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A Generous Orthodoxy

A Generous Orthodoxy

4.1 8
by John R. Franke (Foreword by), Phyllis Tickle (Foreword by), Brian D. McLaren

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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. A confession and manifesto from a senior leader in the emerging church movement. A Generous


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. A confession and manifesto from a senior leader in the emerging church movement. A Generous Orthodoxycalls for a radical, Christ-centered orthodoxy of faith and practice in a missional, generous spirit. Brian Mc Laren argues for a post-liberal, post-conservative, post-protestant convergence, which will stimulate lively interest and global conversation among thoughtful Christians from all traditions. In a sweeping exploration of belief, author Brian Mc Laren 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,” Mc Laren 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.” Also available on abridged audio CD, read by the author.

Editorial Reviews

...this book will make you think. In a time when wee seem to be preaching intolerance in the name of God, McLaren's book is a voice of reason. -- YouthWorker

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Publication date:
emergentYSSeries Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.38(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.88(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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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
p. cm.
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.
BT60.M37 2006
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.

Meet 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 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
RobertBeezat More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Smooth59 More than 1 year ago
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.
MargoH 3 months ago
To many readers, this book will probably be regarded as revolutionary and for some, as bordering on heresy. The author critiques several different Christian denominations and some non-Christian religions, and points out what he sees as weaknesses of each. But he notes positive characteristics in most cases, some of which he embraces as part of his notion of a “generous orthodoxy” for Christians striving to make the “Kingdom of God” come in this world. McLaren shows the least regard for conservative Evangelical Christians, characterizing them as exclusivist, judgmental, condemning, and even hateful toward anyone belonging to other religious groups, especially “liberal” Christian denominations, certain ethnic groups, and Democrats. In short, the author holds up conservative Evangelicals to illustrate what “generous orthodoxy” is NOT. McLaren recognizes and honors both parts of God’s law summarized by Jesus in Matthew 22, i.e., (a) Love God, and (b) Love your neighbor. It seems to me, as someone one who has spent the last several decades in that environment, that while conservative Christians seem to value strongly the first part about loving God, they generally drop the ball on the second “love-your-neighbor” part, remaining largely unconcerned about the needs of those “outside the fold:” the unbelieving poor, lonely, oppressed, hungry, hurting, struggling. Because conservative Christians emphasize the afterlife, they pour whatever energies they have into saving souls from an eternity in Hell, and are relatively unconcerned about the material well-being of people, especially “unbelievers” in the world here and now. Conservative Christians are also commonly soft on environmental issues. “God will destroy the earth soon anyhow, so why expend any effort to protect the environment?” they ask. The author’s “generous orthodoxy” emerges primarily from the teachings of Jesus found in the four Gospels. And indeed, Jesus had much to say about how people should behave, how they should treat their neighbors, how they should relate to authorities, etc. Much of Jesus’ life on earth was spent healing the sick and hurting, feeding the hungry, etc. McLaren charges that even though conservative Evangelicals refer to Jesus as both Savior and Lord/Master, they do in fact honor Jesus for His role as Savior (from eternal damnation), but have lost thinking of Jesus in his Lord/Master role. Instead they have promote the Apostle Paul to the Teacher/Master role, who in his letters focuses almost exclusively on Jesus’ Savior-role by His sacrificial death on the cross to pay for our sins, while occasionally offering guidance on how Christian churches ought to be run and how Christians should treat each other. One of the positions that the author takes is that “generous orthodoxy” (right thinking) changes (“emerges”) as the culture changes. McLaren readily cites Scripture that supports his points, but he ignores the many Scriptural references that Evangelical churches cite to support their “non-generous” doctrinal beliefs: God’s wrath and judgment, the reality of Hell, Jesus death paying for the sins of those who “accept Christ,” etc. It strikes me that if conservative Christians were simply to become more “generous” by being more faithful to Jesus’ teachings in the gospels about ministering to the needy in this world as McLaren, they would actually be much more faithful to the whole of Scripture than McLaren is. I strongly recommend this book to
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