quotes from A Generous Orthodoxy

I sent off my copy of G.O. to a friend but I snatched some quotes from it before I did. So I will post a bunch of them in the days to come. My favorite one first. When I want to note something in a book I am reading, I draw a line beside it in the margin. This one got three lines, and it was just in there as a footnote:

Having read this sentence, you may perhaps better understand why I believe a person can affiliate with Jesus in the kingdom-of-God dimension without affiliating with him in the religious kingdom of Christianity. In other words, I believe that Christianity is not the kingdom of God. The ultimate reality is the kingdom of God, and Christianity at its best is here to proclaim and lead people into that kingdom, calling them out of smaller rings, smaller kingdoms. Christianity at its worst, using the definition in this paragraph, can become a sin when it holds people within its ring and won't let them enter the kingdom of God. Jesus diagnosed the religious leaders of his day as doing this very thing.

And another related one:

In the previous chapter, I suggested that Jesus didn't come to start another religion, which would include the Christian religion. I wasn't kidding. I do, in fact, believe that. That the Christian religion formed as it has is not surprising. It was no doubt necessary and in many ways good, and I know God is in it, and I am in it, too. But "the Christian religion" is neither the ultimate goal of Jesus nor the ultimate goal of God, in my view. Rather, the goal of Jesus is the kingdom of God, which is the dream of God, the wish and hope and desire of God for creation-like a parent's hopes and dreams for a beloved child.

And if your are wanting to reference this and wondering the page numbers, sorry. I scanned the quotes in by taking digital photos of the pages, which only caught a fdew of the page numbers, and so you're just gonna have to take my word on it... it's all in there.

And in the book McLaren points to this article by Joshua Masssey, His Ways Are Not Our Ways. Good read. Kind of a postmodern missiology. Go find out what a Muslim follower of Jesus is.


Chuck said...

I especially love the first quote - resonates strongly with some recent conversations. Folks kept using the words "believer" and "non-believer". I didn't jump on it, but internally realized it didn't mean much to me anymore. How can we be so presumptuous as to say that someone is not participating in building the kingdom just because they were born in a different culture or have had negative experiences with "Christianity"? I believe that deciding to follow Jesus is one of my most important decisions in life, but it's not a decision that makes me want to go out and make other people become "like me". The "ultimate reality" is the kingdom of God - in some fashion that must be inescapable for all.

Vern Hyndman said...

AGO blew me away... and this is not in any way significant of what importance AGO has for me, but I really found Brian's analysis of God's decree of genocide in Caanan REALLY enlightning.


Paul said...

I have to agree that Jesus expressed his desire to start the kingdom of God and that it starts right here in this world. Think of the many parables he used to illustrate the kingdom. And all he had to say about it. "The kingdom of God is within you/in your midst." (Luke 17:21) "You are not far from the kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34)

In these quotes, however, it seems to be a device for muddying the waters, trying to move something very specific into the vague and gray.

"The kingdom of God" turns out to be something very defineable, as well as a concept inextricably linked with a gospel message of heaven and hell. "Unless you repent, you will likewise perish."(Luke 13:3) "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." (Matthew 11:20-24).

Scholars in the liberal and existential camps have used and abused the concept of the kingdom of god for decades. How easy it is to pull out a phrase and build a stilted theology around it.

So it is here, that McLaren wants to show a shift in emphasis that all of us have somehow missed to make Christianity something it isn't. To make Christianity no longer Christianity, but a diluted, malleable thing that can be shaped into whatever emergent churchers want it to be. A loveable bubble that everyone can glide over and float upon.

We might agree that the ultimate reality is the kingdom of God, but let's not make false dichotomies in the manner of Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren, et al. e.g. "The gospel is not doctrine, it's a life of love." Well, yes, it is most certainly a life of love, but it is also very much about doctrine.

So many want to pick and choose what they like out of the New Testament like flavors at an ice cream parlor, instead of taking the clear sense of the whole. Sorry to report, there isn't anything fundamentally new in the Scripture to be found (though it always new and vibrant). Christians have been carefully returning to the New Testament Church roots of the faith even while--as humans--we tend to mess up and wander away.

This is the strategy I suggest for McLaren and other emergent church followers. Go back to the Bible, as the Fathers did, as Augustine did, as the reformers did, as Whitefield and Wesley did, as Finney and Spurgeon did, as Billy Graham did. There you will find power and life and resurrection. Not in a new view of culture and reality that parrots what academics have done for decades.

The church, as the late Francis Schaeffer was wont to say, is always coming to the party late, at the back of the bus, jumping on the bandwagon late. It seems McLaren has belatedly found a Hans Frei/Barthian view of reality, wrapped it up in 21st century fad multiculturalist/political correctness, and called it macaroni.

DaNutz said...


I urge you also to "go back to the Bible", but be sure you are going back to the actual words of the Bible and NOT a particular interpretation of the Bible that has been handed down for generations and has skewed the actual teachings of Jesus. If we can all learn to seperate the "message of Jesus" from the "message of others about what they thought Jesus said" then we would probably all agree about this stuff.

Dan Wilt said...

A transcendant Kingdom is the womb in which human culture is born. Made in an image, reflecting a glory, wielding a strength, we walk the earth. Broken, yet ImageBearers.

Some following thoughts then...

Culture started in Kingdom -- not vice versa.

The organism of the Church started in culture, but transcends it as well through its connection to the eternal Kingdom.

The organization of the Church, started in culture, and while shaped by the Kingdom, may bear more of the marks of the culture its immersed in.

So, what does the reality of the "imago Dei" -- the image of God in which mankind is made -- say to the way we are treating the world around us who doesn't follow Christ?

What does that same reality say to our rejection of all culture (seeming rejection). If broken ImageBearers create culture, then Kingdom seeds are everywhere -- only hidden under blemish, brokeness and addiction.

If they are broken ImageBearers, just like we are, then the Church may have a place that supercedes the place we have taken to date.

To love the broken ImageBearers around us as one of the crowd, yet to do so with an empowered and delivered life.