Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Generous Orthodoxy

I finally got around to reading Brian McLaren's 'a Generous Orthodoxy' as my latest inSTALLment in the toilet reading series. I had almost bought the book a number of times over the past few years, but finally found it on discount for a few dollars some months back. I attribute the delay to my lack of interest in the 'emergent movement.' That being said, the book was interesting enough to merit completion.

I suppose, if anything, I am a little surprised that McLaren is so controversial in some circles. I didn't read anything startling. Some of the reviews I'd read of the book were completely unfounded. Most of his thoughts resonated with me. The Christian life IS about a walk, not just a bunch of head knowledge. The Bible IS a narrative, not a proof-text container. I really liked the early chapter titled 'The 7 Jesuses I Have Known' which was a bit of a background on McLaren's own testimony. And while the 'Why I Am _____' chapters got a little boring toward the end, I was still compelled to finish.

In summary, I'd have to say that I think well of McLaren and his book. Some of his statements are 'fundamentally incorrect' (so to speak), but not actually incorrect (in my opinion). I, frankly, loved his writing style. I wish all (or at least most) Christian writers wrote so casually and openly. Overall, I applaud McLaren's offering.


Dancin' said...

I've never read "Generous Orthodoxy." In reading other articles by McLaren and talking with McLarenites, I'm curious what you think about McLaren's statements about we shouldn't be Christians but Christ followers This does not seem controversial at all, until he expands on it.He talks about being a Christ follower in other religions. Like a Christ following Muslim, or Christ following, Buddhist.

I'm not sure how this is actually possible. In the examples I listed Jesus can only be recognized as a "good man" at most, which goes against our most foundational Christology. In Islam Jesus is only recognized as a prophet, and in Buddhism there are no deities. Thus, in both of those you would have to surrender Christ's deity in order to remain within the religions, or surrender the tenets of the religion in order to be a Christ follower. I'm more inclined people do that later. However, this would mean they're no longer a Christ following (insert religion here).

Perhaps he doesn't speak of this in "GO". Do you see how this could be possible?

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia has a section on BM's controversial views in its article about him.

Jan said...

Matthew Aaron Rose! "toilet reading series"? is that any way to talk?

Bryan said...

oooooooooooooooooo!!!!!! BUSTED!!!


matthew said...

:) oops


McLaren DOES get into that subject in the book, but I found him to be purposefully provocative in his wording. If I'm reading him correctly, it's really not that bold of a position. He was making a point about how so much of contemporary american Christianity is more 'american' than 'christianity' and THEN makes the point that people from other cultures can stay Buddhist or Muslim or whatever yet start following Christ. In other words, I think his point was more that Christianity needn't eliminate culture ADDED TO the idea that there is some good in every religion (and the good needn't be thrown out with the bathwater)

Dancin' said...


I totally agree that we should not be westernizing other cultures under the guise of Evangelism, we actually talked about that very pitfall in allot of our Global ministry classes at BBC. We spent a great deal of time pealing the clothes of our culture away from the essence of the Gospel.

I do think that it is impossible to remain faithful to the truth of Christ, while remaining faithful to other "religions".

Thank you for your kind response. Some times I wonder if I'm just being "ornery".

Lindy said...

I do think that it is impossible to remain faithful to the truth of Christ, while remaining faithful to other "religions".

I agree. However I know that it's very possible to be a "cultural Muslim" and an Orthodox Christian. Things like keeping kosher, being comfortable attending weddings and funerals in a Mosque, keeping the dress of a proper muslim and praying to Jesus four (I could be wrong about the #) times a day when the entire city you live in shuts down anyway are four ways that I can think of that don't at all mess with your relatioship with Christ but are still very "Muslim" things to do.

I think that's what McLaren was talking about.

matthew said...

I'll provide a little more info on McLaren's position from the book itself:

There is a chapter entitled 'Why I am incarnational,' but he admits that the original title was going to be a provocative 'why I am Buddhist/Muslim/Hindu/Jewish'

He comments that "the original title proved excessively provocative, however, if not downright misleading."

I'll quote the paragraph most dedicated to our discussion:

"I must add, though, that I don't believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus AND remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts. This will be hard, you say, and I agree. But frankly, it's not at all easy to be a follower of Jesus in many 'Christian' religious contexts, either."

Since McLaren is still talking about being disciples of CHRIST, I think it's clear that he's talking about cultural contexts. In other words, there's no reason for a Christ-follower to stop practicing all aspects of their religious culture, only those aspects (if any) that go against following Christ.

Having read the whole book, I'm willing to be 'generous' in my interpretation of his meaning.

Dancin' said...

Lindy, in the example of the Islam, it's hard to parse the culture from the religion because in their theology the two are intrinsically connected. It's non-nonsensical to a Muslim, when we speak of the US as independent of Christianity, or to refer to Afghanistan separate from Islam. I do not see anything wrong with a Christian praying 3 times a day, while the Muslims do their praying towards Mecca, or wearing the head coverings.

Matthew, I agree with being Incarnational and adopting the culture. I do NOT agree with syncretism, which is where it seems McLaren has, perhaps unintentionally, gone. Paul spoke very strongly to the church in Corinth when other religious cultural practices were brought into the church.

I'll have to read "GO" to understand what he means by the various religious contexts. It's one thing to sit and meditate on Scripture. It's another thing to sit and meditate as a Buddhist. Active engaging of Scripture vs passive "reception" of whatever enters into it.

Jo said...

I'm glad you liked this book! :)