in this moment your head is against our Abbas chest!! Thanks for teaching me and many others to hear Abbas heartbeat and not the harsh words of the ones who believe that in works and perfection!! Love You Much Brennan!!!!

  • I’m not a man, but I’ve been told I write like one, so thanks for the (unintended) compliment!
    I don’t have time to respond point by point to your critique, but to answer your question don’t I have anything better to do with my time… I was interested in Manning because he died this year, so I felt like doing some research about his life and teaching. Apparently, since it’s been consistently one of my most-read posts ever since, it’s been of interest to a lot of other people. So I learned something, and I don’t feel my time was wasted.
    I’ll just say that I think you’re manifesting the same judgmental spirit you claim to abhor by assuming that I must be an unhappy Pharisee who has never experienced the loving grace of God. So you might want to make sure that branch you’re sitting on is still there…

  • I have enjoyed reading Brennan Manning and other authors like him. Brennan Manning, Henry Nouwen, Thomas Merton, C.S. Lewis. Great Christian writers. Their writings have strengthened my faith in God. It is sad people seem to be critical of these and other writers. Well like Merton said you will not please everyone. I think all we can do is go out there and do our best and let Jesus do the rest. These writers have taught me meditation and love. To love our enemies as Jesus taught us. They have taught me to help others in poverty yo help others to be free from addictions..gambling, sex, alcohol. To show others ways to be free from their vices and to start living for Christ in a hateful consumer driven and materialist world. These writers have helped me to work for peace in our world. To be rid of guns and to start praying. I praise The Lord Jesus for them. As Christians it seems we are too divided. We should be united to bring all to Jesus. I believe this has been the theme for the writers I mentioned. I won’t be surprised if there is a Christian who will totally disagree with what I have to say, but Christians have often had several disagreements on various matters. So sad, but that is humans for you. At any rate I thank God for these writers like Brennan, and hopefully in Christians we be inspired by these writers to work for Jesus in building the Kingdom of God in a dark world. Peace of Christ to everyone.

  • balancedliving2009

    Only one comment, there is so much work to be done in the world why on earth is is so important to talk about a person who in the midst of humanity provided some view of Jesus that others might not. This is exactly what turns non Christians off to our faith. BE a doer, a lover of people and proclaimer of good news instead of all this time on writing blogs on why someone shouldn’t have been a leader. Millions of people need our love, our hands and feet to flesh out the Gospel. Drop the debating and move on with all us being more transformed!

  • I think God is concerned that we be clear in our thinking and understand Him properly. Otherwise, the message we present to the world will be confused and muddled. For that reason, it’s good to exercise discernment about which leaders we emulate and which ones we don’t.

  • Isaac

    I have rather enjoyed reading through these posts. Very good discussion and I am encouraged that people are taking the time to discuss spiritual things rather than posting about what some celebrity wore to the VMA Awards. However, I find it a bit displeasing that there appears to be so much anger and hostility between Gods people. Shouldn’t we treat each other with love and respect rather than posting personal jabs at people we disagree with?
    I personally have enjoyed what little I have read of Brennan Mannings books, and while I don’t agree with 100% of his stances, he has done great things for the kingdom. I am sure his alcoholism has hurt his credibility for some and on the other hand has brought many sinners into the loving arms of Jesus. I know what a painful struggle it is to deal with an addiction, so I am not going to cast any stones at him. First, because it isn’t my place to judge, but secondly, because how much of his personal life is really known to people that didn’t come in to regular contact with him? I don’t like to judge a book by its cover and similarly I don’t like to judge people I don’t know much about. The real reason I wanted to chime in on this thread is that I have come to be a little disenfranchised with the rigid, holier than thou, modern Christianity that seems to be more concerned with believing the right things than trying to emulate the person of Christ. I recently read the book, The Barbarian Way, by Erwin McManus and came across a quote I would like to share. “Somehow Christianity has become a non-mystical religion. Its about a reasonable faith. If we believe the right things then we are orthodox. Frankly, whether we ever actually connect to God or experience His undeniable presence has become incidental, if not irrelevant. We have become believers rather than experiencers.” I would much rather look at how Jesus lived his life and try to follow his example than to try to arrive at the right doctrine. Abundant life can only be found in Jesus, not in rigidly interpreting the scripture. To me, picking out a verse in which Paul says for leaders to live “above reproach” and using that to minimize Mannings legacy is kind of sad. I can understand and appreciate that point of view, but think it is not helpful in advancing the gospel and can turn people off to the real message of Jesus. The question we need to ask ourselves is are we fulfilling the greatest commandment… to love The Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself? The rest is mostly gravy if you don’t start here. Best I can tell, Brennan was committed to fulfilling this commandment.

  • Thanks for your comment. I myself find that Erwin McManus quote rather disturbing, not to mention logically flawed. It looks to me like he’s created a straight-up false dichotomy, as if “reasonable faith” must be divorced from emotion. Christians are actually in a bad way if Christianity is nothing but “a mystical religion.” The beauty of Christianity, the thing that makes it stand out from other religions, is that it’s actually TRUE. It’s grounded in history, it’s something we can go research and gather evidence for, it’s a tangible reality, unlike Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. Take that away, and you have just another experience, which is frankly no more or less valid than other religious experiences.
    Also, I think if you try to imitate Jesus’ example you’re going to run into a whole lot of doctrine. Jesus was intimately concerned with right doctrine. He was a Jew for crying out loud! Ditto for Paul. Have you read some of Paul’s passages about kicking people out of the church altogether? I’m not saying you’re saved by your works, but the gospels and the epistles lay out a pretty explicit road map that a Christian should at least be aiming for, and they’re not fuzzy or feel-good at all.

  • Isaac

    I am not sure that I understand the point of your blog. It seems that you are so entrenched in your infallible opinions that all you can do is attack the people that disagree with or challenge you. The sinner, the alcoholic… Brennan Manning, the one who “should’ve never been given a platform to begin with” understands grace and love much better than you and consequently will win more for the kingdom of God. Also, I find it unfortunate that you can criticize and say a statement is disturbing without knowing the entire context… It is thought-provoking book that I would highly recommend. I don’t agree with everything Erwin McManus says, but until you read the book I would be careful not to cast judgement. With all due respect (and I do appreciate your effort to start good conversation), your pious attitude and know-it-all responses probably turn more people away from God than to him.
    Please understand, in no way am I condoning alcoholism or a “feel-good” Christianity. I am merely pointing out, as most of the responders to your post already have, that not one is righteous and we are all sinners. Do you think that Rich Mullins and Max Lucado never sinned during the course of their ministry? Of course they did.
    Let me ask another question… Would you ever go to a bar and drink a beer or a glass of wine? I have heard many followers of Jesus say that they wouldn’t because of the negative image it would give them. Negative image? Jesus turned water into wine. I have met and had more good conversations with non-believers in that setting than any other. Spirituality usually comes up in the course of these conversations. God can use anything for good.

  • You don’t seem to understand my point. I didn’t say McManus has never had a good thought in his life, or that there isn’t other good stuff in the book, because I haven’t read the book. I just gave my thoughts on the single quote you posted. Do you not agree that the historically grounded truth of the Christian religion is what separates it from other “mystical experiences?” Could you see why that quote might give the impression that McManus is simply disregarding that? Instead of throwing out wildly false ad hominems, why not focus on the content of what I’m saying?
    Beer smells like stale urine, so I doubt I will ever be tempted by that particular beverage. Wine is a different story, but regardless I would stay out of bars, because I’m getting a concealed carry permit soon and I’d prefer not to get into situations where I might have to use it. Petite ladies gotta be smart like that. Plus, I really shouldn’t drive myself home if I go out and drink somewhere, so I have to rely on someone else, which means I’m at their mercy when it comes to leaving time, etc. So, practically speaking, drinking at a bar or even a social occasion in general isn’t something I’d do or recommend to others. I do recommend eine kleine Gewurtztraminer, or Port, at bedtime, in your own house, plus significant other and candles if it can be arranged.
    I know, you really wanted to pigeonhole me. Sorry to disappoint.

  • Isaac

    I don’t have to pigeonhole you. You do it with everything you say.
    Excellent choice by the way to get a concealed carry permit. More people need to do that. You probably would never need it in a bar though. I have been to hundreds of bars and never saw a reason to use it.

  • Isaac

    Oh, and I agree that Port is delicious. Brandy and wine make a great combination.

  • Good, then we’ve got something in common. *clink*
    Do feel free to check out some of my other writing—you might find it covers a good variety of topics and ideas, including many posts where I’m praising something. You obviously don’t know my blog that well if you’re under the impression that all I do is criticize stuff.

  • Living above reproach means you cannot be publicly accused of being a stumbling block nor having consistent sins that bring shame to the Gospel. Being open and transparent about your sins does not somehow escape this. In fact, one could argue it brings you more under reproach. I am not saying the man should not have ever had a platform or be speaking as Christian, but he would have been disqualified from being an elder, etc. This is not my opinion, the bible is explicit about it. God’s servants are called to a higher standard, going all the way back to Moses who was forbidden from seeing the promised land because of a moment of anger. Moses, the most humble man on the earth. This idea of a higher standard is carried through to the NT. Consider where Paul says teachers will be judged more harshly.
    Paul said people claimed Christ but by their works denied Him. Where is the cutoff point into apostasy? I am not sure. I wish I had a definite answer. My fear is that Manning may have crossed it and led others there too. His later writings get very universalist in nature, and I know he began to openly encourage many forms of eastern mystical practices totally foreign to the Gospel. For instance, in ” The Signature of Jesus” he endorses: centering prayer, paschal spirituality, the discipline of the secret, contemplative spirituality, mineralization, practicing the presence, inner integration, yielding to the Center, notional knowledge, contemporary spiritual masters and masters of the interior life. in the book, he teaches his readers how to pray, using an eight-word mantra. He says, “the first step in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer” (p. 212). The second step is “without moving your lips, repeat the sacred word [or phrase] inwardly, slowly, and often.” If distractions come, “simply return to listening to your sacred word” (p. 218). He also encourages his readers to “celebrate the darkness” because “the ego has to break; and this breaking is like entering into a great darkness” (p. 145). Jesus said, “He who follows me shall not walk in the darkness” (John 8:12).
    Some in their blog comments here have suggested we should follow his example and learn to be less critical and get along. We are never supposed to get along for the sake of peace but at the cost of truth. At it’s heart, that is the philosophy of the antichrist spirit. I am not talking about dividing over minor doctrinal issues or walking around like a Pharisee. But Jesus never encourages spirituality at the cost of doctrine.So when people say they don’t want to “understand doctrine and miss Jesus” I think they fail to realize Jesus did not separate those things at all. HE said “if you continue in my teaching (doctrine) you are my disciples.” Jn 8:31 And He sure was teaching a lot! That’s doctrine. He said we should worship in Spirit and in truth. Manning seems to emphasize the spiritual part at the cost of the other. Similar to him, I see more and more people placing subjective experience (often gained through the mystical) as a idol to which the word of God should conform, rather than as the Bible teaches.
    Manning had great things to say about grace. But it became a very lop sided message. Was he a wolf in sheep’s clothing? not really sure. It seems that way at times. In our quest to show people grace, let’s not forget it’s only grace in light of God’s holiness.He is described as holy more than any other quality. We are called to reconcile people to that holy God. We can do that without being judgmental jack asses. Yes, it is tricky, but that it what daily manna is for-reading the word, prayer, and submitting to the word and holy Spirit. With God it is possible. Manning shows the grace of God, but I wouldn’t suggest him as a teacher of anything beyond that message. He seemed to use it as a license to go on sinning. The very thing Paul preached against in Romans 6. No, I could not endorse the man at all. I would recommend a simliar book though,called “Messy Spirituality” by M. Yaconelli.

  • Thanks Jeffrey, you touched on many important things here. I too have seen those quotes about “the sacred mantra.” (Which will always make me think of that scene in Annie Hall, but ANYway…). Sadly that’s not too uncommon in Catholic circles, or Eastern Orthodox even more. When I did a stress workshop in college, we listened to a “guided breathing” meditation that was strikingly similar to Manning’s quote here. “If you find your attention wandering, just slowly draw it back to your breathing. Be very gentle with yourself.” Etc.

  • bethanyjoybells

    I just read this and I am sad. I hope you find grace when you sin badly. We all sin badly. Grace is our only hope. Maybe Brennan knew that better than anyone.

  • William Geldernick
    ^^Martin Luther, synonymous with Jesus and with Brennan Manning. Sure maybe it’s infantile but at least it’s built on the rock rather than some earthly diabolical McMansion built to impress yourself or others.

  • kate

    I am just now finding this blog post and wanted to comment. As someone who was brought up in the church and as someone who now feels a complete distance from the church (but not of God), I can confess that views like yours are ones that push people away from knowing God. Constantly debating whether or not someone has the correct theology, is successful in their marriage, or is free or not free of sin is pointless. These are the things that get in the way of God and his grace and love.
    I’m pulling some things that were written from you and from someone in the comment section regarding leadership:
    “This is not a man who deserved a place as a revered Christian leader or mentor. This is a man who should never have had a platform in the first place.”
    I John 3:9 “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him.”
    It is so easy to say these things and to quote the bible when one wants to make a point.
    If we are all honest with ourselves, do we really think that we will be completely free of sin for the rest of our life? One of the biggest leaders and influencers of the church was a man who spoke openly about the thorn in his flesh.
    ROMANS 7:14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
    21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
    Brennan Manning was honest over and over again about the thorn in his flesh and this is why he is respected. People relate to him because we ALL struggle with our own thorns and it makes it less scary when you know you’re not the only one struggling.
    I am not condoning unhealthy behavior from Manning, but he was a broken man that needed God’s love and God’s grace. But so do you! So do I!
    Manning didn’t write books on who’s theology was wrong or whether or not they deserve to be sharing Christ’s story, he was out there teaching about God’s love in his own story. I find it mind-boggling that you would write “This is a man who should never have had a platform in the first place.” I ask, why do you deserve to have a platform to speak? Are you a perfect person? Are you free of sin? Imagine hundreds of people discussing your failures and your weaknesses online and whether or not you deserve to have this blog of yours. Of course you’re going to feel hurt and threatened.. you should! But this is what you’re doing to Manning and you should think of him as a child of God’s. He’s brought a lot of people close to their Father.

  • Hi Kate. Thanks for commenting. A few remarks:
    1. I’d have to look at the context of the other commentator’s use of the John passage, but I think most Christians would agree that Christians sin constantly while still remaining Christians. That’s certainly my position.
    2. It’s not entirely clear what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, but many have conjectured it was blindness—not a besetting sin, but a disability. I see no reason to assume it was some specific, damaging temptation comparable to Manning’s alcoholism. The passages you quoted are good food for thought about the Christian’s daily war with sin, but they’re couched very generally. I know you probably would disagree, but some temptations are more devastating and crippling than others when it comes to Christian ministry, and that was the specific topic of this post.
    3. I believe Manning actually did criticize some people’s theology and approach to evangelism, pretty harshly in fact. He took every possible opportunity to sneer at the Religious Right and anything with the faintest whiff of conservative fundamentalism. He also scorned some basic tenets of Christian orthodoxy, as I’ve outlined in my post. This was particularly problematic when it came to doctrines like the atonement and moral issues like homosexuality. Now maybe you’re fine with all that. I’m guessing you’re not a conservative. But in that case, you should admit that Manning was no less critical in his own way than I am.
    4. I’m defining the word “platform” pretty specifically as a place of significant authority and leadership within the Church. A small blog that virtually nobody reads is a silly comparison to the magnitude of Manning’s influence. I don’t claim to be a leader or a voice of authority. I don’t write books explaining to everybody why my theology is ground-breaking and wonderful. I don’t hold seminars where people come sit at my feet like I’m a fount of wisdom about God. I’m just some dudette with a minuscule Internet soapbox where I ramble about whatever I feel like rambling about, and a few people seem to like it and come back for more. Big difference.
    5. Finally, I never once denied that God used Manning for good in some people’s lives. However, I also pointed out that God can use anything, so that doesn’t automatically mean Manning should have been a church leader.

  • Kate,
    One thing that is explicitly clear is that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was NOT sin that he was committing. He says it was a messenger of Satan (something external from himself) sent to keep him humble.
    Furthermore, the passage in Romans 7 is about the sinful nature and it’s desires, apart from God’s grace. His point is to show the futility of the law in order to change that. If you go back one chapter he mentions that because of grace, we should not continue sinning as a general practice. (Not that we never will sin.) His point is that a true understanding of grace and evidence of it’s work in your life produces Christ-like character-ever increasing holiness. So, for those who claim Manning “understood grace better than anyone,” my response is to point to scripture and say, “maybe not.” As you said, we cannot just lift a scripture out of context to fit what we want to say.
    Of course we are not to run around criticizing, judging and condemning others, but we also are not to become comfortable with sin. Paul openly rebuked some, named others by name and even commanded the church to excommunicate a man who was continuing in adultery with his father’s wife. Some were spreading false teaching like Hymeneus, others just were unrepentant, like the man mentioned. And in fact, Paul chasitzes the whole church because they are so bragging about the grace they were showing that man. A careful study of 1Cor. 4-6 will illustrate this. Paul rebuked their “graceful” attitude as arrogance.
    We deal differently with someone who is trying to stop sinning but can’t and someone who continues in it willfully. And there is a fine line here sometimes. But one other thing is clear, we are not to hold either in a place of leadership as a teacher. If you want to say Brennan has a great testimony, so be it. If you want to say his earlier books like “Raggamuffin Gospel” are full of truth, also, that may be the case. Just like we are not to judge a man by one or a few action(s) and say he is bad, so likewise we cannot judge him by a few good things and pretend everything is just fine. We are to test all things (1 thess 5:21).
    I can’t speak for the author of the blog, but I am not here to condemn Manning, yet I do feel an obligation to warn people of the aberrant things he was engaged in, and began to teach. Is he a heretic? I don’t know, and I don’t know if he was saved-we don’t really ever know that about anyone. But I do speak about what I do know-the bible teaches about discernment and avoiding the false and warning others in love. Though, ultimately, we have to focus on the light and truth, rather than seeking to find things we can criticize about everyone. Manning had some great things to say about grace. Just check everything by the word and prayer. God bless.

  • Lydia

    Well said, Jeffrey.
    One interesting thing is that Kate quotes someone (me, as it happens, but I honestly didn’t remember who it was until I searched on the page, because it had been a while) quoting Scripture on these subjects and then rants as if that is a wrong and hateful thing to do. That’s amazing, because the implication is that we should just ignore Scripture if it doesn’t seem to fit with the tolerant viewpoint we prefer.
    It’s true that the Apostle John said some rather downright things about habitual sin and fruit. Interpreting those is difficult, since we do remain sinners after accepting Christ. But presumably what John had in mind was continuing in sin without sign of true change and conversion.
    As for Paul, to quote Romans 7 as some sort of competition to Paul’s *utterly clear* words (which even make reference to alcoholism!) about Christian leadership is to commit the error of attempting to make Scripture–in this case, even the words of a single writer–contradict itself unnecessarily. Needless to say, there is nothing in Romans 7 that contradicts Paul’s criteria for high Christian office in the pastoral epistles.
    Finally, YGG makes a good point about Manning’s own criticisms of anything remotely “fundamentalist.” The old double standard again: “You are mean and critical, so-and-so was all love and loving to everyone and didn’t criticize.” It ain’t necessarily so.

  • Michael

    SGY, I don’t want to appear contradictory but I wanted to say that I appreciate your defense of doctrine and the truth of God’s Word. The standard for pastors and elders is set high in Scripture. We are not to place them on pedastels because they are sinners saved by grace but as shepherds of a flock they are to live “above reproach” with consistency, striving toward holiness.
    I also agree with others that Brennan Mannings insights on grace are liberating. I believe that Rich Mullins, Michael Card and others had the maturity to accept the truth of grace without being confused about some of Brennans mystical viewpoints. I don’t agree with everything I read by any writer. But “all truth is God’s truth.” I was moved and drawn closer to the Lord by many passages in “The Ragamuffin Gospel”. I also saw error in many of things that were written in that wonderful book. I didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. So I embrace the truth and disregard the the error. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I believe one of your concerns is what could happen when an individual is not mature in the faith and is unable to separate doctrinal truth from error. Then the works of any author can become a dangerous thing. I think that is the rub. We must contrast the teachings of any writer with the truth of Scripture. Embrace what is true and discard what doesn’t align with God’s truth.
    I am a former pastor who went through a divorce. I have dealt with sinful addictions. I am disqualified from leading a congregation according to 1st Timothy. I agree with the truth of that. I have friends who have attempted to woo me back into professional ministry but I will never lower the standard. It breaks my heart but the consequences of sin exist, regardless of the opinions of my loving friends. The amazing thing is that God still extends His grace and mercy toward me. I can still serve Him, just not in the capacity that I once did. But I will continue to share the message of His love and His grace even though I am broken and will walk with a limp for the rest of my days.
    I thank God for the truth that Brennan Manning shared about God’s amazing grace and I am glad his struggle is over. He wrote encouraging words for battle scarred soldiers. I also thank God for your blog and the discussions that have ensued about the ministry of Brennan Manning. Blogs will always attract negative comments but this topic caused me to think and that is a good thing. God bless.

  • Thanks for reading Michael, and for your thoughtful comments!

  • Brenda McWilliams

    I can’t recall how I came across this blog, but I have spent probably way too much time reading the majority of it — original posts and comments. I will say up front that I have read several of Brennan Manning’s books — The Ragamuffin Gospel, Abba’s Child, The Signature of Jesus on the Pages of Our Life, and the memoir All is Grace. Manning’s writing with his steadfast proclamation of God’s all inclusive love and grace along with his exhortations to live a life of “authentic discipleship” have greatly impacted my life. Right now, I will simply say that thankfully, all that has been written or said is mere opinion. God’s truth and mercy ultimately reigns supreme for all of us and for Brennan.

  • Karin

    Dear yankee gospel girl, who are you to judge this though? If God chooses to seek, save and use the lost, who are we to disagree with Him!
    Brennan has some great teachings and so have some ‘perfect’ (nobody is perfect by the way) preachers, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water… By the way God is crazy in love with you 😀

  • Thanks for the comment Karin. I don’t believe I’ve sent any proverbial babies flying from their ablutionary receptacles, though you may feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. 😉
    I don’t question God, because I know and believe He can use anything to do His will. He can use an abortion to convert an onlooker to Christianity. But does that mean we shouldn’t question the abortion, or assume God was pleased by it and wanted it to happen? Similarly, Manning destroyed himself and his marriage while preaching words that had some powerful effects on people who heard it, but does that mean God wanted Manning’s marriage to fall apart?
    Thanks for telling me God is in love with me, it was kindly meant, although I prefer simply to think that God loves me.

  • Tim

    James…I agree with you. Brennan Manning was just a man, but he was a shining example of the lost art of true transparency. He shouldn’t have had a platform? This guy, ultimately, refused to wear a mask. God IS glorified when we take the glory high-jacking masks off and allow God to be seen IN our weakness. That doesn’t mean that we need to “sin so that grace may abound.” All the fear based behavioral modification messages out there…the moral deism that is so prevalent in the church today…and along comes a man who decides to boast in his weaknesses, and continue to lift high the name of Jesus…man…nothing you could post here on the Internet can touch that! Grace is ALL Jesus…and none of us! To walk in humility and understand that the definition of sin is trying to get our needs met apart from God…that will change your life forever. Doctrine and theology are very important, of course. But when I watch Jesus walking through his culture…he looks a LOT more like Brennan Mannings picture of God in the flesh than most people I’ve ever read or heard!

  • It’s not so much that Manning struggled with alcoholism that bothers me. It’s the fact that he deceived his wife and took money from people who had no idea how much he was spending on alcohol. I realize deceptive behavior goes together with alcoholism, but in that case we’re right back to my statement that he shouldn’t have had a ministry. The lifestyle he took on as a result fed his addiction and, if nothing else, destroyed his marriage.

  • Lydia

    Years ago a friend of mine introduced me to a great phrase: The cult of sin mysticism. In the defenses of Manning here as being somehow _better_ suited for ministry because he was mired in addictive behavior, I find much of the cult of sin mysticism. “Hey, if you’re mired in addictive behavior but you go around talking all the time about the grace of God, you’re so transparent, man, that makes you a *wonderful* example to follow–so Christ-like, so weak, so frail, showing God in your weaknesses.” In actuality, this cult of sin mysticism is completely unbiblical, along multiple axes. Not the least of its problems is its using a term like “weaknesses” ambiguously. Claims to the contrary notwithstanding, it really is glorifying sin qua sin as a qualification because on-going, addictive, continual sin allegedly makes people more humble. Sorry, folks, that’s not what the apostles teach us.

  • I agree completely, Tim!

  • Avenel Grace

    Avenel Grace.Adelaide South Australia.
    I am just amazed at the negativity to beloved Brennan’s work. I was first introduced to his book “Ragamuffin Gospel” 2 years ago.I was in a Christian book shop, looking for some of Henry Nouwen’s work, when a small woman with a face that I could only describe as shining, hurried over to me and shoved Brennan’s book in my chest and said..”You just must read this… it will change your life”… I took it and thought “OK I
    ll look at it”. At the counter we both paid for our books at the same time, and as the lady turned to go, she hugged me and said “I was so bound… and now I’m free, smiled, and just vanished… literally..Neither the clerk behind the counter nor I saw her go.. We searched the street and the shop, but she was no where to be seen. I have never encountered her again although I frequent this shop regularly. I only say this, because I would never have picked up any of Brennan’s books had she not drawn my attention to them. I can only thank my God and Saviour that I did get to know Brennan through his writings . I am dismayed and confounded at the cynicism and criticism of this dear man, who would NEVER have considered himself a prophet preacher or leader.He always denounced himself, and I challenge anyone who has written negatively on this blog to stand up and tell everyone how bad their sins have been… Brennan was an open book, and is the first to be critical of himself, particularly in his beautiful books “The Signature Of Jesus”, Ruthless trust, The Relentless Tenderness Of Jesus, Abba’s Child, and many more.
    I as a Counsellor for sick and suffering people, have found Brennan’s books invaluable in bringing a love of Jesus, and a profound peace to the dying. We are ALL BROKEN PEOPLE in God’s sight, right from the beginning.. God had his plan of Salvation for a ruined race… and for those of you who think you are preaching a ” Righteous Gospel… think again… so many are just so needy, and the orthodox churches with their legalistic teachings turn them away at every corner. As to his stance on Homosexuals, Brennan’s feeling was God will judge…He didn’t condone the practice, but they are just as much in need of a saviour as the rightoeus ones.
    I think all Heaven erupted when Brennan arrived !! … and it is our loss.
    Thank you Max Lucado and others for supporting Brennan. I love you all.

  • Well, whether or not Brennnan would have used those words to describe himself… there’s no question you and other people view him that way. You’re proving it with this very comment. And once again, you’re articulating this faulty notion that Brennan’s addiction somehow made him more qualified for that role—even though it destroyed his marriage and led him to deceive those he loved so many times over.
    I certainly don’t get the impression that Brennan viewed homosexuality as necessarily needing to be judged. If he indeed “advocated for committed gay couples,” that’s quite the opposite.

  • Thanks, Avenel Grace for your words. I too have been amazed at the critical comments regarding Brennan Manning. He along with Henri Nouwen have been my Pilgrimage Campanions since I first discovered Nouwen in 1990 and Manning in 1995. I have just published a piece (written in 1997) on Nouwen in my blog —
    Regarding the critical comments — I just don’t get the need to “tear down” another’s work and ministry for the Kingdom. Only God is perfect. We are mere pilgrim, seekers, and often heretics in this journey! Thanks again!

  • Have you ever criticized anyone in the Church? I’m pretty sure there are people whose views you feel strongly negative about. Manning certainly railed against the brands of Christianity he disliked in his work. As I said earlier, let’s not pretend he never dished it out.

  • Joe

    Whether one feels Manning is orthodox or not is up to one’s interpretation of the Bible. There are as many interpretations as there are denominations, if not more.
    As far as Brennan’s sins, I will just say that he was totally honest about his sins. He was an open book. Very unlike most people, let alone most priests, ministers, preachers, teachers, etc. That is what attracts people the most to Manning – his humility and courage to be the broken person that he was.
    Brennan didn’t pontificate or condemn people. He did not put on airs. He preached his understanding of the Word of God. One may not agree with every word he stated but no one can say that he preached/taught with a spirit of superiority or arrogance.
    In the Scriptures, I see Jesus wrapping a towel around his waist and washing the dirty feet of his disciples. I truly wonder how many men/women of God would truly do this in the same set of circumstances/sanitation as in the days of Jesus.

  • Yes, but unfortunately some interpretations are so diametrically opposed that one side must necessarily be wrong. As for Brennan being an open book, eventually he was, but he did hide some things during his active ministry. Furthermore, he certainly did project an air of superiority whenever he talked about conservative evangelicals.

  • wm borch

    You make perfect sense. Too much easy acceptance of sin: not a
    question of forgiveness. Christ and the Apostles taught the all-loving God holds us responsible to one another; what’s happened to us? Pastor 54 years, 22 yrs. USArmy Chaplain. “Been there, done that!”

  • wm borch

    Wow, impressive!

  • wm borch

    Terrific job! Seems like a perfect combination of reasonableness and
    graiousness. Thanks

  • wm borch

    Obviously, I meant “graciousness”.

  • wm borch


  • wm borch

    St.Paul said on at least 2 occasions: “imitate me” and “as I imitate
    Christ.” In retrospect, as a pastor, I would have been terrified to have said anything like that! But obviously, that’s the standard, and what Christ had in mind for his preachers/pastors. Seems clearly, no longer to be the rule.

  • wm borch

    That seems to sum it up!

  • wm borch

    Good point.

  • wm borch

    Bradley, This is not about being “critical” of particular writers.
    It’s about what Scriptural and Apostolic standards must be applied to all of us, especially when in leadership positions. It’s really a quite simple matter- and not personal!

  • wm borch

    Thank God for your patience! How does one cope with all the fuzziness? It doesn’t get easier through the years; a new crop comes up each generation! Grace and mercy!

  • Thank you for all your kind words wm. They’re appreciated. 🙂

  • wm borch

    Hang in there. It’s got to be hard. Some of the confusion and absurdity is stunning! But as in any Christian service you hope to inform a few.

  • I try. I do find it amusing that it’s my second-most read post behind this one about Steve McQueen:

  • I want to tell you my Brennan story, but it is way past bedtime here. I just really need to say that I encourage you to read his books. God gave him such a gift writing and teaching!! When I first picked up “Ragamuffin Gospel”, many years ago (before I learned anything about grace, even after being a Christian for decades and loving the Lord, studying for the ministry,etc) I thought Brennan preached Universalism. And I judged him.
    -Then Rich died. You said you love Rich’s songs- they are full of quotes from Brennan’s books and things that Richard himself learned in his years of great friendship with Brennan. After we lost Rich, I started reading all of the books he liked, and it was life-changing.
    -Then I saw Brennan speaking about accusations of Universalism- i also strongly suggest you watch and listen, there is a treasure trove of video at youtube! 🙂
    -And lastly, and most important in my life? I don’t know where or who I would be w/o a few amazing teachers the Lord brought into my life. Brennan is very high on that list (Have you read any of James Bryan Smith’s books? He is my fave author, was a dear friend of Rich’s and just so gifted by God. If you like Jim, you like Brennan. If you like Rich? You like Brennan. These men were huge influences on Rich. The film that is premiering in Wichita Kansas about Rich’s life next month? All of the trailers feature BM heavily – the film is called RAGAMUFFIN)
    The title here made me sad. I love Brennan. I can’t wait to meet him in heaven! I will “hug his neck”, as we say here in Oklahoma, so hard!! When Brennan passed from this life and was in the ACTUAL presence of Abba, I know without a doubt that he heard “Well done, good and faithful servant!”. Brennan is free. He is forgiven. We must be very careful setting ourselves up as a higher court than the Creator of the universe! If God Himself has forgiven, who in the world are we to condemn?
    Thank you for reading. I hope you will read his books and know first hand what he taught, and definitely check out that YouTube video, I think you will like what you see. Grace and peace to you.

  • I think another useful thing is, as we are directed to in Scripture, look at the fruit. I am part of that! Part of the fruit of Brennan’s ministry. I’m part of his legacy! So is Rich Mullins and everyone Brennan ministered to.
    Look at the fruit – not the falling down times. I won’t pretend toknow what it is like to be addicted to alcohol. Brennan was heart-sick that he wounded his wife and he lost his marriage. I think, yankeegospelgirl, that you need a few more pieces of the puzzle. And i really think that i fyou get to know Brennan through the many many people he touched, through his books and through his live teachings, many of which are at You Tube, ready and waiting, you might draw a different conclusion. If you met me and heard my story? I think that would matter too. (Hopefully this is read by you in the spirit in which it is intended. Not to argue, but just to help with a a few of those puzzle pieces)

  • @Tim, that was a lovely, perfect response. I personally appreciate it and you!! (love this – “God IS glorified when we take the glory high-jacking masks off and allow God to be seen IN our weakness. That doesn’t mean that we need to “sin so that grace may abound”. You definitely know the Brennan I know. I’m so grateful!!

  • Rich was not “charmed by Manning”. He was changed by his teachings (his teachings about God’s love and grace) and they were very close friends. Brennan mourned Rich terribly every day for the rest of his life.
    Rich didn’t follow any humans, but like those of us who do not know it all, he had teachers. Brennan was one of his most important. Ask anyone who actually knew him. This is GOSSIP, friends. Gossip and bearing false witness? Not good things 🙁

  • To borrow a quote from Richard Wayne Mullins himself when speaking about a certain kind of preachers, “They’re not bad, they’re just wrong”. I feel like that is happening here. I am seeing a lot of “I am better than He is”,and that hurts my heart.
    The full context of Rich’s quote:
    “Jesus said whatever you do to the least of these my brothers you’ve done it to me. And this is what I’ve come to think. That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my savior and Lord, the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken”.
    —Rich Mullins

  • I’m not sure what you mean by gossip. All I meant by saying Rich was charmed by Manning was that Manning had a great force of personality. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, and I think it’s pretty clear if you look at the impact he had and the number of people who referred to him as an authority. I’m not speculating about something sinful beyond the evidence. True gossip would be more along the lines of “And hey I hear he also did this different terrible sin too!”

  • I’ve seen the entire video from which that quote comes, and while I appreciate other things Rich said in that video, I thought that was one of the weakest quotes. I’m not going to get into the question of economic policy and what the “popular evangelical preachers” actually believed about the poor, because honestly Rich is not specific enough for me to tell. Rich might have been referring to prosperity gospel preachers, in which case I agree with him that they’re wrong, maybe even also bad. If they’re mega-church pastors, their heads could be swollen by their platform. But Rich is painting with a broad brush and is probably including some pastors who don’t “not care about the poor,” they just have a different idea about how best the poor should be helped. My suspicion is Rich identified “Republican” or “conservative” with “doesn’t care about the poor,” simply because the Democrats CLAIMED to be the party who DID care about the poor. He never claimed to be a thinker, economic/political or otherwise, and I appreciate that humility in him, but the problem is that when it comes to issues like these, you really need more knowledge to understand them clearly. These are very complicated issues.
    I also take issue with the “building your perfect little niche” quote, for a couple of reasons. First of all, what’s up with putting gays and minorities together, like they go together somehow? Homosexual behavior is sinful, skin color is not. Second, I think it came off unfortunately superior and sneering—which as you know is very atypical of Rich. I see it in Derek Webb also, though he runs his mouth a lot more. The reason I say that is because I think Rich doesn’t seem to recognize the value of raising children in a quiet environment, gradually preparing them to go out and minister to the world without forcing all of sin’s harsh realities upon them before they’re ready. He seems to be taking aim, quite deliberately, at that home-spun, homeschooling, “white picket fence” culture. If I can bring in my own personal experience here, I know many people who would doubtless exactly fit what he’s talking about. I could have told Rich that they’re the salt of the earth, and their grown children are quite prepared to be that comfort to the hurting that Rich is talking about. Sending your children to public school, inviting drug addicts and gay couples to your house so that your small children’s innocence is destroyed, exposing them them to the ravages of all kinds of sin, is far from the best way to accomplish that goal.
    Rich seems to take the attitude that you gotta “throw them in the deep end” from the beginning so they’ll learn about the outside world and be able to start ministering right away. Well, small children aren’t equipped to minister in that capacity! They’re still in their formative years. I know Rich never had kids, but I have a feeling his philosophy probably wouldn’t change even if he had. This quote betrays a very one-dimensional view of what it should look like to reach out to the world.

