A Generous Orthodoxy – Brian Mclaren

6 09 2009

mclarenI read this book to see what all the fuss was about. This guy has certainly copped a lot of negative press. I’m certainly more sympathetic to the emergent cause, but I have my concerns and reservations about it too. I had a good laugh at his story of the 7 Jesus’ he had met mostly because I had come across all those Jesus’ in my own walk with the Lord, and life in the Church. This book certainly was entertaining.However I cannot in good faith recommend this book to anyone for several reasons. The book has several fundamental flaws. Firstly it is not good enough to create a straw man position of one denomination of Christianity, beat that up and claim to have proven your point. Not all conservative evangelicals are focused exclusively on the death of Jesus, not all eastern orthodox are focused exclusively on the incarnation. I felt that Mclaren did not give the other sides a fair hearing. This is where Mclaren’s lack of theological training has let him down. The book tried to cover too many points and denominations without critically reflecting on any of them. Neither did he cite any authors who claimed to be representative of the positions he was critiquing.

Secondly, if Mclaren is truly interested in reaching people, cutting across denominational lines, and trying to affirm what we all have in common, then there is a better way to do that. It is the Gospel that unites us. The Good news that Jesus is Lord of the Whole earth, he has truimphed over the forces of sin and death, broken the power of death, and that we can all be a part of that the offer of forgiveness and the call to the obedience of Faith. Our unity comes from understanding that Gospel more and more. Mclaren did do some good to redefine what that saving work really meant, but seemed to stray from that good work later in the book.

For the most part this book left a bitter taste, and did not come across as the work of someone truly concerned for the unity of the Church. Some may find some good in here, but it would be the mature Christian who really had patience to sort the wheat from the chaff, and I could not in good faith give this to a new Christian.

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3 responses

7 09 2009
Mason

Thanks for this review Grant.
I read Generous Orthodoxy a few years ago and I think you’re right that McClaren gives a very reductionist understanding of different traditions/denominations.
There were things that rang true in the book, but he’s written better for sure. All in all I think this one got more press because it takes a swing at pretty much everyone.

7 09 2009
Mason

I read Generous Orthodoxy a few years ago and I think you’re right that McClaren gives a very reductionist understanding of different traditions/denominations.
There were things that rang true in the book, but he’s written better for sure. All in all I think this one got more press because it takes a swing at pretty much everyone.

12 09 2009
aworthydiscussion

yeah quite true, I don’t think there was a denomination he didn’t swing at! I found the tone very negative, and lacking in any decent critical reflection. While things rang true, it was mostly at a surface level and I found myself saying a lot of times “Well thats how it may appear, but its not true to say its all like that…”

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