Ragamuffin Repentance

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I have been reading the Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. What I have read so far is pretty good but I wanted to toss out a line that I had a few questions about.

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.” – p.75

I appreciate his sentiment that we don’t earn our salvation but I don’t think repentance is a work designed to earn anything. It is a response to God’s gracious acts on our behalf and forgiveness follows. Why else would Peter write, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

What do you think? Does Mr. Manning have a point and I am just missing it?

0 Responses

  1. Matt, it could be a matter of perspective. If we live in grace, we are forgiven. It is the realization of forgiveness that drives us to repentance. It is God’s Kindness, isn’t it, that draws us? For the saved, God is not waiting for repentance to save us or forgive us … it has already taken place. We are to respond with a broken spirit and a resolve to live in His grace in a fuller way. That’s what comes to mind this morning. Thanks for the good quote. Enjoy the book…it is among my top 10 Christian reads of all time.

  2. Its an interesting issue you’ve mentioned, I’ve always thought along the lines of (though not particularly systematically) that forigiveness is available and that repentence is the acceptance into the vine, and we are “grafted on” as Paul says in Romans.

  3. The Bible does not encourage Manning’s sort of sequential thinking. I haven’t read his book, but in this quote he speaks of forgiveness and repentance, but not of faith.

    When faith is genuine and full, it is invariably accompanied by repentance, a turn toward the God in whom we believe and trust.

    To put it another way, if real faith is an active faith, then faith’s first and immediate “act” is repentance. This is a response to hearing the Word that comes only from God.

    The Bible does not view any of this as something that people do in order to “get saved.” Rather, these are the things that happen and that people do as they receive the justification that is found only in Christ. And this is all from God who accomplishes it all by his Spirit.

  4. Matt,

    I too, as you, appreciate the sentiment that salvation is not earn through human efforts. And, as you, I am not quite sure what I think about the quote you shared with us.

    John Dobbs may have a valid point concerning perspective as the key to understanding Manning’s statement may be found in seeing this through the eyes of the saved.

    Wasn’t it the apostle John who stated that all saved persons sin, that a failure to accept this truth and claim otherwise equates one with a liar who does not possess the truth? He claimed that walking in the light allowed the blood of Jesus to continually cleanse our sins. It is my understanding that possessing a penitent heart is part of walking in the light. As such, true sorrow over sins committed and a willingness to seek God’s forgiveness is part of my daily walk with God, and doesn’t in any way earn the continual cleansing that I receive from walking in the light.

    If this is what Manning has in mind, then I would agree.

  5. I heard Brennan Manning in person at the National Pastors Convention a few years ago and he was quite a speaker–unique in every way–including his humor, but his spirit glowed sincere.


  6. To Manning’s point as I remember his logic, the forgiveness he refers to is what Christ did on the cross to forgive us. In that sense forgiveness comes first. Our repentance is in response to his call from the cross as we discover and are convicted by our sins.


  7. Steve,

    Thanks for the clarification. John and Chris have some good things to say but if what you have to say is true I guess those would be offshoots of the point Manning is trying to make (important nonetheless). That would make Manning’s statement similar to the old quote that exodus comes before Sinai.

    Do any of you think there is a distinction between the “offer of forgiveness” and forgiveness itself? It seems like on the cross and the resurrection comes an offer of forgiveness for those who put their faith in Christ (resulting in repentance, as Frank said) that ultimately leads to the forgiveness of sins. In effect forgiveness is more clearly portrayed in scripture as being received at baptism than at repentance (Rom 6:1-6 & Acts 22:16).

  8. Matt,

    I was focusing more on the perspective of the forgiveness a child of God experiences as he walks in the light. An example of my point would be that of my hitting my thumb with a hammer and cursing because of the pain, and then dying before I can ask God for forgiveness. It is my belief that if my lifestyle is that of walking in the light then I would not be lost based on the penitent heart I would have possessed. In that case, would forgiveness come before repentance? Perhaps I have missed it here, let me know if I have.

    I do believe there is a difference between the offer of forgiveness and experiencing forgiveness as a fact. I agree with you that forgiveness was offered to all as a result of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Titus expresses the fact that the grace that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us to live godly lives.

    I have heard a lot of people suggest that we have been too strict on our view of baptism, but I don’t agree with that assessment. I still believe baptism is the believers wedding ceremony, uniting us with Christ, washing away our sins in his blood, which results in being added to the family of God.

    I guess, that is why I agreed with John thought that it could be a matter of perspective, depending on whether one was focusing on a sinner in need of salvation or a son in covenant relationship with the Father.

    Thanks for the discussion, I am enjoying it.

  9. Matt, the perspective can be a theological one as well. I don’t know Manning’s theological perspective but it sounds like an evangelical approach which tends to see legalism in any action we might say is a condition to salvation. They tend to eschew any participatory act in salvation (repentance, baptism, etc.) as a work and thus condemn it as legalism. I believe that Jesus’ cross and resurrection are the foundation of our forgiveness but we still must participate in certain conditions in order for that forgiveness to be realized in our lives. I realize it is easy to make conditions become merits but still the Bible does require that we participate in God’s gracious activity in order for it to become ours.

    I like what Frank says about repentance.

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