Brennan Manning: False Teacher? Or Solid Christian?

Who is Brennan Manning? He is an author, speaker, was ordained as a Franciscan priest, and is popular in the contemplative prayer movement.  I know friends who like some of his quotes, and certain things that he has said I find no argument with, and actually agree with.  Yet perhaps some don’t know his entire belief system, and I know there are probably some pastors and other Christians who love some of his sayings, but are not aware of everything he teaches. For those people, I hope this helps shed some light on him and help you make good decisions.  My approach to any teacher, preacher, or author is this: if he/she is scripturally sound in almost all he teaches, but he teaches clearly heretical doctrines, he should not be considered a good resource for any Christian to use, and should be called out as a false teacher.  This is clearly commanded to us in scripture.

His Popularity

Brennan Manning is well liked.  He has been invited to speak at several Nazarene universities.  He has been a guest at the College Church on the campus of Northwest Nazarene. On her blog, exnazarene documents some of the speakers invited to speak at Mount Vernon, including Manning, who had spoken there in 2000.  Rev. Scott Peterson, chaplain at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, said this of Manning in 2009 on his webpage: “”Brennan Manning is scheduled to be on campus this fall, and I’m a big fan..”

Two of Manning’s books, Abba’s Child and Lion and Lamb, are listed as a resource book on Bethany First Church of the Nazarene’s website. In an article on Southern Nazarene University’s website on entire sanctification, Howard Culbertson quotes Manning favorably from his book, Ragamuffin Gospel. In the President’s message at chapel, Oct. 22, 2008 at Northwest Nazarene, Manning is also quoted favorably by the college president.  The lead pastor at Midland Community Church of the Nazarene lists Manning as one of his favorite authors, along with emergent favorite Rob Bell. Dr. Eugene Stow recommends Manning’s Signature of Jesus on the Nazarene Theological website.  On the Chaplains Notebook page from 2006, at Olivet Nazarene University, Manning’s book Ruthless Trust is listed as a favorite, along with Henry Blackaby, a promoter of contemplative spirituality.

Max Lucado, popular Christian writer, quotes Manning favorably as well.  Rich Mullins, well-known Christian artist, named his band Ragamuffin Band after one of Manning’s books.  Manning was quoted by the band dc Talk for an intro to their song, What If I Stumble?  On the Nazarene Pastors Ministry Development page, Manning is quoted. Cuyahoga Falls Nazarene Church recommends his book, Abba’s Child, as a resource. There are a whole lot more who love his writings, but there is not space to list them all.

What Does Brennan Manning Believe?

Quote: “[T]he first step in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer. … enter into the great silence of God. Alone in that silence, the noise within will subside and the Voice of Love will be heard. … Choose a single, sacred word … repeat the sacred word inwardly, slowly, and often” (Signature of Jesus, pp. 212, 215, 218).

This is a promotion of the practice of centering prayer, one of the methods used in contemplative spirituality practices which by the way can be performed equally by non-Christians as well, according to Richard Foster and others.

In his book, A Time of Departing, Ray Yungen comments: “I am aware that Foster and Manning both say things that would stir the heart of any Christian. But the issue here is one of mysticism. Is their mysticism legitimate? Biblical meditation and prayer, as found abundantly in the book of Psalms, is not to stop thinking about God but rather to think intently on God and to direct all our thoughts toward God.   I challenge the Christian community to look at the facts surrounding the contemplative prayer movement and see its connection to New Age occultism and Eastern mysticism. Just because a writer is emotionally stirring, sincere, and uses biblical language does not necessarily mean he or she advocates sound, biblical truths.(2nd ed., pg 88-89).

Quote: “I am deeply distressed by what I only can call in our Christian culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians, the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself. In a word–bibliolatry … I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants” (The Signature of Jesus).

Bibliolatry! Perhaps I have finally discovered the source of this ridiculous accusation against Bible believing Christians!  Some of the scripturally confused people on NazNet frequently use this excuse to reject those who believe in biblical inerrancy- that the Bible is God’s word, and is infallible in ALL it teaches, and is authoritative in all things.  Of course we don’t worship The Book- but where else can we find the information we need to know about Christ and what He has revealed to us for our faith and practice? What arrogance, and actually, what a silly notion to say that those who respect God’s word are idolaters!

Quote: “[I]f I find Christ, I will find my true self and if I find my true self, I will find Christ.” (Abba’s Child)

He also says that Dr. Beatrice Bruteau is a “trustworthy guide to contemplative consciousness.” Who is Beatrice Bruteau?

