A tantalizing excerpt…

The Ragamuffin Gospel

A few days ago I wrote about a new venture “Using blogs for mutual benefit.” I spoke about my new Ironworks site where we will read a specific book together and work through it as a group, in hopes that we can help sharpen each other. In keeping with that, I want to share with you an excerpt from the book. I hope it encourages you, for one, and increases your interest in our study, for another. It’s a fascinating book. This passage comes from Chapter 7, pages 135-136. This quote comes in the context of Manning speaking of the High Priest Caiaphas.

A terrible thing has happened to Caiaphas. Religion has left the realm of respect for the person. For Caiaphas sacredness has become institutions, structures, and abstractions. He is dedicated to the people, so individual flesh and blood men are expendable. Caiaphas is dedicated to the nation. But the nation does not bleed like Jesus. Caiaphas is dedicated to the Temple – impersonal brick and mortar. Caiaphas became impersonal himself, no longer a warm human being but a robot, as fixed and rigid as his unchanging world.

The choice usually presented to Christians is not between Jesus and Barabbas. No one wants to appear an obvious murderer. The choice to be careful about is between Jesus and Caiaphas. And Caiaphas can fool us. He is a very ‘religious’ man.

The spirit of Caiaphas lives on in every century of religious bureaucrats who confidently condemn good people who have broken bad religious laws. Always for a good reason of course: for the good of the temple, for the good of the church. How many sincere people have been banished from the Christian community by religious power brokers as numb in spirit as Caiaphas!

The deadening spirit of hypocrisy lives on in prelates and politicians who want to look good but not be good; it lives on in people who prefer to surrender control of their souls to rules than run the risk of living in union with Jesus.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

14 thoughts on “A tantalizing excerpt…

  1. This statement reeks of heresy endorsement. Of course the way you have framed it, it could be legitimately applied to legalism. However, the entire context of the book says otherwise. From my browsing of the book, Manning is applying this to traditional orthodoxy.

  2. Bill-

    In the past you have come on this blog and have obviously had some sort of animosity towards me and/or the readers of this blog. I don’t know why, but you are certainly entitled to your own opinion. This time, however, you have made a fatal error.

    Your dismissal of this book without actually reading this book reeks of arrogance, assumption and hypocritical thinking. I would love for you to try and approach one of our seminary’s with just such a “book review.” Your failing grade would be forthcoming, I can assure you.

    You have unfortunately condemned a book that is considered a classic by many and which is endorsed by Max Lucado, Michael Card and Eugene Peterson; all of whom are most certainly orthodox.

    I’m not sure why you seem to think I have some underhanded motive in the reading of this book, but I can assure you I have none. My desire is to be more like Christ and it’s my hope to help others do the same. That is, I promise you, my only motive in the study of this book.

    It’s unfortunate that your animosity appears to cloud your vision.

  3. Bill,
    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘heresy endorsement.’ Granted, I’m a bit slow, but, without understanding the context of the first sentance, your statement doesn’t make sense. Are you saying that the book is heresy?



  4. I’m thrilled that a Southern Baptist (I’ve been in the SBC church most of my life) is open to learning from a Catholic mystic. And Manning certainly is that, by his own admission. Yet he has a great deal to teach the Church at-large. Thank you for recognizing that truth is spoken under all types of steeples…and even in some places that lack them.


  5. Micah,
    you have read a lot into my comments. If you approached the Bible like that, you would without a doubt get a failing grade in hermenuetics.

    I did read the book years ago in college along with “Lion and the Lamb” (i think that is what it is called). Brennan Manning spoke at our chapels.

    I will dig my copy out and tell you why I wrote what I did. I did not mean that you were a heresy endorser, but that I think if looking at the proper context of this excerpt, you would find that Manning is defending embracing just about everything under the sun.

    I have no animosity. It seems as if you get just a little too defensive when someone disagrees with you. So, I recommend before replying to a comment, just take a deep breath and don’t jump to assumptions that are not true. I did not say anything about what I thought your motives might be. Might it be though that you did have an underhanded motive? You sound like the little kid that cries out, “I didn’t do it”, before something is even discovered or asked about.

    So, I hope you have a nice day.

  6. I said: From my browsing of the book, Manning is applying this to traditional orthodoxy.

    Could you please comment on this? Am I right or am I totally out in left field?

