Archives For Martin Luther King Jnr

A lot of people leave out the Christian part when it comes to Martin Luther King Jnr because they either don’t know, or don’t really wanna know. Like all, especially those who move from the position of spectator, to being on the field, he wasn’t without sin, but he was a man who knew that ALL sin is answered first and foremost by God, in and through Jesus Christ.

After posting this illustration from Vince Conard to Facebook, a friend pointed out that given the tone, aggression and disunity of our day, mention of Martin’s faith, is anathema on some circles within the West. The fact that he was named after a German theologian and reformer, in 1934, of all years, presents a challenge to those who rail against the West in the name of a mostly concocted cause, in ways far from King’s own.

Martin Luther King’s legacy is first of all a Christian witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the overcoming of sin. All sin, not just the bits and pieces some people choose to focus on over others, including the sin of treating others, who are created in the image of God, differently because of the colour of their skin.

Martin Luther King’s legacy is a Christian witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the liberation of humanity from its primal atheism. This is a liberation from humanity’s rejection of grace, its self-displacement, subsequent displacement of others and self-destruction.

Karl Barth spoke consistently about his view that the “no” of God heard in Jesus Christ has nothing on the great “yes” of God, spoken at the same time. This humiliation of God is the exaltation of humanity. This is something He chose and in exercising His freedom God hands to us freedom.

Freedom consecrated by response, responsibility, partnership with God, prophesy, ministry, healing and teaching. Freedom made real by His choice and His suffering at the hands of whip, condemnation, betrayal, spear, and death on a Roman cross. Freedom vindicated by the empty tomb and the resurrected Jesus, who is not another myth like that of the half-god/half-man Hercules, but is Himself very God and very man.

What grounded Martin Luther King from the start was faith in Jesus Christ. It’s well documented that when things weighed MLK down, he would lean on the gifts of Mahalia Jackson, who would minister to him through word and song. It’s his defiant Christian faith that should inspire us and point us to the goal of liberation as he saw it, liberation from ALL sin, in the name, word and deeds of Jesus the Christ.

“God is neither hard-hearted or soft minded. He is tough-minded enough to transcend the world; He is tender-hearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us to our agonies and struggles. He seeks for us in dark places and suffers with us, and for us in our tragic prodigality.” (A Tough Mind & a Tender Heart, Gift of Love, p.9)

The faith of Martin Luther King Jnr is not to be confused with optimism. It’s not the “faith” of optimists and psychologists who preach from the pages of positive psychology. The clever term they use in order to justify reducing the Christian faith to principles that can be lived without any need for a relationship with the One who authored that faith; the One who anchors humanity to the living hope this defiant faith testifies to.

To segregate Martin Luther King Jnr from this defiant Christian faith, is to fail to hear what it is that he had to say, what he set in motion, and what he hoped to see achieved.  This segregating of King from his faith and theology may serve the secular political aims of modern liberals and their quest for total power by any means necessary, but it ultimately enslaves King to the servitude of ideology-as-master and the reactionary political groups it controls. Groups and agendas, he, in all likelihood would never have signed on to because they persist in denying their own sin, and yet, are loud and proud in their condemnation of the sin of others.

Paraphrasing Thomas F. Torrance from his book Atonement: ‘all self-justification is a lie’.

Beware the auctioneers.


References:

Artist: Vince Conard, https://www.instagram.com/vince_conard/  (Used with permission)

King, Jnr. M.L. A Tough Mind & a Tender Heart, Gift of Love (p.9)

Torrance, T.F. 2009 Atonement: The Person & Work of Jesus Christ InterVarsity Press

The shape of things to come?:

‘Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) was constantly battling an [oppressive totalitarian] Polish government that was seeking to harass the Church and reduces its influence over the Catholic population of Poland.
[…] Priest were taxed excessively, and often followed and beaten up; students were denied admission to universities if their parents were churchgoers; permits for the building of churches were withheld when new towns developed;
the state abolished old religious holidays and invented ersatz national ones; and there was a constant ideological compaign of lies in the media designed to weaken religion and reduce it to an expression of patriotic nostaligia. Wojtyla  resisted all these pressures by evading them inventively as much as by challenging them boldly.’
(O’Sullivan, 2006. )[i]