  • Thanks for the comments Amy. I’ve replied to some of your others below. I thought I was careful not to accuse Manning of universalism in the post, since I also saw a quote from him where he denied it. However, there are still some problematic things in his writings. I’ll try to check out the video you mentioned, thanks for the tip.
    I don’t think I’ve ever denied that there was fruit from what he wrote and spoke about. Several people have told me Manning had a positive impact on them for Christ, and I rejoice in that as I’m sure God does as well. That includes you and your story. What I’m trying to say is that there are other ripple effects from the example Brennan set that may be subtle and harder to see, but are nevertheless problematic and need to be addressed.
    As for Rich, I’m well aware of Manning’s influence on him, but some things Rich said that you’ve quoted which showed that influence most clearly are, IMO, mistaken. I can still love Rich, love many things about him and love his songs, while also being able to say of him as he said of those preachers, “He wasn’t bad, just wrong.”

  • Jonah’s problem was racism born out of the barbarism of the Ninevites. That is slightly different than “stubbornness”. Jonah understood the heart of God all too well because he knew that God wanted to forgive them, wanted to keep them from destruction, and wanted them to be saved. God wasn’t teaching Jonah something, He was showing Jonah that what the prophet knew to be true, actually was.
    God brought the fish after Jonah attempted to commit what some could argue was suicide (an unpardonable sin in many fundamentalist’s theology). God looked at Jonah’s rebellion, racism, disobedience, anger, blasphemy, and attempted death and essentially told the prophet, “I am still going to use you to bring the light of my goodness to a darkened place.”
    I commend you for your fervor in attempting to guard the gates of Christian leadership and make sure that everyone on a platform is at least relatively “clean”, but I fear that God will continue to surprise us all with those whom He chooses to give a far reaching voice.
    blessings to you.

  • Racism? I just… never mind. Thanks for commenting.

  • Sookie

    First off, I have to say: Go Kate!!!! I LOVED your post! I hope it was read by the multitudes on here who need to hear it. I, kind of like you, am a recovering Catholic. All the religions who believe their doctrine is the only “right” one, do more harm to seeking souls than Satan himself ever thought of doing. I recall being 7 years old and skinning a knee on the playground at which point one of the repressed, ruler-wielding, easily angered nuns said; “You see-you were talking in class earlier and now God is punishing you.” They got a whole one-hour class each day to teach us all about THEIR jealous, wrathful, punishing and vengeful god (sorry, but THAT god doesn’t get a capital letter “G”). I was positively terrified to know such a mean-spirited, scary deity was just waiting for me to commit a child’s sins. You know, forgetting to feed the dog, talking back to my Mom, wishing horrible fates for the nuns who beat me daily… I nearly took my own life in eighth grade out of sheer terror of religion and the “god” I had been taught to fear mightily. Looking back now, their god was terribly similar to some of the men I got involved with later in life. I often wound up calling the police on them. Shockingly enough, (after several years of doing my best to remain invisible to that hateful, punishing entity) growing up had become difficult with my parents getting divorced and I struggled with the end of a serious relationship – I turned to alcohol – not realizing at the time that it would eventually punish me too. Drugs followed shortly after. Then, Hallelujah!- AA meetings and the introduction to a God who was loving, caring, understanding and forgiving and willing to work miracles in my life if I just said “Please” in the morning upon waking, and “Thank You” as I retired at night. Eventually I got comfortable with this new source of strength in my life and the power of prayer to help me through any crisis as long as I did my best to be my best and to help others do the same. There was not the slightest hint of any absurd doctrines like no drinking coffee or wearing tank tops and cut-offs, piercings and tattoos, the God of love and His Son, Jesus do not condemn His children, regardless of whatever illness, ailment or genetic curse may have befallen them. Is anyone truly ignorant enough to believe that a person would CHOOSE to be born homosexual? To be ridiculed, bullied, beaten and not infrequently murdered…? So, of course, those who dare not reside in a glass house for fear of the rock throwers, will say, “The Bible says this and the Bible says that…” Please! For every point of view in the Bible you can find at least one that contradicts the first. What about all that incest that goes on and seems acceptable to all…? Could we use a quote from the Bible and swear that JESUS said it? I think not. Unless YOU have that one missing chapter that would be called The Book of Jesus. Somehow, it has never been found. So, rational people and certainly judges on the bench would have to infer that the Bible, while a wonderful book and likely inspired by Jesus’ teachings, is still only the hearsay of many varied individuals and peoples and their interpretations of what they heard or witnessed… Which was then edited for content by the ruling Emperor who sought to please and control both Pagans and Christians. Good teachings-mostly. Jesus’ word-we can only hope he was quoted correctly without his followers adding their two cents. Few men are so humble, but maybe back then the people were better than we produce today. Oh Yeah, Yankee Chick, get your gun and permit, but remember, Fear is the absence of Faith. Good Luck, Hon. Acceptance is the key to a Godly life, judge not lest ye be judged and I will pray for your soul, Love, No one is “better” than anyone else in God’s eyes, provided they walk with Him…

  • Hi Sookie. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot, and of course I don’t believe in telling a child that his every misfortune is the direct result of some small infraction. I also believe the Christian has more freedom as far as diet, wardrobe, etc. than he does within the hard-core fundamentalism you describe. However, though it’s hard for me to piece together what you’re trying to communicate in the rest of your comment, I fear that you’ve swung too far in the opposite direction. Regarding homosexuality, I believe some people have the inclination already and some cultivate it through social pressure and experimentation. No one size fits all. But that doesn’t change the sinfulness of the act.
    Furthermore, you seem to be indicating a belief in Jesus as a real person, God and man in the flesh, yet you’re implying that it doesn’t matter whether the biblical accounts of Jesus are factually accurate or not. How is this consistent?

  • Sookie

    God is too big for one religion. Someone has already mentioned it but the sheer depth and weight of the superior, arrogant, self-righteous attitudes expressed by some on here are just beyond belief. A person could drown in the drivel. Can’t you all just get along and be more Christ-like? You remember Him? He would be thoroughly ashamed by more than a couple of you folks who claim to speak for Him. You should all check into a book called “Joseph”. It is a good starting place for folks who need to remember what God is really about when they’ve gotten too big for their britches.

  • I’m sorry, but your point isn’t clear. If you mean that God may reveal himself to people in other religions, that’s certainly true. If you mean that a person who’s denied the good news of the gospel in a foreign country in life might be granted a chance to accept Christ after death, I trust God not to condemn unjustly. But if you mean that a person can get to heaven without ever having to choose Christ in this life or the next, I’m afraid you’re just mistaken. By the way, as a warning, I do welcome constructive criticism, but I won’t let my comment thread be clogged by sheer personal insults.

  • that’s what I was thinking. I think it is obvious he looked down on many sectors of the Christian body. I think it is neither productive to paint him as a guru nor demonize him. He had great insight into some things, he also had great error in some things. Let’s just compare his teachings to the word and let it divide out what is not good. test all things, hold fast to what is good.

  • in saying he is too big for one religion, aren’t you in effect saying all religions lead to God, therefore it IS all one religion? Can you see the error in this logic? It’s an “all truth is relative” type of statement, which is a contradiction. Just like the “there are no absolutes” is contradictory because it is an absolute statement. It is worth comparing religions and seeing if their claims are true or false. I think the most important question a person can ask about Christianity is “IS Jesus who HE says HE was, and did HE rise from the dead?” If He didn’t, that religion is false. If He did rise from the dead, it must be true, and He is God.

  • Well put.

  • Mandy

    I agree, James. Modeling of Jesus behavior rather than pontificating teaches more than words.
    I’ve always found it odd how much people especially in the American church try to sanitize things so much, and put a magnifying glass on some things while totally ignoring others. Homosexuality is one of those and it astonishes me when considering its equality as a sin with things such as gluttony, an epidemic among Christians in America.
    I found this blog a little bit lacking in looking beneath the surface. I’m glad that God looks at the heart. I would love to have been there to witness how He maintained relationships with people of all walks of life and levels of morality.

  • Not all sins are equal. There, I said it.
    [Insert mike drop here.]

  • Lydia

    Actually, we have zero evidence that Jesus “maintained relationships with people of all…levels of morality.” That is a common misconception concerning passages where Jesus is said to have “eaten with publicans and sinners.” The context of these passages makes it extremely probable that the people in question were repentant and had left their former way of life behind. Matthew the tax collector (publican) and Zacchaeus the tax collector are both examples, and Jesus’ eating with them is expressly recorded. The woman who was a “sinner” who anointed Jesus’ feet was not “maintaining a relationship” with him and was also obviously repentant. Jesus stayed for only a few days in the village of the woman at the well and tacitly criticized (even playing “gotcha” with his omniscience) her immoral lifestyle in their one recorded conversation.
    As for Judas Iscariot, he hid his evil intentions from everyone but Jesus, and Jesus referred to him as the “son of perdition,” so we’re hardly talking about a loving and uncritical “maintained” relationship with an open sinner.
    In other words, the picture of a Jesus who hung out at bars and had good, on-going relationships with open and unrepentant sinners is utterly unjustified by any biblical evidence whatsoever.

  • missypresto

    Alcoholism is a disease the last time I checked the American Journal of Medicine. Would you say the same thing to someone who relapsed into cancer?
    Why do you say he deceived his wife? She knew exactly who he was when she married him.
    How many church leaders DO YOU FIND CAPABLE to be leaders who spend their money on houses, cars and lots of food? Most Christians are over weight b/c it’s the only acceptable addiction.
    Sin IS all the same in the eyes of God because sin is not a thing. You think “transgression”. Sin is a state of being…. you should look that up. It means to “miss the mark”. You either miss it or you don’t. Please show me in the Bible where it says “sin is not all the same in the eyes of God”?
    I guarantee I could give you a scripture to back up any of Brennan’s so called heresy.
    Brennan is saying that GOD accepts us for who we are and if we really realized how much He loves us our sin would change not because the bible tells us it’s “wrong” but because we want to love ourselves and others and therefore are not going to be adulterers, gluttons, greed mongers, etc. How many people do you know who have stopped their adulterous affairs because they were told the Bible says it’s wrong? They already know that. Homosexuals know what the Bible says about their lifestyle. Prostitutes know what the Bible says about their lifestyle. Idolaters know what the bible says about their lifestyle. BUT how many of those people know that God loves them in spite of it? How many of those people know that His Love can transform it? How many people know they can be free of it? Now that is good news friends, and that is what Brennan was talking about. God’s love changes us. We do not change ourselves. I am proud to say I am a ragamuffin, desperately loved by Jesus Christ and His love and understanding compels me to follow Him, Love him and Love others. God bless you all. May you all catch the revelation of freedom that you are loved.

  • “Alcoholism is a disease the last time I checked the American Journal of Medicine. Would you say the same thing to someone who relapsed into cancer?”
    No, because cancer doesn’t lead to uncontrollable sin.
    “Why do you say he deceived his wife? She knew exactly who he was when she married him.”
    It wasn’t just his wife, it was other people around him who were meant to keep him accountable. The deliberate over-booking was done for the express purpose of being able to drink as much as he wanted to without his wife’s knowing about it.
    “Most Christians are over weight b/c it’s the only acceptable addiction.”
    Most Christians are overweight, really? Do you have stats on that?
    “Please show me in the Bible where it says ‘sin is not all the same in the eyes of God’?”
    Sure. Matthew 5:22 outlines different layers of punishment for different sins. Jesus makes reference to “the greater sin” in his words to Pilate. Ezekiel’s vision in Ezekiel 8 shows God repeatedly pointing out progressively “greater” abominations.
    “I guarantee I could give you a scripture to back up any of Brennan’s so called heresy.”
    Which one? The one where he “advocated for committed gay couples” (Romans 1, not looking good) or instructed people to “repeat a sacred word” over and over as a prayer (Matthew 6:7 seems to disagree), or said he found the idea of a God who needed to punish his own son for the sins of the world repugnant (where do I start)?
    Listen, I believe that you’re a sincere follower of Christ, but I also believe you’ve been a little bit taken in by this culture of “sin mysticism,” as another commentator referred to it. Your sincere passion for Christ should be mixed with a healthy dose of discernment. You say homosexuals know what the Bible says about their lifestyle, but increasingly that is not the case as more and more churches bless their unions and reinterpret away the Bible’s teaching. You need to be aware of where the “emergent” movement Manning started has led to, and you need to understand that is not a good place for the church to be. Search the scriptures carefully.

  • Sherry

    I am so grateful for the life of Brennan Manning. He helped me to deepen my relationship with Christ and embrace the love and grace of God more fully. I gather that he helped many others as well. It’s hard to hear you say that his legacy is unfortunate and that he didn’t deserve to have a “platform.” Regardless of what any of us think, it seems that God intended that he be heard.
    It’s great to see a blog that embraces serious Christian debate. Unfortunately I was turned off by this article and will not explore further. I would expect a fellow Christian to be more gracious in discussing the life of a man who was so loved and recently deceased.
    You cannot “research” Brennan Manning and suddenly become all-knowing Jedi master regarding his life. As a hard right conservative, I’m sure I would have disagreed with Brennan on a number of issues, but that doesn’t negate the sacred heart-transaction that occurred as I read his books. Despite his flaws, Brennan had a beautiful way of connecting the wounded with the Almighty. What a beautiful gift.

  • Paul asks, “Shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid!” The life Manning chose gave him more temptation and opportunity to stumble and ultimately tore him apart from his wife. I’m quite certain that was not God’s intention. We may genuinely desire to reach other souls with our work, but if that comes at the cost of driving ourselves deeper into sin and destroying our own families, we need to consider very seriously the possibility that this is not something God called us to do.
    I believe that I tried to indicate my very real sympathy for Brennan’s plight. I do think alcoholism is a tragedy. I think he was genuinely repentant at the end of his life, and I tried to acknowledge that. I also acknowledged that God brought some good things out of his self-destruction. But that doesn’t mean I’m recommending it as a template for future church leaders. That was my main point—the stability and care of our own souls must come first and foremost, and flowing out from that, the care of our families.
    I also think it’s significant that some of his ideas have fueled what is indeed a very unfortunate trend in the church, namely the emergent movement. This movement thrives on venting its spleen against conservatives and subtly or not-so-subtly tweaking Scripture for their own ends. I’m sorry to say that it clearly had its seeds in some of what Manning wrote. Maybe you would disagree with me on that point, and that’s fine. But the connection is undeniable, and I can’t imagine why anyone would say that’s a good legacy.

  • JK

    This post perfectly embodies everything that led me to leave the Southern Baptist denomination. It is filled with the festering legalism that has broken so many men and women who passionately loved God yet could never live up to the man made requirements imposed on them by churches who works hinders the primary calling of Christ– to live and love passionately for the Kingdom the most broken among us. The focus on personal righteousness has become an idol in and of itself. We confine ourselves lest the world contaminate us and in the process miss out on the beauty of life and, even more so, miss opportunities to share the gospel with those who are suffering, hurting, and dying to know about God’s grace.
    I am just relieved that you, and others who think like you, don’t control who does and does not get to speak. I am glad he had a platform and that through that platform he was able to tell others about God’s redemptive grace. Maybe if the church spent more time on grace and less time on fire, brimstone, and moralizing churches wouldn’t be rightfully despised by so many non-believers as dens of gossip, dirty looks, and self-righteous judgmentalism.

  • Thanks for reading. God bless. 🙂

  • I am not sure you read the same post! I think she was gracious. you can disagree on her points, of course, but personal holiness is highly emphasized in the bible, and it does not mean someone is legalistic.
    “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” Hebrews 12:14

  • I think it’s also funny that he assumed I’m Southern Baptist. Boy would he get a surprise if he walked into my church. 🙂

  • well, it’s interesting. God is calling me to get away from the academic side of things, and embrace the heart side. I must mention I am an artist. But at the same time, He keeps calling me to a higher level of personal holiness, but I am not opposed to going and having a pint of beer with a Christian or an unbeliever. I absolutely HATE legalism. Have zero tolerance for it. But I also know what the bible has to say about pursuing integrity, honesty, purity and other such issues. The standard only rises higher if you are in “ministry.”
    We do need to be careful of being critical of people like Manning, but ultimately, we must uphold all teachers life and doctrine up to the word. I don’t reject Manning at all, but where he deviates from the Bible, I do reject that. I was listening to a teaching last night about the scripture in Timothy warning about the last days and those who would secretly come in-he used an analogy of someone slipping into a pool of water without making any ripple at all. I think that was a good way of putting it.
    And we can’t be enamored by personality so much that it leads us astray. But we also have to honor people, especially ministers and teachers- he who honors a prophet… But ultimately, we have to honor the Holy Spirit much much more,and test all things.

  • Ragamuffin

    It is inappropriate and wrong to write such a blog post without having first explored the original works of the author. You can come to all kinds of conclusions about him based on what other people have said and out of context quotes, which you’ve done – but you will never get a genuine feel for him until you’ve read him.
    I think you need to consider personally engaging Ragamuffin Gospel. Read it. And if your opinion remains, fine. It’s okay to have an opinion. But casting judgement like this against a person who you not only do not know, but have never taken the time to read is ethically and morally wrong. You obviously have a bit of a platform here – lots of comments, lots of debate… your blog is evidently well read. That means you have a responsibility. And from what I can tell after reading the blog entry and comments, you’re not taking it nearly seriously enough.

  • I believe my conclusions were very measured. I read several interviews with and pieces by Manning, as well as a couple sections of his books. Here are the facts I saw:
    1. Manning was unable to cope with the responsibility of his platform because of his drinking addiction (self-confessed).
    2. Manning’s marriage was consequently stretched to the breaking-point and fell apart (self-confessed).
    3. Manning railed against conservative theology and the Religious Right (multiple quotes). He clearly and unapologetically implied that those who are pro-life but not also anti-death-penalty and anti-war were hypocrites. There’s no mistaking Manning’s position on this point, it’s very straightforward and well-known, and I still maintain that it’s terribly confused.
    4. Manning placed a heavy emphasis on contemplative techniques, mysticism, and personal experience, sometimes in ways that downplay the role of God’s word or contradict what it says (repeating a single word in a “centering” prayer, for intance).
    5. Manning promoted a shaky, unstable view of God. I’m sorry, but there’s no way to make a statement like “Reality, truth, and Jesus Christ are incredibly open-ended” and understand Jesus as he meant himself to be understood. You can add however much context you like around it, and the glaring problem remains.
    At no point did I question his good intentions. At no point did I question his sincere repentance for the various ways in which he failed those around him. I merely concluded that a) We need to be sensitive to the fact that some people are simply not called to shoulder the responsibility of a public ministry, because the state of their own souls and their own families is so fragile, and b) We need to measure Manning’s teachings against Scripture and recognize that as respected as he is, there are areas where he was quite clearly wrong and confused. As you may also have noticed (or not) I was also careful to say that I didn’t accuse Manning’s every word as heretical.
    I assure you that the attention this post has received is as much of a mystery to me as anyone. In bloggish terms, this blog certainly not what I would call “well read!”

  • Ragamuffin

    1 and 2 are ad hominem. Rather than attacking the theology or the author’s works, you attack the author directly. Jacob had many failures, yet God used him.
    3. Manning observed sickness on the right. It can be observed on the left, too. It can be observed in the whole system. Disagreeing with his politics certainly shouldn’t result in this kind of a blog entry. And I fail to see how taking the implications of being pro-life seriously is a problem or could be construed as “terribly confused.” You value life, or you don’t. We don’t get to decide who is innocent or judge who should live. There does seem to be a large degree of hypocrisy there. But even if you disagree (and you may!), engaging his argument would be far more productive than criticizing the fact that he makes an argument at all.
    4. “sometimes in ways that downplay the role of God’s word or contradict what it says” If this is true, I’ve never seen it. Perhaps if you directly engaged his works, you could provide an example?
    5. Maybe you don’t understand context… Context is comparing that quote to the rest of his works. That quote by itself would be bothersome to me. That quote in light of who I know him to be after reading nearly all of his published works leaves me confident that you are misunderstanding him.
    I see Christians doing this very thing with numerous other Christian authors, pastors and theologians, and it is very troubling to me.
    Furthermore, I fail to see what might have prompted you to post about someone whose work you’ve never read. What was your motivation here?
    I’m not trying to come after you… Looking at a few other posts, I see plenty of places where we agree, plenty where we would disagree… that’s not troubling to me. I rather think you’re probably quite a decent person. What I am having a large problem with is the practice of condemning things we’ve never come in contact with.

  • No, 1 and 2 are directly related to a key thesis of my post, namely that Christians should think carefully about the wisdom of giving even well-intentioned Christian leaders a platform. Pointing out that it was bad for Manning isn’t ad hominem, it’s an example supporting that thesis.
    I don’t know exactly what your definition of “sickness” might be, or how you would apply it to the right, but chances are we wouldn’t agree in every respect. If Manning had restricted his criticisms to the very fringes of what right-wing thought might look like if distorted enough, I wouldn’t have a problem. (E.g., yeah, let’s not go around holding signs saying “God hates fags,” or shame girls for wearing pants, etc., etc.) My impression is that he didn’t. Once again, it was relevant to this entry because I was reflecting on Manning’s influence on the Church as a whole. This includes his influence on the political atmosphere of evangelicalism. Disdain for the right has been a hallmark of the Emergent movement, of which Manning is regarded as sort of a forbearer.
    I’m sorry if you couldn’t guess or follow what I meant when I referred negatively to Manning’s idea of being “truly” pro-life (but I do find it a little amusing that while you’re nagging me to lay out a step-by-step argument, all you can say is “There does SEEM to be a lot of hypocrisy there,” which is a totally subjective statement). The reason I say Manning is confused is because there is such a thing as objective guilt and objective innocence, and it is not “devaluing life” to support capital punishment, nor is it “inconsistent” to “blast abortionists.” On the contrary, if we did not call out those who take innocent life, and if we did not punish the taking of innocent life by capital punishment, it would be a sign that we do not value life enough. The Bible clearly teaches that the government does not bear the sword in vain. If you really can’t see the difference between executing a murderer and tearing an unborn baby limb from limb, then I guess we’re done here.
    For one example of what I mean by contradicting the spirit of Scripture, see The Signature of Jesus, p. 218, where Manning describes the process of “centering down” in meditation, which he defines as “prayer.” On p. 212, he’s already said that “the first step in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer.” Then, on p. 218, he says to pick a “sacred word or phrase” and “without moving your lips, repeat the sacred word inwardly, slowly, and often.” If you get distracted, “…simply return to listening to your sacred word. Gently return your mind to your sacred word.” And then maybe tack on the Lord’s Prayer or something at the end. Jesus says in Matthew 6:7 that prayer does not consist of “vain repetition.” Manning is not describing communication with an intelligent personal being, he’s describing a stress workshop. See also p. 206 of Ragamuffin Gospel, where he recommends repeating the first strophe of Psalm 23 “over and over.”
    Manning also says repeatedly not to think of God the Father as a judge (Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 75, and the quote from Above All that I put in the post), and says explicitly that forgiveness comes before repentance (Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 73). This conflates “forgiveness” with “love.” The Bible says God loved us first, but it doesn’t say that we can be forgiven before confessing and repenting. Jesus began his public ministry with the clarion call “Repent!”
    Once again, I’ve watched videos of Manning speak, I’ve read interviews with him and I have read portions of his books. So it’s not like I’ve “never engaged” with him. I thought I made the initial prompting for my post pretty clear at the beginning—Manning died, and so I was interested in learning more about him. And I do understand context, but no amount of context could salvage a quote like that unless the “context” looked liked, “Bahaha, who am I kidding, only a post-modernist would give you that junk, now let’s go do some real theology!”
    Now, I don’t feel threatened by you (quite the contrary!) but I also don’t want to engage in a long back-and-forth here. We both have commitments, I’m sure. I’ve tried to state where I’m coming from as clearly as possible.

  • Ragamuffin

    We’re approaching this from different traditions and biblical perspectives, so we can probably conclude that we’re going to disagree on Brennan’s theological perspective without much further discussion.
    I do want to make one quick note about Manning’s moral failures, and one final observation about this blog entry.
    Concerning the moral failures – Manning’s are very similar to other biblical and theological leaders who you probably hold very highly. Noah was an alcoholic, too, and had an incident of indecency as a result. Jacob was a scoundrel if there ever was one. David was after God’s own heart, yet was a murdering adulterer. I could go on and on. Outside the bible, even our revolutionary leaders were highly flawed. Martin Luther and John Calvin had large moral failures. That doesn’t make them heretics, and it doesn’t mean God didn’t use them to impact lives and impact his world. It doesn’t mean people shouldn’t read them.
    Second, if you had read one of his books and disagreed with it, then posted about your disagreements, I would have no problem with it. But have you ever read the book you just quoted from? Or are you still going off what someone else said and what someone else quoted?
    There’s plenty I disagree with… but look at the comments on here… he has helped a lot of people. His perspective and books have helped a lot of people… which is why I find this so inappropriate.
    But in any case, you’re right that there are more pressing things. And it’s very likely true that this discussion won’t yield any fruit. (Really, does any online conversation where neither party knows the other yield fruit? Nobody ever seems to say “I’m wrong”). So, you may have the final word if you’d like, and I will bow out here.

  • Yeah… we’re kind of ahead of you on the “biblical figures” thing. Check out earlier comments. Number one, none of the biblical figures you listed were “theological leaders.” Noah was a regular guy who followed God’s instructions to build a giant boat and save his family and some animals from getting drowned to death. He didn’t expound on theology (heck, there wasn’t much theology to expound on at that point!) and he didn’t have a “ministry.” Jacob was a patriarch. His job was to have babies and pay attention when God spoke to him. Again, not a “ministry platform.” David was a warrior, a king and a poet, who was occasionally inspired to speak prophetically. Not a theologian or a minister. And I might add that he was quite thoroughly punished for that sin. Read 2 Samuel some time. Now, if you want to know what the Bible DOES say about people who are actually ministry leaders, read the Apostle Paul’s qualifications in 1 Timothy 3.
    I agree that Luther and Calvin had moral failures, and I also agree that that’s separate from their theology. I don’t know where you’re getting the idea that my argument is “Manning screwed up in his personal life, therefore his theology is bad.” I addressed the issues separately.
    I can indeed see that Manning has helped a lot of people feel good, but has it given them a right understanding of God and His word? I never denied that God could use a flawed instrument for good, but just because God in His grace enables something or someone to work in a person’s life doesn’t mean God intends to bless their every theological pronouncement. By reductio ad absurdum, we would have to say that God approves of even a bad or wicked thing that he manages to bring good out of.

  • I think it’s interesting that people always point to figures such as Jacob the scoundrel to judge who is worthy of leadership in the church. I find it troubling to point to historical narrative figures in the OT to suppose what should be acceptable in the church. Ironically, no one seems to point out the qualifications of Levites as laid out in the OT. David and Jacob never were priests. And I can find no example in the NT of church leaders who were kept in places of authority despite their moral failings.
    But mostly the question should be, do we look to examples, or God’s standard as laid out in the word? The question is not if Manning had good insight on some issues. Buddah and HAri Krishna had good insights on certain things. The truth be told, the Bible lays out qualifications for leaders that don’t seem to consider so much how wise they are, but how they live, and the moral example they lead. Beyond that, Paul cites many who have abandoned sound doctrine, and should be avoided, and exposed in some cases. Anyways, let’s put personal feelings of Manning aside and simply consider what the word has to say about whether he was qualified or not.
    Here’s one page to consider to that end:

  • ELP

    Thank you for this excellent post. The “feel-good” gospel taught by Manning is one-sided. We must preach the true gospel and some parts of that are difficult to accept at times; however, that doesn’t make it untrue. I especially like your words regarding the high standards for those who lead the church (the body of Christ) as pastors, elders, teachers, etc. Those standards are made very clear in scripture. Thank you for your courageous post.

  • Hey, it would be a lot more courageous if I actually had anything to lose. My real name isn’t even out there on the Internet. However, I appreciate the comment. Thanks for reading!

  • 82jp

    YGG, looks like you’re still responding to this discussion, so I’ll throw my two cents in. I’ll confess that I have only read a fraction of the comments for the sake of time, but I’m wondering if anyone has pointed out the difference between traveling around speaking and leading retreats and actually pastoring a church. My research is not extensive but I did not find anywhere that Manning actually pastored a church. Your point would be well-received (by me) had he been in a permanent pastoral position, as the standard of blamelessness you put forth is entirely appropriate in that situation. And had he been a pastor of a church, it would have been right to remove him from that pastorship until he got a better handle on his addiction. But he was a man who was experiencing grace in a profound way and was spreading that message everywhere he went so that people could take it back to their faith communities and supplement the teachings and discipleship they were getting at home with Manning’s message.
    To use the example of King David might be cliched, but he was a man who couldn’t quite get himself together, who suffered his whole life because of the decisions that he made–and yet he was called “a man after God’s own heart.” There were consequences for his decisions–perhaps the most heartbreaking for David was that he was not permitted to build the Temple, something that was probably devastating for him, since he loved God so much. But it didn’t change the fact that he was passionate for God, and God was, I think you could fairly say, in love with David. That example of David’s life is what we are to follow–not the adultery and murder. The sad truth is that the church too often errs on the side of not giving itself enough grace, and sometimes we need to hear an opposite extreme to shake us out of our extreme in the other direction, if that makes sense. Ultimately, the goal is to reach a place of balance. Balance between faith and works, balance between grace and accountability. That’s why Manning’s teachings are so important. His words are not Scripture, so we can pick and choose what we like from what he said. And the overwhelming positive response to his message by the church tells me that there is something in his words that we all desperately need to hear, *especially* those of us caught in cycles of addiction and failure. We needed hope, and Manning gave us hope, that we are still passionately loved by God.

  • 82jp

    Ha, most of the comments I read were in the beginning, so I’m embarrassed to see that just above me someone used the example of King David. Nevertheless, I will maintain my point that Manning was not a pastor of a church, at least not while he was suffering from his alcoholism in its most extreme, which is what seemed to precipitate his epiphany about the love of God. As in, it was because of his inability to get control of his alcoholism that he stumbled upon the truth that made everyone clamor to hear his words.

  • Well, the horrors of Nazi Germany were what precipitated W. H. Auden’s conversion to belief in God, so… I guess I don’t know what the point of your last point was.
    I agree that Manning wasn’t the pastor of a church, at least not after he got kicked out of the Catholic orders, but he was definitely a spiritual leader. The retreats he led could be viewed as a form of discipleship. People read his books for theological enlightenment. Even though he wasn’t a bishop or a pastor on a local level, people looked to him as a spiritual father. So his addiction and poor theology were still very problematic.
    I also disagree that the church “needed” someone on the opposite extreme. The solution to confusion is never more confusion. This is like the statistician who has his head in the oven and his feet in the ice bucket and declares he is perfectly warm. Or the person who says “Hey, if you watch right-wing cable and then switch to left-wing cable, you’ll be fully informed!” (Not that I think so-called “right-wing cable” is actually all that badly informed, or even all that conservative, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

  • David was not a priest nor a teacher. His life is a testimony for those who have fallen, and of God’s love and compassion, it’s not a model for us to follow for what is acceptable for those serving in positions of leadership in the church. His model is to show us what it is like to have a heart after God that cannot be underestimated. However, the model for leaders, teachers, etc. in terms of the church is laid out in the NT. One phrase used is that they should live, “above reproach.” You can’t point to David and somehow ignore this.

  • John Doe

    Well, I don’t know what to say. I read the Ragamuffin and was excited. It gave me some hope of being loved and used by Christ despite my addiction, despite years and years of effort to try and stop. It gave me hope that somehow, some way, I could be used by Christ and have a ministry that matters so that when I die I could at least say I did something useful in this life through the Lord. But I’ve never been able to stop my addiction, despite insane and intense efforts for years. I mean years – and I mean really trying – not just presuming on God’s grace. Now I read about Manning’s life, the way it turned out, and the way he’s now viewed by some on this blog as not even worthy of having a ministry and I think to myself – is there any hope at all?

  • John, your service to Christ is not measured by hours in a pulpit. We are all part of the priesthood of believers. You can peel a potato to the glory of God if you peel it to perfection. Do not think that because you’re afflicted by addiction you can’t have a life that means something. When I said that Manning should not have a platform, I did not say that therefore he was doomed to a purposeless life. However, there were two main reasons why I regarded his having had a platform as unfortunate—first of all, he simply could not sustain the burden of it because of his affliction, and second of all, his theology was misleading and confusing people with a hazy understanding of God, prayer, Scripture, etc.
    God is probably not calling you to the ministry, simply because your physical condition wouldn’t allow you to sustain it. But this does not mean that he has no worthy plan for you. While this may sound hard to believe, you can live a full life of service unto the Lord even if you never convert a single soul to Christ.
    For your own good, I urge you not to try to do what Manning tried, even though God did use him in the end. Understand your limitations. But understand too that as long as you continue picking yourself back up again when you fall, as long as you love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, He will say to you “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” some day. We shall be quite muddy children when we reach that golden shore, but we shall nevertheless be home at last.

  • John, I am so sorry that this post and various comments have caused you to think and ask “is there any hope?” Only you and your Lord determine what your calling and ministry might be and how you are to live out that calling and ministry. As the life and ministry of Brennan Manning have been tossed to and fro in this comment thread, I have, for the most part, restrained from comment. Yet, this morning as my heart broke with your questioning of hope for yourself and my reflections upon Manning’s life and the hope his life and ministry gave to me and many others, I felt compelled to share a thought or two.
    With regard to ministry and a platform for ministry, I think we might want to consider the apostle Paul. Paul of his own admission wavered even in his steadfastness. He tells us in Romans 7 that the things he would do, he does not do, and the things that he would not do, he does. Sounds like a man, like all of us, in the throes of struggle, the battle between the spirit and the flesh.
    Paul speaks of his “throne in the flesh.” Whatever that “thorn” was, it certainly caused Paul grief and anguish. Paul’s hope, and ours, is in Christ’s response, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12: 7-9) I wonder if Southern Gospel Yankee or any of us would espouse that Paul’s ministry was not worthy of a platform. Perhaps the only difference between Paul and Manning is that Manning was authentic and transparent and told us what his “thorn” was and what he did that he “would not do.”
    John, keep in mind that all of this comment thread is mere opinion and personal interpretation. What is not opinion is God’s word to us in all of our life and ministry –whatever our calling might be. “. . . And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 So John, have hope! “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:13) Love is primary, John. Because God loves you, you do have hope, and with God’s love and your hope in Him, you can move forward in your life and ministry in faith.