She is the founder of The School for Contemplation, and she believes God is within every human being. She wrote the book, What We Can Learn from the East.  “We have realized ourselves as the Self that says only I AM, with no predicate following, not “I am a this” or “I have that quality.” Only unlimited, absolute I AM” [A Song That Goes On Singing – Interview with B.B.].  When Brennan Manning says she is trustworthy, does he mean we can trust her when  she says we are all I AM?  (Lighthouse Trails Research)

This kind of thinking smells like universalism and a belief in the divinity of man that permeates the religious culture of today, and is being mindlessly accepted by evangelical Christians!

Quote: “The first step toward rejuvenation begins with accepting where you are and exposing your poverty, frailty, and emptiness to the love that is everything. Don’t try to feel anything, think anything, or do anything … Don’t force prayer. Simply relax in the presence of the God you half believe in and ask for a touch of folly” (The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 196).

Manning also encourages the use of mantras and emptying the mind in The Ragamuffin Gospel. He instructs Christians to repeat an eight-word mantra (“The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing”) for 10 minutes.  (David Cloud, Beware of Brennan Manning).  Have any of you tried this at home, and what does it do for you?  A better question is, is this scripturally sound?  And what pastor has ever taught you to “not feel anything, or think, or do anything… don’t force prayer.”  If so, he has taught you the basic principles of emptying the mind/practicing the silence; and as Richard Foster has warned, you’d better pray a prayer of protection first, because you don’t know what kind of spirits will enter!”

Manning also says we should “listen to people in other denominations and religions” and we shouldn’t “find demons in those with whom we disagree” (The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 65).

This is an obvious support of the ecumenical movement, which is infecting many denominations, including the Nazarene church.  A welcoming tolerance (actually acceptance) of Roman Catholic beliefs and practices is evident in practically all our universities and in many churches today.

In Ragamuffin Gospel, he says, “God is a kooky God who can scarcely bear to be without us” (The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 165).

Would you ever want to call God a kooky God?  This is nothing more than a blasphemous statement about Him.  David Cloud described this book as “having a polluting effect on individuals and churches”, and I fully agree with him.

If you are more aware of what he is about now, I pray that you will stay away from his work and do not recommend his books.  They are filled with the poison of false teaching, in the midst of all the nice and harmless things he says.  If you have been well aware of what he believes and teaches, and you are still promoting him, may you repent from this mistake and reject his work.  I don’t think there is a Christian pastor around who can biblically defend any of this (and more) that I have presented to you.  If so, please write me and I will publish your defense for everyone to learn from.  It must be biblically supported or I will not post it.

I don’t believe Brennan Manning’s work should be a part of any Christian university library or curriculum, or in any Christian church.  What do you think?

For more complete articles on Manning’s heretical views, see the following:

Beware of Brennan Manning (David Cloud, Way of Life)

Beware of the Ragamuffin Gospel (David Cloud, Way of Life)

Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing (Mike Gendron)


2 responses to “Brennan Manning: False Teacher? Or Solid Christian?

  1. While this is sad news it is not shocking considering the state of the Nazarene denomination as well as that of others.

    One word you forgot to use to describe Brennan Manning is the term “relevant.” Once this tag phrase gets applied to a speaker/teacher/author or pastor his or her popularity transcends denominations as well as religions. However, in many cases relevant rarely means “biblically sound” but this is overlooked because the person is deemed to be “relevant”.

    Sadly, the modern church uses a pragmatic approach for most things, and has the idea “if the ministry has fruit (people/followers) then it is of God.” With this idea applied to Brennan Manning it is easy to see why he is so popular. In fact, he is so popular, in almost every circle, there is very little negative written about him (except for the ultra conservative, fundamental, “bibliolitors”).

    Most people forget or just don’t know what the Bible says in Luke 6:26 – Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.

    We have been fooled into believing that Christians should focus on what we have in common with other religions and teachings and not what our differences are. However, lets say we have two pills both are the same color, same taste, same size, same weight. In fact, they are 99% identical except one is “aspirin” and the other is “cyanide”. Now if you have a headache you are not concerned with the 99% in common but rather the 1% difference because the 1% difference will kill you.

    The same is true in our spiritual life. Even if Brennan Manning was 99% correct the 1% of heresy that he is teaching is enough to kill our spiritual life and our walk with Christ if we swallow what he is teaching.

    Thank you bro Manny for your research on this.

    Grace and Peace

  2. I read the signature of Jesus and picked up on the bibliolatry tag as well. Plus, at the end of the book, Manning juxtaposes well known figures such as Hitler, Billy Graham, Hugh Hefner, and Mother Teresa and very much gives the impression they all make heaven.
    He has claimed not to be an universalist. I think that means he believes Jesus is the only way, but at the same time, it sounds as if he believes Jesus is going to accept everyone, regardless of their accepting Him.
    No real distinction from the standard universalist if that’s the case.

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