Czech playwright, poet, President, and political dissident, Václav Havel:

“Anything that in any way opposed the vision of the world offered by Communism, thus calling that vision into question or actually proving it wrong, was mercilessly crushed. Needless to say, life, with its unfathomable diversity and unpredictability, never allowed itself to be squeezed into the crude Marxist cage.
All that the guardians of the cage could do was to suppress and destroy whatever they could not make fit into it. Ultimately, war had to be declared on life itself and its innermost essence.
[Having come from a country once ruled by Communism] I could give you thousands of concrete examples of how all the natural manifestations of life were stifled in the name of an abstract, theoretical vision of a better world. It was not just that there were what we call human rights abuses. This enforced vision led to the moral, political and economic devastation of all of society.”
(Havel, 2002) [ii]

 

What should our response look like?

Jesus:

“Be as wise as a serpent, & as gentle as doves” (Mt.10:16)

Martin:

“God is neither hardhearted nor soft minded. He is toughminded enough to transcend the world; he is tenderhearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles. He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.” (MLK, 1963) [iii]

Never give up.

Even when they try to kill you:

P.J.P II: assassination attempt, St. Peter’s Square, 1981.

Reagan: assassination attempt, 1981, Washington D.C.

Thatcher: assassination attempt, Brighton, 1984

‘[In the 1970’s] All three were @ or near the peak of their careers. All three were handicapped by being too sharp, clear, and definite in an age of increasingly fluid identities and sophisticated doubts. Put simply, Wojtyla was too Catholic, Thatcher too conservative, and Reagan too American.’
(O’Sullivan, 2006. ) [iv]

 


References:

[i] O’Sullivan, J. 2006. The President, The Pope & The Prime Minister: Three Who Changed The World Regnery Publishing, (p.14)

[ii] Havel, V. 2002 Preface to Karl Popper’s ‘The Open Society and Its Enemies’, Routledge

[iii] King, M.L. 1963. Sermon: A Tough Mind & a Tender Heart; A Gift of Love, Beacon Press

[iv] O’Sullivan, ibid, 2006. (p.2)

Related reading:

Karl Barth, 1939: “Dear France,” Appeasement, Eschatological Defeatism & Resistance

Reagan’s Reminder: “The Martyrs of History Were Not Fools.”

The Confessing Church Is A Church of Martyrs: Church, Sleep No More!

 

During my undergraduate research into the wide and wondrous theological landscape of Karl Barth’s rejection of natural theology, I came across some criticisms of Barth made by Martin Luther King Jnr.

628x471_barth-and-mlkjnr 1962King made these criticisms in 1952, centring them around two main points. First, the [liberal] theologian must part with Barth in his rejection of natural theology. This is because:

‘we find God in the beauty of the world, in the unpremeditated goodness of humanity, and in the moral order of reality. Second, Barth emphasises the unknowableness of God, but if God is unknowable one wonders how Barth came to know so much of the ‘’Unknown God’’  [1].

Here King shows his lean towards the theology of ‘19th century liberal protestants, who viewed human culture as being endowed with revelatory potential’ [2].

In the end, though, King somewhat affirms Barth’s theology,

‘In spite of our severe criticisms of Barth, however, we do not in the least want to minimize the importance of his message. His cry does call attention to the desperateness of the human situation. He does insist that religion begins with God and that man cannot have faith apart from him. He does proclaim that apart from God our human efforts turn to ashes and our sunrises into darkest night. He does suggest that man is not sufficient unto himself for life, but is dependent upon the proclamation of God’s living Word, through which by means of Bible, preacher, and revealed Word, God himself comes to the consciences of men. Much of this is good, and may it not be that it will serve as a necessary corrective for a liberalism that at times becomes all to shallow?’ [3]

King’s rejection of Barth’s “no” to natural theology seems short-sighted.