  • This author is naïve of the cunning and baffling disease of alcoholism. Have you ever not been able to get enough of what you don’t want? There is little grace in this rendering.

  • Quite the contrary, I believe I more than once express my sympathy for Manning’s condition in this piece, and in fact it is my very recognition of the power of his disease that leads me to judge he was physically unfit to lead a global ministry. I believe the devastating toll that his attempt to do so took on his personal life speaks for itself. I’m honestly not sure what interpretive lengths you went to to draw the conclusion that I was UNDERestimating alcoholism.

  • Nate S

    You’re being defensive, because you have something to defend, and that is your lack of understanding of the disease of alcoholism.
    Given Manning’s bouts with alcoholism, it is a miracle from God that he was able to have the profound impact he has in this world for God’s kingdom.
    Jumping into small side details, as you have, without highlighting the aforementioned statement’s truth as a central theme to Manning’s life, shows your legalistic train of thought with zero room for grace.

  • Instead of vaguely sniping, maybe you could offer some specifics. I’m not sure what you’re referring to with the phrase “small side details.” If you mean doctrine, that’s important because I’m examining whether the impact he had was as positive as people seem to assume. Maybe you could also explain what I am failing to understand about the disease of alcoholism. You seem to think that I’m implying Manning was unsaved or something. All I’m saying is that it is not at all clear that he was fit to lead a ministry, and that it would be foolish for anyone with his affliction to try to follow his example or applaud it as something healthy.

  • Alan

    Yankee Gospel Girl,
    Just wanted to thank you for this great post, and, offer up some encouragement to you. The fact that you’ve received so much (outrageous) push back tells me that you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head. Your post certainly wasn’t over the top, you never said Manning wasn’t a Christian, or anything like that. Sadly, the push back you’ve received though comes as no surprise to me. We live in a day in age in which people want to be Christian, they want the grace of God, but want nothing to do with obeying God or following His commandments. Christ Himself said, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Of course, you’ve been subjected to all of the usual red herring “arguments”: You’re not perfect….who are you to judge….we’re all sinners…..all sins are equal….blah, blah, blah. The fact is folks, we don’t get to come to Christ on OUR terms. We either come on Christ’s terms, or we don’t come to Christ. Hence, “many are called, but few are chosen.” Hence, “the path to eternal life is narrow and few find it.”
    Sorry to preach, just wanted to thank you for your courageous post.

  • Thanks a lot Alan, I appreciate it. I certainly never expected it to get this much attention, but an awful lot of people seem to have found it!

  • This article is just wrong. I don’t know the person who wrote this but this is the most shockingly incorrect and appaling recount of a persons life I have ever read.
    Brennan Manning was given a glimpse of what it’s like to be loved by God. He spent most of his life sharing that discovery to others.
    There’s just nothing more I can say other than this article totally disgusted me and I have it’s all respect for the publisher of this article.

  • I apologize if I have written anything inaccurate here. I would like to be accurate in whatever I write, which is why I researched this piece like I would any other. If you’d take the time to point out any factual errors, I would be happy to correct them. Thanks for reading!

  • Your total comments are based on your own ugly opinion of him – you believe he had an “unfortunate legacy”. It is a sad commentary of one that has powerfully blessed and preached the love of God to so many. Brennan Manning did not wink at sinful behavior – he instead turned the focus to a God who loves us DESPITE our wickedness. Remember the verse, “while we were YET SINNERS, Christ died for us.”???
    Mr Manning’s humanness demonstrated that Christ’s love abounds fuller and deeper than we possibly imagine. Unfortunately, you struggle with legalism and a Pharisaical attitude. It’s sad and this article wreaks of the absence of grace and love. Both things of which Manning was a ringing testament.
    I won’t comment further – just sad I even ran across this article in my search for a book of his. I was appalled – still am, and felt it important to speak against your nauseating legalism.

  • (Just to clarify, this is the same reader commenting twice.)
    I do indeed think that his legacy was ultimately an unfortunate one in certain important respects. That doesn’t mean that I think there was nothing good in what he said, nor that I think God wasted his work. However, what you fail to realize is that I was motivated to write this piece in large part by compassion FOR MANNING. It actually broke my heart to read about the devastating effect of alcoholism in his life. The conclusion I drew was that he wasn’t ready or able to sustain the global ministry that he had, and that his example should be a tragic cautionary tale for people who would like to follow in his footsteps. Another gentleman here in this very thread was showing a desire to do exactly that, and you can read how earnestly I plead with him, “Don’t! For your own sake, don’t!”
    Moreover, whether you agree or not, Manning’s picture of God was not entirely helpful or biblical. Yes, there were great gospel truths he grasped at, but they were muddled with mysticism and sentimentality. You are free to have another opinion, but I believe I’ve laid mine out carefully.

  • Lydia, spot on and well said!

  • Amy Savage

    Wow. “This is not a man who deserved a place as a revered Christian leader or mentor. This is a man who should never have had a platform in the first place.” Nice of you to be the judge of who does and does not deserve a platform. Brennan helped bring me into a deeper relationship with God during a time where I was ready to throw it all away. To speak of him in this way dishonors the work of God through him.

  • No, no it doesn’t. God uses anything. God can even use sin sinlessly. He can speak through confusion and bad choices and bring about something good. But I’m not going to say “God brought about something good from this mess. Therefore let’s pretend it wasn’t a mess.” I can’t in honesty say that.

  • Jacqueline

    Read his books and then comment. He was a gift to the body of Christ. His legacy is beautiful. The only thing that is unfortunate is your judgement of him.

  • So do you agree that we should encourage men to enter into the ministry even if they struggle with a persistent, destructive addiction? Do you agree that this is healthy and wise and praiseworthy?

  • Larry M

    Informative and gracious article. I read a good chunk of the comments and then gave up. YGG, you dared to write a measured and less-than-hagiographical account of the man’s legacy. And the tolerance police pulled you over. 😉

  • Thanks Larry, I appreciate that. I still get dozens of hits on this thing every day! Interesting, though also a bit disappointing whenever it outstrips the number of views on my latest post. 😀 The most popular complaint ultimately seems to boil down to “God used Brennan’s books to make me feel closer to Him,” as if this is a damning counter-argument to ANY of the points I actually made in the piece.

  • Larry M

    I’m a minister and it’s disheartening to see that many professing Christians cannot think logically (or follow a logical trail). Or biblically, for that matter. Often facts just aren’t the point with people. It’s emotion. It’s feelings.
    Yes, I’ve noticed that people use this personal equation…
    Manning’s work helped me = Touch not the Lord’s anointed
    There is a problem with this, exegetically speaking. Paul addressed it while in prison:
    Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. (Philippians 1:15-18a ESV)
    Here are the applications/implications of this passage:
    1. A person can be used by God to bring people to Christ. (Paul never would’ve wanted people to preach if it would’ve hurt the work or been ineffective.
    2. Just because a person is used by God doesn’t automatically mean that the person, himself, isn’t accepted by God. Would you want to be a preacher who preached just to stir up trouble for an imprisoned apostle? Not on Judgment Day!
    3. This could land me in trouble but I am a Wesleyan. If a person is living in sin…oh, I should just stop there.
    To head anyone off anyone at the pass:
    1. I’m not saying Manning wasn’t saved when he died. I have no idea.
    2. I’m not saying Manning didn’t do some good things.
    3. But I am saying, from what I’ve read of his works, his thinking at least needed nuancing asterisks and explanatory footnotes (like Pope Francis does) and, in one case that I specifically remember, a rebuke for blasphemy (when Manning put a crass word for excrement on God’s lips, Himself).
    YGG used an excellent word in one of her comments: discernment.

  • Larry M

    Oops…should have proofed myself. “Just because a person is used by God doesn’t automatically mean that the person, himself, IS accepted by God.”

  • Lydia

    The other thing that the critical commentators are not really grappling with is the evidence concerning Manning’s own teaching of too-easy grace, the overly “hip” view of God as being “in love with us” (as said above, like a teenage girl), and so forth. In other words, straightforward doctrinal problems. The repeated negative commentators are entirely fixated on one part of the post concerning what sort of ministry or leadership Manning was or wasn’t qualified for and his alcoholism and are quite uninterested in the question of whether what he was teaching was mostly _true_ or whether he was teaching at least some dangerously misguided doctrine. And making it a central focus of his ministry, as well.

  • Manning himself was very offended by the idea that he was preaching “cheap grace.” He liked to say “Grace isn’t cheap, it’s free.” But I think his confused view of the atonement and how God actually DEALS with our sin was still problematic.

  • Lydia

    The statement that the root of all our sin is not understanding how crazy about us God is is just wrong and is definitely going to lead astray as far as repentance and forsaking sin.

  • Mark Hammond

    Theology and theologians? Will humanity ever climb down from it’s self-righteous arrogance?

  • Afternoon YGG,
    The lack of biblical knowledge by most commenters to this post demonstrates the deep problems in the church today. I believe that the Spirit of God calls the laity to be Bereans about what is taught in churches, conferences, small groups, etc. Everything must be tested by the word and the Spirit.
    In Paul’s day, the Bereans were commended for checking and double-checking the apostle’s teaching and those who taught alongside him. Today’s pluralistic and post-modern, anti-intellectual culture scoffs at that mindset. It’s as if exercising discernment is a sin. Besides the letters to 1 Timothy and Titus, following passage in James should be read many times by even those considering the pastorate like yours truly: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1, ESV).

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  • Mary C.

    I saw Brennan Manning preach when I was a teenager, and read some of his books. I have read most of the posts here. The writer of the article clearly does not truly understand addictions. People in recovery (a lifelong process) are the most spiritual people on the planet. It is an illness. That Brennan Manning allowed God to use his infirmity, to share the authentic Gospel message, is a sign of humility. Brennan Manning NEVER held himself up to be an example of a Christian leader, nor did those who responded to the Gospel he preached. Anytime I, myself, tend to become judgmental, or self righteous, I pick up a book by Brennan Manning to get a little perspective for he modeled the opposite of those qualities. So he preached more about the “mercy” of God, and less about God’s judgment?…So did Jesus.

  • Have you re-read the gospels lately? I think Jesus talked a bit more about judgment, wrath and repentance than you might be remembering. All the truly terrible things about heaven and hell in the Bible were said by Jesus. Go back to some of those parables about the kingdom of God some time.
    I understand that what Brennan experienced was an illness. I don’t think I’ve denied that at any point here. Addiction is a crippling thing. That’s precisely the reason why I think Brennan was actually harming himself by trying to take on what essentially became a career as a traveling speaker/leader in the Church, specifically the traveling part. I’m not saying that Brennan should never have written a book talking about his struggles and what God taught him through them, but it’s one thing to write a personal memoir. It’s another thing to try to become a leader when you can’t handle the responsibility. I understand the rhetoric Brennan would have used to say that he wasn’t conventionally qualified, which his followers would then say was all the better. I’ve seen how this works. I’m saying that thinking is misguided, and we need to reclaim a bit of common sense here. If you don’t think his followers the world over have held and continue to hold him up as an example, I’m not sure you’ve been paying attention. Once again, it’s this slightly post-modern rhetorical game-playing. “He was broken and unqualified, therefore he was amazing and wonderful and we should all learn as much as we can from him!”
    Besides which, I need to re-emphasize this point which you and lots of others here are just blowing past: The gospel he taught was a muddled one. It did contain elements of the true gospel, but it was confused by distinctly un-biblical elements, as well as a bit of his own political axe-grinding. It’s bred confusion about the nature of God, repentance, and redemption. That also needs to be addressed.

  • Patti H

    I’ve enjoyed reading through your original post and many of the responses. I found this site by googling
    “Brennan Manning heretic”:)..not that he is necessarily..just that i thought id find some strong opinions quickly by googling that:)
    I’m not an expert on theology but I have an extreme distress bordering on horror of the potency of Scripture being watered down to a kind of tolerant don’t tell me how to live believe or think I’m OK your OK philosophy;, instead of a rescuing ,redeeming ,lifting out of sin and transformation of lives by the very grace that is talked about so much.Not to sniff at Grace..but part of grace is that it is gracious..meaning it receives us and then with abundant kindness and Power, robes us in a new life a new experience of becoming what God originally intended..His children, Brethren and Sistren:), of Christ.
    Ones He is not ashamed of. Ones that He is continuously training up to be like Himself..That is something that is somehow seeming to be so lacking in address in the mindset of a personal only centered understanding of grace.
    What about Jesus? Did He come to set the captives free or is the Bible just too hard to understand..Jesus didn’t really mean that.. everything is open to interpretation.
    To me it’s the unbelief that hides behind fanciful unbelieving interpretation of words.
    I have lots of mercy for addicts. I was once called a “bulimicalcholicanorexicmultipledisorderpersonality”. That truly broke my heart to hear myself called that..but my sin was so entrenched and I was truly so very confused by what everyone told me were disorders and illnesses ..that I did not know that the Bible might actually have some wisdom to set me free from them.It was not until I was on the literal doorstep of death and had burned my life down to an ash heap..that I finally decided to step through the only door still open to me still..God’s door. I didn’t know Who He was anymore..not at all..but it was Him or I chose chosen everything else first to my hearts content until like Brennan Manning I had to be the prodigal coming home smelling of vomit that no one had a scrap of hope for life was so tangled it looked like no one..not even Jesus could fix addition to all my addictions and ensuing devastating sin debacles linked together that formed my daily life..I had married a person of another faith and gotten myself wound up into an even TIGHTER knot than could be imagined for God to be able to unravel.
    That God received me was grace.That He sent every aid possible into my life was grace.that He opened my eyes up to the fact that HE WAS WITH ME was grace..that every time every day for the last 15 years that I’ve called upon Him He has answered that is grace.The God of the Universe answers me..that is just such unbelievable grace.That there has been made a way to be restored..not at my own cost ..but at the cost of the Loveliest most powerful BEING EVER ..That is just such amazing Grace.
    That that same God who made Himself known to me also spoke to me and led me..was truly astonishing..because I was in a circumstance that NOBODY NOT EVEN CHUCK NORRIS could have found a way out of.

  • Really, I do not think what you are saying about Manning and leadership is true. Should Manning have had a position in leadership? You imply that he should not have had one. I disagree with you. Actually in his very confessed brokenness he should have.
    Jesus Christ, the Saviour; the greatest of leaders was seen by the people of his times as a loser and he was despised because he spent time with prostitutes and dined with tax collectors; the outcasts of his time. He was mocked by many religious leaders, politicians and by the crowd/masses and was finally crucified. He is Lord of All.
    Paul was a murderer. Killing many followers of Christ, imprisoning others. Even after he came to know Jesus on the road to Damascus, he has some hard-to-believe talk about women and slavery. Should Paul have been a Christian leader? According to the criteria you set, maybe he should not have been.
    What about Peter? He denied Jesus three times in one night at the very hour when Jesus was in deep trouble. What about his ‘racism’ and refusal to enter the houses of non Jews as recorded in the Bible till God had to intervene directly? Still afterwards he insisted that all Christians should be circumcised ! It is only Paul who was able to set him right and overruled him. Should Peter have led the church afterwards? According to your criteria, maybe not.
    After this small analysis, I conclude that the criteria of who should be a leader you use on Manning, may not be Biblically backed.
    By their fruits ye shall know them Jesus said. Look for the fruit. Forgive one another. Judge not. Abide in Jesus and Let Him Abide in You.
    Repent of your sins. By his stripes we are healed. His grace is sufficient for us for his power is made perfect in weakness. Sin is sin and Christians should not indulge in sin. God hates sin and so should Christians. Bear good fruit which is not sinful. If you do not, then repent and journey on in the light and towards the Light. Finally; For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
    We are all accepted in the Beloved and that is a fact. Brennan Manning was right. His Legacy was not unfortunate. He brought and still spreads the good news of Jesus, pointing souls to Jesus of Nazareth. Just As I am , without one Plea….should be our song.

  • Hi there. I hate boarding school too. That might be the only thing we agree on though. I’m gonna guess you’re a bright but young(ish) fellow. Your comment has the flow of a well-written highschool essay, even if the argumentation is spectacularly, outrageously bad. So I’ll try not to be mean, but for the sake of your biblical literacy, I need to take care of this. Here we go:
    1. Jesus: I’m not sure where to start. We could start with the fact that Jesus was man and GOD, and Manning was merely HUMAN. Hebrews says that Jesus was in all respects tempted as we are, yet WITHOUT sin. Yes, he was despised, mocked, and ultimately crucified, primarily because he claimed to be God, which the Jews regarded as blasphemy. What resemblance this has to being enslaved by a crippling addiction, maybe you could explain to me.
    2. Paul: Paul wasn’t caught in an ongoing pattern of addictive sin after his conversion, and his theology was clear and sound. His “hard-to-believe” talk about women is partly just good sense (women mentoring/having authority over men often ends disastrously), partly his own personal curmudgeonliness coming to the fore, and partly alien to our culture but illuminated when we consider the context in which he’s writing. His comments about slavery are really pretty minimal—all he does is encourage the slave to be entirely blameless and without bitterness in his heart towards his master. No, he doesn’t go out of his way to say that owning another person is always categorically wrong, and it seems plausible that wasn’t fully revealed to him yet. But read the book of Philemon and feel the sarcastic bite behind Paul’s words—it’s clear that he didn’t think slavery was any great shakes, at the very least. There’s really no comparison to teaching blatantly confused doctrine on issues like the nature of God, redemption, grace, etc.
    3. Peter: This is so weak. Once again, you seem to be confused between “so-and-so committed a bad sin once” and “so-and-so is caught in a cycle of ADDICTIVE sin that’s making him physically/psychologically unfit to meet the demands of a ministry.” As for his “racism” (ridiculous word for this context by the way), Peter was trying to follow what had in fact been laid out in the Old Covenant. Jesus himself had repeatedly stressed that he was sent to the JEWS first. The idea of including Gentiles in the gospel message was a big, big deal, when God had only dealt personally with Jews before. Peter was a good Jew who was just being a bit stubborn and slow on the uptake. Same with circumcision. You try planting yourself in the immediate post-Ascension context and working out all the theology that still needed to be worked out. Jesus didn’t mince words, and he left a lot for his disciples to untangle in his absence. Yes, Paul was right and Peter was wrong, but a) whether or not Christians needed to be circumcised is much more subtle than Manning’s shallow blunders, b) Peter in fact did get straightened out instead of continuing in theological error, and c) after centuries of theological revelation, development and commentary, Manning had a fraction of the excuse Peter had to make theological howlers.
    Hopefully this explains why your “small analysis” fails on pretty much every point. I’d like to think you’ll thank me later someday.

  • Thanks for sharing Patti, and for your story. I agree and also sympathize with Manning’s plight. I’m not even trying to claim that he would have been freed from the addiction if he had only prayed harder. I know the road back from addiction can be long, painful, and sometimes filled with relapses. But it’s for that very reason that Manning desperately needed to come off the road and give up the global ministry to focus on his personal well-being and his marriage. I think his muddled theology was maybe even more problematic than his alcoholism. At least with the alcoholism, there was a very powerful physical addiction at work, but the theological confusion was just willful refusal to interpret the Bible accurately, motivated perhaps by his own political axe-grinding.

  • Jen

    Wow! I see a lot of unbiblical stances and your criticism of manning. One to be above reproach to minister….hmmm what about he who is without sin be the first to cast a stone….we have all failed and been short in the glory of God…I’m glad you are without sin, I’m glad you’ve never failed God or anyone in this world so you can cast stones on others struggles and sin. God is not love does not love all the world….hmmm. for God so LOVED the WORLD he gave his only begotten son for WHO EVER believes should not parish but have ever lasting life. it does not say it’s just who believes and are without sin. The bible also teaches us God new us, every part of us, before we where born doesn’t that mean he new our mental illnesss that we can not over come to be sinless, didn’t he know our weaknesses and our inability to over come them. God knew to have Satan test job why because God KNEW he wouldn’t fall he did not say hey test John, or Paul, or anyone else that he new had struggles. We all will sin, we can be repentant because we are truly sorry we messed up we can not expect to be perfect because God knowes what he made and we would then drive ourselves to total disparity with every failure…but we can believe Christ died for our sins and if we truly believe in him we are loved in spite of our flaws and have everlasting life.

  • Where did I say that Jesus didn’t die for Brennan Manning, or that Brennan Manning was never repentant, or that Brennan Manning will surely not have everlasting life? I also notice that you’re not engaging with the substance of his teachings at all, which, as I explained below, I consider potentially even more serious than his addiction. Furthermore, you will see in my latest comment that I made an important distinction between simply having committed some sin or other and being trapped in an ongoing, self-destructive sin. Manning’s disease destroyed his marriage and ultimately killed him. I have great pity for him, but I can’t pretend that it’s a good idea to enter the ministry when you’re that dysfunctional. It sets a disastrous example for other people who have similar struggles. You shouldn’t be taking on the burden of countless other people’s souls when you can barely care for your own and your family’s.

  • Lydia

    Perhaps you shd. argue with the Apostle Paul. He’s the one who wrote that a church leader should be “above reproach.” I Timothy 3:2 Why attribute that teaching to YGG as though she made it up out of her head? And why mock it or say that it is unbiblical when it’s straight out of Scripture?
    It’s very strange that you use a term like “biblical,” Jen, when you don’t seem to know the Scripture very well. The whole idea of high standards of behavior for Christian leadership is _extremely_ Biblical. It just happens to be unpopular right now.

  • Thanks southerngospelyankee. Maybe you are right on some. For example , I will concede that the particular comparison with Jesus does not hold water.
    As regards the examples for Paul and Peter, i think my argument still holds. Paul was told expressly not to go back to Jerusalem by the prophet Agabus. He did go back. Isn’t that disobedience? Paul and the Christians of the time did not fight slavery. We do not know much about the apostle’s lives except to know they were human. Where was Peter’s wife in the end? We dont really know. You may try to turn a kind eye to Paul’s and many Christians of the time’s culture driven attitude towards slavery but does sin change over the ages? All have sinned and in many ways continue to sin.
    Sometimes we make wrong conclusions about things based on what we think we know when we actually do not have the whole truth at our disposal. So your conclusion that Brennan Manning’s legacy was unfortunate may be based on patchy data. Your conclusion, for example, that i am a brightish (thanks for the compliment, but this is debatable) , youngish (totally off on that one ) fellow ; is based on gappy data and may be far from the fact.
    Maybe as i get to know more about Brennan Manning i will be in agreement with you (eg after his recovery, did he fall again and again till the end?? Did he say it was OK to sin that way? Did he teach others to do so? ). Let us also remember that there are very many ‘Christian’ leaders who sin in secret again and again, are not repentant, are not seen by anyone but God; and at the end of Time, will be shown not to have been great leaders at all .
    I am glad that you hate boarding school too. I believe in the repentance of sins according to the Bible. I do not condone returning to known sin again and again nor do i believe in the ‘do not touch God’s anointed’ attitude prevalent among many for the popular teachers of today. Thanks and God bless you.

  • Thanks for the reply. My impression is that at a certain point Brennan was too debilitated to do much of anything, sinful or otherwise. But he appears to have had an ongoing struggle with alcoholism. I’m positive he was repentant, and I’m sure he never advised others that alcohol addiction was great. My concern in that area is not that his alcoholism would “rub off” on other people, but that he was too dysfunctional to minister to others while keeping his own personal/spiritual health and marriage intact. In fact, his traveling provided more temptation to stumble. As for leaders who sin in secret, you won’t hear me defending them. I don’t consider them to be somehow “better” than Manning. I think they should disqualify themselves from ministry too.
    Paul and the Christians of his time weren’t given the task to fight slavery. They were carrying out the Great Commission. Paul did his part to free Onesimus, and again, there’s no point where he’s expressly teaching that slavery is good. Contrast this with the report that Manning was expressly advocating for homosexual “marriage,” on which the Bible is even more explicit.
    Thanks for correcting me, and I hope you’ll forgive me if I came on a bit sharp—of course I was only guessing on the youngish part. 😉 I think if you read more about Manning’s teachings, you’ll see why it concerns orthodox believers.

  • Lydia

    No, Paul wasn’t disobeying God by going to Jerusalem. Agabus foretold what would happen to him there but did not bring a message from God forbidding him to go. Remember that Jesus knew that He would die if He went to Jerusalem, but that didn’t mean He wasn’t supposed to go! Paul had already intended to go to Rome. He seems to have believed, possibly correctly, that his arrest in Jerusalem was God’s plan for getting him safe conduct to Rome, where he was intended by God to strengthen the church and share the gospel with more people in Rome.
    Don’t know what you are insinuating about Peter’s wife, but there is not the slightest hint of any scandal there, so that implication that “something was wrong” is manufactured out of whole cloth. Paul refers to other apostles as married, which may well be a reference to Peter. But what’s the point supposed to be? That maybe he divorced her or something silly like that? That’s really out on a limb. Scripture gives us no reason to think anything bad about Peter’s relationship with his wife what-so-ever.

  • Yeah thanks Lydia, I wrote in haste and forgot to reply to that part of the comment. This is correct, Agabus was merely speaking a prophetic word, not telling Paul he SHOULDN’T go! Prophecy works like that constantly in the Bible. Also agreed that it’s clutching at straws to try to conjure up something or other about Peter’s wife.

  • Lora Kane

    I’m not even going to get into specifics on most of the article and comments because it’s probably pointless. I will address one comment you made and that was the reply you made on January 24 about all sins and the equality or lack thereof. I would just like to ask you, what Biblical Truth backs this up? I am no scholar but I just haven’t seen that even alluded to in Scripture. Otherwise, not addressing anything in particular that you said, the entire tone of your article is judgmental. To quote Brennan:
    “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
    And it doesn’t really matter if that lifestyle is being an alcoholic, a liar or an unloving person. I truly believe it’s all the same to God.

  • There are several Scripture references in my comment of February 6th, which you may read here. Thanks for commenting:

  • Lora Kane

    You have just proven my point in this comment:
    “Please show me in the Bible where it says ‘sin is not all the same in the eyes of God’?”
    Sure. Matthew 5:22 outlines different layers of punishment for different sins. Jesus makes reference to “the greater sin” in his words to Pilate.
    I am going to reference Matthew 5:22 which says (and it has nothing to do with Pilate. It might be good to double check the Scripture you’re referencing) :
    22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.
    I really hesitate to say anything regarding 1 verse of Scripture because I don’t believe that 1 verse effectively speaks to this, or for that matter, any other issue. However, in this verse, Jesus had just been speaking on some of the Law of the Old Testament and as usual, He takes it a step further to speak to, in this instance, the sin of murder. I think His point here is that just the act alone is not sin but the thought process, in this example, anger is subject to judgment as well. Essentially, I believe that in this case, as in many instances, He speaks not only to our actions, but the state of our hearts as well.
    As I stated earlier, there is really no point in arguing with you because you will pick apart Scripture or anything else to prove your own theology.
    I just think we will all be surprised at how God views our petty ideas of what He thinks or even Who He really is. Reality is this: you and others who write these types of articles really should consider just how long eternity is; because it sure is a long time to spend with people who you are and have been so critical of or hold in such low esteem. Having said that, I should not be critical of you, but it breaks my heart to see so many turn away from the Church and from Christ because of these kinds of attitudes.
    We are called to unity in the Body of Christ. Christ prayed that we would have the same kind of unity He has with the Father. (See John 17)
    We are called to love and that Love is to be sincere (Romans 12:9-11).
    I just believe if we, the Church, could ever begin to get these 2 things even headed in the right direction, we would be absolutely astounded! We are our own worst enemy.

  • I know Matthew 5:22 doesn’t refer to Pilate. I was bringing in yet another instance in scripture without including the reference. That would be John 19:11.

  • Jan

    Well said! Thank you!

  • Great Comment Amylynnhunt. I love Brennan Manning.

  • Evan

    I didn’t think I could posses a higher regard for Brennan Manning. After reading this article, boy was I wrong.
    Vulnerability. Openness. Transparency. Balance. On behalf of my overchurched and underwhelmed fellow millennials, I praise God for this man’s legacy.
    That a fresh generation of Christians would
    Resist overreaction,
    Sit with the tension,
    Pursue truth,
    Embrace mystery,
    O Lord we pray.

  • Thanks for commenting, and for, sadly, providing a perfect illustration of my point. Sincerely, an underwhelmed fellow millenial.

  • Tony

    Who are 3 preachers you would recommend to learn from???

  • Off the top of my head, I really like Alistair Begg, Matt Chandler and the old-timer J. Vernon McGee. Paul Washer is also good, but he’s a little too Calvinist for me and more of the John the Baptist type overall. If you WANT to get in a depressed mood about the future of youth, America, the universe and everything, he’s perfect.

  • Grieved

    I am grieved that so many followers of Jesus would waste their time reading such misinformed thoughts as shared by yankeegossipgirl. I am sorry but you did not know Brennan. At best you have 10% of the facts regarding his personal journey. Not to mention how weak your theology is. To accurately do theology we must be able to think deeply through a myriad of difficult issues. This is not for the simple minded. Please stay in the shallow end of the pool.

  • Well, I appreciate the bare statement that my theology is bad, but I’m afraid you need to be specific and use examples before your (non)-argument can be considered remotely convincing. Thanks for the comment!

  • Tai

    Sorry I am going to leave a few remarks without reading all the comments. I do not know a whole lot about Brennan Manning, but only have read a few excerpts here and there. I agree with yankeegospelgirl that Manning was not fit for a leader in a church. His failures in alcoholism and marriage would not be helpful for his followers had he pastored a church. The question is whether he intended to be a leader or people somehow put him in a leadership position because of his honesty in his writing. We all need a leader who we think we know well and feel we can trust. Whether this leader actually lives the way we think he/she does in his/her inner life is another issue. Brennan should have strived to live a better life. His real life after a public speech should have been more in line with what he taught. But then I feel I am like the Pharisee looking down on the tax collector who was kneeling, begging for God’s mercy. Maybe Brennan felt important when offered speaking engagement opportunities. Maybe he desired or needed the fees. He certainly used those engagements as a way to hide from his wife. But then I would do the same in my own, sometime more subtle ways. In seminary years ago a professor described our condition like a broken, ruined castle. You see the old magnificence and glory at a distance. As you get closer, you see how broken it has become. Maybe Brennan was brutally honest about his own brokenness. Maybe that is why he attracted so many. I think we need to be mindful that our own desire for a “hero” can mislead us at times. But if Brennan Manning pointed to Jesus as the true hero, and that his own brokenness brought out our deep need for the true hero, then maybe he has done something good.

  • brothersinchrist

    Brother I pray you experience Gods love. Not just know he loves you but actually experience it. I feel you’ve got a judgmental spirit that is blocking you from seeing the big picture. Brennan got it.. you can too.

  • My friend, I am conscious of God’s mercy every waking day. What I wrote was motivated by compassionate concern, not spite. Thanks for commenting.

  • I think your explanation is very human and definitely makes psychological sense. In his own way, I do believe Manning did some good things. But I don’t believe we have to feel guilty or Pharisaical for pointing out sensible things like the fact that a) his theology was in fact a mish-mash of helpful and unhelpful and b) it’s a really bad idea for anyone who struggles with addictive sin to let themselves be put on a ministry pedestal. At least one other gentleman commenting here said he’s struggled with a pattern of addiction but was thinking about going into ministry just like Brennan! Out of love, we have to be unabashed about waving red flags in front of such people saying, “No, no and NO! For your marriage. For your family. For your soul. No.”

  • mary

    Thank you Tim,
    Your sister in Christ,

  • Ramen M Spears

    Interesting. I just saw Ragimuffin the movie and began reading Mr. Manning. I always bristle a bit at these ‘anti-the other guy’ and I think that you miss a greater point to his testimony. That is, that the church and in particular Pastors often preach of their own piety and that God’s expectation is not the gospel but the mask and uniform we wear. I can judge Mr. Manning’s word against the word of God. It’s that easy. I can also judge a man by the fruit they bear. Mr Manning and Mullins has helped MANY come to a greater understanding of God’s grace, love, forgiveness and understanding. Myself included. None of us can withstand full scrutiny from the Bible. We need Christ’s sacrifice, his perfect loving obedience to the law. Did He do that to show me what a failure I am? Did He do that because Christ loves me? Can anyone one of us be wrong and fall short of the glory of God?
    I think for too many of us we let our piety speak to our saving. It might be more beneficial that we confess our sins, speak to our thankfulness for being saved and admit the we are clothed in His righteousness regardless of the ‘level’ of piousness we clothe ourselves in for church.

  • Well said, Ramen!

  • I’m not saying Manning should have pretended NOT to have an alcohol problem, or something of that nature. I think it would have been fine for him to tell his followers, “I have an alcohol problem. Hence, I am canceling all my appearances, retreats, etc., for the indefinite future. Pray for me! God bless!” But the fact that Manning tried to maintain a global ministry while drinking himself to death at the same time was, to put it mildly, a problem, for his own sake if nothing else. My moral is very simple, very practical and very blunt: If you’re turning into a lush, you don’t need a ministry, you need to drop whatever you’re doing and get professional help. God won’t be mad at you for all the books you didn’t write while you were in rehab putting the pieces of your marriage back together.

  • John Situmbeko

    I like a new song by the Mark Trammell Quartet which says, “Your walk talks and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.” It kind of sums it all up.
    The message in the song is applicable to all people, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. But for Christian preachers, this carries more weight. The preacher may leave the pulpit at church, but the pulpit follows wherever he goes. If he chooses to enter a bar and drink, that is his sermon for that particular day, and all who see it hear it much louder than what he preaches in church. Of course God doesn’t always call the equipped but He will equip the called, and no one including a preacher is without sin, but some things are just too serious to be taken up by those given to the consumption of alcohol at the expense of both health and the ministry. I’m sure Manning had a genuine thirst for soul winning, but the fact that his thirst for alcohol was greater made him unfit to take up a task which required much searching of heart and severing of ties with all things that corrupt the body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. If one is to enter into warfare with the devil, in the forefront, one ought not be having tea with the devil from time to time.
    A story comes to mind of Uzzah, who, when the oxen which carried the ark stumbled, he stretched forth his hand and touched the ark, and the Lord smote him. Obviously he was motivated by concern, but he was in no position to touch the ark. The Lord didn’t need sinful hands to touch His holy things for He was able to keep the ark from falling. If the Lord didn’t mind anyone touching His ark, He would have said so. Equally the Lord doesn’t need each and every mouth to preach from the pulpit, much less one accustomed to the heavy intake of alcohol. One may have genuine thirst for soul winning from the pulpit or any ministerial podium, but is that in itself a qualification for ministry? A work so solemn, one in which one meets principalies and hopes to snatch those from satan’s grasp, requires one to be filled with the Spirit, not with spirits (liquor).
    I see nothing wrong in a sinner telling other sinners about where to find freedom from sin, but there are platforms that require one to say goodbye to sins that one can say goodbye to, before one can stand on that platform. Indeed alcohol addiction is not easy to let go of, but it is not impossible to do. I have seen some non believers quit alcohol intake for health reasons. How much more then should a child of God seek to stay away from it, for the sake of ministry, if he feels he has been called to ministry? Will you then resist the devil, if you can’t resist alcohol at the expense of health, family and ministry?

  • Ramen M Spears

    Alcohol abuse/use was definitely a thorn in his side.

  • You can put it that way if you want, but I maintain that it’s misleading to make an analogy to Paul because of the moral aspect of the problem. There’s no indication that Paul was behaving deceptively or remaining enslaved to an addiction. Most likely it was purely some kind of physical suffering, perhaps his blindness.

