Follower of The Way

A Generous Orthodoxy

Posted in Christ and Culture,Christian Theology,emergent church by sosipater on September 11, 2006

Well, I have finally finished A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren.  Very interesting read.  I tried to keep as open a mind as possible. Book summary in one sentence or less.  This book is much more generous than it is orthodox.  Of course the whole book is about Mr. McLaren’s own personal definition of “Orthodoxy”, which includes, well, a whole bunch of, in my opinion, fairly contradictory beliefs.

Good points – The first 100 pages or so were pretty interesting and McLaren is a very thoughtful and stylish writer.  I think it is pretty obvious he has a background in literature.  He makes some good points about Christians needing to be more thoughtful and engaging with the culture, and to get off our high horses and stop thinking we have everything figured out.  But after he got me off my high horse, he kept beating the poor thing to death.

Bad stuff.  I came away thinking that McLaren has redefined orthodoxy so much the word is almost meaningless.  The thoughtful and the dangerous is so mixed and intertwined in this book I think it really takes a discerning eye to read it.

I would not really recommend this book unless you want to start understanding the emergent movement, which is why I read it.  I would like to think I took something positive from it, but overall I find it a little to generous for my taste.

If you want to read some real reviews of this book I would recommend the following.

Dr. Mohler – “A Generous Orthodoxy–Is it Orthodox?” review.  At the bottom of this page are links to other, although most are critical, reviews.


7 Responses to 'A Generous Orthodoxy'

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  1. Jesse said,

    I’m reading Generous Orthodoxy right now and loving it. That’s not to say that I agree with everything in it… just like I have to filter out everything I read… I guess to me, filtering out useless or wrong info is just a given. That said, I really resonate with McLaren’s heart, and with his main point as I understand it: that we’ve distorted what it means to be a Christ-follower, and Christians have got to do some serious revision to get back to genuine (and I almost hate to use the word because it carries so much baggage in your mind as I say it) Christianity.
    I hope that people don’t miss the forest for the trees. (That is SO like Christians…)

  2. sosipater said,


    Thanks for the comment. I am glad the book is resonating with you. I do believe McLaren makes some important points about some of the extremes of evangelicalism, but in my opinion he veers way to far toward the other ditch trying to stay out of the fundalmentalist ditch to which he seems to have grown up in.

    My problem again is that there are others out there who see similar problems and come to not so radical conclusions, i.e. you can be a good “Christian” and remain a Hindu, or whatever. This just does something to the meaning of the word Christian that is unattractive to me. Again, I am glad you are enjoying it, but I’ll stand by my (and others) assessment.

  3. Jesse said,

    I’ve only made it through about 1/3 of the book so far, but is there some point where he states that “you can be a good “Christian” and remain a Hindu”? I haven’t run across it yet, but that is definitely a problem. Could you reference a page number? I’d like to check it out myself.

  4. sosipater said,


    I don’t have the book in front of me but here is a quote from Dr. Mohler’s review that I linked to. He quotes the book directly, but I can get pages when I have the book in my hands.

    “What about other belief systems? McLaren suggests that we should embrace the existence of different faiths, “willingly, not begrudgingly.” What would this mean? Well, a complete reconsideration of Christian missions, for one thing. McLaren claims to affirm that Christians should give witness to their faith in Jesus Christ. But, before you assume this means an affirmation of Christian missions, consider this statement: “I must add, though, that I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all?) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts. This will be hard, you say, and I agree. But frankly, it’s not at all easy to be a follower of Jesus in many ‘Christian’ religious contexts, either.”

  5. kennicon said,

    I haven’t read the book, but from the quotes on Dr. Mohler’s review am sure that I would agree with him. Perhaps that’s very “uncritical” of me to not form my own opinion based on experience, but since I haven’t read it, I’m going to depend on wisdom from a man whom I have consistently found to proclaim solid, biblical truth.

    McClaren (I have noticed this in other books and articles by him) is so entrenched in Christian’s needing to appologize and unsharpen the Christian message that he completely dismantles the message all together. There are certain, specific truths that our theology should not let us avoid — The exclusivity of Christ, the existence of Hell and God’s sending people there for eternity, the perfection or Scripture, etc. These are all issues that McClaren chooses to ignore for reasons he says are about not offending, but persuading. In reality I question whether or not he actually believes these things at all.

    While I would agree that Christians have done an awful job of representing Christ in a lot of ways, I cannot submit to beating around the bush when it comes to solid, biblical, foundational truth. I think a lot of this would be solved if people truly understood and embraced the sovereignty of God. Then it would stop being about trying to make the Christian message as palatable as possible and start being about the fact that, for instance, there are some of us that Christ actually calls to be martyrs for our faith and that we will have suffering and that we will face the consequences of our actions and that God does judge and does condemn and does have wrath, but all the same, is full of mercy, grace, peace, and love beyond any reasonable description.

    McClaren has seemingly worked to trap everyone inside the human dimension without paying God a whole lot of attention — Mohler’s closing statement is dead on, and shall too be my conclusion: “Orthodoxy must be generous, but it cannot be so generous that it ceases to be orthodox. Inevitably, Christianity asserts truths that, to the postmodern mind, will appear decidedly ungenerous. Nevertheless, this is the truth that leads to everlasting life. The gospel simply is not up for renegotiation in the twenty-first century. A true Christian generosity recognizes the infinitely generous nature of the truth that genuinely saves. Accept no substitutes.”

  6. sosipater said,


    I have to say while I was reading AGO that was exactly what I was thinking. It seemed that McLaren was trying to make Chritianity less foolish and less of a stumbling block to the masses. Now, I realize some have made our faith *more* offensive than it should be, and I agree with McLaren that this is the case. But, as I said earlier and as you hit on Nick, he seems to want to remove all offensiveness. But, what is so frustrating about reading him (I have never heard him speak) is that he would probably flat out deny this charge. But nonetheless, this was the overall feeling I came away with.

    I think McLaren has accomplished his stated goal in the book though, and that is to make people think through important issues related to our Christian faith and the world we live in. He has indeed accomplished that.

  7. Jesse said,

    Hey guys, would you like to put a photo beside your posts? I’ll host the jpeg for you if you need me to. Just email me a pic and I’ll send you the link to use in your profile.

    You really need to read AGO. There are a lot of people I trust to be theologically on target, but they often evaluate things incorrectly (e.g. Al Mohler).
    When you say that “I think a lot of this would be solved if people truly understood and embraced the sovereignty of God. Then it would stop being about trying to make the Christian message as palatable as possible”, are you referring to predestination?

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