For Barth,

‘Christianity is the protest against all the high places which human beings build for themselves’ (Barth C.D IV/II p.524).

When viewed through the lens of World War One and German preoccupation with Social Darwinism, World War Two and the Barmen Declaration, his rejection of natural theology is more understandable. Barth’s stance pushed against the claims of national socialist ideology by aiming at its roots [4].

What Barth rejects is natural theologies,

‘autonomous rational structure’ (Torrance), [5], and its ‘self-determining knowledge of God which is absent of Jesus the Christ. The importance of the revelation of Jesus Christ is that He teaches us that we are‘ human beings and not pets’ (Olasky) [6].

Natural theology, it could be argued, bolstered the clinical one-sidedness of Scientism; Nazi dehumanization programs, rationalised ignorance, the humanist deification of humanity (seen in the führerprinzip), the Nazi gas chambers, “re-education” camps, total war, eugenics, racism and slave labour.

Barth’s ”no” to natural theology is seen better under the light of his sociopolitical context. It’s a much larger critique than that of 19th Century theology. Barth’s words fall as a warning to those who sought to detach Christian theology from Christ. It’s a criticism of those who attempted to synchronise Christian theology with the tentative conclusions of the disciples of Frederic Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin. All of whom can be found to have had a direct and indirect influence on German thought, specifically, National Socialism.

This opposition was worked out in the Barmen declaration; authored by Barth as part of the Confessing Churches stand against National Socialism in the 1930’s.

‘We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords–areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him’ (Barth, 8.15 second thesis, Barmen Declaration 1934).

In 1962, ten years after his initial criticisms, King met Barth. Despite their differing position on natural theology they shared some visible common ground in their eventual opposition to the Vietnam War. Barth ‘called for opposition to the conflict in Vietnam, stating, “It is not enough only to say, ‘Jesus is risen,’ but then remain silent about the Vietnam War’ [7]. It’s possible to hear echoes of Barth in King’s words to Riverside Church in New York on the 4th April, 1967.

Barth & King 1962“There comes a ‘a time to break the silence’ because ‘’a time comes when silence is betrayal.”

This “point of contact” with Barthian theology is displayed in the overall content of King’s speeches. It’s one that can be measured alongside the Barmen declaration and matched with Barth’s own opposition, not only to the conflict in Vietnam, but also to Nazism.

Barth and King stand as examples. Both challenged ideologies with theology. Challenging old and new, political and cultural ideologies that had moved, or were moving from being a servant towards being a master. Each show that the world benefits when Christian theology stands and then seeks to steer humanity away from the rocky shores of its own making, such as the seductive Siren calls of Machiavellian agendas and unruly ‘isms.’

As the Lutheran, Gene Veith, wrote,

‘Nazism was a calculated crusade to deny the transcendence of God and usurp Christianity’. Theology must challenge ‘the ideas that led to Auschwitz with special scrutiny. This is especially true when those ideas, often adopted uncritically, are still in vogue today’ [8].

Today, its relevance calls Christians – theologians – regardless of skin colour or country, to stand side by side in a push back against the stream. To push back against the mudslide of agendas carried along by propaganda machines which often feed off of division, drama and a one-sided, segregated, party-line.

No where is this more evident in theology today, than in the virulent misuse of liberation theology. What arose with great promise as it looked towards reconciliation, now only appears to be a selective slingshot in the verbal arsenal of “progressive” stone-throwers. Causing a breakdown of dialogue which has all but confirmed the suspicions of their conservative brothers and sisters.

It’s here that we might find Barth and King’s voices of resistance. In this what might be heard is a collective “no”; the call for the reformation and therefore liberation of liberation theology.

