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.