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Brian McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy, reviewed by Raul Mock

From Pneuma Review Fall 2008

A Generous OrthodoxyBrian D. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional +evangelical +post/protestant +liberal/conservative +mystical/poetic +biblical +charismatic/contemplative +fundamentalist/calvinist +anabaptist/anglican +methodist +catholic +green +international +depressed-yet-hopeful +emergent +unfinished Christian (Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2004), 297 pages, ISBN 0310257476

No reader of this book will finish it unaffected. Critics of McLaren or the emergent conversation will have more disdain and “ammunition” for their polemics. Leaders—especially those aware of the shift from modernity, colonialism, Enlightenment thought to a pluralistic culture—will be informed and challenged by the contrast of values he identifies with.

More clearly presenting his beliefs here than in his narrative trilogy that started with A New Kind of Christian, McLaren draws out the strengths and biblical emphasis he finds in the breadth of Christian traditions—giving us one of the longest subtitles since the 18th Century. Or to put it another way, this book provides an answer for many criticisms fielded against McLaren’s emergent views while offering a more generous expression of orthodoxy.

In the chapter “Jesus: Savior of What?” McLaren writes, “Salvation is what happens when we experience both judgment and forgiveness, both justice (exposing the truth about our wrong) and mercy (forgiving the negative consequences we deserve). Without both we don’t end up with true salvation. … Forgiveness without conviction is not forgiveness: it is irresponsible toleration. It doesn’t lead to reconciliation and peace; it leads to chaos” (95, emphasis and parenthesis are his). In “Why I Am Emergent,” McLaren addresses relativism, “… I and others, while we aren’t ‘for’ pluralistic relativism, do see it as a kind of needed chemotherapy. We see modernity with its absolutisms and colonialisms and totalitarianisms as a kind of static dream, a desire to abide in timeless abstractions and extract humanity from the ongoing flow of history and emergence, a naïve hope to make now the end of history (which sounds like a kind of death wish or millennialism)” (256, emphasis and parenthesis are his). Of course, many Christians remain unconvinced that absolutism is a cancer to be expunged from the body of Christ.

“Jesus debated the Pharisees not so that his super-orthodoxy of the exclusively right could finally prevail over theirs, but so that his generous orthodoxy of God’s saving love for all could open wide the doors to God’s house, with a special welcome for the poor, the brokenhearted, the prisoners, the sick, and yes, even the mistaken” (295, emphasis his). Therefore McLaren’s lengthy subtitle may also be a symbol of challenge to all, especially those who value distinctions that set them apart from other Christians.

While I disagree with McLaren over some points, I deeply appreciate the generous invitation he has extended to join the conversation about what it means to be telling the story of Jesus with our whole lives.

Reviewed by Raul Mock

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Category: Fall 2008, Ministry, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Raul L. Mock is one of the founders and directors of the Pneuma Foundation and editor of The Pneuma Review. Raul has been part of an Evangelical publishing ministry since 1996, working with Information Services and Supply Chain Management for more than two decades. He and his wife, Erin, have a daughter and twin boys and live in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. LinkedIn

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