I got it! The book came this week and I gave it an initial read. Favorite chapters: why I’m a mystic, why I am green, and why I am incarnational. My thoughts ranged as far and wide as the topics covered in the book, and here some of them are...
I expected that I would be somewhat of a fan, and I was right. One thing though: I am all for humility, but in the early going I was thinking that if you were to delete all of McLaren’s self-deprecation and apologies, this thing would have been a pamphlet! But coming from an evangelical background myself, and knowing what it means to have people look at you like you tiptoe on the edge of heresy, I suppose it may be well justified. But critique-wise, that’s all I got. Other than that, I am just all A’s and A plusses. So for my lopsided, I-love-everything-u-say take on Mr. McLaren , I apologize (because apparently, that is what we do...;-)
On a personal level, there were a number of moments, especially in the "Incarnational" chapter, where I felt myself breathing a sigh of relief thinking, "See, I’m not a heretic... or at least if I am he is too, and I think that’s good company. He’s thought about it all and tested it a lot more than I have!" I wondered in an earlier post whether he would speak much about other religions, and he certainly didn’t pull any punches. In fact, the Gandhi quote, to which I have seen some indignant reactions, would have fit very well in that chapter.
I think the main recurring theme in the book, the point that everything rests on is McLaren’s particular brand of "fundamentalism". I liked the way he phrased it, because just a few days ago I had described my preferred faith as fundamentalism with just one fundamental - Love. Likewise, McLaren says that his fundamental is the greatest commandment of Christ, parts one and two, love God and love your neighbor.
But is this fundamental on which "generous orthodoxy" rests shared by Christians as the most important thing, the prime directive. This is the point that makes me think some of our hope for an everybody-blesses-and-works-with-everyone sort of good feeling interaction between various brands of Christians much easier in theory than in application. Lots of Christians I know wouldn’t agree with "Love" as the bedrock message that they are trying to communicate. I would venture to guess that many it would say it is "Truth" (whereupon I would likely respond that they are one in the same… whereupon the discussion would likely devolve into a confusing semantic argument...). But perhaps a book like this is aimed at subtly altering what we view as our bottom line.
I must admit that I monitor within myself a cynicism as I read books like this, a cynicism that sounds something like, "Sure, he talks like this and the books, articles and ideas are good, but does it go any farther than just talk?" There’s a contempt among pomo types (and appropriately so) that has had enough of guys looking for book deals and itinerant ministries so that they can make a living and name for themselves hawking their good ideas. But my next thought is that the majority of that reaction is just my own shit, the part of me that is jealous because I’m the guy with no book and no invitations, just a little-read blog and a big mouth.
But better to listen carefully to the flip side of those nasty voices; I will pay more attention to the angel sitting on my other shoulder. Because a book like this inspires in a reader all kinds of practical ideas and possibilities, like reading a Dave Andrews or a Tom Sine book. Such books are useless if I read them, agree with them, admire them, write about them, but beyond that, take no action. The response that I need to commit to is one of an ongoing inventory-taking of my life - working with what I have now to bring my life into fuller consistency with the kingdom of God, while at the same time dreaming up things to do in the future.
I have a load of more specific responses to various chapters, but I’ll wait until everyone is book-equipped and reading. By the way Jen, is there any specific way we are going to go about discussing it once everyone has got the book and is reading?