19 January 2011
McLaren, Brian. A Generous Orthodoxy. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.
I was browsing the 200s at my library (yes, I do browse through non-fiction on occasion), and I found this book. I was intrigued by the subtitle: "Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, anabaptist/anglican, methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian." Feel free to go back to the top of that sentence and re-read it. I wasn't sure how McLaren could keep all those different ideas in his head without exploding, so I had to check this book out.
I wasn't disappointed. McLaren has a writing style that I enjoy, and I liked reading and thinking through his perspectives on these viewpoints within Christianity. If I can be so bold, I'd like summarize McLaren's point this way: every Christian denomination has some very good points and some points where they are very mistaken. Rather than judging others for their mistakes (realizing we have our own mistakes as well), we should celebrate the things people are getting right and rejoice in an enlarged community of believers, even if we don't all attend the same church on Sunday.
This is an interesting book. I agree with much of what I read. McLaren has a point about Christians being too willing to separate over disagreements and then declare that their new denomination has "all the answers," therefore closing the door to any sort of intellectual discourse. He's right when he says that discussing different viewpoints will lead more quickly to an open door for the Gospel than simply saying, "I'm right; you're wrong; let me tell you how Jesus loves you." I can understand, though, why his book has faced a bit of controversy. I can imagine the people who read only the title and couldn't comprehend agreeing with anything that McLaren has to say, and so condemned the book without reading it.
I think the old adage, "Don't judge a book by its cover" applies here. I also think the lesson I pounded into my students' brains, "Don't judge a book or a person who is reading a book unless you've read it yourself" applies here. And I strongly recommend that you read this book. It is interesting. It is thought-provoking. Even if you're sure you won't agree with him, perhaps you should read this book to see what it is you disagree with.
You may not agree with everything McLaren says (I don't, although I am not scheduling a book-burning anytime soon), but you won't know that until you read it. I am glad to have read this book, even though I have not decided to label myself as a super-hyphenated Christian in the way McLaren has self-identified.