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on 21 September 2005
There's no doubt that McLaren is controversial, especially in the Christian community in his home country. They see him as a stirrer, someone making trouble, leading the church to the edge of spiritual bankruptcy, holding out a dangerous and relativistic message. "God is for you, so it doesn't really matter what you believe". For sure, it's a pretty hollow charicature.
On the other hand, McLaren really is a stirrer - in the same way that fish die in an aquarium where the water is not oxygenated, the author understands that there is a type of stagnancy in much modern Christian thinking. All the important questions are perceived to have been asked, the answers have ben provided, so it's really just a question of who's in and who's out. And of course, if you are a protestant evangelical, the chances are that your particular tradition has had up to 500 years to define exactly who is out, with ever increasing degrees of theological hair-splitting.
McLaren's key thought is that removing the message of Jesus from the constraints of a modern worldview and allowing it to breathe again in the relatively unconstrained emerging postmodern culture, allows for a deeper and better understanding of what it means to live collectively as Christians.
Or to put it another way, Christians have spent so long worrying about the purity of our beliefs, the quality of our Orthodoxy, that we have in many instances become sub-Christian, in that we have forgotten HOW we must put our beliefs into action (Orthopraxy). The New Testament was written decades after the death of Jesus and is in many ways, the theology that emerged after reflecting on the mission that had happened. But somehow it has become a flat, historical record of detached 'truth' used to identify and judge outsiders.
McLaren seeks to synthesise the very best theological elements from the traditions and movements in the book's title and make us aware, that all these benefits are open to us, rather than forcing ourselves to chose and defend the merits of one tradition over another. At heart is the direction that the church may move in and he hopefully charts a new form of ecumenism that is not based on down-playing our differences, but recognising the wonderful character of God that unites us.
I found this a very thought provoking and encouraging read. We need more people like McLaren who reflect the generous character of Jesus in their work and writings.
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on 29 February 2008
I absolutely loved Brian McLaren's "A New Kind of Christian", a book that opened up a whole new world for me of possibilities of staying within the Christian faith, something on which I had almost given up. Rob Bell's "Velvet Elvis", in a different way, did the same. So I approached this next book by McLaren feeling exceptionally positive towards him and his writing.

I wasn't disappointed. However this book is very different than "A New Kind of Christian". Once you get past the amusingly-titled but a little wordy Chapter 0 McLaren goes on a tour through different denominations and styles within Christianity, highlighting the good points about them (as well as looking at the bad), showing what we can all learn from this part of the church, and taking those good parts in order to build them into a new 'generous' orthodoxy. It's a great idea and it's also good to read a book which is very positive about so many denominations.

Of course there are the negatives, and Brian says that he is from a particular part of the church and so perhaps he gives them a harder time (the conservative evangelical/fundamentalist wing). As this coincides very much with how I feel about that branch of Christianity that's no problem for me but I suppose readers from that tradition might find it uncomfortable reading at times. We're left in no doubt that McLaren is not a big fan of televangelists but he is a strong supporter of the green movement, that he is learning more to value the Roman catholic and Anglican ideas about liturgy and the mystical side of the church.

What works very well is that each of the different elements in the book (missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetical, biblical etc) get their own chapter where he delves into that tradition/idea and often gives the history of the movement which was fascinating for me with many of these. He seems able to see the bigger picture with many of these denominations and, as usual in his style, he is positive about many things within them. It was good to read an upbeat book although there were also parts where, with Brian, I almost despaired. The chapter arrangement meant that I read this book over a couple of weeks, dipping into a chapter here and there, and it gave me time to mull over what he was saying and to think about the overall point.

I salute Brian McLaren for this excellent look at a generous orthodoxy (or at least working towards creating one), a church for our 21st century which learns from the mistakes of the past but also doesn't throw out the baby with the bathwater but picks up those good aspects of the traditions and incorporates them into our postmodern world. This was an excellent read, a book I am sure I will return to many times, and of course the author's humble writing style is, as always, appealing.
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on 16 June 2005
If you visit the US Amazon site you'll see endless reviews of this book that suggest that Brian is going to destroy the church with his 'heresy'. However, I can't for the life of me see how those who have read this book properly and allowed it to speak clearly can call it heresy, challenging - yes, stretching -yes, generous - yes, heresy - NO!
In this book, Brian takes a look at the parts of the Christian church that he finds helpful in his journey and for many it's a breath of fresh air, the only thing that annoys me is that I didn't write the book first. We have so much to learn from our Christian brothers and sisters, and learn from their successes and mistakes.
This book is not an easy read, not because he is a complex and inarticulate writer, but because there are moments when you are taken beyond the margins of your own thinking, your own experiences, your own traditions, your own prejudices, your own stupidity.
Some will hate this book I'm sure, especially those with nothing left to learn, who have everything nailed down, sown up and are waiting for the rest of us to catch up with you... in the meantime the rest of us can continue on our humble journey of discovery with Jesus.
An important contribution for the church in this century, read it if you dare.
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on 5 August 2006
McLaren's attempts to redefine Calvinism (see earlier review on 29th May) and also Protestantism (replacing "protest" with "pro-testify") seemed a little over ambitious to me and also a bit cheesy! I still think this is an excellent book though and well worthy of 5 stars. Chapter 0 was amusing and did help to prepare the reader for what was to come but I did think he overdid the naval gazing a little and it did get a bit tedious in places!

The main thing that comes through in this book is not a religious doctrine but an attitude of heart and I think any reader (certainly myself!) would do well to learn from this, even if you don't find yourself in agreement with all of his conclusions.

