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.