In a sweeping exploration of belief, author Brian McLaren takes us across the landscape of faith, envisioning an orthodoxy that aims for Jesus, is driven by love, and is defined by missional intent. A Generous Orthodoxy rediscovers the mysterious and compelling ways that Jesus can be embraced across the entire Christian horizon. Rather than establishing what is and is not "orthodox," McLaren walks through the many traditions of faith, bringing to the center a way of life that draws us closer to Christ and to each other.
Whether you find yourself inside, outside, or somewhere on the fringe of Christianity, A Generous Orthodoxy draws you toward a way of living that looks beyond the "us/them" paradigm to the blessed and ancient paradox of "we."
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About the Author
Brian D. Mc Laren (MA, University of Maryland) is an author, speaker, activist and public theologian. After teaching college English, Brian pastored Cedar Ridge Community Church in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area. Brain has been active in networking and mentoring church planters and pastors for over 20 years. He is a popular conference speaker and a frequent guest lecturer for denominational and ecumenical leadership gatherings in the US and internationally.
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A Generous Orthodoxy
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,
incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian / Brian
Originally published: El Cajon, CA : Emergent YS ; Grand Rapids, MI :
Zondervan, c2004. With epilogue.
ISBN-10: 0-310-25803-0 (pbk.)
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-25803-2 (pbk.)
1. Christianity--Essence, genius, nature. I. Title.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible:
New International Version (North American Edition). Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by
International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan.
Some of the anecdotal illustrations in this book are true to life and are included with the permission of the persons involved. All other illustrations are composites of real situations, and any resemblance to people living or dead is coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means---electronic, mechanical, photocopy,
recording, or any other---except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.
Web site addresses listed in this book were current at the time of publication. Please contact Youth Specialties via e-mail (YS@YouthSpecialties.com) to report URLs that are no longer operational and replacement URLs if available.
Creative Team: Dave Urbanski, Jay Howver, David Sanford, Kristi Robison,
Janie Wilkerson, Laura Gross, Holly Sharp, & Ryan Sharp
Cover design by Mark Arnold
Cover photography by Blair Anderson
Printed in the United States of America
I am a Christian because I have a sustained and sustaining confidence in Jesus Christ. I've lost and rediscovered that confidence a few times, which is a long and messy story worth simplifying and boiling down to manageable length in these first chapters.
I know my original attraction to Jesus came as a young child. In my home and at Sunday school, I heard stories about Jesus. I remember a children's picture Bible that had a simple but beautiful picture of Jesus, seated, in a blue and white robe, with children of all races gathered around his knees. Some were leaning on him. Some were seated at his feet. Some had their arms around him. His arms were opened in an embrace that took them all in, and his bearded face carried a gentle smile a boy could trust.
Looking back, I realize the illustration wasn't historically accurate. It was influenced more by a popular Sunday school song that I also loved ('red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world') than by ancient Middle Eastern realities. But in a way, the picture was even truer than a historically accurate picture would have been; it probably would have had no red, yellow, black, or white children at all, but only brown Middle Eastern ones.
The picture Bible was augmented in my imagination by flannel graph stories about Jesus. Flannel graph was a kind of 1950s high-tech precursor of overhead projectors,
laptop video projectors, videos, and DVDs. The teachers were always kind women, sometimes even my own mother.
Each would tell stories with an easel behind her. On the easel would be a piece of flannel cloth with a scene drawn on it with markers---a countryside, a storm at sea, a courtyard with marble columns, a home, a roadside with big boulders beside it. As the story unfolded, cut-out figures backed with felt would be stuck on the flannel background
(felt and flannel being a gentle precursor of Velcro)---blind
Bartimaeus, Zacchaeus, a woman near a well, a nameless leper and his nine friends, a Roman centurion, or a Syrophonecian woman with a sick child. Through these stories,
Jesus won my heart.
When I reached my teenage years, though, I lost that Jesus as one loses a friend in a crushing, noisy, rushing crowd. The crowd included arguments about evolution
(which seemed elegant, patient, logical, and actually quite wonderful to me, more wonderful even than a literal six-day creation blitz), arguments about the Vietnam War
(which made no sense to me---even if communism was as bad as everyone said, were people better off bombed and napalmed to death?), arguments about ethical issues like civil rights and desegregation and a hundred other things.
I wondered if women were really supposed to be submissive to men and if rock 'n' roll was really of the devil. Were
Catholics really going to burn in hell forever unless they revised their beliefs and practices to be biblical like us?
