I always knew that there had to be an alternative to having a pat answer for everything. That it was possible to know some things for sure, hold others in tension, and respectfully consider everything else, with a view to learning from what seems “other” without having to be utterly persuaded by it. This is what Brian McClaren achieves rather brilliantly in his book “A generous Orthodoxy“. If you haven’t read it, I would encourage you do so. It doesn’t matter if you don’t agree with everything Brian writes, only read with the attitude with which it has been written – grace.
This book challenged me. Much of ‘Christianity’ seems consumed with what it does or does not stand for – both in regard to doctrine and practice. We believe this but not that, practice ‘a’ but not ‘b’. Condemn one behaviour and uphold another. These distinctions serve to define who is in or out. Who is saved or damned. Who is a Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal etc.
Brian spends much of this book looking at how different traditions etc contribute to what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The amazing thing is that while some “brands” may seem really ‘out there’ and different, they also have incredible potential to enrich our understanding and living as disciples, if only we can be generous enough in our ‘orthodoxy’ to see it. Brian doesn’t call for open slather relativism or disollution of the basic tenets of the Christian faith, but rather an acknowledgement that our faith can be enriched by other disciplines and perspectives. Ultimately, who amongst us can claim to have worked out all there is to know, believe and practise about our God? We can’t reduce God to our finite capacity to know. And we need to be open to the fact that God may have revealed different aspects of himself throughout his creation, some of which we have not even begun to grasp in our little spiritual patch.
I expect to write a bit more here about this book, as it has certainly got me thinking….