  • It comes to no surprise that most of these comments reflect just how broken and judgmental we are as Christians. Who are you to say Manning should have never had a platform, or ministry? I think Manning led the life he only knew out of his alcoholism; being a beacon of light in his darkest hours, with brutal honesty, without being afraid of his life contradicting God working through him. I think Manning probably struggled with hypocrisy, I’m sure at times he even had some drinks over the thought of it, but he didn’t allow that to dismay him or thwart the focus off of God’s love, he persevered. He gave hope to those who find his books in dumpsters, thrown out by those who immediately dismiss him because he exposed what real Christians go through on a daily basis, no matter their background. I believe that his mission in life was to express God’s immeasurable love for us, right where we are, in the present moment. That was his Alma Mater, and I couldn’t possibly think of a better way to invoke God into someones life, especially when he isn’t addressing those who “have it all together” in the first place. Lord knows the world has enough pew warmers and halo polishers out there pointing fingers with their legalistic mental lists of self-righteous do’s and don’ts. As a Christian, I still find it difficult to grasp just how loved I am, but I have noticed that the more I indulge the thought of it, I am comforted when nothing else comforts. Only when I ponder on God’s love for me am I overcome by Holy Spirit. It leads me to repent. It leads me to suck it up and press on, knowing that God loves me the same no matter how short I fall. Most importantly, focusing on God’s love for me encourages me to change by His love and my desire to want to change as a man of God, rather than forcing myself to change so I can have the false sense of security that goes with “having it all together”. No minister, preacher, pastor, priest, clergymen, deacon, or simply; believer, has it all together. Manning chose not to hide behind a title, nor did his transparency ever convey the message that its okay to sin so that grace may abound. I know he led many people to Christ, and continued to do so no matter what people thought of him, and to me, his life reflects just how much the love of God can affect a person who cannot seem to shake the thorn in their side, such as Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament to begin with. Should Paul not have ever had a platform as well? Surely not if we reject Manning because he misappropriated funds for drinking, got divorced, etc. Maybe that’s why Paul never revealed his thorn… maybe he was too ashamed to, or maybe because it would discredit him to some who listened to what he had to say, but probably because his message of Christ was far more important, knowing that whatever it was, he was still loved by the Father, so much so that God allowed him to continue writing scripture. My hope is that we can celebrate the good news interpreted by Manning, just as we revere Paul, rather than focus on his shortcomings, because no ones comments here is leading anyone to Christ, let alone repentance by discrediting a brother who lived to express love, no matter his affliction, no matter his mistakes along the way.

  • For the ump… teenth… time. Please, stop using Paul’s “thorn in the side” as if this has ANY relevance to the topic at hand. Just stop it. There is not a scrap of evidence that this was connected to sin at all. In fact, it’s arguably a pure physical affliction. So can we please just bag the mediocre biblical criticism? Thank you.
    Second, are you meaning to suggest that it WAS a good idea for Manning to conduct a ministry while in the grip of alcoholism? Is that how you would council another brother eager to follow in his footsteps? Be honest, if a brother came to you saying “I’m an alcoholic with a family, and I’d like to go do speaking tours and seminars so people can see the grace of God shining through me. What do you think—good idea, bad idea?” Are you telling me that you would tell this brother that was a good idea—for his sake? For the ump…teenth… time, I am speaking about BRENNAN MANNING’S OWN WELL BEING here, and the well being of the people who idolize him.

  • Whoa, Yankeegospelgirl! I believe I clearly detect some aggravation and frustration in your previous reply. I respectfully disagree with your assessment that Paul’s “thorn in the side” has no relevance in this discussion. There may not be “a scrap of evidence that this was connected to sin at all,” yet, there is no evidence that undeniably points to Paul’s “thorn” NOT be related to sin or some very personal issue or temptation. In not specifically naming his “thorn,” Paul has left the interpretation wide open and that is a good thing in that more of us can identify with Paul, his “thorn,” and trust God’s promise that “My Grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.” UK Apologetics offers a good “thorn” discussion.
    Also, if we do consider the “thorn” a physical ailment, then we would have to include Manning’s alcohol dependency in that category as the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder of the American Psychiatric Association) and the ICD-10 (International Classification of Disease of the World Health Organization) both include alcoholism/alcohol dependency as a chronic and progressive disease.
    What is so ironic to me as I have peeked in on some comments this post has generated is that Brennan Manning for all he was and was not in this earthly life is in his eternal home and at peace with his Abba while some here still quibble over his legacy. Believe me, it is not Brennan’s well being that is in question. Yankeegospelgirl, for your well being and that of others, maybe it is time to take down the post and move on.

  • Lydia

    Actually, the presumption is much better supported that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was _merely_ a physical ailment with no moral connotations at all. He expressly alludes to an ailment of the eyes in more than one place, for example. Moreover, the way that Paul talks about his thorn in the flesh is not similar to the way that he speaks of temptation in, say, Romans 7. Paul has a pretty clear distinction between temptation and mere affliction. Paul was also insistent that he was qualified for ministry (in fact, he was rather defensive with the Corinthians, so he goes into moral self-defense at some length) while simultaneously holding that sufficiently grave moral failings disqualify for ministry. The idea of using an out-of-nowhere presumption about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” as an excuse to ignore his _explicit_ and quite boring and “legalistic” prescriptions in the pastorals is ludicrous and shows a determination to make Scripture say something it just doesn’t say–namely, that an alcoholic is just dandy as a Christian leader, because he’s showing God’s grace, etc.
    The physiological aspects of alcoholism do not preclude its having a serious moral aspect, which presumably is why Paul himself listed alcoholism as disqualifying for ministry. Apparently neither Paul nor the Holy Spirit thought the DSM-5’s perspective sufficiently persuasive as to consider alcoholism a _mere_ physical ailment. They thought it also indicated a moral failing. Sorry to disappoint, but you can take it up with them.

  • Lydia’s just demolished the thorn in the side ridiculousness pretty aptly, so to avoid repetition, let me press this question instead: Are you trying to imply that it was NOT a terrible tragedy for Brennan to lose his marriage and ultimately drink himself to death? Are you saying that was all for the best in his earthly life? Are you seriously implying that “Whatever, he’s in heaven now!” is a sufficient and a wise answer to this? Once again, I urge you to consider very carefully how this affects people who share Brennan’s struggles, who look up to him and also want to follow in his footsteps. You are deliberately ignoring the red flags this should raise for anyone counseling such a person. Presumably you wish for your friends that they should keep their families together and NOT die of their alcoholism, yes? Or am I missing something here?

  • Perhaps you are missing something. I respect your right to your beliefs, interpretations, and opinions. God Bless You!

  • Thanks, I appreciate that. Please carefully consider how you would counsel others on this matter. God bless!

  • For all those who keep asking “who has given us the right to decide if Brennan should have been in ministry?” or other such questions, I will simply refer you to the bible. Do a study on requirements for teachers of the word, elders, etc. The standards are quite high. God made it that way partly so the Gospel would not suffer disrepute, as Paul outlines in one of his epistles. And also importantly, God cares more about you than how He can use you. And as Jesus said, when the “shepard is struck the sheep are scattered.” Eluding also to Jeramiah’s lement: “”What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people–the shepherds of my sheep–for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,” Jer. 23:1
    Unless you have studied the requirements for ministers and leaders in the church from the bible, you have no right to condemn people who would question Mannings ability to fulfill them. So, saying they are wrongly condemning him is really a bit of hipocrisy. Let’s have grace for people but also let the bible decide on such matters.

  • What kills me is that really, I’m not saying anything terribly earth-shattering here, yet people are flipping out. I’m not saying Manning wasn’t a Christian. I’m not saying alcoholism is no big deal, or that it’s not a physical disease (obviously it is). I’m not saying “Shame on Manning for struggling with alcoholism—geez, couldn’t he just pull himself together already??” I’m not saying Manning shouldn’t have talked with people about his experiences and used it as a way to reach out to other people who might be struggling. I’m not even saying he shouldn’t have written anything about it. ALL I’m saying is that he was not physically or psychologically equipped to handle a ministry platform, as the results quite clearly show. In addition, his theology was fuzzy. These conclusions are so restrained I honestly don’t see what everyone is so up in arms about. Perhaps somebody can enlighten me.

  • Do you really not see? Manning touched more lives, compelled more people to come near to Jesus in their brokenness, and helped welcome more prodigals back into the Father’s house than you are perhaps taking into account. I’ve listened for most of my life to adherents of Reformed theology venerate Martin Luther despite the fact that it seems he was something of an anti-semite – an ironic twist for a man so high on Jesus. The reason Reformers come to Luther’s defense is because he helped awaken their hearts to something beautiful and desirable. I am not Reformed in my theology, but I can appreciate that for all of his faults – and having a prejudicial view of the Jews is somewhat significant fault in a Christian conversation – he carried a message that has bettered the world. Manning, though you will likely get frustrated with the unintentional comparison, has done something similar. Not in matters of doctrine necessarily, but in a message that has caused untold numbers to consider Jesus either for the first time or at least one more time.
    Is it really confusing you why your defamatory comments might upset some of those people? You act as if maligning the man as a carrier of the Gospel message should be allowed as long as you admit that he was a Christian and definitely should have been allowed to talk to individuals about what he had experienced and lived through. I can understand that you might not agree with Manning’s life as a speaker and author, but to act as if you have no clue why people are frustrated with your comments is somewhat naive.

  • I’m amused. Are you implying that my ideas “shouldn’t be allowed?” Moving right along…
    First of all, I think the gospel message Manning carried was unclear and unhelpful in certain respects. So it’s rather disingenuous of you to say that I’m “maligning the man as a carrier of the Gospel message,” as if my comments were no more substantial than “Nyaaaah, Brennan’s a lush and P. S. his grandma wears army boots!!!” I gave targeted criticism of his IDEAS, based on Scripture.
    Furthermore, if by “defamatory comments” you mean merely pointing out what is public knowledge about Manning’s inability to handle the weight of his ministry, I don’t know why this is a problem either. After all, Manning himself went on at some length about the damage his alcoholism had caused. I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps he himself was more honest about the ramifications of this than some of the commentators I’ve seen on this thread. I seriously doubt there is nothing he would have done differently in retrospect.
    Manning was an alcoholic—this isn’t gossip, this is fact. Manning took on the burden of a global ministry—fact. This enabled his alcoholism, which led to his broken marriage—fact. He died of wet brain syndrome because he was never able to conquer his addiction completely, in part because he spent so many years enabling it while he traveled—also a fact. Please tell me a) where I have my facts wrong, and b) how this can possibly be a good template to follow for anyone with an addiction who wishes he had a ministry platform.

  • P.S., I do not think the word “defamatory” means what you think it means. It means “the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual…” I have communicated nothing false, and I am not changing Manning’s reputation one way or another beyond what he himself discussed in great detail about his own life. Literally all I am doing is coming along and looking at what HE said, then saying “About that… maybe not such a good idea.”

  • Obviously your ideas are allowed, perhaps you misunderstood the reason for my reply. I didn’t reply to shame you into silence, I merely answered the question that you posed: “These conclusions are so restrained I honestly don’t see what everyone is so up in arms about. Perhaps somebody can enlighten me.” – and in light of my answer you became defensive of your position again. I’m not looking to argue with you, merely “enlighten” you as to why so many people might be upset with your comments.
    You’re certainly smart enough to understand that your replies, much more than your original post, have a certain tone about them, and this is what makes them defamatory, not your diagnosis of Manning’s condition – a condition of which no one is disagreeing with you about. And you obviously have every right to sweep this away with a flick of the hand, but that makes it no less accurate.
    I’m not trying to marginalize you or even pick a fight. I’m just answering a question.

  • You’re right. It’s the logical conclusion I’m drawing FROM Manning’s condition that people are disagreeing with me about. I’m saying he wasn’t equipped to have a platform. They’re saying he was.
    I’m sorry, but I still think “defamatory” doesn’t mean what you think it means. Throughout this thread I’ve attempted to steer the conversation back to Scripture, back to clear thinking, and back to the truth. I admit that at times I have had trouble keeping my patience as people persist in clouding fact with sentiment, bad analogies, and bad exegesis. But last I checked, having low patience didn’t equal “being defamatory.” Then again, maybe you just like slinging big words around.

  • Sorry to have brought you to a point of frustrated impatience. And you referenced Manning’s theology as fuzzy, which is defamatory as you are basing that on your own opinion not objective fact. The way you factually referred to his life isn’t defamatory it’s just low class. Facts can be stated in many ways, you chose one.

  • No, my comments about his theology are not defamatory either. There are many exact quotes to support what I’m saying about it. In the comment thread, I provided even more detailed reference information. You’re welcome to go find it.
    I’m not sure why you consider it “low class” to note, with sympathy and compassion, that a) Manning’s alcoholism makes his choice to pursue a ministry inadvisable in retrospect, and b) It’s unfortunate that people are lauding the very fact that he conducted a ministry as an alcoholic, because it encourages a cult of sin mysticism and sends a potentially damaging message to other people in his shoes.

  • Phil

    I found your blog after googling Brennan Manning. Your biggest concern seems to be that Brennan Manning shouldn’t have been “on the platform” . As far as that goes, it seems that Rich Mullins and a host of others shouldn’t be up there either. But, there they are, placed there by us, the unwashed, less articulate, less talented masses who muddle along with our half-ass and lazy attempts to make sense of ourselves , our failures and our faith. Most of us are like the Hebrews at Sinai, who told Moses to keep God at a distance; we are too afraid to let the Lion of Judah pounce on us. So we let others explore the riches of salvation and depths of grace, and then complain that the messengers show up with crooked crowns and muddy feet.
    I read Manning’s works, listened to Mullin’s music. Their faults haven’t shipwrecked my faith, I can do that all by myself. I don;t expect them to be perfect, I celebrate their discoveries of grace and hope they move me closer to the mountain so I can experience the glory, the grace and the fire for myself.

  • Well no, actually my biggest concern is that Manning’s teachings were shallow, one-sided, and unfortunately indicative of the murky progressive waters into which the Church was steering its bark. But if you’d like to go ahead and ignore that part along with half the other people who’ve read this post, feel free.
    I don’t expect the likes of Manning, Mullins, etc. to be perfect either, and it certainly doesn’t affect my own faith (as you somewhat oddly imply that I think it would). However, there are a couple of key disanalogies between Manning and Mullins anyway that weaken your argument. First of all, Manning was making his living as a mentor, teacher and preacher. Mullins was conveying scriptural truth in his music but viewed himself as an artist first. Secondly, Manning was married, while Mullins had nobody depending on him in a similar way. Now, I know Mullins did also have a private struggle with addiction, which raises interesting questions about whether he also needed to come off the road and focus more on dealing with it. I don’t really know the details of Mullins’s struggle, so I’m not in a position to judge the wisdom of the steps he took or didn’t take.
    But with Manning, it’s clear: There were steps he could have taken, he ran the opposite way instead, and it ruined his marriage and ultimately killed him. God brought grace and good out of his story despite it, but let’s not pretend that this is anything less than a grievous tragedy. And you, like everyone else, are missing the very serious problem with holding him up as an example to people who share his weaknesses. You don’t seem to understand why it’s HARMFUL rather than HELPFUL to these people to encourage them in assuming responsibility in the Church.
    The Church would do well not to repeat Manning’s tragedy. That means speaking hard truth to people suffering from addiction who dream of being in leadership.

  • Mary

    I can’t believe people are still posting on this topic. Let the man rest in peace?! I saw Brennan Manning preach at my local Catholic Church when I was in High School. He was a Roman Catholic Priest. He left the Priesthood, got married, and somewhere in that transition (either before leaving or after) relapsed. Has it occurred to anyone that perhaps his true vocation was his Priesthood and missionary preaching? He was truly gifted on that path. Perhaps he relapsed into his addiction because he left his true calling, for an equally noble, yet different path? Anytime we “lose our authentic vocation” due to disillusionment (there certainly could have been plenty of that for him within his Catholic Priesthood)…it is not uncommon for people to fill the void, with something else…in his case, alcohol. I honestly don’t know the details of why he left the Priesthood, but I often wondered if, had he stayed on his original vocational path, he would have continued in his sobriety. I’m disengaging from this blog now because as I said at the beginning of this post, let the poor man rest in peace already!

  • Nick

    I agree with you Yankee girl, and I also think there is a place for open and honest souls to stand up front and talk about their own lives and flaws, and try to reconcile them to the Gospel. I too saw some things that were questionable at times, but overall his book really sparked me to look at how I see God. I tend to focus on obedience (which is something I think is also lacked in Christianity), but I focus on that too much that I become critical of self, THAN others. Than when I don’t measure up , I put myself on timeout. I have seen too many Christians put up a facade and act one way at church and when you hang outside of church they are totally different. I’d respect an openly flawed person 100 times over one who looks good on the outside yet dirty on the inside. I do not think Brennan made excuses for his failed marriage and addiction, but so many are in a similar situation. I do agree that we need to see the importance of obedience and that we not to give the gentiles a reason to mock God. Balance… so much of our walk is balance…

  • Sam

    You’ve made some valid points here. And I’m glad you clarified and I knew that you were not saying Brennen wasn’t saved, we know he was, but I get your point about the “leadership”. You’re example of the Pastor addicted to sexual problems and should he still be allowed to stay pastor because he experiences that? Well said. A couple points though my friend.
    1. Manning was not a “pastor” to my knowledge he was an “author”. Yes, I suppose a “leader” he was since he stood in front of many and spoke, but it seemed to me that lookin back on his life he realized that he wasn’t a leader and confessed to the world, in fact over a couple years that all he had to offer was Grace. I don’t believe his words encouraged anyone to say “hey, I can be an alcoholic and its all good”. But I do think that an alcoholic might find solace in and hope in his words. Your comments about his view of homosexuality although interesting are not relevant. As, many believers don’t believe that it is a “sin” anymore. I only say that to say this. Can you be “saved” and believe that? Of course, there are many things believers don’t get right and yet, they are still saved. That’s my only point. Well written and good point yankee girl.

  • I agree that he wasn’t a pastor, but I think he himself, as you say, recognized that he wasn’t equipped to lead even in the role that he had. I certainly don’t think his message was “Being an alcoholic is no big deal,” to the contrary. From the standpoint of seeking healing and redemption, someone could definitely find inspiration in knowing that God’s grace will extend to the alcoholic. My concern was a more practical one—how can we keep from developing a flawed, damaging philosophy of leadership based on the cult of personality Manning engendered, whether intentionally or not?
    As for his teaching on homosexuality, I must disagree with you there. I think it is relevant because it reveals the theological underpinnings of what he was teaching. And as a teacher, leader, and author if not a pastor, he had very influential opinions, so it’s definitely worth looking at what he really thought about this. I do think it’s a heresy, though whether it’s a damning heresy is up for debate. Ultimately, I think there are some very badly confused people who are still Christians but also embrace heresy on this issue. It seems as though Manning fell into that category.

  • richei2268

    Very thought provoking. I read every entry. Thank you for discussing this topic in such a consistently respectful, logical, compassionate format YGG. I have just started listening to this man’s teaching on youtube and was quite confused. I do however understand how many have received hope after listening to him. I do not agree that you should take down this blog. I have learned a lot in reading through this. Peace to you all. 😉

  • Thank you for reading! I am glad that it was clarifying and helpful for you.

  • ru

    Ironically it seems that it was for you to learn from Brennan more so than many of the readers of this article. I pray you did, and can continue to share more of this insight. I also pray that you can openly divulge more of your ideologies in contrast to Brennan’s and that of others, and not simply what goes against some “traditionalist” ideal.
    The difference between those such as Brennan, and others considered leaders, is that they dare to share their own experiences; whereas a great many more (maybe even you) relegate themselves and their thoughts as inferior to someone else with a greater perceived authority.

  • LewisFan

    In a world where some leaders appear righteous but prove to be false (e.g. Jim Bakker, George Rekers, Ted Haggard off the top of my head) it is very attractive to see someone say, in effect, “not I but Christ in me” just as the Apostle Paul did. If that is the essence of Brennan Manning’s message, then the question of whether he was qualified for leadership — and the evidence points away — is more academic than helpful. I don’t think that ever pointed to himself saying “look how qualified I am to preach the Gospel”. Nope, never did.

  • And I am hardly excusing the Jim Bakkers or Ted Haggards of the world for their deception either. Jesus himself prescribed a harsh fate for such people. However, I am taking a step back and looking at the cult of personality that has grown up around Manning, and asking honestly: Is this wise? Is this healthy? Is this a viable attitude towards church leadership in general? I would argue that it’s not.

  • I very much appreciate your writing on Manning. Actually, I Googled his name in an effort to learn more about him. You helped.
    It causes me to think, however, how Scripture is littered with more spiritual leaders (and maybe a few women) that more often resemble Manning than some of the more clean, purist preachers in evangelical circles today. Which ignites one other question: I wonder if Manning sought out the platform he enjoyed? Probably not. Though he didn’t run from it either. Indeed, it became his sustenance and life. Even so, that platform gave many a ragamuffin hope that maybe, just maybe, God does love them, rags and all.
    Thank you, again, for your writing.

  • Thank you for reading! I do think your comment about “spiritual leaders” in the Bible is a little vague, however. As we’ve discussed at length in the thread, there’s a major difference between figures such as Moses or David and the type of figure for whom Paul lays out a laundry list of qualifications in his epistle.

  • christopher

    This is a horrible and sad post. Based on a terrible hermeneutic of scripture and an imprisoned understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Thanks for the comment! Add some actual content to support your statement and I might even take it seriously. 🙂

  • Janna

    Sorry I couldnt make it through your whole diatribe of Brennan. I was only introduced to him today while listening and reading about Mullins. What stopped me from listening to you is your Paul quotes. Paul was not Jesus and Paul was not God -he was just a man and you are living by the thorns he could not pluck from his heart. You need to re-focus on Jesus and His life and stop straying off His path to the truth by following mere mortals and good men. Only Jesus can take you where you need to go -and its much higher and deeper than you have traveled, clearly by your judgments. What you fail to see, hear and understand is God’s spiritual voice.
    Spirits dont have bodies -nor gender- nor color or anything else we judge according to the world and its ways -which means sins are those committed spiritually not physically and only God or His Love in a human can judge those things. Its sad you missed this step to a newer greater more loving level in your life -I hope one day you clear all the rocks in your path so you dont stumble anymore.

  • O…kay?

  • Janna

    Oh Good God people… The Scriptures are spiritual and everything contained in them are mental and spiritual battles – even those that seem to be physical to the worldly. Do any of you look beyond that book – into history and the circumstances under which it was written? Will you keep God locked in a book or box forever? If you seek God – the spiritual being then you find him in the spiritual sense not the physical sense of these scriptures. If you follow the physical world and its ways – you recieve what you seek but if you follow God Jesus and the Holy Spirit – then you find the TRUTH in the spiritual sense and its the only way to find it.

  • Janna

    Well hell you just deleted almost every prophet and speaker in the Bible with your judgments, which leaves you with the only one whose word uou cannot dismiss by judgment -Jesus. Thank you I needed further clarification of why he had to come and who killed him – it was to save the most judgmental of them all – those like yourself who cant listen to anyone imperfect.

  • Janna

    Well then that is what you should have said. What I know from my walk is that we are all at different points and Brennan was a very good point for many of those in need – What is wrong with your opinions is that they are littering the pathway of the innocent ones- the little ones. You may consider yourself worthy to partake of mature nourishment but not all are ready for such grand sustenance. Not that I agree with you -I dont -but I have been where you are now in this journey and God defined very clearly that I must not block the little ones while exalting what I believed to be advanced theological thought. Spend a day with a child and you will get my meaning and you may see what I see now – that life was much simpler when I just a child.

  • Janna

    John we are fall short -none are good, except God. Its amazing to me that there are still people trying to maintain that Old Time Religion and call it Christian. There is nothing Christian in judging others and blocking their pathway to God and His Kingdom. Jesus was clear about these judgments that some feel is their duty to discuss and bring to light. Manning was an alcoholic – so what? Remove the obese, the smoker, the prescription pill popper, then remove the greedy, the envious, the self-righteous, the gossip- monger, the list goes on and on …. And no one is left standing if we begin to throw stones. Few are as honest – as Manning about their failures which is exactly why our world is in such confusion. It is our testimonies that save others as Brennan’s did. Frankly no one wants to hear from a saint on how to be saved. I know many functioning alcoholics – my grandfather was one. My father denied him because of his alcoholism but I got his loving words and time thankfully. It is his love that gave me hope in my life – his love that was the mustard seed that grew into a great tree. In my eyes he was love – and I cant imagine how I might have turned out without him. My father called him a Drunk one day years after he was gone and I told him, Im sorry he was not the father he should have been or could have been to you but he was the greatest grandfather in the world to me. After more than 30 years his love and memories remain imprinted upon my heart. I pray and hope you will recognize your worth and not allow judgmental opinions to block the gift God has given you – your ability to love despite all the forces that may come against you.

  • Jeffrey

    I am so relieved that Mr. Manning’s verbiage has all been clarified. The gate just got narrower.

  • Janna, I’ve let you rant for a while here because I don’t have time to police every comment, but I would like you to try at least a little harder to modify the tone. Thanks!

  • Jan

    As you can see by the date of this post, it is Christmas Eve. I have read your post and comments to the end, because I was just fascinated with the back and forth of it. I should be doing other things to prepare for company tomorrow, but I here I sit! I know Brennan Manning’s name from friends but have never read any of his books. I have been a Christian since I was 18 (that’s 43 years…yikes!) and I remain a struggler with an addiction mentioned by some commenters. I am so thankful to the Lord for His grace and mercy towards me, and His unfailing love in the midst of my struggle. I want to thank you for continuously pointing people back to the Word for guidance and instruction, because that is where the Truth is found. You appear to have very legitimate concerns about Manning’s positions on the areas you addressed, and I am heartened by your determination to keep commenters on message and challenge their contention that you have no right to air your concerns. All in all, it’s been very thought-provoking. Being a follower of Jesus is serious business, and in our comfortable America it’s easy to forget that.

  • Thanks for the comment (and the follow)! I appreciate the feedback. I’ve sometimes thought about closing comments because people have gone off on some pretty wild and woolly sub-threads, but I’m glad I didn’t so you could leave your thoughts. Merry Christmas!

  • Mark Vilen

    YankeeGospelGirl, it sounds like you hold Mr. Manning’s ‘brand of flesh’ (alcoholism) as being worse than all others. What about the church leader who preaches out of pride? Or the church busybody who is swamped in ministry because she gets a pat on the back? Flesh is flesh.

  • I’m sorry, but you’ve completely missed my point. Thanks for reading, though!

  • Mark Vilen

    Uh, no I haven’t. You’re so typical of the modern institutional church, which frowns on certain manifestations of flesh, but ignores others. I most certainly understand your article , but your short, trite reply tells me you do not know how to answer.

  • Hahahahahahaha! <—most real fake laugh ever
    I wish you could visit my itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny-etc. Anglo-Catholic parish some time, attendance approximately 15 on a good day. "Modern institutional church," forsooth.
    Uh, yeah, you have. Missed my point, that is. My point was not "Gasp, Brennan Manning was an alcoholic! What a horrible, no-good, very bad unforgivable sin! Avaunt!" My point was "Brennan Manning was an alcoholic. What a tragically debilitating physical affliction that should have kept him from trying to launch a global ministry and hold his marriage together at the same time. Let's see if we can do better when it comes to counseling other people who might want to follow his example. Also, his theology wasn't that great anyway, and here are some examples. Let's do better there too."
    Now, either you’re just here to make an ass of yourself, or you’re here to contribute something of substance to this discussion. So far, I call two strikes. Be it known that I’m under no obligation to publish a third comment if it doesn’t break form.

  • JSR

    From a longer time reader, cursing doesn’t become one who runs a blog with the word gospel in the title. I really don’t know anything about Mr. Manning, but it’s hard to make a solid arguement about anything involving the gospel when using language that most consider cursing.

  • Ah. I see this comes of my reading too many British novels. Let me explain: This actually isn’t a curse word as I’ve used it here. You are thinking of the vulgar American usage of the term, which actually refers to something completely different (and, indeed, crude). The usage you’re thinking of typically comes in two words (a–h—), as a vulgar synonym for a crude part of the human body. However, the word “ass” also has a perfectly acceptable meaning: “donkey.” As in “The ox and ass kept time.” When the British use it as an insult, they’re using it with this meaning, the idea being that donkeys are not taken seriously, so if you’re “being an ass,” then you’re acting like someone who doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. So it is merely a mild insult, not crude slang. One may also sometimes refer more specifically to somebody as a “pompous ass,” like a blowhard political commentator for example, if this is a person who seems to take HIMSELF overly seriously. (Imagine a donkey braying self-importantly: “Eee-HAW. Eee-HAW.” Like a Democrat.)
    However, it’s more of a British thing than an American thing, and so I can see why it would be confusing for American readers. Anyway, I hope I’ve clarified why it’s not a swear word. End linguistics lesson for the day.

  • Mark Vilen

    So I’m an “ass” wbecause I merely disagree with you or because you do not understand me, huh? How very graceful of you …

  • No, it’s because you’re apparently not willing to engage with anything of substance that I actually said, preferring to just repeat your own shallow interpretation of it over and over again (while pretending to be saying something profound). Also, because you know absolutely nothing about me or my background, yet you presume to divine everything about me and my background from one blog post. You could have disagreed with me in a thoughtful, articulate way, acknowledging the actual points I made while making an effort to raise meaningful counter-points in response. But you didn’t.
    Now, I think your time for commenting here is done. Because I’m such a nice guy, I’ve let you snark vapidly for three whole comments, but even nice guys get bored eventually.

  • [Editor’s note: Maurice has said that he’d now like to take this comment back since doing more research on Manning and Mullins. I don’t think it’s as arrogant and demeaning as he does, and I thought the conversation was of interest, so I’m choosing to keep it, but with the understanding of any readers that this is no longer Maurice’s position.]
    The whole Ragamuffin rage creates a dichotomy and for me it’s disturbing. I had never heard of it until I watched the movie about Rich Mullins, which has bugged the living tar out of me for days. If Mullins’ life is a testament of Ragamuffin, I only hope that grace was sufficient. Christ, when he healed told the individual to go and sin no more. All through scripture, in both Old and New Testaments, warn of drunkenness. Paul was pretty emphatic: in Galatians he says: “Envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
    For these promoters of a cheapened gospel that focuses on a fallen priest and a Christian music icon, to excuse debauchery and an anything goes gospel is saddening Phil 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,.

  • I haven’t seen The Ragamuffin Gospel, but I know it portrays Manning very glowingly. In fairness, I’ve also read that it’s not an entirely accurate portrayal of Mullins himself. The Mullins of the movie seems to be in a perpetual self-important funk, whereas Rich Mullins was a very down-to-earth, fun person in real life.
    I would also add that while it sounds like Mullins may have dealt with some addiction demons in his own life, I don’t think it needed to have the kind of disqualifying effect on him it should have had on Manning. Mullins never wrote theology books or led preaching seminars. Mullins was also single, while Manning wasn’t.
    Finally, I haven’t been trying to imply that just because Manning made a foolish series of choices, he couldn’t have been a Christian. I believe Paul is describing the unrepentant drunk, who indulges in orgies and the like without any guilt. It sounds to me like Manning deeply regretted his addiction, and I know that I’ve seen Mullins talk frankly about his struggles, his accountability mechanisms, etc. If you look up “Hold Me Jesus,” you can find a concert clip where he describes how this was written as a prayer against p*rn addiction:
    Surrender don’t come natural to me
    I’d rather fight You for something I don’t really want
    Than to take what You give that I need
    And I’ve beat my head against so many walls
    Now I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees
    I wouldn’t accuse either Manning or Mullins (but especially Mullins) of trying to “excuse debauchery.” Now, Manning hinted that he was a complete flake on homosexuality, but that’s a separate issue. And even there, I could imagine someone who had a disastrously, hopelessly wrong opinion, but had still legitimately accepted Christ as his Savior.

  • I had stumbled on this page after watching Ragamuffin. I have crammed both of my size 12 shoes in my mouth, including the laces and socks. The film bugged me so much, I started looking and reading. Those two people put more thought into working out their salvation than I had ever even attempted. What I posted was arrogant, demeaning and really just plain wrong. If you could, please remove my post.

  • Hmmmm. I think you’re being too hard on yourself. You simply hadn’t read further about either of them. Also, the movie itself, like I mentioned, gives a needlessly annoying portrayal of Mullins. So your perspective on him was understandably skewed. I like the real-life Mullins much more than what I’ve seen of the movie Mullins.
    I still think there are some hard things that need to be said about Manning’s theology, which aren’t arrogant or demeaning at all. Anyway, what I might do is place a note in front of your initial comment repeating the fact that you want to revoke it, because otherwise I would need to delete this whole conversation too.

  • Joshua

    King David did so many unspeakable sins and yet he was a “man after God’s own heart.” I feel like you could write a scathing article about how he was unworthy as well. After all, man knows better than God.

  • We’ve already discussed David quite thoroughly in this thread. Perhaps you should catch up before commenting under the impression that you’ve contributed an original thought. Nonetheless, I’ll simply answer briefly by saying that first of all, David wasn’t a pastor, and Paul was talking about pastors, not kings. Secondly, why don’t you ask David’s board of elders (God, in this case), how seriously he thought David should be punished, or better yet, read the continuation of David’s story after the Bathsheba incident to find out how the rest of his reign went? Finally, try to understand my distinction between “sinfulness” and “illness” when I talk about Manning. You could even be an alcoholic who hasn’t succumbed to temptation for a long time, and I would still say you shouldn’t go into the ministry. Not because “Oh, you’re such a horrible sinner and alcoholism is the worst sin ever!” but simply because this is a physical part of life for this person, and powerful addiction is the sort of thing one needs to be able to devote one’s time and energy to combating for the rest of one’s life without taking on the responsibility of a ministry. For a similar reason, I would say that a person who suffers from severe depression shouldn’t enter the ministry, even though merely suffering with depression is not a sin.

  • I will also add that when I said Manning “wasn’t worthy of a platform,” I was in no small part expressing frustration at how blithely he trotted out his laundry list of transgressions springing from his addiction, yet seemed to believe that he was still vindicated in trying to start a global ministry. This shows a truly grave lack of wisdom.

  • Joshua

    Give me an example of someone who you consider more befitting a platform or position of ministry. Anyone you can give is based solely on how they appear to be, because you cannot know someone’s life behind closed doors. Everyone is a sinner. Someone who does not cover it up and try to put on a face is to be respected and listened to more. If all it takes is appearing to have it all together, I am sure there are many men worthy of the position. I trust someone more who is willing to be open about his brokenness because, let’s face it, we are all broken in some manner.

  • That’s true, I can’t know what goes on behind closed doors, but I can look at fruit. You can’t escape the fact that a significant part of the fruit of Manning’s attempt to have a ministry was a broken marriage and a trail of tears. Of course I won’t say, “I know for a fact that so-and-so or so-and-so has no secret sin struggle that should disqualify him from ministry.” But there are men I could name whose wives appear to love them and vice versa, whose children honor them, whose ministries are healthy, etc., etc. Good fruit is at least a very good sign that there aren’t any skeletons in the closet. I think the Mark Driscoll fiasco is a good example of what inevitably happens when problems are allowed to fester. You are not going to have good fruit forever if this is happening behind closed doors. The truth will ultimately come out.
    Furthermore, remember that Paul is the guy who said “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” yet Paul is also the one giving a laundry list of qualifiers for the ministry in Ephesians. Are you going to argue with Paul and say that he was wrong to judge that some people are more or less qualified to be a pastor?
    Once again, I’m not saying that a temptation to commit sin is itself a sin. I would not rake an alcoholic or a depressed person over the coals simply for suffering from alcoholism or depression. But I would counsel them not to voluntarily take on more than it is wise for them to handle, and I would point to Manning’s case as a tragic example of what can happen when you try.