  7. Bill-

    Thanks for taking the time to reply. I have read my response and I don’t believe that I was off base. In fact I have heard from many people who read your comment and understood it exactly as I did.

    I’m glad that you clarified that you don’t think I’m a heresy endorser. I do, however, find your thoughts about Manning to be curious, though. I find little reason to agree with you. I certainly don’t agree with everything Manning says, but his explanation of a God who loves the unloveable is very good, in my opinion.

    You ask if this is being applied, by Manning, to orthodoxy. I don’t think he is. I do think he’s pointing to pockets within heresy, as he should. I think he’s concerned about hypocrisy within Evangelicalism. I think few people would argue with the relevance of his concern. It’s certainly not a new thing, either. Spurgeon said it well when he said that one of thw greatest struggles in the life of a pastor os the difference between who he appears to be in the pulpit and who he actually is out of the pulpit.

  8. Shaun-

    I didn’t mean to ignore your comment but with my little sideline conversation with Bill I got a bit off track.

    It’s unfortunate that we far too often (we being those in SBC life) pigeon whole people and don’t allow others to be seen for what they produce but rather we avoid them simply because we label them in a way that is outside what we are comfortable with.

    I certainly have some areas with Manning that I don’t agree, but to be honest I have areas with my staff at my church that I disagree over as well. I still value them and what they offer our church.

    Manning’s benefit to the Christian world is quite large. I’m thankful to have found him, actually I should thank my brother, Jared, who bought the book for me. It’s been a privilege to read.

  9. you said: his explanation of a God who loves the unloveable is very good, in my opinion.

    I am at a loss to see how this is a revolutionary thought that Manning has pioneered. I think I have it in a few of my sermons as well, and attempt to live it out daily as weel as just about every Christian I know. The problem I have with Manning is the way this plays out for him. He comes across a little too ecumenical and licentious for me.

    you said: “It’s unfortunate that we far too often (we being those in SBC life) pigeon whole people and don’t allow others to be seen for what they produce but rather we avoid them simply because we label them in a way that is outside what we are comfortable with.”

    To be honest, I had a feeling you were going to get to this rhetoric eventually. I would have bet my life’s savings on it. You’re very predictable.

    If something is viewed to be unbiblical (which the majority of Manning’s stuff is), why does anyone have to be comfortable with it? This is not a difference of opinion on secondary issues, but of the “different” gospel Manning is proposing – one that disregards the biblical teaching of repentance and the exclusiivity of the gospel.

    Hey, if people want to model their ministry after the likes of Brennan Manning, that’s their right. But hopefully we don’t try to be so relevant (at least Manning’s version of relevance) that in actuality we become irrelevant.

  10. bill p-

    I don’t claim that his explanation of grace is being “pioneered” by Manning. Only that Manning has a tremendous way of describing the thought. Max Lucado’s book “In the Grip of Grace” was groundbreaking for me. Was it unique in its affirmation of grace? No! It was, however, unique in its ability to communicate grace to me. That’s all I’m saying about this book.

    Secondly, speaking of rhetoric – you do fairly well in that category it seems to me. First you did not respond to my point and that is that we often fear someone because they’re not in a category we may be comfortable with (i.e. catholic, etc) when what we should do is judge them by their content and not by their category. Do you disagree with that? Beyond that, you have thrown around the “unbiblical” idea more than a time or two now, and not once have you justified your position. Please do so or stop making the claim. By the way, no where do I see Manning ever deny the exclusivity of the gospel or repentance. What I see, however, is his explanation of grace that covers sin. He’s right, by the way.

  11. bill p
    thank you!

    1. do you believe jesus was a real person who walked the earth?
    2. if so, do you believe that jesus was god? (do you believe in the trinity?)
    3. do you believe that jesus died on a cross as a sacrificial lamb?
    4. do you believe jesus resurrected?
    5. is sin a problem for a christian?

    please post your answers. i’d like them to be published so that everyone can know them.

  12. J.B.

    I’ll gladly answer your questions, but I would make one request of you. If you want to post any more comments here, I would ask that you please identify yourself with your full name. I personally object to anonymous posting online and as such I made a commitment a few years ago to only post using my name so that I am accountable for what I say. As a result I would ask that anyone who comments on my site offer the same courtesy.

    My answer to each of your questions is unquestionably yes.

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