Ad Limina Apostolorum (Blog) | St. Augustine's Library
Monday, June 07, 2004

Ragamuffin Nonsense 

Gerald Serafin linked to this article in Christianity Today about Brennan Manning.

My friends in college were in love with the guy. I heard testimony after testimony of changed lives, conversions, etc., people who first came to a real understanding of God's love and grace through this man's testimony. Christians of all sorts, especially hurt and wounded ones, were drawn to him like flies to honey. Rich Mullins and his legacy have always been formative for me; I listen to Rich's albums once a day, on average, and Rich's entire world was created ex nihilo by Manning. It's hard to call into question the integrity of a man who leaves that kind of spiritual heritage in his wake.

But I have, and I do. I have never been impressed with Manning. If anything, I am embarrassed by him, if for nothing else for his pretenses to be Catholic when everything in his life and teaching repudiates the Church. A seminary dropout who couldn't take the 'rigorous' lifestyle of the seminarians, Manning wandered into a more laxist Franciscan order (in which, incidentally, he used to teach at Steubenville until then-President Michael Scanlan got tired of his antics), then abandoned the Franciscans and spent a few years dabbling in yet another religious order in Europe, until ultimately he found celibacy itself too much of a burden and got himself 'married' (and thereby defrocked as well, since he never bothered to regularize his canonical status), until that fell apart in a divorce; and when life as a campus minister didn't give him "the affirmation he craved" (imagine that), he lapsed into alcoholism and self-pity. Among his credentials: "He spent six months in a remote cave in the Zaragoza desert in Spain" (vomit), and "Members of U2 read Manning's books" (wow!).

Of course, my ad hominem attacks are rendered entirely ineffective, since Manning is actually proud of his failings. For Manning, the manifest grace of God's love is shown precisely in the fact that it is given to us in spite of our sin, or rather, in the midst of our sin. The mystical climax of the Christian religion, for Manning, is the moment of self-acceptance; his is a faith of self-affirmation. For Manning, repentance is not necessary to receive forgiveness -- this condition would compromise the absolute gratuitousness of divine grace. God's love for the sinner is not conditioned upon the sinner's abstinence from sin, God loves the sinner 'in his sin.'

"experiencing God's love in Jesus Christ means experiencing that one has been unreservedly accepted, approved and infinitely loved."

"You may be insecure, inadequate, mistake, or potbellied. Death, panic, depression, and disillusionment may be near you. But you are not just that. You are accepted. Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted."

"God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don't need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept my ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness."

"The saved sinner is prostrate in adoration, lost in wonder and praise. He knows repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven. It serves as an expression of gratitude rather than an effort to earn forgiveness. Thus the sequence of forgiveness and then repentance, rather than repentance and then forgiveness, is crucial for understanding the gospel of grace."

Well, you get the idea. When E. Michael Jones wrote his Degenerate Moderns: Modernity as Rationalized Sexual Misbehavior, his chapter on theology was a biography of Brennan Manning. His theory (very much implied) was that Manning's theology of 'grace-without-repentance' was, consciously or not, an apologia for his own life.

Even worse, Manning continually markets himself as a 'Catholic priest,' or better, a 'Franciscan priest,' despite the fact that he has doubly severed himself from the Catholic Church, through his apostasy from orders and invalid marriage while in orders, not to mention his flagrant repudiation of Church teaching. In his talks and books, he never ceases chiding the Church for obliging celibacy upon her priests, and accuses the Church of heresy for encouraging prayer to Mary. Worst of all, he blames his Catholic upbringing for blinding him to the 'truth' of the loving mercy of God for so many years. Manning, as you can imagine, rocketed to the top of the evangelical speaking circuit due to the cumulative psychosis of the thousands of ex-Catholics who make up the evangelical community in America, most of whom have a bizarre love-hate relationship with the Catholic Church. They despite the Church's teaching, especially its moral demands (many of these are divorced-and-remarried folks), but they retain a morbid fascination with all things Catholic. He's their Cinderella, trumpeting 'relationship over institution' at every corner, wearing a Franciscan habit but telling them what they want to hear:

"We must never allow the authority of books, institutions, or leaders to replace the authority of knowing Jesus Christ personally and directly."

Ugh. That Evangelicals at large, and especially such a mouthpiece as Christianity Today, would continue to uphold their uncritical allegiance to this man, defies all reason.

# posted by Jamie : 11:48 AM


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