  • Mark

    Excuse me while my head explodes (and my heart breaks). The current climate we find within the Christian community concerning grace mirrors that of Manning. It’s a bit like Jeremiah 4 where the prophet proclaims that the people say “the temple of the Lord! the temple of the Lord! the temple of the Lord!” Instead of ‘temple’ we use ‘grace’ but we ignore what follows when Jeremiah says, “10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations?”
    We forget that the Gospel transforms us. For some reason, we would rather be “just a sinner” than to “live a life worthy of the calling which we have received.” As one who has been baptized into Christ, I am called to live as Christ. My identity ceases to be as a “sinner” but rather as Christ. Do I still sin? Unfortunately, but that is not my identity! That’s why Paul says in Romans 6:1-2 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” Why do so many rush to lower the standard? Why do we rush to identify with the sins of others instead of with Christ?
    My biggest issue with Manning is his statement that the only question God is going to ask is, “Did you believe that I loved you?” How ego-centric! Is that the greatest commandment? Yet that epitomizes the problem with the seeds that people like Manning have sown. “It’s all about me.” No….it’s all about God. He is holy and He calls His people to be holy. We fail but we keep on striving to live up to the calling we have received.

  • Mark

    One more thought. The biggest issue I see with Brennan is not Brennan himself but those that would lift him up as a role model. It is the audience that creates celebrity.

  • Robyn

    I’ve been reading through most of the comments. I just finished the ragamuffin gospel.
    I try to be careful about what I read, who I listen to etc. I sometimes want to scream “will the real Christian please stand up!!???”
    I read the shack, only to toss it out later. I couldn’t grab the jest of Rick Warrens 40 day purpose, Heaven is real …Big flags went up in the first chapter. All books my church endorsed and hyped up! ( even Mel Gibson’s passion of the christ movie and look at the fruit in HIS life!!) Guess it, I left that church and joined a small, quiet, bible teaching one. My personal walk with God is so much deeper. My verdict on Brennan Manning? He was searching and looking, he was a brutally honest man when it came to himself. I want to be discerning enough to say, Read and stay in the word of God!!! That is time well spent!! By the way, a big two thumbs up for all of you though, you’ve remained kind and calm with each other, ALMOST NO CAPSLOCK ON!
    Being that we’re in the last days, I’m going to stop reading “Christian Books,” especially when endorsed by so and so. The Bible will be enough for me.

  • Well, I have had to delete/ban a few people who were getting incoherent and ranty here, but thanks for the compliment. 🙂 Thanks for your thoughts too. It sounds like you’re practicing good discernment when it comes to what’s hot off the presses in evangelicalism. I don’t keep up with the latest fads in that area either. Regarding Gibson’s Passion, I agree that was a bandwagon product to a certain extent as well, but I wouldn’t quite categorize it with the faddish best-sellers you’re listing. I believe Gibson really did have a fire in his belly to get that movie made, and while I have problems with the film itself (too much Catholic apocrypha for my taste), there’s an eerie power that does come through. For Gibson, Flannery O’Connor’s phrase “Christ-haunted” comes to mind, much like the late great Johnny Cash. No question he’s very rough around the edges and more, and in fact, I think we have evidence that he’s clinically unstable. He even said in an interview that he was diagnosed as manic depressive (bipolar), on top of the alcoholism and everything else. So there’s a cornucopia of demons there, some physiological as well as spiritual. But, that’s neither here nor there. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • no

    This is the reason so many non-Christians have so little time for Christianity- this very attitude. If a believer isn’t a right wing conservative, they aren’t a real believer. If they have a stumble- like Manning did- and they seek grace, restoration repentance and forgiveness- like Manning did- well, that’s not good enough. They need to be shamed and shunned. If a brother is wounded, by all means, shoot him. If someone is preaching grace to a world that is hurting, (kind of like Jesus did) by all means, shun them. Remember, the only way we can be salt and light is to show how righteous we are, and to point out how unworthy everyone else is. Brennan Manning was a man of peace, love and wisdom who understood that the most important things were Jesus, and love. He made a mistake, and confessed it openly, and sought grace. Thank you for taking the time of his death last year to remind your readers that he just didn’t measure up to your standards. Great witness.

  • genomegk

    If God propped Manning up to use him what does this say about all the homeless skid row alcoholics for whom Christ also died? What can say about Manning’s experience of God’s grace that spared him an anonymous death in a shelter or on the street? Codependency? What are we to think of the man who describes the love of his life, “kissyface”? Booze was not just an addiction, it was his meal ticket. Manning was a grifter….and yes, God loved him.

  • “To point out that the Holy Spirit still worked through him for good merely emphasizes the truth that God can work through many things and many people.” I really liked that line. It gave me hope, like I could be broken and still used, struggling but still loved. This line comforted me in that there is a place at the table for drunkards, prostitutes, adulterers, liars, christians, unbelievers, any and everybody who was made in the image of God, the list is endless. An encouraging blog entry that ultimately pointed me more to Christ and less to any human being or institution. While sin abounds, grace abounds more! Keep em coming Yankee Gospel Girl, good stuff!

  • I’m really glad to hear you say that Ty, because as you can tell, not everyone who’s read the post agrees with you! Part of the point that I have been so painstakingly trying to hammer home in both the OP and the ensuing comments thread is that God can use people ANYWHERE. There is this strange notion that if you suggest some affliction or disability might hamper one’s ability to follow the specific vocation of ministry, you’re suggesting such a person is worthless to the kingdom. I got similar backlash when I expressed doubts on another blog about a gay man pursuing the pastorate. It was implied that I thought he should be “cast aside” by God. I’m trying to revive the idea that you can do ANYTHING to the glory of God. Just because you shouldn’t try to become a priest or a pastor does not mean that God can’t and won’t do great things through you! You can serve your immediate family, serve your community, witness to your neighbors—the list goes on. We need to get rid of this idea that such a person is being shut out of some kind of “in-club” where people are REALLY being used by God for the kingdom.

  • That Girl

    Wow. I have come full circle on this post. I have read through nearly all the comments. So I just wanted to say this. I believe I understand what you are trying to communicate. If I may…you are saying that Manning had some good things to say. He also had some things that were not so good/even unbiblical (as you give reference to – maybe, out of context, maybe, not). You are not saying he wasn’t a Christian. You have, I think, acknowledged that he helped people in their understanding of God’s love for them.
    But ultimately, I think you are saying that it wasn’t his basic message that was unfortunate but that he should have stopped “ministering to others” and focused on healing his struggles i.e. alcoholism, and focused on, not hiding from his marriage, and that, THAT would have been his “greater work”, despite that God used his brokenness to help so many. Perhaps in God permissive will he allowed his brokenness to be used, but His perfect will would have been to focus on his family and seeking continual help for his disease.
    I appreciate and am amazed by your persistence in answering peoples comments in a mostly kind manner. Most people would not have been so kind for so long. I do think we disagree on a few things, but they would have no impact in furthering the kingdom if discussed here as they are not “deal breakers” in terms of salvation. It’s definitely provided for some good discussion as I think there is not enough discussion going on in real life that pushes us to think outside our comfort zones.
    Good post.

  • Thank you Ann! I appreciate your graciousness. As you can see, I’ve had a bit of difficulty keeping my patience with some other commentators here who seemed more concerned with making their own point than with listening to mine. I also like your distinction between God’s “permissive will” and God’s “perfect will.” That’s a very good way to phrase it. I believe it grieved God for Manning to lose the connections that were nearest and dearest to himself, in spite of the people who were blessed as a result. I believe one can offer up a long, quiet process of recovering from alcoholism and rebuilding a marriage to God’s glory just as well as one can offer up a ministry. God is no less glorified in either case.

  • Joy

    I find your decided judgement about another man offensive. I don’t think Manning longed for our pity nor warranted it. He gave us his confidence and whether we agree with his theology or not, our empathy as fellow sinners and respect as fellow humans seems the kind way to view him. I am quicker to question the platform of one pointing their finger than to question that of a man in raw form who points the finger at himself.

  • I believe I expressed a good deal of empathy for Manning in the OP and in the ensuing comments thread.

  • Wow, that’s a lot to read. Whew…
    I’m a 53 year old follower of Jesus Christ, still trying to figure it all out, just wanting to be light and salt to the world around me somehow, despite all my imperfections.
    I think Brennan Manning was like that too. Like many of us, he was accutely aware of his failings, and, to some extent, they haunted him till the end.
    Just remember that heresies are a tricky thing. We’ve known people burned at the stake for beliefs that were misunderstood to be heresies. Mankind is imperfect, and it’s not at all unusual for us to think we know and understand more than we really know.
    For instance, I believe completely that scripture indicates that homosexuality is sexual immorality, sin. But I also believe that the church today is so freaked out by homosexuality that we’ve done a great job of sending the message that our God does not desire to know the homosexual. And we’ve certainly sent the message in some places that the homosexual need not enter our churches. It reminds of the passage in James that talks about seeing a person in desperate need, and only managing to say “God bless you, be at peace.” And, as christian songwriter Keith Green wrote, “and all heaven just weeps, cause Jesus came to your door, and you’ve left him out in the street.”
    Maybe Brennan was not endorsing homosexuality as much as he was calling God’s church to embrace the homosexual. Not their sin; not their lifestyle, but the person. Love is an amazing thing, capable of changing what seemed unchangeable.
    Jesus fulfilled the law. He summed up all the law and the prophets with two commands – love God with your all, and love your neighbor as yourself. We’ve got quite enough condemnation in the world right now, you don’t have to go far to get some of that. The ridiculous grace of God, now that’s in some short supply sometimes, at least in God’s people.
    Leadership in the church requires a life that is up to God’s standards as much as it can possibly be in a world filled with sinful people. And good leaders should absolutely excuse themselves, if even for a season, to allow God to restore them when they’ve fallen in some significant way. But I do agree with many of those who have posted saying that we are all called to be ministers, we are all called to give testimony, to be missionaries, to proclaim the word of God. And we are all fallen, broken, sinners in need of a savior.
    Brennan’s legacy will be an enormous number of lives reached with the saving message of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. One thing I’ve not noticed in the many posts are any stories of the lives he ruined along the way because of his sinfulness.
    I tend to think your original post was overly harsh, and that it served to demean the way our God worked amazingly through the flawed servant who was Brennan Manning. But I don’t write to criticize and enflame the discussion, only to say there is nothing impossible with our God.

  • You might actually be surprised at how hard-line some of Keith Green’s theology was. I came across some articles he wrote towards the end of his life/career, and I have a hunch he’d find a little more in common with some of today’s so-called “fundamentalists” than you’d think. But, that’s neither here nor there. Your particular application to homosexuality is deeply misguided, in my opinion. The main problem is that you’re speaking only in vague generalities. You need to distinguish between people who saunter in the door (perhaps with their “partner”), essentially daring the church to boot them out, and people who are genuinely broken and confused. I agree that we should offer discreet guidance and encouragement for people in the latter category, but I have no interest in “welcoming” the former. If it’s true that Brennan “advocated for homosexual couples,” emphasis on COUPLES, then this is well over the line of acceptable orthodoxy.
    I think it’s fair to say Brennan ruined his marriage through his recklessness and persistence in addiction. Maybe that’s not enough for some people, but it obviously haunted Brennan himself.

  • That’s the problem with labels like “fundamentalist” and “liberal.” They can mean whatever the writer wants them to mean. I despise them.
    If all you can see or care about is someone’s sin, then we have to remember that as we judge, we will be judged. And despite your belief that there are levels of sin, my understanding of scripture is that it only takes one sin for the verdict to be guilty.
    My problem with some in the church today is that all we see is sin. And we see some sin more clearly than others. And as a result, we send the message to the world that God likes some people better than he likes others, which is completely false.
    If someone came to my church with a bottle and proceeded to pass it around to others in the congregation, I hope we would step forward and minister to that person. If a homosexual couple comes to our church and proceeds to love on each other in front of everyone, I hope we would step forward and minister to those people. Sin is sin. Openly sinning as a part of the body of Christ must be addressed by the body. I’m sorry that was not an understood part of my previous post.
    But wouldn’t it be nice to get them in to our congregations, to surround them with other brothers and sisters who are doing their best to follow the Lord, to teach them about God’s grace and mercy that can change their lives? That’s not happening if all we can do is proclaim the condemnation of their sin.
    People need to know that they have a need for a savior. Everyone is a sinner. And everyone can be forgiven. I was trying to explain that I think we do a pretty lousy job of sending THAT message to SOME sinners.
    Keith Green was a passionate follower of Christ who abhored the fact that the church for the most part was sleeping away the death of the world around them. It’s possible to believe in grace and mercy, and at the same time believe that God calls us to lives of holiness. Life is all about that struggle, made better each day by letting Christ revive us again and again.

  • Homosexual activists are known to infiltrate Christian institutions with the express purpose of corrupting the body. We can’t be blind to the fact that it certainly wouldn’t be “nice” to welcome wolves in sheep’s clothing into the fold. Again, it is one thing if the person is sincerely seeking and open to repentance. It’s another thing if they’re just there to flaunt their preferred form of perversion and dare the good church folks to do something about it. A homosexual couple kissing in church is far more likely to be there with a political agenda than a heterosexual couple who happen to be sleeping together out of wedlock. I am not saying one sin should be addressed and the other ignored. But I am saying they are not parallel.

  • Anna


  • Vitus

    YankeeGospelGirl, thank you for your reflections on the works of Brennan. I am an admirer of Brennan’s work and it has done so many good things (healing of my past wounds, shift in my views of Abba, testimonies I could give to others) in my life that I am eternally grateful for how he has led our Father use him anyways despite his obvious flaws.
    The part that I will never understand is how other people, you about Brennan and me in many cases about other people, can be so fussy and judgmental (and concerned for that matter) about the flaws of others. Brennan was fully transparent about his flaws and brought them into the light. “Confess to one another” – no? What is for you so disturbing about imperfect people serving and being used for God? The Bible, thank God, is full of such examples – read Matthew 1 for example to get an idea of their importance, in light and despite of their “moral failures”.
    You write that we should have pity on Brennan but not imitate him. I think he might have agreed with you – the point is not to admire him or to agree with everything he said (I disagree with him on, amongst else, his view of the homosexual couples, if he really said that), but to see what he did with his rubbish – he brought it to Abba and trusted that it was forgiven and that in that moment, he became faultless and blameless and freed up for ministry and to serve Him.
    Now I do agree with you that not in all circumstances somebody should serve in the church or as an itinerant minister. Brennan did not do so, maybe read up on his life again. Several times he paused his ministry to get better. But the thorn in his flesh never completely left him. But whenever he thought himself healed or better, though admitting that as a recovering alcoholic you are never fully healed, he had the courage to stand up, be frank about his failures and then testify about the grace of God.
    What is the bottom line of your criticism? Is it to come up with a list, or a moral code, that exactly names the sins that are allowed for a Christian minister (which by the way includes all of us, not just somebody standing in front)? If so, then maybe, like Jesus Himself, you would start with spiritual pride that He had so much to say about. The inner Pharisee, as Brennan called it, lives in all of us and is probably the biggest obstacle to our spiritual growth.
    Be careful to not label Brennan as the supposed “liberal” you think he was, and project things onto him (Campolo, Bell, etc…) that convene that line of thinking. His only message was that grace covers all, and if our world needs one thing, then it is Christians that dare to be real – not supposedly shiny examples of morally perfect Christians from that city up on that hill (of course they would be the first to admit that they are not sinless – they might do a harmless sin every once in a while…). For all the (partly, in my opinion) valid criticism you wrote about Brennan, I want to ask you to be careful not to criticise him too much for being flawed, nor to attach any “acceptable/unacceptable” notion to how much or in which areas a Christian can be flawed or not. Thank God neither one of us will have to decide that.
    With everything that we want to criticise about the life of Brennan, let us admire to what he pointed: to lay beside our spiritual pride and to leap forward into Daddy’s arms, dirty and imperfect as we are,because, quoting Brennan, he is saying to us: “I dare you to trust that I love YOU just as you are, and not as you should be. Because you’re never gonna be… as you should be” (my emphasis added).
    Respectfully, your brother in Christ

  • I believe I knew that he paused several times for rehab and similar things. The problem was that he tried to go back and do it all over again every time. As I’ve said again and again, I believe there are many ways to be used by God. You say that I believe Brennan was too flawed to serve God, or something along those lines. Nothing could be further from the truth. My definition of “serving” and even “ministering” is simply broader than yours. As for drawing up a “list” of qualifications, well, I think Paul already did that in 1 Timothy. Another reader quoted the specific reference.
    I’m not “criticizing Manning for being flawed.” If anything I find his poor theology in some ways more concerning than his struggles with alcoholism. Everybody has their personal demons, but spreading an inadequate view of God has spiritual ramifications.

  • Vitus

    1 Timothy 3 lays out conditions for “whoever aspires to be an overseer”, and of course I agree with those. But Brennan was a speaker, a true witness to what the grace of God can do with and through and for a true ragamuffin. I don’t think, knowing his weaknesses, that he aspired to be an overseer. He aspired to be frank and open about his struggles, which bears a huge testimony with many people who are a bit stained themselves and don’t need the judgment of an earthly “saint”, but instead the compassion of a gracefully and undeservedly saved sinner.
    It seems like your “broader” definition of serving is in fact that you expand the conditions in 1 Tim 3 to everyone, not just overseers (leaders), right? Meaning, that only a few are worthy to even testify and speak about God’s grace (as long as they are sufficiently 1 Tim 3-like). Let us remember Brennan’s ministry was speaking, serving, writing, witnessing, and being frank and open. He was not your elder or the like.
    Thank God that in His word, He himself is giving many sinners a platform by using their flawed lives as a testimony for His greatness, people who should maybe, extending your own (in my opinion judgmental) words, also “never have had a platform”.
    It is easy to criticise an alcoholic, judging what extent of own will he had left. It is easy to sit here and point fingers, to accuse and hand out verdicts about who deserves to be an example and “have a platform” and who doesn’t… Answer? Brennan didn’t deserve. I don’t deserve. And I don’t know if reading a bit in a couple of books gives you the right to judge about the life of this person, especially in light of the particular situation Brennan was in and to which neither you nor I can fully relate. It cost Brennan a lot to do this and “strip naked” by being so brutally honest about his situation. Result? To get judged by anonymous desk heroes at no single cost to themselves…

  • No, you completely misunderstood my comment about the definition of serving. I was actually saying the exact opposite. My point is that when I say it wasn’t a great idea for Brennan to serve in a semi-ministerial capacity (even if he wasn’t officially a priest, pastor, elder, etc., he was still speaking, writing books, and holding spiritual retreats), people act as though I’m saying he was unfit to serve God. What I meant by having a broader definition of “service” is the Chariots of Fire principle: You can peel a spud to the glory of God if you peel it to perfection. There were plenty of ways Brennan could have served the kingdom despite his stumbling blocks without putting himself in a position where lots of people were looking up to him as a spiritual mentor, if not an overseer in an official capacity. My point was obviously not to say that you can’t serve God if you have ongoing temptations or other flaws, just that “service” should look different depending on each individual’s limitations and capabilities.

  • Charles

    After watching the Ragamuffin movie last night I stumbled upon this website and this long running discussion tonight. I asked Jesus to save me almost 40 years ago and have spent most of my life trusting Him and attempting to follow him as best I can. I have studied the Bible, taught the Bible, been a youth leader, considered seminary, led people to Christ, made multiple trips to a Muslim country to work with Muslim youth where I was able to share my faith. But, I am also an alcoholic who has struggled mightily to get sober and stay sober for over 10 years. Today I write this 7 days from my last drink. After a couple of years of drinking in college the Lord convicted me that this was not His will for my life and I stopped for almost 10 years. In my late 20;s my now wife, of over 30 years now, had an affair with a very close Christian brother and I rediscovered alcohol as I went through that pain. The ministries of Brennan Manning and Rich Mullins have both blessed me during this very imperfect journey. The first Manning book that I read was “Abba’s Child.” I remember sitting on an airplane and weeping as I read this book. I felt that he had observed my life and that the book was written to me. When I learned that he was an alcoholic this is one of the first experiences that God used to show me that I had a problem too. This was one of the influences that led me to my first AA meeting. During my first 6 or 7 years of the battle I had long periods of sobriety in which God used me. The last couple of years have been tough. Over 2 years ago I was teaching a Bible study and had relapsed. I came clean to my group and entered treatment for the 3rd time. I have not returned to teaching, even though I have been asked several times since then, because I believe that I need to be solid in my sobriety if I am going to lead. With respect to Brennan Manning, God has used him to help me in my journey. As an alcoholic/addict, especially one who professes to be a believer, one of the major side effects is toxic shame. I question “how can I be a believer and keep doing this?” Brennan;s message that God loves me absolutely is one of the things that has kept me going. God has given me 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 as a life verse. I have begged and pleaded with Him (and gone to several thousand AA meetings) to try to be rid of the thorn of alcoholism, but, it is still there. I believe this is because my pride is a larger issue than my alcoholism and this is God’s tool to keep me in check. You probably picked that up when I listed all of the things that “I” have done for the Lord? 😉 But, I know that His will is that I get sober and I continue to trust Him for that and continue to fight.
    Back to Rich Mullins. I had heard his music during my “dry” years and liked some of his songs. In the years since my struggle started I have been drawn to, comforted by, and ministered to by his music. I had no idea that he struggled with alcohol until I watched the movie last night. Now I know that he is just another imperfect vessel, like Brennan Manning, that God can use to minister to another broken vessel like me. And, by the way, this doesn’t mean that I agree with all of his theology. But, I have never met a single person who get’s it all…especially me.

  • Hey Charles, thanks for sharing your testimony and for the humility with which you shared it. I think you’ve made exactly the right decision not to return to your teaching, and I’m a little surprised that there were people around you who disagreed. Kudos for sticking to your choice.

  • Vitus

    Dear yankeegospelgirl, I honestly think that you are taking it too far here. Above all, you just want to be right and confirmed in your set opinion. What you get out of Charles’ heartfelt and sincere lines is: he didn’t return to ministry, so he proves my point. Has it dawned on you that Charles’ wouldn’t have had these encouraging moments in his weakness, had Brennan and Rich stopped ministry altogether? Thank God for all broken vessels. Thank you Charles for your testimony!

  • I never said God didn’t make something good out of Manning’s bad choices. He tends to do that a lot. So no, really nothing Charles said contradicted any of my points. Sorry.

  • Darren

    I just watched Ragamuffin and am no expert on Brennan. But the message of the Ragamuffin gospel is the message fo Christ. Too many, including me have excused our imperfectness for not being able to serve. Brennan was imperfect and “got it.” Grace. We are all perfect for God’s will. David Ring says I have Cerebral Palsy, What’s your problem, challenging believers to serve. All men are created equal… Sinners. All are called to serve. Brennan served. Love God, Hate Sin.

  • Vixter

    “This is not a man who deserved a place as a revered Christian leader or mentor. This is a man who should never have had a platform in the first place.”
    Much of what you wrote of manning’s struggles can be said of King David who authored a fair portion of scripture.
    God worked in their weakness what he’ll never do in what appears to be your sanitized religion and mental acquiescence of Him, and that was to bring a Holy God near to the hearts of the broken.
    I’m always wary of people who think they are not the same clay as the worse drunk or prostitute, especially the religious who think they are not. If you doubt this, just ask your friends.

  • Vixter

    Charles, learn to distinguish the voice of the Holy Spirit from your own. The gifts and callings…, as you know,
    NEVER be ashamed to speak the Name and ignore the religious who’ve never yet brought the presence of God to the lost and those in need.
    Teach. Be able to.
    Closed doors are ALL the religious are to the lost. If you recall, Jesus said so.
    If you’d like an eye opener, read Matthew 1. Then look up those names, liars, adulterers, incestuous, drunkards, the lineage of Christ is flawed.
    he came SO you’d have Acts 1.
    Speak, teach, pray, in it is your access to the power to overcome. Anyone who tells you otherwise has no idea what they are talking about.

  • I’m sorry to sound dismissive, but we already covered that example, at great length, much earlier in this thread. Feel free to browse through some of those comments at your leisure.

  • Vixter

    The solution, I think we all may agree.
    Charles, people like him, those who’ve fallen, should take the gospel to the streets. The lost are there, the religious are hardly ever.

  • Kelley Green

    Well said James. Brennan’s message was never about how great he was, but about how great and loving and awesome God IS. Brennan’s teachings changed my life in a very positive way, and I’ll never be the same. Brennan never called us to love and follow him; he spoke to a world who more times than not thinks of God as all powerful, distant, and ready to pound on us for our sinfulness–terrible sinfulness! But, Brennan realized during his conversion that God loves us–HE LOVES US! He draws humanity by that tremendous love, and then he changes us. But, we all know well that for a long as we are human, our sinful nature battles for our attention, while seeking to make us its slave. Brennan was on top of the battle some of the times, and under it at other times. Yet, I absolutely believe He is with His Abba celebrating God’s Amazing Grace and love.
    To the writer of the article. I appreciate that you tried to be fair, and I agree that we are to have lives of victory. But, I ask you to define “victory.”
    While I feel much care for you and recognize your efforts to give Brennan the credits he deserved, I’m afraid you judged Brennan rather harshly; and scripture teaches us that with what measure you judge, so shall you be judged. You seemed puzzled that God would even use someone like Brennan to do his work, while telling of God’s expectations for righteousness in out lives. Yet, I wonder if you have considered this: The Bible referes to Christians as individual members of the same body. WEll, using that analogy, does a pancreas balance his work with that of the heart? Of course not. The pancreas does what it is created to do, and the heart does what it’s created to do. Brennan’s broken life, coupled with his tremendous love and relationship wtih God, speaks to those who struggle beyond the norm, and says: Hey, God still loves you, now, turn your heart to Him and allow Him to go to work in you.
    Rest in the Arms of your Abba Dear brother Brennan! Few people impacted my life in quite the way that you have. Thank you for your obedience in serving God by encouraging all of us. WE LOVE YOU, and the world is less for not having you here in our world. But, we are also happy for you to be with God.
    Love, Jeannie

  • Bethany

    Good article! Manning endorsed contemplative prayer which has eastern mysticism and New Age roots, and involves emptying one’s mind and repeating a mantra over and over. This is NOT scriptural and not something a Christian should endorse or do. We ARE to meditate on God’s word, however. In The Signature of Jesus he says, “God is a kooky God who can scarcely be without us.” What? This is blasphemous! In the same book, he says that many Christians have bibiolatry…the idolizing of the scriptures. Utter nonsense! The Bible is God’s word and is infallible and he gave it to us to show us who he is. We can’t learn about him anywhere else.
    Manning speaks much of grace, but not much (if any) about sin, confession, repentance and obedience. God is a God of grace, but is also a God of justice.
    As Christians we are told to be Bereans and to be discerning. Yankee Gospel Girl is doing just that. Thank you!

  • RecoveryingPharisee

    I am truly baffled when I see so many blogs by Christians that are at the very least unkind. I’m not wanting to defend or judge anyone, but being human it’s a difficult chore to not do those things. When folks start picking on statements by someone, especially in a blog, instead of face to face it’s very easy to misconstrue the heart of the other person. And even then, what was once a journey to try to understand God may have eventually been guided by God Himself toward a more perfect walk with Jesus Christ. When I read John’s letters and if those were the only letters I had access to in my life, I would have a very different perspective than someone who only had access to Leviticus. The simple interaction between Jesus while ON the cross and the thief He said would be with Him in Paradise seems a lot more “dangerous” than anything Manning or others have written about the “Crazy” love God has for His creation. Speaking of kindness, look at Father God’s example of how he speaks to Satan in the book of Job. As a flawed human, I can’t imagine wanting that evil in my presence EVER. But God is LOVE. I want to try to show God’s love to anyone by being kind and not contentious.

  • jeannie kelley

    Yankee Gospel Girl, You seem caught up in judging Brennan Manning; I wonder why.  I wonder if you realize that it says a whole lot more about you than it does about Brennan. Did you know Brennan personally?  I did.  And, the man was absolutely precious,  It is rare to know someone who loves the Lord–and I’m talking about Jesus more than Brennan did…does.  I have no doubt whatsoever that he is rejoicing in heaven with his beloved Abba.  Fortunately, God looks upon the heart, and there is no doubt that Brennan loved Jesus and trusted him from the depths of his being. 
    I do not know your heart, and cannot judge one way or the other as to your Christianity.  But, I want to encourage you to lighten up on others and always remember… We all have Beams in our own eyes.  First, we must remove the beam from our own eye, then we can see clearly to take the mote out of someone else’s. Brennan is in Heaven, so why not give it a rest my friend.

  • Bethany

    Speaking the truth in love is NOT being unkind, but is what we are told to do in the Bible, and to take everything to Scripture, and to mark and avoid those who teach a different gospel. Salvation is through grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, confessing and repenting of our sin and following Him in obedience. Manning spoke more of a man-centered gospel and that God would never judge us…but if God won’t judge us, why did he send his son to die? To speak out about someone’s false teaching is not being unloving or unkind.

  • Kelley Green

    Dear Bethany, I agree that speaking the truth in love is NOT being unkind. But, often we cannot fully see Truth because of the “beam” in our own eyes. We cannot know another person’s heart, and therefore cannot say that person did not know or follow God. On the other hand, it is perfectly fine to point out a particular teaching that we believe is false, but we cannot speak for that person overall, as we do not see their heart.
    I grew up in a “judgement based” religion, and honestly, there was not one thing EVER about that religion that was even slightly attractive or would in any way whatsoever cause me to believe that Jesus was good and worthy of my love, devotion, and praise. Everything that in that religion I was raised in was just awful! Horrible, actually! Because of that false religion that claimed to be straight from the Bible and Christian, I felt totally rejected and unloved–unlovable– not only by people in the church, but also by God Himself. But, when I read Brennan’s books, namely Ragamuffin Gospel, Abba’s Child, and Ruthless Trust, for the first time ever, I could see a God who loved me beyond human description, and that He loved us enough to suffer the cross for our redemption and salvation. God’s amazing love for us does not mean He is man centered; it means we are deeply, passionately loved–loved so much that He would take the brutality of the Cross, to pay the penalty of our sin, that through Him we would be saved.
    So, you can say whatever you want about Brennan, but that man, after growing up in an abusive home, had a true handle on God’s love for us, and He shared that love in a manner that no one else I’ve ever known has.
    I have never known a Christian who has it ALL right; I really mean that. Some Christians are very inclined towards the judgement side of God, and they can go way over board with that–even to the point of sin perhaps??? And, there are other Christians who are completely over board on the Love side of God. Some lean towards Hell fire and damnation, while others focus more on Heaven and all it’s glorious wonders. But, we are all imperfect. Anytime you lean too far in one direction, it is likely you will lose balance, but that does not mean that person is not a Christian or that their work is not used in mighty ways by God. For a person abusing “Grace,” perhaps Jonathan Edward’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God would be exactly the message they need to hear to put the fear of God in them. On the other hand, when a person was raised in a fear based, unloving, cold, and/or abusive situation, then Brennan’s message is like a healing balm that touches people deeply and leads them to the loving side of God.
    To constantly criticize Brennan for his leaning towards the Love side of God, is like the brain saying to the heart: “my function is more right than yours, and you need to do what I do.” No, the heart is made to function as a heart, and the brain a brain. Brennan is a part of the Body of Christ. He is used by God to reveal to hundreds and thousands that God is love, and that He actually loves us. Unless you were raised in spiritually abusive, or maybe just an abusive home, it’s hard to understand and realize how hard and cold God is often times presented by the judgement leaners.
    In all kindness, I encourage you to recognize that God uses “cracked and imperfect pots” to minister to cracked and imperfect people. You can trust that if Brennan taught any false doctrine, or even imbalanced doctrines, He’s not alone. God uses imperfect people to preach imperfect messages, to lead people to a totally Perfect God.

  • Bethany

    Kelley, I don’t think that anyone who preaches or teaches has to be perfect….never did I say that in my comments. None of us is perfect, only Christ was. But that shouldn’t be used as a defense of false teaching. God is not a “kooky God” as Manning called him. That is arrogance and blasphemy. Doesn’t that bother you? He also said people who love the Bible are bibliolaters…we idolize the Bible because we love God’s word? No, the Bible is His inspired word where we learn about Him and how we are to live.
    Criticism and critique are two different things. We can critique his writings and teachings but that doesn’t make us critical. Yes, some preachers only focus on God’s judgment, but some only focus on His love. There needs to be a balance of both.
    I appreciate your reply, but I don’t think either of us will change each other’s minds. Peace.

  • RecoveryingPharisee

    Hi Bethany. I agree with your comments for the most part, except when you start to go down the road of judgment. Your overall comment is relatively mild compared to MANY, MANY others that are unkind I’ve seen – pure and simple. I understand we are to be discerning and be wise as serpents, too. We are also to avoid contentious people and feed Jesus’ sheep. Note Jesus didn’t tell Peter to do anything else after asking him if he loved Him 3 times, but to feed His sheep. Karen’s reply is a great example of how folks that only speak truth without grace or knowing a person’s heart is not speaking truth in love which is a false religion that creates exclusions. It’s message that says I belong and you don’t and it chases folks away from a very loving and long-suffering God. It might seem like love, but I’ve told many folks “truth” based on my limited interpretation in “love” when my motive was really to be right. I wasn’t being kind because Truth and Grace go together and I was only throwing out scripture before I understood the person’s heart. For me, this whole argument is not about Brennan Manning. But, if he wrote, said, or believed that “God would never judge us” and you put that in print it’s very important to site a reference for verification. If you can’t do that and it cannot be proven, then what you wrote is actually called Libel. It’s against the law. Now, if he did say, write, or believe that we would not be judged, I would be very surprised since it is very clear there will be a judgment. If he did, maybe it was at some point when Brennan was struggling. Look at Paul when he was Saul. If someone only looked at what he believed, said, or did while still Saul, I could draw many more conclusions about Paul today if I didn’t know anything else. I could draw some very similar conclusions if I only read 1 John. I could draw conclusions about Jesus if I only knew about the words spoken by Him on the cross to the one thief. Jesus didn’t ask the thief, “Are you sorry for your sins?” “Do you make Me the LORD of your life?” “Will you be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?” “Will you show me you are obedient to me by how you act from now on?” I know that’s all ridiculous but please try to understand the heart of God. I feel like Rich Mullins is right on when he says we are more concerned about winning an argument than hearing each other’s hearts and helping to disciple each other knowing we all are in the process of being sanctified. I find myself slipping down that slope even now. I’m sorry. Here is a great teaching on Galations that is part 1 of a series I encourage you to check out.

  • ali

    Ah, Brennan so poor in spirit, you so strong. I found this because I was looking for one of my favorite quotes. I am curious what you would have to write about David, Moses or Isaiah, so many of the greats. Well, I guess only a little curious because actually I would much rather read what they wrote. God uses the broken so that He gets all the glory and Brennan was so quick to turn His glory over. As for you? How do you not see yourself here? Luke 18:9-14

  • ali

    And, Vixter, where’s your blog, brother? Or is it sister? Well said, well done.

