Review of Brennan’s Manning’s Memoir, All Is Grace

I was asked to review Brennan Manning’s new  memoir All Is Grace by the publisher, David C Cook, and as always, I am not required to give a positive review but an honest one.

It’s easy to love this book. It’s been a while since I’ve read a memoir (Eugene Peterson’s Pastor is on the to-read shelf and I need to get on that). In Brennan’s case, it helped that I already liked his work, but I think when available, memoirs are an excellent place to start when you are coming to someone’s work late. (I remember reading books on Luther, Wesley and Lewis before reading their work, made a world of difference for me). My suggestion is that if you have never read/heard of Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel or Abba’s Child to read All Is Grace first,

Most of my readers are fellow Protestants and I’d like to encourage that our reading include those outside of our tradition. A few Catholic thinkers come to mind (Henry Nouen, Peter Kreeft) and Brennan Manning is an excellent choice.

It’s difficult for me to imagine someone entering into the priesthood. I’m sure some have a hard time imagine why anyone would want to go into the ministry at all but the Catholic priesthood is a difficult one for me to understand. Even more complicated, Manning entered just after he was finished with the Marines (yep, he enlisted, not drafted prior to college). In fact, soon into his priesthood training, he resolved it wasn’t for him, then as he was waiting to tell the head priest he was leaving, he prayed the stations of the cross and changed his mind again. Reading him tell the story was beautiful.

I appreciated his honesty concerning his what I would describe, an almost loveless upbringing, particularly, his relationship with his mom. If you don’t read till the end of the book, you missed it – moving, powerful, Christian.

I appreciated his forthrightness on his falling in love (he was a celibate priest!) and getting married, and sadly, his divorce. I think most would find inspiration by how honest he was in telling these stories. Should I live to see my seventies, I hope I can be as honest.

And lastly, I was quite interested in how he dealt with his alcoholism and related issues as he was managing his speaking career. I am inclined to think that he left a few pieces out there (and I suppose that is implied when he says in the beginning, “This is not a tell-all”) but I couldn’t help but wonder about a few more of the details of how he was able to maintain his itinerant speaking. Undoubtedly there are countless Christian speakers/musicians that are able to control their demons for their talk/performance/etc. but it’s been my experience that these types of “cover-ups” are maintained by a handful of people. Which leads me to the what I think the real tragedy of his life was – although Brennan had people around him, some that even confronted him, he was so good at eluding their accountability and he had some enablement.

Given all that, this book is not about a talented man that got by and was able to look back at his life and be humble, repentant and thankful that God used him to touch so many lives  – It’s much more than that. It’s a true testimony of a man who desired to be devoted to God but was insistent on sabotaging himself and the will of God at every turn. Brennan seems to know two things in his life: Despite his talents, he is his own worst enemy, and two, he knows he must cling to the grace of God to get him through – hence the title, All Is Grace. If you could only be convinced of two things, I’m not sure you could find something better.

Again, it’s a beautiful easy read and I hope you can grab a copy.


  1. Thanks Tim! I have this sitting on my shelf. Looking forward to getting to it some day :)

  2. Diane Stranz says:

    I’ve read a lot of reviews about Brennan Manning’s books, and the people who love him deeply feel that way because he was able to reassure them that God is kind, gentle and loving of even the most desperate reprobate, and I respect that. I was fortunate to grow up in the church and in a relatively functional family (i.e., I did not suffer child abuse or have others inculcate self-hatred within me) so unlike Brennan Manning and too many others, I was never crushed into doubting that God loved me.
    From an early age (6 or 7) I approached God regularly through private, reflective prayer the way Jesus taught, with the desire that God conform my character into that of His Son so I could grow up to be someone who would do even more in the world than Jesus did (which is what Jesus promises us in John 14:12 is his legacy to the world.)

    By the age of 8 I could see the answers to those prayers in my growing strength of character, including my ever-increasing sensitivity to the feelings and perspectives of others, and that my actions toward them be moral and holy. To me this was concrete proof that my faith was not misplaced and God was as real as church and Scripture said He was, because I could see the fruits of godliness in my life (i.e., this was real evidence that He was working in my life as I had asked Him to).

    Here’s why I say all of this: it bothers me greatly that people who claim to live in close relationship to God (indeed, to regularly experience union with Him, as Brennan Manning claims) do not live lives which show any genuine evidence of that. My 40+ year walk with God has given me great strength of character, sound mental health, a resilience to withstand/heal from wounds imposed by the world, and a tendency towards morality, not sin. I have been broken and humiliated by the sinful actions of others, but because of God’s presence in my life, brokenness and humiliation have not led me to lash back and, thus, commit sin myself. To me THIS is salvation! That we are saved from being harmed permanently by the world because God gives us the strength to hold fast to His ways even when the trials of the world tempt us to act otherwise: the sins of others cause us to suffer temporarily, but God then restores us, and what is most important is that we are not led into sin ourselves. To say that one continues to commit sin after achieving union with God just makes no sense to me (at all).

    Yet despite the fact that Brennan Manning believes he encountered Jesus (and not a deceiver) in his first mystical experience — which happened before he went into the Marines and before he became a Jesuit priest — he later developed an extensive, lengthy and debilitating addiction to alcohol, was the cause of the failure of his marriage, and (from what I’ve read) appears to still suffer from recurring bouts of depression which have had destructive effects on his life (he once even blamed ‘depression’ for the fact that he fabricated a story for Christianity Today and allowed it to be published even though he knew it to be a lie).

    WHERE IS THE TRANSFORMATIVE, REDEMPTIVE POWER OF GOD IN MANNING’S LIFE? Especially since he talks repeatedly of regularly experiencing union with God via visions and spiritual experiences.

    The sign that a lost sheep has been “returned to the fold” (i.e., has been saved and is no longer lost) is a redeemed and transformed character. Whereas God is ready to love anyone, no matter how wretched and weak, He does not LEAVE US in that state of wretchedness and weakness! A genuine relationship with God bears fruits of holiness and sanctity, yet Brennan Manning’s life does not seem to reflect any more holiness or sanctity than the average secular man or woman on the street.

    I’m just saying. If relationship with God does not give us the power to resist sin and move increasingly towards holiness, then what’s it all about, really?

  3. EIleen Cichello says:

    “I thank you, Lord, that I am Not like the rest of men.” What arrogance this writer shows. I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

  4. Not sure which writer quoted the Pharisee in Luke 18 – can you clarify? Is this an honest comment or are you trolling?

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