What is Contemplative Spirituality and Why is It Dangerous? A Review of Brennan Manning’s The Signature of Jesus -- By: John Caddock

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 10:2 (Autumn 1997)
Article: What is Contemplative Spirituality and Why is It Dangerous? A Review of Brennan Manning’s The Signature of Jesus
Author: John Caddock


What is Contemplative Spirituality
and Why is It Dangerous?
A Review of Brennan Manning’s
The Signature of Jesus

John Caddock

Winchester, OR

The Never-Ending Review

Little did I know when I began to read The Signature of Jesus the time and effort that would be involved in understanding it. I am not a theologian by training. My background is in technical management in electronic component manufacturing. However, I stumbled onto something that I became convinced was very dangerous and little understood.

One reading was not enough for me to understand The Signature of Jesus. I found that it was like reading a book in a foreign language. I read many new expressions like contemplative prayer, centering prayer, centering down, paschal spirituality, the discipline of the secret, contemplative spirituality, celebrating the darkness, mineralization, the Mineral Man, practicing the presence, the interior life, intimacy with Abba, the uncloistered contemplative life, inner integration, yielding to the Center, the bridge of faith, notional knowledge, contemporary spiritual masters, masters of the interior life, shadow self, false self, mysterium tremendum, existential experience, and the Abba experience.1

I also encountered many writers I have never read before, including Kasemann, Burghardt, Merton, Van Breeman, Brueggemann, Moltmann, Nouwen, Küng, Steindl-Rast, Rahner, Bonhoeffer, Kierkegaard, and Camus.

I had to read the book three separate times before I was confident that I understood what Manning was saying. I even read it a fourth time for good measure.

Reading this book led me to read a number of other books and articles by and about leading mystics/contemplatives. I learned about the heart of Manning’s message, centering prayer.

Ultimately I felt I had to meet the man. I attended one conference he conducted. In addition, I purchased the tapes of another conference he conducted and pored over them.

Altogether I spent hundreds of hours trying to understand what Manning is saying. Why did I do this? Well, I began this study because three Free Grace Christian leaders whom I know endorsed Brennan Manning in his earlier book, The Ragamuffin Gospel. These men are bright, well educated, experienced in ministry, and heads of major works. Yet I had read a cautionary review of that book,2 and I wanted to read Manning for myself.

I continued the study because what I found...

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