  • Bethany

    Recovering Pharisee, regarding whether Manning actually said “God won’t judge us”, it’s clear from his writings that he believed that. He said God loves everyone which IS true, as He sent His son to die for us. But then he says in The Ragamuffin Gospel that we all have been restored to a right relationship with God, in essence saying that everyone is already saved…which means that he believes we won’t be judged. But everyone ISN’T already saved. Matthew 7:13 says, “”Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” Most people will follow that broad way, and not become believers. We must come to Him as broken sinners, confessing our sin and confess Him as Lord. When we then become His followers, we follow Him in obedience to His commands. Yes, we have peace and joy as believers, but we also are told to expect trials, and we are take up our cross daily and follow Him.
    This isn’t about trying to be right or winning an argument. My heart aches when I see and hear the watered-down gospel of today because so many believe it. The stakes are so high….eternity is forever. We’ll either be with Christ or without Him.

  • Vitus

    Dear Bethany, you are straight wrong. Read this article by CT:
    Particularly this quote:
    “Manning is not universally admired among conservative Protestants. Because of his emphasis on the love of God, he gets accused of being a universalist—for example, by PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries. But he recoils at this suggestion: “Obviously, the people who would raise that question have never been to my seminars or to my retreats. Write this down: I am not a universalist. Universalism is a heresy that makes the death and resurrection of Christ irrelevant.” ”
    So I guess then, you have never been to any of his retreats but just derive your own conclusions. This is actually grave on a spiritual dimension, so why don’t you leave the judging to God…

  • Vitus

    And while you are at it, read this maybe… (from the same article)
    Another not immediately apparent quality of Manning is fragility. One time, shortly following a back injury and surgery, Manning came to Nashville to speak. When Card picked him up at the airport, Manning “had a back brace on with a catheter and an iv bag,” the singer said. “He was about as fragile as he could be. … He looked like a ghost, he was feeling so poorly.” Ignoring Card’s well-meaning advice to “get on the plane and go home,” Manning went to his appointment.
    “This wasn’t some big thing, it was just a little high school he was speaking at,” Card says. “I remember the principal of the high school with his head in his hands weeping because he was so convicted by what Brennan had to share. When I saw his response and the reaction of many of these high school students who are so difficult to reach, I realized that’s why he knew this was something that he was supposed to do, even though he wasn’t feeling like it. I think that was a very Christ-like example of how great strength comes through weakness.”
    Yes, even through “the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together”; through the “bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out”; through “the poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents,” to use Manning’s words.
    That’s the comfort of every ragamuffin.
    Should we not all go out into the streets and do something Christ-like as well, instead of tossing stones at fellow brothers and sisters…?

  • RecoveryingPharisee

    Bethany, thank you for your reply. I love your heart. I truly do. I’m starting to believe it’s best for me not to keep trying to make a point. I haven’t read that book, yet. My wife has read it a while back. We just ordered several copies as she has given them away. I’ll try to find that statement to see if maybe the context around the statement opens up the statement to mean something different. I don’t believe he believes all are saved because of what he wrote in Abba’s Child on page 71 when asked about what a Christian’s posture should be toward the gay community. He used Jesus’ parable about the wheat and the tares growing together. In other words, he is not condoning sin or even stating that all are saved, but that we should be compassionate and lovingly walk beside folks while the Holy Spirit woos all to The Heavenly Father. Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son, the self-righteous older brother, and the loving Father at a party of sinners that even His own disciples were not wanting to attend. Why? Because Jesus came to heal the sick. For some reason, it seems like many Christians want to attend their perfect sanitized church meetings and small groups devoid of anyone wrestling with addictions, etc. They don’t really want to be near “those people” whoever they are depending on the person. They may want to help them from a distance, but I believe Jesus wants to live life with them as a light unto a dark world to bring hope and in the hope they see Jesus. It’s too easy to shoot at Manning over some statements while he can’t explain them because he’s gone. Those that seemed to know him seemed to understand his true heart. Some of them have responded very well. But even still, let’s look at/fix our eyes on what Jesus said and did, instead of creating a blog about a man entitled, “The Unfortunate Legacy of Brennan Manning” that has done nothing but cause conflict and contention from what I can tell. The title alone is judgment that belongs solely to God alone. And frankly, some of the very unkind responses on both sides of the argument are very sad to me and spit in the face of the Apostle John who wrote that others will know we are God’s children by our love for one another. I truly do appreciate your response. Thank you very much.

  • Bethany

    Vitus, yes, only God can judge a person’s soul, but we as believers can critique others’ teachings, and are even told in Scripture to do so, to test what we hear and compare it to Scripture. I do go out and help others and this blog article by Yankee Gospel Girl (and my comments) aren’t throwing stones, but discussing and critiquing teaching. That’s not judging, my friend. If you think it is, I’m sorry, but then going by your criteria, aren’t you judging me by calling me “straight up wrong”?
    Recovering Pharisee, I truly do appreciate your kind comments and civil attitude! Because I desire to be like Christ I try hard to not have a harsh or unkind spirit, but to point out when something is different from the Word of God, and I am grateful for your spirit as well. (BTW, I didn’t write this blog article, but am just commenting).
    May we all continue to follow in Christ’s footsteps and obey His teachings!

  • Vitus

    Dear Bethany – I am not judging you, but I am calling out that you claimed something about Brennan’s teachings (I quote you: “…whether Manning actually said “God won’t judge us”, it’s clear from his writings that he believed that”) that is straight out wrong as said by Brennan himself, see the quote and link I posted. He was not a universalist. Full stop. I do not see how you can make such a claim, and after having been proven wrong, instead of acknowledging your premature (and unfounded) judgment, arguing that I am judging you for making you aware of that fact. That does not mean that I would not love to share a meal with you as siblings in Christ, of course 🙂

  • Bethany

    Vitus, if you look at one of my previous comments, I DID quote from Manning’s book where he said we’ve all been restored to a right relationship with God, so no, I’ve not been proven wrong. We all have NOT been restored to a right relationship with God. Maybe he changed his mind according to the link you posted. But my “judgment” as you call it, wasn’t premature or unfounded, as it was from his book. Peace.

  • Kelley Green

    To Bethany, I truly do appreciate your intent in that it seems to me that you really do believe you are only judging false teachings, which scripture admonishes us to do. But, my sister in Christ, I struggle to understand why you cannot seem to open your heart to what “Recovering Pharisee,” “Vitus” myself (Kelley Green) and some others are trying to communicate to you. In one of my comments, I asked one of the commenters if they knew Brennan personally. I did not hear back on that, but I did know Brennan personally, and I’ll say this as many times as needed. Brennan Manning knew Jesus Christ; he loved Him deeply and passionately, He trusted him “ruthlessly,” and He dedicated his life and heart to proclaiming Jesus’ love for humanity. So far, you have quoted lines from Brennan’s books, and used them to indite him. But, you have not given the context the words were spoken in. The Pharisee’s did the exact same thing to Jesus all the time. I’m not putting Brennan on the level with Jesus, of course, as Brennan was far from perfect, and he would be the first person to tell you that. But, what I am saying is that the Pharisees spent all their time picking at every thing Jesus said and did but they never observed to hear His heart. He could heal a man, and rather than seeing the miracle for the wonder and glory that it revealed, they would instead find fault because it happened on the Sabbath, or they would condemn because Jesus said the person’s sins were forgiven, etc. etc. The point I am making is this: The Pharisees were not listening to Jesus to hear His heart, instead, they were listening to find what ever fault they could find. I wonder, Bethany, if you realize that Jesus’ teaching were very controversial for their day. He was not even slightly acting or speaking in a manner the established religion of their day expected the messiah to speak. That’s one reason he was killed. But, for the many hundreds and thousands who did hear his words and followed him, they listened–not to find fault– but instead, because Jesus spoke Light, Life, and Truth. The people followed Him because He poured love and hope–the Kingdom of God–into into their hearts and lives. I say these things because, I’m puzzled why you can’t seem to hear what those of us defending Manning are saying. Brennan Manning’s emphasis on the passionate love Christ has for humanity poured like living water into broken, wounded, thirsty souls who had never ever before, heard and finally understood How desperately God loves us. I don’t know the context of Brennan’s comment about God being a kooky God, or of the other negative things you said about him. But, I will tell you this. Millions of people have opened their hearts to Christ because Brennan’s teaching poured life into their souls–the life and love of Jesus Christ. You can say what you want about the short comings of the messenger, but mine is a life that was changed by the passionate declaration of the Love of God, as spoken by Brennan Manning. I don’t seek out Brennan for theology, as I read the Bible for that. But, God worked through this precious man’s humble obedience to Christ, to change my life! You can say what you want, but I wonder why you seem unable to hear that God used Brennan Manning in powerful and Christ glorifying ways. I feel love in my heart for you and those who are opposed to Brennan, not because you are right, but because I do believe you are Christians. But, at the same time, I’m afraid you are hung up, and majoring in the minors–as were the Pharisees–and minoring in the majors. I am praying that perhaps you will ask God to open your heart and mind (and I’m not suggesting you “empty” it) to God’s heart. How would God reach out to a hopeless alcoholic who poured out his bottle and started walking towards the cross lit up on the Mission building? Would be start condemning him, requiring him to understand the full Old and New Testament, demand that He fully realize the depths of his sins, etc. etc., or would He drop what he was doing, pull up his robe and run as fast as a father can run, with open arms, to gather his son back into his love and grace? Yes, God does indeed expect repentance and acknowledgement of sins, but He knows that people (many times are all too aware of their sin and unworthyness) are drawn towards the water of life and love for their parched and broken souls. God draws people with love, and Brennan Manning proclaimed that love. Did Brennan take that love too far… I can’t say for sure, as I am NOT his judge. But, I will say this: I knew Brennan personally, and I can attest that the man loved Jesus with his heart and mind and soul, and he proclaimed that love passionately. He was not a Universalist, He did believe in repentance and turning from sin–strongly resisting temptation–, and he was one of the most precious people I’ve ever had the honor and privilege to know.

  • Kelley Green

    Yankeegospelgirl, When I first started reading this blog, I thought your heart may be loving, but only somewhat misguided, and that perhaps, you would hear and could be moved by the testimonies of people whose lives are changed by God’s amazing work through imperfect, broken vessels like Brennan Manning. But, as I have been reviewing your comments, and your seeming inability to be moved even slightly by the testimonies of people whose lives are impacted by Brennan’s teachings, I feel frustration and disappointment in who you seem to be. As of late, not just through you but through some others as well, I’m beginning to realize that there are some people who just want to be right, and they stand on their “right” platform, backed (they think) by scripture and proclaim that rightness. But, sadly, while perhaps knowing what the Bible says, perhaps they miss the Heart of God that can only truly be revealed by the Holy Spirit. I’m not your judge, so I’m not saying you’re not Christian, but please yankeegospelgirl, please open your heart to love and ask the Lord to reveal the message that is flowing through these responses to you and to a few others. Your message misses the value of love. I encourage you to read again and pray over 1 Corinthians 13. Especially the part about: “If you have not love…”

  • Kelley Green

    Dear Yankeegospelgirl: Your comment is unkind, and lacks any love whatsoever! I believe you may believe you have love because you consistently set everybody straight. But, it seems to me that perhaps you’ve forgotten that we all have a GREAT BIG HUGE BEAM in our eyes-we all do. The difference I see in we folks living here on earth is that some of us know we have beams in our eyes, so we leave harsh judgements to God, and others of us forget about that darn beam and assume we are the exception to Christ’s words, Please read: 1 Corinthians 13:1 “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. Maybe the beam in my eye is preventing me from seeing the “love” in your response to “I hate boarding school,’ because, somehow I’m missing it.

  • I recognize that this is a very old post, and while I agree with the author of the article that we, as followers of Christ, are called to be discerning, and to follow theologically sound/ biblically based teachings, your “quote” is bifurcated and misleading. The quote, in its entirety, reads, “The greatest single cause of Atheism in the world today is Christians who proclaim Jesus with their lips, and then walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyles. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”…This is 100% accurate–whether used in reference to hypocrites whose lives look no different wuth Christ in them, or in reference to judgemental Christians who spend a lifetime trying to cover up their own inherent brokenness while distancing themselves from those who don’t know Jesus/ whose lives are overtly bleeding and broken. I echo much of the previous commenters, and truly do appreciate the thought and articulation that went in to this article. However, the only two other points I’d like to add are #1…David was a “man after God’s Own Heart”, who lied, cheated, and committed adultery…did he turn from these sinful ways? Yes, but not without repeating some of them. I think it’s safe to call him a “leader of the faith”. I also never saw an actual footnoted reference as to where Manning said he supported a “committed homosexual lifestyle”. However, Jesus certainly bonded with and loved the prostitutes, outcasts, lepers/ dregs of society of His day…He certainly would rub elbows with homosexuals/ loves them just as He loves us–whether they accept Him & turn away from their lifestyles or not.

  • Kelley Green

    Dear Amessyheart, Thank you so much for your well thought out comment, and for your setting the record straight on the person who misquoted Manning. I knew Brennan personally, and I just have to say, I’ve never known a kinder, more tender hearted, loving human being; and he loved Jesus with ALL of his heart. Brennan never claimed to be perfect, or any where near it. He fought his addictions throughout his life; he sought diligently to follow Christ, and he was transparent about all these things. But, few people have been gifted to shared the love of Abba Father more than Brennan, and my love and walk with Christ was impacted tremendously by this man. I never heard him even slightly suggest that sin is not sin; and, I agree with Brennan’s comment about Atheists.
    I have found that many Christians, take a “fear based” approach to God. If they do this, they tend to study extremely hard to make absolutely certain they interpret scripture exactly right, so they can follow it and feel safe in their salvation; I call these brothers and sisters, “straight jacket” Christians. On the other side of the continuum; it what I call “Air balloon” Christianity. These brothers and sisters place their greatest emphasis upon the love and forgiveness of Christ. A pattern I have noticed is that the “fear based” group tends to focus their greatest attention on the judgement of God; and they seem to feel quite threatened by those who focus their greatest attention on the love of God.
    Personally, I would say that Brennan leans heavily towards the love side, possibly to a fault; because these people struggle to understand the judgement of God. If find that these people are usually those who were tremendously wounded by unloving, impossible to please parents, who may or may not have presented God in this way. On the other hand, of course, or those (many have commented above) who lean towards the straight jacket side; and they tend to judge harshly those who are on the air balloon side. Myself, I believe we should find a right balance between the two, while always filtering everything–especially those things having to do with fellow believers,–through a heart of love, compassion, and forgiveness for all. We all have “beams” in our eyes, and need to keep this in mind before condemning others.

  • Kelley Green

    Dear Michael, I cannot speak for every part of your life, but I will say this. You have left a lasting legacy in my heart! As I read your comment, I was touched deeply by how well you captured the “heart” of Manning’s ministry. Thank you brother. You are a saint!.

  • Katy A

    It’s sad that this blog is one of the first things that comes up when you Google Brennan Manning.
    He was a “cracked pot,” a broken vessel, a jar of clay….
    but one that transmitted the unfailing, unlimited love of Christ to those of us who think that our best is never good enough, and that God’s grace refers to everyone BUT us.
    He helped us see that God’s love and forgiveness are not based upon our worthiness, but upon HIs extravagant, costly, crazy love for His imperfect children.
    Brennan helped to set many captives free.
    I rejoice that he has been set free from his faulty flesh, and is dancing in Heaven with our delighted Saviour. I can’t wait to join the dance.
    May HIs kingdom come soon.

  • Woody Perry

    Theology is a bit like gravity, too much, crushes us, too little, we float away. It seems to me we all tend to shape our theology around whatever sins, we do not struggle with. Sin is sin, and Brennan Manning never denied his sin. He confessed it, to God, and man. If we start judging others, based on our theology, then like gravity, we get crushed by it. God is the judge! And He is gracious! I would be interested is the writer of this article, to confess her sins to us all.. He who is without sin, cast the first stone!

  • Jeb

    Wow, so much to ponder here! Thanks, Yankee Girl. Will take me a while before I can opine without having overlapped. Somehow, I’m emotionally taken back to certain issues involving Bonhoeffer when wading through this. By the way, you do seem to have some to have some good southern manners, I must say . . .

  • Yes, that’s also a good point about Bonhoeffer. I’m afraid Metaxas kind of whitewashed his theology in that bio.

  • aniciusboethous

    As an ordained pastor/writer and lover of the grace of God, as well as a struggling alcoholic I found Mannings writing wonderful yet his autobiography discouraging. The battle between “do you like me” and “all his grace” is a difficult w all his grace” is a difficult one. I’m a human being with an addiction to alcohol and of Jesus who would have spent time with me while he walked this earth, showing grace, and of Jesus who would have spent time with me while he walked this earth, showing grace, I realize that my sin is so horrible that Grace seems to be the only way for me to be healed.
    That doesn’t mean I should continue to sin but it doesn’t discontinue Christ’s grace. Every day I struggle, and hand my addiction over to Jesus, yet often my sin remains. Am I lost because my brain function leads me back into addiction? Am I damned to hell because I can’t fix my brain. Manning would say no, and I suspect Jesus would as well. It doesn’t give me a right to keep drinking. It does give me the right to depend on Christ’s grace.
    Manning spoke of two thoughts that captured his mind, “Do you like me” and “all is grace.” I care about the second and I’m trying to let loose of the insecurities of the first. It is those insecurities of it bring me to alcohol. It is Grace that sets me free. I need people in the momentIt is those insecurities of it bring me to alcohol. It is Grace that sets me free. I need people to offer grace and love.

  • aniciusboethous

    Have you ever sinnrf the same sin twice? Are you pure because of your own actions? Do you need grace. Yes I am confronted with my sin every day and some days I stayed pure. Other days I didn’t. Am I damned on those days?

  • Sir, nobody is questioning the salvation of somebody like you or Brennan simply because you have an addictive disease. But, I would humbly suggest that yours is a cross best borne in the pew. Not the pulpit.

  • aniciusboethous

    You really should study the disease of alcoholism. I suggest a video called passion unwoven. The choice is not as easy as you think.

  • On the contrary, I’ve never been under the illusion that walking away from alcohol is a simple choice. It’s precisely because your struggle is chronic, and visceral, and addictive, that I felt moved to offer the cautionary words that I did in this post. I don’t stand in condemnation of you. I’m merely suggesting, for your consideration and for your own benefit, that you may have a different calling from the one you are struggling uphill to pursue right now.

  • Tracey

    This is a lovely conversation/debate? I am a recovering by only the grace of GOD alcoholic for 15 years. Since then mom to 12 year old triplets.. Maybe he did maybe he didnt.. But brutal transparent honesty, that, is a terrifying thing! The truth will always be the truth. My truth and your truth may be seen through different glasses. I promise you100% i did not know this man but through him my life , my literal breathing body was saved once years ago. Because i read one of his books. People who have no idea of certain struggle well they maybe are better suited for the more “already got it together” type people…and that is wonderful..that my utter pathetic human weakness may help someone to just hope another day.. By sharing that Gods precense and love alone! Saved me ! Made my life and the lives of my three precious 12 year old children, ( who are already better christains than me) possible,,, not only possible but AMAZING!!!! Those feelings of despair i hope you never know… But when i was in the depths of that dark despair.. I wouldve turned to another screwed up drunk like me. Not one of the ” together people” isnt God amazing? That he loves me just as much as his more perfect seeming children? .. And he knows what i need .

  • Very true. Manning learned to let go and let god. I am sure had Jesus been given more time he probably would have expounded more closely to Mannings interpretation of love than what is currently being delivered by the money changers. It is hard to not say the man was inspired. As Carl Jung Would call an alcoholic. A misguided mystic. I am sure he is enjoying his next adventure. He used his timewell here.

  • I wonder in consideration of life and the Holy Scriptures whether or not is is essential for all leaders to cover all of the aspects of the Gospels because there is judgement and grace contained within. Brennan was not focused on judgement but what appeals to a lot of us is the way that Brennan changed our concept of God and in many ways healed our image of God.
    Another important concept of his teaching was realizing that there is a lot of people who have trouble forgiving themselves sometimes described as self hatred. When we stop hating ourselves and combine that with Gods love through the person of Jesus Christ and are indwelled by the Holy Spirit then all of Gods laws which are written on our hearts become known to us. You are probably right that Brennan was not fit to be a leader when compared to the lofty giants of our faith but it is paradoxical how a weak and sinful man could embolden and strengthen he did. This is a well written article from an intriguing angle. I think you researched your subject well and were honest. I also believe that some times God ordains someone to be worthy and slips one by us that we would not choose.
    I believe that homosexuality is a sin. It is interesting though that people in leadership are not asked the question about divorce and remarriage anymore. The Church that means so much to Jesus seems to have softened its stance on that issue. Chris

  • Dear Bethany, you are simply wrong. I hope you will let me explain how.
    First, you have misquoted “Ragamuffin Gospel.” I am reading it now – the Kindle version, so I have the ability to do electronic word searches in it. I searched the phrase “right relationship” and I searched the word “restored.” Nowhere in the text are these used in a sentence that says, “we all have been restored to a right relationship with God.” I believe the passage you are referring to is one that includes this sentence:
    “Nevertheless, the central affirmation of the Reformation stands: Through no merit of ours, but by His mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of His beloved Son.”
    Your charge of universalism would therefore hinge on the identity of the group Manning was referring to by his use of the word “we” (or, if I were to grant you your misquote, “we all”). The only way universalism is a proper interpretation is if you assume that Manning was writing those words to all humankind. However, he makes very clear in his foreword to the book (“A Word Before”) that he is writing to a particular audience. I quote:
    “The Ragamuffin Gospel was written with a specific reading audience in mind.”
    He goes on at some length to explain that it is written to a very narrow subset of Christians – believers – the subset that struggles daily with what some call “besetting sins.” In the end, all that is required to avoid your error is to a) not misquote the author; and b) do him the courtesy of taking him within the context he defined. I’m sure I could do to the apostle Paul what you did to Brennan Manning simply by ignoring one of Paul’s characteristic openings, “Paul… to the saints who are in…”
    As to the rest of the criticisms given here (and I confess I have not read all of the comments) I would say that Manning never advocates accepting sin. He’s writing to people daily wracked in guilt about the particular sins over which they cannot seem to gain decisive victory. We all have these (1 John 1:8). What I get from “Ragamuffin Gospel” is simply the message that the extravagant grace that saved me is a grace so rich that it will also keep me, though I fall again and again – and this is all the gift of God through Jesus Christ.
    Should he have had a “ministry?” Again, definition of terms matters. If you mean pastorship of a church I would say no, based on Paul’s description of the qualifications. However if you were to claim that his sins disqualified Manning from his ministries of witness and evangelism I would say you were wrong – and I would ask, “Why then do yours not disqualify you from your ministry of apologetics and criticism?
    If a believer need be perfect to have a voice then we had all best shut up now.

  • Carol

    I read this post and some of the comments. I personally think we should stop finding faults in fellow believers. I watched manning’ videos and the takeaway is this: we have an approachable God who loves us and wants us to understand just howuxh he loves us. That WHILE we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. This is the beginning of God’s work in us. Of course he wants to conform us into the character and nature of his Son Jesus. But Brennan manning’ message is one of love and hope for those who feel hopeless and unloved. Give meat to the mature and give milk to the new believer. As a believer grows in maturity and insight by studying the scripture, God will reveal more to that person. In the meantime, let’s stop writing blogs that discuss our opposition to other believer’s messages of hope and love and salvation through Jesus Christ. Paul said, “what does it matter! Christ is preached!!”

  • If you’re trying to take Paul as your model for laid-back “whateverism” when it comes to correcting people’s doctrine, I’m afraid he’s really not your guy…

  • Saria de Kock

    Dear aniciusboethous I just started reading ”The Ragamuffin Gospel” that’s why I went to this site. How amazing is grace! But yes we still struggle with various addictions, even if only an idea as Manning said. I would like to direct you to the books of Liberty Savard, especially the “Shattering your strongholds”. Jesus gave us the KEYS to the kingdom, freedom from these addictions etc., and by binding and loosing as Liberty shows you how, you will not only get healed by Jesus but can heal others! We are a body, soul and spirit. Never forget our adversary is all out to get us and our weakest part is our unsurrendered soul. Also check out Katie Souza, expectedendministries and get healed!

  • What makes Brennan Manning’s books so popular is people’s ignorance of the overall authority Bible teaching, especially Jesus teachings. Anyone who studied the teachings of Jesus Christ shouldn’t need Brennan Manning or anyone else to tell them what Jesus taught. Jesus teachings are unambiguous and if need be He taught us in Parables. Problems arise when people’s lifestyles don’t fit Jesus teachings so they twist His Words to force them to fit. Jesus admonished us to never do this.

  • Vitus

    Interesting how Bethany never felt a need to reply to this well substantiated comment of yours, Patrick.

  • Because it was several months later? Because Bethany has a life? The possibilities are endless.

  • Vitus

    Glad to hear that. Almost thought it had something to do with parts of your argumentation clearly challenged/refuted with direct quotes from Manning’s book…

  • I’m new on this blog but I’m already seeing the same problem I see on other blogs; too many people get off on other people’s threads rather than staying on the main thread.
    We must not comment based on our emotions, likes or dislikes; we must comment based on God’s inspired Word. No matter how it hurts, Brennan Manning taught “another gospel” contrary to God’s Word.
    Basis: Galatians 1: 6 to 10
    6: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel— 7: not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8: But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9: As we have said before, so now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.
    10: Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.
    Clearly what made Brennan Manning’s books so popular was people’s ignorance of God’s inspired Word.

  • Alan

    Brennan was a flawed man… Caught in a disease that enhances the worst in us. It also gives a perspective on the bath. To know your self as a sinner while still being in love with the Savior makes his understanding possibly a little more honest. The Bible does not portray many honest men. God uses dishonest people supra claim his grace. How many books of the Bible would we have to throw out if we set the bar as high as you seem to be setting it.
    You take the goals of Galatians, the goals of Paul, Who admitted his thorn in the flesh, the songs of David a murderer, adulterer, liar, And a poor excuse of a father, and please don’t let me begin to talk about the crazy prophets and how some of their antics would come off today. There is no one righteous, not even one. Brennan Manning was not a righteous man because of his great works but because of the grace of God. If you cannot identify yourself as a ragamuffin I feel sorry for you. God didn’t come for the ones who have it all together.

  • Where has anybody said that David would have made an awesome pastor/spiritual mentor? And where are you getting the idea that Paul’s thorn in the flesh involved a sinful addiction?

  • Thank you.

  • bradley jacobs

    wm borch what is to you? You are being critical.

  • I have every book Manning ever wrote. I too had a drinking problem but gave it up in true repentance after I read in the Bible that drunkards ( and many more sinful behaviors) would NOT inherit the Kingdom of God. Plain and simple.

  • Jason

    Let’s be clear about something. Manning was not a pastor, although he possessed all the necessary education and credentials to be one. He did not lead a church. He was not in charge of the Crystal Cathedral or lead a mega church of noting but self-love and “feel goodness” like Joel Olstein. In fact, he pastored no church at all. He cannot be held to the same standards as those who consistently shepard a flock.
    Moreover, he dedicated his life to God and Jesus. You imply through your various responses that somehow, he should have been “more perfect” given his experience. But, this never happens in life to any of us and is exactly the thing he was fighting against. He is an example of the love of God that expresses itself to the average person. That’s all. It’s similar to someone giving their testimony to the church body, but not in a position of leadership. You hold him accountable to the standards of a pastor, when in fact, he led no church and was only giving his testimony to the greater church body on the love and grace of God and Jesus via his own life experience.
    Yes, he was a greatly flawed man. But, aren’t we all? Wasn’t that the point of his message? He was honest about his shortcomings and you use it against him. That’s just like any unbeliever that uses the honesty of the Bible to refute our faith. It seems you fear his witness because you feel it’s not balanced with a dose of “good ole fashion” Biblical legalism and that completely misses the point of what he was saying.
    Yes, faith must be balanced with equal parts love and discipline. But, you’re never going to get to the heart of discipline unless you know you’re unconditionally loved first. Discipline without grace is just as destructive as grace without discipline. Manning’s message is that you get to the discipline first through the unconditional love of Jesus, which then transforms you from the inside out. Discipline then follows. You seem to advocate the reverse, which I suppose could work for some folks.
    At the end of the day, there are as many ways to come to Jesus as there are unique individuals. The important thing is that you are moving in that direction. Some may require discipline first and then love; others, vice versa. To get entrapped on trying to find or advocate one way to Christ is futile, destructive and brings everyone down. Every individual is different and God speaks to each of us in the language of our heart; a language we can understand. The message is always the same, but the paths are different.
    Don’t crush Manning’s testimony because it doesn’t agree with you. Rather, respect it as a path to Christ that may not work for you or be Biblically based as you understand scripture, but don’t “cause your brother to fall” as Paul warned. The reason is because this issue really is just the same as that of whether or not to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Paul also admonished every man to “work out his own salvation” as he understood scripture to be and to do it as worship and in reverance to God. Let the Holy Spirt worry about changing hearts and minds. You and I should just get out of the way and make our life’s work of lifting Jesus up to the world. “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.”

  • One big thing you’re missing completely is my point that Manning’s choice to go on the speaking circuit was bad for him and his own marriage, given his addiction. We need to look realistically at the consequence of that choice and be willing to admit that he should have been discouraged from it, for his OWN well-being.

  • I don’t know how I connected with this conversation. I am very happy that God is my judge, and Christ is my advocate. I would be afraid to be judged by any man, because we all have unreliable glasses to see through. All that said, unfortunately, people sometimes judge God, based on our behavior. It seems like a circular argument. I am a sinner saved by grace, but someone is going to decide if they are in need of grace, based on my performance! None of us are qualified based on our performance. He who is without sin, cast the first stone.

  • Amoskenya

    I believe God can and does use people to touch and impact lives in the way He chooses to and brother Manning would be no exception. It’s God’s will that we all be labourers in the vineyard. But when it comes to church leadership and positions of authority in the body of Christ, “above reproach” is cast on stone.

  • Alan johnson

    It’s always been obvious to me that Jesus picked His disciples from the bottom of the barrel. He picked the losers, dropouts, failures, and fools. To say that to be a leader you have to be perfect goes against the choices of Christ. When it becomes a requirement to be perfect or even close to it you won’t find pastors that relate to people at all. Jesus set aside all his perfection and made himself a human without sin, but that’s not he talked about himself while jerks followed him around.

  • Since when is not being a lush tantamount to being near-perfect?

  • Alan johnson

    What was Jesus’s first miracle and who did it serve? It is sad how judgment fits in religion but not so well in a relationship with Jesus. The people that Jesus spoke against the most where the “righteous” in there own eyes. A lush who loves Jesus is much better than a legalist who loves the law.

  • You are creating a false dichotomy. Yes, an egotistical, micro-managing leader who’s incapable of showing grace should not be mentoring people, but neither should someone with a physical addiction so out of hand that he can’t functionally keep his own life together and mentor people at the same time.

  • Vitus

    I am just struck by your choice of words about a Christian brother who lived in complete honesty and humility: “someone with a physical addiction so out of hand that he can’t functionally keep his own life together…” Wow. Brennan had an addiction and he looked for help. Every once in a while, his problems surfaced again, though he managed to control alcoholism at some point by the grace of God. What did he decide? That our Father sees value in his service, despite or exactly BECAUSE of his weaknesses. Reminder: He was a travelling speaker, author and most of the time, just a faithful friend to those in need. If you claim that by writing Christian books and speaking, he put himself into the position of a minister, then I claim that by writing this blog, you do effectively the same. So why don’t you come forward with your weaknesses… then we can decide whether you are “fit” to continue with this blog or not… (irony). In all honesty, I think you are going a bit overboard by trying to maintain your initial point about Brennan…

  • He cycled through rehab a few times, but he lost his marriage and ultimately died of wet brain. He was so debilitated in his last days that he couldn’t dress or feed himself. Alcoholism literally killed him. So, I stand by what I said. As I’ve repeated over and over (and over, and over), trying to keep up a speaking ministry, complete with book tours, retreats, and all the trappings that come with being dubbed a Christian celebrity was foolish for his own sake. It was foolish from every possible angle. Note that I am not saying Brennan himself sought out the attention, I’m saying that when the attention came to him, he should have recognized the pitfalls it presented. As it was, he himself later openly admitted that travelling alone and being away from his wife for long periods of time enabled and fueled his addiction. That was a train he should never have boarded in the first place. Even though it wasn’t officially a pastor’s position, it was a type of ministry and a type of work that he was ill-equipped to handle wisely. Honestly, I don’t understand why this is so controversial. It’s blindingly obvious, by the man’s own admission no less.
    I’m not even going to respond to your analogy between holding a massive ministry platform and writing a miscellaneous commentary blog that almost nobody reads (relatively speaking). The silliness of such an analogy should be obvious.

  • Alan

    It is so sad to me and I sense that you’re willing to dismiss the least, destroy the lost, And the question leadership of those that don’t fit your concept of leader. If you remember Jesus never fit the concept of the Jewish leaders. He hung out with sinners and drinkers and publicans and tax collectorsand pretty much everyone who would never meet your mark for any part of leadership or spokesmanship in any church. Jesus couldn’t even speak in the temple at the end… They were too afraid to stop him but they sure didn’t want him there. And I think that’s because he opens The door to those who do not measure up to the self-righteous. I consider you one of those. Brennan Manning had a disease and he had a gift. Would you like him Silverjack to the gift and just given into the disease? Or express the gift in the midst of his disease? Jesus became human to set us free. He/GOD may have been without sin but he sure enabled the sinners.
    Brennan Manning offered grace to those who need it the most Brennan Manning offered grace to those who need it the most, and I’m sure he considered himself one of those who needed it the most. That’s something missing in Christian leadership today. We seek perfection from our leaders, we want them to be gods to us. I would rather follow a loser who speaks truth then the winner who faked it.
    I want people who live their life knowing their problems and trusting in God and not their own actions. That’s something Brennan Manning did.

  • Mark

    First of all, Jesus did NOT “hang out” with sinners. Sinners came to him and were transformed. They repented and trusted in God. Contrary to what passes for theology these days, Jesus would not be found in the bars joining in with people in sin (not that drinking is sin but drunkenness is).
    Second, alcoholism is not a ‘disease.’ I know that people pass it off as such but it simply is not. Sin is not a disease. Sin is a condition.
    Third, John says in his first epistle:
    “4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” All have sinned but our identity is not as a “sinner” but as a child of God. Continuing in sin is a denial of the gospel.

  • Well, just for the record, I don’t have a problem with categorizing alcoholism as a disease. Or, more generally, a physical ailment. However, there are definitely actions an alcoholic can take to feed his addiction that are sinful because they deceive people or deliberately cut off ways of getting help. I can even acknowledge that a Christian might live his whole life with an inclination towards alcoholism, so that it might never be safe for him to take so much as a small glass of wine. But I agree that if he is not taking steps to rehabilitate himself, that’s a sin. Similarly, a Christian might be afflicted with an attraction to the same sex for his whole life, but this in and of itself is not a sin if he doesn’t claim it as an identity.

  • Mark

    I will respectfully disagree. Labeling sin as a disease gives it power and reduces our responsibility. Is lying a disease? Is viewing porn a disease? Is marital unfaithfulness a disease? No. Try cheating on your spouse and then say, “sorry honey, I didn’t want to but I have a disease.”

  • No, but none of those things has a genetic component either (as alcoholism appears to), so it’s completely ridiculous to say, “Oh, sorry, I was just born a little more prone to cheating on my spouse than most people,” whereas a scientific argument could be made to that effect for an addiction like alcoholism. In extreme cases, babies whose mothers drank while they were in the womb literally are born with a craving for alcohol. More generally, some people just are mentally ill (as in the case of homosexuality). Something can be wired so wrong in the brain that a person is tempted all the time to do something perverse or destructive. But it’s what he DOES with that temptation that determines whether or not he is sinning.

