Thursday, September 18, 2008

Book Review: a Generous Orthodoxy

So, I've been curious to read this book since it came out four years ago. In various reviews, I've read a lot of backlash, and had mentally placed this book in the 'books I SHOULD read but am putting off until I've read everything else on my bookshelf first' category.

Well, I finally got around to reading the book and was amazed at how much I enjoyed it! I just couldn't put it down. For a girl from a mostly non-denominational Christian background, I found McLaren's descriptions of various streams of faith to be fascinating.

Critics accuse him of attempting to piece-meal a post-modern version of Christianity "with an eccentric mix of theological elements pieced together from main denominations and even many different religions", or that "he embraces relativism at the cost of clarity in matters of truth and intends to redefine Christianity for this new age, largely in terms of an eccentric mixture of elements he would take from virtually every theological position and variant."

Yet, I didn't come away feeling that McLaren was trying to impose a new, mish-mashed form of Christianity upon the rest of us. Rather, he holds to light the pearls of truth that were the impetus for each of many different Christian traditions (even while acknowledging how many have since lost sight of their honorable beginnings).

To better understand how other traditions are attempting to sincerely live out their faith, and to learn and draw from other's strengths can only help us be more loving and unified as the worldwide body of Christ, regardless of denomination. McLaren addresses the unity of the church this way, in my favorite passage of the book:

"We believe in one... church," the [Nicene] creed says, and that's no easy to swallow statement because we're surrounded by denominations, divisions, arguments, grand polemics, and petty squabbles. That's where the "we believe" part comes in: you can only know the unity of the church by believing it, not by seeing it. When you believe it, you can see through the surface dirt and cracks to the beauty and unity shining beneath. Generous orthodoxy presumes that the divisions, though tragic, are superficial compared to Christianity's deep, though often unappreciated, unity. Perhaps the more we believe in and perceive that unity, the easier it will be to grow beyond the disunity." p. 250

The church, not the building, but the family of God's adopted children, should indeed be radiantly beautiful. Let's spend a little less time taking sides and articulating our differences, and focus more on how amazing and merciful our loving God is to each of us. Sounds pretty generous to me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In your position you should know better, and I charge you to rethink your book review! Additionally, whatever position you take, in the name of Jesus the Christ, post your reply to this comment so that others may learn from it.

You wrote, “ I – was amazed at how much I enjoyed it! I just couldn't put it down. -, I found McLaren's descriptions of various streams of faith to be fascinating.” Additionally, you went on to say, “Let's spend a little less time taking sides and articulating our differences, and focus more on how amazing and merciful our loving God is to each of us. Sounds pretty generous to me.” Such pronouncements are an implicit endorsement for others to read the book.

As a youth minister, and/or the wife thereof, you do your flock great harm in promoting this book of apostasy, to young minds whose spiritual maturity may not be much beyond the milk of the Gospel message found in John 3:16.

You mention that there are critics who accuse the author of various things (e.g., an apostasy and rejection of the Bible as the inerrant word of God and faith in Jesus the Christ alone for salvation), but you take no stand on those issues and only comment on what you “didn’t come away feeling.” That is a bad example for youth to follow.

Paul charged Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” Also, Paul warned that, “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth…” (2 Timothy 4:2-4a; NASB) What you feel should not be the basis of your opinion of such a clear attack on Jesus the Christ and the Cross. If you did not see it or recognize the threat, then I charge you to mature in your faith and refrain from posting book reviews.

Moreover, there is a big difference between avoiding “taking sides and articulating our differences” and standing up for what is true and right according to the Word of God. Thus, I will address two statements, which should have alarmed you out of many, and that a Christian must correct since they clearly are against the knowledge of God revealed through Jesus the Christ:

1) When the author, of a Generous Orthodoxy, writes, "we don't seek to root up all the bad weeds in the world's religions (including our own), but rather seek to encourage the growth of good wheat in all religions including our own, leaving it for God to sort it all out as only God can do;" (McLaren, Brian a Generous Orthodoxy. Zondervan 2004. p 255), it needs to be challenged in the light of the Bible. What McLaren is suggesting is that all people (e.g., Christians) should not promote their beliefs (such as on mission trips) because there is no truth or right belief about God and how to have a relationship with Him; and thus there is good and truth in all religions, which God will deal with on judgment day. Moreover, that is a repackaging of the notion that all roads lead to God, so people should not criticize anyone else’s spiritual journey. However, that contradicts what Jesus the Christ said about salvation, “I am the way and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:10; NASB); and, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the Gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of the false prophets…” (Matthew 7:13-15a).

2) When the author, of a Generous Orthodoxy, writes, “I don't believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion” (McLaren, Brian a Generous Orthodoxy. Zondervan 2004. p 260), it needs to be challenged in the light of the Bible. The “Christian religion” is outlined in the Bible (a Christian’s guide book), and therein it says, “and Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ’All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20; NASB). Therefore, when McLaren suggests to ignore, or not be adherent to, what God has instructed about Christian discipleship, it must be exposed and refuted.

It is the same lesson that the apostle Paul instructed the Corinthian church, on how to deal with false teachers, I remind and charge you. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-7; NASB)

For Jesus instructed us, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23; NASB). What is more, “Jesus answered and said to him, ’If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me’” (John 14:23-24).