A Diversified Orthodoxy: A short "A Generous Orthodoxy" Review

I came to this book ready for Brian McLaren to tell Christian denominations around the world, in the interest of a missional spirit, to open up their hearts and minds and accept others who differ from them.   But that is not what this book is.

This book is something else.  But, please, don't ask what this might be, I have no idea.

I bought this book for the subtitle: 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.

But it turned out to be misleading. I understood it to mean, “you can’t label me”, because my faith is influenced by different traditions.  And it kind of means that.  But ... but when we get to sections that McLaren has fewer agreements with, (like fundamentalist, calvinist, evangelical, and protestant) he is forced to offer a redefinition in order to label himself that. And these aren’t small changes: TULIP for instance, is unrecognisable, and few Calvinist would convert to the new TULIP.  Not very generous.

So, by redefining the traditions of others, Brian does not create A Generous Orthodoxy, but only a different one.  His. There is still a lot to admire here:  He stands up for (an) orthodox belief, he insists on the importance of orthopraxy, and he separates out the garbage from the good stuff in traditions.  But even then, that last one is a subjective call: He clearly doesn’t like the penal substitution view of atonement, and to some that is the only “Biblical” view.

So we end up with a bit of a mess, and a (generally) unhelpful book.  McLaren picks the distinctives he likes and discards the rest. And where there is little to like? He completely redefines the tradition. It’s basically a theological smorgasbord (with some added home cooking).  The problem being that he thinks that his more diversified smorgasbord (there’s a bit from every cuisine, not just Chinese) is more generous because it’s more diversified, but that isn’t true, the size hasn’t changed much, only the options.