To many evangelicals I think this book will be the breath of fresh air they've been waiting for, but to others, some parts at least will seem a radical - even dangerous - departure from the beliefs and traditions they're familiar with.

All I can suggest is that you read it with an open mind - which is all I think McLaren is asking of his readers - and remember that he isn't right about everything, and neither is he claiming to be!
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on 17 October 2015
I have only awarded this an ok, not because it is not worth reading for the ideas and the great generous orthodoxy it portrays within it's pages but, oh dear me, he is a man who believes "why use 10 words where a 100 will do". I am surprised I made it through his introduction, which he admits having read through it himself, he doesn't know why anyone would want to continue, well on the strength of the 'tortured' chapter 0, entitled a 'Generous Refund', that was exactly my thought. His verbosity continued to the end, but hidden within the mass of adjectives, etc. were great thoughts that have the power to change opinions and attitudes.
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on 10 March 2007
Judging by the photo of him on the cover Brian McLaren would probably make a very good Santa. However, unlike our festive father McLaren seems to be a guy with as many enemies as friends. Whatever you might've heard about him good or bad I'd advise you to approach this book with a genuinely open mind. (wasn't it Frank Zappa who said 'A mind is like a parachute - it won't work if it's not open!')

It's fair to say that Generous Orthodoxy will most likely appeal to non-conformists - it begins with Chapter 0 which immediately appealed to the non-conformist in me (how shallow am I?). But seriously, right off the bat this book is full of superb insights for the contemporary Jesus follower. McLaren freely admits to being fairly unoriginal but quite good at collecting other people's thoughts, which is a fair self-assessment. For instance he cites Tom Wright, as follows:

"We best understand something not merely by critiquing, dissecting and doubting it, but by trusting, loving and respecting it. In fact, when critiquing and questioning come in the context of love, they yield even more insight than otherwise."

Take Tom's advice. From the moment you pick up this book make a decision that you're going to love it. If you do, I promise you will. The deeper you dig into this book the more you'll get out of it, don't just skim it, enjoy every word - and that includes the footnotes too!
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on 25 May 2015
Helen Hancox has, in my view, written a great review. But in order to register the stars here is my effort.........
Don't you just hate Christians slagging each other off? And don't you hate it when writers (or preachers) ignore all other traditions or viewpoints and imply that their model of Faith is the only (vallid/true) one? This book takes the opposite approach
It seems to me that McLaren is a writer with vision - he sees that we none of us have a monopoly on truth and therefore seeks to find good things in all traditions - particularly those alien to him. He seems to do this graciously and finds much that is helpful in all.
The book is very down to earth and does not get side-tracked into academic controversies. What emerges is is a wider and deeper faith, enriched by his close contact with a multitude of traditions. And here is a pointer toward greater unity (for which Jesus prayed).
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on 5 July 2006
I immensely enjoyed reading this book. For the first time, I guess, this book highlights the fact that noone has a monopoly on the Reality of God. I agree with the Author there are certain truths which are accepted Truth within the Christian Faith, but enjoyed exploring a much wider picture of the Creator of the Universe, than my previously narrow evangelical theology allowed for.

A really worthwhile read...!
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on 29 September 2007
I absolutely loved Brian McLaren's "A New Kind of Christian", a book that opened up a whole new world for me of possibilities of staying within the Christian faith, something on which I had almost given up. Rob Bell's "Velvet Elvis", in a different way, did the same. So I approached this next book by McLaren feeling exceptionally positive towards him and his writing.

I wasn't disappointed. However this book is very different than "A New Kind of Christian". Once you get past the amusingly-titled but a little wordy Chapter 0 McLaren goes on a tour through different denominations and styles within Christianity, highlighting the good points about them (as well as looking at the bad), showing what we can all learn from this part of the church, and taking those good parts in order to build them into a new 'generous' orthodoxy. It's a great idea and it's also good to read a book which is very positive about so many denominations.

Of course there are the negatives, and Brian says that he is from a particular part of the church and so perhaps he gives them a harder time (the conservative evangelical/fundamentalist wing). As this coincides very much with how I feel about that branch of Christianity that's no problem for me but I suppose readers from that tradition might find it uncomfortable reading at times. We're left in no doubt that McLaren is not a big fan of televangelists but he is a strong supporter of the green movement, that he is learning more to value the Roman catholic and Anglican ideas about liturgy and the mystical side of the church.

What works very well is that each of the different elements in the book (missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetical, biblical etc) get their own chapter where he delves into that tradition/idea and often gives the history of the movement which was fascinating for me with many of these. He seems able to see the bigger picture with many of these denominations and, as usual in his style, he is positive about many things within them. It was good to read an upbeat book although there were also parts where, with Brian, I almost despaired. The chapter arrangement meant that I read this book over a couple of weeks, dipping into a chapter here and there, and it gave me time to mull over what he was saying and to think about the overall point.

I salute Brian McLaren for this excellent look at a generous orthodoxy (or at least working towards creating one), a church for our 21st century which learns from the mistakes of the past but also doesn't throw out the baby with the bathwater but picks up those good aspects of the traditions and incorporates them into our postmodern world. This was an excellent read, a book I am sure I will return to many times, and of course the author's humble writing style is, as always, appealing.
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on 19 October 2008
I have been reading this book as a required text for a theology degree that I am studying. Although there are some interesting chapters, it is not a book I would have chosen to read or that I would choose to read again. I felt that in his attempt to be generous he was trying to sit on as many fences as possible so as not to offend anybody.

However, I found McLaren to be very likeable. His love for God and creation and his respect for his fellow man are very evident throughout the book. It seems he knows how to be gracious to all Christians regardless of their views.
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