  • Alan

    You should look at the medical evidence of alcoholism being a “disease”. There is quite a bit of evidence on the genetic origination of alcoholism between parents and children. Even as far back as great great grandparents. You should look into the disease.
    You can get away with not holding himself as a perfect Christian example but please read his books before you throw him out on the dung heap of Christian leaders.

  • (Just so everyone knows, I’m not agreeing with Alan by raising some questions about Mark’s points.)

  • Alsn

    Please look at the evidence.

  • Alan, if you’re talking to me, I’m actually inclined to agree with you on the very particular point that alcoholism has a genetic component and can be viewed as a kind of disease. But this doesn’t contradict the point I was actually making.

  • Alan Johnson

    So he hung with Pharisees? Hmmmmm.

  • Alan, do you have a reasoned argument that you’d like to make, or are you just going to hang around and make vaguely snarky comments?

  • Alan Johnson

    I think it actually does.

  • Okay. How? Are you quite sure that you have even understood my point?

  • Josh

    I was enlightened by your article. I am an admirer of Brennan’s work and life. I would take one exception that your article seems to elude to and that is that he desired or sought after this “following”. If you are not eluding to that my apologies but if his life does anything it points out the body of Christ’s utter failure to love the unlovable, the broken and despondent. I think that is what his life tried to point out. Unfortunately he did err on the side that seems a bit more liberal. YGG I appreciate this article and enjoyed your insight.
    – An Unlovable, despondent, broken child of the one true God.

  • I think the attention surprised Brennan, so I wouldn’t say he set out to gain a cult following, but he failed to recognize that keeping up that pace once it had been set for him was a bad idea.

  • Alan

    I loved your description of yourself…
    – An Unlovable, despondent, broken child of the one true God.
    I am one of these. And if you aren’t at some time I’m not sure you are human.

  • Wow! 360 replies! Watch what happens when the Brennan movie comes out!
    I’ve not read all 359 comments, maybe 10…? Your patience, Grace and stamina to always reply with a kind heart is inspirational.
    I did see Ragamuffin the movie, and never came to this blog searching for more details. I have close personal friends about one close friend removed from Rich and 1 close friend that was and remains really close to Rich and his legacy.
    I understand your point in the original post and I have to say I agree with it. I was led here searching for how/why Brennan left the Priesthood. I am and my friends that were close with Rich are Catholics involved in various forms of ministry. We all try hard to hold each other accountable when it comes to being theologically accurate.
    I will be praying that you keep your stamina and kind hearted was as no doubt this thread will get busier than ever when the Brennan movie is released.
    Reading David Leo Shultz’s 30 days of blogging is right on par with your concerns. For the most part the teaching isn’t bad, there’s no doubt his heart is in the right place, but it’s a bit lazy to leave the profanity in. That’s not being “raw” in the name of God, it’s being lazy to not make your point without those words. I don’t think anyone could convince me that the Holy Spirit needs to use those words to reach people.
    Have a great weekend! May God Bless and keep you and yours and continue to give you the strength to respond to all these commenters perhaps not on the same maturity or intellectual level, in my opinion.

  • Teresa Youngblood

    I read your post with sadness -,your words seem to me a biased and legalistic swipe at someone who struggled greatly but knew Gods grace and love in a profound and intimate way. While there is substance in much of what you say – though in my opinion not all – how could that better and lovely part escape you or leave you unmoved? If you find the answer to that I believe you will know why these other respected Christian leaders, people you appear to hold in high regard, found such value in Brennan Manning and you do not. Even though I do not agree with Manning on each and every point, there is no author that has more faithfully pointed me back to the cross and Gods great love for me, than Mr. Manning. I will always be thankful to God for using Brennan Manning to spread the message of Gods great love and grace.

  • Anna

    It is sad that you confuse him as a religious leader and bash him as such when he was merely an author. He never touted being a leader. I believe his intention was to delve into the reality of being a sinner and ALSO a believer. Exposing the truths and reality within that struggle – most often the part of Christianity that nobody dares face. Nobody in the glossy church pews, showing up with all the right rhetoric….having answers to everything and squeaky clean from the outside. But as we all know, (because it is Written) GOD sees the heart. We are not “RIGHT” because we are Christian. We are SAVED because we are. We are saved by GRACE and grace alone. I think that was his entire life’s purpose. To teach people that we can not save ourselves but Christ can save us. I am so thankful for his messages. They were the one voice that reached my heart after a crippling series of losses demolished my life from teenage years onward. Despite my best attempts, always seeming to fall back into the mire of surviving with all that grief. Coping in unhealthy ways…struggling to get back on my feet. After reading “Abba’s Child” and finally grasping that I DO have a lover of my soul, and I AM worth something to someone (GOD) my life changed and its never been the same. I love now because HE LOVES ME. I embrace now because HE LOVES ME. I am a good mother, sister….because he LOVES ME….because He loves me. That is not unlike the message of Christ, which you seem to put down as mystical. Please don’t discount the message of a man who God used as a vessel to speak to those like me who may otherwise not have been reached.

  • I think for the most part God had given him a gift to write and speak. Surely, he admitted his weakness….perhaps as a flawed man as we all our to witness God’s saving him as he is in spite of himself. Surely, sanctimonious doesn’t get us to heaven, and it looks like he went to opposite extreme of the pendulum. This was a helpful post. A lot of bad people say amazing things. We will all have to stand before God one day, and I hope Mr Manning will be there , and I hope to make my calling and election sure. This helped me focus on my priorities …and that is to glorify God. Perhaps he is just less grace to overcome his weaknesses . …remember the thief on the cross

  • Alhare

    Beautiful. Judgement is not the job of the church.

  • Tilston

    Hello yankeegospelgirl and those who agree with your position,
    I’m first of all amazed at the length and timespan of this discussion and secondly that you have maintained your original position throughout.
    I would entrust a sceptre and crown to the man or woman who would bare his/her faults before the world in order to point us to the God who “loves us just as we are and not as we ought to be because we are never going to be the way we should be.” Brennan was admittedly a broken man who wooed us into the arms of the God of broken people. Who can argue with that? According to Jesus, “those who are whole do not need a physician.” A man or woman with a spirit broken by his/her own failures, humbled by his/her own weakness and realizes his/her only hope is to throw him/herself wholly upon the mercy of Abba Father is the kind of person who is void of self-righteousness, judgment and rebuke. That is the person God can use to lead us to Himself, as witnessed by the MANY who have found God’s reckless love for us through the life and teachings of this amazing man named Brennan Manning.
    I used to be a “doctrinally correct, law abiding, judgmental (except I didn’t call it that) politically correct” and INEFFECTIVE Christian until I met the RADICAL Jesus who turned the world upside down by modeling love and acceptance. I fell madly in love with the God who says to prostitutes “I do not condemn you,” to the accusers, “judge not that ye be not judged” and who, in the greatest show of enemy love ever seen, allowed the bigoted, rule keeping, judgmental hypocrites that dominated His “church” to kill Him rather than raise a hand against them, crying out as His life ebbed away, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Notice that He did not say forgive them IF.) Now I’m a fool for Jesus. “I know nothing save Jesus Christ and Him crucified” because IT’S ALL ABOUT HIM and not about ME. It’s not how much I know or how well I avoid “sinning.” Now that I’ve gotten over myself and allow myself and am learning to revel in His ridiculous and overwhelming LOVE for me, I find myself being transformed daily in my capacity to love, accept and behave lovingly toward others. Praise God!!!!

  • Bobbi

    yankeegospelgirl – Sorry, I’ve been reading all the comments in this topic and had to chime in about your misconception regarding Rich Mullin’s song “Hold Me Jesus” and set the record straight. In the concert he mentions as a side note that it was hard to resist watching the porn movies in the hotel when he traveled alone. However he goes on to explain why he wrote this particular song. It was after a night of considering going out on the town (while waiting for his muscian friend to fall into a deep sleep) to explore the temptations when they were in a hotel room in Germany . I appreciate the fact that you may know something of Manning’s teaching, even though I do not agree with your preception, but it is obvious you can not claim the same of Rich Mullins. And by the way, he was not merely a songwriter and musician, but in fact had somewhat of a ministry through seminars and his concerts. He had the same effect as Manning on many people’s lives, including my own, but that would be an entirely separate blog topic.

  • But he was still referring to sexual temptations, right? You’ll forgive me if it was all of a piece in my mind. The way Mullins set it up, he was bringing the different threads together. It sounds like I switched two of the things he touched on in that intro, but I think you’re exaggerating when you say I know nothing about Rich and what he taught.

  • Roberta

    yankeegospelgirl – Sorry, but I have been reading your blog on this particular subject and had to chime in on your misconception of Rich Mullin’s song, “Hold Me Jesus”. This song was not written relating to any p*rn addiction. He had merely mentioned in concert that it was hard to resist “those movies” in a hotel room when he was by himself. He then goes on to tell how he came to write this particular song. He was in Germany with his musician friend on tour in a hotel room and waiting for him to fall into a deep sleep (snore) as he was contemplating going out on the town to see what temptations were out there. After a long night of waiting unsuccessfully he wrote the song, “Hold Me Jesus”. I appreciate the fact that you may know some of what Brennan Manning was about, even though I do not agree with your conclusions, it is obvious that you know very little about Rich Mullins. He was not only a songwriter and musician, but he also had somewhat of a ministry too in the form of youth seminars and in his concerts also. Rich Mullins too affected many lives and still does, including my own, but that would be an entirely different blog topic.

  • Alan Johnson

    Let’s look at the consequence that Jesus Christ took by standing up to the self-righteous. Should have stayed home with his mother and brothers? I am so sad for you.

  • Roberta

    yankeegospelgirl – In reference to your post on December 31, 2014 — I know this blog topic is about Brennan Manning but I would like to set the record straight: regarding your comment about another Ragamuffin, Rich Mullins. He did not write his song “Hold Me Jesus” relating to any p*rn addiction. He wrote it when he was on a Holland tour with his musician friend. They were in a hotel room for the night and Rich was waiting until his friend fell asleep and began snoring so he could go out on the town and see what temptations were out there because he had said “everything is legal in Amsterdam.” His friend never did snore so by morning time Rich wrote “Hold Me Jesus”. Before telling this story of how this song came to be he had merely mentioned that at the time when he was traveling alone that it was tempting to watch “those movies” in the hotel rooms. (If you have doubts you may want to take a second look at that Lukin,Tx concert on YouTube). Rich Mullins was not only the greatest Christian songwriter of our time, but he also had a ministry of sorts as he ministered to his audience in parts of his concerts and had also taught at youth seminars in the early nineties. He also wrote several articles for Release magazine throughout the 90’s. He too has affected many lives, mine included and still does to this day eighteen years later.

  • Roberta

    yankeegospelgirl – Yes, I would imagine Rich Mullins was referring to “those movies” as being the “adult” movies offered in the hotels and I also would assume that the temptations he wanted to explore were probably sexual related ones also. It just was bothersome to me that you were inferring that he had an addiction to porn as well as alcohol (and tobacco). I just wanted to clarify how the song “Hold me Jesus” came to be as it is one of my favorites.

  • “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. These things command and teach.” 1 Tim. 4:9-11 Brennan Manning was a closet universalist. He hid the truth because blogs like this would have had another stone with which to stone him. The Church is still not ready for the Savior of the world; it’s still into competition, judging, letter of the law; it still falls far short of the mark the Father and Jesus set. “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth will draw (drag in the Greek) all mankind to Myself. This He spoke signifying what manner of death He should die.” John 12:32, 33. “It is FINISHED!” And yet the traditional Christian is still in fear and doubt and unbelief. Satan still whispers, “Has God said?” And doubt crowds out faith and we fall short of given Him full glory and honor and trust. Manning wrote a book “Ruthless Trust.” May the church be delivered from its short nearsightedness, may Moses’ deady veil be removed so that we may see our Savior as He truly is, the Savior of the world indeed. This requires ruthless trust, reckless confidence, the faith of Christ in full form. May this Seed spring up from thousands of believers in the finished work of Christ crucified and may it cover the whole earth. Let it be, Jesus, even as it has already been promised, spoken and consummated. Amen!

  • jeannie kelley

    Yankee Gospel Girl,  I am wondering if throughout the course of these comments and responses, if you have softened your heart at all.  I have not had time to read every message, but it seems that when I do, most people are writing in defense of brothers and sisters whom you have judged.  I remember that as well, from when I used to stay up with the blog and correspond more often.  But, it seems (granted, I have not read everything) that you are still quite prone to make judgements, and then it seems as though your stance is quite rigid–if not stern and harsh.  Please up-date me, as I wonder if a person such as yourself is moved at all by the hundreds of people whose lives have been impacted positively by the lives of men such as Brennan Manning and Rich Mullins. Please do up-date. Kindly, Me

  • Jeannie, I confess to being rather puzzled by the question. I never approached this topic with a hard heart in the first place. Quite the contrary. I have always loved the work of Rich Mullins, and I also recognized that Manning had a genuine desire to serve God, even though he taught some questionable theology and suffered from a crippling addiction that should have kept him from pursuing a strenuous traveling ministry. I don’t see how pointing out these things is incompatible with compassion or softness of heart.

  • To Roberta, thanks for the clarification. It had been a while since I saw the original clip, and I remembered that another blogger had discussed the context and used the phrase “p*rn addiction,” so I was partly thinking of that.

  • jeannie kelley

    Thank you for the clarification.  Now, you’ve wet my whistle and caused me to want to go back and re-read all the blog.  As I stated before, it’s been a while, as I’ve been busy.  But, your words will inspire me to read with your words adding to my perspective.  I will admit though,that it will be sometime tomorrow night (at best) when I get some time, then I will respond. Thank you again for writing.
    Kindly, Jeannie

  • It’s the Internet. There’s no hurry. 🙂

  • Joe

    Manning stated without equivocation that he was NOT a universalist. Whether one agrees with Brennan’s writings or not, he certainly led people to the Lord Jesus Christ. I suppose we will know one day how the only One who should judge has found Brennan.

  • Brennan Manning and Universalism: It is true that Brennan Manning stated publicly that he was not a universalist. Many Christian writers and church leaders who believe Jesus will save all mankind will state publcly that they are not universalists as in many different ways lead to heaven. Many Christian writers, church leaders and laypersons believe that Jesus will save all mankind. These writers hid that fact by saying they were not universalists, in the sense that all ways lead to heaven; that one does not have to come to Jesus. Brennan Manning, I believe, believed Jesus would save all mankind. Now that requires a “Ruthless Trust,” a trust most Christians presently do not possess. But more and more Christians are growing into this reckless faith. Many authors who state to the public, to get them off their back, that they are not universalist, ARE universalists of a Christian, Biblical kind. Christian Universalists, Bible-centered universalists are those who have discovered the original languages of the Bible do not teach a hell of everlasting proportions. They have discovered the dozens of scriptures that promise the “restoration of all things as told by the prophets.” Acts. 3:21
    “Ruthless trust is an unerring sense, way deep down, that beneath the surface of agitation, boredom, and insecurity of life, it’s gonna be all right. Ill winds may blow, more character defects may surface, sickness may visit, and friends will surely die; but a stubborn, irrefutable certainty persists that God is with us and loves us in our struggle to be faithful. A nonrational, absolutely true intuition perduers that there is something unfathomably big in the universe (kabod), something that points to Someone who is filled with peace and power, love and undreamed of creativity — Someone who inevitably will reconcile all things to Himself.” Page 180, Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning, a Universalist of the Jesus kind.

  • I will take Brennan Manning any day over the likes of Pat Robertson, Kenneth Copeland, and all the Grahams. I’ve had enough legalism and human judgement to last me a lifetime. God is love.

  • UnCCed

    My only problem with this type of critique is how commonly they are selectively applied (if that’s the case with you, I don’t know).
    “Leaders” get a pass on just about everything-now called “grace,” while us peons, not so much, and we get all kinds of pea-brained traditions taught as God’s command.
    Whole churches casting stones because other ministries don’t hide in a religious building twice a week doing “the right” way of church, but their whoredom after a political party is left unchecked.
    I don’t excuse Brenan’s sins, but I must take issue with many ministries (in several states now) not caring at all about us combat vets struggling with PTSD (22 of us commit suicide every day), but they have NO problem using my flag as a prop in their services, doing nothing for the chronically-ill, etc., all the while they seem to have enough energy building material wealth and kingdoms, attacking anything not Republican, and doing a lot of other finger-pointing while not lifting one to help the least that Brenan and others are willing to do.
    Was he a screw-up? Yes! But after 20 years, being “in the ministry” until I too broke the 1st commandment of not rocking the boat (now added to a large pile of “ex-ministers”), and now can’t stomach the bone-deep hypocrisy of ODMs who themselves haven’t (and won’t) do squat for the people Brenan helped.
    If someone is spending more time sacrificially serving than judging, standing-up for the weak – especially in the face of powerful ministries with $$$, and really trying to show God’s love FIRST before “the right” position, then I can listen to their criticism.

  • It’s certainly not the case with me. If you were a long-term reader, you would know that I’m an equal opportunity offender.

  • Alan Johnson

    As human beings we need to constantly be reminded of the log in our eye or as it may be for you yankee gospel girl just a speck. If I was consumed with your concept of grace I would be entirely hateful of me and my actions. Brennan Manning understood that he had a plank in his eye and in recognizing that he could show grace to the people that would run from you.
    I wrote earlier that I was a pastor dealt with alcoholism and your response was that I should be out of the ministry, and it felt like I should be out of the ministry forever because of my failings. Your consideration of Brennan Manning is a worldly perspective. You have no clue what I has happened in heaven because of what he has done.
    He’s charged with universalism, with ethical failings and yet you know nothing of his heart. You can relieve his books and judge him, I have a hard time personally with his autobiography because it made me realize or deeply how human Brennan Manning was.
    I was hurt to hear the whole story of his life but it seems that the major reality was that he was a human being in Need of grace. That’s what he preached. I don’t get the sense that he put himself on the Yankee girl pedestal. When I saw him in person and had lunch with him there was in front of me a simple lover of Abba. Judge as you want, I think Abba approves of Brennan’s grace, And his teachings in a way it will never understand until you get to heaven. His legacy of Grace over judgments makes perfect sense when I read the Bible. I think the sad part is that the truth of his message didn’t sync passed his brain all the way to his incredible soul.
    Those who judge should be careful because they will be judged according to their standards. I pray that you and all of us continue to see Grace for what it is and find a way to simply excepted it, for ourselves, and for others Who might be struggling in their beliefs.
    Judgment is not the sign of a Christian, grace is.

  • First, let me state that I am a Brennan Manning fan – and I am an alcoholic. Reading “Abba’s Child” helped me find a way to Christ that was missing in A.A. for me. Second, I am a new Christian (late-bloomer, baptized at 54), and after reading your blog, I am compelled to investigate Manning further. Anytime we elevate ANY PERSON we are risking a fallout. While God’s grace is sufficient for me, there is a responsibility that goes with it. And my failing that responsibility as a sinner does not relieve me of it. Thank you for the thought-provoking article.

  • Zhen

    Having watched the movie Ragamuffin over the weekend, I ordered Manning’s book, eager to read the man who influenced two of my favorite CCM songwriters (Rich Mullins and Michael Card). However, after reading the passage where he offers some pretty harsh criticisms to prolifers, I was very disappointed. The criticism was very much in line with the standard criticism of prolifers by the media and liberals. Prolifers are held to an impossible standard, they are expected to mourn for and defend everyone, across the board, all the time. They are not even given the benefit of the doubt that they do care and are concerned (as most people are whether or not they take any action at all) but that they choose to fight for the unborn. They’re not allowed to have that platform of defending the unborn. One of the Urbana missions conference speakers (who represented Black Lives Matter) offered criticism of prolifers as well. No one asks why those who fight for women’s rights aren’t also fighting for the rights of the homeless. No one asks why PETA doesn’t also care for orphans. No one expects firefighters to fight crime as well. You get the point. Activists fight for various causes and just because they don’t fight for all causes doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to fight for the cause they’ve chosen.
    I know so many prolifers who DO adopt and support pregnancy clinics and organizations that support mothers. It’s the cynics that don’t and want to just point fingers.
    This is a tangent since it wasn’t the main part of his book but it just disappointed me so much.

  • I think it’s a relevent tangent, so I’m glad you brought it up. It’s one reason I’ve highlighted for why Manning was really not a good theological or political thinker and why he wasn’t in a good position to mentor people in these areas even aside from his personal problems.

  • Jesus instructed, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation…and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” That requires the necessary use of words, Mandy.
    Many do not grasp the meaning of gluttony, and it is quite different than the habitual practice of homosexual behaviour. We all must eat to survive, first of all. For another, many who are gluttonous are slim. Their appearance belies their behaviour. Many who are chubby are not gluttons. They are merely of a certain age, or possibly predisposed to particular problems of Endocrinology, among many other causes.

  • Mike

    [Who cares my comment comes years later!?] Thank you for that response to the post. Not only was Lewis spot on God’s “exacting” love, I would only add that is an extracting love in that it takes away from us what separates us from Him, and from those things that separate us from our neighbors.

  • raggedly ragged girl

    Yankee gospel girl, you are incredibly pompous. I guess more than anything, none of us are in a position to carry the gospel message.If your opinion is the truth that is. I think the beauty of Brennan’s story, was that it is never too late to turn back to God. Daily if needed. If we are not allowed to share the gospel because we are flawed, you are not only disqualifying yourself. You are also alienating a large part of the world who already reject the gospel because they feel they can’t measure up. So you keep posting your smart, snappy and superior posts. And leave the gospel sharing to the rest of us broken and maimed souls who grasp at grace. Let God worry about the way we go about accepting it or not. Because you see, the message needs to get to everyone. And maybe some people will never be able to hear it from some one as perfect as yourself.

  • I decided to let this comment through just to show people a sample of the drive-by sniping I put up with weekly on this old post. Seriously, raggedly ragged girl, have you even looked around the rest of my blog even a little bit? How about my “smart, snappy and superior” review of The Lost Weekend?

  • Here’s another “years after the original post” response for you. I just learned of your blog page recently. I happened to notice you or some of your comments on Fazale (Fuz) Rana’s Facebook page (for those who don’t know, Fuz is a biologist who speaks and writes for a science apologetics organization called Reasons to Believe), browsed some more and found some of your comments on Trump, which I loved, and shared them further on Facebook. Thank you for saying, and saying very well, so many of the things we need to hear.
    I think you are right that Manning shouldn’t have had a pastoral position. That’s not so crucial an issue, however. But his speaking was greatly needed as his writings continue to be. I’m so glad we have his books. Maybe having a speaking position wasn’t the best thing for him. But I doubt that the biblical teachings regarding spiritual leaders (elders, deacons, etc.) strictly applies here. Some of the half-truths he advocated seem to me to be at least to some degree excusable. Even if he taught that we should repent quickly and try to get on with other things, it sounds as though he was painfully aware of his own sin and the harm it had done to his family and himself. What is most beautiful and encouraging is that he never gave up. From the depths of his failure and degradation he would finally but always call out to God for forgiveness and deliverance. It is the God who forgives seventy times seven times to whom Brennan clung and who has him now. No wonder he so emphasized the need to affirm how invincibly God loves us. We who fail and fall must be aware of this more than anything else.
    When the Rich Mullins movie came out I noticed one of the deleted scenes had Rich angrily arguing with a pastor who promised him he would never invite him back again. The pastor thought Rich’s emphasis on God’s love and forgiveness would tempt too many to sin. This is the greatest and most perennial problem in the minds of many pastors. I used to go to a church in which it seemed that this was just about the only thing the preacher talked about. He would cajole and coax and threaten and plead with his people: QUIT SINNING! Without threatening damnation on the one hand or hiding our heads in the sand and minimizing the horror of evil on the other, the local pastor is caught in a difficult position. How do you admonish your people to walk in holiness? Mullins and Manning’s emphasis on God’s love must never be compromised. But how can this be done without falling into some fringe of antinomianism?
    My own study of Scripture leads me to think that there are two important answers to this problem. First, we obey because we love him. Fall in love with him, discover how much he loves you and sacrificed because of his love for you, and you will only want to obey. Secondly, when we in our sinfulness forget his love for us or fail to let this motivate us, we have a more practical yet at the same time more difficult answer to the problem. It is one I think Manning was painfully aware of. David committed murder and adultery. He entered his sin knowing God would always forgive yet he repented in deepest grief once his sin was exposed. David was like so many people who play fast and loose with sin because they think they can always repent and God will always forgive. Because of the depth of David’s repentance, God did forgive him, yet God showed David that his easy believism theology is not that easy. David paid dearly for his sin (just read the story in 2 Sam 11,12, &15). Paul taught that some who took the communion meal without discerning the blood and body of Christ were suffering illness and even premature deaths because of their sin. He taught that what a person sows they will also reap. And he taught this to Christians. They didn’t lose their salvation, yet their glib presumption and refusal to fear God brought painful consequences. Our pastors and priests need to teach that God will never cease to love us, but if we presume this is a license to sin, we will have the devil to pay.
    Having said all of this we must not forget those who even after repentance and faith in Christ cannot break free of their bondage to sin. Sure, many people use their claimed addiction to certain sins as an excuse to continue in sin. But God knows and God will be just and God will not countenance empty excuses. If there are some who are truly so addicted, it is the words of a Brennan Manning, a man who shares their failure, which are powerful with the Holy Spirit’s help to set men and women free.
    Manning was right to condemn the old God-punishes-his-Son theology of atonement. Lest we esteem the Son more than the Father, we should recognize that the Father endured all that the Son endured. How can we make sense of John 3.16 if that were not so? And it was the decision of both the Father and Son that the passion and atoning death must occur. It was not the Father who was appeased by this death, but God’s (the Father, Son, and Spirit’s) very nature of justice that was appeased and propitiated. God does not have alternating moods of anger and graciousness. If Ted Bundy were your son, could you not see him with extreme anger as well as great love?
    Yes, Manning had some mistaken views and some we might think serious. Yet though it all we can still put them aside, affirm our disagreement, and still love this humble and broken man God so loved and hope and pray that because of the truths he did teach that his words will reach to the ends of the earth.

  • Thomas S.

    As a young Christian who is relatively ungrounded in my faith, this debate is very hard for me. I have read raggamuffin gospel and the idea of personal spiritual discipline has since been very repulsive to me. I love to try to see both sides of an issue. This issue often leaves me lost in where I am and it takes up a lot of attention. I do not want to be wrong about faith in God. I am open to being wrong about my ideas but I want to get the interpretation of scripture right. This is heavy stuff to me

  • Keep thinking carefully about them! There are many solid resources out there.

  • Thomas S.

    Thanks. I appreciate this blog post. To find it I typed in “critics of Brennan Manning,” into the search bar. It is a good thing to think critically of your own ideas and I think I am great at it! Haha actually I’m not that good at it. I think I need to be open minded about what the truth is, though. I don’t believe that there is more than one truth, but I believe it to be complex and multi faceted and therefore not easy for me to comprehend all the facets of truth completely. Despite the complexity of truth, I think we all must agree that Jesus is the source and personification of truth. 4 people who I have gravitated toward listening to over the past 2 years are Steve Brown, Michael Gungor, rich Mullins, and Brennan Manning. Each one of these men has encouraged me hold on to the faith of the gospel and to let go of everything else. At this point in my life, I have heard so much about the grace of God and the story of his love written in the scripture only as hear say, and rarely have I personally gone to the word to experience these realities. It could be easy for me to fall into only trusting what these men say, and to not run to the word of God and prove them to be true. I don’t know if Brennan shared the same sentiments of Steve when Steve states, “half of what I say is wrong” (my paraphrasing from a source I don’t remember).
    (Please forgive any rambling you may have just experienced. I am trying to express some of my thoughts and they may not seem to have a logical flow at times)

  • Actually, what you need to be is canon-minded to the Truth which is Jesus.

  • Thomas S

    So I need to be like this: “What does God’s word say about this Jesus?” I agree, thanks.

  • Thomas H. Settle

    Amen! Thanks Ginny, and thanks Yankeegospelgirl

  • I hear you – God bless Brennan

  • Tracy Ball

    I carefully read your thoughts on Brennan. It was painful and made me truly sorry that you don’t “get” him. I believe that he, and those like him, bring us closer to the true heart of God. I hope that some day you can understand that because it can make an unbelievable difference in your life.

  • Patrick Judd

    Hello to all who have posted on this amazing thread. What an amazing variety of posts and thoughts. This is an important discussion, because getting into the ditch of Universalism on the one hand or Pharisaical Religion on the other are both deadly. Of course their is a third option, which is true christianity. But, I would warn that we all need to be careful to not only speak the truth, but to speak ‘the truth in love’ as the scriptures tell us. One of my favorite Quotes is: “He was so brilliant and capable, yet so ill mannered that He was like a mackerel rotting on the shore in the moonlight. He did both shine and stink at the same time.” Let this not be our testimony. PEACE.

  • Thank you so much for sharing that post Lydia. Few people express the deeper truths with such eloquence as C.S. Lewis. I just love it when someone “gets it” like He does and then cares enough to either preach it and/or to write it for others.

  • Dee

    Good reply! None of us “have it all together”! And who are we to judge. He had an addiction. It is hard. We do not know his struggles. If he would have drank green smoothies and juiced it would have helped, but he was humble, and spoke of the love of God as many cannot do. He was inspiring to many.. None of us are sinless, he wasn’t perfect, are we? 🙂

  • Alan johnson

    I find it saddening to read the responses of those who want to discredit the Ministry of Brennan Manning. He was a great flawed man . He certainly understood Grace them those who bash him and be forgiveness towards a human being who was fl and be forgiven less towards a human being who was flawed.
    Having read his writings and heard him speak he was not a proud man, nor pushed to be at the front of the church, he just wanted to talk about Grace. I have found more grace in AA meeting then I have seen in most churches.
    I have to admit that the business meetings in AA are just as bad and horrible as most church business meetings; yet in the and AA Business meeting we hold hands and often say the Lords prayer.
    I am saddened when I hear the judgment and painted and thrown like manure after a church meeting. The politics of church are as hurtful as anything I have ever seen. As a pastor sitting in on them I was horrified. I think that if Brennan Manning were to sit in on any of our church business meetings he would probably need a drink, and I probably would join him.
    The judgment of human beings that identify as Christian is worthless. I have to say those that want to write off Brannen don’t have much of a clue about the kingdom of heaven. The last that I knew, and I think Brandon got this right in the ragamuffin, those losers and failures will get into heaven above The self-righteous.

  • angela millard

    I think that Brennan was a wonderful soul. He struggled with a heinous addiction. I have struggled for years with drug addiction, and I’ve been a Christian since 1985. Only God knows my heartfelt gut wrenching prayers, begging Him to remove this curse from me. I’ve been to Alcoholics Anonymous since 1998, with only maybe 2 or 3 years sober at any stretch of time. I have been in the music ministry, while I was still using drugs. I agree that all sins are not equal, however, please Yankee Girl, pray for the ones with these struggles, because unless you’ve personally struggled yourself with addiction, you will never understand the horrors of addiction. I have had many people pray for me over the years.

  • Deb L

    I admit I have not read all 404 posts in this thread. Has there been any discussion on the Bible being our authority for faith and practice? I’m referring to whom God uses for his purposes. We can mention a few: a murderer (Moses), a liar (Abraham), a liar, a cheat, and a drunk (Jacob). We may not like the people that God uses, but he uses them nonetheless. They may not reach our standards, but apparently they reach his. Where they stand politically is irrelevant and doesn’t negate what God purposes. God uses broken people so that he may be glorified. Even Paul was a broken sinful man. An ounce of humility is in order here. Who are we to judge who God has called into His service. After all, he is God and we are not.

  • Yes, there’s been a lot of discussion on that front, and I know, there are a lot of comments to sift through here. I’m thinking about closing them soon, as I’m no longer convinced there’s any play for really fruitful continued discussion left.

  • Marlene Kelley

    Dear Yankee Gospel Girl.
    First, though I don’t necessarily agree with your position on Brennan, I do truly appreciate that you have kept this thread open, and I do hope you do not “close” this thread. I’m a bit sad that you do not consider the comments in this blog: “fruitful…discussion,” as obviously (by how many comments there are–spanning years) many others do indeed consider this fruitful discussion.
    The struggle between those who believe we must base our faith primarily upon our study and correct understanding of “Canon”, and that, for this reason, it is imperative that we get it right, and those of whom place their greatest faith in their relationship with Christ, and whom trust the details of doctrine are in His capable hands, is age old. Isn’t this the same struggle Christ Himself preached about constantly when, from day 1, He was answering the accusations of the Scribes and the Pharisees? The discussions on this blog, from my perspective are EXTREMELY important, as they represent the very challenges that Christ followers have always been called to wrestle through. In my humble opinion, these discussion encompass the difference between Old Testament followers of God and those called to gain a greater (deeper) understanding through their devotion to Christ. I believe one of the greatest challenges to Christians for this past two thousand years has been to finally come to understanding of the “heart of faith” by wrestling through, and thus coming to “know” The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit at deeper and deeper life transforming levels.
    What I read in these discussion is of extreme value, and is at the very heart of understanding the fullness of Whom Jesus is, and why He came to walk among us. The fundamental differences between “legalism” (seeking to fully understand and follow God’s exactly accurate doctrines) and what is often referred to as “Grace,” (Trusting Christ with the details, and holding your greatest focus upon your relationship with Him) is at the heart of everything Jesus taught. I fully believe that every Christian is called to wrestle through and come terms with the importance Jesus placed upon “the Law”, and at the same time, the importance He placed on “living in accord with the heart of “Grace.”
    Those whom condemn Brennan’s tendency towards “Grace” and his lack of emphasis upon exactly accurate doctrines have a measure of validity in that, it is true that understanding correct doctrines and walking in accord with them is of great importance and value. However, Jesus entire life and death were for the very reason that human beings are flawed (prone to sin), and we will never get it all right, no matter how hard we try. Thus, we needed a savior whom would pay the price for our failure to get it right, and propitiate for that SIN. Both aspects are important, as are the Old and the New Testament. However, only through our faith in Christ and our relationship with Him, are we able to “gain eyes to see” how both the Law and Grace work beautifully together, and must both work in tandem if we can hope to grow into Spiritual Understanding and Maturity in Christ Jesus Our Lord.
    Please do not close these comments, as they are invaluable for those seeking to know and love Christ and to live in accord with His teachings and precepts. Within these discussions, I personally believe, are the fundamental elements that, once understood, will free Christians to grow and love and to fully mature in their understanding of God and of living in accord with His Precepts
    Please do not close this blog.
    M.J. Kelley

  • Debi

    I understand. Thank you for your reply.

  • Thanks Marlene. Part of this is what y’all don’t get to see behind the scenes–I’ve had to delete a number of comments that were nothing more than rants about how Pharisaical, graceless and generally nasty I am (as well as everyone else who’s agreed with me). Thanks for keeping it constructive!

  • Alan

    The gospel is good news and for us to argue over exactly how expensive that good news is puts us in the place of God. I want people to be accepted by Christ And not excepted from the kingdom of heaven. Brennan Manning was radical, Jesus Christ was a Radical. His love is in overcoming love. It has been good to see the discussion on this board. It would be sad To see it go away. This is truly one of the great concepts of salvation.