King, 4th April, 1967 (transcript):


References:

[1] King Jnr, M.L. 1952 Karl Barth’s conception of God sourced 17th August 2012 from http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/primarydocuments/Vol2/520102BarthsConceptionOfGod.pdf (pp.105-106)

[2] McGrath, A.E. 2001 a scientific theology: nature vol1. T&T Clark Ltd. Edinburgh, Scotland (p.255)

[3]King Jnr, M.L. 1952 Karl Barth’s conception of God sourced 17th August 2012 from http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/primarydocuments/Vol2/520102BarthsConceptionOfGod.pdf (p.106)

[4] Gorringe, T.J 1999 Karl Barth: Against Hegemony Christian theology in context Oxford University Press New York (p.3)

[5] Torrance, T.F. 1994 Preaching Christ today: the Gospel and scientific thinking Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing Co. Grand Rapids, MI, USA (p.70)

[6] Olasky, M 2003 Standing for Christ in a Modern Babylon Crossway Books, Good News publishers Wheaton, IL (p.80)

[7] Chung, S. W. 2006 Karl Barth and evangelical theology: Convergences and divergences Milton Keynes, Paternoster Press. UK (p.199) citing George Hunsinger 

[8] Veith Jnr, G.E. 1993 modern fascism: the threat to the Judeo-Christian worldview Kindle for P.C. Ed.

Images:

Source: stanford.edu

1. The Princeton University Chapel, Dr. King on the Chapel steps, with Karl Barth (pictured on the left), April 29, 1962.

2. A stroll on campus at Princeton University,

*”The Calling to Speak is Often a Vocation of Agony”  (King, ‘Beyond Vietnam‘)

Five Links: January Edition

January 18, 2016 — 1 Comment

Five Links Jan Edition 2

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these lists. I don’t do enough of them. Starting here, I’m hoping to change that.

1. In what is the simplest explanation on how to pray that I’ve heard in a while, this week, Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis wrote a piece on prayer for the Orthodox Christian Network. Entitled, ‘How Often Should I Pray? Akrotirianakis writes:

“Prayer is not about following “rules” or “heaping up phrases” (even beautiful phrases) but speaking to God from our hearts.
When someone asks me “how often do you talk to your wife?” or “how often do you talk to your son?” the answer is “as often as I can. At a minimum, I talk to them in the morning before I leave and at night when I get home. And sometimes I call them during the day, not for long periods, a quick call or a text. I make special time to spend with each of them and for us to spend as a family—this is extended time, more than the good morning or good night words. Prayer works in the same way.”

2. Christina Grau, writer and homeschool mum extraordinaire, shared some general thoughts on God, popularity and motivation. In the context of Homeschooling, parents can at times feel overlooked, overworked, under-appreciated and underpaid. It’s worse in an environment where encouragement is so distant that homeschoolers are tempted to find encouragement solely in “likes, shares and comments.”

In response to When Your Audience Doesn’t Applaud, Christina notes:

”God isn’t looking for someone who has wonderful audiences and receives thunderous applause. He’s looking for someone willing to serve, even when no one appreciates them.”
“Sometimes doing the littlest thing IS doing a big thing. Are we willing to do the ‘big’ thing, when it means we may never get noticed?’’

3.  From August, 2015. Still, a good read:

Joe Hildebrand, ‘The Rise of Mob Rule In Australia’

‘This is the new mob: One that derives its power not by its size but by the volume and frequency with which it shouts.Unlike genuine people power, this is just pain-in-the-arse power. Instead of a matter of who’s got the most numbers it’s a matter of who’s got the most time on their hands. Once, if a government policy was considered abhorrent enough, it would be met by a cohesive organised campaign, such as the shearers’ strikes that established the ALP or the Vietnam moratoriums to the anti-WorkChoices campaign.
Now the most common method of protest is ferocious spontaneous uprisings which, instead of targeting a policy, tend to target individuals.’

4. Ronald Reagan, New Years Greeting to the Soviet People, 1st Jan. 1986:

‘Our democratic system is founded on the belief in the sanctity of human life and the rights of the individual — rights such as freedom of speech, of assembly of movement, and of worship. It is a sacred truth to us that every individual is a unique creation of God, with his or her own special talents, abilities, hopes, and dreams. Respect for all people is essential to peace, and as we agreed in Geneva, progress in resolving humanitarian issues in a spirit of cooperation would go a long way to making 1986 a better year for all of us.’