After a short foray into doubt and a rather mild (all things considered) youthful rebellion, my faith in Jesus was revitalized, largely through the Jesus Movement. For those who were part of it, especially in its early days, the
Jesus Movement was a truly wonderful thing. There was a simplicity, a childlikeness, a naivete, and a corresponding purity of motive that I have seldom seen since. In fact, this book may simply be an attempt to articulate what many of us felt and 'knew' during those years.
But all too soon the Jesus Movement was co-opted.
It was to a different Jesus that I was gradually converted.
The first new Jesus I met had a different face, a different tone, a different function. 'Jesus was born to die,'
I was told again and again, which meant his entire life---
including the red, yellow, black, and white children around his knees...Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree (which gave me a lifelong love for sycamores)...Bartimaeus by the road...the one grateful leper returning...the woman by the well...the caring parents who begged him to heal their children---was quite marginalized. Everything between his birth and death was icing at most, assuredly not cake. This marginalization was unintentional, but in my experience it was very real. I
was losing something but gaining something, too: the conservative
Protestant (or Evangelical) Jesus.
The Conservative Protestant Jesus
For conservative Protestants, the good news centers on the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus saves us by dying on the
Several forces, I think, cooperated in the co-opting of the Jesus Movement, including
Classic Pentecostalism, the Religious Right, parachurch Christianity, the contemporary
Christian music industry, and the religious marketing machine.
Have you noticed that our great creeds tend to do this, too---to affirm Jesus' birth and then skip to his death? What does that say about us? What unintended consequences come from this focus on the beginning and end of Jesus' life and neglect or avoidance of the middle?
'Jesus was born to die,' I heard again and again. By dying, Jesus mysteriously absorbs the penalty of all human wrongdoing through all of history. The cross becomes the focal point where human injustice---past, present,
and future---meets the unconquerable compassion and forgiveness of God. Jesus, hanging in agony, says, 'Father,
forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' We are given confidence that at our worst moment, the moment at which we humans behave as badly as is possible in this universe by torturing and killing God's ultimate messenger and representative to us, his prayer is answered. His innocent self-sacrifice somehow cancels out human guilt.
At the cross, the powerful horror of human evil and the more powerful glory of God's mercy meet, and human evil is exhausted, but not God's mercy. Exactly how this happens is understood through various metaphors, with the following four perhaps being most popular.
A legal metaphor: God is judge and humanity is guilty, deserving the death penalty.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Phyllis Tickle
Foreword by John R. Franke
Chapter 0. A Generous Refund
PART ONE: WHY I AM A CHRISTIAN
Chapter 1. The Seven Jesuses I Have Known
Chapter 2. Jesus and God B
Chapter 3. Would Jesus Be a Christian?
Chapter 4. Jesus: Savior of What?
PART TWO: THE KIND OF CHRISTIAN I AM
Chapter 5. Why I Am Missional
Chapter 6. Why I Am evangelical
Chapter 7. Why I Am Post/Protestant
Chapter 8. Why I Am Liberal/Conservative
Chapter 9. Why I Am Mystical/Poetic
Chapter 10. Why I Am Biblical
Chapter 11. Why I Am Charismatic/Contemplative
Chapter 12. Why I Am Fundamentalist/Calvinist
Chapter 13. Why I Am (Ana)baptist/Anglican
Chapter 14. Why I Am Methodist
Chapter 15. Why I Am catholic
Chapter 16. Why I Am Green
Chapter 17. Why I Am Incarnational
Chapter 18. Why I Am Depressed-Yet-Hopeful
Chapter 19. Why I Am Emergent
Chapter 20. Why I Am Unfinished
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Thoughtful and thought-provoking. I had never heard of emerging christianity until I read Phyllis Tickle's book. Her book led me this book. I found it to be very readable. The author has a good/appropriate sense of humor toward himself and his subject. He is knowledgeable. I learned a lot. He recommends other books to read and websites to investigate. Well worth the time and money.
Brian pushed buttons that I thought I had hidden well! This book made me think about my own upbringing, where I am now in my walk, and where I may be heading. A small group in my community will be reading this book together. I can't wait for the conversation.
This is an interesting book as Brian takes a look at all the Christian faiths he has had contact with and what each one's best quality and contribution is to Christianity. He talks about how nice it would be if all the faiths put their best strength together with the other ones to be a more potent affect on humanity and the world. What is sad to him is the Christian faiths spend their time on cutting each other down and causing more division and putting Christians in a light of kids in a sand box not wanting to share toys or space with one another. This is not a liberal or conservative book but an open minded book about one man's view of Christian faith.
A book that has the potential to do untold damage to orthodox Christianity.
