I wanted to say, “the best Christian author”, or “the most helpful”, or something even more final, but that would be less true.
Since I was around 19, my answer to “Who is your favorite Christian author” has always been: Brennan Manning.
He died last Friday and I am glad for the LORD and sad for the rest of us. Donald Miller wrote, very beautifully and helpfully in my opinion, here.
I like a lot of authors. My favorite regular writer is Andre Dubus. John Eldredge and John Piper were especially helpful around the same time I started reading Brennan Manning. But, most authors have some kind of agenda, niche, or cultural role that they play – Christian or otherwise. Manning wrote well, personally, specifically, beautifully; about the grace of Jesus.
In the acclaimed biography of Steve Jobs I remember reading, after he left Apple, that many people were sad because “He made the first computer people weren’t scared of”. In an age where Christianity is often scary or weird or irrelevant (for valid reasons each); Manning speaks of the real Jesus. Who is scary, but good. Weird but delightfully, humanly, powerfully so. And the most relevant human who ever lived.
I was in a college Sunday School class when a teacher (Methodist teacher; Manning is Catholic) urged us, repeatedly and with passion, to read the Signature of Jesus. So I did. Then I read Abba’s Child, etc. A very good friend and mentor references The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus in almost every conversation we have. Last year I bought Abba’s Child for a friend with serious addiction issues and then I re read it myself and periodically wrote to her about what I was enjoying about the book. Two years ago a friend with anxiety and I read the Importance of Being Foolish. My old pastor quoted Manning regularly, “I’m like an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.”
I will miss his books. I hope to finish reading them and to then set them next to Dubus’, who would’ve loved Manning. I hope to love and be loved as he did – only I hear Manning chuckling and reminding me that His Grace is sufficient for me, His pursuit wilder than I can imagine, and His love would overwhelm me if it came on any stronger!