5. A copy of Martin Luther King Jnr’s, typed and archived sermon, ‘Tough Mind & Tender Heart; Matthew 10:16, 30th August 1959. Stand out quote:

‘Nothing pains some people more than having to think. This prevalent tendency toward softmindedness is found in the unbelievable gullibility of men and women. Take an attitude toward advertisements. We are so easily led to purchase a product because a television or radio ad pronounces it better than any other […] One of the great needs of humanity is to be lifted above the morass of false propaganda.’

Soli Deo Gloria.


 

Mahalia Jackson Source The King CenterMartin Luther King Jnr stood at the microphone, preparing to address part of the Freedom gathering in Chicago.

To his right, Mahalia Jackson starts singing. As her voice fills the room, the words ‘Joshua fought the battle of Jericho’ ring out, igniting conviction.

Distracted by this spontaneous support, King, unprepared to comment, looks and smiles awkwardly in her direction.

Jackson’s melodic voice rises above the noise and this unplanned introduction takes off. The momentum transforms the sea of applause into an ordered rhythmic harmony. Her smile is contagious, and her hope beyond doubt.

The song ends. The crowd cheers. King speaks:

‘I think I can say, concerning this great Gospel singer, in our midst, our dear friend, my great friend, Mahalia Jackson, that a voice like this comes only once in a millennium’ [i]

I don’t disagree.

Here’s Mahalia singing, ‘Elijah Rock,’ before a large audience on her European tour in the late sixties.

Worth noting are her comments at the end:

‘One day we shall overcome. That’s why my faith is in the Lord. My hope and my strength is in the Lord. For one day, you and I shall overcome. One day, we’re going to stop trying to take God’s ways and make it our ways cause Jesus said, “I’m the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the father, but through me. Cause it all looks like man is trying to make everything his way, but we goanna overcome. The saints of God will overcome. […] The world is confused and frustrated all over. If it isn’t one problem, it’s another. And we must overcome, but we must come back to God.’ (5:50-7:22) [ii]


Notes:

[i] Link: Mahalia Jackson singing – Martin Luther King Jnr preaching.  (Worth watching)

[ii] Just a note on the block quote transcript of Mahalia: I’ve done my best to get this right word for word, however, as may be noticed, in the video some words are harder to discern than others.

Photo: Mahalia Jackson, sourced from The King Center: Freedom Fund Festival Leaflet

Elisabeth Elliot QuoteOne benefit of my upbringing is how deeply it instilled in me a passion for justice, a sense of empathy and the importance of personal responsibility.

Growing up, our next door neighbours were Indigenous Australians. Overall there was a heartfelt respect for those who struggled and reverence for those who gave their all for our current freedoms.

My parents benefited from welfare programs that enabled us to have a home, food and basic clothing. We also witnessed the darker side of a community when it goes from being a welfare dependent season-of-life, to being a welfare dependent culture.

Even though my agnostic-at-the-time parents were cultural Anglicans, my sister and I attended a Catholic Primary School, where we found ourselves part of a denominational minority.

We didn’t always fit.

We rarely owned brand new school clothes, trendy school bags or school shoes. There were also times when the schoolyard elite were more than happy to go beyond just verbally measuring our worth by my parents socio-economic situation.

Yet, God reigns. It is by His grace, that through these experiences, I can teach my kids about what it means to live in victory, not victimhood. Working through those experiences has provided me with a great deal to reach for when I’m teaching my kids about mercy, justice, fairness, compassion, and personal responsibility.

It’s a lifeline akin to the hope established by Joseph’s words to His brothers, ‘You meant for evil against me, but God meant it for good’ (Gen. 50:20).

Some great examples of this are found in African-American history. It’s here that a recent lesson began. Our starting point was Louis Armstrong’s ‘Black and Blue’, which then led to a few comments read aloud from Booker T. Washington’s, ‘Up from Slavery’ and an introduction to Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Emancipation Proclamation.’

