A Generous Orthodoxy

A Generous Orthodoxy 

by Brian McLaren

Reviewed by Fraser Henderson

The word orthodoxy raises either hopes or disparaging mutters in the church today. To some it is regarded as a heavenly designed set of doctrines to be sought after. To others it is the buzz word of schisms and petty arguments.

In contrast, the word generous has rarely ever been applied to things Christian. It is a word that doesn’t roll off our tongues as often or as easily as we might like. The result of placing these two together in a book title seems paradoxical, and to endeavor to attempt an amalgamation of the two may seem futile, foolish, even arrogant.

This is why Brian McLaren’s epilogue to his book must be taken to heart before we judge and criticize what he has attempted to do in its contents. McLaren argues that in retrospect the book would have better been titled Notes Towards a Generous Orthodoxy. He does not presume to give answers or doctrines in their final state. Such a game plan for every possible event, he argues—with the exception of those doctrines where we exalt Jesus as Lord — contradicts a truly “generous” orthodoxy. Rather, he draws together liberal, conservative, Roman Catholic, and many other traditions to demonstrate how we can focus on being part of God’s creative work, here and now.

The word “generous” has rarely ever been applied to things Christian.

Three years ago I would have identified McLaren’s book as a work on how to compromise (I use this word in its most negative sense), how to join the liberal postmodern element that threatens our precious remnants of Christendom. What I see now is a call to dialogue, and a refreshing taste of a promising future, one within which I see the work of the living God being celebrated and brought about.

McLaren’s book is not futile, it is not foolish and it is certainly not arrogant. A Generous Orthodoxy is a search for God and his will while observing humility and patience with every possible godly encounter. The only assumption the book makes is that some Christians might be willing to listen, to consider the culture we find ourselves lost in and, rather than seeking a way out, engage and love a broken world in which God is building his kingdom. It leaves us with an aching question — will we stand aside and watch and wait for this kingdom or will we now roll up our sleeves and be the blessing we were meant to be?

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