We live in a crazy, experience-driven world. This empirical philosophy has crept into the church and is, unfortunately, gaining ground. This has been introduced by droves of pastors and popular authors, none more prolific than Brennan Manning. In the updated version of Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging we have the best, if that can be said, version of his cave-dwelling, mind-emptying, experience-hungry mysticism.
Manning, like his pastoral counterparts, has enjoyed a popular and large following from those who are moving towards Christianity and the experience of God in their lives. Their version of the faith, often called Contemplative Spirituality, has its roots in a Roman Catholic flavor of Eastern Mysticism. Some aspects of this new direction include a form of meditation or emptying oneself of ourselves to the point that we may be filled up with Christ, that we may obtain a consciousness where Christ dwells.
On the surface, and to those who don’t know better, this sounds very attractive. It’s very seeker-sensitive and I believe that may be what lies behind the masses of Ragamuffin Christians. The only difference between this version of the Christian life and that of a Zen Buddhist is that for Brennan and his passionate followers, zen is being like Christ and not the absence thereof.
To be sure, there are some positive trajectories in this volume. He does want to orient the Christian towards the fact that God is our Father and relates to us as such. Though I find his method in getting there a bit convoluted and misguiding, many of his conclusions I would agree with. One quote for example, though to my readers it may seem out of context, reads “If I find Christ, I will find my true self and If I find my true self, I will find Christ”. To me that sounds highly questionable but it may just be me.
Apart from painting God as a flowery and loving Father, his mystical leanings, and his methodology this book is not the worst. I don’t know that its outright heresy but it seems to be trending in that direction were someone to take the methods to their complete conclusions. I don’t know that this flavor of Christianity can withhold a shaking of its worldview foundation, that being god-consciousness as the goal of the Christian life. I would not recommend this volume to those starting out in the Christian faith, or those seeking to examine the faith. It’s just not somewhere I would go for the meat of the Word and a life consecrated to God.
Manning, Brennan. Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging. Colorado Springs: Nav, 2015. 192. Print.