Thursday, January 3, 2013

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 By Brian McLaren

My church offered a four part series on the Emergent Church. It wasn't a call for a move in that direction, it wasn't a call for denouncing or acceptance. It was instead a look at what is happening in one segment of Christianity. Some people call this the Emergent Movement. I rather think that new ways of looking at something are often termed movements by the people who espouse those beliefs.

One of the books listed as a book explaining the movement was the above book with its long and catchy title. I found one copy in our library consortium and made a request and the book arrived three days later. I expect that there isn't a groundswell of people seeking to read the book despite its gloriously long and catchy title.

I read with an open mind and also to try and understand what the core beliefs were of this movement. I sense that the church in this era, as in previous ones, is in the throes of change. Some of the change is cosmetic—hymns and music reflect some of our present day culture, labels are more fluid. Some churches eschew denomination labels and their names reflect their core beliefs. But there is also this emergent movement and even after the four sessions I was unclear as to the core beliefs.

McLaren says that the church needs to constantly think about new ways to think about God. He also notes that in the present we are seeing more cross pollination between groups. In other words when you go into a church you will find that in their regular practice elements of other christian groups are in evidence.

McLaren's Christianity is a cafeteria model, a model that takes from a number of different groups to forge an emergent church. What he doesn't like or he feels is archaic he leaves behind.

When McLaren presents each one of the titled groups he stresses those elements that can be embraced by the new paradigm. One person said that McLaren "widens the tent" to include more people under the umbrella of emergent christianity. He says that the Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, Hindu can remain within their denomination — just add a belief in Christ. And what does this mean?

McLaren asserts that no definitive truth about God can be known therefore the Bible is seen as an ethical document, a local myth. The Bible is the story of a people dealing with God, but not a "propositional truth about God."

After reading through 300 pages I was somewhat confused because I wanted to know what McLaren or the Emergent Christianity movement believed.

I found that one aim of his thinking was to erase some of the barriers between different traditions—an ecumenical view. The audience McLaren addresses are those people who have either left the church or have become dissatisfied with the church and are in the throes of leaving.Despite where they are on the faith journey they still maintain an attraction for the figure of Jesus.

It was Hans Frei who first used the term Generous Orthodoxy—so at some point I guess I'll need to read something that Frei wrote!

I think that McLaren is stating that in order to come to some understanding of truth the Christian community needs to look at all the experiences of Christian faith to arrive at some "kind of truth". In some ways this is seen as a new beginning, a start over.

McLaren spends a good deal of the book discussing why he is a Christian by looking at seven different traditions: Conservative Protestant, Pentecostal, Roam Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Liberal Protestant. Anabaptist and Liberation Theology. One could question how intimately he knows each of these traditions.

He spends a bit of time telling the reader that he is missional which should not be confused with being a missionary. He is also each of the strands mentioned in his title and explains how he is part of that particular strand.

The book ends with McLaren's statement that he is hopeful as he looks forward and not backward.

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