Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (2004)

Brian McLaren is probably today’s most widely-read ‘progressive evangelical’. Surprisingly he’s never attended classes for credit in a theological institution, nor has any ordination qualifications from a bona fide denomination… ‘Rather I am a lowly English major who snuck into pastoral ministry accidentally through the back doors of the English department and church planting…’ But he’s very widely-read, writes in a racy, readable manner, and is au fait with modern, post-modern, and post-postmodern thinking. He’s honest, and the key reason he’s ‘progressive’ is that he rates ‘orthopraxy’ (right behavior) over ‘orthodoxy’ (right thinking).

A Generous Orthodoxy
is a book I wish I’d written. Below is my summary of his seminal ideas:

From John Franke’s introduction: The term ‘generous orthodoxy’ was coined by Yale theologian Hans Frei, to help move beyond the liberal/conservative impasse. It connotes a rejection of both liberal and conservative certainty/universal knowledge resulting from a commitment to Enlightenment Foundationalism. (The liberals constructed theology upon the foundation of unassailable religious experience; the conservatives looked to an error-free Bible. So a generous orthodoxy is ‘post-liberal’ and ‘post-conservative’ – to foster the pursuit of truth, the unity of the church, and the gracious character of the gospel). Jesus Christ is the center of the Christian faith. This faith, as Lesslie Newbigin articulates it, is exclusive (the revelation in Jesus Christ is unique, but not in the sense of denying the possibility of salvation to those outside the Christian faith); inclusive (refusing to limit the saving grace of God to Christians, but not in the sense of viewing other religions as salvific); pluralist (acknowledging the gracious work of God in the lives of all human beings, but not denying the unique and decisive nature of what God has done in Jesus Christ).

McLaren does not covet the last word – his aim (at times) is to be ‘provocative, mischievous, and unclear’ for the purpose of encouraging readers to think and enter into the conversation themselves.

Hans Frei: ‘Generosity without orthodoxy is nothing, but orthodoxy without generosity is worse than nothing.’


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Rowland Croucher


Geoff Leslie said...

I like B Mc and have read many of his works. I enjoyed 'Generous Orthodoxy' but I wondered if it was not a bit disingenuous. Picking out the easy bits out of a range of 'religions' without acknowledging they wouldn't be happy with that, and that in the end, the authority he sits under is his own taste.

Rowland Croucher said...

And yet, Geoff, the challenge for us is to suggest a different wording for these statements... My liberal friends tell me he's too tied to the primary authority of the Scriptures. My conservative friends reckon he lets too many people into heaven!

Thanks Geoff



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