One of the forwards suggests that this book could be the equivalent of Luther's 95-point theses for the emerging church. I'm not qualified to comment on that, but its a provocative starting point for a provocative book. For those of us who feel that the organized church has polarized into two unbalanced entities, picking and choosing limited parts of the good news of Jesus Christ, this book offers a middle path. You are never sure the extent to which McLaren emphasizes to make a point, but I urge readers to have an open mind.
This book summarizes and expounds on every major movement in the Christian faith, up to and including the Emergent movement, and goes into what we can learn from them, both good and bad. Recommended for anyone wanting to learn more about the breadth and diversity of Christian spirituality.
I might have given this a better review the first time I read it. I love McLaren's desire to question the status quo. But, like many questioners, he erodes many foundations with his inquiries and replaces them with absolutely nothing. This isn't entirely a criticism; deconstruction is the first step for any important movement. But in hindsight it seems like the Emergent movement was all about deconstruction and didn't really provide an alternative. That said, I found myself often highlighting and writing the word, "YES" boldly in the margins. I appreciate McLaren but a good chef doesn't just bad mouth the food of others, he provides an alternative dish.
This is a very helpful book, he seems to be reacting to many of the difficulties we feel with Christian belief at the beginning of the 21st century. He starts by describing how he has benefited from various different brands of Christianity he has been involved with, but more usefully he then reports on the way the contrasting views show up each others deficiencies. One underlying and contentious idea is that the faith is not static but does change as history goes on. The priorities of TULIP give way to the five principles of the fundamentalists. The "unchanging gospel" is not as stable as we thought.He warns us about the dangers and misunderstandings that can results from the way we use some words, judge, father, king, about God.He reckons our main enemy is the reductionist ideology of modernism, no doubt that's why he is so accepting of post-modernism! By the end of the book he has almost abandoned cross cultural evangelism, or at least he would repudiate any pushy, forceful version of the gospel.I think his version of the gospel appears a bit feeble - Gods love to us and to all of creation- but there is an awful lot to be learned for the modern church in this book.
The title being based from G. K. Chesterton's classic Orthodoxy, McLaren in this work writes in a series of short chapters what he finds appealing in each Christian tradition. I think it gets to be a bit fluffy and that McLaren knows very little about many of these traditions and may actually stand in some opposition to them if he were more knowledgeable, but I really enjoyed the thesis and attempt.
McLaren examines orthodox Christianity and shatters the myths of it being exclusive and judging. He repositions the good news of Jesus of Nazareth in such a way that the Kingdom of God appears as a welcoming place, not as one that has its doors locked tight.
A basic introduction to the Emergent church. Interesting ideas, thought-provoking. However, like the Emergent Church movement, it lacks clear theology, depending rather on warm fuzzies of can't we all just get along?
A very helpful example of employing both continuity and change as we allow the Spirit to lead us somewhere genuinely new, while still relying heavily upon the faithfulness of our traditions.
We need this voice in this messy body we call the body of Christ(catholic church). In this book, he speaks of the different denominations/ideologies involved within Christianity and speaks to how each one is very important and has it's place within faith. The uniqueness of these different groups is beautiful in that it allows us to see the many facets that encompass faith. Surely embracing each other's differences and appreciating them is the start to a reconciliation that is so necessary for us to truly be effective and live up to what Jesus had in mind.
Seeking to move beyond denominational distinctives, McLaren asks what is valuable in particular Christian traditions. Chapter 1, ¿The Seven Jesuses I have known,¿ highlights this approach by speaking to the different emphases of traditions McLaren has experienced. The following chapters offer a smorgasbord of Christian values, as seen in unique, sometimes seemingly contradictory, traditions. McLaren¿s work values paradox and charity, but at times could be charged with cafeteria-style faith, which choices what it likes, sometimes overlooking the associated negatives. Good discussion starter A-
You may not agree with him but it's worth reading. Good writer. We can all follow his example in how he conducts himself and the tone he models for dialogue.
McLaren has done an excellent job of expressing the heart of Jesus in this book that is challenging, yet edifying. As I delved into the words that filled each page, I felt like I was looking into a mirror. Its encouraging to see that some people out there are making an effort to not only preach what it means to be a 'True Christian', but are also living it. This book is a must read for anyone who desires unity.
I'm a McLaren fan, let's just be honest. But what he's done to break down the walls that divide us is challenging, thoughtful, and commendable. While we're being honest, I should say that the first few chapters went by quickly and without much grounbreaking information for me. But by the time I got to his thoughts on being 'biblical' my mind was spinning with thoughts. He manages to take what has been lying in the back of my mind somewhere and lay it out clearly so that I say, 'Yes! That's what I was thinking, but I couldn't put it to words!'