13 March 2013

Book Review- All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir

I have been in a bit of a funk with my reading lately.  Normally, I read quite a lot, but in the last few weeks or so, nothing seems to capture my attention. I have several unread books on my shelves at home; I may pick them up, scan the endorsements, and read the introductions, only to set them back aside. A friend of mine recommended reading some fiction, which has helped revive me a bit.  The other book that I did not want to set aside was the memoirs of Brennan Manning in his 2011 book All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir. Brennan Manning is known for writing and speaking of the radical grace found in the person of Jesus Christ.  His Ragamuffin Gospel, which I have not yet read, has apparently deeply influenced the lives of many people. The singer Rich Mullins claimed that within 5 minutes of listening to Manning for the first time, he pulled over his vehicle and wept because, for the first time, he believed he was hearing the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.

Although the other book I read from Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God, had biographical elements, this was much more intentionally autobiographical.  Manning discussed his childhood under the care of a father who never quite seemed to find work and a mother who never quite seemed to like him.  Indeed, the culture of shame in his childhood home seems palpable.  Manning moves on to describe his entry into and exodus out of the priesthood, and then marriage, all the while maintaining his relationship with alcohol. 

Manning, who finished this memoir in his late 70s, was at a point in his life where the end was in view.  He required assistance to finish the book.  He required assistance in many things, actually.  Despite all of this, he clings to grace. 

In sum, this is a compelling memoir.  I admire his transparency, even with his admission that he still may not be entirely so.  I am moved by his proclamation of vulgar grace (a term he borrowed from Robert Capon).  My reservations, as the were with his other book that I read were his approach to inclusivism. Though he doesn't come out directly and say so, much like Capon, Manning appears to believe that all people everywhere will be saved, regardless.  As I read the Bible, it appears that only those who call upon Christ for his mercy will be saved.  Nonetheless, Manning is a champion for God's grace to unworthy sinners and this memoir will help you to see that. 

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