Sunday, February 13, 2005

A Generous Orthodoxy

Just finished Brian D. McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy and I enjoyed it more than I was expecting. I had read his A New Kind of Christian and had mixed feeling about it. Much of what he had to say about authentic faith resonated with me. However his habit of labeling anything positive as 'postmodern' was quite annoying. It was almost as if postmodernity was going to save the faith. Not much better than others who label anything they don't like 'postmodern'. A New Kind of Christian seemed to be written for American Evangelical who hadn't read enough CS Lewis, yet often spoke as if it was addressing issues with the entire world wide Church.

In A Generous Orthodoxy McLaren speaks in the first person, recounting his own spiritual journey and what he's learned from various branches of the Christian tradition and why he identifies with them. This grounds the book in McLaren's personal story, not that of an abstracted every-pastor. I agree with McLaren that theology is best understood in the context that birthed it; reading McLaren's theology in the context of his own story make more sense than in an imaginary story.

The central message of the A Generous Orthodoxy is that the Gospel calls us to a life of love. Anything we do in the name of Orthodoxy can not not violate that call to love. McLaren applies this to each of the groups looks at, looking for what each of them has to offer the rest of the Church.

McLaren is not afraid to critique the Church and it's failings, but he does this with a good deal of humility and grace. For me, the strongest part of the book comes near the end. McLaren argues that we can not separate ourselves from our Christian forerunners. We need to learn from their successes, how they learned to love in their contexts. We also need to learn from their failures, and be humbled by them. If we separate ourselves from the past failings of the church, blaming them on those Catholics, Protestants, Conservative or Librals, we prevent ourselves from learning from their flawed humanity. A flawed humanity is a state we all share and need to lear to deal with.

While I can't say I agree with everything McLaren has to say, I do agree that we must be Generous to be Orthodox.

- Peace

1 comment:

James Fletcher Baxter said...

Most often ignored as 'flaw' is the vast void of a universe-sized ignorance of each human being. It will never in this world be close to being filled with human knowledge.

It is only with this flaw acknowledged that we are qualified to be teachable. Well occupied with filling our own void we may surrender criticism of others and their errors and dwell on the Lord's worthiness which will hopefully bring about a choice worthy of another mini-knowledge creature who was made in His image. Psalm 25|:12