Tension in Tolerence: A Review of Brian McLaren’s “A Generous Orthodoxy” – Part IV


While I do value the dynamic nature of McLaren’s system, I am concerned with how it is conceived. McLaren’s grounding is not clear. Are we to start with scripture? If so, how are we to interpret it? Or are we supposed to start with our own intuition? Or do we abandon established belief in favour of a new mash-up that includes socially acceptable rules while doing away with the more unpopular ideas?

I do support the idea of cross-denominational collaboration. And by extension, I also support the idea of inter-faith dialogue as well. McLaren’s approach lends itself well to generating the kind of humility that is required to open up a positive dialogue between competing denominations. The current decentralized model of Christian ministry and mission are valuable in terms of covering a wide variety of causes and needs, but I often wonder how much more effective some Christian ministries would be had they aligned or pooled their resources with other Christian denominations to accomplish the same goals. The impact of these “coalitions” would be tremendous.

And while I do appreciate McLaren’s attempt to adapt Christian thought with contemporary issues like postmodernism and secularization, I do find myself drawn to the “Radical Reformation” approach of the Anabaptists, whereby they forgo many of the progressive technological advancements in favour of a simpler way of life as a conscious decision to focus more on community than on “speed, style, technology, convenience, efficiency and mechanization” (McLaren, 230). To me, the Anabaptist approach of making Jesus Christ central and keeping uncluttered lives makes a great deal of sense. And, that ideal seems to be unchanged over time, which suggests that theological adaptations to contemporary issues are not required.

The urgency of discerning an appropriate worldview has recently been on the front burner for me. My father has been struggling with a blood disorder for the last year and it has just recently manifested itself in acute leukemia. This affliction is terminal and it will soon result in my father’s death. Thus, the need for “an accurate orthodoxy” in my life is quite pressing. Ultimately, we cannot be certain of any of our beliefs. McLaren offers a hopeful enterprise by suggesting that we simplify our approach to theology by focusing not on the divisive aspects, but instead focusing on the similarities of different denominational attitudes. I like this approach, as it suggests an inclusiveness that we can all participate in. I find this particularly settling for me as I contemplate my father’s destiny as he negotiates his peace with God.

I believe that McLaren’s strategy is viable, helpful and constructive. It provides an inclusive nature in which anyone can recognize their own denominational strengths, while also marginalizing their weaknesses. One can only hope that the strengths continue to be accentuated while the weaknesses are actually suppressed. As a whole, I enjoyed the book. It does present a tension that cannot be easily settled, but I believe that this tension is part of the beauty of the book. Without addressing the tension between denominations, the hope for interfaith fellowship cannot be attained. And without a central discussion, the kingdom of God cannot be fully realized nor can Jesus’ directive to live in love be fully experienced.

Todd Dow

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Author, Geek, CF fundraiser & Cancer Survivor. My wife & kids, faith, baseball, infosec & devops are a few of my favorite things.

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One comment on “Tension in Tolerence: A Review of Brian McLaren’s “A Generous Orthodoxy” – Part IV
  1. Fiona says:

    I know you posted this some time ago – but thanks for doing so. Much of the comment on McLaren’s work is one sided in one direction or the other, whereas you’ve written in a balanced way. I’m prepping for an assignment on Christianity/postmodernity and wanted an idea of this book whilst I wait for it to arrive in the post. Thanks for your summary and comments.

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