March 10, 2006

A Generous Orthodoxy

Category: Theology :: Permalink

A couple weeks ago, I read Brian McLaren‘s 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 Christian. The title is almost a blog entry in itself.

I’m not going to provide anything like a detailed review. Instead, I’m just going to touch on a few things in this book, some of them things I appreciated and some things I had questions about and some thing I disagreed with. (For those who want a review, I’ll refer you to John Frame’s review. I also appreciate a lot of what Doug Wilson says in his series of blog entries dealing with this book.)

So here goes.

At the outset of his book, McLaren describes what he means by “a generous orthodoxy.” Some readers, McLaren says, may be disturbed by the way he tends to identify orthodoxy with “humility that allows us to admit that our past and current formulations may have been limited or distorted,” “charity toward those of other traditions who may understand some things better than our group,” “courage to be faithful to the true path of our faith as we understand it even when it is unpopular, dangerous, and difficult to do so,” and “diligence to seek again and again the true path of our faith whenever we feel we have lost our way” (p. 30).

I heartily applaud this blurring of the boundaries between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. I understand that it’s possible to have the right theological views (which is a kind of “orthodoxy”) while failing abysmally in your practice (a failure of “orthodoxy”) and that, to some extent, a distinction between -doxy and -praxy may be valid. But should we really say that someone is orthodox if he doesn’t live in accordance with what he professes to believe? As McLaren says,

The generous orthodoxy explored in the pages ahead assumes, for example, that the value of understanding the Trinity is to love and honor and serve the Trinity, and that allegedly right Trinitarian opinions that do not lead to divine adoration are worth little. More, this view would assert that so-called orthodox understandings of the Trinity that don’t lead so-called orthodox Christians to love their neighbors in the name of the Trinity (including those neighbors who don’t properly understand the Trinity) are more or less worthless, which trivializes their orthodoxy (p. 31).

More later (assuming that I don’t return the book to Duff Crerar, from whom I borrowed it, before I can write more about it).

Posted by John Barach @ 5:49 pm | Discuss (0)

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