  • Marlene Kelley

    Dear Yankeegospelgirl,
    I’m so sorry you have been treated hatefully in some of the posts. That is certainly not something Brennan would have approved of–and I suspect Jesus would certainly not approve! Please know that when people treat you that way, they are most likely writing out of their own pain. It is likely they have been hurt by “legalistic” Christianity and are thus lashing back towards things they don’t understand. Please do not take them personally. Harshness on their part says more about them than it does about you.
    As for me, I realize that you are trying to uphold a standard of what you believe the Bible teaches, and you are concerned when the Truth of Scripture appears to be compromised. I truly respect and support that, even if I don’t fully share your convictions where Brennan is concerned–or at least, though I understand some of them, I see them differently. I knew Brennan personally, as I helped him acquire endorsements for the repack of Ragamuffin Gospel. I am confident that if you had known Brennan personally, and would have been allowed the opportunity to challenge him directly, he would have answered your concerns to your satisfaction.
    While I believe the tensions between “law and Grace” are as old as Christianity itself, I see great value in working through and thus gaining greater understanding of both sides of that debate, and as my earlier post made clear, I think both sides when fully understood are of tremendous value to our correct understanding of God. I believe your blog has provided a healthy (for the most part) forum for people to work through these issues, and I appreciate that you have provided this. However, If you decide to close this thread to protect yourself and others, then please know that I understand and care. I’m sad that you have been mistreated in the name of “Grace.” How sad that is.
    Your love for Truth is clear, and I respect your willingness to defend your convictions even when they are not as popular as you may wish. It is my hope that you too have grown and your perspective has broadened as a result of faithfully stewarding this discussion. Perhaps some day, when we no longer “see through a glass darkly,” and instead live and dwell in God’s Kingdom, you and I may meet and have the opportunity to get to know each other personally. I would enjoy that very much.
    Again, thank you so much for providing this opportunity for spiritual discussion.

  • Thanks Marlene, for your thoughts, and for sharing from your personal interactions with Brennan. I wish others followed the example set by your tone!

  • Darrell

    I am an Elder in my Church and I am certainly not above reproach. James 3:1 scares me every time I step into the pulpit. Why God continues to use me, a broken vessel to carry his message is a mystery. If it was up to me I would have quit a long time ago. It seems God has the final say as to whom he chooses to lead and why. He is really good at being God and I am nothing but a cheap imitation when I try to walk in his shoes. In my faith journey I know this, I would rather swing the bat and miss flagrantly, then sit in the cheap seats and heckle the umpire for making the wrong call. One final thought, why was Samson recorded in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11 with the likes of Moses, Joshua, and Abraham. Defies logic, that a backsliding womanizing man who never lived up to his full potential would be a Judge of Israel or even crazier mentioned for his faith by the man who walked on the water with Jesus. But then Sampson was made strong when he became weak, he could see only when he was made blind, he was free only when placed in chains.

  • I was introduced to Manning in 1990 when I came across 10 cassette tapes of sermons of Manning recorded at weeks of renewals. I listened to them until they wore out. I’ve read his books and listed to all of his sermons available online. He had a significant impact on my relationship with God in a positive way. I have since become an Anglican priest and have a high authority with Scripture and understand the Law / Grace dynamic among others discusses. I don’t think Manning propagated heresy at all. I don’t think his teachings were at odds with Scripture.
    His main emphasis consistently was the love of the Father of Jesus. This love is unconditional and overwhelming, and it produces a transformed life that leads to holiness and immense love for others. He never condoned sin or brushed it away. For Manning, sin was seen in the grotesque picture of the crucified Jesus — the image of love. He speaks and writes about spending hours before the crucified Christ in a chapel during seminary. He shares of hours in solitude in a cave in Spain meditating on the cross. These activities are very much at odds with the heretical “radical grace” teaching out there. Manning made plain that our sins nailed Jesus to the cross and none of them are taken lightly. He taught that through God’s unconditional acceptance of us, we do become the children he created us to be through an ongoing communication with him and dying to self.
    The reason why this post is completely accurate I think is the lack of integrity and transparency in Manning’s life and teaching. So many contradictions and inconsistencies exist that undermine the force and value of his message — that otherwise is so good. Unfortunately, due to confessed fabrications and hidden sinfulness, I think most of Manning’s stories and parables are suspect. Maybe that doesn’t matter, because they all make good illustrations. But are they true? That we will never know.
    For example, was there a leper named Belinda who saw the glory of God and heard Jesus speak to her in the words of the Song of Solomon? Did Manning inspire the book “The Giving Tree” through his conversation with his friend Shel Silverstein? I know Manning was a true Ragamuffin in need of the grace and tenderness of God. And I am thankful for his powerful preaching on the love of God. I wish I could take him at his word, though. Like his memoir says, “All is grace.”

  • Kristine

    Just thanks. Thanks for hosting this discussion. And for keeping it. I agree with Jeb’s comment about your manners. I can’t remember what I thought about the article anymore. I’ve obviously, like you, appreciated so much of what Manning and Mullins said and sang, or I wouldn’t be here…but I will leave this site thinking more about your kindness and respectfulness when called names, more than about Brennan. It takes grace to do that. It seems you do understand the concept of grace of which Brennan spoke. Personally, I struggle to give others as much grace as I give myself, but your example on this post (again, I’m not responding to the article but to all these posts I’ve read) reminds me that extending that grace to others in action is what Jesus would want us to do.

  • Ed

    It seems like most discussions you find on the internet concerning Brennan Manning go round and round like this…someone points out a concern, the next guy gets mad about it, someone says something nasty, someone else tries to smooth it all over, repeat. I think Mr. Manning’s quote about Christians being the greatest cause of disbelief has some (hopefully) unintended consequences. Ragamuffins put on some DC Talk and go to work body-bashing…criticizing the Church, judging their brother or sister for being “judgemental” and talking about how awesome AA is compared to Sunday morning services. (Actually that DC Talk song seems to be more a reflection on how they put themselves in that group of Christians Mr. Manning is referencing, BTW). Anyway, the Church is the Bride of Christ, and as “cool” as it seems to be these days to cast stones at each other, it’s probably not something that makes Jesus happy. Ragamuffins get pretty creepy with all this indignation whenever someone points out what should be obvious, which is that this man’s life was a mess. Mr. Manning says that about himself; I don’t see where any injustice has been done in this article.
    I spend 99% of my time reading technical books, the Bible (lots of them) and theologies. Brennan Manning is one of a very few contemporary “popular” Christian writers I read and keep a few of his titles in my library. I don’t think he would disagree with the Yankee chick on most of her observations.
    The value I find is as much in the error I find as the very important truth he attempts to communicate. I encountered him first in the context of academic Biblical studies and lay ministry. It was quite a change of pace at the time; refreshing in so many ways and yet repulsive in others. The Ragamuffin Gospel is a book that tells you up front it may not be for you. I think that introduction includes more specifics than a lot of Ragamuffins realize. It’s not necessarily for people who are JUST sad, or struggling with sin, or having a hard time. When you meet people who are in that state, they may NOT need to be told everything is going to be all right…that might be the WRONG time to tell them that. He says up front, it’s target audience are for those who are ALREADY on the road; they’re already reading their Bibles and know that not all sins are the same. They are already praying and have learned what the Bible teaches about judgement and discernment and when/how to correct a brother or sister.
    The Ragamuffin Gospel has that danger built in, that a lot of folks who are still on milk get a hold of that start buying the t-shirts and listing to Rich and thinking their experience is congruent to that of a 60-year old ex-priest Marine alcoholic. The message of God’s love is universally important to believers of any age, but Mr. Manning has written nothing that relieves anyone of their responsibility to understand and apply the Scriptures. I can see in comments all over the internet that many Ragamuffins seem to think they have found a shortcut; the one truth they need to know and all others are just “religion” or “too small for my big God.”
    I think that like any good lay writer, Mr. Manning had a message and he was anticipating that people would assimilate that message within the context of their Christian lives, which probably include Bible study and prayer and church attendance. Instead, for many his voice was pretty much the only one they heard, and people latched onto that because it’s desert. People aren’t eating full course meals, they’re just getting the pudding, and if anyone points out that the man had some heretical teachings they freak out. All they want to hear is “God loves me,” which is profound indeed and can be life changing. If you REALLY believe that, you want meat too, and I never doubted that Mr. Manning hoped that would be the result of his work.
    The heresies are more obvious in some of his other works. As a deeply Reformed Christian, I found his teaching on Grace to be pleasant in some interesting ways…kind of coming at it from a different angle, and often quite satisfied with the effort he committed to communicating God’s Grace. There is an invaluable truth there to build on, and he mentions some things in passing, but I think he was assuming that his readers had more theological backgrounds than most of us have. He quotes some writers at times when I’m not sure a lot of readers get the full significance of the quote or the writer. This man spent a great many years in formal religious training and I think he speaks from that place, which happens to be a place most of us are unfamiliar with.
    The result of all these things are Ragamuffins who can be nauseating and a lot of tantrums from brothers and sisters who need to put down Brennan Manning and pick up their Bibles. Don’t stop going to church, folks.
    Brennan Manning did not live a life we should want to emulate, and I’m not sure he would disagree. I wanted to hear him speak some years back for two reasons: (1) As a fellow Marine, I wanted to cover a few items that you only discuss with other Marines, and (2) ask the guy how he’s doing. If you read the man’s work, you have to wonder how he’s doing when you think about him. Unfortunately I did not get to meet him.
    I think the Yankee girl got it right in her view of the man, and again, I find it hard to imagine that he would disagree. His own analysis of himself would probably have included some vulgar language, though. I have read where he has defended himself bitterly before, but I don’t think he was totally wrong for doing that. There are indeed many people out there who hate to hear the word GRACE. But for someone to say, hey this guy was a drunk, and maybe we all let him down by being such creepy cultish weirdos when he really needed people who cared about his spiritual and physical health….I don’t think he would take offense to that.

  • Thanks for this very balanced comment, Ed.

  • Brent

    I am grateful for my salvation but coming from a fundamentalist/legalistic background, Brennan’s message was the first that really convinced me that God truly loved me despite all my struggles. He was a large fixture in the seeker-sensitive congregation that I went to but suddenly dropped off the map. I can see why now. I just wish that he would have had the strength to follow his own advice and get help and that his life didn’t end so tragically. That’s why Jesus told the woman caught in adultery that he did not condemn her but also to go and sin no more. You can’t follow Jesus without receiving both of these truths.

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  • I find Manning to be a breath of refreshing honesty among Christian leaders. What? You say. Come on people we are all a bunch of ragamuffin sinners who lie at times. We are never view ourselves as evil as we really are and we never view God’s grace as awesome as it really is. Read the Psalms and you see a man after God’s own heart questioning God putting his sin out there. The apostle Paul struggled enough with his sin nature that he felt compelled to address it. Manning wasn’t perfect and I didn’t expect him to be. I didn’t agree with everything he wrote and said. However, here was a man who deeply understood God’s grace and that’s what the world needs now. The world doesn’t need a bunch of legalists telling them what sin they commit. The Holy Spirit does that and He doesn’t need our help!

  • Kathleen J Blakeney

    Read the book, he didnt defend sin. Dont be the one who limits grace.

  • Susan

    Thanks for the “snarky” comments, Alan. I appreciate your thoughts.

  • Susan

    In your opinion. Which is just that, your opinion. thanks!

  • DG Spillman

    I, like Brennan, have journeyed through the “Scandalous” love and grace of Jesus Christ during my treacherous years and the times of recovery after. I discovered that the grace and love of Christ is the medium in which we are designed to grow, transform and overcome. There is a purpose in that “Scandalous ” love. To repeat the initial first steps by remaining in the whirlpool of addiction and despair amounts to abuse, not that the incredible love of Jesus won’t cover that abuse as well, but why remain.
    Brother Paul, said it well, “What shall we say then, shall we continue in sin (our old addictions) that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we that are now (supposedly) dead to sin, live any longer therein? Romans 6:1&2
    I, like Brennan, have lived all over the world, ministered to desperate souls while still fighting my addictions and have experienced over and over the “Scandalous” love and grace of Christ. I have resolved however, not to die like Brennan. That doesn’t mean I won’t be hugging and rejoicing with him on the other side of this mortality, because I will, but I want more of Christ, more of His presence in my life, more “Oneness”, more service to his bride and body; and that cannot coexist with my old addictions and vice.
    Thanks again for this column. It has become something very special.
    DG Spillman
    Spiritual Counterfeits Project Access Director
    Author of “A DESPERATE SALVATION; The Spiritual Lives of Spies, Smugglers and Thieves”

  • That’s a powerful comment, thank you so much for reading. I still haven’t really processed the life this article has taken on.

  • brad flynn

    That is a godly response to Jame’s comment. I agree with James and I agree with you yankee…girl.

  • brad flynn

    Very well said.

  • MDOG

    I don’t know if you’ll ever see this comment, but I wanted to thank you for posting this. I couldn’t agree more with your conclusion. I am alarmed at the direction of modern Christendom as a whole. Glaring sin is overlooked because of popularity and position. I remember watching DC Talk taking communion with Manning back in the Free At Last days. His quote is featured on the song “What If I Stumble?” Thanks to DC Talk and Rich Mullins and others like them, this guy became a legend. I just wish that people would do some research before falling hook line and sinker for prominent figures just because their favorite musical artist promotes them.

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  • Dave

    Manning in his humility and brokenness gave great hope to people. That although they had screwed up badly, time and again, there is still a God who loves them. It’s actually quite a hard message to accept. But it is Good News if you can. It’s much better news than much of what we are fed by spirit crushing preachers who would rather get hung up on issues around homosexuality or ‘right’ doctrine. Who would rather remind us every week that we are wrong and bad and worthless. And honestly do we have to have a long checklist of beliefs before we are allowed to listen to what somebody has to say? His message goes against much of the small minded, cart-before-horse teaching we usually recieve – “make yourself right before God and then he will accept you…”. We insult Jesus’ sacrifice when we entertain the thought that we can make ourselves right before God, though indeed we must take sin seriously. We must, as Manning said, bring the darkest parts of our being before God, not hide them as so many do. I doubt there is a single preacher out there who is ‘right before God’ through their own actions. If they think they are then they are on very dangerous ground. The point here is that all have fallen short of the glory of God. All. Some have fallen further and more spectacularly than others but we are all still so far away. Brennan Manning’s message was that that despite our terrible sin, we must keep coming back to the God who loves us and trust in his grace. Judas couldn’t but Peter did. So many fall away because they are shamed out of the church. We must enter a real relationship with that God. Our petty doctrine won’t save us here. God’s amazing grace will. Unfortunately many miss much of the subtlety in what Manning taught. He never condoned sin. He wasn’t a universalist. He was against abortion. But he called out the hypocrisy of the pro lifers who would happily see an abortionist in flames and ‘call for more.’ He loved the sinner and understood that the foundation of that love was in understanding how God sees and loves us. He gave many people a precious gift – a fresh way of understanding our true identity and acceptance by God which, if we can begin to grasp, makes all other issues pale into insignificance. I’d encourage people to put aside their doctrinal checklists for a moment and experience God’s love in a fresh way through the message of Brennan Manning.

  • Addictive behavior is a very specific kind of sin. It’s not unforgivable, but it is debilitating. Brennan’s platform enabled him in destroying himself. Nothing is worth that.

  • Nate

    You said Manning was wrong in saying all our failures come from failing to believe how crazy God is about us. The Bible says it is Gods kindness that brings us to repentance. Jesus was called a friend of sinners and that’s who he hung out with. The prostitutes and tax collectors of that day would be like homosexuals today. The church people hated and didn’t understand Jesus. The church people also hated and didn’t understand Paul. If church people don’t misunderstand your message you probably are not sharing the gospel. Funny….. many people hated and misunderstood Mannings message.

  • Yeah, I do think that’s wrong in a couple different ways. First of all, I think you can have a pretty accurate picture of God and still hate Him. You can look at everything God is and say “I know I don’t want THAT.” So to reduce this to “Oh, you just don’t understand how much God loves you…” is pretty simplistic. Also, I just don’t find the language of “God is crazy about you” to be helpful. I know it caught people’s attention and a lot of folks like Rich (who I think knew better) latched onto it, but I think it paints a picture of God as an infatuated lover.

  • Nate

    I guess we just disagree on the nature of God. He gave us the book song of Solomon to compare his love for us (his bride) to the passionate love a man has for a woman. I believe my daddy is an infatuated lover and the great news is he’s infatuated with me.

  • Well, this is a bit controversial but I am actually not sure why SoS made it into the Bible. I think it’s great romantic poetry, but I am not convinced it was divinely intended to be used as an analogy for Christ and the Church. We can make analogies like that, and maybe they’re helpful sometimes, but I don’t think it required special inspiration for Solomon to come up with those poems, other than the natural inspiration of a beautiful woman.
    Also, we should distinguish between the church as collective entity and the individual members of the church. There’s something a little weird about talking of God as your romantic lover, especially for men. The Church as a whole is Christ’s bride. Different concept.

  • Nate

    The only reason it would be wierd to think of yourself as Christs bride (wether you are a man or not) would be because your flesh mind wants to bring sex into the equation. The Bible says we no longer regard anyone according to the flesh. The idea is not that his love is sexual but that it is passionate. He is after all a jealous God. God is love. Therefore he is a jealous lover. Don’t forget God ran to the prodigal son (who was only coming home because he was hungry). Embraced him and kissed him repeatedly according to how the text is correctly translated. To better understand Gods desire for you read Hosea 2:16.

  • wolfpup

    Having struggled with addiction of a different sort for years, I have to admit that much of it was persistent willful rebellion against God. If you are lying to yourself enough to believe that you can serve two masters, how truthfully do you understand the Gospel? It there not a great danger that you might inadvertently distort it? I think God does love and accept us for who we are, but it is a lie to think He stops there. His Spirit is there to guide us to repentance, which ultimately means turning away from sin. The Bible is very clear about testing ourselves to see if we are in the faith. I’m not saying Mr. Manning was not a believer, but that we should judge by the fruit. I do agree with his message about performance oriented obedience versus grace, but I cannot condone grace as a license for sin. The book of James is very clear that leaders will be strictly judged. God knows how horribly I have failed, but that does not mean I can live a life without purity and expect the “love of God” to overlook my sin. Yes, I am broken…all I can do is pick up the pieces and move on…but it has to be along the straight and narrow way.

  • Agreed. It is unfortunate that unlike his friend Rich Mullins, Brennan never got the accountability around him that he so desperately needed. I believe God is merciful, but Brennan’s life was a tragedy, and we should view it as such.

  • Brady Mayo

    Well said!

  • Brady Mayo

    What you don’t seem to understand is that it is the power of grace that transforms us to love deeply. It’s interesting that you brought up the law covenant and not the grace covenant. I hurt for you brother!

  • Frank Payne

    I am late to the discussion, but I have taken the time to read through all the posts. Wow! I can imagine some of what you had to delete. I have recently been able to renew an old friendship and I was concerned how this old friend was now practicing his faith or rather, not practicing it as it looked to me. He recommended I read some of Manning’s books, so I did. I then knew my friend’s problems were much worse than I feared. Some of you may find that alarmist or as my friend called me, Pharisaical, and worshiping the Bible rather than Jesus, but the fact is Manning’s teachings seem to bring out an imbalance in how some people view God’s grace. In college speech class we were told emotional appeals were a powerful tool to persuade, impact and thus win one’s audience. This is exactly what Manning does in many of his books and speeches. This emotional impact carries such weight and persuasion, those who are less familiar with the Bible’s teachings are unaware that grace is a double-edged sword. Many seem to apply it only to God’s love for them IN their sinfulness and struggles with sin. Modern medicine calls drunkenness, alcoholism and a disease that needs treatment. Galatians 5 calls it one of the works of the flesh and if one continues to practice it in their life they will not inherit the kingdom of God. That should be a wake up call to people who say they believe the Bible. I am not saying it is not a disease, I understand all the significant research that has been done there. My father and grandfather were both alcoholics and for many years I thought I was one as well. However, just as alcoholism has been discovered to have roots in our genes, so does all of sin. It is in our genetic make up and we are by nature prone to sin. But we have also been given the promise of Scripture that there is no temptation we face that is not insurmountable with the very grace Manning professes.

  • Frank Payne

    Paul went on later to warn the Corinthians in the same way in 1Cor 6.9-11—Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such WERE some of you… Paul was reminding them the kind of lives they used to live (past) and that they were no longer that way. He was reminding them that God’s grace is more than a security blanket, but it is a transforming power in the believer’s life. In one of his later letters he writes Titus whom he left in Crete to organize the churches and the elders that had been appointed. He reminds him in Titus 2.11ff– For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. I have since talked to several followers of Manning and people who quote him as a source of why they believe what they do, and for the most part they are people who reject the Bible as being authoritative and instead rely on their personal experience with God, and Manning their “spiritual guide.” This is mysticism not Biblical Christianity. They cut out parts of the Bible that contradict their experience of “God” and label people who contradict their beliefs as Pharisees. We cannot pick and choose what we believe. That is what the world does. YGG is being fair and sympathetic in her evaluation of Manning and his teaching. My opinion, though still being formed in this matter, is Manning’s teaching seems to attract people who have lost hope in the battle against sin and have often given up the fight instead of persevered through it. Many are the victims of bad teaching, not understanding the process of transformation and sanctification through the renewing of our minds with the word of God. Many have been taught to experience God, but not how to judge those experiences with Scripture. As a former mystic myself I know it is easier said than done. In my journey, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon some good books where I learned to weigh my spiritual experiences with the word of God. When we expose our experiences to the light of God’s word it can be a most humbling experience in itself to realize most of one’s experiences were born in one’s own imagination of how he thought God was like. Grace helped me to feel loved. Grace challenged my journey. Grace held my hand while I fell. Grace picked me up and reminded me again I was loved and would be safely taken home one day. It also raised me up to a newness of life I had tried to imitate for years but could never attain. Like Paul in Philippians, I don’t claim to have arrived yet, but I press on. I will not frustrate the grace of God by giving up the fight against sin. I know that God loves me just the way I am, and that is incredibly liberating, comforting and simply makes me feel good! But I also know that His love is fiercely and furiously determined to conform me to the image of His Son and not leave me the way He found me.

  • Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Frank. I’m glad you got value from the post. I do think there are some people who were impressed by Manning but were possibly sounder than Manning himself (for instance, I would never have accused someone like Rich Mullins of rejecting the authoritative Word in favor of a mystical experience–that guy knew his King James inside and out). But I can well believe the heretical inclinations of Manning followers the you’ve encountered. He offered a particular thing that met people in a particular place, but that doesn’t mean we give him a free pass on all his theology.

  • There’s so much on this thread about Brennan Manning “the man” but little if any about those he led astray. How many people who followed Brennan’s heretical teachings lost their souls and are still losing their souls, hundreds – thousands?
    Those who don’t understand God’s omnipotence may see his judgment of Brennan Manning as cruel but it wasn’t. It was God’s way to warn Brennan’s followers to abandon his teachings and return to the Word of God.
    On another note. A lot was posted about his wife’s suffering with his alcohol addiction but that wasn’t near as bad as living eighteen years immersed in Brennan’s heretical doctrine.
    May God have mercy on R*****, and bring her back to His unadulterated Word. If so, God will bless her and rid her of any connections she my still have of Brennan’s warped influence, financial and otherwise.

  • Brady Mayo

    The YGG is not fair in her legalistic evaluation of Brennan Manning and you are simply wrong about those who read Manning’s books. In fact, Manning has brought hope and not defeat in many people’s lives who are afraid to bring their struggles out into the light. Before you make a judgement on Manning’s audience, read some of the reviews on Amazon for his book Ragumiffin Gospel. I also have a devotional that Manning wrote that I read every day and it has energized my faith, not defeated it. Paul’s point about those who won’t inherit the kingdom of God was not that they were no longer doing those things, but he was reminding them like he has done on hundreds of other passages that that is not who they are anymore. Paul would not feel the need to continually exhort and admonish the disciples if it were automatic. Paul reminds them to walk in the spirit and not the flesh in Romans and Galatians. Even Ephesians 2:10 says that they “should” do good works. But I understand why some people would be offended by Manning’s view of the Gospel. Today’s American Gospel in many big churches preach instant one and done healings all in the name of the prosperity gospel. To be honest, it is the prosperity one and done gospel that causes so many people to lose hope and it is not biblical. Yes God can heal instantly and sometimes does but sometimes He says my grace is sufficient and I will walk you through this storm for my glory.

  • Joe

    I think God is merciful and we sin from time to time because of the flesh. However we have to live like Christ as best as we can and fight our sinful nature.

  • Abigail

    I’m new here and just doing some research on Manning. My eyes are a bit wider now to the man. Thank you for this quote from a legit spiritual leader. It really sums up the love the Father has for us, but also that His character cannot be separated into compartments that suit how we want to look at the mess we are as sinners.

  • Yankee Girl – I am awe-struck by your patience. And equally dumbfounded by the fact that, despite the clarity of your writing and and the very clear distinctions you draw, so many who respond do so with accusations and even venom at times.
    Yet perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. People who make ‘idols’ of other humans usually respond with anger when their ‘idol’ is criticized, yet don’t seem to recognize that this same ‘idolization’ often ends-up destroying the individual they follow.
    Kathryn Kuhlman is another example that comes to mind.

  • Brady Mayo

    Instead of hurling elephants, could you at the very least enlighten us all on which teaching he had that was heretical. Just list the top two for starters.

  • Brady Mayo

    “Accusations “ and “venom” ! So here is what Yankee Girl wrote only ONE week after Branning died. “This is not a man who deserved a place as a revered Christian leader or mentor. This is a man who should never have had a platform in the first place.” So, you kidding, right?
    The fact is that Yankee started this whole thing with unwarranted venom and accusations almost as if she was angry and jealous. Only someone who is struggling with shame themselves shames other people .

  • Edward W Drevar Jr

    It’s obvious most people who read the bible fail to assimilate the essence of God’s Word thus are easily swayed by writers like Brennan Manning whose teachings clearly go against both the Old and New Testaments.
    No, the bible doesn’t teach that people are saved while in sin, but it does teach that God offers people opportunities to repent while still in sin.
    Warnings of condemnation are throughout both the Old Testament and New Testament. Here are two examples of condemnation that come to mind; one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.
    Hosea 4:6 King James Version: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
    Mathew 22:12 King James Version: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.
    What happens to the many not chosen?
    In conclusion:
    Matthew 7:13-14 New International Version “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
    Edward, The Ugly Package

  • Brady Mayo

    Ed, if Manning was suggesting that believers can die in their sins then you are right, but I don’t think that is what he meant. A believer does not have the seed of sin because Christ righteousness has been imputed to us if we have believed. Romans 4:24. If you are suggesting that a believer will not be saved if he has unrepented sin when he dies then you are wrong. There are also many examples of believers who have eternal security even though they died in unrepented sin or in a state of sinful behavior. An Old Testament example would be Solomon. He was clearly saved but he strayed from his faith. 1 Corinthians 11:30 is an example of believers who were living carnal lives and engulfed in unrepented sin and they had “fallen asleep” or died in this state. Can you give me another example of Manning straying from God’s word?

  • Anne Davis

    The problem is he did not return home. After writing and speaking, he began drinking again, losing his marriage &, nearer the end of his life, his health from his drinking. His writings helped me to internalize God’s unconditional love for all of us, no matter how ragamuffin we are. But I know that the Holy Spirit indwells us to overcome the worst in us, not leave us slaves to sin. I believe that Brennan Manning may have erred in loving the experience of God’s love over spending time listening to God through His Word. The cost to him was huge in this life. ” For the word of God is alive and active.Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Hebrews 4:12.

  • By Biblical standards, it’s evident by publicly-obtained information that Brennan Manning was unqualified to teach the Bible to others. His writings have been shown, objectively, to include serious errors. The fact that he had some truthful, beneficial elements in his material doesn’t change this. A teacher doesn’t need to be 100% wrong 100% of the time, to be fairly evaluated as unreliable.

  • Derek H.

    Could your source some of this info (unqualifications, errors, etc.)? What criteria are you using to determine who can/cannot teach the Bible?

  • Could your source some of that info (unqualifications, errors, etc)? What criteria are you using to determine who can/cannot teach the Bible?

  • Nathan Slonaker

    I get that people in “leadership roles” particularly in the church are to be “above reproach” – absolutely. Absolutely. But to say things like “This is not a man who deserved a place as a revered Christian leader or mentor. This is a man who should never have had a platform in the first place” is downright close to hateful. Never should have had a platform? Because he didn’t have his life in order? I’m confused by what you mean. The reality is Esther, is that Brennan never failed to continually claim himself as a ragamuffin, a failure. I don’t even know if you’ve even read his books, but literally one of the first lines in “Furious Longing of God” is “Hi, I’m Brennan Manning. I’m an alcoholic.” The point of his message and books aren’t to tell people “I’m a horrible sinner but I can still talk at conferences, preach and be a popular author without being above reproach. Be like me, you can do it too!” NOT ONCE has he said anything like that! To say that’s “fueling the fire” of not having to be above reproach is unbelievably untrue. His message is to tell people simply I’M BROKEN BUT THE LORD LOVES ME AS I AM, NOT AS I NEED TO BE! I mean the dude says that on his tombstone he wants written: “Brennan Manning – Abba’s Ragamuffin.” How beautiful is that? The reason so many people have resonated and millions of people have bought his books, listened to his messages, etc is because God gave Brennan a GIFT of beautifully describing how much God loves us. That we are marked by His love, that despite all of our failures in an already broken world He loves us relentlessly. Brennan Manning has changed my life, and I’ve grown up and been actively involved in a really solid church. You come off as so condescending in the way you speak about Manning’s work and his legacy – it breaks my heart. I think rather than criticizing so harshly Manning’s impact on so many people to realize and better understand the unfathomable love of God, you should see him as God would see him: broken, a sinner, someone who continually went back to addictions, but he still – through divorce and alcoholism – used his gift and his love of God (which by the way I hope one day I possess just half of that love he had for his Father) to speak with people, millions of people. To publish an article like this, so harshly speaking about a man who’s made so many people feel God’s love through his beautiful words, so soon after such an impactful person passed away is far beyond me. I’ll take the recommendation of His works from established and “above reproach” preachers (rightfully so) and strong believers that I know in my life and my church and continue to dive into Manning’s work. I hope I don’t come off as hateful – I just want to defend what he’s done because of how much he’s changed me and many people around me. He has changed my life and I’m thankful I’ve come across his work. My prayer is that you could look past his imperfections and maybe see what Manning had to say with love instead such a critical eye. John 13:35 – “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

  • Olivia G

    I find this article incredibly pious and self-righteous. Wow. I would expect more from the writing on Patheos. The criticism of this man and this life is unduly harsh and the comment about him never having a platform in the first place is hateful and wrong. As a practicing Catholic, I look to those who HAVE lived a life, are struggling and sharing their knowledge. That is how we learn. I don’t see the Christianity surviving at all if we should only have “perfect” people sitting in positions of power – as Christianity is far too full of sinners and those actually being human. I could go on but won’t waste my time. Your view of Brennan Manning will certainly cloud anything you could ever learn from him and his life.

  • Olivia G

    Thank you for writing this response. I, too, and am blown away by the article. If we don’t learn from sinners, who do we actually learn from??

  • jjoy33

    This article broke my heart, also. The same quotation you cited …”This is not a man who deserved a place as a revered Christian leader or mentor. This is a man who should never have had a platform in the first place” … brought me to prayer. Painful. Thank you for sharing your response.

  • Mike B

    After reading this article, I could only sigh and echo Master Yoda: “Expected this is. And unfortunate.” I’m so glad that I am not judged by my performance, merits or good deeds. I am also glad that you are not my judge. I am a sinner saved by grace, fully dependant on Christ. I am qualified by him, made right by him, identified by him as his own. It took me 20 years of guilt and shame to realize that His Grace is enough. Gal 2:20.

  • Kelle McDermott

    I stumbled upon this article by accident. I have much I could say but others on here share my heartache and have responed eloquently. Our young people are leaving the churches en mass. As a former missionary overseas I was once asked the question “” why is the hardest place to be a Christian is in church”? When we have to smile through our sin and struggles in church there is no place left to go. Not difficult to see the bridge by which they walk away on. Im so thankful for Brennan’s legacy of being real about the struggle. He brings us to the place that the struggle is brutal and yet Jesus knows our weaknesses and loves us anyway. I guess I want to ask who exactly will be in your heaven Ester?

  • Lance Knox

    Wow I’m with you all, this is self-righteousness at its finest, Romans 3:23 All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, I wonder who is qualified to say who is “worthy enough” among us sinners to have earned a platform??? I don’t think Mr Manning ever implied or stated we shouldn’t be striving for purity or to serve God and live our lives for him the best way we can, He simply offers the Gods grace is enough for those sins and that he loves us despite our sin, which is true, remember while we were yet sinners Christ died for us!! The Bible also says that if we walk in the light and have fellowship with one another that God is faithful to forgive all unrighteousness, Mr Manning didn’t advocate for the abuse of grace, He simply called us to walk fully in it and not let our joy be robbed by the life long struggle to attempt to eliminate sin from our lives!

  • Jesse H

    Manning was a troubled soul, by his own reckoning. There is a distinct contrast between godly men and women who die satisfied in the knowledge that God has used them, and Manning’s troubled recollections. We do need ragamuffins like Manning to flesh out the fullness of God’s grace, we also need leaders who don’t need to be so troubled. As usual Esther, you strike a fine balance.

  • Aloha

    This is a sad article. It demonstrates legalism, a lack of understanding of the sovereignty of God, and marginalizes the heart of the gospel. I don’t give any specific arguments and supporting scripture because you did not either. It is unfortunate but this is a demonstration of the coldness of western Christianity.

  • Jennifer Keller Parker

    Brennan Manning’s brokenness and theology is akin to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s commentary on the need for the Fellowship of Sinners…..not the Fellowship of the Righteous:

    “He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.

    It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does NOT occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners!!!

    The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!

    But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says:

    You are a sinner,

    a great, desperate sinner;

    now come, as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you.

    He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, a sacrifice, a work; He wants you alone. “My son, give me thine heart” (Prov. 23.26). God has come to you to save the sinner. Be glad! This message is liberation through truth. You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him. He wants to see you as you are, He wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to go on lying to yourself and your brothers, as if you were without sin; you can dare to be a sinner. Thank God for that; He loves the sinner but He hates sin…

    In confession the break-through to community takes place.

    Sin demands to have a man by himself.

    It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.

    Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light.

    In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person. This can happen even in the midst of a pious community. In confession the light of the Gospel breaks into darkness and seclusion of the heart. The sin must be brought into the light. The unexpressed must be openly spoken and acknowledged. All that is secret and hidden is made manifest. It is a hard struggle until the sin is openly admitted. But God breaks the gates of brass and bars of iron (Ps. 107:16).

    Since the confession of sin is made in the presence of a Christian brother, the last stronghold of self-justification is abandoned. The sinner surrenders; he gives up all his evil. He gives his heart to God, and he finds the forgiveness of all his sin in the fellowship of Jesus Christ and his brother.

    The expressed, acknowledged sin has lost all its power.

    He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.”

    Respectfully, the author of this article is only reinforcing that sin should be hidden, never admitted, lest we lose our credentials, or as she puts it, our “platform”, in the Fellowship of the Righteous.

    No thanks.

    I am a Ragamuffin.

  • Jeff S

    I’m praying for more Christian leaders, pastors, and voices that sound like Brennan’s. I think Jesus is looking for more Brennan’s who will be brave enough to speak up even against criticism and Pharisaical rhetoric like this article.

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