Review of A Generous Orhtodoxy

Title: A Generous Orhtodoxy
Author: Brian McLaren
Date Completed: 06/06/2005

Rereadability Rating: 2
Lifechangeability Rating: 1.5
Entertainment Rating: 2

I have so much to say, it’s going to be hard to condense it down, but so little time, I’ll have to. I’ve heard mixed things about this book. Mostly good. I know Amazon has an “Emergent Church” storefront, and that McLaren is a big player in “The Emergent Church”. I’d like to be able to tell people my views on it (and McLaren). The book boils down to this: McLaren mixes his takes on Post-modernism (and post post-modernism) and takes the “good” from each side of Christianity he’s been exposed to and tries to create a new “generous orthodoxy”.
He states his goal this way (Page 18): “The approach you’ll find here, which might be called postcritical, seeks to find a way to embrace the good in many traditions and historic streams of Christian faith, and to integrate them, yielding a new, generous, emergent approach that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

A few unsorted things about the book:
1. He rambles
2. It seems like he tries too hard to be profound (especially the last sentence in the book)
3. He starts out defensive (“I know people will label me a heretic because of this, but…”), which is an interesting posture. It makes him come across as someone who wants to complain about issues but doesn’t know a good solution to the problem.

Maybe I’m just naive about how post post-modernism (or whatever) and the philosophies of the ages are evolving (likely). BUT, I can’t get around how little meat there was in the book. I’ve heard from a friend about this book, “No answers, but lots of interesting questions.” And I agree. The book is just so caught up in cultural relativism. Writing this review, I now know why he was so self-effacing and defensive. Because when you object to him, it somehow loses its power because he’s already called you on it. Well, let me just let some snippets from the book, that I highlighted in red, speak for themselves (hopefully…if you don’t understand why I have objections to some of these, let’s talk):

  • (actually from the forward) Page 12 – “the biblical witness to Jesus Christ as the unique Savior and hope of the world does not demand a restrictive posture concerning salvation for those who have never heard the gospel or those in other religious traditions”
  • Page 32 – “[the approach of a generous orthodoxy] comes not to bury doctrinal distinctives, but to put them in their marginal place”
  • Page 60 – “While I believe that actual miracles can and do happen…I am sympathetic with those who believe otherwise, and I applaud their desire to live out the meanin of the miracle stories even when tehy don’t believe the stories really happened as written”
  • Page 69 – “I believe God was in Jesus in an unprecedented way.” (emphasis mine)
  • Page 75 – “This is as good a place as any to apologize for my use of masculine pronouns for God in the previous sentence”
  • Page 97 – “I am a Christian because I believe that, in all these ways, Jesus is saving the world. By ‘the world’ I mean planet Earth and all life on it.”
  • Page 112 – “But what about heaven and hell? you ask. Is everybody in? My reply: Why do you consider me qualified to make this pronouncement? Isn’t this God’s business? Isn’t it clear that I do not believe this is the right question for a missional Christian to ask?”
  • Page 165 – “It’s no surprise then that biblical Christians have thrived when we’ve used the Bible with the goal of becoming good people who, because we follow Jesus, do good works in God’s good world.
  • Page 166 – (speaking of those who are “Biblical Christians”) “Their words and deeds together have qualified them to be bearers of good news.”
  • Page 254 – “The Christian faith, I am proposing, should become (in the name of Jesus Christ) a welcome friend to other religions of the world, not a threat. We should be seen as a protector of their heritages, a defender against common enemies, not one of the enemies. Just as Jesus came originally not to destroy the law but to fulfill it, not to condemn people but to save them, I believe he comes today not to destroy or condemn anything (anything but evil) but to redeem and save everything that can be redeemed or saved).
  • Page 267 – “But ‘the Christian religion’ is neither the ultimate goal of Jesus nor the ultimate goal of God, in my view. Rather, the goal of Jesus is the kingdom of God, which is the dream of God, the wish and hope and desire of God for creation-like a parent’s hopes and dreams for a beloved child. Sometimes the Christian religion cooperates with that desire and serves as a catalyst for it. Sometimes it doesn’t, obstructice or even contradicting the coming of God’s kingdom. (This depresses me.) But even when it doesn’t, that doesn’t mean it can’t cooperate again in the future-if it repents. The same can be said of every religion in the world. (Thus I am hopeful.)” (emphasis mine)
  • Page 286 – “Emergent Christians (post-liberal, post-conservative) see pluralistic relativism as a dangerous treatment for Stage 4 absolutist/colonial/totalitarian modernity (to use language from cancer diagnosis), something that saves a life by nearly killing it.”
  • Page 287 – “I am trying (with Ken Wilber’s help) to make clear that I believe there is something above and beyond the current alternatives of modern fundamentalism/absolutism and pluralistic relativism.”

There you have it. Some snippets that support what he said some people would think (that he believes in relative pluralism). He nailed me. I’m busted. I’ve been becoming more and more part of the crowd that this book was written against (if he’s against any crowd…seems there’s value in everything somehow), mostly because of books like this.

Amazon Link

Note: This book review has been included in my site for historical purposes. I might not hold the same views as I did when it was written. If I don’t, hopefully I’m more right now…

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