I have to admit my bias. I am not emergent. I do not think the emergent way of thinking is the right way of thinking. I do not think that emergent theology is orthodox. Now we’ve got that out of the way. I read A Generous Orthodoxy because I find the emergent “conversation” to be incredibly interesting. At one point in my life I identified myself with the emergent movement because I became so turned off by the Church. This has been called McLaren’s most theological work and is essentially his systematic theology (albeit he would hate it being called that and it’s far too small to ever be a real systematic). My aim for this post is to be grace filled and constructive and not just tear him down, even though it’d be much easier to do the latter.

We’ll start off with the writing style. I know I’m not the best writer, but I also don’t have 4 years of undergrad and 2 years of grad work in English like McLaren does yet I know not to use parentheses in every sentence I write. I didn’t enjoy reading this book. The sentences were overly complicated and McLaren made a lot of rookie mistakes.

The title is a bit misleading. McLaren’s idea of a generous orthodoxy is one that includes everyone yet remains orthodox, at least by his terms of orthodoxy. The book is neither generous nor orthodox. In the name of being generous he ridicules, belittles, pokes fun at, and excludes those who hold to the traditional conservative Christian faith. He is generous to those who agree with him, not so generous to those like me who disagree with him.

McLaren is dodgy quite a bit throughout the book, but he is known for this. He never comes out and says he’s a Universalist, but he does hint at it throughout the entire book. He says that he doesn’t want to make Christians, he wants to make disciples of Jesus, he wants people who are Hindus to love Jesus yet stay Hindu, just sort of incorporate Jesus into their religion. This idea is called pluralism and is simply not Biblical.

McLaren wants us to be a little bit of everything. He wants us to be Calvinists yet redefine the 5 points of Calvinism and believe in free will, which means he doesn’t want us to be Calvinists. He wants us to be fundamentilists but not take things so seriously and hold to fundamentals, so he doesn’t want us to be fundamentalists. He loves to throw around words with “post” in front of them: postliberal, postconservative, postmodern, postChristian, postsecular, etc. He wants us to be absolutists and relativists, terms I’m not sure he fully understands. He wants us to take a little bit of every denomination, a little bit of Islam, a little bit of Buddhism, and a little bit of Hinduism, mix it all up, and call it our Christian faith.

Probably the most frustrating thing to me was McLaren’s complete misrepresentations of the Anglican and Anabaptist traditions. I used to be a part of the Anglican Communion and I highly respect the Anabaptist tradition so I know quite a bit about both. McLaren makes up their histories and theology so that he can use them to justify his beliefs. The final few chapters of the books also made me incredibly mad starting with “Why I Am Green.” McLaren says that when Jesus said to love our neighbors as ourselves he did not just mean humans, that neighbors also include nature, animals, insects, etc. This is pantheism at best, worship of creation rather than Creator.

McLaren also tells he is not a relativist, just a post-modern thinker. He can call it what he wants, but he is a relativist. He says “…while we are not for pluralistic relativism, we do see it as a kind of needed chemotherapy.” So he isn’t a relativist, but he sees relativism as a cure? Am I the only one confused by this?

Was there anything redeeming about this book? Not really. While his celebration of the different traditions of Christianity is admirable, it’s usually a straw man of those traditions and they always come with underhanded jabs.

This book is dangerous. People are reading it, finding it more than acceptable and thinking that we should all live by it. Phyllis Tickle even calls McLaren the next Martin Luther in the foreword to the book.

This is just an overview of the things in this book I found disturbing, it would take literally a book in order for me to point out and adequately refute all of the things I found wrong in A Generous Orthodoxy.

Overall Rating: 2/10