From there I directed our homeschoolers attention to the lament in Bob Marley’s ‘Buffalo Soldier’. Introduced Martin Luther King Jnr. Talked about his assassination in 1968 and listened to some of his preaching. We then encountered the magnificent voice of Mahalia Jackson and identified some jarring truths found within the poetry of Maya Angelou.

Of historical significance, each document, word and song gives a different perspective. Each delivered through a unique text type. All expressing, through their very existence, the promise of those who chose, by God’s grace, to live in victory, not victimhood.

There the theological reality forms a solid ledge for us all to safely stand on. It’s established in knowing the difference between human triumphalism and God’s triumph in Jesus Christ.

We have victory because Jesus is Victor! It means that we shall indeed overcome. With this comes the need to recognise that even  with our effort, the entire credit belongs to God (Psalm 115).

It is on our behalf that God acts. Through His act we are pointed beyond our broken stories, beyond ourselves, towards His Word to where the roar of new life breaches the walls of apparent darkness.  It is by His act that we are released to respond boldly to the present, bravely forgive, learn from the past and teach towards tomorrow.

‘The past not only shapes and illuminates the present but anticipates the future.’
– Alistair McGrath [ii]


Source:

[i]  Quote: ‘God still owns tomorrow’ is from Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be A Woman 1999, p.31

[ii] ‘Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution’ HarperCollins, 2007, p.10

Cover of Brennan Manning’s passing prompted this tribute-contemplation. I invite you to grab a cup of coffee, tea or glass of water. Sit and dwell with me, pondering on the significance of what happens when, despite human opinion, the Glory that God deserves is given back to Him.

 ‘The ragamuffin Gospel’ is an impassioned critique of churches that worship doctrine, conceal God and betray grace. He states that ‘Jesus invites sinners and not the self-righteous to his table’[1]. This re-enforces his concern that the church can at times project a ‘watered down Grace’[2]. Consequently, what is demanded is an allegiance to doctrine rather than an alignment to Christ. This makes for a ‘twisted gospel of grace, and results in a religious bondage which distorts the image of God’[3]. For instance, ‘any Church that will not accept that it consists of sinful men and women, and exists for them, implicitly rejects the gospel of Grace’[4].

Reputation is not character. Some of the current expressions of church value appearances over against substance. They are communities defined by ‘fatal narcissism of spiritual perfectionism’[5]. This is form of sophistry that begins with the individual Christian. Brennan Manning argues that anybody who focuses on a pious reputation over against character is wrong. This exists where ’fellowships permit no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal their sin from themselves and from their fellowship’[6]. Here it is easy to see the pragmatic and contextual out working of Manning’s insightful comment, ‘our doing becomes the very undoing of the gospel’[7].

Consequently some churches become consumed with public appearance[8]. Putting on a show becomes God. This idol turns our conformity into a way to earn salvation, rather than a doorway for discovering salvation. For example: the impossible ideal of a perfect Pastor. Someone who looks great in a suit, has the newest model car, the castle sized mortgage, the beautiful smiling husband or wife, the 2.5 well behaved scripture quoting children and an unblemished Church attendance record. Such standards are closer to the ‘strange paradoxes of the American Dream’ (King), which is only really mounted on the metaphor that, ‘castles made of sand fall…melt…and slip into the sea eventually’ (Hendrix, 1967). While modesty and self presentation is beneficial for every Christian, it does not make you a Christian nor does it necessarily reflect your salvation[9].

A dichotomy exists between being righteous and appearing righteous. Evidence of this is found in the ‘seeming good is better than doing good age’ (Bolt) which feeds self-righteous and Lordless (Wright) ‘isms’. Those who propagate such ideology, reject the theological Trinitarian reality that grace is a gift of acceptance from the Father, transferred to us through Son and worked out in our lives by the Spirit. God’s ‘furious love’[10] for humanity funds dignity, grace and mercy. This begins with the acceptance of grace, ‘for acceptance means simply to turn to God’[11]. This is an encounter where I am no longer removed from my problems, my sin and my inability to repent because I ‘accept the reality of my human limitations’[12]. In other words, Manning does not endorse a ‘fast-food-cheap grace’ Churchianity.

The Ragamuffin Gospel presents a relational God who reaches into the ragamuffin’s brokenness and provides rescue, ‘inviting us to be faithful to the present moment, neither retreating to the past, nor anticipating the future’[13]. I come to accept that through grace I am dignified and worthwhile. This is the description of a loving Father caring for His children. God is not a manipulative father nor is He like the pagan gods, who demand sacrifice to appease their anger. We do not serve an angry, distant un-relational God who is unconcerned with who we and obsessed with our ‘’epic fails’’.

Manning illustrates for us that God seeks out the ragamuffin. Manning’s own ministry and his journey through alcoholism exemplify the message which ‘The Ragamuffin Gospel’ communicates.  The message of the Ragamuffin Gospel is about a freedom that is completely reliant on a view grace which does not abandon human culpability, in the name of ‘tolerance instead of love’ (Bill ‘birdsong’ Miller). This freedom is found only in a response to grace that empowers a living relationship with Jesus Christ. This freedom stands as a warning to those who ‘accept grace in theory but deny it in practice’ [14].Manning writes that the ‘deadening spirit of hypocrisy lives on in people who prefer to surrender control of their souls to rules than run the risk of living in union with Jesus’[15]. Being honest and expressing the need for grace and not works begins with us, the Church.

Writing on Paul’s letter the Galatians, Brennan Manning states:

‘written in the heat of the moment, the letter is a manifesto of Christian freedom. Christ’s call on your lives is a call to liberty. Freedom is the cornerstone of Christianity (see 2 Cor.3:17[16])…Freedom in Christ produces a healthy independence from peer pressure, people-pleasing, and the bondage of human respect. The tyranny of public opinion can manipulate our lives. What will the neighbours think? What will my friends think? What will people think? The expectations of others can exert a subtle but controlling pressure on our behaviour’[17].

Brennan Manning encourages Christians to let go of  demands which control us, by entering into step with the Spirit and consequently a life of freedom that is accountable to God. This freedom ‘lies not in ourselves, who are by nature slaves to sin, but in the freedom of his grace setting us free in Christ by the Holy Spirit’[18]. Christians are living in ‘the presence of God in wonder, amazed by the traces of God all around us’[19], not just in a building or a doctrine.

In concluding, the merit of this book is that Brennan Manning provides a reflection of the human struggle with addiction and idolatry. At times, Manning may seem a little unforgiving in his harsh critique of the institutional Church. Nevertheless what is clear is that Manning seeks to address practical atheism by reassessing doctrines and expressions of church, that have by default, replaced God.  In order to achieve this Manning asserts that the Christian walk is one of risk, founded on a dignity that is grounded solely in God’s intervention on our behalf. The Ragamuffin Gospel addresses the failure to live out independently the character of Christ without Christ. As a result Manning successfully reminds us that God is in fact consistent, fierce, loving and interested in messiness of our lives.


References:

Manning, B. 1990 The Ragamuffin Gospel, Multnomah Books, Sister, Oregon 97599, USA

Casting Crowns, 2003 American Dream: from the album Casting Crowns
[1] Manning, B. 1990, The Ragamuffin Gospel p.7, Authentic Classics, Multnomah books, Sis. OR.

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[2] Ibid, p.6
.
[3] Ibid, p.1
.
[4] Ibid, p.13
.
[5] Ibid, p.34
.
[6] Ibid, p.107 & p.115
.
[7] Ibid, p.39
.
[8] Ibid, ‘publicity’ p.1
.
[9] For example: Facebook memes that encourage us to ‘share if you’re saved’ or like ‘ if you want to be’. As if our spiritual status is determined by how many times we shared or liked such drivel.
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[10] Ibid, p.19
.
[11] Ibid, p.24
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[12] Ibid, p.31
.
[13] Ibid, p.35
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[14] Ibid, p.117
.
[15] Ibid, p.110
.
[16] 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (ESV)
.
[17] ibid, pp.120-121
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[18] ibid, p.129
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[19] Ibid, p.72